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ISO recomendation studio light for MF


I am shooting with the Leica S007 (as well as the Leica M10M). I want to experiment with studio portrait photography and I am confused what best to get as the main light, which I want to to be able to modify as a soft light as well as a hard light.

I would prefer continuous light over strobes, and within continuous light LED over others. (I looked in detail into the pros and cons of continuous vs. strobes and on the pros and cons of LED vs other types of continuous lights). The main question I have is what LED light or lights to get. In particular, how strong does the light of to be so that I can shoot the S007 at acceptable ISO values, even if I stop down to f5.6 or f.8. My man lenses would be the 100/2 and the 120/2. and, in order to avoid camera shake, I would like to be able to shoot at 1/250. I also wonder whether the light needed may be too strong and unpleasant for the models.

I came across an interesting video of Leica talk with Mark Mann (see here), who shoots the S007 using Rotolights. So that may be an option.

I am also considering getting a ring light (not instead but in addition to a main light).

In any event, all recommendations welcome. Budget is about €2,500 (less if possible).

Thanks in advance.



Active member
We have Bowens Gemini 500's in our studio. Picked up a used set of 3 for about $400 Cad. Through a soft-box that's roughly arm's length to subject at full power will give me f/11 @ 50 iso. It has a 200w modelling light that the Hasselblad H has no issue using for autofocus.


Well-known member
Is there any reason you don't like strobes with modeling lights? I find that the best of both worlds where the modeling light allows you to visualize the lighting and the strobe gets you the power to eliminate the problem of motion.


Active member
It really depends on what type of portraits you intend to do. Head-n-shoulders would require less power than full length body which would require less than multi-person "fashion" type shots. The problem with LED is that to get enough power, you'd have to get some really nice panels, like Arri Skypanels at the top end for large group/sets. The other problem is that the light has to be really turned up high to get good depth of field, which has the counter effect of shrinking the crap out of people's irises and making eyes look weird.

For the lower budget that you have, you'd be way better off to get some mid-low strobes with decent modeling lights. The model lights 1) give you good WYSIWYG on the shadow placement, 2) allow for slight contraction of the irises (so you don't get the hollow eyes look), and 3) the strobe fire will allow you to freeze even the slightest motion. Bowen Gemini's are good lights for this. Don't fall for the "TTL" studio strobe - they rarely work accurately as the TTL system doesn't know what to do with light that doesn't fall on the subject, so it's rarely useful. Better to invest in a good handheld lightmeter like the Sekonic 308 for cheap.

You are also going to need lights for background lighting. At minimum, you'd want 3-4 lights for a set. Main + fill + background. Ideally, you'd want main + fill + rim/hair + 2x background. With LED, that'll get expensive fast. The other issue is color temperature. Cheap LED lights don't have good or consistent temperature despite their "CRI" rating. There's so many ways to fudge CRI to give a good score, when in reality, the light is crap.

Also, LED is still a "hot" light. Not as bad as tungsten, but the fixtures still radiate a lot of heat (LEDs typically use their cases for heatsinking). That heat can make the subject sweat and look mushy, especially in tight quarters. The other problem here is that with good ventilation, the heat is diminished, but you may end up with a lot of air movement, which is also not desired as it can make hair fly and cause slight movement in loose fabric.

I shoot either 3x 2400 w/s packs or 2x 3200w/s packs for studio product work. I use the same for portraits from headshots all the way to fashion work. Most times, the packs are dialed in around 50% of their capacity for enough DOF to cover sharpness requirements. The larger the modifier, the more power you'll need to overcome losses. The larger the modifier, the softer the light too. A 2'x3' strip bank for rim/fill will be closer to the subject than a 4'x5' large box or octa used for fill further away. You may only need 50% of the power for the strip to get the same amount of light at the subject as you would the fill.

I usually shoot studio portraits at f8-f16 @ 1/400s. If movement is involved, like for dancers or where the subject will perform a motion, then you may need more DOF and power to maintain the whole subject in focus. In such a case, you may also need a strobe to maintain fastest duration to avoid blur, which won't happen with the strobe power maxxed out - and can't happen with LED/continous. Always try to shoot at lowest "optimal" ISO - 100 or 50 to get the best image quality. That's the whole point of shooting in a studio in the first place - max quality and control.
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P. Chong

Well-known member
I have used the Leica S 007 for portraits with two Profoto 600Ws lights. Key light on a large softbox with fill from a plain white reflector and hair light on the Zoom Reflector. Normally f/5.6 or f/8 at base ISO, though the 007's sensor is quite good for large prints (for me), up to 1600.


Active member
Even with top-end LED lighting (e.g. Arri Skypanel) you will find yourself limited, and having to drag the shutter or increase ISO. You might be able to get something workable with a bare light, but when you want to modify you'll quickly lose a lot of output.

Why not go for something like the Profoto B10 Plus, where you'll have ample flash power at 500w, and also a continuous light option there if you want to work that way? Also, heaps of choice on the modifier front either way.


Thanks everyone for the helpful advice. Much appreciated. I am currently revisiting my decision and may in fact to for strobes. I just thought that continuous light would be easier to handle, in particular as I do not have the leaf shutter S lenses.


While I love working with LEDs and the variability they offer, I find they fit best when augmenting existing light, as color matching and intensity are easily adjusted (strobes still need to be gelled). Now as for power output. To shoot at acceptable exposure times and f stops for people you need a lot of light, in its smallest form that’s a strobe. Tungsten lights and HMI come up next. LED usage will require definitely much higher ISO. I’m often required to shoot with ARRI sky panels (as we these on set a lot), and mostly end up with 3 SC-60 through 8x8 silk or bounced into a bleached Muslin. ISO hovers around 1000 and exposure 1/125sec, f 5.6-8. With a 2k Tungsten I can do the same and get down to 400ISO.
Strobe offerings are plenty, easy portable, often useable with a small geny or even battery operated and the color temp is pretty stable (as opposed to tungsten lights on a dimmer). My favorite and surprisingly versatile small strobe is the Profoto B10 and 10+, otherwise I’m all for Profoto Pro, and as for LED heads that are very versatile check Hive lighting and I’m exited about the new Arri Orbiter, but that’s a beast, quite big for travel and needs a serious stand.
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