Update: September 20, 2019 Litepanels has announced an extended repair program for Astra lights purchased prior to March, 2018. You can get the power board repaired for free or receive a voucher of $200 per light on repairs or parts already purchased. The vouchers are good on any Vitec Solutions brands (Litepanels, Anton/Bauer, Autocue, Autoscript, O’Connor, Sachtler, and Vinten). Lights purchased after 2018 already have the newly designed power board installed.
I applied for the vouchers and received them within a couple of hours of the application.
If you read this blog or follow me on social media you know that I use Litepanels Astras as my core set of continuous lights for video projects and even for some stills shoots. I was an early adopter, creating a kit of four Astras in early 2015.
The lights have proven themselves to be extremely versatile. Pushed through softboxes or diffusers; bounced off walls, ceilings, or reflectors; pushed through a soft or hard grid to tighten the beam; my lights have seen a lot of use. Even in productions where higher end lights like Arri Skypanels are on set, more often than not my Astras are out of the case and in use.
The Astras have also been extremely reliable. Up until the now the only issue I had with them was the occasional incompatibility of the lights’ Bluetooth modules with a new iOS device or software upgrade. That never affected the lights themselves and it was always solved once Litepanels updated its free iOS app.
On a couple of recent projects, though, one of my lights starting acting up. At first, it would flicker when the power was set above 75%. Then over time that limit dropped to ~25% with the light shutting off and its red LED light illuminating.
Testing the bad light versus my other Astras, I was able to determine that it was not the external power supply. That meant I was looking at a repair. First order of business was to fill out Litepanels’ online repair form but faced with the prospect of shipping my light somewhere to be fixed and not knowing when it would come back I decided to poke around online. Luckily, I found Nawon USA Inc. They are an authorized Litepanels repair center and parts supplier in Van Nuys, CA.
Looking through their parts options for my Astra model, a 4x bi-color, I came across a new model of the power board, Product ID: 700-0075-1003, which is listed as a “new improved circuit board” which will “alleviate RED Light issues (flickering, no output, low power,etc.)” Sounded perfect. I shot an email to NAWON and immediately heard back from Mitch Gordon, NAWON’s president.
He confirmed that this would solve my issue and that it was an easy self install, saving me from having to ship the light.
The issue, Mitch told me, was that the Astras original design routed the power directly through the on/off switch leading to some power failures. The new power board design runs the power through transistors literally taking the load off of the on/off switch.
Before shipping and purchasing, Mitch took the serial numbers of all of my Astras to double-check their warranty status regarding this issue. None of them were covered (my lights are all over three years old.)
I ordered four of the new power boards assuming that it made sense to update all of them at once. The other three lights could potentially develop the same issue in the future. Buying the four power boards saved me 10% off of the $150 list price per board. This dropped the price to $135 each plus shipping.
The new power boards were easy to install and they are performing great. There are some steps to the process but there is nothing tricky and there is no soldering involved.
With the new power board you are getting a whole new brain for your light, it is the full printed circuit board with the potentiometers intact (controls for the color and the brightness). This includes any of the revisions Litepanels has implemented since you bought your light.
Here’s a rundown of the removal and installation of an Astra power board. You’ll need a Torx T10 bit and a Phillips head screw driver. It’s helpful to have an 10mm lug nut to remove and reattach the potentiometers’ nuts but you could also use an adjustable wrench.
To open up the light:
- Detach the external power cable
- Remove the yoke by unscrewing its lock-down knobs. The knobs have two washers, a flat washer which sits between the knob and the out part of the yoke and a brake washer which sits between the yoke and the light’s chassis.
- Remove the potentiometer dials, they pull off.
- Remove the potentiometers lock nuts and washers, one pair each, which were underneath the dials. It’s helpful to have a lug nut to remove the washers, a 10mm will work.
- Remove any accessory modules you may have inserted into your light (e.g. the Bluetooth module).
Now you are ready to loosen up the light’s outer casing.
- With a T10 Torx bit remove the four chassis screws, one per corner.
- Once done you’ll have the parts you see below. Don’t lose them, you’ll need to reverse the process to put the light back together.
Opening up the light:
- With all of the above done I found I could now pull the vertical plastic casing gently back on each side of the light, allowing me to take remove the light array panel.
- You’ll want to do this on a surface so that you can flip the light array panel over as it will still be connected to the chassis via a ground wire and a control cable. (See image below of the new power board once it is installed.)
- One note: I may have missed a step in my process. There are rectangular flat washers on each side of the light where the yoke mounts. Those may come off revealing an Allen head screw under each. Unscrewing those should take the light’s vertical plastic casing parts off completely but I was unable to get the rectangular washers off. It didn’t matter, I was able to open up the light without removing those screws or the rectangular washers.
Removing the old power board:
- There are five Phillips head screws and three cables to remove from the old power board. Hold onto the screws and make note of which cables go where.
- The cables have typical circuit board type connectors and they pull out easily. One is for power, one for the fan, and one for the circuit board to control the light array panel.
- One screw holds a ground wire which is also attached to the back of the light array panel. You only need to remove the circuit board connection side, but again take note, you’ll need to reattach it at the same spot on the new power board.
Installing the new power board. VERY IMPORTANT: DO NOT OVER-TIGHTEN ANY OF THE SCREWS OR NUTS when reassembling the light. I would describe it as hand tighten. Only use a ratchet for the four corner screws if you use one at all. If using a lug to reattach the potentiometer nuts then only use the lug itself and, as said a moment earlier, hand tighten.
- To install the new power board just reverse the process. The new board is the exact same size and it has the same screw and cable points and connections.
- Seat the new power board in the same spot as the old one. Reattach the five screws including reattaching the ground wire.
- Reattach the three power and control cables.
Putting the light back together:
- Flip the light array panel back over and rough it into the front of the chassis.
- Gently pull the sides of the chassis apart and you’ll be able to reseat the light array panel in its original location.
- Make note of the guide pins in each corner which fit into the metal rails on top and the bottom of the light.
Closing up the light:
- Reattach the four corner screws.
- Reattach the washer and the nuts for the potentiometers.
- Reattach the yoke with its two washers.
- Make sure that the fan switch is set to “On (Auto)”.
- Reattach any accessory modules you were using or the accessory port cover.
You’re done! Power up and go film.
Newer Astras will not need this since they come with the new power boards installed. The power boards I received from NAWON were dated 2018.04.03 and to reconfirm, they are an official Litepanels’ part.
Mitch Gordon, from NAWON, recommends you touch base with him first before ordering. He will run your serial numbers to see if your lights are under warranty. If preferred, NAWON can repair Litepanels lights at their facility with a very quick turnaround. NAWON is also an authorized service center for Anton Bauer’s line of chargers.
Update – 06/13/19: Litepanels has setup a parts store. So, you can now order parts directly from them (as well as from NAWON as described above). The link is on this page at litepanels.com. It will let you create an account or log-in via your location and currency.
Once logged in, you select your fixture and then you can identify and order the parts you need via schematic diagrams.