Quick review on the Zylight Z90 at DVinfo.net

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Old May 1st, 2008, 11:17 PM   #1
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Quick review on the Zylight Z90

I have used just about every light on the market, those that run on disposable batteries, portable battery packs, tethered systems, all sorts of everything. I've done reviews on the LED based lights in the past and since I'm seemingly obsessed with new toys and spending money, I recently got a Z90. I reviewed a Z50 a while ago but it was only for reviewal purposes and wasn't able to actually own it. So, a small fortune later, I now have a Z90 kit.

I haven't used it for filming anything yet, but here is some initial info that might be helpful to some...

For comparative purposes, I'm comparing the Z90 to that of the LitePanels MiniPlus and Sony HVL-LBP

(quick synopsis from full review that I did last year)

LitePanels MiniPlus ($~900 for light and power option, full 2-light kits upwards of $2500)
~about 10oz without batteries or other attachments
+pleasant, even light
+gradual dimming
+low profile, well balanced
+multiple power options
+low heat, proper dispersion
+option of color temperature
~wide spread very even, through is decent with gradual dropoff
-does not dim to 0%
-battery options require heavy on-cam weight or tethering with cable
-requires tilt bracket

Sony HVL-LBP ($500)
~about a pound without battery
+well-placed dimmer
+diffuser and spot filters included (barndoors don't really do too much)
+great throw, decent spread, not as much as the litepanels (Sony's beam is more circular than LP's rectangular throw)
+runs off Sony batteries, about 4-hours with 970, at full brightness
+battery capacity status light
+all-in-one, including the tilt feature and has 1/4" internal thread on shoe underside w/ screw
~day-light balanced
-very spotty close up, <5'
-on the heavy side unless you opt for the tethering cable
-electronic genuine battery check which delays startup time by a few seconds - not instant on
-does not dim to 0%

ZyLight Z90 ($~900+ depending on options and kits)
~about a pound without anything attached
+instant-on
+2 hotkeys, daylight and tungsten default
+dial particular temperature, color, and saturation (awesome features but is completely impractical to do run-and-gun as it takes several buttons to do this effectively)
+solid construction and low profile
+wider beam than the Sony and LPand more even
+can wirelessly link and control multiple lights w/ separate remote available mid-summer ($400-$500 speculated w/ 50' LOS)
~rear dimmer, slow, but consistent (I prefer the Sony's dimmer much better, and also how it's on the left side)
~1/4" thread on top and bottom
-must have separate arm bracket or tilt shoe for camera attachment
-barndoors are highly effective but create some bad top/bottom shadows due to separation between doors and light
-insanely bright and while that's a good thing, diffusing this is a must for dancing - it will literally blind someone when at about 50% or higher
-gets very hot when on for ~30+ minutes, continuous, at 50% power or higher; I practically burned myself when testing output levels
-power requires 12V, 2-1/2A, which implies a D-tap, XLR/CL battery or other equivalent (9-24V total)
-slight squealing noise when tuning colors and saturation (normal with potentiometers and led circuitry; typically, this is outside of the human ears' realm but this can be heard and possibly picked up with a mic close-by

I had a custom battery made based on specs that I wanted which powers the light at 50% power for about 6 hours and 100% at just over 3 hours. Oh, and the battery I had made is about the size of a Sony 970 battery and I also had a clip made for it so it can be affixed to the camera. Awesome. I may even market this! :)

Hope the above helps!

Also, I have three Sony HVL-LBP lights, and am going to be selling one of them next week. The one being sold was purchased Oct. 2007 and used for about 7-8 hours total.

Last edited by Marshall Levy; May 2nd, 2008 at 08:28 AM.
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Old May 2nd, 2008, 07:13 AM   #2
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Marshall thanks for excellent post as I am looking into getting some Z90's and your information is most helpful. I don't have any dealers in my area so I can't go check them out so if you answer a few questions that would be great.

-barndoors are highly effective but create some bad top/bottom shadows due to separation between doors and light

Can you post some pictures of the issue you see with the barndoors and the Z90?

-gets very hot when on for ~30+ minutes, continuous, at 50% power or higher; I practically burned myself when testing output levels

From all the reviews or video's I have seen they say the units stays cool to the touch so it is good to hear actual experence and know what to expect.

-power requires 12V, 3A, which implies a D-tap, XLR/CL battery or other equivalent

From their website it lists power requirements from 7-24V but I was either going to run off A/C or a PowerTap so that should not matter.


Thanks
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Old May 2nd, 2008, 10:52 AM   #3
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wat is yr personal preference if I were to use it at a wedding? Pls drop me a PM if u intend to sell the Sony LED :)
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Old May 2nd, 2008, 11:57 AM   #4
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I think in terms of a wedding, the Sony light would probably prove more realistic based on the functions and dimmer placement, as well as the spot/focusing filter if needed. Even though its daylight balanced, the diffuser and proper camera balancing do a nice job. Unless you want color effects and such, you won't need the ZyLight, but at the same time, the ZyLight's ability to instantly swith between daylight and tungsten, or any other preset/preferred color setting certainly has its benefits. I do a lot of shadows and colors as it is so I know the ZyLight will be better in my case. Same goes with corporate work / interviews. The Zylight can be used for an immediate color effect without the use of gels.
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Old May 3rd, 2008, 02:20 AM   #5
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Zylight Demo

I currently have a demo unit of the Z90. It's quite impressive. I have yet to test it on camera but with my Minolta color meter I did notice an "offset" between the ct reading on the light and the reading on the meter. But as the literature on their web site says that could be due to the way the Minolta measures color, so I want to wait to see how it looks on camera. In "gel" mode you can dial in steps of magenta to green. This can be very helpful in some real life situations, such as under fluorescents, or "vapor" lights, etc. The steps are a bit to "big" for me, i.e. to much change in each step. Again with this I want to see how it looks on camera. "Color" mode is good, cycles through the colors, red-blue-green and everything between, cool!

Everything seems to work as advertised. The unit does heat up considerably. In my 1 hour color test the cooling fins were hot to the touch after about 15 minutes. This is probably due to the levels that the Zylight "drives" the LED's at to achieve it's performance. Good news though, in the 1 hour test little or no color shift occurred.

More info after I test the unit on camera.

Simon Hunt,
Gaffer
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Old May 3rd, 2008, 08:47 AM   #6
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Marshall:

The Litepanel does indeed dim to 0% but it is not a perfectly smooth fader effect, there are a few hitches in levels on the way down. I have mine motorized for onboard fill light on the Steadicam and it is the only unit of its type which can be dimmed to off, which is important when moving past a reflective surface. I had high hopes for the Zylight and spent some time with it at NAB but learning that it did not dim all the way down was a deal-killer unfortunately, I really liked the remote dimming capability (currently I have to use an outboard motor on the Litepanel).

I know this is somewhat esoteric for most people's usage of these units but thought I would at least identify the dimming capability.
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Old May 3rd, 2008, 10:24 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Papert View Post
Marshall:

The Litepanel does indeed dim to 0% but it is not a perfectly smooth fader effect, there are a few hitches in levels on the way down. I have mine motorized for onboard fill light on the Steadicam and it is the only unit of its type which can be dimmed to off, which is important when moving past a reflective surface. I had high hopes for the Zylight and spent some time with it at NAB but learning that it did not dim all the way down was a deal-killer unfortunately, I really liked the remote dimming capability (currently I have to use an outboard motor on the Litepanel).

I know this is somewhat esoteric for most people's usage of these units but thought I would at least identify the dimming capability.

Interesting, because my LP's don't dim to 0%, but my Zylight does. Makes one wonder......
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Old May 11th, 2008, 04:56 PM   #8
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Great post Marshall!

I am also looking for a light for use with my Canon XL-H1. I have a Anton Bauer kit mounted on the back so I prefer to use a 12v powertap connection. I am looking at the Litepanels and the ZyLight. The only thing I dislike about the Litepanel is that you need to choose between Daylight or Tungsten balanced. The great thing a bout the ZyLight is that you can instantly switch.

Did you use ZyLight's barndoors or other ones? And can you explain what the problem is exactly, I am not completely sure what you mean. And have you tried their softbox? From what I understand from your feedback, it could come in very handy. I must say I am still leaning towards the ZyLight. As with everything in and for filmmaking, there is always a trade off. Nothing is perfect. But the ZyLight 90 appears to be a pretty amazing light.
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Old May 11th, 2008, 05:05 PM   #9
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Marshall:

very confusing...

I spoked to the Zylight guys at NAB and discussed the dimming thing with them, too!

Floris:

Most people order Litepanels in the daylight configuration as you can simply add the included full CTO gel to bring it down to tungsten; there is light loss but often you have more than enough for tungsten interior (vs daylight interior or exterior where light levels are usually higher).
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Old May 11th, 2008, 05:23 PM   #10
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Thanks Charles.

I have some questions about the Litepanels.

- How easy is it to add/remove the gels?
- Flood/Spot -- which one works best for most situations?

I haven't ruled them out yet.
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Old May 11th, 2008, 05:27 PM   #11
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I used the Z90 last night for an event, but this event really didn't warrant the need of a light - for details on that 'wonderful' post of the crapas* Z7U, go to that forum and enjoy the saga....

...but for the light, it's really a nice piece of equipment. I did some color effects with some room setups and such and it's nice to be able to quickly change temperature, etc.

...I have the barndoors which do a decent job and maintaining the light spill. At full brightness with the doors angled about 75%, some shadowing can be seen.

...I have the Anton Bauer micro light softbox - called something like that - about $80. Nice, soft, even light. It does narrow the wideness of the light, but it's nice for closeup shots without worrying about blinding anyone or blowing out the image. I attached it by angling the softbox brackets to the heatsink of the light - works great.
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Old May 17th, 2008, 04:47 AM   #12
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Simon, did you test the unit yet?
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Old May 17th, 2008, 12:01 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Floris van Eck View Post
Thanks Charles.

I have some questions about the Litepanels.

- How easy is it to add/remove the gels?
- Flood/Spot -- which one works best for most situations?

I haven't ruled them out yet.
Removing/adding gels takes seconds.

Flood or spot depends on the kind of shooting that YOU do.
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Old May 17th, 2008, 04:34 PM   #14
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And which one works best in which situation?
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Old June 30th, 2008, 07:16 AM   #15
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Can anyone else share his or her experience with the ZyLight 90?
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