A powerful light in a tiny package.
As a photographer, I like to have what I need when I need it but at the same time, I want to pack light. Thus, dragging around bulky lights and batteries to power them is just not something I want to do every time I take my camera out. A few years ago, I reviewed a product called Lume Cube, which has quickly become the ultimate portable LED light. It can be used for many different uses including video conferencing, photo/video lighting, drone lighting, and action cam lighting. When Lume Cube was originally released, it was a 1.5” square and weighed 4 ounces. The housing of the light is metal and one of the things we noticed about it was how quickly it heated up. Just a few months ago, Lume Cube announced the release of the Lume Cube Air, their next generation LED light.
The Lume Cube AIR is a slimmed-down version of the original Lume Cube. The light has an improved LED output and multiple accessories included with each box.
Some of its features include:
- CRI rating of +/- 90
- 5700K daylight balanced color temperature
- 400 LUX at 1M power
- 60-degree beam angle
- Weight: 2 ounces
- Dimensions: 1.625” x 1.625” x 1.125”
- Waterproof: Can handle rain or be submerged under water up to 30 feet
- Bluetooth & App Control: From the Lume-X iOS or Android app, users can connect to multiple Lume Cube AIRs and control brightness, light mode, strobe speeds, battery levels, and more. The Bluetooth functionality allows for a seamless connection and fast adjustment of any lighting set- up, creating a truly smart mobile studio.
- Can be mounted via tripod (1/4 20 thread) or built-in magnet
- In-Box Accessories: white diffusion, orange (warming) diffusion, lanyard, and charging cable
One of the ways to use a Lume Cube AIR is for video conferencing and because Lume Cube knew that users would need an option for that type of use, they have recently packaged the Lume Cube AIR with a suction cup mount to create the Lume Cube AIR VC. This particular kit was introduced at CES 2019 and is designed specifically for use with video calls, live streaming, and FaceTime. In addition to the specs outlined above, the Lume Cube AIR VC also includes a suction cup that mounts to the back of a monitor or laptop screen to provide users with a low profile light.
I’ve been a fan of Lume Cube since the first Lume Cube came out on Kickstarter back in 2014. As I previously mentioned, I had the pleasure of reviewing the original a few years ago (2016) and have used that Lume Cube frequently since then. The original Lume Cube had 10 levels of light to cycle through and the AIR only has 4. I actually really like this simplification of how the light operates. Instead of having 10% power with each level, you end up with 25% with each level.
There is a power button located on top of the light. With single clicks of the button, you power the light on and cycle through the different levels. To turn it off either cycle through all the levels or you press/hold the power button for 3 seconds while the light is on. There is also a strobe setting that you can activate by pressing and holding the same button when the light is completely off. I did find the use of the button a little temperamental. Even though a single press of the button will switch the light between its four settings, the user does have to press + hold the button for about 1 second in order for the light to register the selection. While this wasn’t a ‘problem’, it was something that took a bit of practice to get used to.
The overall design of the Lume Cube AIR is quite nice. Lume Cube stayed with the square shape even though they shaved off some extra baggage around the edges on the AIR version. The light will easily stand up on its own, which is great for capturing photos on tabletops or other flat surfaces. You don’t have to worry about propping the light against something. The exterior case is hard plastic with a rubberized grip encasing it. It reminds me of a rugged-style mobile phone case. That said, the Lume Cube AIR is tough and if dropped, it should absorb most of the shock without breaking.
The beam of light that is produced by the Lume Cube AIR is every bit as powerful as the original portable LED and this one doesn’t heat up as much as the older version does. The Lume Cube uses a COB LED light, which condenses multiple LED chips into a tight space and because of that, COB LEDs tend to run hot. The benefit is that you get increased brightness from a smaller lighting source. The heat issue from the original design was a big problem for me. I found myself not using the light as often as I would have liked because I had to wait for it to cool off again before I stored it away. This kind of timing is a waste when you are out on a location and just want to use the Lume Cube for a quick shot. Because of this, I’m very glad that the newer design seems to take care of that extreme heating problem.
Battery life is still not great, but the AIR is definitely more efficient than the original Lume Cube was. The company claims that the AIR will get approximately 2.5 hours of runtime at 50% power. In our testing we were averaging about an hour at full power. There is no battery indicator on the light itself, but you can monitor its power usage when it’s connected to the app. I do wish that some indicator was shown on the LED itself. One nice thing about the Lume Cube AIR is that you can plug it up to a power bank while you are using it since it charges via Micro USB.
One thing to really take note of with the Lume Cube AIR is that it’s a portable spotlight. If you use it without either of the diffusion options that come with it, it ends up being a bit of a harsh, direct light for your subject especially if you are close to it. We found this to be especially true when using the Lume Cube AIR VC kit.
As described above, the VC kit is the Lume Cube AIR with an added suction cup mount. This mount is designed to adhere to the back of a monitor or laptop screen so that the subject of a video call/conference is well lit. The only problem is that because it’s such a small, concentrated light source, the Lume Cube AIR can cause you to look like an extreme hotspot to the person on the other end of the video call. We tested out the VC kit by making a FaceTime call to a friend and he said that we looked like we were trying to shoot documentary style footage and that it was extremely bright on his end. When we initially made the call, we didn’t have any other lights on in the room except the Lume Cube AIR. During the course of the call, we did end up turning on some of the other room lights, which our friend said worked a bit better, but the Lume Cube was still causing the subject of the call to appear overexposed. We had the Lume Cube set to its lowest setting and were sitting a decent distance away from the computer’s camera, but because of the light concentration, the Lume Cube AIR was just a bit too powerful for that type of use. Adding the diffusion filter did help a bit, but I would recommend making sure you aren’t sitting too close to the light if you plan on using it with the VC Kit.
The Lume Cube AIR is a wonderful upgrade to the original Lume Cube Portable LED. Not only did the designers use a more efficient material to create the case of the LED, but the accessories that are included are also very useful. I do wish that a small carrying case was included along with maybe a microfiber cloth to clean the lens of the light off, but Other than that I can’t really complain about this useful little product.