November 2013

Review of the Fotodiox 100WA-56 LED Light (Comparing Color to Kino Flo)

After reading David Hobby’s review of the Fotodiox Pro LED 100WA-56, I decided to purchase one for myself and test it. I like continuous lights for my still photography and I’m also doing more and more video for my clients. I’m a dedicated Kino Flo user and I’m always on the lookout for a hard light source that I can use to compliment my soft Kino lights since fluorescent lights are quite large and generally unsuitable for producing small hard light. Tungsten is small but must be gelled to match the Kino lights (or I must use the tungsten Kino bulbs which I just recently purchased) and tungsten lights produce a lot of heat and consume a lot of power relative to their light output.

David’s major complaint with the Fotodiox is that the dome diffuser does not extend beyond the Bowens mount which prevents the light from being used as a bare-bulb light source. This is not a concern for me because I want a hard light that throws all of its light forward as much as possible. I’ve also found that LEDs – even from high end manufacturers like Dedolight – tend to experience dramatic color shifts further from the center of the beam, so I actually thought it might be advantageous for the edge of the beam to be scraped. I have some old lenses and am planning on mounting it to the front so it becomes something of an inexpensive, daylight balanced, 1k Fresnel.

My major concern is brightness (which I already knew would not be a problem, c’mon it’s a 100 watt LED!) and color balance. In the discussion that follows, I used a Sekonic C-500 color meter as well as the color picker in Capture One to test color balance.

I was disappointed the second I turned it on next to the Kinos – the Fotodiox has a dramatic shift towards the Magenta. Kinos are famously green-magenta neutral but they do run very cool – around 6500k — so I was already mentally prepared for that, but I found that the LED would also need to be gelled green. The LED registered close to 5500k as advertised. It’s very difficult to gel for two color shifts on a light source that is not full spectrum (eg. LED and fluorescent); typically adding green also warms the light so I end up having to find the right combination of blue and green gels through a process of trial-and-error. I found that +3/8 of plus green and +3/8 CTB produced an acceptable gray balance. Of course, this is only for gray and doesn’t help with the inevitable metameric failure that you will experience with other colors!

review of fotodiox 100wa-56 LED light

The camera is custom white-balanced for the kino flo light by shooting a gray card. Then the gray card is shot again under the LED light with no gel and again with correcting gel.

Obtaining the right gray balance involved the use of 4 gels (+1/8 and +1/4 CTB and +1/8 and +1/4 plus green) so by the time the gels were stacked, there wasn’t much light left. As a consequence, I will probably be returning the light. It’s possible that a single sheet of cyan – eg. Rosco calcolor 7.5 or 15 — would produce an acceptable result without absorbing much light but I’m not sure I have the patience for it. Naturally, if you plan on only using Fotodiox LED lights with a digital camera, then you can simply do a custom color balance and not worry about color matching existing lights.

Here’s a tip that I’ll give you for free: the Cree XR-E series emitters are of excellent quality and are very well color balanced. The “cool white” variety work very well with Kino Flo florescent lights.

Photographing Jewelry for Venus by Maria Tash

This week I’m shooting jewelry for Venus By Maria Tash – Fine Jewelry and Piercing Spa. Tiny pieces of highly reflective jewelry are always a big challenge. I’m using all the tricks in the book and relying on my beloved Kinoflo lights. Anyone that’s worked with me knows that I use Kino lights even for still photography as much as I can.
Maria Tash Earrings Jewelry Photography
Unretouched, straight out of the camera.