I have a love/hate relationship with continuous lighting.
On one hand, I see the absolute necessity in bringing it along for every single shoot, especially since I tend to use smaller-sensor cameras that aren't necessarily the best low-light performers.
On the other, I can't stand the additional weight and bulk a standard three point light kit adds to my setup. As a (mostly) solo operator, I want a kit that's lightweight, adaptable, and not intimidating for someone who very well might be experiencing being on camera for the first time.
Enter the Scorpion Lights. (That totally sounds like a kung fu movie)
Blind Spot Gear?
You might remember them, as they nearly doubled their asking goal of £21,000 on their Kickstarter a little over a year ago, which is when they first popped up on my radar. I thought the lights they promised were a little too good to be true based on their description and demo video. How can lights so small be useful?
So I waited for some reviews.
Customers took delivery, Blind Spot Gear continued to release demo videos, I saw written testimonials all over, but a video review was nowhere to be found. I was still very interested, even more so every time I had to lug one of my three point light kits out for an interview plus smaller battery-powered LED lights for background detail lighting or camera-mounting.
So I reached out to Blind Spot when I saw that they had several units ready to ship and talked about the possibility of getting a review unit. They couldn't have been nicer and, within two weeks, I had a sleek, custom Pelican-like case on my doorstep.
"What kind of lights are those?"
There's no denying the Scorpion Light aesthetic. Every single opportunity I had to interview someone with them, that was the question I was asked. Beyond their obviously unique look is an incredible build quality. The gooseneck, base, clamps, and all of the accessories are made of metal (brass, I believe) and have a precision to them that's appreciable in both form and function.
Their size coupled with the aforementioned gooseneck allow you to light in some pretty crazy circumstances. I was able to wrap one around my steering wheel and throw a green Rosco gel over it to stylistically emulate light coming off the dashboard; an effect I've seen in a few narratives but absolutely loved in Showtime's Dexter.
While we're on the topic of lighting in difficult circumstances: there's a good chance you could show up with absolutely no stands and, using only the included clamps, get the lighting pretty damn close to perfect. I love the idea of using the environment like furniture, shelves, and even other lighting fixtures to mount the lights. Outdoors you could mount them atop a fence, onto an open door, on tree branch, a street sign, and any other number of places.
Speaking of outdoors, did I mention these lights can run on battery power with standard Sony NP-F550/570 batteries? You might already have a few of these in your bag if you already have a battery-operated light, any Atomos recorder, or a Sony camera. You can also plug them in like you normally would when in a studio setting, but I almost never did that even when it was available.
Battery operation meant, for me, that I was able to take these lights way off the grid... and I did. I got an average of 80 minutes of operation from a single battery with the light on full power, and when it died I just swapped with one of my five fully charged backups, not counting the four that Blind Spot gives you. You could light an entire evening without ever needing to plug in or bring a generator along.
The barn doors, beyond shaping the light, double as your gel holders through the use of magnets. It's pretty ingenious and allows for quick swapping so you can get your lighting set up exactly to your liking. They also include 10 Rosco gels/diffusers for you to choose from.
The built-in dimmer has a great feel to it and works as expected. You can crank it up to 11 for some pretty serious light or make it moodier at a lower setting. I didn't do any actual measuring so take this with a grain of salt, but I think I can say these lights have a solid eight foot throw, which is awesome when you consider their size.
As I mentioned earlier, the kit comes with a great custom Pelican-type hard case and custom-cut inserts to fit everything you'd need. I'm not 100% sure it's a Pelican case, but I'm 95% certain because the inserts fit perfectly into my actual Pelican case I use for cameras and lenses.
The kit I reviewed had four total lights, two daylight balanced and two tungsten. This is pretty great balance, though I'm partial to the daylight look, even if I have to modify it with a gel to match certain indoor settings.
Finally, being LEDs, they barely throw off any heat at all. In my experience, the only part that does get hot is the heatsink-esque enclosure of the actual emitter. It resembles the design of most modern LED lights for your home, so I kind of anticipated that. The barn doors and gooseneck are cool to the touch even with the lights running at their highest setting. It's a bonus to not have your subject sweltering under the heat of a light kit and being able to break them down immediately at the close of a shoot.
A lot of reviews leave it pretty ambiguous at the end. "I like them!" and "They're awesome!" are what you see all too often. I'm not calling anyone out on this because I'm totally guilty of it, too. That said, when it comes to the Scorpion Lights, I think the best testament I can give them:
I bought the kit they sent me.
I like them so much and was able to tackle so many different projects in the time that I had them, I honestly didn't want to send them back and so I spoke with Blind Spot about purchasing and they generously accepted. On all future projects, these will be the lights I reach for first. If you're a solo operator like me and find yourself mostly in the realm of short narrative or documentary work, do yourself a favor and seriously consider these lights.