This is a review of the Impact Flourescent Cool Light Two Fixture Kit. When most people think of studio lighting, they think of flash or strobe lighting. There is another option, though. Continuous light sources are a great alternative. They allow you to see exactly how the light is going to fall on your subject, you can see the ratio of light to shadow, and they are much easier to use if you’re using multiple lights and don’t have a lot of studio experience. Additionally, you can use them to light video. I was very excited to test out these Impact fluorescent lights in my studio to see if they’d be something I could add to my lighting arsenal.
1) Product Specifications
Input Voltage – 120VAC
Lamps – 5 (per head)
Ballast – In each bulb of choice
Reflector size – 18.5″
Mounting – Standard 5/8″
300 Total Watts
7500 lumen output
Range of 3 f-stops
Adjustable head angle
Dimmable with Switches
10- 30W Fluorescent Bulbs
Air-Cushioned Light Stands
2) Packaging and Field Use
Both the lights and the stands arrived in rather plain but adequate packaging. Upon opening the lights, I found that I had a bit of a task ahead of me. Each of the five light bulbs was individually packaged. Of course, there isn’t really any other way to ship them, but removing each from it’s own packaging took a bit of time. There was also a lot of packaging inside of the box, so everything (reflector, posts, diffuser, cord) needed to be unwrapped before I could put the lights together. Assembling the first light took me about 15 minutes. The second light only took about 10 minutes since I’d already done it once. Setting up the stands was as simple as taking them out of the boxes they came in.
A few tips I picked up while assembling these lights:
- There are lots of little parts in the box when you open it up. There are 5 bulbs, a power cord, metal posts, a diffuser and even a little bag with extra fuses in it. Be sure you have someplace you can set all of these parts so that they don’t get lost in the packaging materials.
- Be sure that you screw in the metal diffuser posts before you install the light bulbs. It’s much easier without the bulbs in the way.
- Save the bulb packaging. If you ever need to remove the bulbs (for storage or transportation), you’ll be glad you have someplace safe and secure to store them.
Unfortunately, the boxes the lights come in aren’t big enough to store the heads when they’re fully assembled. This means that you either need to disassemble the lights whenever you’re not using them or you’ll need to find a way to store them so that the bulbs don’t get damaged. I’m storing them face down in the box that they came in. To do this, I had to cut the flaps off of the box, which is not a big deal, but it also means that the boxes don’t stack and take up twice as much room on my storage shelf.
The heads themselves are quite substantial and feel very well made. They have a good weight and, once assembled, have a professional feel to them. Unfortunately, the stands do not feel very sturdy and I was honestly a little concerned about using the lights with them. In good faith, I decided that I should use the supplied stands with the lights for my initial tests. Fortunately, the stands worked out fine, although I wasn’t comfortable raising them very high. I think I’d use them for seated portraits, but I wouldn’t want to use them when they’re fully extended.
One nice benefit to the stands is that they are air-cushioned. This helps protect your equipment by slowing the collapse of the stand if you happen to let go of the section when lowering the stand and light. The Impact Cool Lights were a little heavy for these stands, but I’ve found myself using them with my (much lighter) Alien Bees heads, especially when I’m shooting in a more confined space where I don’t want a huge footprint from a large light stand.
So, what’s it like to use the lights? It’s really pretty simple. Most fluorescent bulbs (including these) can’t be dimmed, so light output is controlled by turning bulbs on or off. There are three switches on the back of each head, allowing you to turn on any combination of the five lights. Combining this variable light output with the distance you place the light from your subject allows for a wide range of exposure options.
Finally, there’s the name: Cool Light. Traditional continuous lights use tungsten bulbs, which can get very hot. In fact, they’re often referred to as “hot lights”. Using fluorescent bulbs instead of tungsten bulbs helps to keep the fixtures cool. They still generate a bit of heat with extended use, but considering hot lights can burn you or even start fires if used improperly, these are quite cool in comparison.
Since this is a two-light kit, I decided to shoot some portraits using both lights. To get an idea of how much light I’d have to work with, I set up the lights at a comfortable working distance (about 3′ from the camera left side and 8′ from the camera right side of my subject) and took some meter readings. At ISO 400 and 1/160 of a second, my ambient reading was f/1.1. With the same camera settings and all 5 bulbs turned on, my max output was f/4. Of course, I could switch lights off or move the lights closer or farther away to come up with different exposures.
One great thing about working with continuous light is that you don’t have to worry about a shutter sync speed like you do when using strobes. I love shooting at wide apertures, so instead of dropping the light output or moving the lights, I just raised my shutter speed and opened up my aperture. My lovely wife was kind enough to model for me before she went to work one day and here’s a photo from that session:
After she left, I decided to shoot some self portraits and came up with this:
While using the lights was very easy, I did find that color correcting my images was a little more difficult. Although the lights are balanced for 5500°K, the color temperature seemed to shift slightly as I used the lights. Some images appeared more green and some appeared more red. After about 10 minutes of use the shift decreased, which makes me wonder if it wouldn’t be a good idea to turn all of the lamps on to let the bulbs warm up a bit before using them.
While we were shooting, my wife told me that the lights were very bright and when I sat down for my self-portraits I noticed that they were quite bright. They weren’t bright enough for me to be uncomfortable, but I wouldn’t want to sit in front of them for an extended amount of time.
The large dish size does a good job of providing fairly soft light. The supplied diffuser does a good job and the light output is not very harsh, but I would have loved to try a few shots with the optional diffuser sock as well. Unfortunately, there aren’t any other modifiers for these lights, so if you’re a fan of softboxes you’re out of luck.
This Impact fluorescent lighting kit is a great lighting alternative if you already have strobes for studio lighting. If you’re just getting into studio lighting, a continuous lighting kit like this will give you two lights and two stands at a great price. You’ll also be able to see exactly what your lighting looks like before you start shooting, which should help in the learning curve of studio lighting. The light output is more than enough for me since I prefer to shoot at wider apertures whenever possible, but if you need a lot of light, this kit might not provide enough for you. They are also a nice compliment to the natural light in my studio if there is not enough daylight for me to work with. Finally, if you shoot video, continuous lights are the only lighting option. Grab a set of these and you’re ready to light both photos or video.