Z96 dimmable LED lights

Laurence wrote on 7/8/2011, 1:45 PM
Since I got the DSLR, my ideas of what I need for lighting have diminished substantially.

I was just looking at this video:

It looks like a couple of these would be all you need in your DSLR for simple talking head interviews. Anyone have experience with these lights? Watching that video makes me very tempted to order a couple.

Anyone have any firsthand experience with these lights?


DavidMcKnight wrote on 7/8/2011, 2:16 PM
Yes, and we don't use DSLR. I've used them with an HMC150. Our main on cam light is a Comer 1800 and this is not as good as that. But, it's about 1/3 the price, too.

If this light is what you can afford, it's very good for the price.
farss wrote on 7/8/2011, 2:26 PM
[i]"Anyone have any firsthand experience with these lights?"[/]

Sure have, I've bought around 100 of them. They blow the Lightpanels out of the water. More light, a fraction of the price, better built. There's a couple of eBay vendors doing good deals if you buy four and at the price why not have four.

Things to know.
They take 5 AA batteries which is a bit of a pain.
To get the Sony battery on you need to open the door just a tad.
Do NOT fit a Sony battery AND AA batteries. If you do you'll fry the AA batteries.
The plastic peg for joining mulitple units is in the bottom of the box and easily missed and thrown away with the packaging.

Laurence wrote on 7/8/2011, 3:49 PM
Amongst my rarely used gear is a Sony HVR-A1 and a bunch of the smaller Sony batteries for that as well as a charger. Is that the size of Sony battery that the Z96s take?

I am not looking for cheap lights. Don't get me wrong, I like cheap, but more than that I want SMALL lights that I pack away small. I am doing a lot of very quick movie theater ads that only make sense financially if you can be in and out of the shoot in a short time. A couple of small battery powered lights on mic stands seems ideal.

I went from 500 LED lights, down to a pair of Lowel Egosys lights, and with the big sensors and wide open apertures of the DSLR, even that is too bright. Often the room isn't big enough to get them far enough away from the subject. Who'd have ever guessed that would be the case a few years ago.

All I usually need is just a tiny bit of extra light on a face and a little back lighting to be happy these days. Natural light is so close to good enough. These lights look ideal.
crocdoc wrote on 7/8/2011, 4:20 PM
If the HVR-A1 takes the same standard Sony batteries as the PD-150/170, Z-1, HVR-V1 etc, then your batteries will work with these lights.

I've got one of these and I thought it was a bargain at the price. Produces as much light as the Sony unit that cost me 7x as much.

Bob, I wish I'd read your post a couple of weeks ago, before I threw out the packaging for my light (I've had the light for months, but was doing a tidy up of unnecessary boxes etc). I'll have to double check, but I'm pretty sure the little unit you mention is goneski.
farss wrote on 7/8/2011, 4:21 PM
I know for certain the NP 950 and NP 970 batteries work just fine.
Peter Wright from here did a small mod to his Z96s and got the different sized Sony batteries he had on hand to fit as well.

For sure the Z96 is nowehere near as good as the Comer 1800 which is my on camera light of choice. I just keep 2x Z96s in the tool box as they are small and light. They mount onto the mic boom stands I also always have on hand via cheap adaptors.

The last batch of 10x Z96s I bought cost around USD 70 inc free postage from China. The vendor sells on eBay under the name "Yespainting" from memory.

"Often the room isn't big enough to get them far enough away from the subject. Who'd have ever guessed that would be the case a few years ago. "

China balls are very cheap and do well as space lights in tight place. With a CFL inside them you could throw a skirt around them to control spill or just a bit of black paint in a spray can.

PeterWright wrote on 7/8/2011, 7:45 PM
Yes, as Bob says, I use Sony L series (NP-F970) batteries with these great lights. I had to remove a couple of small lugs in the battery carrier which got in the way, and the batteries now fit perfectly. I have several of these batteries for my Z1 camera which I rarely use, so it worked out perfectly.

The batteries run these lamps for many hours, depending on how dimmed they are. Another great feature is the magnetically attached soft diffuser and daylight filter, and it is a joy to have lamps that don't get hot. There is also an adapter to use them as on-camera lights.

One of my best ever purchases (thanks to Bob!).
ushere wrote on 7/8/2011, 8:33 PM
One of my best ever purchases (thanks to Bob!).

agree entirely....

have a whole collection of those silly, if not useless 570 batteries that ship with sony cameras - anyone know how long they'd run one of these lights? (i'd do a test run myself but my light is down in sydney at the moment)
PeterWright wrote on 7/8/2011, 8:56 PM
Leslie, I have one 570 - I'll charge it up and do a test for you ....

update: it's still charging and I have to go out - I'll have to give the result tomorrow ...
Grazie wrote on 7/8/2011, 10:47 PM
I've gotta ask..... does the talent get light-wince when you illuminate? What I've seen is that they are good for up to 1.5 metres, but at that proximity they are intense. Just shot interviews with a halogen 50watt, that still left the talent wanting to speak relaxed to me and the camera. I'm yet to be convinced that this level of calmness of the talent can be achieved with any LEDs. Yes, they are great packs to have - low profile on stored power, price, stackability and so on - but what's been your truly candid impression of the talent's comfort?  Having said ALL that, I really could see myself staying with my 50watt halogen on camera light and THEN use a bank of these lights for backfill, shoulder/hair/crown or rear illumination to blow some shadow. I need to get a nice interview scenario going in the tightest and quickest of scenarios, ie NO mains power, and always open to exploring quick and flexible setups and take downs. 

I've got a long term Lottery project coming up in the next months which will require quick, in-depth interviews, of better than the normal point and shoot, almost a studio setup, but not quite. If I can pull this off I know the client will be knocked-out.

Z96 look good. But how, in general, does your talent react to them and NOT loose the verbal plot 'cos you've just switched on those LEDS?


ushere wrote on 7/8/2011, 11:13 PM
@pw - many thanks. if it runs reasonably i'll send them down - be a lot lighter than the 750's they're using at the moment!

@gb - i use mine slightly off camera on an old light stand - a sort of poor man's soft box. works surprisingly well (and saves all the hassle of setting up my (cheap chinese, fragile!) softbox).
PeterWright wrote on 7/9/2011, 3:11 AM
Grazie, I did a to-camera piece recently - used the diffuser and dimmed it a little, and the subject quickly got used to it. I deliberately had one Z96 on the camera, and client was delighted by the "sparkle" it put in her eye (old Hollywood trick!).
farss wrote on 7/9/2011, 3:28 AM
Same here. The Z96 comes with a rigid diffuser that gets held on by 4 little magnets so it's much harder to loose than the gells that other lights use.
With that on and keeping in mind that as you turn the light on it is dimmed there's no shock and awe effect on the talent. I'd kind of figure these to be way kinder on the talent than a 50 W halogen. We had some of those (Possum Lights) ages ago and they were savage.

craftech wrote on 7/9/2011, 5:25 AM
The last batch of 10x Z96s I bought cost around USD 70 inc free postage from China. The vendor sells on eBay under the name "Yespainting" from memory.

I looked on eBay.

I am wondering why they list them by DSLR camera type. Do they come with different mounting shoes?

And are you using the yellow filter to lower it's standard color temperature from 5600K to (is it ) 3200K?

Serena wrote on 7/9/2011, 5:55 AM
The Z96 comes with 2 detachable filters, one roughly equivalent to a Lee 410 (Opal Frost) and the other roughly a (Lee 236 (HMI to Tungsten) + Opal Frost). So shooting at 3200K the light you can have 2 layers of diffusion using no more than the provided filters. Perhaps the problem with bare LEDs is that the each element is very bright (painfully so) but diffusion removes those intense points. Being able to dim the light adds another valuable level of control.
farss wrote on 7/9/2011, 6:04 AM
"I am wondering why they list them by DSLR camera type. Do they come with different mounting shoes?"

No, just trying to get hits. They come with a mounting that fits the standard cold shoe. It also has a 1/4" brass insert in the mount that'll thread onto a 1/4" adaptor on a mic stand or if you have Manfrotto stands you fit a 3/8" to 1/4" adaptor and screw them on that way.
I also have a collection of "umbrella holder" type adaptors that give me an adjustable cold shoe fitting that fits any baby pin (standard 5/8 pin on a light stand). Some of the smaller Manfrotto stands do have a 1/4" threaded pin.

I've also made up some plates that I can gaff or BluTack onto or under things to hold these lights e.g. under an organ console to light the pedals.

craftech wrote on 7/9/2011, 6:07 AM
Thanks Bob and Serena. I think I'll order one.

paul_w wrote on 7/9/2011, 6:50 AM
What a find! These look just great for the price. There is an ebay shop selling these for £57 each in the UK. And if you order from china, you can get them for £45.
This is excellent value - ordering my right now. Thanks for posting this thread. Gotta love this forum.

nice little demo here:
http://bit.ly/qTBX9z96 LED panel video[/link]

PeterWright wrote on 7/9/2011, 7:33 PM

Just tested the 570 with the Z96 - it lasted 89 minutes at full brightness. This battery hasn't been used for a few years before I charged it up, so I don't know how that might affect it's duration.

musicvid10 wrote on 7/9/2011, 8:51 PM

Would you be kind enough to test this light on your Kodak Play Touch with a 1/4" stud adapter, both underneath, and above (with the picture inverted)?

As a fellow Play Touch owner, I am particularly interested.

ushere wrote on 7/9/2011, 9:38 PM
@pw - many thanks - much appreciated!!!

wow - 89min, even if my batt's only give half that (they're REALLY old), i'll be happy. i mean they're so much lighter than 970's and the like.

maybe when it gets back i might try it on my new d700 rather than using my sb600, which is fine but chews through batteries and takes (what seems like) forever to recharge when you really need to get the shot ;-(

paul_w wrote on 7/12/2011, 5:43 AM
Just got mine today, got 4 of them.
Have to say these are great. And since i have a few NPF sony batteries laying around this is a great way to give those cells a purpose.
I seen a youtube review of these and one person mentioned flicker issues while using AA cells in these. But i am using the Sony NPFs and after testing, i cannot see any flicker at all. Never tried AAs yet. Anyone seen this issue? The lights are DC controlled, not strobed in any way. To my eye, they look rock solid, and with magneticly attached filters, really very good.
Laurence wrote on 7/12/2011, 6:54 AM
My understanding is that z96s have a little problem with flicker as the batteries die, but only then.
Grazie wrote on 7/12/2011, 10:35 AM
What I need is a Canon BP945 battery to SONY converting plate.


Laurence wrote on 7/12/2011, 1:39 PM
I just ordered two Z96s. Now I'm thinking about very portable light stands. What do you guys think about using these for stands?: