My Office Sucks
After moving my office to the basement it became apparent that the lighting down there sucked. I have 11 GU4 halogen “warm” spotlights in the ceiling about 15 centimetres above my head and a single window that either provides no light or allows a solar flare to melt me to my chair. This is not conducive to YouTube filming for my new channel Guy, Robot. Being a lover of all things gadgety I did what anybody else would do in this situation – I found out the best solution to my problem and added it to my Amazon basket. When I realised the cost-per-subscriber of my lights would be about £200 I thought it best to reconsider.
At the more sensible end of the market were a couple of really cheap lighting kits at around the £40 mark including two LED panels, the Neewer set and then slightly more expensive sets ranging up to around £300. Despite wanting the best and the brightest (quite literally) I decided to go with the Neewer W160 kit from Amazon which (at the time of writing) includes two lights, two sets of colour filters in white, yellow and magenta, two 190cm light stands and a ginormous carrying bag for just £77.64. Pair this with two NP-F550 rechargeable batteries and a charger and the whole setup is under £100 delivered.
Step into the Light…
First impressions aren’t great. From the moment the Neewer kit arrives its quality is tangible. Sadly, it’s tangibly cheap – the packaging is just some labelled plastic wrapping a few cardboard boxes, the lights creak in ways they aren’t supposed to when you open the barn doors and it feels like they would break if you dropped them from even a slight height.
But so what? This isn’t lighting for a Hollywood production and it’s probably not lighting for anything other than beginners. If you were a true professional would you even be considering spending under £100 on an individual light – let alone getting two lights, two stands and a bag for that.
The stands are surprisingly sturdy and large. Where most of the equivalent cheap “home studio” style setups (for example the smartphone tripods) would blow over with even the exhaust fan from a CPU these are quite sturdy. I wouldn’t want to light Wembley Arena with them – but for a fixed location these stands are pretty sturdy and don’t feel like they’re going to fall down straight away. Also – they’re tall – they’re almost 2m which is a nice change from the many other lighting kits which are not even the height of my desk.
The lights themselves seem to do what they say on the tin. They provide lighting. They have a variable light level switch which dims from zero to retina-burning light, they come equipped with barn doors to focus the light, include a battery indicator on the rear and include three filters to choose the lighting colour. You’ve got a choice of “white”, “warm” or a slightly pink hue on the light (which appears to display very similarly to the warm light).
I had been considering a more expensive LED panel with more bulbs but in all honesty these are sufficient for where I am at the moment. Any brighter and I’m fairly sure I’d just blind myself.
The bag is – well a bag – but it does appear large and well padded. Considering the build quality, I’m not sure I’d recommend carting these around but at least you’ll have a bag should you want to and it’s nice for me to have somewhere to dump all my filming equipment when I’m not using it.
You certainly aren’t buying professional lights – but you’re buying exactly what I needed – cheap lights to allow me to improve the quality of my videos for YouTube. I imagine these lights would work in any home studio be it for film or video and in any situation where they don’t need to move much and don’t need to light a huge area. I drop from 6 foot would likely break these and I wouldn’t want to use them on location but they work great for what I need as a beginner.
So far I’ve not seen any flicker in the lights when filming so guess they aren’t using PWM for dimming. Just two of them plus my monitors for backlight are sufficient if I turn off all the remaining room lights. I’ve only really filmed with the white light but did try the other filters a little and it’s a nice touch to have a selection included.
I’m actually stunned how much I’ve got for under £100 here – enough to start filming with an immediate difference at home. You do need to make sure you’ve got some camera batteries as well but even with those and a charger it came to under £100 from Amazon.
So the verdict on the Neewer W160 LED Light? It’s a light, it works, it’s cheap. If you’re doing something that’s small scale and at home and you want an immediate, affordable and easy improvement in your video quality this is for you. If you’re filming the next season of Game of Thrones you may want to think again and might want to consider building one yourself…