On camera video lights are extremely useful when you’re shooting with a DSLR or other video camera in a dark environment. We’ve rounded up the best on camera lights for video below.
Candidates for best on camera lights for video:
This on camera LED light provides daylight balanced output but it also comes with an custom-sized orange filter to match indoor lighting, which slides into place with built in filter slot brackets. It’s also dimmable using a large easy to find dial on its left side. This Neewer on board camera light is powered by 6 AA batteries but it also comes with an adapter to mount rechargeable Sony NP batteries which are available in a wide range of sizes and capacities separately. Comes with a mount for use with standard hot/cold shoe ports commonly found on top of DSLRs and other video cameras.
Unlike the previous on camera light, this model does not include removable color gels because its LEDs are bi-color, meaning you can adjust the settings to provide either daylight balanced light or tungsten, indoor light (or anywhere in between since it’s controlled by a dial and not a knob). A handy visual display on the rear also lets you take note of the color temperature in case you need to match those settings later. This unit is also dimmable to adjust the amount of light that it emits. Powered by rechargeable Sony NP batteries which are available in a wide range of sizes and capacities separately. Comes with a hot/cold shoe mount for your video camera or for DSLR. Even though it’s wider than your camera, we consider this one of the best on camera lights for DSLRs because it casts a nice wide pool of light.
Here’s another one of the best on camera lights for DSLRs or other professional video cameras. It provides either daylight (or with the filter) tungsten balanced light, it’s dimmable with 8 different levels and comes with its own semi-hard storage case. This on camera light also runs off of standard rechargeable Sony NP style batteries, which you can buy extras of quite easily and inexpensively. It comes with a wall charger and a hot/cold camera shoe mount which you can use to angle the light as desired. One thing this model has that some other camera-mountable LED lights don’t have is a battery level indicator which helps you gauge how much power you have remaining on the current battery. As always, we recommend purchasing multiple batteries for this and any other gear that requires batteries. Also comes with a frosted diffusion panel.
This high end LED concentrated LED light is ENG style, meaning it will be appropriate for electronic news gathering or news footage. It’s built with a compact but powerful design meant to shine a spotlight on a person in the dark, useful for news style stand-ups at night, and other shooting. It features a dimmable brightness control knob and a built in flip up/down tungsten filter which allows you to change the color temperature. It also has barn doors to control the flood pattern of the light.
Note: this professional grade model on camera light for video does not come with a battery. Instead it works with either Sony NP style rechargeable batteries, or Anton Bauer/Sony V-Mount batteries (which connect via a DC tap cable, included with the unit). If you do opt for the more expensive Anton Bauer or Sony V-Mount battery options, note that these won’t mount directly to the unit as the Sony NP battery option does– you’ll have a cable connecting the light and the batteries.
Frequently asked questions about on camera lights for video
How do you mount these on camera lights on top of a DSLR or other camera?
The camera mounted video lights in this list all use a standard cold/hot shoe mount commonly found on top of DSLRs and other video cameras. However in some cases you may already be planning to use that mount to hold other accessories (such as a wireless lav receiver or an LCD monitor). For those situations, you can use a dual or triple mount bracket, such as this one.
How long does the battery last for these on board camera lights?
Battery life varies but we always suggest getting extra batteries, be they rechargeable or standard AA batteries. We adhere to the rule of thumb that for any piece of your video gear kit that requires batteries, you should have at least 2 (and preferably 3) that you bring with you to shoots.
What is the difference between tungsten and daylight color temperatures?
Daylight balanced lights (somewhere in the range of 5500 degrees Kelvin) are cooler or “bluer” in color temperature and match natural outdoor (sun) lighting. By contrast, Tungsten balanced lights (around 3200K) are warmer or “redder” in temperature and will more closely match indoor lighting. Depending on where you’re shooting with these on camera lights/LEDs, you may experiment with filters or modes to figure out which color temperature is most appropriate for the scene.
What are some common uses for on camera video lights?
On-camera lights are useful for a variety of scenarios but they won’t be useful for all scenarios. If you’re planning on shooting a sit down interview with carefully staged lighting then an on-camera light will probably not be appropriate. Instead we’d recommend using a formal multi-point lighting kit for those scenarios to get the best results. Here however is a list of situations in which a camera mounted video light would be appropriate:
- Doing a standup news-style interview at night
- Following a documentary film subject into a dark alley at night or into a tunnel with poor lighting, or a cellar
- Scenarios where you’re shooting with a documentary subject and you don’t know how long the shoot will last (you may lose sunlight before it’s over)
- Instances where you need a very small amount of additional light and a collapsible bounce card will not work because there’s not enough ambient light (i.e. at dawn, dusk, or night)
On camera lights can have a “harsh” head-on look that may be unflattering to some subjects, so we recommend using them only when circumstances allow. Still, harsh lighting may be far preferable to scenarios where you don’t have enough light and need to crank up the gain/ISO (digital noise) of your camera to make up for it.