We've picked out the best video lights to suit a range of budgets and video styles. Video has become a mainstream medium for photographers and content creators, not just filmmakers, and supplementary lighting is often useful and sometimes crucial.
The right approach to lighting in your scenes will make the difference between okay-looking footage and something more special, which is what’s needed if you plan to make any money from your video work.
Using lights when you shoot movies enables videographers to balance exposure levels in a scene so that you can retain more shadows and highlights. What’s more, creative use of lighting will also allow movie makers to introduce a sense of mood and atmosphere to creatively tell a story.
Video lights used to cost big bucks, limiting their use to professionals or those with plenty-deep pockets, but LED technology has been a game-changer, lowering prices and making good-quality lighting equipment available to the majority.
For this buying guide, we’ve rounded up our pick of the best video lights currently on the market to suit a wide range of video fans, from beginners looking to shoot footage using their smartphones, right through to more serious movie-making enthusiasts who may be using their cameras as a way to make a living.
The NEO II is a great choice for those creatives who are likely to shoot stills photography one day and video footage the next. This is because the NEO II offers a High Speed Sync flash mode, along with a more typical delivery of continuous LED light. In fact, the NEO II partners up with Еlіnсhrоm to feature a built-in Ѕkуроrt 2.4 Ghz НЅЅ wіrеlеѕѕ flаѕh rеcеіvеr that can wіrеlеѕѕlу ѕуnс uр tо 10 lіghtѕ іn 4 grоuрѕ and, even better, the photographer can make adjustments up to 200m (656ft) away.
The versatility continues with the power options; use it inside via a mains plug, or take it outdoors thanks to 6x AA batteries. The battery life is impressive, with Rotolight stating the NEO II is capable of 1.5 hours continuous output at max power or a whopping 85,000 full power flashes/ With an adjustable colour temperature of 3150-6300K, videographers can use the NEO II to deliver warm or cool light (or a mix of both) onto the subject.
Three mounting points around the edges of the circular NEO II give versatility as to how the light can be secured – either to a coldshoe or a specific handle to handhold or move the light during a take and the small footprint of the NEO II will enable you to place the light into tiny spaces for creative effect. To take the creativity even further, the NEO II comes with some built-in lighting effects that replicate things like lightning, fire or even the muzzle flash of a gun – a massively useful feature at this price-point and one that’s sure to up the production values of videographers on a budget.
The NEO II also comes with four filter options (full and half diffusion, cosmetic peach skin diffusion, and magenta), which should help videographers modify the light for fine-tuning the look of the lighting.
Rotolight says the lifespan for the LEDs is 100,000 hours and that they feature Totally Flicker Free Technology and users have the option of attaching barn doors or a softbox to further control and modify the light, which is measured at 2000 LUX (at 0.9 metres. While the NEO II may not be the most appropriate light for illuminating wide outdoor scenes, the versatile and cutting edge features prove big things can come in small packages.
A big, powerful light that’s design resembles a monobloc strobe, the Storm C120D II is designed for professional video productions and improves on the original C120D model in a number of key areas. Chiefly, the power output is substantial, offering 30,000 LUX at 0.5 meters away. Videographers looking to fine-tune their scene can adjust the power of the light from 0 through to 100 via a stepless brightness control so there won’t be any awkward jumps when the power is increased.
A remote control enables the users to quickly turn on/off the unit and adjust the power without need to step out from behind the camera – a real time-saver, especially if you are using multiple lights and comes with a rotation yoke bracket that sits on top of your typical light stand and enables the light to be angled up and down to easily make sure you have the light pointing where it should be.
If you have some softboxes or other modifiers for your photography with a Bowens S mount, you’ll be pleased to hear you can also pair them with the C120D II, ensuring that you can soften the light without having to spend big on dedicated softboxes.
Although heavier and your typical LED light, the C120D II still only tips the scales at 2.2kg, making the light portable enough for videographers to transport around from job to job and the pre-programmed effects include Paparazzi, Fireworks, Fault bulb, Lighting and TV – enabling users to get creative with their filming.
Delivering a perfect daylight colour temperature of 5500K, users can alter this by attaching colour filters to the front element of the C120D II and, rather conveniently, the light comes with a carry case so you can transport everything around safely. Powered by either mains or portable battery, the C120D II is suitable for indoors and outdoor shoots.
Think of the AEOS as the big brother to Rotolight’s compact hot-shoe mountable NEO 2 LED light. The AEOS is designed to be mounted to a light stand for studio use, but it also features a pair of sturdy metal handles if you’re lucky enough to have an assistant to hold it - and at just 1.4kg and a compact 30cm diameter, that’s a genuine option.
Max power output is a literally eye-watering 5750 lux at 3ft, and the LED colour temperature is steplessly adjustable from a warm 3150K through to a daylight-balanced 6300K. Rotolight’s emphasis on quality continues with a high colour rendering index of over 96. An easy to read rear display shows the current light intensity and temperature, both adjustable by dedicated control dials.
Push these and you reveal the AEOS’s extra features. They include a High Speed Sync flash mode with double the power of the maximum continuous light output, and special effects to emulate flickering fire and emergency vehicle lighting.
Mains power is the standard juice, but you can go off-grid with a rechargeable power pack capable of a 3-hour runtime, albeit for an extra £275/$300.
There will be times when transporting a bigger LED light around is simply not an option and in these situations, the Manfrotto Lumimuse 8 could well prove to be your saviour. The tiny light can attach to the hotshoe mount of your camera and can be controlled over Bluetooth by your iOS smartphone.
The unit, which shouldn’t be confused with the non-Bluetooth version, is made up of eight LED lights that serve up 550 LUX (at 1 metre), making the Manfrotto unit suitable for vlogs or product videography. Remember of course, you can also use the LED as continuous lighting in your stills photography, too
One of the key advantages of the Lumimuse 8 is the unit’s portability, which will appeal to videographers who want to travel light and shoot via a run-and-gun approach. Tipping the scales at just 160g, the light won’t be a burden during long shoots and is powered by a built-in Lithium rechargeable battery. This means if levels run low while out on a shoot, you can simply plug in a powerbank via a USB connection and recharge between takes.
A coldshoe mount adaptor lets the light slide onto your camera or you can screw it onto a tripod stand or even a monopod if you wish to lift the LED into a certain direction when filming. The power output can be adjusted in four steps (25%, 50%, 75% and 100%) when using the button on the unit but if you prefer to adjust power remotely via the free Lumimuse App on your iOS device, you have a 0-100 option by adjusting the slider control on-screen.
You may think because of its design there’s not a lot you can do to modify the light, but Manfrotto has thought of this and the Lumimuse 8 ships with a set of clip on filters to not only diffuse the light, but also to adjust the color temperature too, which is fixed at a daylight-friendly 5600K.
It may be small, but the Lume Cube is tough. The mostly metal shell feels very solid and able to shrug off plenty of abuse, and it’s waterproof down to 30m. There isn’t much room for controls though, with only one button to turn the light on and cycle through 10 brightness settings. Fortunately, the Lume Cube can be wirelessly controlled by your smartphone via Bluetooth, making it an excellent choice for smartphone shooting, aided by the clip that allows you to easily attach it. Somehow a rechargeable (but inaccessible) battery has been crammed inside, giving two hours runtime at 50% brightness. Light output is quoted at only 150 lux, but that’s from three metres. We recorded a respectable 580 lux at the more typical one-metre measuring distance.
Not everybody uses a DSLR to shoot video and with the latest advances in technology, more and more vloggers are choosing to shoot footage using their smartphones. Why not, when they can capture impressive 4K footage? Profoto has the perfect LED for this crowd in the shape of the C1 Plus, which is suitable for both stills photography and video. A built-in rechargeable Li-Polymer battery helps the unit deliver over 40 minutes of continuous light at full power, which is impressive, given the tiny size of the C1 Plus. This also means it can deliver more than 2000 flashes on a single charge too.
The continuous light is flicker-free to ensure smoothly-light footage and the battery takes just two hours to recharge via a USB-C connection, which means you can power up while you’re on the go. Compatible with Profoto’s AirTTL remotes, the C1 Plus can be paired with a number of accessories, including grids to modify the light or a selection of different coloured gel filters to shift the colour temperature of the scene. The accessors connect via a magnetic mount, resulting in a speeded up operating time and no more messing about with awkward screw-on fittings.
The C1 Plus is small enough to be handheld, but there is also a 1/4"-20 mount so it can be secured to a light stand if you prefer. Profoto explains that the C1 Plus returns a CRI (Colour Rendering Index) of above 90, which is impressive and means the quality of the light is good.
Videographers should remember that there is another product in the range called the C1, but only the C1 Plus features the ability to connect up with accessories so sits at the top of the series, making it better suited for video work.
With its ¼-inch mounting point, the Lykos is intended to be attached to your camera’s hot shoe, rather than perched on a light stand, but it can be equally well positioned on a standard tripod if you need off-camera lighting. At 26x15.2cm, it’s very compact, yet packs a useful 1500 lux (at 3.3 feet) max brightness output, making it well suited to indoor shoots.
As the name suggests, there’s also variable colour temperature, from a warm 3000K through to daylight 5600K, thought the colour rendering accuracy of 93 isn’t quite as high as some rival panels. Both power and colour temperature are adjusted by two dials on the side of the panel, and the rear has a single mounting point for an optional Sony NP-F-type rechargeable battery. The rear info display is also handy for things like matching the colour temperature across multiple panels. Speaking of which, add the optional Lykos Bluetooth Dongle and you can remotely control one or more Lykos panels using an iPad and Manfrotto’s Digital Director remote photography software.
If ever a LED light was going to make you feel like Luke Skywalker then this is it. The Ice Light 2 is perfect for when you’d rather position the light source in the scene manually, or you are shooting a tracking shot and need a convenient LED to move alongside the camera. This is the second incarnation of the Ice Light, and Westcott states that the new version is a whopping 50% brighter than the original.
The Ice Light 2 is powered by a removable lithium ion battery that can be charged inside or outside the light and, because it’s replaceable, this means that the videographer can keep a couple of spare batteries in their bag should power run low. Run time for the Ice Light 2 is around one hour at full power.
The light from the Ice Light 2 is daylight-balanced at 5500K and the LEDs themselves are rated for over 50,000 hours or use, which should provide plenty of peace of mind. On the Colour Rendering Index (CRI), which measures the ability of a light source to reveal the colours of various objects faithfully, the Ice Light 2 returns a high score of 97, and the power level can be adjusted over 18 steps.
To shift to a warmer colour temperature, a snap-on gel filter results in a Tungsten-style warming that gives a temperature of 3200K and if you’d like to attach your own colored gels, Westcott includes a number of special clips that will hold the gel in place.
Between takes, the Ice Light 2 can be recharged with an adapter that plugs into your car’s 12v socket, and should you need to shape the light further, there’s also a barn doors optional accessory too. A connection socket enables two Ice Light 2 units to be connected together to multiply its effect on-set and the Ice Light 2 features Bluetooth, which means the LED can be controlled remotely using your smartphone thanks to the free app. Finally, flicker-free technology ensures that your footage will be smooth.
What to look for in a video light
Power supply: Can the LED be used by both a mains plug and a battery? This will enable a more versatile set-up and enable you to film both indoors and outdoors
Colour temperature: Look out for the LED’s colour temperature range; a wide range is preferable as this will give you both warm and cool light options to match the ambient light you are shooting in or the effect you’re trying to create.
Modifiers: Check to see if the LED comes with any modifiers in the box. These could be diffusers to soften the light or filters to change the light’s color temperature.
Flicker-free: Some LEDs show a fluctuation in brightness, known as flicker. The best lights are flicker free to provide a constant level of brightness.
Bluetooth technology: The inclusion of Bluetooth technology in your LED light will allow you to connect to a smartphone and control adjustments like brightness and colour temperature remotely.