LED flash has had a bit of a bumpy start the last couple of years. A number of products have come out, but they’ve not been very good. At IBC in September, Godox showed off their new FV150 LED light which features a built-in LED flash function. Rob Hall has had his hands on one and while this isn’t really a review, it’s an interesting discussion on the topic of LED flash and how they compare to more traditional strobes or speedlights.
There are advantages and disadvantages to LED flash, just as there are with speedlights and strobes. LEDs can go into high-speed sync territory, for example, without any loss in power, because they don’t have to recharge big capacitors to convert electricity into light output. This also means they have extremely short recycle times, too, so they’ll have no problem keeping up with the latest crop of 20fps+ cameras. It also means that, in theory (whether or not it’s implemented is another matter), you can have more control over your flash duration.
Then there’s the dual purpose aspect of an LED flash. Even though they can flash, they are LED lights, so they can be used continuously for lighting things like video. Many of us have had a go at using the LED modelling lights on our strobes, and seen the benefits of using continuous light with standard strobe modifiers, but these will be more powerful and better suited to the task than a strobe’s LED modelling lights.
While their continuous use will generally offer more light output than the LED modelling light on a strobe, an actual flash tube in a strobe will put out more light than a burst from an LED for flash photography. This is starting change, though, slowly. As demand is starting to pick up, the technology is moving forward. LEDs are becoming more efficient, allowing them to put out more light per watt of power put in.
The colour of LED lights has also greatly improved over the last few years. Not only are companies seeming to agree on what actually constitutes a daylight white balance, but their CRI and TLCI are improving, too, covering more of the colour spectrum. While our eyes might not see the CRI/TLCI difference, our cameras absolutely can.
Can it compete with something even as relatively low powered as an AD200 as a strobe? Well, no, not yet. This unit isn’t as portable and it requires mains AC power. It’s still a few years before LEDs can fully replace speedlights and traditional flash tube strobes, but it does seem to be on the way.