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Best lightbox for photography and artists in 2021

Best lightbox for photography and artists in 2020
(Image credit: Kaiser)

Looking for the best lightbox? Then you are in the right place. Many keen photographers of several years will have shoeboxes full of slides and negatives – and some still be shooting with film cameras. Enter the useful tool of the lightbox or light panel – providing a clear and convenient view of what we’ve shot without having to hold a negative or slide up to the window and squint to see what’s on it. Or, indeed, without first needing to digitize our shots using a dedicated film scanner.

Additionally, lightboxes can be used as an additional artificial light source when taking images in the first place. Especially for food photography, or other still life photography set ups.

As well as an aid to viewing transparencies, lightboxes can prove useful for artists and illustrators who want to trace or draw – helping illuminate the outline of the subject that’s being reproduced by hand. And, interestingly, lightboxes are even be deployed to help alleviate the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). 

When choosing a lightbox your typical considerations will be size, weight and portability, as well as brightness, and, of course your budget in the first place. If you want to take it out and about with you, you might also like to look at a unit that can be powered via USB, not just regular mains.

Lightboxes shouldn't be confused with light tents – which is typically a pop-up device that surrounds a subject to diffuse the light (and which is also used widely for shooting jewellery, food and still lifes). See our separate guide to the best light tents.

Given all the above reasons why someone might be seeking out the versatility of a lightbox, let’s take a look at a selection of the best lightboxes for photography you can currently buy…

Best lightbox in 2021

(Image credit: Kaiser)

1. Kaiser Slimlite Plano lightbox

The best lightbox all round for the mobile creative

Specifications
Luminance: 650 cd/m²
Connectivity: USB
Working surface: 16.9 x 12.2in
Battery life: 1.5 hours at full power
Dimensions: 49.8x35.1x0.8 cm
Weight: 1.7kg
Reasons to buy
+Mains or battery powered+Large viewing area +Slim profile
Reasons to avoid
-Not a thrifty option

Kaiser, a well-known photo accessory brand for film users, is offering this sleek-looking higher-end unit, for sorting out and reviewing slides and transparencies, measuring 19.6x13.8-inches and capable of being conveniently powered either by the mains or battery. With touch on/off control, adjustable brightness dimming plus USB connectivity, the screen surround also features a scale provided in centimetres and inches. For those who want to work remotely, the built in battery will last for up to 1.5 hours at full power – which can be eked out further if the screen is dimmed. At just 8mm ‘thick’ the screen also boasts a very slim pancake-like profile, while the 16.9x12.2-inch landscape format viewing area avoids having to cramp your transparencies when viewing several at a time. Recommended.

(Image credit: Huion)

2. Huion L4S LED lightbox

Best budget lightbox for photographers wishing to view their slides or transparencies, or artists looking to trace out an outline

Specifications
Luminance: 745.6 cd/m²
Connectivity: USB
Working area: 12.6 x 9 in
Battery life: Up to 50,000 hour
Dimensions: 36x27x0.4cm
Weight: 599g
Reasons to buy
+Great value for money+Stores brightness settings
Reasons to avoid
-No mains plug provided-Its slenderness may mean this is less robust than some

Huion may not be a household name, but it is a leading manufacturer of graphics tablets, and its light box provides a lot of bang for our buck. The proposition here is an illuminated 14.17-inches long frame that’s 10 inches wide to enable both the viewing of images and the tracing of artwork. The ‘active’ illuminated area of the box/pad is a very useable 12.6 x 9 inches (so basically A4) and, as with others here, the brightness is dimmable via the holding down of its on/off button. It also ‘remembers’ the brightness it was set to when last used – so you don’t have to make personal adjustments every time. Suggesting that the pad provides the potential for 24-hour usage, its lifespan is put at 50,000 hours. Measuring a very slender 0.4cm in depth, this solution is also one of the lighter weight options at just 599g, potentially doubling as an additional light source for your photo shoots, if required.

(Image credit: Huion)

3. Huion LB3 LED lightbox

Budget battery-powered A3 lightbox

Specifications
Luminance: 576 cd/m²
Working area: 16.5 x 11.8in / 420 x 300 mm
Connectivity: USB
Battery life: Up to 50,000 hour
Dimensions: 19.7 x 13.8 x 0.3in / 500 x 350 x 8 mm
Weight: 1650 g
Reasons to buy
+Great value for money+Stores brightness settings
Reasons to avoid
-No mains plug provided-Its slenderness may mean this is less robust than some

This is a larger version of the Huion LED light box - that offers an A3-sized working area. It is still a lightweight option, and has a rechargeable option making it ideal for travelling  - or for use as a light source. It has an adjustable brightness with a maximum output of 1500 lux.

(Image credit: Artography)

3. Artograph LightPad 940 LX

Swish looking, well made option for those seeking a little more light in their creative lives

Specifications
Luminance: Not given
Working area: 12x17in
Connectivity: USB
Battery life: Up to 50,000 hour
Dimensions: 49.3x36.6x1.3cm
Weight: 2kg
Reasons to buy
+Large surface area offers great viewing flexibility
Reasons to avoid
-A3 screen means it is heavier option than smaller options

Being a larger than average light box at 12-inches by 17-inches housed within an attractive aluminium frame with chrome steel corners does push not only the weight but also the price of the aptly named Artograph above some competitors. Yet luckily, however, this LED lamp festooned light source comes in a variety of additional sizes to suit a variety of budgets, with the one we’ve selected allowing for an A3 sheet to be placed on it, for anyone into the art of illustration, not just the viewing of transparencies. Being an LED device, not only is it permanently cool to the tough – it also casts an even light, with brightness variable from 1000 to 5000 lux. The Artograph comes with a mains adapter, protective storage sleeve and also the relative peace of mind of a one-year warranty. Illuminating!

(Image credit: LitEnergy)

4. LitEnergy Portable LED lightbox

More obviously aimed at illustrators, not just photographers, this is a very inexpensive option for those satisfied with an A4 sized viewing or tracing area

Specifications
Luminance: 4000 lux
Connectivity: USB
Working area: 9x12in
Battery life:
Dimensions: 36.1x26.9x0.5cm
Weight: 680g
Reasons to buy
+Great price+Conveniently charged/powered via USB cable+Choice of colors - black, pink, green or gray
Reasons to avoid
-Relatively small surface area-No mains plug in the box

With a 9x12-inch illuminated area this fuss free, budget priced light pad utilising a Mitsubishi acrylic panel that measures 14.2x10.6x0.2-inches overall, comes surrounded by a classic black frame. Like the others here, the ultra slim unit provides the ability to dim the maximum 4000 Lux brightness as designed by simply pressing down on its power button for a few seconds. Thanks to a provided two-metre USB cable it can be conveniently charged or powered via a laptop, USB enabled mains plug or portable charger, thereby enabling the six-watt device to be taken everywhere and anywhere, suggests its manufacturer. In addition to the above, the unit was coming up very keenly priced indeed in our online searches at the time of writing, though a mains plug (if required) will cost you extra.

(Image credit: Porta-trace)

5. Porta-trace 1012 Stainless Steel Frame lightbox

Built to last, USA-made, traditional metal framed LED light box

Specifications
Luminance: Not given
Working area: 10x12in
Connectivity: Mains only
Battery life: Up to 50,000 hour
Dimensions: 30.5x25.4x8.3cm
Weight: 1.8Kg
Reasons to buy
+Robust design+Neutral & even illumination+50,000 hour LEDs
Reasons to avoid
-Chunkier than some

With prices varying wildly between continents and a couple of iterations available, you’ll want to shop around before plumping for this sturdily built classic lightbox that makes up in solidity what it perhaps lacks in portability. Resembling something you’d find in a laboratory, or pro studio, the stainless steel framed beast is LED powered with a claimed life of up to 50,000 hours and is said to be eco friendly. Made in the USA, it further provides both an even light source across its 10x12-inch plexi glass surface and what it boasts is excellent color rendering, thanks to the use of white LED with a neutral color temperature. A provided adjustable metal stand even lets the device be angled if necessary for greater convenience and easier viewing, while a three-year warranty is provided for extra peace of mind.

(Image credit: Dörr)

6. Dörr LT-3838 LED light box

Open the door to your creativity with this ultra slim profile desktop solution from Dorr

Specifications
Luminance: 1584 lumens
Working area: 34x34cm
Connectivity: Mains powered
Battery life: Not given
Dimensions: 38x0.8x38cm
Weight: 1.12Kg
Reasons to buy
+Daylight color balanced+LED powered so cool to the touch
Reasons to avoid
-Needs mains power-Not available in USA

This dedicated daylight color balanced solution from Dörr for viewing slides and negative film measures 38x38cm with an illuminated acrylic panel size of 34cm by 34cm – so, just slightly longer than a conventional school ruler. The device utilizes energy saving LEDs – the advantage being that this is a constant and consistent light source that never gets warm to the touch. Once again the unit is dimmable to avoid eye strain, via a press and hold of the on/off button. Like its competitors this 14.4 watt light box is also very slim at just 0.8cm thick, while, in weighing 1.12Kg in total, it feels neither flimsy nor prohibitively weighty. Incidentally, this offering sits between two other available lightbox sizes from Dorr at either a smaller 20x20cm or a larger 60x60cm. Pay your money and make your choice.

(Image credit: Artograph)

7. Artograph LightPad 950 LX

Best lightbox if you want a BIG screen

Specifications
Luminance: 1000 to 5000 lux
Working area: 24 x 17in
Connectivity: USB
Battery life: Up to 50,000 hour
Dimensions: 19.6 x 26.6 x 0.7″ / 498 x 676 x 17.5mm
Weight: 8lb / 3.6kg
Reasons to buy
+Huge 17x24in screen+Aluminum frame
Reasons to avoid
-Weighs around 8lbs, so not designed for portability!

This is the big brother of the Artograph LightPad 940 LX, offering a massive working area that is twice the size. With an double-layer acrylic A2 screen measuring 24 x 17inch (432mm x 610mm) this is great for big tracing jobs – or for comparing large-format film negatives. This is a mains-operated device with a robust aluminum frame which is, by its dimensions alone, is best suited to a studio or office setting. 

Read more:
Best light tents for photography

Best backdrops for photography

Best LED light panels for photography

The best mouse for photo and video editing

Gavin Stoker

Gavin has over 30 year experience of writing about photography and television. He is currently the editor of British Photographic Industry News, and previously served as editor of Which Digital Camera and deputy editor of Total Digital Photography


He has also written for a wide range of publications including T3, BBC Focus, Empire, NME, Radio Times, MacWorld, Computer Active, What Digital Camera and Rough Guide books.


With his wealth of knowledge he is well placed to recognise great camera deals and recommend the best products in Digital Camera World’s buying guides. He also writes on a number of specialist subjects including binoculars and monoculars, spotting scopes, microscopes, trail cameras, action cameras, body cameras, filters, cameras straps and more.