Recently Caleb Pike demonstrated an old trick with new tech, and it’s eye opening how much lighting one can cram into a tiny space these days.
The China Ball/Lantern Softbox/Space Light idea is as old as the hills. However, usually the light is coming from a large fixture, on a heavy duty stand. What if we could shed that weight and bulk?
Pike places a paper thin LED panel inside the space light, entirely cutting out the size of a bulb fixture. When set up, it produces a tall soft light akin to a softbox. When folded away, it packs into a backpack (with lots of room to spare).
The beauty of this arrangement is that everything has been designed with folding in mind. The light panel is thin, and often these panels fold up. The space light from Aputure folds up into a small pouch, not unlike a reflector. Finally the stand and magic arm fold down too.
I tested this with some items I had available. Firstly, I picked up the Aputure space light. Then I rigged together a boom arm with this Impact arm – it’s a little long for this purpose, but also very sturdy. Next, I used the smallest and lightest light I have, the LC-120 from Intellytech. Unfortunately it’s a little bigger than Pike’s light source, so the edges curl up alongside the space light.
You could probably orchestrate interviews beside this light, instead of bringing a larger light like Intellytech’s LC-160 (which in itself is a portable solution). I can fit everything within a small Pelican case and a tripod bag. However, Pike's setup is better.
Here’s Aputure's Lantern Softbox. Similar ideas, only a $40 price difference, but a huge difference in size due to the skeleton holding the lantern together. Both would be great with their own single point LED fixtures, but there’s definitely more control with the more expensive option.
I tried the Boling P1 LED and the slightly bigger Dracast Bi-Color LED-200 inside the space light. Neither yielded pleasing results because there wasn’t enough light output. So while there’s a limit to how portable you can get, the whole setup is lightweight as a whole.
Speaking of portable lighting, Intellytech has just released a foldable 1x1 panel. It folds in half, doesn’t need a ballast, powers up with 2 NP batteries and only costs $200. With its included half-China Ball diffusion, you could fit a soft and powerful light in a laptop case.