Whether you’re shooting video or stills, portable LED lights have become very widely-accepted for use indoors or out because of their portability and their small size/weight.
I’ve used half a dozen different brands of LED lights. They all have the basics in common. They typically run on battery (some on battery or AC/DC), they don’t get hot to the touch like traditional strobes or non-LED constant lighting. They are almost all very lightweight and portable.
I evaluated three such lights from Polaroid. Yes Polaroid. While you may remember them from their instant camera days, lately they are making all sorts of interesting photographic accessories, including LED lights.
I looked at the following models:
PLLED312 312 LED Light with Variable Color Temperature 3200K-5600K
Pro Grade 312Super Bright LED’s
High Powered 312 LED Light
Lithium-ion Battery (x2)
Swivel head mounting adapter
Hand Grip For Off Camera Use
UK & EU Adapter
Polaroid 144 Ultra High Powered Super Bright LED Camera / Camcorder Video Light With Variable Color Temp. (3200K-5600K) & Dimmable Brightness Control Knobs
Pro Grade 144 Super Bright LED’s
2 Separate Control Knobs, 1) Variable Color Temperature Control (3200K-5600K), 2) Brightness Dimmer Control (10%-100%)
Lightweight And Stackable
Use With Still Cameras And Camcorders
Built In Battery Level Indicator
Polaroid 350 Ultra High Powered Super Bright LED Camera / Camcorder Video Light With Variable Color Temp. (3200K-5600K) & Dimmable Brightness Control Knobs
(NOTE: There are lots of versions of these lights including some that are less expensive and smaller – for instance the 54 LED light from Polaroid.)
All three lights came in nice cases and were surprisingly affordable. They also came with almost all the accessories you might need like battery and adapters to mount to a camera. All three were very well made compared to some of the Chinese knock-offs I’ve reviewed, and you can tell that whoever came up with these products was the kind of person who might actually use them.
Where most of the inexpensive LED lights fall short is they come with virtually nothing. Here, Polaroid has rightly anticipated everything you might need to make these suckers actually work.
In all cases, the light they put out was consistent and easily controlled. They come with power knobs that let you dial in full power or some variation thereof in case you are trying for main/fill ratios. All had adjustable color spectrums so you could use them outdoors or indoors without filters.
I found all of these lights easy to setup and use. For the money, they are probably one of the best deals you will find if you need this sort of lighting setup. And these lights are an easy and affordable way to get into three-point lighting for video or portraits.
There is one potential downside. If you look at the illustration below you will see that I have circled (in white) the posts that the Polaroid battery snaps onto when you want to use battery power. In two of the three units I tested, this system worked fine. But on the third, the pins were slightly bent (received that way from the factory) and try as I might, I couldn’t get the battery to slide onto the pin. That particular light could only then be used with AC/DC power. This may simply be a case of a bad copy of the product making its way to me. But you should look closely at the design.
This is a design that could cause trouble in the future even if yours don’t have bent pins because I can see where you might bend them yourself if you aren’t careful when you slide the battery into place.
Other than that I completely enjoyed these little units. I would simply suggest that if you buy one you keep all the packaging and receipts until you are sure the battery posts are straight and you can mount the battery.
After that you should be good to go.
I’ve tested several competitors to this product and I’d say that the quality of the light as well as the ability to control it on the Polaroid LEDs is top-notch. I also liked the fact that nearly every accessory you might need is included in most of their kits. For the money I can’t think of anything that does the job better.