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Switronix TorchLED Bolt LED Video Light Review



Review by Ron Risman. November, 2012


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Video Review


When it comes to lighting nothing excites me more than LED - from light panels, to flashlights, bulbs for the home, and all the possibilities that LED technology make possible. Over the past couple of years LED light panels have become the defacto standard in the video industry and are now used on set on most major networks for news, interviews, on-location, and even television shows. Not only are LED lights being used by network television, they are also being used everyday by filmmakers, videographers, and photographers thanks to their compact & light footprint, ruggedness compared to halogens or fluorescents, low power consumption, and virtually zero heat output.

Most prosumer LED panels have rather weak light output. The small on-camera LED lights are blinding to look at head on, but because these lights don't offer much 'throw' they are only effective if positioned 2-3 ft from your subject. In the past I have used the Litepanel Micro as well as a larger, brighter, color changing panel from Fotodiox (model: 312AS). So, I was thrilled when Switronix asked if I was interested in testing out their new 200w TorchLED Bolt.

About TorchLED Bolt

The TorchLED Bolt is a fairly compact continuous LED video light that is only 5.6" Wide, 3.6" in height, and about 3" deep (4.5" with battery). It weighs 1.15 lbs without battery or about 2 lbs with battery. The light can be powered using either an external battery, thanks to the built-in DC outlet that accepts 7.2v - 16.8v power or you can directly attach a Sony L-Series DV Battery for continuous full power lighting on the go!

Review

The back of the light features the Sony L-series compatible battery plate; DC power port; On/Off switch; and two dimming dials - one for tungsten and the other for daylight light. These dimmers can be used independently or together to vary the brightness and color temperatures. When using the daylight dimmer you can achieve 5600°K daylight color temperatures while varying the light output from 5% - 100%. The same holds true for the tungsten output (3200°k). Of course, you can also turn up both the daylight and tungsten dials to achieve maximum power output (200w equivalent) at a 4100°k color temperature.



Without filter holder


With filter holder mounted around light

The TorchLED Bolt includes a snap on/off filter holder as well as a diffusion filter. Out of the box it makes sense to keep the filter holder attached, as it adds virtually no weight or bulk to the unit. With it attached you're ready to slide in the diffusion panel anytime you want a softer, more even light. Down the road I imagine Switronix could make additional snap-on panels for adding a variety of other light modifiers, such as barn doors or snoots.



Holder with diffusion filter

The bottom of the TorchLED Bolt features a metal 1/4-20" tripod thread, making it easy to attach to a tripod, light-stand with 1/4-20" stud, or the included hot-shoe mountable ball head for on-camera lighting. All four sides of the unit are vented to help keep the light from getting too warm. LED's don't typically get all that hot, but with its 22w power draw and equivalent 200w output from such a small light the TorchLED does actually get a bit warm, but never too warm to touch or hold.

The TorchLED Bolt is deceiving. At first glance you'll notice that there are only 16 LED bulbs, but when you turn the TorchLED on it's bright output will surprise you. The light gives out as much as 200 watts of equivalent light from these 16 LED bulbs. These are not the tiny LED bulbs you'll often see in other light panels, these are higher power LED's that seem to offer a big boost in brightness and a great throw than previous lights I have tested.

While the unit itself is heavier and thicker (depth) than other on-camera LED panels I have used, it also feels more solid. When you attach the large NiMH TL-F970 battery pack (6600mAh, 7.2v) the entire package becomes a bit back heavy, making it more cumbersome for use on your camera's hot-shoe. While I never shoot handheld, I didn't have any problems using the TorchLED Bolt on top of my Canon 5D DSLR while shooting on top of a Manfrotto monopod. But truthfully, you should minimize putting any kind of light directly on top of you camera if at all possible. Front light is not only blinding to those unaccustomed to being on camera, it is also very flat. But for those times when you need to, the TorchLED is ready and able.

Output
Once of the biggest selling points of the TorchLED is its rated 200w of output, its ability to go from 3200k to 5600k, and its rather long throw ability for such a small light (approx. 50'). Of course, these are just numbers so let me help break things down a bit.



Daylight only


Tungsten only

When you need true 5600°K daylight balanced light you won't get the full 200w of output. That's because only half of the LED lights are used for daylight, while the other half are used for 3200°K Tungsten. In testing I discovered that the daylight LED bulb's actually seem to put out more power than the same number of tungsten LEDs. I'm approximating that you'll get about 20% stronger output from the daylight LED's compared to the Tungsten LED's. Used together, you'll get 200w of output at a 4100°K color temperature. In daylight, you'll find the output of the TorchLED plenty powerful enough to be used as fill light for the harsh afternoon sun - at least as long as you keep the light within a few feet of your subject.

I measured the above variances between the tungsten & daylight LEDs by setting my camera to "M"annual mode. I set the shutter speed to 1/50th, the aperture to f/4.5 and then told the camera to automatically adjust the ISO as needed. When setting the TorchLED to daylight at full power the camera registered an ISO setting of 2000, whereas with the tungsten setting the camera set the ISO to 3200. I then ran the same test but with the diffuser filter installed and again the daylight bulbs outshines the tungsten bulbs by a very similar factor.

The one thing you'll notice right away is that the TorchLED has a very bright hotspot when using the light without the diffusion filter. Because of this I recommend only using the light in this manner when spotlighting or back lighting your subject is your goal or if you plan on shooting tight. For wide and medium shots (20-50mm) I recommend using the diffusion filter to soften out the spread of light. The filter does an excellent job with this and makes the light very usable for interviews and to mimic ambient room light. As mentioned, the use of the diffusion filter does cut down on light output by about 3/4 to 1.5 stops depending on where the camera is metering.



In the photo above, the room was pitch black without use of the TorchLED

Another thing I noticed about the TorchLED compared to other LED light panels that I have used is that it's less blinding when you're looking directly into the light. I found this interesting since the light is more powerful than the other ones. I don't really know why this is but I'm thinking it has something to do with the fact that there are only 16 LEDs inside the TorchLED compared with between 70 and 312 smaller LED's in the other lights. It's still very bright to look into, just less so compared to the other LED lights that I use.

Outdoor Fill Light

Most compact LED video lights are useless outdoors, but the 200w power of the TorchLED Bolt makes it a perfect fill light for outdoor filming or photography. With the light positioned about 2-3 feet from your subject, you'll be able to use the Bolt to fill in harsh shadows from midday sun and to add a catch light on cloudy days. The light works best outdoors without the diffusion filter since you want to make use of the 200 watt output. With the diffusion filter you'll end up losing about 1 to 1.5 stops of light.



Click to Zoom

Conclusion

In my three weeks with the Switronix TorchLED Bolt I was very impressed with the power and versatility of this video light. The light does has a very noticeable hot-spot when using it without the diffusion filter, but this may be a design feature to get a longer throw out of the LED's. Slide on the diffusion filter and you'll end up with a more even, softer light that is ideal for a wide-variety of lighting tasks. Without the diffusion filter the light makes a great hair light and floodlight for both photo & video, for use as an outdoor fill light, or when you want to spotlight your subject while making everything else in the room darker.

The light is very compact considering it's 200 watt (equivalent) output, but despite it's weight the light is bulkier than I was expecting - especially when you slide on the oversized 6600mAh rechargeable battery pack. In total, the light weighs about 2 lbs (with battery) and is about 4" thick, making it a bit cumbersome when mounted directly to the hot-shoe of a handheld DSLR, but it makes for a super portable off-camera light or when shooting with a shoulder rig, monopod, or tripod. I also like the ability to turn the light on and off without effecting the values that I previously dialed in to my tungsten and daylight dials. For commercial work this is a must have feature, but one that is lacking in many competing products.

The TorchLED Bolt currently has a street price of $299.95 (without battery), but B&H Photo is currently throwing in the battery pack at no extra charger ($79 value). I don't know if this promotion will continue, but get it while it lasts. Amazon or Adorama do not seem to be offering this special, so make sure to click through to B&H Photo before you purchase. You can also use any Sony L-series compatible batteries, though the manufacturer recommends only using larger capacity versions.

If you're in the market for a portable continuous light for either video or photography I definitely recommend giving the TorchLED Bolt consideration. It features the 'throw' of a halogen light with all the benefits of LED technology.

Specifications:

  • Housing: Black, ABS
  • Dimensions: 5.59"L x 4"W x 2.95"H
  • Color Temperature: 3000K-6000K
  • Illumination: Approx. 1800LUX(3200K, 1m), 2000LUX(5600K, 1m), combined over 200w output equivalent
  • Weight: 1.15lbs (without battery)
  • Power draw: 22w
  • CRI: 89
  • Power Supply: DC 7.2V-16.8V, Sony DV Battery(Large Capacity Models ONLY)
  • Dimming Range: 5%-100%

Purchase from B&H Photo & Video

Disclosure

The Switronix TorchLED Bolt was sent to use to test & review by the manufacturer. My opinions are based on what I discover during my time with the product and are never swayed by who sent us the gear to review. While I are very thankful to have manufacturers willing to send us products to review, I know that it is our readers that keep our site going. My goal is to make the information in our reviews helpful to our readers by reporting the positives and negatives that I discover during my time with a product. I also never accept payment from a manufacturer to write a review. Some manufacturers allow us to keep a product and others send a loaner for us to test, review, and send back.

Cameratown has been a free resource since 2004. We generate revenues through advertising on our site from banner ads and affiliate links (like the B&H Photo link above).

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