Litepanels MicroPro Hybrid: Flash And Constant Light Sources In One Unit

The Litepanels MicroPro Hybrid does double duty as both a constant light source and a flash. The light itself is made of black plastic and is fairly small, at 5.5x3.75x1.5”, and weighs only about a pound when you include the mounting bracket and six AA batteries (standard or rechargeable, and there is an optional AC adapter available). The top has a knurled knob to turn things on and acts as a dimmer so you can control output in stepless fashion. Vents are located around all sides. The battery door, flash ready light, flash sync, and input for the optional power adapter are all located on the back. The bottom is threaded so you can attach it to a light stand or to the (included) nicely made aluminum ball joint with a bottom end that slides into your camera’s shoe mount. Also included is a very short PC cord to be used when using the flash mode, plus there are warming, diffusion, and tungsten conversion filters that snap in easily over the front panel. All this fits into a nicely padded zippered bag.


Top: The MicroPro Hybrid mounted on a Canon EOS 7D. Note the short PC cord that limits use of the unit for flash off-camera or even for setting on a tall flash bracket. Above: The kit shown includes filters and a nicely padded pouch.
Courtesy of Litepanels

Nice kit, and now that we’ve seen what you get, just what are we going to use it for? The company touts this light as a “perfect complement” to those shooting video with their D-SLRs. Litepanels has always been a player in the video world, so the hybrid in the name pretty much adapts the product to how some folks use their D-SLRs—as still and motion recording devices, thus the constant, flicker-free, daylight-balanced light source plus the added kick of a low-powered flash unit.

Top: I mounted the MicroPro Hybrid on a light stand and used it as a continuous light source to create drama on a seamless backdrop. Nikon D300, Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 lens at 80mm, ISO 400, 1/60 sec at f/3.2, daylight-balanced light. Model: Karyn Tower. Above: Lighting setup used.
All Photos © Steve Bedell

There’s a maxim in photography that goes something like this: “You can control low light; you have to deal with bright light.” That’s what I think this light is all about. Forget using it in the sun or bright light; it doesn’t have enough juice. But in low-light levels, like in a hotel lobby or reception hall at a wedding, you can use this to add sparkle to your images, fill in deep shadows, or even use it as the main source of light, provided you are close enough. You can use it to dial in just the right amount of shadow detail in those window light portraits, or shoot some video in the cave also known as the reception hall, and then pop off some still photos using the flash. That constant light also makes it much easier for your camera to focus before kicking in with the flash.

To give you an idea of just how much output we’re talking about here, I metered the constant light at 1/60 sec at f/4 at ISO 400 at 3 feet. At that same 3 feet I popped off the flash and got f/5.6. Given these numbers, you can see the light is designed for close distances, higher ISO settings, or some combination of the two. So when using this light keep close to your subject so the light is powerful enough to matter and don’t go too wide since the beam from the light is pretty narrow and drops off quickly.

Top: Here’s a portrait taken using the window in my office. Model: Sofia Kouninis. Above: Turning on the MicroPro Hybrid’s LEDs resulted in this look. I liked how it filled the shadows, showed more detail in the hair, and prevented the background from going too dark. Remember, just turn the dial and adjust to taste. A flash bracket is highly suggested for vertical images to keep the light from looking like it is coming from the side. Camera info the same on both photos: Nikon D300, Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8 lens at 50mm, ISO 400, 1/125 sec at f/3.2.

I shot some short videos using a Canon EOS 7D in my studio waiting area where there is a mix of tungsten and daylight. Shooting at about 4 feet from my subject I was able to overpower the room light slightly and shoot with a daylight color balance while most of the background was quite warm from the tungsten light.

In still shooting, I used the light in a variety of ways, either by itself or in combination with other lights. Most portraits today are done using large light sources for a soft, even light with a gradual transition to the shadows. This light is not made for that, so instead of trying to make it do something it’s not designed for, I decided to embrace it and create portraits with the small, well-defined light source it provides. I had fun creating images with a little different look to them and it’s never a bad thing to snap out of your comfort zone every once in a while. I also used the light directly on the camera as the main light source with flash and as fill light using its constant light. Like they say, it’s a hybrid.

Switching to flash mode gives you a spotlight look with the corners dropping off rapidly when using a wide focal length. While you can use your camera’s metering system with the constant light, with flash it’s best to manually calculate the exposure. Nikon D300, Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8 lens at 17mm, ISO 400, 1/30 sec at f/5.6. Model: Angela Pagliarulo.

We are now living in a world where the distinction between a still and video camera is blurring, so this hybrid approach can make sense for the D-SLR photographer who shoots an occasional video or the video photographer who shoots occasional stills. At a street price of about $475 it’s not for the amateur. But once you get your hands on one and shoot a few jobs with it, it might become a permanent part of your kit.

In this photo of Karyn, I used the MicroPro Hybrid on a light stand and used the incandescent bulb from a studio modeling light to add warmth and color to the image from behind. Nikon D300, Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 lens at 100mm, ISO 400, 1/60 sec at f/3.2, daylight-balanced light.

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