I brought the Q8 on a shoot for a web promo campaign for a local NPR affiliate as soon as the light arrived. We shot a variety of subjects in one day, a couple of sit-down interviews, some table-top footage of some fundraising swag and a few b-roll sequences. As we were unloading for the shoot, I brought the Q8 case over to my gaffer, Mark Napier. I told him at the end of the shoot, I wanted his feedback on what he thought of the light from a gaffer point of view. I had already played with the Q8 at home and had begun forming some opinions about it, but I was interested to see how our thoughts would align on the new light.The previous interviews for this project were shot with soft light, so I punched the Q8 through a 42” Westcott Diffusion Disc as a key source. The Q8 filled up the disc, and it was much easier to control the spill around the edges than the typical LED panel. I also noticed that the power output on the Q8 was robust. In order to reach the same exposure with the Q8 that we had previously shot at with an Arri 1K fresnel, I dialed the Q8’s output to just 44 percent. Impressive. This light has some serious output. We did some readings with a Sekonic L-758C light meter and found that at 2800K, 3200K, 5600K, all TLCI measured above 93, which occurred at 100 percent output and the minimum color temperature of 2800K as well. The Q8’s hue control reads out in a range of +0.25 to -0.25, which looks like a reference to plus or minus-green gels, so very handy when matching older HMI, tungsten or Kinos, if you want to tweak the Q8 for an exact match.
A bit about the controls, though. Both Mark and I felt that all three main control knobs on the rear of the light were way too touchy. You barely breathe on them, and they change output quite radically. They would work much better with a coarser adjustment range or, better yet, a variable speed adjustment. The light contains a fan, which activates as soon as you dial up the power in the light, and it seems to be a constant-speed fan; it sounds the same at 10 percent output as 100 percent. I don’t like fans in my lights as I am very audio-centric, but I have yet to encounter an LED Fresnel without one. I can say, in a normal conference room space, with the light placed about 6’ from talent, our microphones didn’t pick up any fan noise during our interviews. But at home, in my living room, when the house was quiet, the fan noise was much more apparent. In a small room or a situation where the light needed to be close to talent, fan noise could be an issue.
In regards to the Q8’s Fresnel lens, it’s an acrylic lens, not glass. I have mixed feelings about this. From a design perspective, acrylic can be etched and formed with elaborate grids and patterns, and Fiilex has done a great job in the design of the lens. I was able to close the barn doors into a slit, and the light pattern the lens threw was a nice, softer-edged pattern, but it could be sharpened a bit using the spot to flood control. Normally, an acrylic lens couldn’t be used in a Fresnel for fear or yellowing, cracking or warping under heat, but since this is an LED with an ample cooling system, an acrylic lens is a viable choice.
Speaking of weight, this light is heavy, about 23 pounds. With the power supply and inside the rolling case, the entire setup is almost 50 pounds. A set of three of these lights in the cases would be quite a load for a rolling cart, which brings me to the point of the overall weight versus construction versus ruggedness. I have two opinions about the weight of this light. The first is, the light is kind of a mechanical work of art. It’s beautifully made, and the fit and finish are superb, and the weight is part of its design and construction. It’s a quality piece of gear. It’s one of those pieces of equipment that feels like it will last a long time. On the other hand, any LED Fresnel light I have used, to me, feels as if it tipped over and hit the ground, it would be game over. The weight is part and parcel, but man is it heavy for travel or small crews to deal with.
Overall, in using the light on a real-world shoot, the quality of the beam and the color temperature were excellent. The Q8 was very accurate when I viewed the chip charts I used for the interviews, offering no perceivable color cast. We are finally at the point where LEDs can look almost as color accurate as tungsten and HMIs on skin tones. The rear metal loop handles are very usable. In conjunction with the lockdown and the wide yolk, it’s a breeze to adjust and position the Q8. The power supply is not huge and comes with a hexagonal pin and a Mafer clamp to attach it to your light stand, which is perfect and very slick—all LEDs should do this. The spot-to-flood ratio on this light is considerable, and normally, on an all-metal construction light with a glass Fresnel lens, you could never build in this much lens extension as the light would be totally front heavy. Because of the acrylic lens, the light stays balanced even at full spot extension with the narrowest beam. This is a differentiator for this light over its competition. I’ve never experienced a Fresnel with this much beam range.
Like everything else, the Q8 Travel isn’t perfect. It’s large, relatively heavy and not inexpensive at a list price of $3,000. It has a fan, which I’m not a fan of (oh gosh, puns?). Conversely, this is the first 8-inch, 300-watt range LED Fresnel I’ve used that seems to have even more output than a 1K tungsten Fresnel.
The Q8’s color accuracy and output should please even the picky, and the hue variation is a nice touch. It’s DMX compatible with both RJ-45 and five-pin XLR DMX I/O, and if you value design and craftsmanship, it’s a beautifully made piece of gear. Overall, the Q8 is a mixed bag but many of its limitations are the limitations of all bi-color LED fresnels in its price, size and output range, so I am not singling it out by any means. It’s where the technology is today, much improved but still complex, bristling with features and flexibility but at a price on your wallet and in weight. If you’re looking for a high-output bi-color 8-inch LED Fresnel, definitely consider the Q8 Travel.