What lights are best?


I want to start by saying that I have searched on this forum about this and found nothing that made me more sure what to buy and hence I’ll start this topic. But if I have somehow missed it, could you please post a link.

And now to the issue at hand.
I want to buy myself some lights since that have been quite absent in my shorts so far. What I understand I want a colour temperature of 5600K and I have found a set with three softboxes, including stands that I’m concidering. Although, from what I have heard, those bulbs that come with it are not the best.
Is it worth looking for LED bulbs to keep the energy consumption down as well as the heating issues?
And if so, is it even possible to find good LED bulbs with that colour temperature and that are bright enough?
When I have searched the internet, they have lacked in one or the other.

And what would be a good lumen or lux number for a softbox light? I have looked around for an output of 5000 lumen in 5600K temperature, but I might have been looking for the wrong numbers?
Those that I’m considering have five bulbs in each softbox.

I have considered LED panels as well and in fact I own one small with 216 LED that I’m quite happy with and I will buy two or three more of those as well. But right now I’m looking for the best softbox setup that’s relativley low cost and dosen’t use to much energy and that are bright enough.

So to summarize. Does any good LED bulbs exist that can be used in a softbox with the right temperature and are bright enough?

If you have any other tips, I’m more than willing to hear them as well, or as in this case, read them.

I really hope this post ends up in the right place, it’s my first post and I’m not to used with the structure here yet. :smile:


You’re in the right place! What set are you looking at/ what bulbs usually come with it? (also what price range are we looking at? There are some interesting DIY softbox rigs out there as well)


It’s a set that I found on ebay and they are shipped from the UK, since I live in sweden that means no custom fees.
In each softbox there are 5 bulbs I’ll quote the descriptions of the bulbs here:

"5500K 38W Day-light Energy Saving Light Bulb
Equals to 190W regular incandescent light bulb output (Total 2850W Output: 190W x 15 Bulbs)
Generates little heat
Provides window-light effect
Rated for over 8,000 hours of use
Full Spectrum
Flicker Free
E27 Regular Base"

They are low energy bulbs that look like a spiral.

I usually film with a GH4, so I relly need to get some better light since most locations that I have used are quite dark.

The prize for this set is aound 256 dollars and I was thinking if there was possible to gett better bulbs for around 150 dollars or less for a total cost of around 400 dollars.
Although there is three stands in this set as well, two regular and one with an arm to get the light from above. It also includes a backdrop stand and three backdrops, black, white and chroma green. So there is quite alot that comes with the set and people who have bought it seems quite satisfied with it except for the bulbs themselves.And that is why I have started looking if there is any LED bulbs that could substitute them since they have a longer life and a lower power consumption.

I like the base of this setup, since I can turn each of the five bulbs inside the softbox on or off individually. I also like that they fold up quite well in the traveling bag that comes with it. I have looked at a few DIY projects, but I have found them either to cumbersome to travel to location with or that there is not enough light output. But ofcourse I have not seen everything, far from it, the internet is a large place.

Thank you so much for the quick reply, you guys and gals really seem to have something great going on here with rocketjump film school and this community. I will lock myself up in a workshop this weekend and build props, So I won’t be able to reply again until monday after this.


Hey @Longfang. I’ve seen the kits you’re looking at, and they’re certainly attractive for the price. The thing is, they are very common, and are generally fairly cheap quality as a result. The 5-bulb softbox is certainly a useful tool to have, but it’s not necessarily the best lighting tool for all situations. These are typically intended for photography applications and are intended to create attractive portrait lighting, but may not be suited for something dark, or dramatic.

It should be noted that these mounts are NOT intended to be used with household light bulbs; instead, these are intended to be used with 150-190W, E27 (Edison Screw) photography bulbs, that come in a colour balance of 3200K (sometimes known as tungsten) or 5500/5600K (known as daylight balanced), which are pretty cheap from eBay or your local photography store. It’s usually a good idea to grab a few of each, as you may want or need to mix up your colour temperatures. Alternatively, you can simply buy some cheap CTO (colour temp orange) gels, and wrap you daylight balanced bulbs in them. I would suggest looking into the concepts of white balance and colour temperature, so you can understand what types of situations your lights would work in.

For film work, 3 softboxes are generally unnecessary. What this will result in is an overlit scene, where there is too much light present. You can achieve a lot of different effects by using your softbox as a key light, but you generally use smaller, or more directional lights to achieve effects such as backlighting, fill, or effect lighting.

As for LEDs… these can be hit or miss. I have a few V-lock panels that produce a lot of light, but the colour quality of light is quite poor, usually producing a green or magenta tinge to my subject. This is an issue present in a lot LED panels, especially cheap ones. When looking for LED panels, you will need to have a look and see if you can identify the CRI rating of the panel. This rating indicates how accurately those bulbs replicate the colour spectrum. Cheap LEDs from your hardware store have a CRI of 60-70; cheap, Chinese panels are generally around 70-80 CRI, while high quality LEDs will be rated at 90+. For video work, you would ideally get something that is 90+ CRI, but these can be expensive. Have a look at a website called CameTV. It’s a Chinese lighting company, that stock 95 CRI LED panels for the cheapest price I have seen, although there is the obvious risk associated with such a purchase. These panels will generally run you around $300 USD. Broadcast quality panels run for a bit more, around $5-600 USD.

My biggest suggestion for lighting is - over time - acquire a mix of different lights. A mainstay of the industry is the tungsten fresnel lighting kit. These will run you in the range of $800-900 USD for a 3 light light kit, generally a 150W, 300W and 650W light. These lights are highly controllable and compatible with equipment like softboxes and gels, allowing you to create the look you want. The downside to these are they get very hot and may not suit enclosed spaces, but the level of control over them makes them invaluable. You can get this style of lighting with an LED bulb, but these can cost you several thousand dollars for a single light.

Other than that, there are a lot of different ways to light your scene on a budget. In a pinch, you can use simple household bulbs in various lamps available at Ikea and create some interesting lighting styles. My biggest suggestion here would be to AVOID AT ALL COSTS fluorescent, LED, or energy saver bulbs as their colour quality is abysmal and their output is insufficient. I have a box of halogen bulbs in different mounts and wattages up to 100W, which makes them incredibly versatile if I need to replace any visible lights in a scene, and are compatible with every common mount you might find in a house. On top of that, halogen bulbs have a colour temperature very similar to Tungsten-balanced bulbs, allowing them to blend seamlessly. These bulbs do get hot however, which can make diffusing or gelling them somewhat difficult.

I know this is a LOT of information, so feel free to ask any questions, and I will do my best to answer.


Hey @Luke_Nicolaou_DP Thank you alot for this in depth answer, it really got me thinking. And yes you are right, I need to read on alot more about that. My work before has been other parts than the lights, but I really want to get a better knowledge in those that other have done instead of me as well.

Good to know about softboxes as you mentioned, I’ll keep that in mind and try and get one for starters and complement it with some other lights.

I think that I will give up the idea of LED bulbs in that softbox kit that I mentioned. Everyone seems alot sceptical about that idea anyway. Thank you for the input.

I have been looking around now during lunch time at work (who need to eat anyway when you can gather knowledge instead :wink:) I have found a few LED panels with a CRI rating of 95+ that I’m considering. And I’m realizing that lighting is not something that I can buy a complete kit right away, that is to expensive. So I’ll probably get one or two lights for starters and later on add onto that.

Two other things that are influencing me when I’m choosing light is the locations that I usually shoot in. I have shot around a third of my stuff indoors where I could hook it up to the sockets in the wall. Two thirds have been outside in nature, in an old castle, cave, torn down basement of an old factory and so forth. So portability is quite a big issue for me, especially since I usually lug around ALL equipment in my car. And I really like when I can plug the lights in with a cord as well as choose to have a battery in them for those cases that I’m far from a socket.

I have found those lights from CameTV on ebay as well, directly from China. And I must say that if I buy them, it will be from there. Since our custom control is so tight on packages from USA and the fees are way to high. It’s much easier for a package from china to slip through customs without to much of a fee added to it.
But now that I have read more about them I’m not so sure. Are they shipping from china and not USA?

I’m now considering saving up to this kit: “High CRI Bi-color 2pcs 1520 LED Video Lights Studio Broadcast Lighting Kit +Bag” It would be almost 800 dollars, so I have to wait quite a while to afford it. New tires for the car, engagement rings and many other expenses is prioritized right now. And in the meantime I could use the small LED panel that I have as well as a work light or two maybe.

I have used redheads before, but the life of those lights was way to short for my liking as well as the temperature and they where way to cumbersome. Although the light was great, but I don’t have access to these any more.

That was quite an answer you gave there, thank you alot for taking time to write that.
I’m now on a completley different path on my hunt for lights than when I first posted this post. But that’s great, I feel like I’m heading somewhere.

Since I’m really new to the lighting part of filmmaking it’s a risk that I might ask some rally basic questions.
And since we are on the subject. What are the differences between a softbox and an umbrella? Are they not both diffusing light through a material, so that their uses are quite the same?


my current setup is as follows
ARRI SOFTBANK 5 LIGHT KIT (1K, 650, 300, 2X 150) - kinda a go to be fading out in the use list
KINO FLOW 4BANK 4FT - these are great for large floods and interviews in a small indoor space (no heat)
3X F&V 1×1 BICOLOR LITEPANELS W IDX E-HL9S 88WH LI-ION V-MOUNT BATTERIES - my go to panels (affordable)
BLINDSPOT SCORPION LIGHTS (6) SET - new for me and really cool
FILMTOOLS CHINA BALL KIT - new as well and waiting to test them out
DIGITAL JUICE FLAG PRO KIT - tend to use these more for interviews
CHAUVET LIGHTING HURRICANE 1301 FOG MACHINE - smoke makes it all better (when you can)
PRO SERIES LED ON CAMERA PANEL 800LUX - have alot of little uses
and various other things that i either rarely use or just sit in my closet from days gone by


I’m back :slightly_smiling:
That’s quite a setup you got there @jacenK I’ll look into them some more.
I already got a smoke machine, although a smaller one, but it works for me.

I think I know where to go from here. I was stuck thinking about softboxes, but this has really opened my eyes. I’ll spend each break at work trying to read and learn something new about light and I needed all this input as a push in the right direction. So thank you everyone for your input.


best of luck in your quest sir


DUDE! Thank you so much for the CameTV tip. I’m in Mexico, about four hours away from the nearest rental house. I can’t believe the prices for the HMIs. This is going to save me a lot of time and money. The tungsten fresnel, too.

A side question for you. I’m an old timer that’s been away. I’ve never used LED panels. What sort of throw do they give? Are they like Mole Richardson softlites or zip lights? Thanks!

It was a pleasure reading your post. You know your shit, obviously.


Hi @Marcos_de_Manantial. LED panels are great and generally very versatile. I’m afraid I couldn’t compare them to other lights, as I’m a new timer, and don’t have a lot of experience outside of LED or fresnels, as most of that tech has been replaced with LED’s in the work I do. LED panels have a wide throw, but they fall off fairly quickly as a result. Because of the number of individual diodes, it’s also a relatively diffuse light source compared to more direct lights, and I would describe it as fairly similar to a softbox in many common situations, although most panels come with a diffusion filter that certainly enhances this comparison. It’s best suited in close-up applications where you can control the light, as it’s quite flattering on a subject, but I’ve also found it to be useful in boosting the ambient light in a room by bouncing it off the ceiling, as the wide throw isn’t the most controllable.

For me, LED’s value comes in their versatility; their low temperatures means you can put them anywhere without worrying about your talent sweating; most are battery powered, meaning you can run them in any location, without the noise or cost of a generator or requiring house power; they come in a range of sizes and form factors, meaning they can be used as key lights, back lights, hair lights or practicals; and they’re dimmable allowing you to more precisely control the intensity and quality of your light.


Hi, I am starting to put a lighting kit together too and read this post. I had been looking into the cheaper LED softboxes like @Longfang but also discovered they do not provide near enough wattage. I have browsed for hours and hours on B&H, trying to figure out which lights might do the trick, but haven’t really come to any conclusions.

My question is, if I was to buy one light to start my kit, what should it be? Here’s what I want from it.

  • Bi-Color, but if not, I prefer daylight balanced.
  • At least 500-1000 watts or more.
  • The ability to switch between a soft-box or barn doors.
  • Low energy - the circuit breakers at my apartment are only 15-20v and flip easily.

Is there any such light? Besides fresnels, I have not been able to find one that does it all that is in my price range. I rented two diva lites for a weekend to do some portrait photography and it was not enough light to light the whole body.

I would love two options: one that is affordable (hopefully less than $500) and one that you think is the best money can buy. Would love it if @Lauren weighed in! Girl knows her stuff.

Also I am using the lights to do portrait photography at the moment while I learn lighting, but plan to use them to shoot short films once I harness my skills!



Here are dome good videos on led lights.


Thanks so much! This answered so many questions I had. Appreciate it.