Ten years ago, tube lights more or less didn't exist, and now we can't really imagine shooting without them. Yes, there were Kino-Flo tubes from the 1990s, but they needed a mounting system. A tube light, as we think about it today, is its own self-contained unit. Sometimes with battery, sometimes without, it's the light that is just there for you when you need it.
While we have Quasar and Astera up at the top end, in the indie space, we've got Aputure, Godox, and Nanlite competing with some really competing units that can give users a quick, useful light you can tuck just about anywhere.
We spent some time with the Godox TL120 lights and walked away very impressed.
Godox has a nice lineup of tube lights on offer, the shorter TL60 lights and the TL120 lights. The TL120s are available in a four-light kit that comes in a hard case which we think of as being a very smart decision. We've had soft cases for tube lights fall apart in the past, and tube lights, while durable, are still a little bit delicate. Having them bundled and neatly packed together in a nice hard case is something we think most users will opt for when it's within their budget, and the budget on a four-light Godox TL120 kit is quite affordable.
TL120 KitsCredit: Godox
Coming along in that kit is a host of hardware to make the units truly flexible. They have built-in batteries (similar to the competitor, Nanlite), which is great when you've remembered to or had the time to charge them. If not, they are also set up for external batteries, with V-mount adapters and external power cables, to make it easy to pop a V-mount on for a mobile shot.
Especially interesting at this price point is the full DMX control. There is an app, of course, and the Godox app is pretty robust, second only to something like Sidus Link from Aputure. But DMX is a welcome feature since it tends to be something you see more of on larger sets. It speaks a bit to the ambitions Godox has for these units.
Ready for indie and high-level productionsCredit: Godox
A Rainbow Spectrum
The Godox units are RGB, so they can do white light with red, green, and blue diodes. However, they don't have dedicated diodes for tungsten or daylight balance. This generally means your pure white modes won't be as good, and they aren't, but they are surprisingly much better than we expected.
RGB units have come a long way in the last few years, and compared to even units from 2017 or 2018, these are very useful as white light sources when you need them to be.
Tube lights offer some unique creative options
It's All About Control
Among all that, however, the killer feature is the remote control. It wasn't a feature we thought of that much since in previous lights we haven't used the remote control that often. But with tube lights, it was a great tool to easily adjust the light once it was in position without having access to a dimmer or other physical controls.
Yes, there is an app, but our issue with apps is that even the best ones tend to lose their connection when you need it the most. Our workaround for this is, when we have to use an app, we get an older iPad mini (which is cheap and a good size for bringing to set) and set it up as a dedicated device for controlling an app. Leaving the app open seems to make for a more reliable connection.
But you don't want to drag a dozen iPads to set with you, so having that remote was really something we found much more useful than we thought we would. Even in an app universe, we hope to see more physical touch-button remotes with units coming down the pike.
Godox remoteCredit: Godox
Give and Take
If there are drawbacks, they are pretty slight.
The first to be aware of, of course, is that these are RGB lights, not RGB-W or RGB-WW. That said, in testing, the white output was still somewhat pleasing. It's not going to be as perfect as units designed for RGB-WW output, but they intercut quite well. Surprisingly, the Tungsten setting matched much better than we thought it would.
The other drawbacks are quite minor. We wished there were wheels on the case, and a cover for the remote would be wonderful. The remote is the killer feature, but it can lead you to occasionally bumping the light controls and some sort of clip-on or fold-down cover would rule.
- 4 Tube Lights with Built-In Batteries
- Color: 2700-6500K, CRI/TLCI: 96/98
- Built-In Rechargeable Battery
- 0-100% Dimming & RGB Control
- Phone, DMX, 2.4 GHz Wireless Control
- 98-164' Wireless Range
- 32 Channels, 6 Groups
- Remote Control & Carry Case
Of course, being part of an overall ecosystem is going to be a large part of your decision. If you already have a lot of punchier Aputure units, going for its tube lights might make more sense, especially when you can pull them together with the Sidus link app into a cohesive lighting plan. The Aputure units are also RGB-WW.
But if you are looking for a setup that you don't need to match to another set of lights and that gives you some flexibility, the Godox TL lineup, and especially the four-light kit for the TL120, are well worth a look.