Nikon calls its speedlight system the Creative Lighting System, but I’ve found a product that really deserves that name. The Lume Cube is a tough, small metal cube that is just 4 by 4 by 4 centimetres big that you can use to add light to your pictures or videos. In this review I’ll tell you more about it.
One of the unique features of the Lume Cube is its flexibility. It makes most sense to use it with your smartphone, but because of all the available (sold separately) accessories you can use the Lume Cube for almost all kinds of photography. You can buy accessories to use the Lume Cube with a normal camera / DSLR, smartphone, action camera or even a drone. Luckily it also has a standard tripod mount, so you can also attach it to your favourite tripod.
The Lume Cube can be used in two different modes, continuous lighting or flash. The flash mode is about the same as a smartphone camera’s flash. So it’s quite a long blink instead of the flash you get with a normal speedlight. For using the Lume Cube with your smartphone you can use the app. You can download the app in the Google Play store or Apple appstore. The Lume Cube has got Bluetooth so you can connect it to your phone to adjust the settings and activate the flash when you take a picture. One of the best features of the app is the simplicity. You don’t have to fumble with the Bluetooth settings in your phone, just open the app and it will find and connect to your Lume Cube. Even if you aren’t a programmer you’ll be able to connect it without breaking a sweat.
The app itself is quite nice, and you can use it as your photoapp to take photos and videos. It is a little simpler, with less options and settings, than your typical photoapp. That does make it easy to use, but it may be a downside for a more advanced smartphone photographer. It’s a shame you can’t connect the Lume Cube to your normal photo app yet. There is a way around that by the way, since there isn’t a difference in output between the flash and continuous mode you can always just set the Lume Cube to continuous mode and use it with your favourite app with the same result. You’ll just miss the app-activated flash.
Talking about output, the Lume Cube’s light output is nothing less than impressive. It delivers up to 1500 lumens of light. There is a rule of thumb you can dived the number of lumens by 10 to get the watts a normal lightbulb needs to give the same amount of light. So this tiny 4x4x4 cm light has got the same output as a 150 watt light bulb! In real life that comparison isn’t completely accurate, since the type of light you get from a LED is different than a traditional bulb. But you get the idea, this light is very, very bright. Luckily you can set the output in 10 steps, because the maximum output can be just too bright for most situations.
One of the features I like the most is that it is waterproof up to 30 meters deep. That means you can even use the light for underwater photos or video. This also means your creativity isn’t limited by water, just dump it in and start shooting. Also perfect to use with a waterproof smartphone like the Samsung S7, taking photos or videos in the rain isn’t a problem at all. The cube is completely sealed, the USB port you need to charge it is protected by a small cap you can unscrew with a coin. In the following photo you can see the Lume Cube in action in a glass of water, as you can see no problems there.
Lume Cube has introduced a lot of different accessories to combine with the light. They have a hotshoe connector for normal cameras. A smartphone mount, with or without a grip for filming with your smartphone, a mount for action cameras and even different mounts for drones (DJI and Yuneec). I haven’t tested it with a drone or action camera, but did put it through the test with my smartphone and normal camera.
If you use your phone for photos or video you can use the small built in light. But those, depending on the type of phone you have, range from somewhat helpful to utterly useless. They have limited output and if you use them too long they overheat and shut down. So for shooting longer video they won’t help. The Lume Cube is perfect for those situations. Not only is the output much more usable but it will also work up to two hours (on half power) for 2 hours on end. The light emitted by the Lume Cube is also a lot wider and softer than your average smartphone-light as it has a bigger reflector.
Using the Lume Cube with a normal camera is twofold. For filming the Lume Cube works perfect. The high output helps to lighten up your videos, and the amount of light this small cube emits is incredible. For big groups of people or for filming in big open spaces you may still need to invest in a bigger video light. The Lume Cube is certainly powerful enough but since all the light is emitted from one point it may be too bright for filming people. They won’t be happy if you set it to full power and point it in their face! But for smaller venues, smaller groups of people or for filming static objects that don’t mind the bright light the Lume Cube is just perfect. It is also a perfect back-up option, since it is so small you can take it with you all the time.
For photography the Lume Cube is also very usable, but it isn’t a replacement for a normal speedlight. Especially for moving objects you’ll notice a difference. A speedlight’s burst of light is very short and intense, making it possible to freeze the motion. The Lume Cube’s light doesn’t do that. When you use it with a normal camera you can’t make the Lume Cube flash by linking it to the camera. You have the option to set it to continuous light or use the slave function. The slave function works with a light sensor that activates your Lume Cube as soon as you use another speedlight, just like you see on dedicated speedlights. That way you can use it as a secondary light source for photos. The continuous function works very well for static subjects, for instance when you are photographing products. The light emitted by the Lume Cube is quite diffuse and wide, especially when you realise it is just one LED producing the light. If you use a diffuser or if you bounce the light you can make it even more usable for product photography. And because the Lume Cube is so small you don’t even need a professional softbox. I have even used a small frosted glass flower vase to spread the light. The light from the Lume Cube is a little on the blue / purple side being 6000k, comparable with the Xenon lights you see in high-end cars. So when you use the Lume Cube you may have to adjust your white balance (in camera or in post processing) to get the desired look.
To test the Lume Cube I’ve shot some photos using it as a primary light source. In the following photo you can see I’ve used it to take a photo of a piece of pottery. I’ve used the small frosted vase to spread the light and make the shadows look softer. As you can see it gave quite a nice result for some kitchen table product photography.
In the second photo I’ve used the Lume Cube to photograph a small rubber toy frog. I was looking to take a creative photo of the small frog, but when lighting it from above the colours looked washed out. So I put the frog on top of the light, making the green colour pop. The Lume Cube does get warm, but not nearly as warm as a halogen light. If I had used one of those the small rubber frog would surely have melted. A big advantage of using LED technology.
The Lume Cube is a fun new product. Because it is so small and waterproof you can use it for a lot of different scenarios, and you can always take it with you. I’m very impressed they managed to fit a powerful LED light, a reflector, powerful battery (with op to 2 hours of continuous use) and Bluetooth in such a small case and even make it waterproof up to 30 meters. As you can combine it with different accessories it is a very flexible tool for photographers and for shooting video. The app for your smartphone is a nice extra, that makes using the Lume Cube with your smartphone even easier.