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Impromptu Video / Photography Lighting with the Coleman LED Quad Lantern

Review by Ron Risman -- March 2010

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Impromptu (Daylight Balanced) Video / Photo Lighting Using the Coleman LED Quad Lantern

Available at Amazon.com

I was out shopping today with my girlfriend and happened to stumble across a very cool and interesting product while shopping at the local wholesale club. The product is the new Coleman Quad LED Lantern. Based on the description on the box itself it seemed like it would be an ideal and inexpensive portable lighting solution for cinematographers or photographers who wanted a impromptu solution for portrait lighting - especially for personal interviews or for creative lighting effects.

I have created a video to demonstrate this product but thought I would write about it as well. You can watch the video below:

Video settings for above clip
The video above was recorded using the Canon EOS 5D Mark II with the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II lens. These are the settings the camera was set at:
  • ISO 800
  • Shutter: 1/60th
  • Aperture: f/2.2
  • White Balance: AWB (Auto). In testing the lights tested at around 5600K, which make them daylight balanced.
  • Sound: Internal Microphone
  • Scene setting: Gray day, almost evening. All indoor lights were off

There are a few features that make the Coleman LED Quad Lantern so unique. The first is that there are four LED light panels that surround the middle base station. This base station forms the heart of the lantern and features a built-in carrying handle and a large battery compartment underneath to hold 8 "D-cell" batteries. The lantern itself is lightweight, which is much appreciated since 8 "D" batteries are not. Fully installed, the lantern weights about 6 lbs.

Each of the four detachable light panels have six bright, white 5mm LED lamps, which should never need replacing, and each light panel has it's own set of AAA NiMH batteries pre-installed (3 x 600mAh) when you take the Lantern out of the box. The use of user replacement AAA NiMH batteries was an excellent choice since it means if they should ever stop holding a charge, you can easily and cost effectively replace them. The fact that the Lantern includes 12 NiMH AAA batteries in the box also helps to build value in this already aggressively priced lantern since a four pack of AAA rechargeable's typically cost about $10-$14 per pack. That's $30 worth of rechargeable batteries that are included with the lantern.

When the light panels are docked onto the lantern, they automatically recharge using the lantern's 8 "D" batteries. Awesome idea.

When all light panels are connected to the Lantern, Coleman says that you'll get 75 hours of battery life from a set of 8 "D" batteries. When separated from the lantern, each light panel will get up to 1 1/2 hours per charge off their 3 "AAA" NiMH batteries. Since I just got the product this afternoon, I have not tested these numbers.

In Lantern mode (all panels attached), the lantern gives off 190 Lumens of light and has a range of 26 feet. Each removable light panel is rated at 47.5 lumens and a range of 26 feet.

Low-Light Portraiture
In a bright room or during the day with natural light coming in these light panels will make very little difference. Of course I can say the same thing about my $400 LED video light that I use as well. If placed close enough to the subject, in a bright room, you could use these as a portrait fill light as long as the working distance was just a foot or two. However, when shooting in low-light or no light, each of these LED light panels are perfect to create a light / shadow contrast ratio on your subject. Since you have four light panels, you can use them together or separate them to achieve just the right lighting ratio on your subject. I would also suggest that these lights are best suited for faster aperture lenses (f/1.8, f/2.8) to maximize the level of light provided by the light panels.

Each of the light panels have a handle that make it very easy to tote around or hang them from bungee cords, tie wraps, or hook. The flat bottom of each light panel allow them to stand up on their own when placed on any level surface.

The fact that each of the four light panels only have 6 LED lights gave me very little hope for any real usefulness for video or photography, but I bought it anyway knowing that I could always return it or use it as a camping or blackout lantern (actual intended purpose). But after testing it in the house with the afternoon light going down, I was shocked by how well they worked to illuminate a subjects face. Each LED bulb has a reflective cavity that makes them brighter than they would be on their own and each light panel has a built-in diffuser that helps to soften the light, creating a very pleasing light for portraiture.

The Coleman Quad Lantern is also water resistant (not waterproof) making it that much more versatile when using the lantern outdoors.

On the Set of 24
Rodney Charters used the Coleman QUAD LED lantern and panels on the set of an upcoming episode of 24. You can view the frame grabs here and can watch the trailer here:

Where to buy it
The Coleman Quad Lantern retails for $70 and can be purchased through Amazon.com for $58 with free shipping. I purchased mine through BJ's wholesale club for $49.99, not including the cost of membership.

If you do purchase this product, using our Amazon.com link helps to keep this site running as we get a very small affiliate commission for directing you to their store for the purchase. Their price is also pretty aggressive since they include free shipping. To compare, CampingWorld is selling it for $69.99, QVC for $59 + $7.22 for shipping.

Product Photos

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