The Lowel GL-1 Power LED is a compact handheld portable light source that is ideal for any type of event or location photography. It's dimmable and with the adjustable Fresnel lens, it has an 8:1 focus range from full flood to a tight spot and works either handheld or mountable to any tripod.
First Impressions of the Lowel GL-1 Power LED
Honestly, when I first opened the box of the Lowel GL-1, my first thought was “how is this any different from one of those Black & Decker rechargeable spotlights?” – while the yellow plastic trigger and dial look and feel a bit like a utility light, but after reading some of the info and specs while charging up the battery I quickly understood all the capabilities and scenarios where this portable light might come in handy. But I'd have to be the judge of that with some testing and use. One noticeable thing was that it's built really tough – this was built to take some serious use and abuse. Let's looks at some of the features first before I get into my test results.
The removable dedicated battery is charged up in about 40 minutes with the provided charger, or you can use the included AC Power adapter if you're in the studio or on location near a power source.
And while it's handy to be portable enough to hand-hold by an assistant to direct the spot exactly where you need it in your shot, I found it's easy to use on a portable tripod as well, using the threaded tripod mounts on the bottom of the unit.
Features List from Lowel Website:
- Dimmable w/o color shift
- Fresnel lens
- Focus Range – 8:1
- Photo-quality tungsten color
- Output comparable to 100W tungsten halogen lamp focused at same beam angle
- 2 ways of dimming:
- Variable trigger Locked dimming wheel
- Rechargeable DC / external AC Power
- Approx 1 hr full brightness per full battery charge
- Quiet diaphragm cooling
- Tripod mountable
- Lens accepts 82mm daylight correction filter
- Supplied with auto-set AC adaptor and battery charger
Once the battery was fully charged (less than an hour) I wanted to see what kind of light pattern the GL-1 would output. I was quite pleasantly surprised at both the brightness and the even spread of light created by the fresnel lens built into the unit. The zooming focus from Spot to Flood is achieved by pulling out on the lens housing, similar to some camera zoom lenses. The markings on the side of the light are only for reference and aren't specific measurements of any kind.
The focusing range of the spot light to full flood is pretty remarkable. Here are the Photometric specs from Lowel as listed online:
63 fc @ 5.0' (1.5 m) with 39° beam angle
17 fc @ 10' (3.0 m) with 39° beam angle
8.0 fc @ 15' (4.5 m) with 39° beam angle
5.0 fc @ 20' (6.0 m) with 39° beam angle
4.0 fc @ 25' (8.0 m) with 39° beam angle
553 fc @ 5.0' (1.5 m) with 10° beam angle
265 fc @ 10' (3.0 m) with 10° beam angle
56 fc @ 15' (4.5 m) with 10° beam angle
32 fc @ 20' (6.0 m) with 10° beam angle
21 fc @ 25' (8.0 m) with 10° beam angle
I did some simple tests as close range and at about 12 feet away from a screen to demonstrate at various increments (and full/half-power) what these figures equate to.
Close Range, Low-power (Flood – Left) and Full-power (Flood/Spot – Right) – table top:
Mid-Range, Full-power (Spot/Flood – Top) and Half-power (Spot/Mid/Flood – Bottom) on a portable screen:
You can control the amount of light the GL-1 produces by either pulling back on the trigger with slight pressure (which I found is harder to control than you think) or squeezing the trigger all the way to activate the “constant-on” mode and using the thumb-dial on the back of the light handle to adjust the brightness. This is also necessary when you have the GL-1 mounted to a tripod and shooting by yourself.
I found this great example video of the GL-1 in use by a wedding photographer with an assistant – so you can get an idea of how the workflow might be for shooting on-location:
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Testing the GL-1 Outdoors with Photos & Video on a DSLR
My next test was a bit later in the day when the sun was going down and we were in full shadow from the mountain behind us. With my DSLR shooting handheld HD video again, I had Auto WB and ISO, with the natural available light on the top image and the addition of the GL-1 on the bottom. I was approximately 20' from the subjects with the GL-1 mounted to a portable tripod next to me, set to full power and full Flood:
The Lowel GL-1 Power LED is a good portable light for on-location shooting and outdoor portraiture and for special effects in the studio. Although it's a relatively warm light (approx 3000K) it does have an 82mm thread for attaching daylight filters to change the color temperature. The dimming capabilities range from approx 5%-100% brightness and the Fresnel lens does through off a nice, soft and even spread of light in both the spot and flood modes. The GL-1 is made very durably – you can literally toss it in your gig bag or case without worrying about it getting bumped or scratched-up. I was impressed by the battery runtime of about an hour (at full brightness), which seems consistent with my tests.
One thing you need to consider if you're shooting video in a quiet studio with live audio, is that by powering on the GL-1, there is a fan in the back of the unit to keep it cool and will make some noise. Although it's not too loud, it will get picked up by mics close-by.
The only drawback I could find with the Lowel GL-1 Power LED is the $700. price tag – which will put it out of the reach of most amateur photographers & videographers. But having this portable light with you when you need to “pop” your subject may just pay for itself in one or two productions.
Available accessories for the Lowel GL-1 are the G1-20 Rubber Lens Hood (to eliminate spill and glare), 82mm filters like the Tiffen 82mm 80B Color Conversion Filter, G1-15 Rechargeable Spare Battery and the G1-61 Hard Case with Foam Insert. You can find these all at online sites such as Adorama.com or B&H Photo.
Jeff Foster is a published author of several how-to books and training videos in the motion graphics, animation and video production industries and is an award-winning video producer and artist. Visit his web site to learn more about his training methods, tips & tricks at PixelPainter.com