Spiffy Gear’s Spekular LED Light Kit Hands-On Review – Lighting For Any Situation and Budget
Even though the release of the Spekular LED lights by Spiffy Gear were covered by us a while back, I didn’t know what I was looking at when I first saw these lights setup at WPPI. I’ll admit I thought someone had jerry-rigged a bunch of Ice-Lights together. It wasn’t until I got a little closer I realized it was something more. After watching a few people test it out on the show floor, it had my interest. But it wasn’t until a photographer and model friend of mine did some truly creative work using the lights that I had to learn more about them.
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At a glance, they reminded me of the old building toys you could connect in nearly any shape or pattern, and as you can see from the gif below, that’s not too far off of a description. Next up was to get hands on!
What Are Spekular LED Lights?
The Spekular lights are designed to be “the only lights you need” to shoot and do any project. Admittedly I felt this was a pretty bold claim, but they do actually kind of live up to the hype. The kits are lightweight and sit very compact, allowing you to get a lot of light in a very small amount of space.
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What’s In The Box
Each kit is comprised of 4 LED strips that you can use in any configuration you like making pretty much any shape you can think of. Because these are modular you can add additional lights, basically making the only limitation for you being the number of LED strips you have on hand. Each kit comes with one “controller” unit which has the power plug off/on switch, and a dial for the brightness ranging from about 10-100% effectively. Also included in these kits are clips for attaching gels to the lights should you want to change the colors, (since the lights are locked in at the 5,600k white balance), a mounting base, and four hinged connectors that’ll let you build your dream light setup.
Also included, (Obviously), is the power supply cable. I’ll come back to this later in my pro/cons section, but spoiler alert that cable is the only thing I wasn’t impressed with out of the box. The expansion kit we also tested came with 2 gap-free connectors, a set of extension cables, and two light stand mounts. They’ll allow you to separate the lights into 3 separate units for a 3-way light setup.
Technical Specifications and Additional Details for the Spekular LEDs
All the Modifiers You Need in One Package
Spekular is a light that can be reshaped to your needs. Sturdy connectors allow you to create a square or triangle or to use the sections separately, as you would in a studio setup.
Spekular lights have a high CRI/TLCI rating of 94+/96+, indicating accurate and faithful rendition of color.
The Spekular components are constructed of aluminum with tough ABS connectors for years of vigorous use.
The Spekular system is ready for worldwide use thanks to an included 110-240 VAC power adapter, but it can also run on optional batteries when AC power is unavailable.
Spekular Expansion Kit
The Spekular Expansion Kit from Spiffy Gear is a great way to get more creative mileage out of your Core Kit. The Expansion Kit comes with a set of extension cables and two light stand mounts that, when added to the one in the Core Kit, allow for separation of the light components into three units for use in setups like three-way portrait lighting. Also included are two gap-free connectors that allow you to turn the lights into two 23.6 x 1.6″ strips or one 23.6 x 3″ strip light.
Featuring a unique modular design, the Spekular Core LED Kit from Spiffy Gear contains four 11.8 x 1.57″ aluminum sections, each with 14.5W LEDs that output the tungsten equivalent of 150W with wide coverage of 120°. What makes the system unique is that each of the sections or components can be separated from the others and reconfigured as needed to your specific requirements. For example, the elements of this kit can be used together as a bank or panel or joined together with its sturdy, hinged ABS connectors into a triangle or square for a ring light effect.
The lights can also be used on their own as a portrait lighting setup with separate purchase of an Expansion Kit. Alternatively, with the purchase of four additional lights and a Star Adapter, the lights can be configured as an open-centered star that measures approximately 25″ in diameter. You can shoot through the center of this arrangement like a ring light, or use it as a large soft lightbank with the added bonus of unusual and surprising catchlights in the eyes of your subject. Each light component comes with two gel holders to balance them with tungsten lights, add diffusion, or just for creative effects.
The kit is ready for worldwide use thanks to the inclusion of a multi-voltage 110-240 VAC power adapter, but it can also run on optional batteries with the addition of a battery adapter when AC power is unavailable.
- Light Source 14.5 W LEDs per section (total 116 W)
- Equivalent 150 W tungsten equivalent, each section
- Color Range 5600K
- CRI / TLCI 94+ / 96+
- Brightness: 1500 luminous flux per section, 6000 luminous flux for the kit.
- Beam Angle 120°
- Light Intensity
- 1500 Lumens per section
- 6000 Lumens for kit
- Dimming 10-100%
- Operating Voltage 110-240 VAC, 50/60 Hz, 24 V out
- Mount 1/4″-20
- Dimensions 11.8 x 1.57″ / 30 x 4.0 cm
- Each Section: 0.94 lb / 0.43 kg
- 4 Sections: 2.86 lb / 1.3 kg
- Package Weight 7.35 lb
- Box Dimensions (LxWxH) 14.6 x 11.5 x 4.8″
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Well putting my connector-kit thoughts aside, opening up the bag I was impressed with how compact everything was. Given how small and light each base kit is, it’s really easy to pack, store, and travel with. That fact alone is pretty important to my work as most of it is on the road. I need easily packable.
I am pretty sure I spent at least 2 hours building different shaped “ring-light” setups and taking terrible self portraits to test them out, just because they were so fun and surprisingly easy to piece together.
The connectors look like they’re pretty easy to break but they’re definitely not. The lightweight and simplistic design lets you quickly and easily create your lighting shape combinations and lock them into place, OR adjust them quickly when needed.
What I LIked About the Spekular LED Lights
- The kit was lightweight, and VERY portable. Not just in travel, but in its ability to be shaped to fit nearly anywhere. In a pinch you could conceivably tape it to the wall directly to get the shot in an incredibly tight space.
- Adaptability / Options – Kind of mentioned above, but the ability to make a wide variety of shapes and combos of 1 or more lights made this setup incredibly interesting and creative.
- Consistency of it’s white balance. It’s just locked in.
- Surprisingly bright when set to full power.
- The Price point for the interview kit was incredibly affordable ($598)
What I Didn’t Like / What Could Improve
- Despite my comment above about the consistency of the white balance, being only able to change color temp by adding gels felt a little counter intuitive given the variety of other LEDS out there that at least give you a minor range
- Loose connection on the power/controller unit. Granted I had a demo unit, but the plugs for the power cable felt, inconsistent. As if the connection wasn’t quite being made properly.
- The provided power supply has a very short cable. Ideally it be better if you could get at least another 6 feet of length from the controller to the power supply. Often times I found myself having to clamp or tape the unit to the light stands to avoid its own weight from pulling the cord out or potentially pulling the light over.
- The build quality felt a little lacking. If Spiffy decides to invest heavily in improving the material quality, the price will most likely go up alongside it. Maybe this one is a trade off with the price point Pro above.
- The controller unit gets hot. After an extended period of use, I noticed that the main unit, (and to a lesser extend the expansions), got pretty hot to the touch. Having worked with various other LED systems it felt a bit strange to me to have this happen so i’d like to know what’s up there
Final Thoughts & Conclusions
The Spekular LED lights from Spiffy Gear are a very creative concept, and a lot of fun to work with. With regards to video work, they were incredible. We used them for lighting a simple small product video to using them for stylized accent lights (as seen in the portraits above). In regards to photography, I found myself really using them as accent lights in the shots to add some style or flare to my sessions. Often, still ending up using strobes for fill, getting my shot the way I wanted. (Arguably, it’s also possible that with _more_ of the LED kits I could have still achieved the same looks without using any strobes, but I digress.) I think the point here is at least with me, I felt like these lights should be included in the photo rather than behind the camera lighting it.
The Spekular lights were very easy to assemble and break down, and again I can’t sing the praises of how compact and lightweight these kits are! Great for being on the move.
I suppose I only really have two concerns. One being the heating issue. I feel like with a slight build improvement, the heating probably could be addressed and take away all of my worry in one move. The cost would likely go up a little bit, but honestly for the price it’s still a very fair trade! A second improvement would be the ability to add even a little flexibility to the color temperatures (via an app or dial on the lights), instead of just having to use gels.
Overall, these lights are definitely worth adding to your kit. Considering the core kit costs about the same as an on-branded Speedlight, and you can do MUCH, MUCH more creative things with them. Especially when you start adding additional kits and expansions. Which makes me wonder if anyone’s actually tested to see a maximum number of LED Strips you can run from one controller? May be something I’ll ask about next time I have a conversation with the Spiffy Gear team. In the meantime i’m looking forward to the next time I get to sit down with a model and mess with these lights and some gels to really do something fun and creative.
What do you think about these lights? Have you seen them in the wild? Have you used them or own some of them already? Let me know what you think in the comments below and i’d love to see some of the videos or images you’ve created using them. Especially the BTS!