Review: Switronix TorchLED Bolt On-Camera Light
This Simple and Powerful Mini LED Light Is Fine at Night But Strong Enough to Use as an Eyelight During Day Shoots
No product illustrates better the rapid evolution of lighting technology than the compact LED. This year director Ridley Scott is said to have lit Prometheus almost exclusively with LEDs, ample testimony to the inescapable fact that serious LED instruments have finally come of age.
The advantages of LED lighting are well recognized. Cool to the touch, the latest units are lightweight and almost ten times more efficient on average than traditional tungsten lighting. Moreover, LEDs are adaptable to a wide range of applications from newsgathering to studio feature films. They are compact in size, more or less color correct, and require little to no maintenance.
The new Switronix TorchLED Bolt embraces all of these advantages. Powered by an onboard Sony L-series or 14.4V brick-style battery the Bolt consumes only 22W while delivering the equivalent power of 200W tungsten lighting. This latter point is hardly a trivial matter. In many parts of the world, like South Asia, where rapid economic growth is straining the region’s infrastructure, load shedding is a fact of life for the region’s filmmakers. Hungry HMI or large tungsten units are simply not practical. The city of Dhaka, Bangladesh, receives barely three hours of power per day, so many productions, even modest ones, must rely on DC batteries or a small generator to get by.
The Bolt LED is intended to fit precisely into this kind of environment. Designed primarily for ENG and nonfiction shooters its color temperature output is variable from 3000K to 6000K via two back-mounted control dials, an arrangement, while straightforward, is not quite as convenient as the single adjustor now on the Litepanels Croma.
The Bolt’s dimmers operate smoothly with a slight but consistent green bias apparent throughout the range. On a recent shoot I was able to address the discrepancy with a 10M (magenta) gel. The output beam is spottier than the Chroma and offers a longer reach; the unit features 16 large daylight and tungsten surface mounted LEDs apparently gleaned from interior decorators and the architectural industry.
The product’s most notable shortcomings include a maddeningly flimsy diffusion filter and frame, and an undersized ¼ x 20 swivel mount that is similarly lacking in robustness. The mount and securing knob does not nearly support the weight of the unit, even at a very reasonable 1.15 lbs (0.52 kgs): the unit consistently loosened and pivoted to one side during shooting. I became concerned that it might inflict eventual bodily harm or, in the very least, a bonk on the forehead. I'd like to see a more secure wedge clamp, similar to a Mafer, furnished with the unit in future versions, making this pro tool an even worthier companion on location.
The Bolt may be powered from a common Sony L-type battery or brick connected with the powertap cable adapter thoughtfully provided.
The cheap provided swivel mount, however, fails to prevent the unit from turning and twisting loose during use. The knurled knobs in the swivel base are too small to engage the camera securely.
Similarly, the slip-on plastic frame and diffusion filter (also provided) are too flimsy for professional use. The filter is easily dislodged during routine camera operation.