Do any of you remember the Avis car rental company’s “We are only #2 so we try harder” ad campaign?
Well, Aputure isn’t #2. Or #3 or #4, for that matter.
But they sure are trying harder.
Check out our earlier posts on these Aputure products:
We’ve also met Ted Sim, their marketing guy, and Ray Chang, their product manager (we saw them at NAB).
Smart. Focused. Ambitious. Nice.
And curious: “How do you think we can improve? What product do you think we should do next?”
How often do you hear THAT from a manufacturer?
A New LED Panel Product Line
We got our hands on the smaller LED panel in their new Light Storm series, the daylight balanced LS 1/2W priced at $495 without battery – you have your choice at the time of purchase of V-mount or gold mount.
But beware: the cheapest V-mount battery I found on B&H Photo was from IndiPRO Tools at $199.00, and the cheapest gold mount battery I saw was from SWIT for $239; gold mount batteries from the 800 lb gorilla of the battery world, Anton Bauer, will add at least $269 to the price).
Significantly smaller than Aputure’s own HR672C (if not lighter) and in fact just about half the volume (thinner and shorter but wider), the 1/2W is targeted at the more-than-casual-filmmaker: it puts out a wider beam (120° vs 75°) with more robustness and power configuration options (in addition to the pro-level battery options, it also has plug-in A/C power).
In a first for Aputure (I haven’t seen this anywhere else, but I recognize the limits of my knowledge), the 1/2W isolates the wireless controller and the batteries in a separate combo controller/power unit/battery mount which connects by cable to the light head. The rationale? It allows easier access when the light is extended high up.
Both the LS 1/2W and the Amaran HR672C can be accessed wirelessly via a single remote – which I tried and found flawless. Cool!
Literally cool, too, especially in terms of engineering: unlike its older brother, the LS 1/2W enclosure is basically an aluminum heat sink for the novel on-board chips they use (another first for Aputure).
On the other hand, the LS 1/2W relies on tracing paper as a diffuser (the head has built-in clips for it) vs. the Amaran’s slide in/slide out diffuser panel. I much prefer the latter, and in fact will mention it again: I’d really like to see a custom-fitted companion set of light-shapers to go with the head, e.g., diffuser(s), egg crate, snoot, and barn doors.
I also much prefer being able to dial in my color temp, but that’s only an option on the up-coming LS 1C, price to be announced.
Speaking of color…
While no longer fully trusting my eyes after witnessing the “what color is my dress” web sensation, I did detect a small greenish tint compared to my work-a-day 1-bys, confirmed by Adam Wilt’s Cine Meter II with Luxi (a very cool app and incident diffuser, but that’s the subject of a different article to be written). I wouldn’t have noticed it on its own, and I can’t tell you definitively which light was off spec (I can tell you that when I sent a note to Aputure, they quickly sent back snapshots of one of their guys measuring an LS with two different colorimeters, and the numbers were dead-on).
I’d like a practical and dead-simple way of measuring and tuning tint with the light itself without going to gels and a hardcore colorimeter (Sekonic C500 and C700 are super-cool colorimeters, but they’re each more than a grand, and that’s one third of the way toward a Sony A7r II or basically a whole Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 — cue up gurgling sounds of acquisitive fervor).
I wish – as I wrote above – that Aputure would put together a set of light-shaping tools.
I wish Aputure would do a deal with a battery manufacturer to get V-mount or gold mount batteries included in the package at a package price.
I’d trade off a little size for more lux, like its fraternal and bigger twin, the LS 1s ($695).
Finally, in the category of “for those on an even tighter budget,” Aputure’s own HR672W Daylight panel puts out twice the lux at less than half the cost when you figure in batteries (it's also twice the size). Yes, it’s a narrower beam, and yes, it’s aimed at a different user and different use cases – but for those of you who can’t stretch to the LS 1/2W, it’s a heckuva buy.
I’m looking forward to seeing what Aputure comes up with next.
The Bottom Line
The Light Storm series of LED Panels is a significant move up market for Aputure both in terms of practical function – higher capacity battery options, more robustness, better ergonomics during the shoot – and a higher final price to purchaser especially when taking into account the cost of pro batteries.
I like it.
(cover photo credit: first two snaps from Hugh Brownstone; other photos from Aputure)