Litepanels ENG Sola Kit Review
Traditional daylight balanced lighting solutions are hot HMI lights or Kinoflos with the appropriate tubes. HMI’s deliver beautiful light, they are extremely powerful (10KW HMI’s are a standard on big exterior sets), while not flickering and delivering consistent quality light. On the other hand, they draw a lot of power and need a specific generator that fires them up – and while firing them up, it needs even more power. They are also heavy and bulky. That makes HMI’s very hard to use on the go or in run- and gun-situations.
Kinoflos are more practical, because they aren’t as bulky, draw much less power and can use either daylight or tungsten tubes (or a mixture). Their light is very soft and ideal as a keylight in interview situations, but they lack the ability to produce hard light (you can make soft light with a hard light using diffusion gels, but not vice versa). However, they too need more electricity than a normal battery can deliver for any useful period. Kinoflos aren’t particularly heavy, but they are bulky. All that makes them impractical on the go as well.
Small, truly portable daylight balanced lights – a market worth targeting
That means, we have been lacking small daylight-balanced lights for a long time. Gelling small lights like Dedolights only makes little sense as you loose a lot of their lighting power once you gel them. Dedos make beautiful light and I love to use them for a lot of shoots were small tungsten lights are needed. However the problem is that Dedolights draw mains power as well, they can’t be run with small batteries … and as I wrote before, they are only tungsten balanced.
As a possible solution, in comes the Litepanels ENG Sola, a small light designed for either on-camera use or on a tripod. It can be powered by mains or conventional Anton Bauer or similar batteries with the appropriate adapters.
Litepanel Sola lights use one big LED light source combined with a set of lenses that allows you to flood or spot the light. That makes them very flexible, and the amount of light they deliver is comparable to Dedolights – while delivering daylight instead of tugnsten. Plus, they can be powered easily by batteries as well, something we aren’t really used to in this industry!
I have used the ENG Sola kit on several shoots over the past weeks and really enjoyed their flexibility. Their small size allowed me to place them almost anywhere, for example as main lights for very small interview setups, as kickers, and also as detail lights for product shots. Basically I ended up using them like Dedolights, with the added advantage of being able to use them in rooms lit primarily by daylight.
Also, the Solas freed me up enormously because I was suddenly able to put lights up for an interview situation in the street, simply powering them using standard camera batteries from Anton Bauer. You can literally walk into the middle of a forrest and still have the ability to light someone properly, even using the hard light from the Solas if you wish to.
We have become used to using the Litepanel 1x1s out in the open over the past few years, but their light is predominantly soft – the Sola ENGs give you that added hard light (daylight balanced) that was truly needed to make a proper lighting setup complete.
Sola ENG kit & usability
The Sola ENG kit that I have been using is a small Pelican Case that can go anywhere with you, with the tripod stands inside the case. It’s even smaller than a case of 3 Dedolights. It comes with a chimera for one of the lights, so you can make the light nice and soft as a keylight for an interview, for example. Additional gels allow you to gel the lights for tungsten, or add diffusion if needed.
The stands have a hot shoe mount on top, and on that, you have to slide in the ball mount adapter for the ENG Sola light. The ball mount itself is screwed into the ENG Sola. To be honest, I think this solution leaves something to be desired for, because it can be very wiggly with all the joints that go into each other. With this mounting solution, stability isn’t great and from time to time one of the joints opens and turns your light into an undesired direction.
The light is connected to the power source using its red connector cable on the back. This isn’t ideal either, because the weight of the power chord and transformer is on the connector, meaning that it can easily lose the connection when there is only a little added pull on the cord.
The light quality of the Sola ENGs is comparable to the other Litepanel lights, which means that it is among the best in all available LED lights on the market. There is no flicker, and they can also be dimmed beautifully without any flicker. The dimmer is built into the light itself, which makes it very easy to use. There are no steps when dimming.
The Litepanels ENG Sola are a great and reliable daylight balanced solution of small lights that can literally go anywhere, because they can be powered either via mains or battery power. The little drawbacks are design faults (the tripod mount and the connector on the power cord as mentioned above), but they aren’t a dealbreaker for an otherwise exceptionally flexible product that has truly made my work life easier.