As camera gear grows smaller, and the light sensitivity of cameras increases, the need for large bulky light kits are declining to an extent. For the run and gun shooter, having a portable LED light to fill in those dark places is a must have. F&V has a fairly inexpensive unit that might be right up your alley.
While F&V’s website is in English, buyers should know that the light is manufactured in China, and the two units I received had a great deal of Chinese writing on the outside, which at first concerned me, but fortunately, the Z96 is super easy to use and understand, and in the back of the thin manual are instructions in English.
The unit can be powered by a 2.5 DC jack (power supply not included), five AA batteries, or a Lithium-Ion battery (Sony brand). The fact that this unit can be powered by the five AA batteries is nice as they are available anywhere, and rechargeable batteries are plentiful.
The Z96 produces 800 lux (roughly 75 footcandles) which is pretty good for small space work if you need to use this light as the only light source. I was pleasantly surprised that even at a great distance, this unit throws enough light to soften hard shadows at a distance.
The unit attaches to a DSLR or video camera via hot shoe adapter, and for front on lighting, this works well.
While LEDs tend to produce a softer light source, the Z96 includes two filters that attach magnetically to the front of the unit. The first softens the light considerably.
I noticed a drop of 1 stop when this was attached.
The Z96 is rated a 5600K, so if you are shooting indoors and need to change your white balance, an indoor filter is also included. This filter also drops exposure by at least one stop, though it seemed like more.
If you need a bigger light source, you can purchase multiple units, which attach to one another via supplied clips. I really like this idea, and I’ll probably go back and purchase a few more of these.
Personally, I’m not a big fan of front mounted lights because they flatten the subject, and if turned up all the way, the light could cause the subject to squint. I decided to take the light off the camera and try a traditional 45-degree keylight placement.
VERDICT: WORTH IT
For $69.00 for the base unit, this is a steal for those wanting a quality LED light without having to pay thousands, this is a pretty good deal. Four units will set you back less than $500, are easy to set up, and extremely portable, earning the Z96 LED light a Good Buy Recommendation.