Review by Gary Wolstenholme.
Features and Build
Litepanels Micro is a compact and portable continuous light source suitable for both stills and video work.
With the proliferation of video recording features on the latest DSLRs, a continuous light source could be a smart choice for those looking for illumination for still as well as video.
Litepanels Micro Kit: Features
Design-wise, the Lightpanels Micro is deceptively simple being a small black box containing 48 bright white LEDs behind a clear screen. To power the unit, simply insert 4 AA size batteries in the compartment in the back and turn the dimmer switch until the LEDs are illuminated to the desired strength. Having an analogue control like this is great for getting the perfect balance between light output and the ambient light levels allowing you to create exactly the look you're after. It would've been nice to have some kind of reference on the dimmer so that it could be turned back to the same power setting time after time without having to double check. In use, the LEDs emit little heat, which is great from a safety point of view, as well as for the comfort of you and your subject or model with prolonged use.
The unit can either be mounted on a standard ISO-type hotshoe (so an adapter will be required for Sony SLRs) or attached to a lightstand or tripod via the standard 1/4inch thread in the base of the hotshoe foot. It feels secure when mounted either way, and the tilt bracket allows the angle of the panel to be adjusted to the required position for optimum illumination. When shooting still, rather than video, the unit can be used effectively hand held, allowing you to put directional light where you need or want it.
Litepanels Micro Kit: Build Quality
Built almost entirely from black plastic, the Litepanels Micro is lightweight, without feeling too flimsy. The hotshoe mount secures to a camera firmly and securely and the tiltbracket tightens up nicely without seizing.
The only aspect of the build that lets this unit down is with the filter
holder. It's made of the same black plastic, but is quite thin in places and I could see this breaking quite quickly if it were to receive much abuse.
Litepanels Micro Kit: Performance
Light is soft due to a larger light area.
Models may squint when close up due to the sheer power of the lighting kit.
Litepanels Micro produces a nice, soft quality of light that lends itself to portraiture and the light output of the unit is particularly suited to this, although as it's a continuous light source it isn't without some issues. The brightness of the light can cause your subject to appear squinty when used close in.
At full power using a 50mm lens set to f/2.8 I get meter readings of around 1/125sec at ISO400 stood around 0.5metres from my subject. Stepping back to a metre away, the shutter speed drops to 1/40sec, which may cause issues with handheld picture-taking. A little more power would be beneficial for still photos. For video, which can typically use shutter speeds as low as 1/25sec this is less of an issue.
Photographers wishing to use the Litepanels Micro with wideangle lenses my also struggle as fall-off towards the edges of the frame is quite abrupt. An ultra-wide such as 15mm is not really suitable at all. By 30mm, the coverage is much better, although corners will still be dark on flat subjects.
Litepanels Micro at 15mm.
Litepanels Micro at 30mm.
The soft, daylight-balanced light lends itself perfectly to painting with light. Even large subjects could be lit effectively by moving the panel over a large area. Having precise control over the power output of the device helps with producing the effect you want.
Litepanels Micro Kit: Verdict
Low key light painting.
Without a doubt, the Litepanels Micro is a very useful tool in its niche providing enough soft, daylight-balanced light for shooting in close quarters. The dimmer switch gives great control over the output and the build quality is good too.
Would I buy one? The Litepanels Micro costs between £230 and £300 for the kit, which I feel is a lot of money for a battery powered light with a dimmer switch. Maybe if I did more video, I'd feel differently, but for now, I think I'll stick to flash.
Litepanels Micro Kit: Plus points
Soft Quality of light
Produces good catchlights on eyes
Dimming control is stepless
AA batteries are convenient
Litepanels Micro Kit: Minus points
Flimsy gel holder
The Litepanels Micro Kit costs between £229 and £299.
- Size: 83.8x83.8x38.1mm
- Weight: 110g
- Colour Temperature: Cool White (5600K)
- Power: 4xAA batteries or Li-ion battery via optional adapter
- Filters Included: Tungsten conversion (warm white – 3200K), ¼ warming and a diffuser