We announced the promising daylight 94+ CRI LED Spekular modular lighting kit back in early September and I’ve had an opportunity to take these lights into the field for a spin. How do they hold up under real-world production conditions? Find out in this Spekular Core LED review.
The Spekular Core LED – In the Field
Over the past few months the Spekular Core LED lights have accompanied me on three different types of projects: a product shoot, two digital doc/reality series and a few 3-light single camera interview setups. In all of these shoots I used the Spekular lighting kit as part of my overall lighting package. I aimed to realistically determine what would be great use cases for these lights and how they held up after extensive shooting.
First, the Spekular Core LED lights are compact, super compact even and come in a smartly designed (though not bulletproof) case. You get “four” lights in a pack just a little larger than a 17 inch laptop case. The size is amazing. I found myself throwing these lights in the truck for nearly everything simply because they take up no space and setup is a matter of seconds. On one project I popped them in my personal suitcase for travel and didn’t even notice the extra weight. If you have a lot of travel shoots on your calendar then this kit is a must buy.
Build quality in general is great and the lights themselves are very sturdy to the touch. The kit includes a single 1/4-20 adapter (required for mounting), a wall power brick and a few gel clamps. For C-stand mounting you’ll want something like THIS, but some smaller light stands already have 1/4-20 threads on the end. A D-tap adapter is available seperately and worth picking up if you plan to battery power these lights. It’s worth noting that the main power section does tend to get a little hot to the touch after extended use, but nothing like tungsten instruments.
The core Spekular Core LED kit retails for $650 and includes four light Sections at a length of 11.8 x 1.57″ each. Each of the four sections output the equivalent of a 150W Tungsten light. One section alone is not enough for a key light in most situations, but once you begin stacking 3-4 sections you unlock the true potential of this modular kit. You can make shapes. Lots of shapes.
While the lights do make many different types of shapes, these lights really shine as a ring light. If you are a V-logger or fashion photographer then you will really appreciate what this kit can do. If you fit into that category, don’t bother reading the rest of this article and go ahead and purchase the kit. It will work well for you in many situations. These lights emit soft and even (depending on placement) fashion friendly light an,d they’re very flattering on the subject.
While all types of shapes are technically possible, you may not want to reflect strange looking shapes directly into your subjects iris. In closeups, you can make the eyes of your subject look decidedly alien-like if you aren’t careful. I suppose that look could be great if you are shooting the marketing campaign for the sequel to Independence Day: Resurgence, but that seems a niche not many of us will be needing to satisfy.
For those of us in the commercial, scripted, or documentary world then you’ll still find lots to love in the Spekular Core LED kit, but as part of your overall lighting package. I found myself using the Spekular kit for throwing soft light in hard to reach places or areas where I’m able to hide the light just out of frame. In one digital series I threw CTB on a single section, dimmed to half, placed the light on the keyboard of a laptop and aimed it at the actor. The light did well mimicking the output from a computer that in reality was turned off.
You power all four sections from a single dimmable “power” section with this kit. For ring lights this is a perfect design, but I found myself wanting to be able to individually power sections and place them in different parts of scenes. For that, you’ll need to purchase a few more segments that can be powered or a helpful expansion kit – not included in the $650 “core kit”. Not a deal breaker by any means, but keep that in mind.
Connecting each unit is quick and easy. However, while shooting once in the midst of a busy day I didn’t connect two sections together firmly enough and the connected section wasn’t powering because I didn’t line up the power pins. That happened once and I would definitely chalk it up to operator error rather than the pins being finicky.
As previously mentioned, the light quality is soft due to each section having a opal-like plastic built-in diffusion covering the LED’s. I like the softness of the light and never found myself adding additional diffusion gels with the included plastic gel clamps. The gel clamps work well for what they are, but I admit they feel a little breakable to the touch.
$650 feels like a fair price for the kit and I found myself reaching for these lights in setups where I needed something quick, small, and/or super flattering for closeups. With such a minimal power draw (duh LEDs), these bad boys are a responsible purchase for indie filmmakers who don’t want to blow their grandmothers’ circuits, as well.
The Spekular Core LED kit saved me time and space in several tricky setups. I wouldn’t go as far as to echo that Spekular lights are “the only light you’ll ever need,” but I’d say that once you’ve had them, you won’t want to be without them. It’s worth adding that a fellow DP who previously worked as a gaffer in the industry for over 20 years also gave his approval, and his is one of the first opinions I seek out before purchasing a light.