The compact LitraTorch, introduced three years ago, was meant to be a rugged, versatile LED. It also happened to be good enough for most photo and video applications. Many folks, like me, also used it for camping, locating a lost wedding ring in the kitchen drain, and checking my car’s oil at 2 a.m. Indeed, one can find the LitraTorch for sale at Auto Zone, Best Buy, and REI. But despite the mighty light’s brilliant output, nifty diffusion globe, and superior build quality, the $80 Torch faced tough competition from inferior, non-photo LEDs that can be had for less. Much less — a few dollars, if that.
In response, rather than producing a cheaper, more fragile product, Litra made the required investment to improve the quality and quantity of the Torch’s output, making it even more photo-video appropriate. The LitraTorch’s CRI, for instance, which had languished below 80, was upgraded to a rather respectable 92 CRI/TCLI. These numbers in a low-cost LED light are nothing to blink at!
The LitraTorch 2.0 incorporates 16 individual LEDs (compared to the original eight), significantly reducing the light’s harshness and its previous proclivity to produce objectionable shadows. More importantly, for shooters, Litra also added an overlying lens system to narrow the Torch beam from 80 degrees to 70 degrees, providing much-needed additional punch.
Most accomplished shooters will opt for the more versatile LitraPro, which uses the same advanced lens design as the lower-cost Torch, but adds the benefit and convenience of bicolor LEDs and an onboard OLED display for precise setting of color temperature and brightness. The Pro version, which outputs 1,200 lumens maximum at a rather impressive 95 CRI, also features a larger battery that yields up to 40 minutes of run time at maximum power or the equivalent of four hours (roughly) at half-power. The LitraPro supports the usual light-control accessories one might expect in a pro caliber camera light — a soft box, honeycomb grid, and barn doors.
It is no accident that the LitraTorch and LitraPro are so reminiscent of the GoPro’s shape and construction. Scott Gant, Litra’s founder and president, began his career in product design. For 25 years, he consulted for clients like Kodak, Dell, and HP, helping to develop a range of printers and other computer peripherals. Working for a start-up company that would be acquired by GoPro in 2009, Gant turned his attention full-time to designing the ultimate compact, rugged, waterproof LED — suitable for GoPro’s rapidly expanding ecosystem of nature shooters and action-adventurers. Producing a low-cost light that not only resembled the GoPro but was similarly constructed of machined alloy aluminum with the same mounting points, Gant figured GoPro users could leverage the support systems, gimbals, and stabilizers they already had in their kits. This thinking led to the introduction of the original LitraTorch in 2017.
Designing and manufacturing a compact, professional-grade LED presents significant challenges, the most notable of which is the layout of the LEDs on such a tiny board, and shaping the light off the LED so as not to lose too much intensity or create unacceptable hot spots or shadows.
To address the issue, Litra had to create a new precision injection molding to precisely place the lens array away from the LED surface. The design and shape of the lenses are critical due to the tight LED spacing in the LitraTorch 2.0 and LitraPro; a high level of precision is necessary to achieve high-intensity output with smooth beam characteristics.
Most LED lighting is housed in much larger fixtures, so the LEDs may be mounted on boards with a diffusion panel placed some distance away. Litra couldn’t utilize the same approach owing to its lights’ tiny size, so the first iteration of the Torch placed the lens directly on the LED, with an 80-degree dispersion angle that reduced the light’s punch and practicality.
Vloggers, ENG and fashion shooters understand the need to capture accurate and pleasing skin tones. LEDs, in general, struggle to output sufficiently saturated reds, and that can wreak havoc on flesh tones, especially darker skin tones. They can look ashen or splotchy when subject to the additional curse of high compression that comes with a DSLR, iPhone, or GoPro.
Litra selects its LEDs with R values well above 90% across the color gamut, helping to ensure faithful flesh tones. Most low-cost LED lights, even those with a relatively high CRI at 7,000K, can be problematic at warmer color temperatures closer to 3,200 K where, it is fair to say, it matters most.
The LitraPro and Torch offer better-than-average performance in a lightweight on-camera light with a high CRI and TLCI — the latter being somewhat more accurate and less hypothetical, as it reflects better how our cameras actually read color at high resolution.