Low Level Landscape Lighting

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Reviews of Lights and Equipment

These reviews are oriented towards use of these lights specifically for Landscape Astrophotography. Remember, most of these light and light panels were designed for studio work or video work and we are adapting them for Low Level Lighting in Landscape Astrophotography. As time goes by the manufactures are making these more useful for our specific purpose.

My basic criteria for evaluation a good light for field work are these:

1) Portable - relatively small and easy to carry.

2) Produces light of the Proper color temperature, or desired color temperature. This can be achieved with filters or with variable color temperature lights. I favor variable color temperature lights currently.

3) Variable brightness and not too bright. The light can be turned down to a reasonably low level. Lights that are adjustable from 0 to 100% are generally better than the lights that are adjustable from 10 to 100%. 10% intensity is often too intense. Also, less LEDs are frequently better than more LEDs.

4) Not too costly, the cheaper the better.

A few examples of useful LLL lights.

I am constantly looking for new lights that meet these criteria that may be smaller and cheaper.

Note when using a variable light temperature light: 

The apparent color of the light in your image is dependent to varying degrees on both the color temperature of the light itself and also on the color temperature setting on your camera.  I usually start with the light panel set to a relatively neutral  to slightly warm color temperature of around 4200K and adjust from there. The color temperature that is best in part depends on the color temperature you have set in your camera. I have found that if you set your camera to a color temperature of around 4000K - 4200K (slightly cool) and a light panel color temperature of around 4000K - 4200K (slightly warm) then the light in the image appears relatively neutral. These are my starting points and I adjust from there to achieve the "look" I desire.


1) Lume Cube Family of lights

Lume Cube 1 (original), Lume Cube 2, Lume Cube Light Panel

Click on the above link for an excellent and thorough review of the Lume Cube family of lights by Royce Bair. He recommends the use of the Lume Cube Panel for Low Level Lighting and Landscape Astrophotography and uses it for his own photography. The Lume Cube 2 currently costs about $90 USD and Lume Cube Light Panel about $150 USD. Both are small, light, and very portable. Both the Lume Cube 1 and 2 lights are very blue (cool) in color temperature without filters and are somewhat brighter (at lowest intensity) than necessary for our purposes natively. Warming filters and diffusion filters can be purchased which make them much more useful. The biggest advantage is portability. Biggest drawback is the cost of the accessories.

Lume Cube 2

Lume Cube Panel

The Lume Cube Panel is wonderfully small and portable and has variable color temperature. It is still much brighter than desired at the lowest intensity settings. You can use intensity damping filters to decrease the brightness but this does add effort. It has become a very popular light source. It is reviewed by Royce Bair here.

Lume Cube 2 at Amazon 

Lume Cube 2 at B&H Photo

Lume Cube Light Panel at B&H Photo

Lume Cube Panel at Amazon

Lume Cube Panel

Lume Cube Mini Panel

Full Lume Cube Mini Panel review by Royce Bair here.

The new Lume Cube Mini Panel is a great addition to our choices for Low Level Lighting. It is a variable color temperature light. The price is more affordable ($60 USD) and the light dims down much better than the earlier Lume Cube offerings. Please see the examples below for a direct comparison.

Lume Cube Mini Panel at Amazon

Lume Cube Mini Panel

2)   Z96 LED Light Panel

This is an old favorite of many landscape astrophotographers. It ha 96 LEDs. It is a fixed light temperature light but comes with a very useful warming filter that creates a pleasant warm light. Including filters the listed color temperatures are 3200K, 4200K, and 6500K. It can be powered by a rechargeable NP-550 battery which lasts many hours. It is reasonably small and dims down adequately. The cost currently is around $88 USD at B&H and Amazon. Conclusion: Newer lights have come onto the market in the last few years with more features, but overall this is still a very useful light for Low Level Lighting. Here is a review of the Z96 by Royce Bair.

Z96 at B&H Photo

Z96 at Amazon

3)   Cineroid LED Light Panel  

Cineroid L10C-VCE or Cineroid L10-BC version

This Cineroid light panel is small (smaller than the Z96), dims down very well, uses the NP-F550 rechargeable batteries, functions many hours on one charge, and has variable color temperature. It has 96 LEDs. I personally find the variable color temperature very useful, and prefer this feature. There are 2 versions, an analog and a Digital version. The Cineroid L10-BC is the analog version. The dials are analog and while the analog version has all the functions of the digital version, the controls are not quite as precise. The analog version costs about $102 USD. The digital version is the Cineroid L10C-VCE and has digital controls. The color temperature and light intensity can be controlled more accurately. The digital version costs around $219. I prefer the digital version but it is not nearly as cost effective.  Conclusion: I highly recommend either of these lights for Low Level Lighting and use them frequently. This light panel dims down better than any other light panel I have used so far. 

Cineroid L10C-VCE at B&H Photo

Cineroid L10C-VCE at Adorama

Cineroid L10-BC at B&H Photo            

Cineroid L10-BC at Adorama

4)   Neewer CN-160 Light Panel

This is a great light for the money. It has 160 LEDs. It costs around $22 USD currently. It is a fixed color temperature light but comes with a warming filter that creates a pleasant warm light color. It is larger than the lights mentioned above but is still reasonably portable. It also uses NP-F550 rechargeable batteries and lasts for many hours on a single charge. The main problem is the brightness. It is almost always too bright, especially in constrained locations. You can deal with the brightness by placing one or more white cloth handkerchiefs or other translucent materials (such as the side of a milk carton) over the front of the light to dampen the intensity. You can make the light very useful this way, but it is generally a bit more trouble and work using this light than the other 2 mentioned above. I do use this light when I am trying to light very large structures. Conclusion: A useful light for the money, but generally more effort to use.

Neewer CN-160 at Amazon  

5)   Genaray LED-6200T

This is a variable intensity, variable color temperature light. It has 312 LEDs. The specs sounded very promising and this is a reasonably good light for the money. It is relatively small, only slightly larger than the Z96. The cost is around $99 USD currently. The color temperature varies from 3200K to 5600K. You can get a wider range of color temperature for a similar price in other light panels. I prefer a light that will go down to a color temperature of 2700K (warmer) and this light only goes to 3200K. The biggest problem however is the variable intensity control. The intensity goes from 10% to 100%, and I found the light was somewhat too bright even when turned down to it's 10% minimum. You can dampen the intensity by placing a handkerchief over the light, but that just adds more  effort and there are other lights that dim down further for a similar price. Conclusion: This is a very  useful light for Low Level Lighting but I would prefer a light that dims down more at the lowest setting.

Genaray LED-6200T at B&H Photo  

Genaray LED-6200T at Amazon

6) Aputure  AL-H198C

This is recently discontinued and this will be brief. It has 198 LEDs. It has variable color temperature from 3200K, and variable light intensity from 10-100%. I found this light too bright at the lowest setting, and the color temperature did not go as low as I desired, only to 3300K. In addition it is larger and bulkier to carry. There are other lights that fir our needs better for similar cost. I do not recommend this light if you come across it. It is brighter than desired at the lowest intensity setting.

7)  Viltrox L116T

Full Review Coming:

This is an intriguing choice for a variable color temperature light panel. I decided to try this light because of the great price at about $32 USD despite some apparent limitations. It has variable intensity and variable color temperature.  Variable intensity goes from 20-100% and the color temperature from 3300K to 5600K. These intensity range is slightly less than optimal for our purposes but I decided to give it a try anyway because of the cost. It is a larger light than any of the ones mentioned above, larger than optimal actually. It measures 7.6 x 5 x 1.2"  (19.2 x 12.8 x 3 cm). It is wide and flat.   It will take up more "pack space" I'm my gear bag than optimal. It is a good light for the money but is quite a bit brighter at the lowest intensity setting than desired for our use. 

Viltrox L116T at B&H Photo

8)   Nanlite LumiPad 11 Bi-Color Soft LED Panel

Full review to follow.

The is another intriguing choice for a variable color temperature light panel. It sells for about $49 USD currently, a very good price for a variable color temperature light. The light temperature varies from 3200K to 5600K, and the intensity varies from 0% to 100%. It is wider and flatter than the Z96 and Cineriod panels mentioned above, but smaller than the Viltrox L116T. This light measures 6.5 x 4.5 x 1.4"  (165.1 x 114.3 x 35.6 mm).  It does take up more pack space than most of the other lights mentioned but does dim down almost as much as the Lume Cube Mini Panel. If you don'y mind carrying a somewhat larger light then this is a good deal for the cost.

Nanlite LumiPad 11 at B&H Photo

9) Goal Zero Micro Lantern

The Goal Zero Micro Lantern is an "omnidirectional" light as compared to the "directional" lights mentioned above. It is relatively inexpensive, currently costing around $25 USD. It is very small, measuring about 3.7 x 1.5" (9.3 x 3.8 cm) and weighing about 2.4 oz (68 g). You can comfortably place several in your pocket. It has a variable intensity control that dims the light down very nicely (the specs do not indicate the degree of dimming).  At low intensity it is very useful for Low Level Lighting. It charges by USB and the charge easily will last a whole night of shooting (used at lower intensities). It has a fixed color temperature. Many LEDs are too blue but the Gaol Zero Micro Lantern has a very pleasant mildly warm color temperature. I find it very useful in tight or constrained locations like alcoves or caves or on ledges or behind arches. It the lowest setting is still too bright you can easily drape a handkerchief or the white cloth over it to dampen the intensity. Conclusion: Highly recommended for Low Level Lighting.

Goal Zero Micro Lantern at B&H Photo

Goal Zero Micro Lantern at Amazon

Below is a Side by Side comparison of many of the above lights.

All the images were taken at the same settings from the same position under the same conditions in a dark space. 24 mm, 1 sec., f/2.8, ISO 800. All images were obtained as RAW images and are not processed in any way.

The lights that are easiest to use are the ones that are the dimmest at their lowest settings! The lights at the top the examples below are generally somewhat easier to work with than the lights lower in the list. There are other features that are important but this this is one to consider.

All images were taken at the lowest light intensity that could be achieved buy each light. As discussed above, the lowest intensity the light can achieve is more important than the highest intensity it can achieve. Virtually all lights are bright enough, but many are still too bright even at the lowest intensity setting. This can be managed with home made filters to damp down the intensity, but that adds effort and more steps every time you set up your composition. That takes time away from shooting. It is much better if the light suits your needs without extra steps.

In the following images pay attention to the intensity and color of the light. All images taken at low intensity and at 3200K color temperature or if the light is a fixed color temperature light then it is used with the accompanying warming filter. Theoretically this should bring all the lights into the same color temperature range. Also the camera was set to a manual color temperature of 3200K as well. Matching the camera color temperature to the light color temperature should result in a relatively neutral appearance in the images. Of course that varies from light to light.

Reviews by Wayne Pinkston unless otherwise indicated.  

©Wayne Pinkston 2020