Over the last few years, I’ve become a big fan of small pocket-sized LED lights. They used to not be as good as they are now, offering pretty limited functionality and they just didn’t produce great colour. But LED tech has come a long way since in a few short years, leading us to where we are today with products like the Digitalfoto Tree Frog.
I have two DigitalFoto Tree Frog lights that I’ve been using to light my 3D printer for live streams and for shooting small product photos and b-roll. We’re still in lockdown here, so that’s pretty much all I can point my cameras at right now. One of Tree Frogs I have is a pre-production model and the other is a final retail version. For this review, I’m only going to focus on the retail version.
What’s in the box?
I was actually quite surprised at the size of the box that came with the DigitalFoto Tree Frog. It was much larger than I’d expected, given the size of the light, which is similar to a large smartphone – albeit slightly thicker. It’s a comfortable size. At the risk of getting ahead of ourselves, though, here’s the Tree Frog next to the OnePlus 7 Pro for a size reference.
The reason the box is so big is that it contains a nice big zip-up hard case inside it which holds our Tree Frog LED light and a number of accessories. Hard cases included with products are always good for keeping your gear safe when travelling or just to keep the dust off when not in use and sitting on a shelf. I was immediately intrigued when I unzipped it and saw that relatively big light staring up at me.
The accessories in with the Tree Frog include a mini tripod, a “mini cradle head” (a mini ball head that can go on your hotshoe or the mini tripod), a silicone bumper, a silicone honeycomb grid, a silicone soft light diffusion cover, a USB charging cable, a Type-C to USB A host cable (for using the Tree Frog as a power bank), and a wrist strap – or “anti-lost rope” as the documentation calls it. I also received a couple of small microfibre cleaning cloths with mine that aren’t mentioned in the official packing list, so I’m not sure whether those will be included if you order one or not.
It’s a very well thought out set of accessories and it’s very nice to have them included in the package. Having them all come inside a nice zip-up storage case is also pretty great. The silicone bumper, grid and soft light diffusion cover are fantastic. A grid and diffusion cover are generally items that you’d expect to have to buy separately. So, including them is a very considerate addition.
The specs and features
The DigitalFoto Tree Frog LED light contains a 4,400mAh battery (the official spec says 4,000mAh, but the ones I have here have 4,400mAh printed on the back) and takes a standard 5v USB input to charge it back up over a Type-C socket. It’s a little disappointing that the Type-C socket to charge the internal battery only accepts 5v.
With a 2.5 hour charge time from flat to full, a Type-C USB-PD compatible socket that could charge up the internal battery over 9v or 12v would speed up that process considerably. It’s how many smartphones offer quick charge capabilities these days. Hopefully, this is something that DigitalFoto might be able to implement in a future iteration – and something I hope more rechargeable device manufacturers start to consider, too.
That being said, you can use the Tree Frog while it’s charging and pretty much power it indefinitely from a USB charger if desired (that’s what I do during live streams).
There’s also a second Type-C socket on the side of the device which acts as a 5v 2.2 Amp output. This lets you use the Tree Frog as a power bank to charge up other devices like your smartphone, using a Type-C to Type-C cable. As mentioned, there’s also a Type-C to USB A host cable so that you can use the Tree Frog to charge devices using the older standard USB cables, too. If you’re only using the battery to power the light itself, and not charging other devices, you can expect anywhere from around 1.5 up to 16 hours of use, depending on the colours you’re using, the brightness level it’s at, what effects you might be using, etc.
And when it comes to the colours and effects, the Tree Frog offers both bicolour white, with a wide range going from 2500K up to 8500K and a max CRI of 97, as well as full RGB lighting. The latter offers the complete 360° hue range, saturation from 0-100% and brightness from 0-100% as well as 20 different lighting effects, including the usual array of police car, lightning, TV screen, candles, etc. As far as how the max power and brightness stands up at different distances, colour temperatures and when using the RGB LEDs, here’s a handy chart that DigitalFoto provided, although I don’t have a suitable meter to confirm these numbers.
One feature that’s mentioned in the documentation is overheating protection. If the LED reaches 65°C, the overheat protection will automatically kick in and dim the light until it cools down. Personally, I’ve yet to experience the overheat protection kicking in personally, though, even after pointing it at my 3D printer for live streaming and keeping it turned on for a solid week powered from a USB charger. That being said, I’m almost never running it at full power. So, depending on your needs and the ambient temperatures you’re using it in, overheating may not be something you face, either.
There’s a magnet built into the back of the Tree Frog, although, personally I think it’s pretty weak. On every metal surface I’ve attempted to attach it to, it’s just slid down the surface due to the weight of the light. It’s not a particularly heavy light, but at around 320g, it’s no feather, either. Either way, the magnets in the lights I have here don’t seem particularly strong. But, there are three useful 1/4-20″ attachment points. Two underneath and one on the side. So, you’re not completely at a loss when it comes to mounting it in places.
The Tree Frog is also IP67 rated, so it’s waterproof down to 1 metre for up to half an hour. Sure, you’re not going to be going deep-sea diving with this thing, but it’ll survive fine just below the surface of the pool or for some shallow underwater effects. DigitalFoto does advise using the silicone bumper when using it underwater, to help seal those Type-C USB ports.
Using the light
Aside from lighting up my 3D printer during live streams, my main use for the DigitalFoto Tree Frog lights has been for small items and macro. I picked up a resin 3D printer recently (the Anycubic Photon Mono, if you were curious), so I’ve been using the Tree Frogs a lot for lighting b-roll of printed models spinning around on the turntable and quick photos for social media. Turning on the Tree Frog is a little different to most LED lights you might be used to, though. When you long-press the power button the light does indeed turn on but it doesn’t light up. Instead, it turns on in standby mode. This allows you to change the settings of the light without actually having to output anything. Tapping the power button again actually makes it start putting out light.
It’s an interesting concept and while I found it quite annoying at first, I soon got used to it. It’s very handy because it means if you need to switch from one mode to another, you’re not making everybody else suffer through all of the different lighting settings, crazy effects and other changes along the way. It also means that you’re not wasting battery by powering the light through settings you’re not actually using for your shot.
But if you want to switch up the output, all you need to do is just tap the power button to instantly turn off the light output, change your setting, and then tap it again to enable the light output again. It sounds like a pain, and I did mention that I found it annoying initially, but you do get used to it. And if you work in a team, everybody around you will be very thankful.
While one of these would be useful on its own, having a pair of them allows for some fun creative uses. It lets me use one as the key light, and one as either a fill or rim light. Usually, I’ll have the second as a rim with either the daylight-balanced room lighting or a Spiffy Gear KYU-6 acting as a fill. Here I have one Tree Frog at 8500K as the key light with the silicon soft cover with the other at 2500K as a rim with the silicone grid.
As you can see, these small lights are quite effective for lighting small models. The light falls on them in a way similar to how large softboxes would fall on human subjects. After all, when it comes to softness, the size of the light source is relative to the size of the subject. And compared to small items like these, the Tree Frog is a pretty big light.
The included modifiers are invaluable here. As I just mentioned – and as illustrated in the photo at the top very top of this review – My key light uses the silicone soft cover and the rim light has the grid attached, which makes for an effective little setup for small items, especially if you’re limited on space. The soft cover turns each of those individual LEDs into a large cohesive light source, and the grid helps to prevent the rim light from flaring back into the camera or spilling into parts of the scene I don’t want it to. This spill control is pretty much essential when you’re using RGB colours for your rim.
This two-light setup works really well for small characters and products as the Tree Frog becomes a large light source. Compared to the size of the Deadpool model below, for example, if he were scaled up to human size, these would be the equivalent of about 6’x4′ softboxes. And for the sword-wielding ninja at the bottom of this review, they’re more like 12’x6′ softboxes.
The DigitalFoto Tree Frog has impressed me, not only with its capabilities but with the included extras, too. I’ve owned a few small pocket LED lights, and most don’t come with the array of accessories included here. Maybe you’ll get a little ball head or bracket for mounting it to your camera, but that’s usually it. Here, you get pretty much everything you need to get up and running included in the box.
But, despite the soft large-light look they offer on small items like these 3D printed models, the Tree Frog is a small light source. And while the specs for the light are quite respectable for its small size, you’re not going to be lighting up entire sets with this thing. But if you need a small light for filming a spoken piece to camera, shooting small products or macro, it’s a wonderful light. Likewise, if you want to add a bit of fill, specular highlights, throw a little light in a dark corner, simulate the effect of a TV screen shining back at your subject, or have need of the other effects the Tree Frog offers, then it stands up to its task very well.
And given my use for the Tree Frog lights that I have – which is mostly small items and macro – it’s been an invaluable weapon in my arsenal, allowing me to get a lot of different lighting options in a small space very quickly. It makes an ideal compact soft (for small stuff) light with a lot of versatility for products and other similarly sized items that you might wish to photograph.
The only downside to the Tree Frog for me, it’s that magnet. It’s just not very strong at all. To the point where they might as well not even bother including it in the unit to reduce the weight or free up some space for a larger battery or something. Maybe I got unlucky but the magnets on mine are pretty much useless.
Other than that, though, I really can’t fault these. The Tree Frog has become one of my most used small LED lights due to its versatility and brightness. The inclusion of the silicone grid and soft cover are greatly appreciated and things not often found with similar small lights. And the fact that it’ll run off external power indefinitely while it’s charging is a huge bonus for things like live streaming.