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Ammar

Using Video Lights for Still Photography?

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Since 2008, I use both strobes and video lights for my Canon 5D MRK II, although I primarily shoot stills but don’t want to miss those moments when video becomes a must.

 

I achieve the above by mounting 2 Sea & Sea YS-90 strobes and 2 FIX 1000 video lights to the arms using UL triple clamps, as if the camera, the 16-35 mm lens, the Sea & Sea housing, and the 8” Zen optical glass dome were light weighted already!

 

So, I decided to go light as much as I can for my next trip to the Red Sea (two weeks from now), and I ordered 2 FIX Aquavolt 3500 lumen video lights, in addition GoPro 3+ to mount it on the housing for video only in order not to be distracted when taking stills.

 

My plan is not to take the strobes and only use the new video lights for both videos and stills, believing that 7000 lumens will suffice.

 

My question is, did anyone else tried video lights for stills? Any suggestions or tips would highly be appreciated.

 

There is another similar post, but no conclusion was made there and upon searching the net, I only found this great video about the issue but can’t verify if it works with DSLRs also:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mA4E_Vfc71E

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I just post some examples of shoots i took in a cave using only one Orca Light ( 20,000 lumens ) . That light is IMPRESSIVE and their new model have an output of 22,000 lumens . Also they are have the widest beam i have seen .

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Thanks for the info elbuzo. 22k lumens! That's impressive indeed.

 

You have outstanding images on your website. Thumb up :)

Edited by Ammar

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I have been looking at this myself. Yes you can use video lights to exposure a subject but just at slow shutter speeds 1/50 or 1/60 and wide apertures.

Consider a studio situation of 1000 lux at 1 meters distance with a 90 degree light this needs 1840 lumens in air. In water you are looking at 5500 lumens

This is for a studio production at ISO800 f/8 1/60th of a second. At 1/60th of a second your pictures will be blurred in order to increase shutter speed you need say 1/500 so you are looking at 4x the amount of light needed total of 22000 lumens which is what the orca light provide your fix lights will not come anywhere near

This is to give you a picture at ISO800 f/8 1/500th. If instead you wanted f/2.8 you could set for ISO100 and keep the same lumens 22000

But in general you won't have the same look for the pictures you could take with a strobe. Shooting techniques though could be different to catch images in continous mode

Edited by Interceptor121

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Hi Ammar,

 

On a twilight/night dive, i forgot to open the strobe on the camera, which was inside the housing. Luckily had also attached two sola 2000 and shot some images with both on full power. There was some processing involved, but here are two examples. Unless u have some really powerful lights, i dont believe that video lights are really an option for still images. Though for stationary and slow moving subjects they may work. Increasing the ISO would help solve this problem, albeit not completely in my opinion.

 

The puffer was shot 1/100 @ f 4.5 ISO 100 and the frog fish 1/50 @ f 4.5 ISO 100

 

I had seen a guy in Phillipines shooting with two sola’s 4000 lumen each with some nice results.

 

Hope this helps.

 

Cheers,

 

Diggy

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  • Like 1

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Thank you Interceptor121 and diggy for your feedback.

 

Interceptor: I was about to buy Orca light as obviously 22K lumen makes it the monster of all lights, and its interchangeable angle lenses make it just perfect for wide angle, which is what I usually shoot. The size and weight however of the light was an issue for me as all of my diving made abroad, so extra weight for traveling is exactly what I'm trying to avoid.

 

diggy: Those are really wonderful photos. I'd imagine that at ISO 400, one can go further with shutter speed and maintain good exposure.

 

Well, my FIX Aquavolt 3500 are on its way, so I'll try them and let you guys posted about the results.

 

Regards.

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Here is a link to an old post I did comparing 35,000 lumen video lights, that could fire like a strobe...to a pair of S&S YSD1s. In short found that 35k is about equal to a pair of 20GN strobes.

 

http://wetpixel.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=51659&hl=

 

As an update the mfg now makes a 50,000 lumen video light that can fire as a strobe. Here is the link for those interested.

 

http://www.edgedivetech.com

Edited by NWDiver

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[update]

 

Ok, so I’m back from a one week Red Sea safari diving trip, where I tested using video lights only for my still photography.

  • Camera: Canon 5D Mark II
  • Lens: Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM
  • Lights: 2 FIX Aquavolt 7000 Lumen

As you’ll see from the examples below, I used first Aperture priority and then Shutter priority. The whole idea from the test is to have more flexibility to capture moving subjects continuously without having to manually adjust the exposure every time depending on each shot. Basically fish don’t pose and wait for you.

Also, the idea was to have a versatile single light source to shoot both stills and videos as the scenario dictates if you are interested in both, noting that I’ve mounted a GoPro Black on the housing through a cold shoe adaptor/arm only to shoot videos in order not to be distracted when shooting stills. This worked beautifully.

All images were shot in RAW. I only resized them and converted them to JPEG without any processing.

From my experience with Canon 5D Mark II, I don’t like to go beyond ISO 400 as the noise becomes really ugly even after applying noise reduction filters.

Conclusion:

  1. I did achieve somewhat what I was hoping for to shoot subjects continuously and shoot videos with the same lights, but I can’t say that I’m satisfied with the results as I was when using strobes for stills.
  2. Using Aperture priority was unsuccessful, as it jeopardized shutter speed and I ended up with blurry images.
  3. Using Shutter priority was a better option, though I wasn’t able to maintain the f/8 that I’m used to when using strobes.
  4. The closer you get to your subject, the better exposure you’ll be able to achieve, i.e. (50cm to 100cm). So, if you are a wide angle photographer like me, these lights will not be of any help.
  5. Shooting portraits underwater of other divers means blinding them officially with these powerful lights.
  6. Lights work great for night dives, but as other divers told me: “your lights changed the rules of night diving,” “you looked like a space ship,” beside other funny comments. Yes, they are very powerful, bright lights with excellent angle, but I’d say too bright that really disturbed fish and other divers. Lionfish usually approaches divers with lights, but in my case they were running away! My previous FIX 1000 lumen lights were just perfect for night diving.

In essence, I do not recommend according to my experience using video lights for stills even if they produce 32,000 lumen for the reasons above. So, I’m going back to using both strobes for stills and video lights for videos until a manufacturer comes with great still/video light.

 

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Here are my thoughts:

 

- you need to match or exceed ambient light intensity >> brighter conditions = more difficult

- point light source weakens with square of distance, sun does not >> farther = more difficult

- what matters is lumens/area >> wider lens angle = more difficult

 

Improved high ISO, stabilization-enabled longer exposure times and larger apertures boost ambient and video light to the same extent and can help under low-light conditions but not much during the day.

 

I will keep my strobe but based on the above I haven't given up hope that video lights can work for macro and close-up portraits and there are examples where it works reasonably well under such conditions. Right now I also don't have much need for it but Olympus' new focus bracketing/stacking and other multi-shot techniques could make this interesting for stationary subjects. No need for TTL, camera strobe battery drain, and strobe recharge delay are also attractive but none are important enough to do away with the strobe.

 

Bart

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Strobes give extremely short flash duration (about 0.001 s) and very high power in impulse. Such short impulse "freezes" a movement and we see a sharp object on the picture, independently of camera settings for exposure. We can change exposure parameters widely as we need, but our nearest object will be always sharp, only because it frozen by the flash.

Difficult to reach the same picture quality using video lights.

Edited by Irbis

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I watched the same youtube video as did you Damsel fish and was sold on the concept , essentially i want to keep my stuff light and simple and always on . The guy does a good job of convincing one and the idea of what you see is what you get , continuous shooting and going back and forth from video to stills all makes so much sense. I purchased two Sola 3000 video lights and leave them on ( i think aggravating other divers and i'm easy to find ) . I've never shot with strobes before and am new at this but

i now want to buy a single strobe to see how the results differ. I use an Olympus TG 3 , thanks for also looking for insights into this subject and my current thinking is Strobes win over the Focus lights except for particular shooting context ( non moving macro stuff) ?

 

Well my question that i will revisit the commentary for is in What context , When will the video light rig work ( two sola 3000's ) ? and what compact camera would lend itself best to the video light rig

 

Up close Wide Angle

 

Macro ( small stuff that stays still )

 

Night Diving with a friend

 

The guy from the You Tube was big on Program Mode and Big on White Balancing within Program Mode , does that still make sense ?

 

thanks john

 

 

I got this in shallow water under a pier

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Edited by rivers

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I also took these with the video lights , when i look at the photos of my friend , i think they are lacking and well , glad to learn that i'm not alone in attempting to understand the answer to the question. The math that was posted above seems to answer the question and this is stuff that i get . Also my dive mates reply to the question " Are my lights disturbing you ? " They reply " a little " in a polite a way as possible depending

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To tell the truth, I find diving with someone with giant always-on video lights to be really irritating, even on a day dive but without question on a night dive. I find myself trying to get far in front of the person so that I can see an undistrubed scene, but if I stop to work on a picture for a few moments, up comes this awful light and scares everything away,. Not that it bothers me, of course.....

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Some brands.. U are able to tone down the power of the light. That is the way to go when u are just swimming and looking for something... Once u see your subject.. U can turn it up or down to get the right light u want... As in Marco... U dun want it to be super bright as your tend to be close to the subject... And that big beam will turn the subject 'white'.

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It just makes no sense to me to use a video light for a still picture. It is an awful compromise. You only need a bright light for about 1/250 sec, so why have a continously burning light? Would you consider using a strobe for a video, and just flashing it as fast as you can? Sure, carrying just one light is nice, but you've got to look at the down side too. The only imaginable reason to use a video light for still is if you usually shoot video, and you want the occasional still picture. Even then, it is unlikely to be as good a picture as you would get with a strobe.

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