Monday, March 28, 2016

Light & Motion Sola Video Pro 8000 Light Review

I recently had the opportunity to try out the Light & Motion Sola Video Pro 8000 Lights while diving in the Red Sea. These 8000 lumen video lights are very close in size to a good set of strobes – bigger than the other video lights I have used – but still fairly compact for an 8000 lumen light.

Due to the size and density, they are, of course, negatively buoyant, so I added 2 large floats to compensate for both the lights and the 180mm dome port I was using. This made my Nauticam GH4 rig close to neutral, but just slightly negative.

They came with a ball mount, although a YS mount is available. At first I thought I wouldn’t like that, but it turned out to be an asset, making it easier to get the lights positioned at the angles I wanted – as opposed to the more restrictive YS mount, or flex arms - which really wouldn't hold these larger lights well.

One thing that stands out about these lights is the LED display. Light & Motion really put some thought into both the display and the controls of these lights. The LED display is bright and clear, making it so much easier to read than any other lights I have tried – no matter what the lighting conditions of your dive. Then, on top of that, the controls are simple and specific. One control is just a dial, it will turn the lights on or off. In the off position, the light is locked so the other control will not work and the light will not be accidentally switched on during travel. The second control is both a dial (lock) and slider. To make the lights brighter – slide it towards the head of the light, to make the light dimmer – slide it towards the back of the light. The slider always pops back to the center, so each bump in either direction adjusts the light by 1000 lumens. This made it much easier to get the settings I wanted – when I wanted them, unlike most video lights where you would have to cycle back around through all the settings in order to bump the brightness down a notch.

When the dial is turned so it is in the locked position the light setting is locked. I did not use this feature but I can see how it would be valuable in certain situations. To test out the battery life, I did do one dive with the lights on full power for the whole dive. They did last – but that was really overkill. I had much better results by varying the settings – depending on the scene & natural light available. I found that usually I had them anywhere from 4000-8000 lumens, since none of the dives were shallow, bright light dives. The LED display lets you know how much time you have left at whatever setting you choose. That was good for me, and would be extra helpful if I was doing the type of diving where I couldn’t charge the lights each time, which is usually the case. But, since this trip was a live-aboard, I had easy access to power, so I did end up charging them between dives – even though they would most likely last for 2 dives when used at varying brightness.

I was really impressed at the charging speed and I could clearly see what percentage charged they were – with the bright display - as I was just walking by. I also liked being able to charge them without taking them apart, the charging cable just plugs right into the back of the light.

The Light & Motion Sola Video Pro 8000 Lights provided nice, even coverage. I did not see any hot spots at all. The fall-off was gradual and the edges were not too sharp. The wide 90 degree beam angle made it easy to get consistent lighting coverage, even while shooting wide angle. Plus, the lights are so bright, I was able to take photos using them — between shooting video.

Speaking of brightness, having the option to vary the lights power – up to 8000 lumens gave me the ability to get accurate color – without any additional white balance adjustments.

These lights seem to be well built – with solid, tough construction. I never felt worried about either their durability or their water resistance. They packed easily and I would definitely recommend them to anyone using an advanced video system. — Margo Cavis