A few years ago, I heard some whispers about a new company building a super portable and customisable little light called Lume Cube - quick here. I loved the idea and on paper they looked good so it’s been great to finally have some time with them.
I took a set of two x cubes and two x DJI Phantom 4 Brackets to Norway with the hope of getting some serious air time with them on my DJI Phantom 4 Pro in the arctic mountains but, alas, the weather wasn’t playing ball and some serious wind kept me grounded during some prime opportunities. None-the-less I managed to trial them out and have plenty of thoughts to share.
I’ve spent a lot of time with lights over the years and am pretty comfortable in saying I know my way around a good set of flashes and some pocket wizards so let’s begin there.
A flash alternative?
Creative lighting has always been an intimidating game. There’s a tonne of variables at play and knowing how to really optimise a set of flashes required a fair amount of photographic understanding. 1/250th curtain speeds, aperture ambience control v shutter speed, dialling up or down by stop ratios. Tripping wireless lights with triggers (like a pocket wizard) was never straight forward either.
The Cubes can be triggered as a slave from an external flash (identical to the standard speed light slave mode many would have used before). Their flash mode can also be controlled from within the app.
Compared with a high end and high price flash, the cubes are comparable in power (up to 1,500 lumens a piece) however the light temperature is just slightly too white for my liking and a little 'crisp' but it's absolutely manageable - especially for the price.
If I were on assignment in the field I could easily get by with a set of these in the bag to use for any off camera lighting work that might come up. The Lume Cubes come real close to being a genuine alternative to flashes and so much easier.
I’ll jump right to this now because, in my opinion, this is a game changer. The Lume Cube has two buttons for adjusting the mode of the light and the brightness without grabbing for your phone, the buttons are discreet but I had no problem using them even with thick winter gloves.
The majority of operation isn’t by these buttons but rather an app (ios and android). The level of control and customisation is huge and the ease of use is staggering (see ‘flash alternative’). Apparently 5 Lume Cubes can be controlled
A year or so ago I had the idea of putting some lights in the sky and rigged up a little make-shift mount on the bottom of my DJI M600 with 3 x Nikon SB910 speed lights + Pocket Wizards. The results were cool but it took work.
Fast forward and here’s the future. These lights are bright but what’s more, they’re small, light and seriously easy to mount. I used the DJI Phantom 4 mount which clipped into the landing gear easily and attached to the cubes via a standard ¼ thread.
The first time I flew with the cubes I was using my iPhone as the flight controller and this was also the same device I had the Lume Cube controller app installed on which was a little inconvenient to flick between. From then onwards I used my iPad for the drone which kept my phone free to control the lights – easy.
The DJI Phantom 4 Pro didn’t seem to labour with the added payload, I did notice it’s pitch was slightly exaggerated with the extra weight to momentum but overall it accommodated for them very easily. The flight time would unquestionably be impacted with the added payload but given I was already flying in sub-zero temperatures I wasn't able to isolate the payload variable for comparative measurements.
As of writing my Phantom is in the shop for some signal issues (unrelated) but the creative opportunities here are really endless and I’ve got some terrific ideas to come.
My initial thoughts - the good
I wish I had more time in the air whilst in Norway but my initial impressions have been very positive.
- Compact, light, waterproof and super durable.
- Bright. 0-1,500 lumens
- Standard mount for attaching to almost anything
- Very fast recycle time between flashes
- Optical sensor for triggering
- Inbuilt, rechargeable battery with USB recharging port – I was charging these in them car.
- The app – seriously cool
- Easy to use
The not so good:
- The colour temp on these is rated at 5600K but the light seemed cool and very white.
- Battery life is acceptable but unlike mainstream flashes, you can’t simply switch out batteries when one is done.
As you can see, the good definitely outweighs the not so good and with logical application across both video and stills as well as in the air and under the water, these lights have some serious possibilities.
If you’re interested in purchasing a Lume Cube please use this link here to click through – it’ll help support this blog and be much appreciated!
Since publishing this review the good folks at LumeCube have told me about the their Light House product. Lighthouse is a modular light modifying system for the Lume Cubes and was bought out to directly address the light balancing issue I mentioned above.
I haven't tested the Lighthouse kit but I do give kudos to LC for listening to their customers - this is a refreshing change.
Here's a link to the lighthouse kit.