Lighting for filmmaking is a market that is constantly evolving and we have seen some great evolutions in the past few years especially when it comes to LED lighting.
The lights I am featuring in this article are lights that I personally use time and time again that have been recommended to me by other professionals in the industry.
The following lights are listed and ranked with accessibility, practical use, and price to value in mind.
Let's jump in!
1 - WESTCOTT'S ICELIGHT 2
The first light on this list is by far my favorite in terms of how portable it is and the quality of light it can output.
I'm a big fan of soft sources for lighting subjects for portraits and the Icelight2 can do that and still fit in a form factor that can fit right in your backpack.
I have used this light as a harder sources too by bumping up the intensity and using the barn door attachment
Westcott sells for its Icelight.
I really recommend getting this attachment since it allows you to have full control over how spread out this light can be. It helps focus in the beam or even create cuts of light or shapes that can cast different shadows in your scene.
The second iteration of the Icelight is also a huge improvement as it can output 50% more light and can maintain a consistent 5500K daylight balance.
The ice light 2 is not only bright, pumping out 1740 lumens, but it also has a high CRI of 96 which makes it a beautiful light for skin tones and subjects.
I have used this light across different types of shoots and it has never let me down. I used it to light cars, people, small sets, and it was always a great light to have handy when filming.
After owning two I never feel complete when traveling without them.
I love the IceLight 2 so much I made a video reviewing them in detail while using them on a real photoshoot to test them out:
You can buy the Westcott Ice Light 2 here:
2 - APUTURE 300D
The Aputure 300D is nothing short of revolutionary.
When I first used this light during a Lighting Workshop I did I was blown away by how much light this thing could emit.
Not too long ago, if you wanted a hard spotty source you had to rely on traditional incandescent lights that, as all incandescent bulbs, are largely inefficient when compared to the newer LED technology.
When Aputure first introduced the 120d I was already amazed by what was possible but the 300D brought LED lighting to a whole new standard while keeping the price accessible to low budget filmmakers.
The amount of light pumped out by the LED chip in the front is impressive considering it only draws 300 watts of power.
The build quality is similar to the 120d which is pretty good for its price range and feels solid. I have dropped my 300d multiple times and even used it on a desert shoot and still works as new.
The ballast is pretty huge which leaves room to insert two V-mount or Gold Mount batteries which is what makes this light even more revolutionary.
You can have battery power and use this remotely. You can be in a forest at night and this could be your giant source to edge your scene or create a nice moon light. Seriously, the possibilities with this light are endless.
As with all other Aputure lights, it has a remote that allows you dim it down or brighten it up as well as turning it on and off. Multiple lights can be added to different groups and channels on the remote so you can control a whole set of Aputure lights in the palm of your hand.
There are a few attachments that I recommend getting with this light and those are the light dome and the fresnel attachment.
The Light Dome allows you to spread out this hard spotlight type source into a large more even softer source and the Fresnel attachment allows you to focus in and adjust how focused your light beam coming out of your 300D is.
DSLR Video Shooter made an excellent review detailing why the 300D is so great:
You can buy the Aputure 300D here:
3 - WESTCOTT'S FLEX
Another incredible and revolutionary light is the Flex bi color matte.
This incredible LED light changed the game in terms of the flexibility it offers. Literal flexibility.
The panel can be molded and curved to fit practically anywhere. This incredible feature allows filmmakers to get creative and use the panel flat on a ceiling for a nice top light or curving into a cylinder to create more of a space light. You can shove into corners, angles, hidden areas in your scene and it allows you to thinking of lighting your scene in new ways that other lights simply don't allow you to either because of their form factor or because... well, they don't bend.
Aside from how awesome it is to have a source of light that you can shape, the matte has an array of bi color LEDs which give you a range of 2800-6000K.
This alone is huge and gives control over how warm or cool you want your light depending on what your scene requires.
The CRI is between 95-98 which is really high. I keep mentioning CRI and if you don't know what it is, CRI stands for Color Rendering Index and it's essentially how accurate the light is in representing the colors in your scene. This is particularly important for skin tones and subjects since other cheaper LED lights might have a color shift and might be casting greenish or magentas colors that you might not like or find appealing.
These type of lights come in different shapes and sizes so if a square is too square for you you can find rectangular shaped ones too.
Caleb from DSLR Video ShooterDSLR Video shooter shows exactly why he likes the Flex lights so much:
You can buy the Westcott Flex here:
4 - APUTURE 120D
There is a lot of Aputure love on this article but I promise you it is solely out of pure merit. If you don't need something as big and powerful as the 300D, the next big thing in spotty sources is the 120d.
This is the light that started it all for me for spotty hard LED lights. I took my personal 120d on several trips with me, including Italy and even remote jungles and villages in Madagascar. This is not just to say that it is portable but it is also very durable as it can withstand some pretty rough baggage handling and crazy bumpy rides across the rocky rough roads of Africa.
The magic between the 120d and the 300d is a fairly new led technology called COB which stands for “Chip On Board” where multiple LED chips are packaged together as one lighting module. This way of packing the LEDs is what allows lights like the 300d to pump out such high lumen values per square inch.
Bottom line is, if you are looking for a powerful spot light that doesn't require too much power and can be used remotely, then look no further.
I recommend you consider the slightly higher price point for the 300D since its always nice to have a little extra room to dim up but if not the 120D offers plenty of output for most uses.
Josh from Sonduck Film made a great video going over just why the 120D is great:
You can buy the Aputure 120D here:
5 - APUTURE AL-M9 AMARAN LED MINI LIGHT
Small lights are underrated. The Aputure AL-M9 light is tiny and packs in a lot of light for its size.
This little guy can act as an on camera light but can also fit in a lot of tight spots allowing you to create some pretty interesting scenes.
It is also great for supplementing practicals and enforcing smaller light sources present in your scene.
I've seen a lot of great uses out of this light, including augmenting the dashboard of a car for night interior scenes.
This thing is tiny and light weight. The Amaran M9 weighs just 140g (4.9oz) and is about the same size as my credit card.
The light is dimmable and has an on and off switch which is all you can expect from something this small.
I really recommend getting this light even if its just to have readily available in your kit. You never know when you could use a tiny source to highlight a bit of your scene among its many other uses.
Here's Aputure's video on the Amaran M9:
You can buy the Aputure M9 here: