We have written here in the past about portable light sabres – specifically the Westcott Ice Light. These lights can be very helpful in a variety of situations for both stills and video shooters. The problem with the Ice Light is that it costs nearly $500.
Many of you have asked me about a less expensive alternative. For a while I found a Chinese knock off that I liked but as is often the case with the products from China, they come and go.
But now there is a reliable alternative and it’s called the Polaroid BrightSaber. At $149.99 it’s a fraction of the cost of the Ice Light and performs a similar function.
Let’s start with what the BrightSaber does.
It is a handheld (but mountable) LED lighting wand with a removable tungsten filter sleeve. It features 298 low-heat 5600k LED bulbs rated at plus 50,000 hours. It has a built-in threaded tripod mount for use in a studio, comes with a carrying case, a rechargeable battery pack and a camera shutter remote.
It only weighs 22 ounces and can be used indoors or out. If you use it correctly, it can provide dramatic light sources for a variety of situations and if you get two of these units just about any kind of light pattern you want can be easily and affordably created.
The design of this product allows you to make a very soft light by getting super close to the subject. It can also be used for light painting. The grip is a little thick but I actually like that. People with small hands will need to pay attention. In my initial tests it didn’t flickr nor did the color shift.
So why is the Ice Light so much more expensive? Other than because it’s Westcott I can’t say for sure but I will mention some things that jump out at me. The Ice Light seems to be a bit more rugged than the BrightSaber. In my initial tests its battery lasted about twice as long as the cheaper BrightSaber’s battery (although you can buy extra batteries fairly inexpensively.)
In general is the Polaroid stuff good? I have been testing a fair amount of gear from Polaroid lately and I’d say that when it comes to long-term durability the jury is still out. All of the items I have tested seem to be well-made but I haven’t had any of them long enough to see how long they last. On the other hand, I have had an Ice Light for years with no problems. I think the Ice Light is heavier and that may be why it feels sturdier to me. The Ice Light also seems a little brighter.
So the big question is this. Do I think the Ice Light is worth $350 more than the BrightSaber? Not a chance. Unless my longer term testing of this unit reveals a major flaw I’d say most photographers would be better off gambling on the less expensive Polaroid product. It works, it works well, it works as advertised and it’s very affordable.
P.S. At press time Polaroid has announced that in addition to the model reviewed here, they have also announced a smaller, lower power, travel version of this device.