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This electronic diffusion panel could light up the photography lighting market

Shadows may have just met their match. A new partnership will bring the technology behind the first electronically adjustable diffusion panel to life with Zylight Active Diffusion, now slated for an April 2017 release.

Traditional diffusers soften the light, reducing the darkness of the shadows. Swapping out the entire diffuser or adding gels will change how intense that softening effect is, but with Active Diffusion, diffusion is adjusted at the press of a button — err, rather, the turn of a dial.

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Active Diffusion is actually a flexible, transparent LCD screen. As the user adjusts the diffusion, the transparent screen fills with liquid crystal, scattering the light and creating softer shadows. A portable controller allows the photographer to add or reduce the level of diffusion from across the room, turning the process of swapping out physical panels into a twist of a dial. According to Zylight, the diffusion panel is adjustable down to a three-percent haze level.

The screen attaches to a frame or a Chimera softbox to use with any light that runs cool, including LEDs and fluorescent. When the panel isn’t in use, it can roll up for easier storage. Besides saving time with the instant remote adjustments, the variable levels also mean that photographers don’t have to buy or carry multiple diffusers to achieve different looks. Zylight hasn’t yet shared a list price for the Active Diffusion panels.

Earlier this week, Zylight announced a new partnership with Chimera Lighting to manufacturer and distribute the adjustable diffusion panel. Zylight will produce the electronics for the patented panel, while Chimera, a lighting company, will handle the manufacturing for the foldable LCD screen.

The idea behind the adjustable diffusion panels isn’t new — in fact, Zylight previewed this adjustable diffusion tech back in 2010 at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show, as this video demonstrates:

The company didn’t detail why the Active Diffusion panel didn’t release at that time. In any event, it will be arriving soon, with the new partnership allowing the panel to be produced in volume and in different sizes. “We chose Chimera as a partner because they can custom manufacture Active Diffusion in the shapes and sizes required by customers around the world,” Zylight President Joe Arnao said in a press release.

The panels will be available in two standard sizes, as well as custom sizes. Zylight says the panel will be available in April after the 2017 NAB Show in Las Vegas.