The Yongnuo YN300 is a compact, lightweight and relatively cheap LED light designed as a camera toplight. It’s powered by a single Sony NP-F battery, the type that you get with a Z1 or Z5 camcorder. Made of plastic, it includes four non-removable hinged barndoors as well as a cold shoe mount on the base.
A slot on the side of the case enables insertion of a single filter from a provided set of four, one clear diffusion and three coloured. Being positioned right up against the LEDs, the diffusion filter doesn’t really make that much difference in reality but if you are using this light atop a camera then it’s definitely worth putting in. The light is so bright at maximum power that you will blind any interviewee subject to its glare, and the diffuser at least notches it down a fraction. You will, inevitably, still need to back it off a bit using the brightness dial on the back of the unit.
The light output goes from 100% down to about 10 or 20 ish but the colour temperature is fixed – a very ‘blue’ daylight – unless you add a suitable gel over the front.
A set of buttons on the back provide for an odd set of functions including an SOS mode where the light flashes out the Morse code for S.O.S. (really!), and an automatic mode where a tiny light sensor on the back determines how bright the LED should be based on the ambient light; presumably this has applications for home security as day turns to dusk, rather than in any professional filming application.
At full blast, the LED is pretty intense and certainly powerful enough to compensate for a degree of daylight behind your subject, enabling a lower exposure setting on the camera and therefore fewer clipped highlights in the background, as demonstrated in our test video.
In conclusion, this low-cost LED is a useful and easy to pack weapon in your lighting armoury. Whilst it’s of relatively flimsy plastic construction, it’s also cheap enough that you could buy several for the cost of one similar fixture from a bigger name manufacturer. Measured under a lightmeter and with appropriate scopes, the difference in light quality might be apparent – we have not tried it thus – but for those times, such as newsgathering, when you just need light and don’t really have time to muck about with how pretty it is, this unit could be a lifesaver.
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