LED lighting is all the rage today.
I often speak with churches, bands and other venues who are looking into buying LED fixtures to either add to the functionality of their lighting system, make maintenance easier, replace old gear, be more efficient or any combination of the above.
But I also see a lot of venues who have made bad choices in LED fixtures and been disappointed. If you look out into the LED market these days, you will see that it is flooded with lights in all price ranges- literally from $100 to $3000 and above! Which is right for you?
So what do I need in an LED light?…and can I buy the cheap ones?
Well, the answer to that is many-faceted.
Yes, you can buy the cheapest thing you can find, but you may be disappointed. I have seen churches buy LED lights from companies I’ve never heard of that don’t carry any warranty.
They’ve been disappointed when, 1 year down the road, some of the units are breaking and not as bright or consistent as they used to be. Cheaper LED lights are often poorly designed and allow heat to dim the LED’s early in their life and poor electrical connections can cause units to fail prematurely.
Moving past the negatives, I do advise folks who are looking to get into the entry level to buy less expensive LED’s from reputable lighting companies who have been around for some time- such as Chauvet, American DJ and Elation.
These companies have great fixtures in the lower price range. They may not be as cheap as others you’ve seen, but you do get what you pay for!
I read late last week of a cheaper, newer name of LED fixtures that is going out of business at the end of this year. That makes it really hard if you need replacement parts in the future or want more matching lights, and it was a very popular brand among churches and other venues.
What To Consider When Buying LED Fixtures
Here are a few things you need to know and consider before buying LED fixtures.
1. Consider the quality of light coming out of a RGB-only fixture.
These only have red, green and blue LED’s inside. You may have seen some marketing material saying that these fixtures can put out “16 million colors”, and while that may be technically true, I bet you can only tell the difference between a few hundred of those at most. You’re not going to get a good brown, amber, or white color out of these no matter how good they are. They’ll make your flesh look pink if you try to use them as front light. However, you can get a bunch of good colors for a great price, and these are great for lighting set pieces or walls.
2. Non-“tri”, “quad” or “homogenized” LED’s have individual red, green and blue LED”s that you can see.
So, when you mix up a yellow, purple, aqua or anything that’s not pure R, G or B, you’re going to see some of multiple colors when you look at the light. This may be distracting if you’re using it as backlight, or anywhere that congregation members can see the front of the light fixture. It also makes the colors mix a little bit better at very close ranges, but I don’t think it’s necessary to use tri-LED’s when lighting walls and scenery.
3. Cheaper fixtures will flicker when you videotape them or use IMAG to put the video on screen.
If you are shooting video, make sure that you buy fixtures that are guaranteed “flicker free” because this will be very distracting. It’s not just a slight flicker- I have seen it myself! Some units may look okay at full, but not when dimmed due to the way LED’s are dimmed in most fixtures. If you have this problem with lights you already own, try running your units only at full.
4. Always buy lighting products that have a warranty of at least 90 days.
If the company making it won’t stand behind it, I don’t feel safe doing so either!
5. Think about the construction of the fixture vs. actual light output.
You don’t need something built like a tank if it’s just going to be installed in your church and not move often. Those units are made for production companies. There are cheaper units from many manufacturers that have the same LED’s in a cheaper, less durable unit than the flagship unit.
6. Keep in mind that different manufacturers use different LED’s in their fixtures.
Different LED’s produce slightly different colors. Fixtures may also vary in color by each run, or batch, of fixture. For the best color consistency, buy all of the LED fixtures you’ll use at once.
If this isn’t possible, buy in groups based on use- such as buying all of the units to light your backdrop at once, then later buying the ones you use for backlight, etc. It is best to stick with one manufacturer for all of your LED fixtures for color consistency, but if you have to change, it’s not the end of the world.
7. If you’re buying more than 4-6 units, be sure to get a product demo!
Local dealers can demo and/or let you borrow products for FREE! Otherwise, many manufacturers will ship you a fixture for just a deposit and the cost of shipping it back to them so that you can try it out.
You want to see how the light works with your current setup, if is is bright enough, how it works of skin tones, etc.
Recommended LED Fixtures
Buying cheaper LED lights may be the right move for you if you don’t shoot video, and use them in the right application.
There is a right product for every application, and it sure doesn’t have to be the most expensive! However, keep in mind that if you do shoot video, wash people in white/amber or need smooth fading, you may want to reconsider your price range.
Keep in mind, though, that for every application there is probably a more value-priced unit that you can buy from a good manufacturer.
Check out these value-priced LED fixtures as examples of the manufacturers that will stand by their word and deliver you a great product!
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