[box_light]F&V Z180s Bi-Color LED’s[/box_light]
As always, one of our many production challenges was to attempt to cover multiple events per day with a crew of two persons, while maintaining high creative and technical standards.
In our last article about our travel requirements and the use of LED lighting for shooting documentary style with a two-person crew, we wrote: “On our next Burgundy shoot, we plan on trying out the F&V Z180s Bi-color LED system, which can be used as a single camera-mounted light or you can link up 4 lights together to approximate the size of the 1×1, and runs on lighter Sony NPF or 6X AA batteries, as well as AC power.” See original article on IMPress Magazine: Burgundy: People with a Passion for Wine
Well, we got our chance during the fall of last year shooting at Michelin-starred truffle specialist restaurant Chez Bruno in Lorgues, Provence, France as well as returning to Burgundy, France for shooting the November wine auction activities.
In addition to Z180s, we again used the Felloni 1×1, and a Litepanels Chroma camera-mounted LED light, which is quite compact and which also offers variable color temperature and intensity controls. As I wrote before, I have come to depend on this light as my main on-camera light. It’s lightweight and easy to use, but the AA batteries do not last very long.
We ended up testing (6) Z180s Bi-color LEDs in various configurations. We
wanted to see if 6 of these compact lights could replace the Felloni 1×1, which was not possible to take along when we needed to minimize the number of bags and weight when travelling by air.
Information on the Felloni 1×1 and Z180S from Dedo Weigert Film
My First Impressions
The lights are relatively light weight, although slightly larger than our Litepanels Chroma camera-mounted LED light. They also have a wider throw and are a little brighter than the chroma. Another advantage over both the Felloni 1×1 and the Litepanels Chroma is the flexibility of using the smaller format Sony NP-F infoLITHIUM batteries, in addition to AA batteries or AC power cord (not supplied).
I was able to fit the 6 lights and a Sony charger into a LowePro Nova 190 AW camera bag. When traveling by air, this offered a lot of light and variety in a very small package.
With the exception of a different quality of light and ease of use, we were able to replace the Felloni 1×1 with the 4-light configuration. On many interview setups, these 6 lights provided us with adequate key, back, fill, background and kicker lights. I do miss the lack of an on-off switch on the units.
The Sony batteries keep the lights burning for a very long time, so once we had the lighting levels set, we tended to leave them on. It’s also advisable to use the milk colored filters on the units. The effect on the quality of the light is minimal, but the subjects are more comfortable with them on the lights.
Z180z Interlocking Unit Design
The Z180s Bi-color LEDs have the super advantage of being able to be used in a variety of configurations, on or off lighting stands. We used them in all the possible combinations: as a single light, as 2-light units (side by side or one on top of the other), and the most exciting is the 4-light configuration. In the 2-light or 4-light configuration, one of the units takes control of the others, so you can adjust the intensity and/or color temperature of the entire combo unit from one set of controls.
We discovered that the 4 lights disconnected from each other with the least amount of effort, when the 4-light was built in two modules, by first connecting two units together, one on top of the other and then connecting the two verticals side by side to form the 4-light. If you inadvertently build the two units horizontally and then connect them, you will have a hard time getting the proper grip to slide the units apart. Be forewarned!
Mounting the 4-light unit requires the purchase of a special metal attachment bar (see photos above) and a more heavy-duty ball joint swivel than what the manufacturer provides with each Z180s light. We used the Manfrotto 492-LCD Micro ball head attached to a cold shoe mount on a lighting stand.
One of the most effective and portable use of the 2 and 4-light units was hand-held in large crowds or tight places as a side-light. I asked my crew to always try to hold the light as to illuminate the subjects from a 90 degree angle to the camera lens. In dark rooms this gave a very pleasing rim light and at times a dramatic back light rim effect. I used the Litepanels Chroma camera-mounted LED light to provide front fill light when necessary.
The great advantages of utilizing the Z180s Bi-color LEDs in the 4-light configuration hand-held, did not come without some small issues. The most irritating of which was that while hand-carrying the unit in the off position, if my crew member inadvertently touched any of the eight lighting controls on the back of the 4-light, it would lose the ability to maintain sync.
To reset synchronicity, the units needed to be individually turned off and then back on again. Another issue, which is easily resolved, is the lack of proper graphic markings on the light level and color temperature dials.
I am quite happy with the units and very much appreciate the flexibility and increased quality of lighting our subjects the multiple Z180s lights provide to our 2-person crew productions.