The BALLED Pro lights are small LED lights with an output of 125 lumen. They’re suitable for object and food photography, can help with portrait shooting and are great as a portable lighting kit when shooting video interviews. Due to their quality, I wouldn’t hesitate to call these the Rolls-Royces or Hasselblads of LED photo lights.
The BALLED Pro is a cylindrical lighting device made of aluminium and a high-grade glass lens. The BALLED Pro has a diameter of 40mm and is 30mm high. The bottom plate of the BALLED Pro is a strong magnet and holds the mini-USB interface and a 1/4 inch thread to mount the BALLED Pro directly on a tripod (or a QR-plate).
The luminous flux from the BALLED Pro is 125 lumen, with an advertised colour temperature of 6500K. I tested the two BALLED Pro lamps from my test set for colour temperature, and they both came out as 6800K with a M2 tint. Each BALLED Pro has a maximum power consumption of 350mA. The middle section of the alu cylinder holds the electronics. The top is the lens holder. The lens glass is extremely clear and has been cut so that the light circle extends to 70 degrees. At the rim of the light circle the pure and evenly distributed white light stops abruptly at a very faint and very thin darker border.
I didn’t find this line disturbing or affecting the quality of my results in any way, but if you’re bothered by it, you can easily mount a small diffusor in front of the lens. During my testing, I quickly found out that Expo Imaging‘s Rogue filters and Flash Benders are a perfect fit for the BALLED Pros — you do need to make a base (I used a drinking glass upside down) for the Rogue Flash Benders, or find a way to attach filters to the BALLED Pro’s base (I used the smallest Glue Dots cut in half to good effect).
The BALLED Pro lamps become quite warm when in use, but that doesn’t affect their life cycle of between 50,000 and 100,000 hours of usage, nor will you burn yourself. The lamps are made in Germany, which explains for their high quality of build and output.
BALLED Pro kits come in two versions: a single kit that costs 239.00 EUR and a double kit that goes over the counter for 349.00 EUR. I had the opportunity to test the double kit. The kits — regardless of version — come in a small plastic Pelican case look-alike with two bright red ‘locks’. While the lamps have been designed and built with a keen eye for quality, the case should be re-designed. My case would accidentally open if I wasn’t careful. The solution: a velcro cable tier strapped around the handle.
Except for the two photo lights, the double-kit case holds two ReVolt USB interfaced battery packs, two mini USB cables, two steel plates with a 1/4 inch thread so you can mount these permanently and then ‘click’ the BALLED Pro lamps onto it. The ReVolt battery packs are designed to contain four AA batteries. I never used them. Another brilliant partner product for the BALLED Pros proved to be the Powermonkey Extreme that I reviewed in 2012.
Using a split cable, I could connect the two BALLED Pros to the Powermonkey Extreme and have them on for very long periods of time. The added benefit of the Powermonkey Extreme is its eco-friendly solar panel driven recharging capability. The Powermonkey is also much sturdier than the ReVolt packs. You can run the BALLED Pros off any USB power source, so you can just as easily plug them in a USB-to-power adapter or the USB port of your notebook.
Regardless, the battery packs allow you to use the BALLED Pros as an extremely portable lighting solution, and that’s only one of many usage scenarios where they shine — pun intended.
Why and when would you want to use BALLED Pro photo lights?
When working indoors, many photographers will prefer to use powerful studio flashes or expensive flood lights. Those have their own use, but flash light has a disadvantage: it causes eye fatigue and headaches. Additionally, the head of a Broncolor HMI or Profoto ProDaylight is quite big to say the least. How on earth can you light small areas the way you want without add-ons that bend the light beam to your liking? And how portable is such a solution?
It’s not and for many purposes it’s impractical to use these photo lights. No-one in his right mind will use lamps the size of the BALLED Pros for lighting up the entire studio, but they’re exactly what you need to creatively lighten up objects and add fill light to portraits.
Not surprisingly, these were my two areas of attention, with video interviews as a third possible usage scenario. I tested the BALLED Pro lamps for lighting small objects, I tried it with portraiture and I tested the usefulness of the lamps as extra lighting kit for a video interview.
In all three test cases, I tested by using the lamps as direct light (no diffusion or panels, or filters, or anything else), with a touch of creativity (adding the Rogue diffusion kits and filters) and as fill lights.
BALLED Pro for object and portrait photography
The BALLED Pro photo light was more or less invented for object photography. It’s used by photographers from all across Europe and Australia. One of the most famous advocates of the BALLED Pro has been Joris Luyten, a photographer from Antwerp, Belgium, who is a QEP (Qualified European Professional Photographer), has won the Gourmand World Cookbook Award 2007, has exhibited at the Pingyao International Photography Festival 2008 (China) and is an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society.
Luyten uses the BALLED Pros for food photography. On the BALLED Pro website you can view a recorded workshop during which he demonstrates the BALLED Pros in tandem with mirrors, diffusion panels and by themselves.
I’m very far off to what mr. Luyten can accomplish with the BALLED Pros, but I do have an advantage over him: my journalistic interest (others call it curiosity). You can admire my setup (which probably isn’t the best possible) for shooting an office tape dispenser in the picture below.
One thing that I noticed is that working with the BALLED Pros is in no way easier or simpler than with speed lights. It’s just as difficult as working with strobes — and I imagine as with continuous light in a studio. There is one distinct advantage, though: you don’t need the space you usually need for this kind of work.
The setup I’m showing you didn’t take up more space than the quarter of my office table top. Furthermore, nothing gets burning hot, there are no stands that you can bump into and as the photo lights are virtually unbreakable, you have little to worry about.
Portraits are a different matter. I tried this with no additional light, and then with dim light (the sort of lighting conditions you’d have when shooting in a pub or a library). In the half day I could spend to the test with no additional light at all, I couldn’t get it right. I’m sure a good professional portrait photographer would have managed a better job than myself, but to my defence I will add that I’m all alone, shooting myself with a remote trigger, and that as a consequence I can’t see what I’m doing all that well.
With the dim natural light, things changed and became really simple: the BALLED Pro with a Rogue diffusion filter in front of it worked like a tiny reflector. It proved to be an excellent fill light and would easily lighten up details of my ugly face from a 75cm distance. For this test, I didn’t even need the two lamps, not even with the diffusion filter mounted.
BALLED Pro for video
My final test was to use the BALLED Pro system as a small video light kit. I wanted to see if it is feasible to use when interviewing someone. So I set up a test environment with some natural light coming in from a window. This would be the lighting conditions you would encounter when recording a video clip for a customer story, for example.
When using the BALLED Pros for video, it is important not to shine the lamps straight in the eyes of your interviewee. That proved to be the only problem — despite having read the warnings, but impossible not to look into the lamps at least squinting, I got blinded several times. The lights were strong enough to lighten up the scene when positioned at about one metre away from the subject (me, in this case).
The distinct advantage of using them as additional lights was the reduction of noise in the resulting video clip. For video I thought the light colour was a bit too bluish, but that was easily fixed in post-production.
When using the BALLED Pros for this purpose, I would advise on carefully positioning the light circle so its darker border doesn’t show up in the frame. This too can be fixed by adding a diffusion filter to the BALLED Pros, but then you do lose output.
The BALLED Pros proved to be very useful as a portable video lighting kit as well. Take a look at the short test video I created.
The BALLED Pro photo lights have extremely good quality of build. The quality of the light they generate is exceptional. The form factor and size of the lamps allow for the introduction of ‘add-ons’ that you can fiddle with to broaden the lamps’ creative usage scenarios.
The entire system is small and portable, and with the addition of a battery solution like the Powermonkey Extreme you can shoot hours on end without worrying about power or ease of use. The magnetic mounting capability works like a charm.
Only the case should in my opinion be dumped and exchanged for something with a decent locking mechanism.