May 24, 2012

LED video lights for photography – Sabre Pro Lighting

For the past few months, I’ve been testing out a new LED video light at weddings I’ve photographed and workshops I’ve presented.

The LED lights, made by Sabre Professional Lighting, are individually crafted. Made with aluminum, the guy who makes them, has told me that they are essentially waterproof and near indestructible. Well, I didn’t drown the one I had, or bang it around, but it certainly seems tough enough.

He makes them in different configurations, as seen on his website’s order form – different sizes and different color temperatures. They can even have a remote control knob for the power. This way, if you have your light up on a monopod, you can turn the brightness up or down, without pulling the light down to eye-level again to adjust it.

The main advantage for me with this unit, is the brightness. The LED panels I’ve used so far, have all been much lower intensity than the Lowel ID-Light, for example. The Sabre Lighting unit is comparable in brightness to the Lowel ID-Light. The actual brightness will depend on the configuration you settle on. But it is much brighter than the LitePanels LED light I’ve been using.

They take a Sony NPF-L battery. This Sony battery is commonly used, and this LED light runs … well, I won’t say “forever”, but I’ve used it at consecutive weddings and at After Dark, without recharging it. So yes, it runs for a long while on the battery. I’d be hugely surprised if a photographer ran a battery down with normal use.

This LED light is also fairly compact, and with the battery, it is a self-cotained unit. No cables … unless you want the remote cable to control the power.

Another benefit – the color temperature doesn’t change color as you dim the lights. This is important if you want a workflow where you don’t have to edit each image individually.

The one downside compared to other LED lights, is that since this LED light is hand-crafted, and the LEDs used are high-power LEDs, the unit is spendy. But there are much to recommend about this LED light, and I really like it. It’s the one I’ll be taking with me on shoots and workshops in the future.

If you’d like to order a unit directly from Sabre Professional Lighting, then the discount code, Tangents, will get you 5% off the price. During check-out, just enter the code where requested.

This image was taken in the entrance of a subway station during the romantic portrait session with the couple. I liked that their wedding date now appeared on the display at the train station. I turned the brightness of the LED light down so that it better matched the available light in the background.
camera settings: 1/80 @ f2.8 @ 1000 ISO

The image at the top was taken on the streets in Baltimore during the same time. Again, I controlled the power to match the video light’s brightness better with the background.
camera settings: 1/100 @ f3.5 @ 1600 ISO

The unit I have is matched for a white balance of 3200K.

With this image below, I feathered the light upwards a bit, so that their face are well-lit, but that there is a fall-off in the light towards the rest of their body. The blue color is from the lighting at the venue.
camera settings: 1/100 @ f3.2 @ 1600 ISO


more info on using video lights for photography

more images from these 2 weddings:
- Lindsay & Chris – their wedding at the Lord Baltimore, MD
- Laura & Todd – their wedding day – Westmount Country Club, NJ


{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 naftoli May 24, 2012 at 1:43 pm

i would think that with continuous lights like this if the subject is looking at the camera or the light itd be hard not to squint, on close examination of the top pic it (i could be wrong) appears the grooms eyes r not fully open as he is trying to look natural, but the brightnes is a bit to much for him, not trying to knock anything just saying had u used flash i think his eyes would be more open with more of a relaxed look and dont forget nice sized pupils with beautiful catch-lights


2 Steve Mackie May 24, 2012 at 4:23 pm

I’ve been looking at purchasing one for sparkler shots, which are a nightmare to light… for me anyways!


3 Stephen May 24, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Looking at their catalog, there are lot of models for this device. Which model are you using? 2200, 2200vb?


4 Neil vN May 24, 2012 at 4:58 pm

I have the P2200

Neil vN


5 Bogdan May 25, 2012 at 6:53 pm

The units look mighty tasty… I always wanted to put a similar one together myself using high powered LEDs I could source quite easily… but for the amount of work involved in making one, I might as well get a P2200 and call it a day. Seriously, their pricing is not altogether bad.
Thanks for sharing this Neil.




6 Graham May 26, 2012 at 6:11 am

This looks like the light I’ve been looking for, I don’t think the price is too bad considering. Ive been thinking the same as Bogdan for a while but agree by the time you source everything and work out all the bugs it’s easier to buy one ready to go. Thanks for sharing this.


7 Jason May 26, 2012 at 10:34 am

Neil, do you on of the variable color temperature models or the constant 3200k? Would you recommend one over the other? Thanks.


8 Neil vN May 26, 2012 at 12:41 pm

The one I have is a constant 3200K. I think the variable one will be a good choice … but when you disable the one LED, the light isn’t as strong. So it’s one of those choices where you have to balance your needs … power vs versatility.

Neil vN


9 William May 27, 2012 at 3:18 am

Very nice use of video light. I assume you have to first take a reading of the available light, then you dial up or down the LED light to make sure you get the same reading on the subject’s face?


10 Neil vN May 27, 2012 at 7:26 am

William … that would be a perfectly valid and methodical way to do it in theory. In practice, you’d know from experience more or less what your settings are, and then you go by your LCD preview on your camera. Simpler and faster.

Neil vN


11 Bogdan May 27, 2012 at 12:06 pm

How hot does it get really? I know LED’s are supposed to be cool, but hi power ones are not entirely so… The reason I’m asking is to see whether getting a daylight balanced one and then gelling it for tungsten when needed would make sense.



12 Neil vN May 30, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Bogdan .. it definitely runs more hot than my Litepanels LED lights, but it isn’t nearly as hot as the Incandescent lights I have used, such as the Lowel ID-Light. In other words, I don’t think you’ll inadvertently hurt yourself.

Neil vN


13 Lisa May 31, 2012 at 5:03 pm

You used a 3200k model. Is there a particular reason you chose that over a daylight model? Just preference or is it a particular look your aiming for? I’m kind of thinking along the lines of Bogdan and gelling the light in order to have more lighting options.


14 Neil vN May 31, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Lisa, most often, (especially as a wedding photographer), we’re dealing with Incandescent lighting when working in low-light situations. It’s a warm spectrum. The 3200K helps me in blending my light better with the existing light than a daylight balanced unit would.

Neil vN


15 Arne Helme June 5, 2012 at 3:53 pm

Hi Neil, do you have any experience usng these lights with pure B/W (film)
photography? Will I need a Tungsten correction filter on my lens if I opt for a
3200K source such as the P2200 3220K light from Sabre?

You write that the Sabre is brighter than the Litepanel MicroPro. Did you
compare the difference in brightness between the two of them?
How about diffusion? The Sabre seems to be more of a point source. Did you notice any differences in practical use?

I never tried a video light, but I think it will add a great new dimension to my hobby. A bit in doubt if I would need a 3200k or a variable temperature model,



16 Chris November 8, 2012 at 10:58 pm

Very glad to see this post. I’m in the market for a quality LED setup, and have been looking at the new Manfrotto LED panels, as well as a variety in the $500 range on B&H. What I like here is that the lights are constructed of aluminum and lexan (what’s the deal with LED panels even in the $400 range being very cheap, plastic constructs?) and are rugged for outdoor shoots and traveling.

I’m looking at the P2200vc; I figure that depending on whether I’m doing an indoor shoot (where the light can be quite varied) or if I’m using it as a fill light on outdoor shoots, I feel I’d like the option of varied light temperature.

I guess my question is, do yuo really get that much of a drop in output with the variable setup vice the “only daylight” or “only tungsten” setups? The units don’t look like they have an option for gel filters to go on the front.

Great review and really nice work, I’m impressed! The first shot in the series here is just amazing!

Thanks for the review,



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