The Manfrotto ML120 Pocket LED Light is a 12 array LED assembly inside a compact housing with a flash accessory shoe bracket so it can be mounted on your camera to provide some extra light on the subject. Manfrotto have a full range of LED lights starting at the Pocket 12 LED we are taking a look at here right up to a Maxima 84 LED. Visit Manfrotto's website for more information.
Manfrotto ML120 Pocket LED Light Features
The LEDs have a daylight colour temperature so you won't see any colour change when shooting on film or with the camera white balance set to daylight. The beam is specified as 120Lux at 1 meter. The 12 LEDs are housed in a plastic case and powered by one 1.5v AAA battery. You can mount the item on a camera's flash accessory shoe or on a tripod / lighting stand.
Also available are ML240 and ML360 continuous lights, with 24 and 36 LEDs, for much brighter output, as well as a ML360H Hybrid LED that also acts as a flash unit.
120 Lux output at 1 meter
5600k colour temperature
Flash shoe mount
1/4in tripod thread
Powered by 1x AAA battery
Manfrotto ML120 Pocket LED Light Handling
The battery to power this fits inside a chamber with a sliding plastic cover. There's a cloth tab to help get the battery out. The Universal attachment can be totally removed from the Light if you want to make it more streamline for housing in a bag. The on/off switch to the left side is firm and positive.
Manfrotto ML120 Pocket LED Light Performance
The light could be used for product photography to add a touch of contrast. Above left is a natural light shot 0.7 sec | f/6.7 | ISO 400 and above right is a shot with the Pocket LED Light 0.5 sec | f/6.7 | ISO 400.
The same type of shot as above, but this time with a black absorbent background. Top left natural light 1.5 sec | f/6.7 ISO 400. Top right with the Pocket LED Light used 1.5 sec | f/6.7 | ISO 400. This time I also looked to see what the built-in flash of the Pentax K20D would look like left - 1.5 sec | f/6.7 | ISO 400. I prefer the built in flash photo as there's less glare on the highlights.
I did some more tests below comparing natural light (left), with built in flash (middle) and with the Pocket LED light (right)
Direct shot of model 1.5 sec | f/4.5 | 38.0 mm | ISO 400, the LED light adds some detail in the hair without being overpowering like the built-in flash.
White wall to show illumination off - 1/10 sec | f/9.5 | 16.0 mm | ISO 400 Notice the shadow of the lens from the built in flash.
Berries in daylight 1/45 sec | f/4.5 | 45.0 mm | ISO 400. The LED light hardly adds anything due to its low output. The flash really pumps light into the shadow areas.
The Manfrotto Pocket LED Light comes in useful for more specialised applications, such as this bellows set up where the built in flash would not reach due to obstructions from the bellows. The close up on the right is the bonfire toffee seen in the set up to the left.
The light has added just enough to make the gold contacts on a lens stand out when using using bellows.
And to the most beneficial use of the Manfrotto Pocket LED Light - Video. Yes with all these modern cameras including a video mode it make sense to invest in a light, and you no longer need to splash out on a huge item that weighs your camera down. This light really does deliver the goods in this department. Below is a sample of what the light can do when used with the video mode of the Olympus Pen E-P2.
Value For Money
LEDs are becoming a more popular light source with torches and lights of all shapes and sizes springing up. Until this product most of the devices have been either round so not quite the right spread for a photo based format or too large to be truly portable. They often don't have a mount for camera either so you'd have to hold the gadget. Recently several Chinese based gadgets have appeared including a 64 LED light that's appeared on Amazon for less than £17 with 480Lum (not lux). This has a similar shoe mount, but also comes with a bracket for side mounting.
Manfrotto ML120 Pocket LED Light Verdict
The product packing shows a skateboarder in mid flight being captured using the Pocket LED light. From these tests I doubt it could perform such a task unless the skateboarder was super-glued to a half pipe or video mode was used. If your camera has a built in flash you won't gain much from this gadget for stills, but for cameras such as the Olympus Pen E-P2 that lacks flash it provides a practical alternative to a small flashgun. And for specialised applications such as macro it could just be the job. But for video you could find it becomes an essential accessory in the bag.
Manfrotto ML120 Pocket LED Light Pros
Easy to use
Flexible universal mount
Great for video