The Kamerar Brightcast LED panels caught my eye a while ago. I already own other LED panels, like the Aputure Lightstorm LS-1S, and have owned and used quite a few other LED panels from Litepanels, Cool Lights, Arri and others. What I found intriguing about the Kamerar Brightcasts were that they were inexpensive, light, extremely versatile and quite innovative, with several features I had never seen on an LED light panel before.I opened up the shipping box and found that it contained a nice semi-rigid carrying case with a shoulder strap. Unzipping the case reveals a top compartment with stretchy rubberized bands that are used to hold the AC adapter and several other power cables that are used with the AC adapter and when powering the V15-345 from a V-Mount Battery.
Kamerar sells two versions of the panel. One comes with a V-Mount plate. The other is available with a Sony NPF Mount plate. If you’re a Sony owner and already have a pile of Sony NPF batteries, you can use them to power the Brightcast as well as your camera. I went for the V-Mount plate as I already owned a couple of Maxoak V-Mount 177WH batteries.
LED Versus SMD
The front of the panel contains 256 SMDs, which stands for surface mount diode. All of my other LED panels utilize small 5mm LED bulbs to make light. The downside of 5mm LED bulbs is that they can only make one color temperature. So, if you have a bi-color LED panel, the manufacturer has had to squeeze a specified number of daylight 5mm LEDs right next to the same number of tungsten-balanced LEDs.
This means that in order to achieve color temperatures between daylight and tungsten, the light’s controller has to mix the amount of current sent to both color-temperature bulbs. It also means you either need twice as many overall bulbs on the panel to achieve a given overall wattage output or you have a panel where the output goes down at any color temperature in between daylight and tungsten output.
A surface mount diode is a sealed individual unit. Each SMD can make any and all color temperatures between daylight and tungsten with no reduction in output level. The other benefit of SMDs is that each diode is sealed so that the Brightcast achieves a waterproof and dustproof rating of IP67. (However, that’s only for the LED panel itself, not the control unit.) Since these units are sealed, it also means the panels themselves are much less fragile than my other panels. To illustrate that the panels are rugged, you can visit the Kamerar website and see an animated GIF showing water poured on it as well as the panels being dropped on concrete paving stones.
A Versatile And Unusual Light Panel
The Brightcast panels are physically flexible, too. I’ve used them to light backgrounds, as a hair/rim light and as a key source through a diffusion disc. However, these panels can’t change the laws of physics. For instance, if you use them to light faces without diffusion, you still see some of the multiple micro shadows that are a result of having 256 tiny light sources rather than one panel of soft light, as you see on lights like the Arri SkyPanels.
Kamerar rates the Brightcasts at a CRI of 96 and a TLCI of 96.1 in daylight and 98.5 in tungsten. The output is not super powerful. So, be sure to keep this in mind when deciding if these are the right lights for you. The lights output 157fc at 1 meter in daylight and 136.4fc in tungsten.
I find they have plenty of output for my main use, lighting documentary-style interviews, supplementing available light. But in daylight or outdoors, these panels don’t have enough horsepower to do much. The Brightcasts could serve as your main lights if you mostly shoot indoors and aren’t expecting high output. The upside is that at 48 watts of power consumption, they can run for hours on a V-Mount battery.
My favorite party trick is that you can unscrew the Brightcasts and remove the LED panel itself from the control unit. With the addition of an extension cable to go from the controller, you then have a very lightweight LED panel that can be used in a variety of ways. I’ve taped them underneath kitchen cabinets as a soffit light, Velcroed the panel to a car headliner for car scenes and placed the panels in locations where a normal light wouldn’t fit. This feature is unique among most LED panels, although there’s a newer generation of light mats that are capable of some of the same physical tricks. However, the output on those mats seems to be lower in most cases than the Brightcast, although you could spend double to triple the cost of the Brightcast to obtain a more powerful light mat.
I’ve used a pair of Kamerar Brightcasts on a variety of projects and, overall, I have found that they’re very handy, especially when I need a battery-powered panel that will last a long time. They’re also helpful when I need smaller, lighter-weight panels for documentary and run-and- gun-type shoots.
The control unit itself is easy to use and understand. There’s a cluster of controls below the power switch. From left to right, they’re labeled “Dim,” “Menu” and “CCT.” The first is obviously the dimmer; it allows you a range of output levels for the panel, from level 0 to level 255. The second is a button labeled menu, which allows you to switch between the readout displaying out levels versus color temperature. The third control is CCT, which is the color temperature adjustment from 3200k to 5600k.
However, unlike the LED panel itself, the control knobs on the Kamerar Brightcast control unit are somewhat fragile. For instance, all three controls are plastic. Also, they’re not recessed, and there’s no protection for any of them. So, if you’re not careful, you could damage or break any of these controls off with a fall or a heavy piece of gear being placed on them when the lights are in a bag or being transported.
Luckily, I haven’t had any damage to any of the controls, but I’m very easy on my gear and tend to baby it. If professional gaffers are using your lights, though, you may find that these controls are just too fragile to take much abuse.
Another issue is that like many digitally controlled lights, the dimmer really only works from 47 to 255. The lowest I could dim the panel before the lights went out completely is 47, not 0. This means that you don’t have as much precision and flexibility when dimming the panels as the numbers would lead you to believe.
Another issue I had is that one of my light panels began flickering when the light was left at 255 (full output). I could mitigate the flicker if I turned down the output to about 249, but I have no idea why this happened. The light works, but this doesn’t bode well for long-term use if after a year the potentiometer is slowly going out.
I had similar complaints with the power switch: It’s tiny, made of plastic and hard to find in the dark since it doesn’t light up and is so small.
Despite some of their perceived fragility, Kamerar Brightcasts produced results I’m happy with overall. I’ve been shooting documentary interviews with them over the past year, often in bars and restaurants where I’m using two of them to supplement the available light. In this capacity, they’ve worked perfectly.
I also bought two of the Brightcasts on a special promotional price from Kamerar, when they first were introduced, but since then, the price has risen to $399 on Amazon to $499 direct from Kamerar. Even at $499, the Brightcast V15-345 is worth the money if you’re looking for a versatile, flexible and innovative lighting source for under $500. So, if you have the same needs for battery-powered, detachable and good quality lights that I do, consider the Brightcasts.