External Lights

By Will Sullivan on November 18, 2010 0 Comments Ideas

Mobile Journalism Reporting Tools Guide

The Basics        
  Bescor LED-50DA Sunpak DSLR67 LED Macro Ring Light Joby Gorilla Torch Flare Sima Light Panel (SL-20LX)
Cost $74.95 (after $15 rebate) $42.95 $32.00 $30.00
Weight 10 oz. 4.2 oz. 6.5 oz. 2.5 oz.
Manufacturer Bescor Sunpak Joby Sima
Size 4.6 x 1.62 x 4" 11.4" arm, outer ring diameter 95mm 7.87 x 2.95 x 2.56" 2.35 x 2.3 x 1"
Cold Foot No No No Yes
Hot Shoe Yes Yes No Yes
Variable Lighting Yes Yes Yes No
Power Source 4 AA batteries 3 AAA batteries 3 AA batteries Rechargeable
Angle Adjustable No Yes Yes Yes
Recommended? Recommended Recommended Highly Recommended Highly recommended
Where to buy Adorama B&H Photo Botach Tactical B&H Photo

Bescor LED-50DA

Review by: Andrew Dumas

This is the Bescor Dimmable Light Panel.
This is the Bescor Dimmable Light Panel. You'll notice its bulky size, but it's not impossible to handle

The Bescor LED-50DA Dimmable Light Panel is a pretty bulky yet powerful external flash. When using it, it was effective, which can't really be argued with, but perhaps not in the prescribed way.

The first thing one notices when taking the Bescor out of the box is how large it is. It's just not a sleek or sexy piece of hardware. It's not an easy shape to pack into a bag with other things, and it'll take up room, so if you're going to use it, you may as well commit all the way and not bring any other lights with you. Unless you plan to bring a very large bag.

Mounting the Bescor is also an issue. It's got a hot shoe on the bottom which can be hooked into any hot shoe mount, but this requires you to have one of those to use with your phone. Right away you'll see that this requires you to have something capable of playing host to your phone AND holding your light. I vote you use the Owle Bubo, but there are of course other options. Or you could just hold the light, which is what I did. You might be thinking that this choice would be incredibly inconvenient. And to an extent, you'd be right. It means both of my hands were full, and if I had smaller hands I might not have been able to hold my phone, press the capture button, and hold and angle the light correctly. However, give it a few minutes and you’ll get used to it.

A nice feature the Bescor boasts is the ability to dim its light. This thing gets pretty bright, so you'll dim fairly often. You can do this by spinning a wheel on the side of the light (which is reachable via fingertip using only one hand, should you not have a hot shoe).

The Bescor also comes with a sepia shaded panel you can replace the normal translucent one with. It doesn't tint your light, but it does make it softer, so for interviews this is something you can play around with and decide whether you like. The important thing is that it's there.

As far as battery life goes, you can leave the Bescor going for hours. I used it in a corn maze, and had it on and off for nearly three and a half hours, without worrying about losing my batteries. I'm not saying you shouldn't keep some spares on you, I'm just saying it's less likely than some other choices.

In all, I'd recommend this light, but I would say you need to either already have the gear to use it properly (a mount of some kind) or have large enough hands and be comfortable enough with your mobile reporting that you can go out into the field and use it roughshod.

Sunpak DSLR67 LED Macro Ring Light

Review by: Amanda Heisey

Even though this Ring Light was created for DSLR, it works just fine for phones
Even though this Ring Light was created for a DSLR, it works just fine for mobile phones.

The Sunpak is actually meant to be attached to a camera and can attach to the OWLE Bubo. It's an interesting piece of equipment. The ring of light goes around the lens you're using or you can hold it and shine it into the area you are trying to illuminate. It covers a wide area, so that's handy depending on where you are. We tested it outside, and it helped brighten our shots. This light can wash out your subject, because it is artificial, but it's better than having indistinguishable photos. There are three levels of light settings you can choose from which is convenient. Not all external lights give you that kind of control. It has a bendable neck for you to manipulate and shine in different directions. The problem is the neck is long and gets awkward to carry around sometimes.

This is a decent tool to choose if you are looking for an external light. This wasn't my favorite, but it was definitely in the top three. If you have the money, it could definitely come in handy.

Joby Gorilla Torch Flare

Review by: Andrew Dumas

Joby Gorilla Torch Flare
One of our favorite lights, you'll notice that the legs of the GorillaTorch wrap and stabilize very nicely

The GorillaTorch Flare is downright cool. There's so many interesting features involved that I feel like any photographer can eventually, given time and patience, find a use for this device. It may not be the best light as far as compensating for a mobile phone's lack of a workable camera flash, but it acts as a bit of a Swiss Army Knife in terms of usability.

Like the Gorilla Mobile, the legs are flexible, but rigid enough to hold itself up. There's no hot shoe or cold foot, but if you can find a rail or a post or any remotely flat surface/something to wrap its legs around, then it's going to be fine. It's the same principle as putting an external flash on a tripod for a photo shoot. The only real drawback is you have to anticipate where you're going to want your light coming from, you can't really point and shoot. Another amazing feature, one I was excited about discovering, is that Joby decided to put some decently strong magnets on the bottoms of the feet. They won't hold it to everything, but they do enough to make the Torch that much more versatile.

As far as the actual light goes, it's a bit on the fluorescent side as far as color. It's also pretty narrow, so don't expect to light a big scene. But you can change the light from dim to medium to bright, and then take it a step further and make it a strobe. Keep clicking, and it will turn to a red light, and one last click makes it a red strobe. Not positive you'll ever want to use the red light for a strobe, but if you try really hard I'm sure there's a purpose for it out there somewhere. Worst-case scenario, you're car breaks down and you strobe a red light to protect yourself from oncoming traffic as you try and fix it.

I have to recommend this device purely on the upside it has. It's light, it’s small, you can bring with you pretty easily, and with minor effort you can find a use for it.

Sima Light Panel (SL-20LX)

Review by: Andrew Dumas

 The Sima is quite small.
The Sima is quite small. Better still, it comes with an arm for mounting that greatly improves its flexibility

The Sima Light Panel is one of my personal favorites as far as lights go. I like its size to light output, and I like it's flexibility as far as mounting goes. Its power source is a positive and a negative, but in all, it's a pretty utilitarian device.

The Sima is small. At basically 2 x 2 x 1" this thing is sleek. That measurement isn't exactly accurate after adding the arm, but if you don't have a cold foot or a hot shoe, then holding this light isn't an issue.

This light is bright. There's no dimmer on it, no way to regulate the brightness, but if you're in a fairly dark situation, it's going to shine.

The best part about the Sima is how it mounts. First, there is an arm which attaches via hot shoe to the light panel. This arm can be manually extended and retracted, to vary the distance from your camera. The other end of the arm can be attached by either hot shoe or cold foot to a mount. Alternately, should you not want to fool around with the arm, you can attach the light panel directly to a mount using the hot shoe you would have used with the arm. Again, if you don't have a mount, it's small enough that you can carry it and use it with your hand alone.

Lastly, the power source. Unlike our other lights, the Sima is charged by cable from any wall outlet. It takes a little while to charge (I let it go for about two hours), but it holds power for quite a while. And when you're done, you can leave it somewhere to charge while you edit photos. The pro to this is the money you save on batteries, which get pretty expensive after a while. This is perhaps balanced out by the fact that, if you're in the field for a day (or night) and you don't have access to a wall outlet (or AC converter from your car), then you're out of luck once it runs out of juice. Making the Sima battery or plug-in friendly would have been a huge boost in its favor, but alas it just isn't.

Even with the minor issues of needing a mount of some kind (unless you're going handheld, which really isn't an issue usually) and the battery vs. outlet debate, this is still a good light. I'd recommend it for any mobile journalist's tool bag.

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