As more and more photographers are starting to dabble into video, the need for versatile yet affordable constant lighting gear is ever changing. Today I test the new Boling BL-50 lights to see if they could be the best bang for the buck.
Here at the Fstoppers studio, we find ourselves shooting more and more video every day. Back when we were shooting primarily still photographs, we could get away with shooting video simply by using the modeling lamps in our Profoto D1 strobes. However, as we began shooting more and more video, we wanted a flexible yet powerful lighting system to meet the different lighting situations we face on a daily basis. For the last few years, our main lighting kit has been the four-light Westcott Flex kit (also known as the Hurley Kit). This lighting system has been great because it is lightweight, super bright, dimmable, and produces nice, soft lighting. The main problem with this lighting kit is that it is near impossible to create small, hard light which can be just as valuable lighting a scene as large, soft light.
We found the solution to our lack of constant hard light in the Fiilex P360 Bi-Color LED light. This small, bi-colored LED light was bright enough for most applications, was easy to transport and pack into our bags, and also came with the added bonus of mounting all of the Profoto light modifiers we already had in our studio. We have been using a few of these lights in conjunction with the Westcott Flex kit for all of our photography tutorials, YouTube videos, and commercial video projects. So we were extremely excited when the new Boling three-light kit showed up at our office. Could these studio quality lights be the perfect on-location, battery powered solution for videographers?
As you can see in the photo above, the Boling three-light Bi-Color Kit is designed to be a turnkey solution for videographers just getting into lighting. The kit comes with two BL-50C lights which have a Fresnel-style zoom element and one BL-50D light that allows you to attach both silver and white reflectors to it. Included in the kit is three sets of barn doors, all the power cables to run the lights on AC power, six Sony NP-F750 batteries for portable use, three compact light stands, and two gooseneck adjustable mounting stands. Although the overall wattage isn't advertised with the kit, each of these lights are pretty bright especially for indoor use, and since they are bi-color, the LEDs can be switched between 2,500 K to 5,800 K. This means you don't have to carry around any extra gels to change your white balance and can adapt these lights to any type of lighting situation.
As you can see my tests in the video above, the Boling lighting system has a lot going for it. The lights are easy to use, super powerful, lightweight, and super versatile since they can be run both on AC and DC power. The main problem I found with the lights is that two of the lights included in the kit, the two BL-50C zoomable lights, created a very strong magenta color cast when set to 5,000 K. These two lights looked almost purple when compared to the BL-50D and Fillex P360 lights also set to 5,000 K. You could probably solve this problem with a few green gels but it's pretty frustrating knowing your brand new lights need to be gelled in order to have a correct white balance with your other daylight balanced lights.
Another less crucial issue I found when using these lights was the digital selector dial. Boling did a great job designing a single dial that controls both light output as well as color temperature, but overall, the switch takes too long to go from one extreme to the other. Every time I wanted to turn the lights from full power to their lowest power, I would have to rotate the knob about 10 times to make the transition. When I wanted to change between daylight color temperature and incandescent color temperature, I had to literally spin the knob around for about 60 seconds. I do not know if I would allow this slightly frustrating issue prevent me from buying a set of these lights, but it is something I wish they would have fixed before releasing these for sale. Perhaps if you are planning on lighting a single set and never changing the lighting, this wouldn't be a problem at all for you, but if you plan on using these as your main on location work lights, be prepared to spend a few extra minutes dialing in the perfect exposure and color temperature.
The biggest issue I personally have with these lights might not be a big deal to anyone other than those photographers who already own expensive Profoto lighting gear. One of the main reasons we even considered buying the Fiilex P360 light was the fact that it was designed to fit snugly into all the Profoto speedrings, beauty dishes, and spot grids. This meant we could use everything we already owned for both flash photography and also video productions. Obviously not every photographer uses Profoto gear and even fewer videographers will care about this missed opportunity, but if all things are equal, I would recommend the Fiilex lights over the Boling lights simply for this one convenient feature.
Overall, I do have to say the design and build quality of these Boling lights are pretty impressive and I hope they do address the color balance issue and the slow electronic dial issue in future updates. Maybe they could even make some sort of plastic sheathing that could allow different brands of speedrings fit onto these lights. I know for a lot of creatives, $1,200 for a three-light kit seems pretty expensive, but having bought so many different types of lights over the course of my career, I have to say this is a pretty amazing all in one package that will surely appeal to a lot of photographers and videographers alike.
You can check the current price on the Boling three-light kit here on Amazon.
Also be sure to check the sale price on the Fiilex P360 lights here on B&H Photo.