Light and Motion’s Stella Pro LEDs Review

Battery powered LEDs packing a wallup

There is nothing more disconcerting than setting up for an interview and not finding a single wall outlet. There is no pup-pup generator. No gaffer. You are on your own. Just you, a camera, and a light kit and not a single way to power your LitePanels or Arri Skypanel. Two things cross your mind: 1. buy battery plates for you LED lights before your next shoot. 2. Turn to Light & Motion’s new battery powered Stella LED lights. I had the option to take the latter choice.

Stella Pro
(L to R) Stella Pro 5000, 10000, 2000

I am going to go out on a limb and guess many have not heard much about Light & Motion or about their wonderfully easy to use Stella Lights. Hell, I hadn’t either. But, I knew a couple of things right off the bat once I held their lights in my hands. These lights were going to change the way I shoot.

Light & Motion

“The Lightest, Brightest, Most Reliable Lights. Period.” is one helluva company motto. What started out as a company manufacturing and selling lights for scuba diving has branched out to cycling, mountaineering and film/video. Their products started out in dive shops, found their way into REI, and other camping stores, and can now be found on the Filmtools website. In many ways, it is a journey to film/video that is as unusual as everyone else’s journey and proof that there is no one path to a career on set.

Stella Pro LEDs

Light & Motion sent me four lights. The Stella Pro 10000, 5000, 2000, and 1000. These lights are measured in lumens and that is why the Stella Pro 10000 bears its name because its output can go as high as 10,000 lumens. You get the idea. Three of the four can operate on battery power and are water-proof. Only the Stella Pro 10000 requires wall power and is not water-proof. The 10000 is also one of the easiest lights to use too.

Shooting News With Stella Pros

Stella Pro
Floor plan for school house interview

These lights saved my ass. They literally saved it. We were on a location shoot two hours away and we had a small time window to capture interviews and video. One of our locations was a busy restaurant during the lunch rush. The other was an old abandoned segregated school across the street. I decided, without much forethought, to shoot all the interviews in the abandoned school. This was a place with no electricity meaning I had no way to power my HMI I had come to rely on. I thought I was screwed.

Then I remembered I brought along the Stella Pro kit Light & Motion sent to me to test. I popped a Profoto OCTA softbox on the Stella Pro 5000 and went to work setting it as my key. It was quick. It was cordless. It was enough LED power to allow my Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K to hold the highlights in the window, but not quite enough for the URSA Mini 4K I was using for a wider shot. I used the Stella Pro 2000 as my backlight. In a quick TV news situation, this worked wonderfully. We shot easily a 30-minute interview and both lights had not spent near half of their battery power. Here is an overhead look at my quick set-up as well as the finished news story.

In many ways, these Light & Motion LEDs were tailored for ENG shooting. The run & gun nature of shooting can be rough on gear. If the light kit is not built like a tank it won’t last the year being thrown into vans, onto asphalt only to be torn open as fast as possible, or even survive rain during a live shot. These lights are built like tanks. When one picks them up the first impression is of sturdiness. These lights are not plastic pieces of shit. NOT. AT. ALL.

I’ve had light kits, very popular brands, begin to show signs of stress within a year of using. The Stella Pros feel like they’ll last five years easily. No hyperbole meant here. Why do they feel this way? 1. Waterproof housing in the 5000, 2000, 1000, lights. 2. No superfluous knobs or buttons. It is a very simple industrial design. 3. Well built. The light feels like a single piece. Lastly, these lights are way bright.

Stella Pro
Floor plan for music video scene

Music Video Shoot

Around the same time I was reviewing Light & Motion’s Stella Pros I was also shooting a low-budget anamorphic music video on the Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K PL camera. I had a handful of lights at my disposal. A 1200 HMI and these Stella Pro LEDs. Obviously, the HMI 1200 was my go-to big light, but I found the 5000 and 2000 Stella Pro lights were great complimentary lights. In one scene I used the HMI 1200 and canned haze to create some light streaks in the background and I used the 5000 and a Profoto softbox as my key. It worked out well. I also used the Stella Pro 2000 as an on-camera eye light whenever I needed to add a little sparkle in someone’s eye.

The color of the Light & Motion Stella Pros matched that of the 1200 HMI. Both feel around 5000 Kelvin and I did not see a reason to gel either of the lights. Nor would I have to if I wanted to shoot something at 3000K. The Stella Pro 10000, 7000, and 5000 have interchangeable LED heads allowing a user to change from 5000K head to a 3000K.  The great thing about the Light & Motion Stella Pros is the number of modifiers coming in the kit with the lights. This meant I could not only dim my lights to the level I wanted, but I could also modify the spotlight nature of the light and give it a wider softer feel without the need to pull our a C-Stand and diffusion.

Stella Pro

Stella Pro

The Stella Pro 125 Kit

For someone who shoots a fair amount of news or news promo spots, I love a light kit that is easy to grab and throw in a truck. Light & Motion turned to Tenba bags to give their 1000, 2000, and 5000 kit, called the 125 kit, all the accessories needed for most applications. My favorite accessories were the fresnel lens and the Glo Bulb. The Glo Bulb is diffusion similar in shape to a small light bulb. The kit includes:

  • Four-Way Barndoors
  • Focus Optic for Stella 2000 and 5000 LED Lights (50°)
  • Stand Mounts
  • Diffusers
  • Fresnel Lens for Stella 1000 LED Light
  • Cold Shoe, 1/4″-20 Adapter
  • Power Adapter for Stella 1000 and 2000 (12V, US/UK/EU/AUS)
  • Power Adapter for Stella Pro 5000 & Sola 8000 (24V, US/JP)
  • Fresnel Lens for Stella 2000 and 5000 LED Lights
  • Glo Bulb for Stella 2000 and 5000 LED Lights
  • 3″ Speed Ring and Gel Holder
  • 2 x Midi Click-Stand (8′)
  • 38″ Rolling Tripod/Grip Case
  • Limited 2-Year Warranty
Stella Pro
Stella Pro 125 Kit

Operating These Lights

Stella Pro
Stella Pro 2000 was my favorite camera top-light

It’s not like lights are overly difficult to operate. I mean, you turn them on and they work, right? Now that LEDs are everywhere we can not only turn on lights but also dim without worrying about flicker or color temperature shifts. Whereas in the past, tungsten lights typically needed dimmers between the light and its power source and grew warmer the more you dimmed them. Sometimes this was desirable and sometimes not. The Stella Pro lights are unique in how each of them turns on and how they are dimmed, but once you know it you find it makes sense. Remember these lights are waterproof, except the 10000, and that is why they have a different way to operate them.

The Stella Pro 10000 is the easiest. There is a ring on the back of the light. You twist it clockwise to turn on the light. You also twist is to set your intensity. Clockwise twist makes the light brighter and counterclockwise dims it. When powered up to 10000 lumens the electric cooling fan kicks on. I found that it turned off at 8000 lumens. This gave me a quiet light that did not interfere while sound being recorded.

The Stella Pro 5000 has an on/off knob on the top of the light and slider up there as well. You turn the knob on then turn the slider up. This doesn’t operate just like a dimmer. You bounce the slider to its top most repeatedly to get to the brightest light level. The 2000/1000 Stella Pros are similar to operate as the 5000, but the slider doubles as the on/off as well as the dimmer. These lights you hold the slider to its bottom most to turn on/off. You bounce the slider up to its top most to boost the light intensity. In the end, these are easier to operate in hand than explain in words.

Stella Pro
Unique to the 10000 light you turn the outer ring to turn on the light and to dim it

 

Stella Pro
On the 5000, 2000, and 1000 you pull or push on the slider to set your light levels.

Video/Photo

Stella Pro
7 Months pregnant

I used the lights on video shoots as well as a photo shoot. The power of not being plugged into a wall or an external power source is liberating and transcends either craft. My wife, who is also a photographer, was 7 months pregnant when I was reviewing these lights. We used these lights for a pregnancy photo shoot for her. Usually, when I pull out new equipment she can be little skeptical. This time she was not. She loved the idea of using smaller lights and the freedom of working off of battery power instead of wall power.

Negative

What I do not like about the Light & Motion Stella Pro lights is the cost. The Stella Pro 10000 comes in at a cost around $1,999.00 and the Stella Pro 5000 falls around $1,999.00 too. But there is good news. The Stella Pro 125 light kit, which includes a Pro 5000, 2000 and 1000 and a ton of accessories, is priced at $2,999.00. This is a great price for everything in the kit. I’d almost be more inclined to buy kits over a single light. There are some lights with equal power and are color tunable which cost a little bit more. The difference is those lights are not as durable or waterproof as the Stella Pros.

Last Thoughts

I loved these lights. When I boxed them up to send back to Light & Motion I was a little sad. This kit was a great complimentary to larger HMIs I usually take with me on shoots. The big difference between these lights and a 1×1 LED panel is the ability to makes these lights spot lights with the fresnel accessory.  These lights are brighter than a 1×1 too. If you are used to an Arri light kit then the Light & Motion 125 kit will work in a similar way but these lights are waterproof, battery powered, a little bright, and way smaller

Yep, waterproof and battery powered. I loved being cordless. I love the idea a news shooter may use these on inclement weather live shots and not worry about ruining the light or shocking themselves either. The running time on these lights while on battery power was incredible too. The 5000 Stella Pro can run at full power for 90 minutes. But, these are not just battery power lights. These lights can be plugged into the wall too. If you are a shooter you can use the battery power as an added bonus if you wanted. In many ways, Light & Motion took the tough as nails approach needed for scuba, rock climbing, and mountain biking lights and folded them into a powerful production LED that will survive even the harshest set. Below I have placed more video links to see interviews I shot with the Stella Pros.  Last thought, I think it might be pretty amazing to see Light & Motion scale up these lights. Go with multiple LEDs in a single head. These are bright enough on their own, but four or six LEDS grouped together and these lights might give larger HMIs a run for their money.

Stella Pro
The Stella Pro 5000 with half its battery left

Stella Pro 10000c LED Light

  • High-output Chip-on-Board (COB) LED
  • Certified TLCI 93, CRI 90, CCT 5000K
  • Flicker-free dimming
  • Regulated lumen output that does not fade during use
  • Dimming with continuous control
  • Integrated fan that turns on at 5,000 lumens
  • Wide 120° beam angle
  • Broad range of accessories including Profoto and Chimera adaptability
  • OLED digital display for precise readout
  • Runs off multi-voltage wall power or D-tap, 24V, external battery kit
  • Certified drop-impact performance (FL-1 standard)
Stella Pro
Stella Pro 10000

Stella Pro 5000 LED Light

  • High output Chip on Board (COB) LED
  • Certified 90 CRI and 93 TLCI, CCT 5000 Kelvin
  • Integrated, rechargeable, Li-ion battery provides 90 to 720 minutes of cord-free operation
  • Flicker-free firmware design
  • Regulated lumen output – does not fade during use
  • Dimming with continuous or stepped control
  • Fan-free thermal management for silent operation
  • Wide 120° beam angle
  • Broad range of accessories including Profoto and Chimera adaptability
  • Colored LED indicators give accurate battery status
  • Runs off wall power or D-Tap, 12V, external battery kit
  • Fast charge of 1.5 hr. to 80% and 2.0 hr. to full charge
  • Certified performance (FL-1 standard)
Stella Pro 5000

Stella 2000 LED Light

  • High output Chip on Board (COB) LED
  • Certified 90 CRI and 90 TLCI, CCT 5000 Kelvin
  • Integrated, rechargeable, Li-ion battery provides 50 to 415 minutes of cord-free operation
  • Flicker-free firmware design
  • Regulated lumen output – does not fade during use
  • Dimming with continuous or stepped control
  • Fan-free thermal management for silent operation
  • Wide 120° beam angle
  • Broad range of accessories including Profoto and Chimera adaptability
  • Colored LED indicators give accurate battery status
  • Runs off wall power or D-Tap, 12V, external battery kit
  • Fast charge of 1.0 hr. to 80% and 1.75 hr. to full charge
  • Certified performance (FL-1 standard)
Stella Pro
Stella Pro 2000

Stella 1000 LED Light

  • High output Chip on Board (COB) LED
  • Certified 90 CRI and 90 TLCI, CCT 5000 Kelvin
  • Integrated, rechargeable, Li-ion battery provides 90 to 700 minutes of cord-free operation
  • Flicker-free firmware design
  • Regulated lumen output – does not fade during use
  • Dimming with continuous or stepped control
  • Fan-free thermal management for silent operation
  • Wide 120° beam angle
  • Broad range of accessories including Profoto and Chimera adaptability
  • Colored LED indicators give accurate battery status
  • Runs off wall power or D-Tap, 12V, external battery kit
  • Fast charge of 1.0 hr. to 80% and 1.75 hr. to full charge
  • Certified performance (FL-1 standard)
Stella Pro
Stella Pro 1000
Stella Pro
The Stella Pro 500 with Fresnel attachment

Here are a couple more stories with interviews lite using the Stella Pros.

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Brian Hallett, is the senior promotions producer at the NBC affiliate in Nashville, TN, and an award winning cameraman, editor, and producer. He has shot everything from broadcast television news, promotional image campaigns, music videos,…

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