When it comes to shooting video or still images with constant lights, compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) provide an affordable option. In this Rapid Gear Review, we are going to review the Impact Octacool-9 Fluorescent 2 Light Kit from B&H Photo.
The Rapid Gear Review Video
Why Use Compact Fluorescent Lights?
From interviews to product reviews, we always have to light our set whenever we are shooting video. Up until now, we have generally been using tungsten hot lights. Hot lights are great, but the problem has always been figuring out how to keep the production area cool while not running fans or AC that would interfere with recording clean audio. This is actually probably one of our largest challenges when trying to light any production set.
So the main advantage of using CFLs is that they use far less powerful and thus do not generate as much heat as tungsten lights. The primary concern when using CFLs is the quality of light because most CFLs are generally not full-spectrum lights, which mean certain colors will not be properly saturated.
The main reason we were attracted to the Impact Lighting kit is that it comes with really everything you need to produce pretty good lighting. For $600 we get two octobox soft boxes, two stands and two 9-Light CFL heads. Each CFL head has 5 switch groupings which allow you to vary output by turning on/off each of the 1 to 9 lights on each head.
The kit also comes with the 18 CFL bulbs (9 for each head). Now while you can use these bulbs, the quality of color rendition on these stock bulbs is not very good. For the review video, we used the the stock CFL bulbs which put out quite a bit of green, so we have to compensate for that in the camera and in post. But, still, even with the stock CFL bulbs, we have a very usable lighting kit.
Of course, if you want to improve the quality of light that this kit puts out, we recommend upgrading the CFL bulbs to certain full-spectrum light bulbs such as the EcoSmart 27-Watt (100W) Full Spectrum Craft CFL Light Bulb. These are actually non-professional bulbs that we have found to work extremely well, and be quite inexpensive. We have these and a couple other brands that we will be reviewing soon in a little CFL review lineup, so be sure to check out that article when it comes out.
Impact Octacool-9 Versus DIY Solution
So at this point, many of you are probably wondering why not just DIY the whole set? While there are many resources for DIY builds, building a light kit like this is not that simple. Not only can it take a day or two worth of time, these types of DIY projects also require some knowledge of electrical wiring; of course in addition to the money for components and the necessary tools for assembly. This plus the risk of an electrical fire due to incorrect wiring will probably be too much for most people to take it on as a DIY project.
The Impact Octacool kit does require a bit of assembly, but it is very simple. It is worth noting that when inserting the rods for the octaboxes, the tension can be pretty firm requiring a strong hand or perhaps a second person to help out. But, all in all we were up and running within 30 minutes after the kit was delivered.
Note on Color Temperature
Now, with this lighting setup, we have nearly 1000W of equivalent light at roughly ¼ the power draw and with far less heat compared to our old tungsten lights. But remember that these CFL bulbs are running daylight white balances at around 5000-5500K, so it isn’t a good idea to mix them with tungsten hot lights which will run around 3000-3600K.
So for $600, we essentially have an inexpensive kit with everything done for us. All and all, we give the Impact Octacool-9 Fluorescent 2 Light Kit 4 out of 5 stars.
While it is a great price for the value you get, it would have been wonderful having an option to purchase the kit a little cheaper without any CFL bulbs for those that want to purchase their own higher quality CFLs. Nevertheless, we saw enough of an improvement in lighting quality compared to our old tungsten light and our recording studio runs a lot cooler, so we highly recommend the Impact Octacool-9 Fluorescent 2 Light Kit to anyone looking for inexpensive, cool and high quality constant lighting.