This is not a portable light that you mount on your camera. It’s a studio light meant for setup shots (location lighting); not run & gun videography. That said, the Benzzo LED panel is an excellent tool for the professional film maker and affordable enough for the novice.
Take note, this light is a China product, which by today’s standards, is not necessarily a bad thing. Its production is a direct challenge to LitePanels (California, USA), who are the pioneers of LED lighting for film and video.
Have you ever seen so many LEDs stuffed into one small space? Benzzo packs 38 X 30 LEDs into a 1.5 ft by 1 ft enclosure, bringing the total to 1,140 bulbs. That many LEDs mean its small footprint can flood a larger area with intense light. This brings us to its next feature…
At the insanely low price of $326, the Benzzo LED is a steal. Another similarly priced bank of LED light offering the same features probably doesn’t exist right now (unless it’s another competitor from China). A premium offering with more or less the same features from LED pioneer LitePanels will set you back around $1,795.
Everyone Loves A Light, Light
It looks big but it really is very lightweight. Being lightweight makes the Benzzo portable and quite ironic considering that it’s meant to be in the studio. We’ve used the Benzzo on corporate shoots and it hardly adds to our equipment weight limit. It’s big, but it’s light.
It’s constructed of lightweight material, in this case, plastic. It still feels durable but as with all equipment, it’s part of your team; showing some respect when handling them isn’t too much to ask.
No Spot/Flood Control
The beam is angled at 45 degrees and there are no adjustments for focus. You can’t direct the light into a narrow, strong ray. The only setting is full flood (controllable with a dimmer).
Light ‘Em Up, Flood It, Make It Soft!
The LEDs are about 5,500+ Kelvins, making it produce a pleasing white hue. A soft pleasing white hue if you add one of the diffuser that comes bundled with it.
Slide This Way (With Care)
2 gels come with the Benzzo kit. Either the diffuser or the CTO (Colour Temperature Orange) slides into the front of the light. The grooves fit the gels very snugly. You have to slide it from the top all the way to the bottom to hold it in place. It’s a slow process- you have to make sure you don’t unintentionally hit and damage the LEDs. This is a hassle if you’re in a hurry. You’ve got to lock the gel into place at the bottom of the light’s enclosure. While attempting to secure a it we dropped a gel once, luckily it didn’t break.
If the warmth from the existing CTO isn’t warm enough, you can add another CTO gel. Two gels is a snug fit, which is why I’m not too happy with the wide space. It’s a good thing though, a wide space let’s you fit in two gels at once.
Tilts With Ease
The tilt handle on the Benzzo makes loosening (or tightening) the light’s grip on a light stand very easy. The handle is constructed so you don’t depend on your thumbs rather, you use your palms do do the work.
Large Barn Doors
Not large enough for my liking as this light is rectangular and the light’s throw (powerful LED pushes the light rays very far) is long. In retrospect, if the barn doors are larger, it would make this light harder to pack. Well at least it has barn doors to make up for not being able to change the angle of its light beam.
Comes With Dimmer
As with all professional LED lights, there is a dimmer to control the light’s intensity. The strange thing is, at the lowest setting, the light is only at half its maximum brightness. It should be at its dimmest. So there’s no way to turn down the brightness level except with a diffuser. Even then, it’s still very bright.
Internal Cooling System
That’s right, they embedded a fan to dissipate the heat, as if you’ll need it. The entire bank of LEDs operate at such a low temperature.
Red Heads, You’re Hot And You’re Retired
Unless you love hard lights producing hard shadows, you’ll love the soft yet powerful glow of the Benzzo LED. At its brightest setting, it outperforms a 800 Watt Red Head. The Benzzo’s low operating temperature (really low) makes it safe to operate at close proximity to crowds of people.
The very minimal power consumption (they’re LEDs, come on) should make you feel proud going green by using less (significantly) energy.
100V, 240V AC Only Please
On the downside; no additional power source. You can’t plug in any other means of DC power. It works with 110 Volts or 240 Volts 50/60 Hz Alternate Current coming out of your wall.
Would I want the Benzzo LED? We’ve used them in the field and they’ve proven themselves more than once. It works very well for interview shoots with its soft lighting and low temperature.
It’s lightweight, making it easy to setup and shift. It’s great for lighting up green screens- 2 of these babies give you a flat, constant fill for a 8 ft by 8 ft screen. It also excels at film making, in particular corporate films where large areas have to be lit with as few lights as possible.
Just make sure you don’t do your work outdoors where there isn’t an electrical outlet nearby. The super low price makes the Benzzo suitable for the novice all the way to the professional. Although the professional might want to buy a bunch of them for rough use, since it’s so low priced. All things considered, the Benzzo LED is an invaluable complement to the HDSLR cinematographer.