Lighting is a major part of every photographer and cinematographers job. Even if you prefer to shoot with ambient light, being able to add to that without compromising your kit bags weight is a major plus.
Now I shoot primarily weddings, products and commercial work. Generally speaking in the past i've used generic large LED panels for fill light and flash for photography. This is great for large fill light to flood a scene but what if you want more control to highlight details?
Manfrotto have this incredible range of highly portable LED lights in their Lumimuse series. Not only are they very decently priced but they're also very compact. They come in different versions, each with different overall output. When I received mine the first thing I noticed was the build quality. Being used to using other lights with plastic housings I was surprised by the strength and feel of the aluminium housing. The bottom line is in high pressure event shoots sometimes things get knocked, dropped or scratched. I would have no concerns over these lights breaking. That's a major plus as you have to be able to trust what you're using and if it breaks after one drop then you're suddenly left without it!
(Checkout the scale of it amongst my other gear below)
In addition to the light itself you also get filters that screw directly onto the light itself. Great for controlling colour temperature and also as a diffuser. The controls are straight forward with one sturdy button to control turn it on and off whilst cycling through the different power outputs.
One downside I found (Although it's easily rectified) is the internal battery. It performs incredibly well and holds its charge even on higher output settings. I'm yet to have it run flat on me on a shoot so I don't know the actual running time. I'll try and get it timed at different setting and update it here with an accurate real world breakdown of battery life. Now to the downside. I understand the need for an internal battery and that's great for the form factor and efficiency. However when i'm on a major shoot I need to know I can use a light throughout the day. I usually do this by swapping out batteries, something you can't do with an internal battery! However like I said, i'm yet to have it run flat on a shoot so this isn't a major issue. Plus with affordable portable power banks such as this, you can easily keep it charging between uses and even whilst it's pumping light out. So in that sense this isn't so much of an issue, especially when in the studio where you could essentially run it indefinetly. Although as with all high power lights that are compact these can get hot so be careful if running on high output for an extended period of time!
Right so how have I used this? Lets get some real world examples. When I shoot weddings I always start with the bride getting ready in the morning. Whilst she's getting other things ready one of the key shots I get is of her shoes and other accessories. I usually use a windowsill for some natural light to surround it but I need a key light to pic up the detailing on the front side. I could use flash but in this situation i've always preferred using portable lights so I have more control over what i'm about to shoot and to keep everything as efficient as possible. This light slips into my pocket without being uncomfortable or even knowing it's there. So all I have to do is quickly grab it, turn it on and point it to bring out the detailing. No light stands, no adjustments on small fold out stands just quick and easy lighting that saves me time and gets the shot. The same goes for portrait shots of the bride and bridesmaids. Just a subtle fill of light using the ambient lighting in the room from a window. Handheld for fast adjustment on position and power giving me efficient yet brilliant shots time after time.
Below is an example shot where I wanted to bring the reflection on the ring and brides nails up compared to what I could with the ambient light available. So I grabbed my light out of my chest pocket and scored the shot in no time!
The other time I use this is for product shots. It's easy to get the backdrop sorted etc but nothing comes close to getting that detail and fill on the front or side of a product such as a watch without getting in the way. The size of these lights means I can manoeuvre it as close as I need to without having it cast shadows or get in shot.
Overall i'm impressed. It's not the overall solution to lighting large scenes but it's an incredibly precise lighting solution for run and gun situations where it's portability is key and for controlled studio lighting. Whether you're a pro or simply a hobbyist looking for a small lighting solution, i'd highly recommend investing wisely in one of the Lumimuse series!
*I want to take this review a step further in the form of a video and with some more technical breakdowns of output and battery life. With the imminent arrival of my baby daughter I can't say when that will be, but i'll keep you all posted!