Cheap LED Light Shootout

Half of you may have already seen Vimeo member Frank Glencairn's cheap LED Shootout video (Above), but for those who are still asking questions, this might be a good jumping off point. Frank runs through the CN-126 LED, Z96, and Yongnuo's 135 & 160 LED light. As a baseline for a good lighting example he throws in the LitePanels Micro into the bunch, but this is far from a cheap LED Video light.

Obvious pros and cons for each light, one being that none of the tungsten filters that were provided actually worked well as real balanced tungsten color. Since the Yongnuo's don't provide this, I guess that doesn't make it such a deal breaker. You'll have to work with proper gels regardless of the light you decide on. The video was done with an HVX200 so keep in mind that DSLR's may achieve better results with a bit of an ISO push. In any case, enjoy the video examples above on brightness, spotting, and diffusion. [Thanks Frank]

To save you a bit of reading, here's Frank's Verdict (from blog)

I´m a bit undecided. The NG 126 and the Litepanels Micro look outdated, compared to the newer lights. The Z96 has the best daylight balance and the nicest overall light, but the YONGNUO 160 is much more powerful. The YONGNUO 135 is somewhere in between them. Non of the provided Tungsten filters is usable IMHO with the exception of the one from Litepanels Micro. I use normal gels instead. Tricky lids, useless barndoors, mounting options, that are not exactly what you want on a professional set, are no deal breakers, but I hope they will be improved in the future. Some guys asked me to watchout for flicker. I had no flicker at all, unless the batteries getting weak, than they start to flicker.

If I have to choose one (and until I need a real strong light), I think I would go with the Z96, because of the superb light quality and it has a dimming wheel instead of that buttons.

- Frank Glencairn

20 thoughts on “Cheap LED Light Shootout

  1. Soulhuntre

    Thanks for the info and the great blog, I went with the CN160 - we'll see what it's like when it shows up.


  2. Emm

    Post author

    @Soulhuntre - The Z96 is very bright for a small package, and a very durable build. I know many people who use the 160's so it's just a matter of preference.

  3. Soulhuntre

    Ok... I am still torn here. The Z96 looks nice, but the newest CN160 (in this case cowbow studios branded) looks like...

    * It's brighter

    * It's stackable too

    * It's from a source I trust (Amazon, no more futzing with Ebay / Paypal and dealing with suppliers in China)

    * Faster to get if I need more (Amazon prime, always only 1 day away)

    * The gels are easier to make for it on my own if needed

    So I am not sure why I would pay more (or the same) for the Z96 unless the light quality was simply much, much better.



  4. Kenrik

    I don't know about Canon's but my Nikon has a Flicker reduction setting that you can set to 50htz/60htz etc to prevent the banding. I used to have a big problem with this using the D90 but it seems they fixed it in the newer cameras like the d5100 and d7000.

  5. Emm

    Post author

    @Bob - Already on it, thanks httpss:// or this article httpss://

  6. Bob

    If your looking for the most accurate color temperature, I would go with either the Socanland bi-color 277 or Socanland 310. You can choose between either 3200k or 5600k and on the 310 you can mix color temps. This way you aren't messing around with inaccurate filters because they have the different LED bulbs for 3200k and 5600k all on the same light.

    From my experience they are a lot brighter than all of the lights tested in this video.

    Bought mine on eBay.

  7. Darryl

    I have two of the YN-160's

    Brighter than than Z96's
    Barn doors
    Battery Power Meter

    Mount!!!!! very unstable. Currently trying to figure out a better way to mount them to a light stand.

  8. Emm

    Post author

    @Gabe - I've seen those but haven't tried it. Cree makes the best LED's in the world, but i've never tried that light before. I'll do a post to see who says what on them.

  9. Emm

    Post author

    @Michael - Yes when the battery voltage drops too low, the flickering starts to occur. The great thing about the Z96 is the ability to use other batteries or an external power source. The voltage can vary quite a bit too. I would just walk in to Radio Shack, show them the light and they'll figure it out. There's a power rating on the back for the source you need. Should never see that happen again.

  10. Ah, so you're saying that when the batteries start to die, the power outage causes the camera to pick up the flickering. Makes sense. I don't believe the camera came w/ any external power cord. Would you just pick something up at Radioshack?

  11. I had considered a litepanel micro about a year and a half ago. I ended up putting together my own rig, using a 3200K luxeon rebel LED. I'll definitely consider addding a Z96 to my kit, as that's pretty hard to beat for the price. I'd like to see affordable options with native tungsten color balance. The filters just kill so much output.

  12. Emm

    Post author

    @Michael - It has to do with battery voltage. With any battery powered light, its inevitable there will be a time batteries need to be changed out. The z96 does have the option for external power supply. Have you looked into any?

  13. Does anyone else have issues w/ banding using any LED lighting? Sometimes (Most of the time) my T2i records these flickering bands of light that really ruins the picture. I heard it's from the LED lights. Is this true?

  14. Light color quality is so important. Beyond color temperature, it's got to have good color rendering, because if it doesn't you can't even pull as much out in color grading, it's all just sort of dull and cast. Even though it is lower on brightness, I'm glad to see the Z96 performing so well here.

    Even though the shooting subject matter was a pretty poor choice, I can see the quality of the light. It will be very interesting to see what Emm finds with some of these uber-cheap panels he's got coming in for testing.

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