Choosing the Right LED Light: Panel vs. COB. Tips for Filmmakers & Content Creators


Vicky Markolefa

10/6/20234 min read

In the world of video production, lighting plays a pivotal role in achieving the desired mood, tone, and visual quality. As someone who has explored various lighting technologies, I've frequently been asked which ones are better for beginners or for small productions. In this blog, I aim to shed light on two popular lighting technologies that have become indispensable tools for videographers and content creators: Panels and COB LED lights.

But before we delve deeper, let's first grasp what these acronyms actually mean: 

LED: LED stands for "Light Emitting Diode."

Panels: These panels consist of multiple LEDs arranged in a grid pattern to provide uniform illumination.

COB: Chip-On-Board. It refers to a specific type of LED technology where multiple LED chips are mounted closely together on a single substrate or circuit board, forming a high-intensity light source.

Having spent years producing corporate videos and documentary films, I've worked with both LED panels and COB lights in various settings, indoors and outdoors. In this blog, I'll delve into the advantages and disadvantages of these two lighting options, providing insights that can help you make informed decisions for your video projects.

First, let's explore the common advantages that both panel and COB lights offer:

  • Dimmability and Flicker-Free Operation: Both panels and COB lights allow precise adjustment of light output, crucial for maintaining a consistent and professional look, especially in slow-motion shots. This dimmability is a crucial feature when you need to fine-tune the intensity of your lighting.

  • Sustainability and Longevity: High-quality LED technology can maintain 70% of its initial light output even after 25,000 hours of use, making both options sustainable and cost-effective for extended projects where lighting consistency is critical. This longevity ensures that your lighting investment continues to deliver high-quality results over the long term.

  • Versatility: Both can be controlled remotely, enabling real-time adjustments without disrupting your subjects. This versatility is particularly valuable for narrative filmmaking, where you might need to adapt your lighting quickly to match changing scenes or actors' positions.

  • Energy Efficiency: Both are energy-efficient, offering substantial savings in electricity costs without sacrificing performance. This efficiency not only reduces your operational costs but also minimizes your environmental footprint.

  • Customizability: Accessories like reflectors and diffusers allow precise control over the quality of light.

Now, let's focus on the specific advantages of panel lights: 

They are lightweight and easily transportable, making them ideal for solo filmmakers who need equipment that's easy to carry and set up fast. Their portability ensures that you can move them quickly between locations and adapt to different shooting conditions. Also, panel lights often feature a sleek and modern design, seamlessly fitting into various environments. Their unobtrusive appearance allows them to blend into different settings.

On the other hand, COB lights come with many pros. They are famous for their intense illumination and precise color rendering, making them ideal for cinematic projects and outdoor shoots. Their high-intensity output ensures that you can achieve dramatic lighting effects, create sharp shadows, and highlight specific areas with precision.

Also, consider that generally speaking, most COB lights are more modular, enabling customization of the setup by adding or removing individual COB units. This modular design allows you to scale your lighting rig to provide the precise amount of illumination required for different shooting scenarios.

Whether you're working in a small studio or a vast outdoor location, you can adapt your COB lighting setup to match the project's specific needs. COB lights typically come with a range of accessories, including reflectors, diffusers, and Fresnel lenses. These accessories help you shape and control the quality of light precisely. Whether you need to soften the light or focus it on a particular subject, these lights offer the flexibility to achieve your desired lighting effects.

When making an informed decision, it's important to be aware of the drawbacks associated with both types:

Panel lights often have a broader beam angle, which can be challenging when you need a more focused or spotlight effect. To address this limitation, you may need to invest in additional modifiers like barn doors and softboxes, which can add to your overall equipment costs.

Many COB lights are bulky and heavy, which can be a concern in tight spaces or for solo videographers. The added weight and size can make them less practical for on-the-go shooting or situations where mobility is essential.

Some low-quality COB lights may overheat after extensive use. Apart from safety considerations, this will potentially affect sound recordings. Quieter models or soundproofing may be necessary to address this issue, which can add complexity and cost to your production setup.

Making the right choice for your project means going through the research and test phases to select which is best for your current needs. Consider the nature of your project, your budget, and the specific lighting challenges you may encounter.

Here are some practical tips:

  • If your projects demand flexibility and efficiency, panels remain an excellent choice. They shine in interviews, product demonstrations, and run-and-gun shooting scenarios, offering versatility and ease of use.

  • If you're working on bigger productions or cinematic documentary films that require intense illumination, precise color rendering, and dramatic lighting effects, COB lights can elevate your production quality. They excel in outdoor shoots and studio setups with larger backdrops, situations where you need to create dramatic shadows and highlights.

At Mind the Bump, we have been using both panel and COB lights for corporate videos and documentary films. If you are looking for a panel set, make sure to check out Neewer 2 Pack NL660-2.4G. We have extensively used these in a variety of settings and highly recommend them for small teams or solo filmmakers. 

If you are considering COB lights, my recommendation is to try out Godox, a well-established brand in the industry renowned for its quality. If you are just starting out or you are on a tight budget, an affordable light we love and you might want to consider is the Godox SL-60W.

Please support the blog by using our affiliate links: 

Neewer 2 Pack NL660-2.4G 

Godox  SL-60W  

Ånd don't forget to check out our corporate videos gallery to see the results with these lights in action.

If you are a videographer or content creator, you know that lighting is such an important aspect of our work, and making the right decision will have an effect on your overall experience and your results. Both panels and COB lights have their merits and shortcomings. By carefully assessing your project's requirements and budget constraints, you can make an informed choice and achieve outstanding lighting results in your video production endeavors.

Happy filming, and may your creative vision always be well-illuminated!