First impressions of the Cool Light CL-LED256

I have looked at this light for a number of months and considered other competitive units that are available (Switronix, Ikan, Lowel, Litepanels, Bescor, Rosco and others) and after reading some recent commentary on Cinema 5D (please forgive me, but I have been unable to re-find the thread after several searches) I purchased the CL-LED256 (256 LED array, 5600K, spot with Sony battery mount).

I must say that I am quite impressed overall. It comes packaged in a nice soft case, the cable, dc power supply and XLR connecter are first rate and the filters are decent as well (more on this in a bit). The removable barndoors are solid and functional and the filter tray is excellent. I really like that the unit has three separate switch banks as well as a dimmer – all of which are solidly constructed. It is made of powder baked aluminum (in black) and, though compact, it has an overall solid feel.

The included stand adapter is OK but I prefer the Lowel adapter pictured in the images below.

This is the Cool Lights CL-LED256 (5600K Spot) with all three light banks turned on – shot with Elinchrom RX monolight strobes.

This is the Cool Lights CL-LED256 (5600K Spot) shot from the rear with the XLR DC adapter connected. Note the long dimmer knob on the bottom right of the fixture.

This is the Cool Lights CL-LED256 (5600K Spot) with the Sony battery attached.

This is the Cool Lights CL-LED256 (5600K Spot) that shows the master and bank light switches. Note the Lowel 5/8 inch light stand adapter.

This is the Cool Lights CL-LED256 (5600K Spot) from the front with the diffusion filter and open barndoors.

Someone on Cinema5D wanted to see the light in action (I know, in some moving image footage) and so did I. So here it is, the light illuminating its own DC power supply and other accessories.

I am actually quite excited about this light, its battery operation (dont have run times yet but will update this as I gain more experience), its solid compact build, the fact that it is 5600K and that it has three light banks as well as dimming capability. It is not really a camera mount light (though some might use it that way) but it is a great little mini spot.

The only observation at the moment that I have is about the filters that come with it. They are good, solid filters, but to my taste, the two minus green filters have about 500K too much amber added. I find that I prefer to use a Rosco 1/2 minus green (#RO3313s). It does lower the K to about 5000K but it matches so much better with the florescent lights that I use and the green is gone (I also filter my florescent lights with Rosco 1/4 or 1/2 minus green filters).

Comments or questions welcomed.

All images and copy ©2010 by Bill Deuster. All rights reserved.

9 thoughts on “First impressions of the Cool Light CL-LED256

  1. Hi Bill, I’ve been eyeing the Cool Lights LED’s myself, though I haven’t been able to find much info about it’s output. Can this model be used as a key light, or is it fill/backlight only?

    • Hi Paul,

      As with all lights, how close one can get it to the subject can change how it might be used. This is a relatively small light and the output is modest, as well, at more than 6 or so feet (think about f4 1/60th of a second at 6ft at ISO800). That being said, I can think of using this in a huge range of applications – on a small set it could be a main or key light – or the main kicker on a small portion of a larger set. And, yes, it can light a background (or a portion of it anyway) or even be boomed to become a hair light. Truthfully, I think it will take me a while to experience the full range of applications, but I am quite excited that it is powerful enough to play a big role on small sets and a substantial role helping to light segments of a larger set. Unless I stumble on something that I really dont like (not likely unless of a materials/component/electronic failure), I plan on buying at least two more of these units.

  2. Hey Bill, thanks for the quick and detailed response.

    To rephrase my question about output, would you say it’s closer to a 300w fresnel or more like a 150? Either way, it sounds like the 256 can be used for just about anything short of a tight fresnel spotlight.

    One more question – not sure if it’ll even work, but have you tried using it with a cookie yet?

    Anyway, thanks again for the review. I was on the fence before, but now I’ll be buying one of these.


    • Hi Paul,

      Prior to buying a Canon 7D and beginning to do some video again, I never used such small lights. Except for modeling lights on a studio strobe, for more than 20 years, I had never used lights below 1000w.

      Now I find that the smaller, lower powered lights are what give you your lighting finesse when doing moving picture footage. To try and extrapolate my early experiences with this light, I would have to say that it mimics a soft 100-200w fresnel. It is a spot LED, but an LED isnt really a spot light when it is grouped in an array – it is more like a spot light with a refined diffuser over it – like clipping a silk over the ends of barn doors that gobo a fresnel. Words fail me a bit here, but hopefully you get the direction of my description.

      Just tried a Lowel cookie hand held over the light with the barndoors wide open. Not an effect I am looking for and not much of a cookie effect. Likely wont make you happy.

      Hope this helps.

  3. Hi!
    I’m a newbie :D, wich light is better for videography with 7D? the spotlight or flood? I can’t decide wich one to buy, the 600LED Spot or 600LED Flood. Are 256LED Spot is enogh for outdoor? Thanks for the answer..

    • Hi Calvell,

      Last question first. The CL256 has enough power to provide fill outdoors when it is within about 3-4 feet of the subject it is illuminating. Remember, it has three banks and a dimmer so as the sun goes down it will have more and more impact on your subject as the main light (sun) fades.

      As to the Spot vs Flood, I must confess that I have never used a Cool Light LED flood, nor do I have an interest in doing so. I have other lights that will do that job much better. Note, as well, that the CL600 flood is only 150 lux more powerful that the CL256 Spot (800lux at 6 feet vs 650lux at 6 feet – CL600 vs CL256) so if you want more power, then the 600 spot would be the right choice as far as I can see. Remember, though, that the CL600 requires a much larger and more expensive battery. As for the light properties between the flood LED and the spot, well, I can only say that I would rather put a diffuser of some kind on the spot to gain the slightly broader light throw than never have the additional output or more “focused” beam of the spot version.

      Just one persons opinion. Hope this helps.

  4. Please tell me how/where I can get the adapter shown in these pics! The included adaptor with mine sucks 😦 and I never use my light because of it. I have emailed CL, but I’m hoping to get a lead ASAP so I can utilize my 256 on a shoot happening very soon. Thanks kindly for your article and respnonse

    • Hi Kelly,

      I am afraid that I dont have any good advice for you about the power adapter. It came with the light so contacting CL is the way to go (have you tried calling them?). I do usually power the lights with Sony batteries – NP-F970 or equivalent. You may try this approach. Best of luck.

      • I was interested in the stand adapter, not power adapter. I’ve found it on B&H photo in the Lowel adapters section. Thanks!

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