If you’re a fan of retro-looking modern tech, this one will be right up your alley. It’s a new brand, Hobolite, producing lights with a very old-school Hollywood vibe. The initial range is built around three different models. There’s the Mini, Avant and Pro, each with different power outputs and capabilities. However, one thing they all have in common is wireless remote control.
The company says that all of the lights are designed to “work together as one cohesive smart system”, with optimisations for portability and ease of transport, setup and mobility on location. The lights boast a high CRI of 96 – although that’s become pretty standard these days – and are bicolour, with a white balance range from 2,700K to 6,500K.
The Hobolite Mini is the smallest of the three. It’s a 20W LED bicolour LED light with 0-100% dimming control, an IP20 rating – meaning that it’s dustproof but not waterproof – wireless control up to 20 metres through a smartphone app, and up to 7,199 lux brightness at 1 metre, full power, with a 15º spot. As is the theme with Hobolite, it sports a retro-looking design that wouldn’t look out of place on an old medium-format film camera. The only thing that really gives it away is the display on top.
This small and compact light is very lightweight, weighing in at less than a pound. It’s also extremely small, measuring only 3.3″ x 2.5″ x 4″. A built-in 3,000mAh battery keeps it powered when you need it to be ready, and it charges over a standard USB-C cable from a power bank or charger. There are a number of accessories available for the Hobolite Mini, including barndoors, gels, lenses, softboxes, and stands. These are sold separately, although the barndoors are included if you buy the “Creator Kit”.
The Hobolite Avant is a bit more powerful at 100W. It features the same 96 CRI and TLCI scores as its smaller sibling, with the same white balance range. It’s not significantly brighter, offering 7,969 lux at 1 metre with the lens attached, although it is able to spread that light much more widely, with absolute light output ratings that are around 5x higher than the Hobolite Mini, as one would expect.
Aside from the power, one advantage the Avant has over the Mini is that it can utilise Bowens mount modifiers via use of an adapter. This light can also be powered by batteries, but there’s no USB-C here. Instead, it takes 14.8v from a standard V-mount battery. Naturally, Hobolite has its own V-mount battery they’d like you to use, but you should be able to use it with any that you may already own. The Avant also supports AC power as well for when you need a longer run without worrying about things dying in the middle of a shoot.
The Hobolite Pro is the daddy of the group, boasting 300W of output. Despite this power, it’s still quite small, measuring 7″ x 6.5″ x 12.3″. It’s a bit hefty, at 8.1lbs, but that’s still lighter than some other similarly powered lights. Again, we see the 96 CRI and TLCI ratings, but this one has no IP rating, not even the IP20 rating of the Mini and the Avant. So, you’re not likely to be taking this one out on dusty locations.
No adapters are required for the Hobolite Pro to use it with your favourite modifiers. It has a Bowens modifier mount built right in. With the lens attached, though, you’ll get 16,928 lux at 1 metre and a total output approximately 3-4x greater than the Avant listed above. Rather than featuring built-in controls, the Hobolite Pro sports a detachable control panel, although as with the other two lights, this one can be controlled via a smartphone app, too.
At the moment, the lights don’t appear to be available in the USA. They’re not listed at any of the usual retailers and no US price has been announced. There are prices on the Hobolite website, but right now, it appears that these may be UK-only, as the only price listed is in pounds. If you want the full benefit of any of the lights, there are creator kits available for all three.
At these prices, I think the company is going to have a tough time trying to sell these to the video gear-buying public. When you can get an Aputure Lightstorm 300X for about half the price of Hobolite’s 300W standard kit, it just doesn’t really seem all that worth it. Especially so when you factor in the massive Aputure ecosystem and level of support available. And if you go Godox, you can get the 330W bi-colour SL300IIIBi for less than a third of the cost of the Hobolite Pro.
Maybe Hobolite does have the aesthetic advantage. The lights do look pretty amazing and will no doubt go down well with anybody who happens to own a Leica. Maybe once they do start getting into peoples hands and we see some reviews, we’ll begin to understand why they really cost as much as they do. But I really can’t see these lights seeing mass adoption anytime soon.
Update May 25, 2023: The lights are now available to buy in the USA from B&H. The Hobolite Mini Creator Kit is available to buy now for $399, the Hobolite Avant Creator AC/DC Kit costs $1,399, and the Hobolite Pro Creator AC/DC Kit is priced at $2,999. The Hobolite Mini Standard Kit is $299, the Hobolite Avant Standard Kit is $899, and the Hobolite Pro Standard Kit is $2,299.