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Astera’s panel show

Posted on Dec 24, 2023 by Samara Husbands

These professional-quality Hydrapanel LEDs have been honoured with an Editor’s Choice accolade in our Gear of the Year Awards

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When you choose to invest in Astera’s Hydrapanels, you are not just selecting some of the highest-quality small LED light panels that deliver consistent, flicker-free performance at all colour settings, but a flexible system that can be scaled up into a serious lighting solution.

Combining up to four Hydrapanels together, which will then wirelessly sync with each other, you have a much larger and softer light source. This can be used inside a custom accessory like the Astera DoPchoice Snapbag softbox, which even accepts a soft fabric eggcrate grid to increase directionality.

Or take a single Hydrapanel and use it with a tightly focused metal honeycomb grid for a highly directional, punchy hard light. Maybe put two together with clip-on diffusers for a soft hair light, or in a funky colour setting as a practical light that’s easy to mount or hide. The chipset is RGB, mint and amber for a huge range of hues.

Flexibility like this shows how Astera’s products are designed and tested by real gaffers who demand quality, reliability, a top-notch set of accessories, plus power and control solutions. Astera delivers, which is why it’s been awarded the Editor’s Choice accolade in the light panels category of the prestigious Pro Moviemaker Gear of the Year Awards.

Though the Hydrapanels can be bought individually, it’s more sensible to get hold of the kit of four inside a custom hard case with a set of cutouts that include charging contacts. Plug in the supplied charger and all four lights are charged at the same time, daisy-chained together with cables neatly tucked underneath. These not only supply power but also data, so the lights can be controlled this way via various remote systems like DMX as well as infrared remote or wireless CRMX.   

The kit comes with three connector plates, so up to four lights can be joined together to form a larger panel. They sync up, so you need only adjust one and the rest follow suit. Each can be commanded through its integrated display with a set of control buttons and touch slider. The panel allows you to navigate via the main menu for colour adjustments, brightness and runtime settings. For anything more advanced, use the companion app.

Also included are four baby pin mounts for conventional grip heads, gel holders, 60° and 40° honeycomb grids, small softboxes, 80° intensifiers and diffusion sheets. You’ll find a full set of four for each – essentially that’s 28 accessories thrown in. These all fix onto the front of the LED light using small magnets, so you can combine them, too. 

The kit comes with four small stands which can be mounted to the base of the units to angle them when they are on a flat surface. There are standard 1/4in-20 mount holes and each light has a magnet on the back. Safety holes for security wires make sure the lamps don’t fall off – and if someone moves or tampers with your light during a shoot, there’s even an anti-theft feature: the panel produces visual and audible alarms and sends a notification to the app. If they are running on mains power which is then cut, the light switches to battery and puts out a bright white light so you are not left in the dark if there’s a power outage. 

The real beauty of these units is the accurate and consistent colours at all settings, thanks to Astera’s TruColor technology that calibrates the light for consistency and exact reproduction of colour temperature or gels.

Dial in CCT with a green/magenta tint to get white perfectly right, or select HSI numbers or a range of gels such as Rosco. The app lets you change colours with full control over each of the six LED arrays per lamp, or set the lights to match a beat for the full DJ experience. 

These lights are silent and powerful, combining to put out 1300 lumens, and its various extras make all the difference. The Astera Hydrapanel is a solidly built, proven product with well-thought-out features to set it apart from the rest. 

Originally published in the November/December 2023 issue of Pro Moviemaker.

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