I’ve never done a product review in this forum, nor do I want to start. But I’ve recently had the misfortune to purchase something so horrible that I had to share it here. In short, I wanted Litepanels LED lights, but I was too cheap. Not to mention I rarely use lights, so I thought I could skimp.
So I skimped my way over to Cool Lights. CL’s Richard Andrewski is active on filmmaker and lighting online forums and effectively reassures weary customers concerned that they’re buying the cheapest LED lights on the market. At $449, they’re less than a third of the price of the Litepanels equivalent… and brighter!
The first set of lights I bought were indeed bright, but there was something strange. One was much brighter than the other (my light meter indicated more than one-stop difference). There also seemed to be a color difference. I talked to Richard on the phone and he said variations are expected and essentially that’s why Cool Lights are cheaper than its competitors. Litepanels use the best LEDs, which have little variance, while Cool Lights get the rest. Typically, Cool Lights employees match lights when ordered in pairs and seemingly that wasn’t done with my order. Richard graciously overnighted me a matched pair.
And that’s when things got very strange. The new pair were matched in the beginning, but that quickly changed. I was using one light as my main light in an interview and the second as the background fill. As you can see in the video below, the background light— which was dimmed to about 25%— gradually got brighter and brighter BY ITSELF in the middle of the interview. The clip below is 8 minutes sped up to 11 seconds. I blurred the face of the subject for privacy.
In the middle of the interview I thought I was going crazy. Did I set the background light so bright? I was forced to stop the interview to turn it back down, back to approximately to the brightness I originally set it at. The craziness continued! The light then went the opposite way and dimmed itself so much that it basically went black.
The lesson was one I should have already known. You get what you pay for. I shipped those lights back as soon as the interview was over.