Light & Motion Stella Pro LED Lights

Light & Motion Stella lighting system
Light & Motion Stella and Stella Pro LED Lighting System

Promising up to an incredible 12 hours of battery-powered illumination, the Stella family of high-powered LED lights from Light & Motion are bringing a fairly exciting new approach to LED technology. While most current LED systems for filmmaking and video are designed as simulacrums of older lighting technologies, such as onboard battery-driven units or HMI with Fresnel, the Stella lights are an amalgamation of several of these technologies, only in a battery-powered system that’s portable at the same time that it is powerful.

Obviously, to achieve 12 hours of illumination on a single charge, the lowest possible setting must be used. Surprisingly, that level of illumination is still usable. In fact, after playing with the fixtures, I tend to recommend that these not be run on full power. Lots more on my experience with the Stella and Stella Pro systems below, but first a bit of a breakdown on the different available fixtures in the family, as it’s a bit confusing as to what each model in the line offers.

Currently, the range starts at $499 list with the Stella 1000, while the twice-as-powerful Stella 2000 rings in at $799. (Each Stella Pro unit is named for lumen output, i.e., the Stella Pro 1000 provides 1,000 lumens of output, while the flagship model in the Stella Pro line, the Stella Pro 10000c, is capable of 10,000 lumens of output, and so on.) Stepping up to the Stella “Pro” models, there are three basic options with slightly different iterations available for each: the $2,199 list Stella Pro 7000, the $1,999 list Stella Pro 5000, and a model without battery, the Stella Pro 10000c. The extra “c” in the 10000c refers to “corded”. As the brightest model in the line, it runs from AC/DC power only.

Light & Motion Stella lighting system
With four Light & Motion Stella and Stella Pro LED lights, I was able to light evenly from the front while giving ambience to the white backdrop and adding a hair light for separation.

For drone users, at $1,500, there’s another version of the Stella Pro 5000 in the Stella Pro 5000d, a smaller, more compact version that will power from the drone itself (24V). The “Stella” system, aka the Stella 1000 and Stella 2000, are built to be small enough as an on-camera lighting solution with cold-shoe mount and included ¼”-20 adapter. The more advanced “Stella Pro” models come with a C-stand mount and YS mount collar with high-leverage handle for locking down the comparatively much heavier models. The YS mount is also available separately with an integrated umbrella holder for $40.

In addition to these mounts, Light & Motion has a number of available accessories. While I applaud the range of options available for the line, it’s a bit muddied as to which lights can be used with which accessories, especially as the Stella 1000 and Stella 2000 don’t share the same front diameter as the Stella Pro 7000 and the Pro 5000/5000d, hence the delineation between “Stella Pro” and plain old “Stella”.

The lowest-end Stella 1000 includes a diffusion panel and a Fresnel spotlight, for example, that will hone the 120º spread to a tight (and extremely bright) 25º beam. It’s also compatible with diffusion and tungsten filters. Stepping up to the next available models, the Stella 2000 and all of the Stella Pro units come with a barn-door system, while the Stella 1000 isn’t compatible.

Light & Motion Stella lighting system
The Light & Motion Stella Pro family of high-powered LED lights use a single-source LED chip for homogeneous light spread at a wide 120º—using the Stella Pro 7000 at full power, no light modification here, straight from camera.

In addition, the Stella 2000 and the more advanced, larger open-face thread of the Stella Pro 5000/7000/10000c models are compatible with a larger Fresnel 25º optic, 50º focusing optic and snap-on Glo Bulb for an effect similar to overhead China ball diffusion. For more advanced light modification needs, there are also available adapters for Chimera and Profoto products to step up compatibility to a huge variety of available bounce, diffusion and light-shaping tools.

Light & Motion Stella lighting system
Adding the intense 25º Fresnel adds a Terry Richardson overexposed feel, or it can be used to magnify and hone the wide-angle 120º spread for a much farther throw when shooting outdoors.

There’s also a gel holder, which is going to be important for people who will need to mix the Stella LED lights with older fixtures or alternate systems because, bizarrely, Light & Motion chose to go with a white balance of 5000K on the Stella and Stella Pro lines. Virtually every daylight system (besides variable color temperature models) uses the far more common 5600K, so matching these lights will require gelling. I actually forgot about that while I was shooting, and it took me a bit to figure out why there was so much yellow. Still, this isn’t too big a deal; gels are cheap, and I quickly adapted to shooting at 5000K after my first mistake.

The optics are great for shaping light to the needs of location work. The Fresnel adapters, for example, are extremely bright, too bright even for portraiture without some bounce or diffusion, but it gives amazing throw when long-distance lighting is needed. Each of these light mods is made from plastic, ideal for working in inclement weather, but that also became my principal concern in using the included light-shaping tools for photography or studio videography. Running light through anything but the highest-quality glass and you should expect degradation to the quality of light, so I wasn’t surprised in the least to see that there was quite a bit of shift to skin tone and other colors when using the Glo Bulb and diffusion optics.

 

Light & Motion Stella lighting system
The Glo Bulb acts as a China ball for diffusion when hung from overhead, or it can be used to cut down the light output, as I’ve done here.

 

Light & Motion Stella lighting system
The Glo Bulb is also removable to use the diffusion ring. It was also easily accidentally removable, popping off several times when I’d try to disengage the light mod from the front of the Stella Pro 7000.

While the Light & Motion accessories are capable enough for day-to-day video needs, I highly recommend moving up to Chimera or Profoto. I’m not faulting Light & Motion for the design of most of these lighting modification tools, as they’re clearly meant more for outdoor usage and hence durability. However, the included barn doors are downright unusable. The attachment ring reduces the light circle right off the bat, and not cleanly. The barn door flaps didn’t do anything to flag the light output, either, unless I closed all the way down to a thin strip of light. Shaping the light in this way also created yellow-and-white striped patterns, which you can see in this image. The barn doors would also fall off easily when attaching and detaching from the fixture, as well. That was insanely frustrating while trying to shoot.

Light & Motion Stella lighting system
Light & Motion’s available accessories include a variety of light-modification tools, though the barn doors created a yellow-and-white pattern.

Does that stop me from recommending the system? Absolutely not. It’s one of the best LED systems that I’ve used, and I’ve worked with a litany of them. The Stella and Stella Pro lights employ a single, very powerful LED chip rather than the array of small diodes that nearly every other system is built around. Whether using the light-modification tools or not, the light produced from each of these Stella and Stella Pro lights was demonstrably better than the multiple shadows cast by placing multiple LED bulbs onto a flat surface.

Diffusion must often be used for any close-up work on these types of LED arrays, as well, which of course reduces the somewhat minimal output of these multiple-bulb systems even further. In contrast, the Stella diode, unusually large, about an inch by an inch, is similar to remote phosphor panels with a homogeneous 120º light spread that only fell off around the outer edges of the light circle. Because of that, the light output is definitely much stronger and harsher than other systems, but that’s a good thing to me, as stronger light can easily be cut down or manipulated when using the right tools.

Light & Motion Stella lighting system
The 50º spot diffuses output and, obviously, you would want to move the light much closer for these diffusion tools, but I wanted to show how much light is reduced. Also notice the differing skin tones and white balance shift between all of these light mods.

Light & Motion, who makes the Stella Pro family, has been around for a couple of decades, known for outdoor gear and lighting solutions for bicycling and extreme-sports-style cameras like GoPros. (Check out their Sidekick line of LED lights.) They only recently announced the Stella Pro family of LED offerings over the last two years. As a lighting company with an outdoorsman appeal aiming for the cinema, photo and video market, a lot of these design decisions start to make a lot of sense.

Rather than trying to emulate the classic designs of traditional tungsten, daylight, quartz and other continuous lighting solutions of the past, the company chose a brand-new and durable chassis that makes them suitable for location work. They claim a drop test of a full meter prior to submersion to a meter underwater for a full 30 minutes for every single model. Additionally, the Stella 1000, 2000, and Pro 5000 are all IP68 waterproof to 100 meters (330 feet), while the Stella Pro 7000 and Pro 10000c are IP54-water-resistant (thanks to the fan in their heat sync; Light & Motion told me that if they’re submerged, the light would still work, but the fan motor will not, which reduces the output off the lights).

Light & Motion Stella lighting system
When used without the included diffusion and light shaping accessories, the homogeneous, wide-angle spread of the 120º light circle from the Stella Pro family was surprisingly flattering to flesh tones and very even from edge-to-edge.

All of the Stella LED lights operate in more or less the same fashion, with a toggle switch on the head of the unit that increases output by tapping or pushing it forward, or decreasing by pulling back toward the rear. Twisting the switch will lock output, additionally. To stop accidentally adjusting the output, an electronic lock is also engaged and disengaged by holding the switch forward for four seconds. The lights also differ in weight. For those of you looking for the most compact, lightest model, the Stella 1000 is only 277 grams, or 0.61 pounds. The heaviest light in the range, the Stella Pro 7000, weighs only 1156 grams, or only 2.55 pounds. (Full specs for each Stella and Stella Pro light are listed below.)

Each fixture also has a display for battery power, lumen output, overheating warning and charging indication. The OLED on the Stella Pro 7000 is nice and readable, though it does take a moment to load after powering. The manual says that the system will operate better on external power if the internal battery is also charged to at least 50% because extra heat is generated from simultaneous charging that can keep the light from outputting at maximum.

The internal Li-ion rechargeable battery capacity will depend on Stella Pro model, with each offering stepped levels of lumen output as a trade-off between operation times and output. The Stella Pro 7000, for example, runs 60 minutes on full power, while stepping down to minimum output can extend to more than four hours of battery-powered illumination. (You can also tap into power with the included D-Tap cord for pro video battery systems from Anton/Bauer and others, as well as a 24V cord for drones and the like.) There’s also AC adapter with worldwide voltage adapters, as well as two dedicated models for working to Japan’s standards.

The fast-charging batteries will charge to 80% in 90 minutes and hit full capacity after two hours. Those specs checked out for me, though depletion was over the expected time by a couple minutes or so because the fixture will automatically drop lumen output near the end-of-life. One caveat here: Li-ion batteries will often fade over time. I’m not sure how battery replacement will work; it doesn’t seem like something the owner can do themselves. Light & Motion mentions not to store lights when fully discharged, as well. It can damage the battery, and while there’s a two-year warranty for the lights, the batteries are only warrantied for 180 days.

Confusingly, the Stella Pro 7000 will only offer 6,000 lumens when plugged in “to prevent battery drain”, which I found rather annoying, one reason that I tended to prefer working with the Stella Pro 5000, which has no limitations like this. The Stella 1000 and Stella 2000 can also be run from 3-cell or 4-cell batteries available via Light & Motion optionally with battery charger. The Stella 1000 and 2000 are both 12-volt, while the Stella Pro 5000 and 7000 are 24-volt. Though the rear charger for each light looks and feels similar, especially on a dark set, Light & Motion very smartly inverted the 12V from the 24V design with a tooth that makes it impossible to accidentally use the wrong charger with the wrong light model.

The Stella 1000/2000 models and the Stella 5000/7000 differ in the collar mount, as well. The lower-end models come with wheel-locking 1/4”-20 cold-shoe adapter and a YS mount. The more advanced models sport a much more versatile C-stand collar with Y5 mount and high leverage handle, so that you can securely lock angles. The metal Stella Pro bezel-collar does get pretty hot, too much to handhold, but there was absolutely no heat channeled forward from the light. There are also pistol grips and handlebar mounts available for the smaller Stella 1000 and Stella 2000.

The company also makes a few other rather unusual choices, such as continuing to rate these lights by total lumens output via the ANSI system, which has historically been used for flashlights rather than professional lighting fixtures. In the Stella Pro 7000, 7000 lumens is measured as equivalent to 14,420 Lux at 1 Meter. Without diffusion, the Stella 1000 is rated at 367 Lux at a meter, 96.7 Lux for two meters, and 43.6 Lux at three meters. Adding the 25º Fresnel bumps those numbers to 1000 Lux, 263 Lux and 113 Lux, respectively.

The small but powerful Stella Pro 5000 and Stella Pro 7000 fixtures with single LED diode.
The small but powerful Stella Pro 5000 and Stella Pro 7000 fixtures with single LED diode.

Whatever their equivalence values, I’ll say that each of these models are very, very bright. In fact, I actually recommend the $2,000 list Stella Pro 5000 over the more powerful $2,200 list Stella Pro 7000. It’s good that you can easily step between lumen output via the rear controls, and that you can extend battery life by reducing the lumen output, because you’re probably not going to want to use the maximum output on the Stella Pro 7000. The Stella Pro 7000 is quiet up to 5000 lumens. After that, however, a noisy fan launches that escalates even further at the maximum of 7000 lumens.

It’s definitely too loud for an interview or studio situation, but 5500 lumens is still bright enough to use, so photographers or videographers without audio concerns looking for extra oomph might consider spending the extra $200. Still, after playing with both, I tend to recommend the Stella Pro 5000 over the Stella Pro 7000, as it can be used for up to 12 hours on the lowest setting of 1,200 lumens, while the Stella Pro 7000 only offers a little over four hours at 1,700 lumens, its lowest setting. Otherwise, the two models are almost identical.

On all of these, the on/off switch also has to be turned “on” to charge, which is strange, to say the least. Light & Motion has a little warning that will pop up on the LCD if it’s plugged in, but the first time the light had run down, I didn’t realize it needed to be turned on during powering, which cost me about 20 minutes of charge time before realizing the battery wasn’t going up at all. I’m sure that’s something most people will get used to, but during a shoot that can be a real problem when you have assistants that are not familiar with the equipment.

Regardless, the battery operation on all of these Stella lights makes them highly desirable as a lighting solution to me, especially as I work in multimedia, often bouncing back and forth between video work and photography. A continuous, low-heat LED fixture that’s powerful and versatile enough to function doubly for both mediums is the Holy Grail of LED lighting systems, and while I feel these initial offerings are somewhat lacking in the provided accessories, the lines are practically brand new.

Light & Motion says in their history that they’ve been around for about 20 years. With a history of outdoor and GoPro solutions and flashlights, as well as diving and bike lights, it’s easy to see that they’re taking a different approach on LED lights for the video and filmmaking space. The company prides themselves on these outdoorsman features, so naturally, some of these design elements seem to have been inherited in the Stella Pro family, which is an awesome thing when looking at the stodgy and rather limiting possibilities of legacy light designs.

I pulled a nice flare that helped to enhance this otherwise flat studio shot using the Stella 2000 aimed towards the lens and the Stella 1000 as hair light. The Stella 7000 and Stella 5000 were set up on a cross axis from the front.
I pulled a nice flare that helped to enhance this otherwise flat studio shot using the Stella 2000 aimed toward the lens and the Stella 1000 as a hair light. The Stella 7000 and Stella 5000 were set up on a cross axis from the front.

Claiming a CRI of 90 at 5000K, I would actually expect a higher rating for a non-color-shift LED model, but from what I’ve seen, CRI and TLCI ratings are all over the place for LED fixtures anyway. I thought the light was natural and flattering when not using Light & Motion’s light modification tools, or when employing my own. Regardless, at this pricing you’re not going to get cinema-quality lighting, but rather, hopefully, a portable and functional light that’s also workable for most general usage. In this, the Stella lights far exceeded expectations. Additionally, with the ingenuity that I’m seeing in the construction, I have no doubt that Light & Motion will continue to address many of my concerns. At the time of this writing, for instance, they had just introduced swappable 5600K LED heads (with or without a fan at $480 and $380, respectively), which have a higher CRI rating of 92.

Offering up to three lights, the lights are also available in a number of kits. In addition to the Stella Pro 7000, I was sent the $2,900 Stella Pro 125 Kit, which comes with the Stella Pro 5000 light in addition to lower output Stella 1000 and Stella 2000 fixtures. Personally, I think the best deal is the Light & Motion Stella Pro 555 kit with three Stella 5000 Pro lights and stands as well as rolling case at $5,595 street.

The kits come with Kupo Click Stands, sporting a “clever interlocking mechanism” (that’s what it says in the manual) that makes them stackable. With one-touch release, the stands lock together at the base and neck for easy portability and stowage. I could definitely see myself grabbing several more of these Kupo stands because of how nicely they fit together. They even include a base guard that prevents accidental pinches when folding. The Kupos are awesomely lightweight. I could lock and disengage two of the Kupos while holding them in the air. The air-cushioning within the tube kept the tripod from collapsing too readily, as well, even when loaded with the heaviest Stella Pro 7000.

The 16mm (5/8”) stand tops also have reversible 1/4” and 3/8” threads for mounting other lights or gear. (I would definitely not tempt fate by adding any extra weight. These are not metal.) It’s just a push-button release, which is super-cool, and there are also straps that can be added or removed as needed to carry however many stands you have locked together over your shoulder. I will say in my experience that air-cushioning and attachment clasps at this price class of tripod will often wear out fairy quickly over time, but the design on these is so nice that I’m hopeful that won’t happen here. (If anyone has had them for an extended period of time, let us know what you think in the comments below!)

The kits come in a Tenba 38” Rolling Grip Case, which was insanely light and perfect for travel, even loaded up with contents. There’s a customized foam cutout for the Kupo stands, which ride at the top, while below that level is another foam cutout that houses each of the lights and modification tools. If I was keeping the system, I would probably do a little bit better job of cutting out some of it, but that’s obviously the advantage of modifiable foam.

The handles are super-strong, and I could comfortably lift the whole system from the floor. That’s a major advantage of the Stella and Stella Pro systems over others. It’s impossibly light and portable. Each Stella Pro head is only about the size of a 40-ounce beer. I had to fly during my review and considered bringing the whole system as it’s really that self-contained. It won’t fit in overhead—too long—but Light & Motion says the system is safe for air travel while the power is off and the switch is locked.

Offered as the ultimate run-and-gun kit, what more would we want at this price point? There are lots of other LED systems available around this pricing that have additional features, like DMX for control over multiple fixtures or variable color shift. Check out ikan, Rotolight, Outsight and Litepanels for a few options.

I’d like to see better diffusion options from Light & Motion, too, like softboxes, for example, something besides the somewhat inadequate rubber 25º and 50º spots, and the plastic barn doors are utterly lacking in function and durability. The barn door clasps also look easily breakable, and that makes me a little concerned about other more expensive parts to replace throughout the Stella and Stella Pro systems.

(Light & Motion also offers a couple of niche solutions that might be useful for some, like another drone light, the $380 Seca 2200D, as well as the $1,599 Sola Video Pro 9600 dive light with selectable output at 9,600 lumens, 4,800 lumens and 1,200 lumens.)

See the specifications below, and visit Stella Pro Lights for more information.

$1,999 Light & Motion Stella Pro 10000c Specifications

Max Output:
10,000 lumens — 20,580 lux at 1 meter to 3,736 lux at 3 meters

Weather rating:
IP54 Weather-resistance (not waterproof)

Color Temp 5000K
CRI 90 / TLCI 93

Runtime (in lumens):
Battery powered

Beam Angle 120º
Charge Time (External Power 24v)
Weight 750 (g)
Size 103mm x 89mm

$2,199 Light & Motion Stella Pro 7000 Specifications

Max Output:
7000 lumens — 14,420 lux at 1 meter to 1,400 lux at 3 meters

Weather rating:
IP54 Weather-resistance (not waterproof)

Color Temp 5000K
CRI 90 / TLCI 93

Battery runtime (in lumens):
High: 7000 60 Minutes
Level 6: 5500 75 Minutes
Level 5: 4400 95 Minutes
Level 4: 3500 120 Minutes
Level 3: 2800 150 Minutes
Level 2: 2200 190 Minutes
Low: 1700 250 Minutes

Beam Angle 120º
Charge Time 2 (hr)
Weight 1156 (g)
Size 182mm x 94mm

$1,999 Light & Motion Stella Pro 5000 Specifications

Max Output:
5000 lumens — 10,300 lux at 1 meter to 1,000 lux at 3 meters

Weather rating:
IP68 — Waterproof to 100 meters

Color Temp 5000K
CRI 90 / TLCI 93

Battery runtime (in lumens):
High: 5000 90 Minutes
Level 6: 4000 120 Minutes
Level 5: 3000 180 Minutes
Level 4: 2500 240 Minutes
Level 3: 2000 360 Minutes
Level 2: 1600 480 Minutes
Low: 1200 720 Minutes

Beam Angle 120º
Charge Time 2 (hr)
Weight 1148 (g)
Size 182mm x 94mm

$799 Light & Motion Stella 2000 Specifications

Max Output:
2000 lumens — 6,260 lux at 1 meter to 804 lux at 3 meters

Weather rating:
IP68 — Waterproof to 100 meters

Color Temp 5000K
CRI 90 / TLCI 93

Battery runtime (in lumens):
High: 7000 60 Minutes
Level 6: 5500 75 Minutes
Level 5: 4400 95 Minutes
Level 4: 3500 120 Minutes
Level 3: 2800 150 Minutes
Level 2: 2200 190 Minutes
Low: 1700 250 Minutes

Beam Angle 120º
Charge Time 1.75 (hr)
Weight: 504 (g)
Size 122mm x 92mm

$499 Light & Motion Stella 1000 Specifications

Max Output:
1000 lumens — 6,260 lux at 1 meter to 804 lux at 3 meters

Weather rating:
IP68 — Waterproof to 100 meters

Color Temp 5000K
CRI 90 / TLCI 93

Battery runtime (in lumens):
High: 1000 90 Minutes
Med: 500 220 Minutes
Low: 125 700 Minutes

Beam Angle 120º
Charge Time 1.75 (hr)
Weight: 277 (g)
Size 110mm x 56mm

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