Aputure LED Light Review:
High Quality & Affordable? Is It Possible?
If you’ve spent anytime working in the film industry, you’ve probably heard of the production triangle: Good. Fast. Cheap. Pick two. That’s why when we heard about the high quality, affordably priced, and easy to use LEDs from Aputure, we were naturally skeptical.
So we got our hands on a few models and for the last 4 months we’ve put them to the test on shoots in various environments. Here are our real world thoughts on how they really perform, including color quality, useful features, and functionality.
Aputure LED Models Reviewed:
- Amaran HR672D Daylight LED Spot Light
- Light Storm LS 1/2w LED Light with Anton Bauer Battery Controller Box
- Light Storm LS 1s LED Light with Anton Bauer Battery Controller Box
All color readings were measured with the Asensetek Lighting Passport in a blacked out studio. For more on CRI (R1-R8), Extended CRI (R1-R15), the R9 value, CQS, and TLCI, check our article on applying CRI to LEDs.
Aputure Amaran HR672D
Price (USD): $278 (B&H Photo)
Aputure Light Storm LS 1/2w
Price (USD): $495 (B&H Photo)
Aputure Light Storm LS 1s
Price (USD): $695 (B&H Photo)
If you’ve spent anytime working in the film industry, you’ve probably heard of the production triangle: Good. Fast. Cheap. Pick two. That’s why when we heard about the high quality, affordably priced, and easy to use LEDs from Aputure, we were naturally skeptical. So we got our hands on a few models and for the last 4 months we’ve put them to the test on shoots in various environments. Here are our real world thoughts on how they really perform, including color quality, useful features, and functionality.
We been testing the Aputure Amaran, Light Storm 1s, and Light Storm 1/2w LED lights on our sets for the last 4 months to give you the real low down on how they perform. But first let’s take a quick look at what each of these lights has to offer.
The Amaran has a plastic shell, which cuts down on the weight as well as the price. It is powered by either two camera batteries or AC; it has the ability to tilt or swivel; it is fully dimmable; it comes with a diffusion gel and tungsten gel; and best of all it is completely controllable via remote. The Light Storm 1/2w is a low profile, thin LED in a metal case that can be powered either via camera batteries or AC power. The larger model, the Light Storm 1s, is about twice the size, also incased in metal, and has the same power options, wireless control, and dimming abilities as the 1/2w. Other than size and output, the other major difference with this light is the addition of barn doors. All three of these lights boast high output, high CRI ratings, an affordable price, and options that are typically only found in more expensive lights
Aputure LED Light Quality
If you’ve watched our videos on how LED lights can ruin your projects, then you know that the quality of light output by an LED is critical. You also know that CRI is a useless rating when it comes to LEDs.
So we took all three of these lights and measured them using the Lighting Passport color meter to get their real readings using a few different standards. The Amaran came in at a CRI of 94 for all 15 color channels with an R9 reading of 91. It had a CQS reading of 93, a TLCI reading of 96, and a GAI reading of 96. The Light Storm 1/2w read at a CRI of 96 for all 15 channels with an R9 reading of 98. It had a CQS reading of 94, a TLCI reading of 98, and a GAI reading of 95. And finally the Light Storm 1s had a CRI reading of 97 for all 15 color channels with an R9 of 90, the CQS was 94, TLCI was 96 and the GAI was 93.
From these readings it’s fairly clear that the color quality of all three lights is spectacular. They all score very well in all of the current light measurement standards, including the R9 red value which is very difficult for LEDs to output. You can feel confident buying any of these three lights and know that your colors will look good, and most importantly, your skin tones will be accurate.
The only catch to be aware of is the tungsten gel included with the Amaran. It’s to allow the light to be color matched with tungsten lights. Unfortunately, this gel does not adequately correct the light and actually reduces the color accuracy of the light significantly. When the gel is applied, the CRI rating for all 15 channels goes down to 85 and the R9 drops to 48. The CQS drops to 88, TLCI goes to 85, and GAI goes to 65. So I recommend not uses this included gel. If you need to convert it to tungsten, I’d look into other gel options, or better yet just use all daylight colored lamps.
Overall I give the light quality a 9.5 out of 10.
Initial Impressions of Aputure LEDs
When I opened the box for both of the Light Storm LEDs I was impressed by their solid metal build. They were hefty, but not to heavy, and the LEMO connectors mean I don’t have to worry about the connection accidentally being lost as the lights are used and abused over the coming years. I also like how both of the lights can be powered via Anton Bauer batteries. Each light comes with a three channel remote control meaning I can quickly and easily adjust each light as needed without having to run over to the light on set, which is a valuable time saver. For both of the Light Storm LEDs I’d give them a rating of 4 out of 5 as they are solid lights.
After being very impressed with the Light Storm LEDs, I was expecting more from the Aputure Amaran. The plastic housing left me wondering how long the light would hold up after being abused on set. And the AC power cord felt a little loose, as does the plastic tilting head. With those thoughts in mind, I gave the Amaran LED a rating of 3 out of 5. It is a descent light, but not as solid as the Light Storm models.
As I used the Light Storm lights on set, they continued to impress me. They are bright and I love being able to remotely dim them, making adjustments for a one-man band shoot so much quicker and easier. I can literally light by numbers and see the results on screen.
However, there are a couple of things with the Light Storm 1s that do frustrate me. First is the reflective barn doors. The point of barn doors is to block light, not bounce it around my set. This is especially true when working at low light levels, since having extra light bounce around set can be an issue- it can actually increase the ambient light levels or create light patterns where I don’t want them. So I’d recommend spray painting them matte black to avoid that problem on set.
The second issue is that the barn doors interfere with the yoke mount, so I can’t fully tilt the light. At times I have to find creative ways to get it to the angle I need. Lastly the Light Storm lights both use LEMO connections that are roughly the same size but have a different number of pins. So if you’re using different models of Aputure lights, it’s easy to get these connectors mixed up. Fortunately, they cannot be plugged into the wrong power pack due to the pins. At the end of the day, I give the Light Storm 1s a rating of 7.5 out of 10 when it comes to functionality.
Light Storm 1/2w does not have the issues that the Light Storm 1s have since it doesn’t have barn doors. However, one problem is that…it doesn’t have barn doors. So plan to flag off any light leakage. Other than that, I love the Light Storm 1/2w. It is easy to work with, is compact, very bright, and the “randomized” LED matrix helps minimize strange light patterns. I give it an 8.5 out of 10.
The Amaran is functional, but is also missing barn doors. And the big camera batteries decrease it’s thin profile when you go battery powered, which can make the light more difficult to hide in small places. I also like the plastic diffusion panel, which nicely diffuses the light. But like I mentioned in the section on Color Quality, avoid the tungsten gel, as it is less then color accurate.
The Amaran also has the ability to attach a soft box like device to the front of it, which is another great way to diffuse the light. But while it works, I was surprised by the lack of baffles on the sides of it. The open gap between the light and the diffusion means that light is lost as it bounces around and out the openings, which decreases the light output, and means I have more light clean up to do on set with additional flags, often a time consuming extra step. Another thing is the diffusion is held in place with plastic poles that fit very tightly into their holders, which is great when the light is in use. But I wonder how long they will last as they are inserted and removed over time. I give the Amaran a 6 out of 10 when it comes to functionality as it definitely does the job.
After using the lights on a number of shoots and in a variety of situations from indoors to outside at night, the Light Storm 1/2w and 1s lights still perform like new. I see these lights being a great long-term purchase as each part continues to hold up well to the rigors of on-set use. So I feel very confident in giving them a 9.5 out of 10 for longevity.
The Amaran still continues to perform well, but the tolerances are not holding up as well, especially with the tilting neck. It seems this will be the first part to fail. Fortunately, it isn’t attached to the light so it can be easily replaced. Also the AC power cord still fits, but it doesn’t have as secure of a connection as the connections on the Light Storm lights. So with that in mind, I find the Araman to be workable, which means a rating of 6 out of 10.
Price of Aputure LED Lights
With the metal housing, LEMO connections, wireless control, Anton Bauer battery power, high output, and high color quality of the two Light Storm LEDs, these lights are very affordable when compared to other lights with similar features. I would feel very comfortable making a three or four light kit out of these LEDs. So I give them a 3 out of 5 when it comes to price. The Amaran light gets a 4.5 out of 5 when it comes to price. I haven’t seen another LED out there with as many accessories along with the high quality color at such a low price.
Final Thoughts on Aputure LEDs
Both the Light Storm models and the Araman light made by Aputure are solid LEDs to start your lighting kit off right. If you are looking for a more long-term purchase that will last you for years, then go with the Light Storm 1/2w or 1s, as their final rating was a 34.5 and 33.5 out of 40, respectively. If you are looking for quality color and an LED that is more affordable, then the Araman is great buy with a final rating of 29 out of 40.
Until Next Time – Get Out There And Shoot!
Ryan E. Walters, Cinematographer