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Bolt LED light review By Zeke Kamm
Whether you use them for still photography or HDSLR filmmaking, LED lights have at last become a viable option. Quality LED lights use around 10% of the power that an incandescent bulb would for an the same amount of light. So your batteries last longer and the light doesn’t get too hot to touch. Pretty nice. But is the Switronix Bolt LED light a quality light? Read on.
The Bolt is a solid, small, and incredibly bright light for its size. Designed as an on camera light, the Bolt is bright enough to use off camera. It’s small size makes it easy to hide on set and its impressive brightness opens up more options.
Color Temperature. Most LED lights are similar to strobes in that they are color balanced to daylight temperature. Though some do come balanced to tungsten. Some tricky LED lights come with the ability to be both daylight and tungsten as well as everything in between. And that’s another trick the Bolt has up its sleeve. The Bolt comes with an array of 16 super bright LEDs, eight warm and eight cool. They are spread out every other one in a grid. The bulbs are controlled by two pots, one for the warm lights and one… that’s right, for the cool. So you can go completely in one or the other direction or fine tune the light to match any light temp in between. This does come at a price. Because the blending is achieved by turning down the brightness of whatever color temperature you DON’T want, you are making the light up to half as bright in order to change the temperature. Not a deal breaker, but something to be aware of before you go off shooting.
Out of the box it does include a power tap cable, but that’s only useful if you have a big battery that has sockets for taps. Otherwise it doesn’t come with any way to power it. It is compatible with Sony L type batteries (the manufacturer recommends only using it with quality name brand batteries of at least 6600mah). I tried it with slightly smaller aftermarket batteries and got over an hour of useable light, Switronix says a Sony 7600mah can get you about two and a half hours. I recommend getting a 12v wall plug when you buy the Bolt because this really is powerful enough to use plugged in for sit down shoots, interviews, and film making.
I love LEDs. I have an unhealthy amount of LED flashlights. It’s a sickness. But there is a problem inherent to all LED lights that use an array (over 97% of LED video lights use an array). Because the light is coming from several places at once, it casts multiple shadows. It’s not just the Bolt, and it’s something you can manage as long as you know it’s there. Again, this is down to the multi light tech, not a fault of the Bolt itself.
I am very happy with the Bolt, but there is still room for improvement. This thing is crazy bright with both color temps LEDs turned all the way up. But that makes the color temperature 4100k which is neither daylight or tungsten temperature. It would be nice if Switronix included gels that took that full combo and changed it to daylight and incandescent. That way we could use the most of the brightness, but still nail the temp. Not a big deal because I can cut some Rosco gels to get me there. But it would be nice if it was included.
The bolt already comes with a gel holder. But it’s there to “hold” the included diffuser panel that does a decent job of spreading out the light. The problem is it’s not a tight fit. If the light is held upside down, or even just south of sideways, the panel slips right out. It’s made from a hard plastic. If it falls out and hits the floor I don’t think it will ever look the same again. I recommend using a small slice of gaffers tape to keep it in the holder.
Speaking of fit… It’s very handy that the Bolt has a built in adaptor for the ubiquitous Sony L type battery. But their adaptor – unlike every other piece of gear I have that uses these types of batteries – doesn’t have a latch. It’s just a squeeze fit. The battery has no problem staying put during normal use, but if the you bump the light, the battery flies right out. Hopefully this is something they will change if they do a Bolt 2.
Quality of construction. Although the housing for the Bolt is plastic, it feels quite solid. The switch, dials, and metal ¼” 20 threaded base look and feel like decent quality. This is not some cheap, junky ebay light.
Overall I am extremely pleased with the Bolt LED video light. A set of three could make an incredibly compact and surprisingly useful quick and dirty travel kit.
If you’re looking for a crazy bright light in a teeny, tiny package, check out the Switronix Bolt LED light at B&H Photo today.
200W Equivalent Light Output
22W Max Power Draw
3000K-6000K Color Temperature Range
At 4100K, which is a blend of full 3000K and 6000K light, the illumination is 3800 lux at 3.3′ (1 m).
Snap-On Filter Holder & Diffusion Gel
Lamp Type 16 LED
Mount Type 1/4″-20 (includes swivel shoe-mount adapter)
Illumination Approx. 1800 lux (3200K @ 1 m)
Approx. 2000 lux (5600K @ 1 m)
Dimming Range 5-100% (separate controls for 3000K & 6000K temperatures)
Color Rendering Index 89
Power Source Powertap input for connection to a standard 14.4V brick battery
Also accepts Sony L-Series-style battery
Power Connector – Powertap cable
Power Requirements 7.2-16.8V DC
Material Housing: Black ABS plastic
Dimensions (HxWxD) Light body only: 4 x 5.6 x 2.95″ (10.2 x 14.2 x 7.5 cm)
Weight 1.15 lb (0.52 kg)
DISCLAIMER: Switronix provided the Bolt without charge for the purpose of this review.
About the author: Zeke Kamm is a veteran Hollywood filmmaker and fine art photographer as well as the best selling author of several photography how-to books. Check them out at Nice-Industries.com