Hmmm... where do I start this review? Should I go with the solid portability factor of the LitraStudio? Should I mention LitraStudio's millions of color options? How about the easy-to-use smartphone app? The LitraStudio's waterproof to 10 meters feature?
It turns out that all of these factors play into an outstanding final product, the LitraStudio wireless 10M waterproof MIL-STD810G.
Stepping Back - Part One
For the small form factor, the LitraStudio packs quite the punch.
Weighing in at 2.09 lbs., the instrument was heavier than I thought it was going to be, but not something that would be unmanageable. In hindsight, the weight was a good thing. The construction was excellent and the materials used to build the LitraStudio means it should be around a good long time. There are a lot of different ways to use it.
When you add in the supplied and comfortable handle you should be good to hold the unit all day. If you were going to mount it over the camera then I'd suggest you use a tripod or cage set up. But remember that we can be wireless here, so portability and that quality construction counts for a lot in the final equation. If needed, one can still always put it on a light stand if your shoot is going to be long. Additionally, the Litrastudio that I reviewed came with a wide assortment of add-ons (pictured) including diffuser, barn doors, and honeycomb all in its own case. It was amazing how much I could do with the add ons.
Stepping Back to Basics: Learning Lots of New Tricks
If you think you know all the ins and outs of gear like cameras and lighting, most likely you don’t. I say this from both personal and professional experience, not to be disrespectful at all. Our technology is constantly evolving and you need to run like hell sometimes just to keep up.
Case in point. When I unpacked the LitraStudio I said ahh just another portable light. I was incorrect. The LitraStudio is a professional lighting instrument that has a ton of cool features to use if you will take the time to learn them.
So, fair warning. If you don’t take the time to learn these controls before the shoot, you (and your shoot) will be scrooged. The information cards included are an excellent source of information and a great place to start if you are not familiar with the control menus.
The LitraStudio Control Panel/Smartphone Set Up
We are going to start with the “old fashioned” way of running the light on the instrument panel. I can explain why in three sentences.
- Lack of Bluetooth connectivity.
- Battery dies on your (not so) smartphone.
- You can’t have a smartphone because it is a secure location.
One day you will thank me because someday lack of connectivity will happen to you and because you knew ahead of time how to use the physical controls on the unit, it all worked out. For the record, I am not against smartphone controls at all. I just think you need to always have a Plan “B”. Maybe a Plan “C” too. Following the instruction card when working through the control panel made the going so much smoother. Once I had that figured out it was on to the smartphone app.
Next, I found the smartphone control to be darn good as well. I downloaded the app and pretty quickly figured out how to run the light with my phone, a sure sign of progress on my part. I would think this would be the perfect set up for single shooters that (like me) are not comfortable walking away from the camera once it is set up. Also when I was trying out the phone app it occurred to me how much time I was saving by controlling the LitraStudio via the phone AND I could see the changes I was making from the camera, not going back and forth a bunch of times to from the light to my camera to see if I got the lighting right for that particular shot.
Throwing Caution to the Wind (I meant water)
I have a confession to make. On the last leg of the LitraStudio review, it was time to test and see if the unit really was waterproof. As with any first-time test, I must have read the directions for this part at least a half a dozen times. The biggest thing was to make sure all the compartment doors on the unit like the battery compartment and USB C connection door was completely closed. It’s in the directions.
The first “dip” I tried it out in my kitchen in a big bowl of water so I could see the litrastudio in action. (My youngest wanted me to try putting the litrastudio in the toilet and flushing but I declined.) I gave the litrastudio a big dunk and let it just sit there in the water. Yes, it was totally submerged. It worked like a champ! We also used the smartphone app to control the litrastudio underwater and used the fun setting of Dance Club lights. It was very cool.
Then, I somehow convinced my good friends at OSA Aquarium to let us try the litrastudio in one of those huge fish tanks. I had to promise that I wouldn’t fry any of their fish. Sorry, I just had to say that. I have seen other “waterproof” units before, but with mixed results. Well, the good news is that I didn’t fry anyone or anything. Again, the litrastudio lived up to the hype. It's important to add that I only tried the LitraStudio in freshwater.
At the list price of $695 (US), I am of the opinion that the LitraStudio would be a solid investment for a documentary producer, commercial shooter, or for studio use. If I were buying the LitraStudio right now, I would buy two. I would use the first one as a key and use the other for a fill/splash as needed.
One could also easily hang four or five units from a grid and use it as an existing DMX controller or their phone. I know people like to use the term over-engineered a lot. But the litrastudio has earned that distinction. I think it would pay for itself in just one or two shoots. The LitraStudio is well built, easy to use, and has many useful features that one would use on almost every production.