Mobile video light review
When it comes to a video light, I used to lug heavy camera gear around to capture the funny, meaningful or downright awesome moments that can spontaneously arise during the days of our lives. Since the cellphone revolution, my camera has become my choice mostly for it’s light weight, flexibility of use and features, and reasonably fast time of operation.
Let’s say an important moment is emerging, I reach for my cell and in a second or two am ready for the moment to present. Or, perhaps a moment is in full swing, in a few seconds, I’m recording without having lost much of the meaningful moments.
A serious impediment to night-time photography, recording those “dark moments,” is the cellphone camera itself. Cell cameras are notorious for their poor low-light performance, making low light spontaneity unable to be visually recorded. Also, cell flashlights have limited range and focus. External video lights can be cumbersome and lack flexibility. So, if I’m holding a light and trying to focus/exposure, AND point-n-shoot, frame the image, I’m not going to get optimum results.
FirePak video light
Along comes the FirePak video light, charger and flashlight. SureFire’s design strategy is simple enough, integrate a phone case with rechargeable storage and 2 high-performance mobile LED lights with enough lumens designed for video for 16:9 video frames in a form factor compatible with multiple sizes of phone cameras. USB and micro-USB ports allow charging your cell phone from the charger, or an included cable can be used to recharge the FirePak video light. SureFire says it has an effective range of up to 50 feet and while the light does travel that far, usable lumens land in the mid-range.
When I picked up the FirePak for the first time, I was struck by the wedge shape that fit comfortably in my hand. At first, the squished wedge shape looks cumbersome. Pick it up and it feels completely different. If you can imagine a drip coffee cone with the tip cut off and both sides squished flatter into an oval shape, you can imagine the shape of this flashlight. The FirePak slides smoothly under the molded rails of the phone case snapping securely onto a stop that positions the LED lights in two positions with respect to the iPhone camera.
The durable case is built for rugged use (not moisture or water) with a 4-level light switch and distinct illumination levels. Design-wise the features are functional while dramatically expanding your performance—as a video light or a back-up battery.
LED lights create enough lumens for 16:9 video frames
When I switched it on, the double LED “eyes” emitted two blinding rays of light, even at the lowest setting. I wondered when I might use that much light? However, once you turn it on at night, you discover the benefit of blinding light.
At the highest setting the bulbs create significant heat, so don’t be surprised when you touch it. As an illumination device, there is enough light to do fine work, like reading or repairing, too. A distinct setting for faces for interviews would be a good user feature, just in case you are listening, SureFire?
It’s kinda tough to steady the cell when the light is installed on the case because of the extra weight and thickness requires your normal hand position to block the LEDs. Your hand size and strength will discover what position is best for you. I had to adjust as shown in the pictures below. It’s quite difficult to switch on/off the light without shaking the image. Shooting vertically is difficult for the same reasons, so you’ll have to learn how to control the frame with two hands.
If I were a DP on a film using cell-phone video, and this light, I would make sure there were several on charge at all times. No one wants to wait for your only battery to charge. A question a newbie DP might ask is: How long will one last? So, test your equipment before shoot day, OK?
Charging the unit
Charging the unit was problematic, as my first attempts failed, due I believe to a mismatched charger plug. Initially, I began charging the Firepak using a USB port built into a small power strip. After two days, the blinking red light indicated it was not fully charged, though I thought it might be close to fully charged, so I began to charge my cellphone at 5%. I recorded the time and charging rate at 10% intervals but at 57% the FirePak fully discharged and stopped charging the cell battery. I reached out to Rob Kay of Guns and Tech, he suggested using a direct charging plug and trying again. Once I plugged it into a 2A charger direct to the plug, it charged up overnight.
All in all, this unit is a good buy for those who want to expand their video capabilities to low-night-time conditions. It is small and powerful enough to have in your toolbox, just in case. It is durable and useful for most cellphone recording situations. And, it serves well as a flashlight illuminator during emergencies and when you might need a torch to light your path.
Whether you already have a youtube channel, are a budding professional videographer, or just want the firepower to be able to record life’s dark moments, FirePak is an excellent choice for all. You can see the FirePak in action at the manufacturer’s website: surefire.com/firepak