A Lume Cube is quite a package. Most of all it’s a lighting instrument that just wasn’t possible a few years ago. Let’s look closer, but first…
Visit Lume Cube at Photo Plus Expo, October 25-27, 2018
Lume Cube is at Booth 768 at the Jacob Javits Center. Here’s a link to savings on a conference pass and a free expo pass courtesy of Lume Cube.
Lume Cubes come packaged similarly to GoPros. They are in a box with a clear, thick, solid plastic cover. The cube itself is attached to a black base by a 1/4-20 bolt. The base is solidly glued to the box. Like a GoPro, the package gets pretty much destroyed during unboxing. I used GooGone to remove the adhesive from the base and saved the plastic cover. Hey! There just might be a use for it. Unlike a GoPro, there is only a quick start guide and a USB to Micro USB cable for charging. Everything else is available separately or in well-thought-out kits. The Lume Cubes and accessories were given to me for this review and future articles.
Tiny, powerful, versatile
My first impression after freeing my new Lume Cube from its plastic prison was how incredibly solid it felt in my hand. It’s made from what appears to be high-grade aluminum machined using computer numeric control (CNC). The cube is solid and surprisingly hefty, weighing in at 3.5 ounces, not quite a quarter of a pound or 99.3 grams. It’s 1.5″ (3.81 cm) on a side. It has two buttons on top that double as on/off, brightness in 10% increments, optical mode and flash mode controls. They serve as charging indicators, too.
On the bottom is a 1/4-20 tripod socket for mounting the Lume Cube. The LED light is quite bright for its size putting out 150 Lux at 9 feet (2.74 meters). Translating that into the exposure triangle it would give f/4.0, 1/4 sec at ISO 100. This is a very respectable amount of light for a subject 9 feet away. Lume Cube projects a beam 60º wide thanks to the unique patterning of its internal reflector.
Charging the Lume Cube
As mentioned, Lume Cubes come with a USB to micro USB cable for charging. A separate charger is not provided. The cord socket is behind a cap with a slot that’s a perfect fit for a quarter or a nickel. Remove the cap and the socket is revealed. Care wants to be taken when charging a Lume Cube so that dirt or any debris get onto the rubber gasket at the base of the screw cap. This gasket keeps the Lume Cube waterproof.
When a Lume Cube is charging, red indicators flash inside the control buttons. Flashing red stripes are for low battery. When connected to power the blinking red lines indicate the Lume Cube is charging. When the lights go out, Lume Cube is fully charged. From empty, it takes from 60 to 90 minutes to come to full charge. I suspect but have not been able to confirm, that the Lume Cube can be powered by AC in studio situations.
Light from any source takes energy. Lume Cube is no different. The Lithium Ion Polymer (LiPo) battery packs a lot of juice into the small case. At full brightness, Lume Cube will run a bit longer than 20 minutes. Cut the brightness back 10% to 90% and the time jumps to 45 minutes. At 50%, it shines for 90 minutes. The battery is not replaceable.
If all of the things Lume Cube can do when handled manually, it can also do them via Bluetooth. This application is named different ways on Lume Cube’s website and in the quick start guide. I searched and searched for Lume Cube app, Lume Cube-Pro app and it was fruitless. Buried in the FAQ section of the Lume Cube website, the true name is revealed. Search the iTunes app store or the Google play store for the Lume-X app.
The app controls up to five separate Lume Cubes. It handles brightness in 1% increments and set Lume Cube for different modes — flash, constant, strobe 1 and strobe 2. There is a red-eye reduction setting as well. An indicator shows the percentage of battery left in a given Lume Cube.
The design of the app gives insights into the thinking behind Lume Cube. It seems to be pointed at the hundreds of millions of photographers using phones to capture stills and videos. The flash will synchronize with the phone’s flash for contrast control or special lighting effects. The apps display shows the camera view with the idea of it being a preview of the final photo. The same holds for video. I found the image in the background annoying at best. I had a setup I wanted to capture with my DSLR and the constant view of my feet was distracting. I’d love a “go-away-camera” button to turn it off so I can concentrate on lighting.
So the Lume Cube is waterproof is it now? I filled the bathtub, turned the Jacuzzi on full blast and chucked the Lume Cube into the water. It bounced around in the turbulence from the jets shining its light in crazy patterns as it tumbled in the mini-maelstrom. After bobbing and sinking, spinning and tumbling for a while I rescued it from the man-made whirlpool. It was on, shining brightly as if nothing had happened.
I wonder what would happen if I stuck a GoPro on the inside of a washing machine lid, tossed in a Lume Cube and did some laundry. If I do, I’ll let you know.
I like it. I like Lume Cubes a lot. I can think of lots of places where these little gems will come in very handy. For macro, close-up product photos, a little more fill with natural light when a white foam-core board just isn’t enough, lighting a car interior for a night driving shot are just a few ideas that Lume Cube popped into my head. At $79.95 each these power-packed wonders offer a lot of very affordable versatility.
(Editor’s note: Photofocus welcomes Lume Cube as one of our partners. Look for articles from Photofocus writers that show and tell how they are using Lume Cube in their photography.)