A powerful continuous light I never knew I needed is also compact and budget-friendly.
My primary use for having a point source light is to light my subject in a one-person interview style setup or a single-person talking head setup. I was originally using LED panel lighting for both these situations but found that they were not as flexible nor powerful as I wanted them to be.
With the introduction of this FS-300B light in my workflow I now have a much more powerful main light and can still use the LED panels as a fill or kicker light.
When we talk about lighting for photography we typically use speed lights or strobes. These offer a short flash of light (fractions of a second) in order to illuminate the subject.
Lighting for video is something completely different as the light needs to be continuously on for the duration of the video recording. This is why videographers use continuous lights as opposed to speed lights and strobe lights. For the purpose of this post, we’ll stick with LED point source lights since that’s what the Nanlite FS-300B falls under.
Because of the nature of continuous lights, several things need to be considered. These are listed below in no particular order. Inside the yellow outline, I’ve also included my own opinions about each point with respect to how I use the FS-300B for my own purposes.
Speedlights and strobe lights output light for only a fraction of a second, therefore are capable of providing a powerful source of light for a brief moment. Continuous lights on the other hand must emit the same amount of light for an extended period of time, so it’s important to consider how bright you will need the light to be before purchasing any.
Power output is measured in Watts, so a 60W point source light will provide light that is approximate to a 60W light bulb. (Note that the model number of the light does not always reflect the exact power output of the light.) This might be fine for indoor use, but when you want to light something outside in bright daylight, you’ll need lighting that is capable of matching or over-powering the brightness of the ambient light. Depending on the scenario and what you want the light to do, this might be a 300W, 600W, or even 1200W light.
Rest assure there are plenty of options for any of your needs.
Daylight vs. Bi-Colour vs. RGB
Typical LED point source lights come in daylight colour temperature—or 5600K. This light mimics the mid-day sunlight and is suited for many needs.
For more versatility, bi-colour lights are also available, which allow you to change the colour temperature of the lightso you can mimic lighting from tungsten lights to sunlight and anywhere in between. Typically, bi-colour lights will be less powerful than your daylight lights as the latter allows for the entire array of LEDs to be dedicated to one single colour.
More recently RGB lights have also been introduced which provide the ability to produce any colour of light, further enhancing your creative possibilities.
Choose the one that best suits your needs.
5600K light for daylight.
3100K light to mimic warmer sunlight.
5600K light full power to balance sunlight.
Over time there may be a tendency for LED lights to introduce colour shifts towards magenta or green. If/when this happens your daylight balanced lights may no longer be a true 5600K light. If you’re working with a single light setup then this issue may not be much of a problem for you, but if you have multiple lights in your production, then this will become more noticeable as each light may end up outputting slightly different coloured daylight balanced lights. Matching your older LED lights with another can be crucial at this point, which led lighting manufacturers to introduce the ability to shift the magenta-green tint on their lights.
Look for this option if you think you may need it in the future.
Heat dissipation used to be more of an issue when tungsten lamps were more widely used. Now with LED lights becoming more popular for videography, we don’t have to worry as much about handling hot lights on set. While LEDs still emit heat, the added fans in many of the available point source lights help to alleviate this problem.
The brightness of LED lights are measured by Lumens, or Lux—which is Lumens seen at 1m from the light source. The larger the lumen value, the brighter the light.
The brightness can be affected by the LED chip technology, modifier on the light, and the colour temperature as well. Adding modifiers to your light source—like a soft box or diffusion panel—will slightly reduce the power output so make sure you take this into account when you’re looking for the right light to get.
The Nanlite FS-300B Specifications
The Nanlite line of point-source lights come in two lines: FS and Forza. You can see the key differences of the two lines below. At the time of this writing, the Nanlite FS-300B retails for a MSRP of $529.99 at Vistek, and US$399 at B&H making this an entry-level point-source light at a more accessible price-point. The Forza 300B II has a MSRP of $1359 at Vistek and US$999 at B&H.
|Light head and ballast are separate
|Plug-in or battery powered
|No M/G tuning
|M/G tuneable (except for the 60W lights)
|No carrying case
|Carrying case included
The technical specifications of the FS-300B are below, taken from the Nanlite website:
|0-100% in 1% increments
|On-board, 2.4G, Bluetooth, NANLINK APP
|CCT Loop, INT Loop, Flash, Pulse, Storm, TV, Paparazzi, Candle/Fire, Bad Bulb, Firework, Explosion and Welding
|Light Fixture (without protective cap): 346 × 233 × 123mm / 13.62 × 9.17 × 4.84″
|Light Fixture: 3.03kg / 6.68lb
Power Cable 4.5M: 0.4kg / 0.88lb
Reflector: 0.2kg / 0.44lb
When I first opened up the box for the Nanlite FS-300B I was surprised at the compactness of the light—especially when it is a 350W equivalent light. The light was lighter than I expected it to be, and it felt like it was a solidly built light without sacrifices being made to the construction of the light.
I could say the same thing for the included Bowens-mount reflector modifier. It is a light and compact reflector that does the job it is intended to do.
Note that the FS line of lights do not come with its own carrying case, so if you need to take it out, you’ll have to use the packaging box it came in, or carry it in one of your own gear bags. I believe the Forza line of lights all come with their own carrying cases though.
The knobs on the back of the lights feel smooth when turning, and it feels like a quality product. The on-off switch also has a satisfying click to it easily letting you know you’ve turned the unit on or off.
The display on the back is basic but displays all the information you need in a serif font, which to me is one of its drawbacks as it makes things a little bit harder to read.
The power cord is also something that I thought could use an improvement. The power plug on the unit is situated on the back, sticks out quite a bit and has no locking feature. A quick tug on the cord and it can come out easily.
The FS-300B accepts all Bowens-style mount modifiers significantly opening up the available modifier options for you to use. Nanlite also has their own line of modifiers. The button to press to release the modifier is large and easy to press down, making the disassembly that much easier.
I ended up getting the 90cm Easy Up Parabolic Softbox which is an all-in-one unit. The umbrella rib and mount adaptor do not separate, so all you need to do is fold out the ribs until they click into position. This makes the softbox slightly bulkier at the expense of a faster setup, which I will take.
This softbox conveniently comes with a 1- and 2- stop diffuser panel so you can use the one that suits your needs. There is a noticeable difference between the two, which you can see in my YouTube video and screenshot below.
If you want more directional light on your subject, you can add a grid to your light. This grid is an optional purchase and does not come with the softbox.
The FS-300B comes with a reflector that dramatically strengthens the beam of light. It changes the beam angle from approximately 120 degrees with the reflector to 10 degrees without it, concentrating the light toward the subject with a dramatic falloff along the edge.
You can also see how there is very little—if any—hot spots in the centre of the spotlight with or without the reflector.
The yolk that comes with the FS-300B is made of rugged plastic. The knobs you turn to tighten the light is large and easy to grasp. If I had to comment on it, it would have been more convenient to have to tighten just the one side rather than having to tighten and loosen both sides to move the light up and down.
The yolk also has a convenient umbrella holder tucked to the side, so you can easily use an umbrella as a modifier to the light. The mount on the bottom also has holes on the side of the shaft, allowing you to easily turn the light’s direction 90 degrees for more lighting options.
You can watch my YouTube video review on this light, and see how the lighting can change depending on where you use it, and which modifiers you use. Let me know what you think of it!
Do you use the Nanlite FS-300B or another light in your setup? Let me know below on how you use your continuous light.