The $500 Ice Light vs. The $150 Knock-Off | Which Comes Out On Top?
Jerry Ghionis is one of a handful of photographers who I believe are worth the hype in the wedding photography industry. For the most part, in my eyes, Jerry can do no wrong…with the exception of the price of his Westcott Ice Light 2. The results and light it creates speak for itself, so there’s no arguing that. However, with a retail price of $499.90, I could never justify the cost just to see if it was worth it.
I started looking for alternatives in the market and have come across some “knock-offs” between $100-200 found on eBay. Yongnuo also just announced their new LED Light Wand. But how would these stack up to the original?
I am, very much, one to pay more for quality, if I will see the benefit of it. My initial thought was that the Ice Light would be superior in every way, even though some of the specs from the knock off brands matched. I have purchased some knock-off items before, and the promises always came short of the reality.
As I move more and more into automotive photography, a light tube of some sort is going to be clutch for much of my work. However, I wasn’t willing to drop $500 on something that I wasn’t sure I would be using heavily. So I opted for the knock-off brand. It was $158.00 shipped, has two sets of 298 LED’s (one side is cool, and the other is warm), and the plastic that covers the LEDs is “frosted.”
Disclaimer: I spent some of my hard-earned cash for part of this review. I purchased the knock-off light myself and was given a review unit of the Ice Light 2 for this comparison. A part of me was a bit apprehensive doing this, as I was worried the Ice Light would perform so much better, I was going to be forced to shell out $500 to buy it and have to sell the knock-off to recoup some of my money.
The most important aspect of these types of lights is the brightness of the lights themselves. Both the knock-off and the Westcott Ice Light are very bright, and if you stare into them, it is painful; don’t ask me how I know.
Just by initial glance and then working with them a bit, the knock-off appeared to produce brighter light. Upon talking with Westcott about the ICE light, they claimed 2x the brightness as the knock-offs. To my eyes, it did not appear that way. However, according to the LUX meter, it was, in fact, the case (The LUX meter is from my other expensive money pit…my reef aquarium and is used to check the brightness of lights to maintain coral growth. While, not exactly “photography” driven, it still will, at least, give an idea of the brightness of the light).
The Ice Light also had a total of 22 brightness settings to the knock-offs ten settings, which were controlled by push buttons on the back of the lights.
I think the knock-off has a better quality overall. It has an all-aluminum handle and an overall better feel. The Ice Light is pretty much all plastic and has a cheaper feel to it. I feel like I didn’t have to baby the knock-off and it would be ok; not so much with the Ice Light. However, with the Ice Light, having more plastic allows it to weigh less. The plastic around the LEDs are both “frosted” to diffuse the light; the ICE Light is much more “frosted” than the knock-off. I could not see any difference between the two in terms of softer light in the images.
The Ice Light is also smaller (mainly in diameter), which probably adds to it being lighter. I do not see this making much of a difference unless you have small hands and/or holding it for extended periods of time. I will say that I actually prefer the design of the knock-off having a larger diameter; it offers a broader light source, whereas the Ice Light, has a more narrow light source.
Both lights come with some sort of carrying case. The Ice Light has a very minimal case that doesn’t offer much protection, while the knock-off comes with a bigger case with some foam to offer some protection. I like the added protection; while I do not abuse my gear, sometimes they do take their lumps and any added protection is appreciated.
I was able to use both these lights over the course of a 3-4 hour period, turning them on and off and at full brightness for 80% of the time and neither one showed signs of slowing. Beyond that, I did not test the battery life as I do not think many photographers would exceed this amount of time. However, both come with replaceable batteries, so if it ever became an issue, you could purchase a spare to use.
Which would I choose and what should you choose?
For me, I decided to stick with the knock-off as it does exactly what I need it to do, and for a lot less money. That money can be better spent on other aspects of my photography. I like the material it is made out of and it being larger, I felt lends itself better to my type of shooting and how I want to add artificial light to an image.
However, if you plan to use a light like this a lot, and sheer brightness mixed with a smaller package is important, I do think the Ice Light 2 is probably a better fit. If the Ice Light were $150 cheaper, I would probably pay the difference and upgrade, but $500 is still too rich for my blood, especially in regards to more of a novelty sort of light.