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Dirt cheap lights that are actually good


Oliver Daniel
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When I started out, I had barely any budget for lights and bought 3 X 800w redheads for £120. They sparked when I plugged them in, burnt my hands and melted all my gels in like 2 minutes. But they played a huge role regardless. 

Since I’ve only had pretty expensive lights... Dedolight, Kino Flo and Lupolux to name a few. But as I’m now on the search for a very portable setup, couldn’t resist seeing what’s super dirt cheap and actually decent for a bit of fun.

Cane across a brand called GVM (rather humorously called Great Video Maker). They make RGB Panels (like the 50RS) for hardly any money and only seeing very positive reviews. Tempted to try one for a laugh.

What other dirt cheap lights do you use that are actually good? 

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I ended up going with reflectors (in my case I got Dedo Lightstream, but there are several competitors including CRLS/Lightbridge and Kflect. What I like about this system is that for a small setup like interviews you only need one actual light; the rest of the lighting can be provided by reflectors. That means only one light to plug in or to power by V-mount battery. The reflectors come in various levels of diffusion so you don't need diffusion for your lights either. You shine your iight to one reflector that serves as your key light and bounce that light to other reflectors to provide fill light and rim/backlight. My entire lighting kit, including light, reflectors, mounts, and magic arms, fits into a Pelican 1510; the only extra stuff to lug apart from that is the C-stands.

The whole system isn't very cheap, but you can get a starter kit for not much money and use it with an inexpensive light (although the Dedolight system really works best if you use their parallel beam attachment, which greatly increases the effective output of the light). The light looks more natural because it's traveling a greater distance from the source, plus you can control its direction precisely simply by mounting the reflectors on magic arms.

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I have owned 4 GVM lights. Sent 2 back and sold the other two. The problem with all their RGB panels is that the bi colour mode is useless. Anything except 5600k is so far off it's ridiculous. You can see a few videos on YT that highlight the problem. Unfortunately you almost always get what you pay for...

 

The 50rs does have a decent output and the RGB is pretty good... Not as saturated as more expensive lights or using gels, but it gets the job done. Again tho, the fact it is unusable in bi colour mode really takes away from the other capabilities.

Neweer also have very similar rgb lights. With slightly higher output... cheaper on Amazon too

 

 

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IMHO, nothing beats the Godox SL60W if you want a cheap light with good light quality/color rendition, and one that works like a proper film light (with optional fresnel lens, beauty dish, soft box) which can be used as both a hard and a soft light.

So far, it has completely been in a budget-vs-quality league of its own, like only few other pieces of video gear. (Others would, for example, be the Canon EOS-M with MagicLantern RAW, the Rode Video Micro and the Sigma 17-50mm/2.8 zoom lens).

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Sl60w photometrics are very good for the price, almost untouchable.  Good r9 scores too.  Only downfall is the damn fan noise and thermal design.  Since the heatsink is on the chip and points forward, there's nothing you can do about it, and since it's only 60w you need it in pretty close... I modded mine and the fan is as loud as a c300d ii.


My experience with cheap lights is that the photometrics are usually quite poor, even if they have decent CRI it's usually gamed with very poor r9 and r12 scores.

 

The falcon eyes / soonwell / godox flex led panels have excellent color scores but have gone up massively in price, however they were a decent deal when they first came out. Can still find the odd deal here and there and those are a steal for the quality of light!

 

Just picked up a 2x2 150w godox flex with SB for 360usd, can't beat that price.  Of course it's out of stock now.

 

The no name flex panels are terrible.

 

 

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13 minutes ago, scotchtape said:

Sl60w photometrics are very good for the price, almost untouchable.  Good r9 scores too.  Only downfall is the damn fan noise and thermal design. 

The current factory generation of the SL60W has a much less noisy fan. Unfortunately, you can't spot that by the model number - Godox improved the design without any public announcement.

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On 6/12/2020 at 2:54 PM, Oliver Daniel said:

When I started out, I had barely any budget for lights and bought 3 X 800w redheads for £120. They sparked when I plugged them in, burnt my hands and melted all my gels in like 2 minutes.

  1. make sure your power switch is turned off when you plug in your light (or any other device);
  2. wear gloves if you are not familiar with how to handle hot lights;
  3. only mount gels to the side barndoors or to a gel frame made for the fixture.

 

 

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9 hours ago, tupp said:
  1. make sure your power switch is turned off when you plug in your light (or any other device);
  2. wear gloves if you are not familiar with how to handle hot lights;
  3. only mount gels to the side barndoors or to a gel frame made for the fixture.

 

 

I was a complete amateur in... when was it.... 2007? I use ARRI 650w classics still and they get expectedly hot but no other issues. My Chinese ones were like fireworks! 

 

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On 6/13/2020 at 11:36 AM, AlexTrinder96 said:

The 50rs does have a decent output and the RGB is pretty good... Not as saturated as more expensive lights or using gels, but it gets the job done. Again tho, the fact it is unusable in bi colour mode really takes away from the other capabilities.

Neweer also have very similar rgb lights. With slightly higher output... cheaper on Amazon too

 

 

Yeah, I’d never use these as my daylight / tungsten source. I remember getting some cheap LEDs as they were like “sick green” in daylight mode!

So these cheapos, maybe as something to use a dash of colour and fun in areas of the image.

On the more expensive side, loving the look of the Luxli Taiko.

 

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On 6/12/2020 at 11:17 PM, JordanWright said:

I picked up a Godox SL60 for under £100, works a treat! I think they have newer versions out now that'll hopefully drive the price down even further.

Yeah, seen those. Never knew anything about Godox until recently. They have just released a “silent” video light actually. 

Interested in Nanlite Forza (they have 60, 300, 500). The 60 is super small and can be powered from batteries. 

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Forza has too much fan noise for me based on what I've seen online.  Pricing is "ok" but not cheap with the current perma sale.

The fan noise and the $300 wifi controller really annoy me. What are they thinking?  That being said the actual light quality has always been very good, better than aputure.

I did just buy a POS "chameleon" rbg led tube from, digital foto? Forgot the brand.  CRI is trash so I'll just use it for rgb or hair light.  Cheaper than nanlite pavotube but I'm slightly regretting it. $150usd for 2ft tube on AliExpress.

 

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Godox is rolling out the mk II of their SL series of lights that update the build quality, add features, and has an even quieter fan, though the fan on the SL60w, at least the ones I have, weren't as bad as people say. 

I'm glad they didn't abandon this line once they announced their higher end VL series. The SL lights are an incredible bargain. 

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