Aputure has expanded their Amaran lineup with punchier units that are little buddies to LightStorm heads.
The Aputure LightStorm lineup has been a popular series of affordable, punchy LED light units available in 120-, 300-, and 600-watt power ratings. The 300D was originally intended to go up against a 2K tungsten light, and while it doesn't quite give you that 2K tungsten punch, it was still a super versatile light unit, especially for the money.
Aputure is now rolling out some lights that initially look like they would be LightStorm units, but actually have the Amaran label, which more commonly shows up on Aputure's mass-market small panel LED lighting units. They are, unbelievably, even more affordable than LightStorm units of a similar price point.
So what are these new lights, and how are they different from the pricier LightStorm units?
The new Amaran units, the 100D, 100X, 200D, and 200X, are single-chip LED units designed to work with a reflector or a softbox to create a punchy light source and replace something like a 650K incandescent. As such you'll likely see some potential three-light kits of these units made for interview setups or film school checkout.
Available in two powers, 100 and 200 watts, they are also available in two flavors, D or X.
D stands for daylight, meaning it'll roughly match 6500° K, and X is for bi-color, giving you slightly less peak output, but the ability to shift between daylight and tungsten settings depending on what light you are trying to match. All the lights can dim from 0-100% and have built-in lighting effects.
The 200D comes in at around 1/4 the price of the 300D Mark II LightStorm, which is a light that was already affordable for the features available. But now you could build a three-light kit of 200D units for the price of a single 300D Mark II with money to spare for accessories like light stands and softboxes.
What are you giving up to save so much money, other than 100 watts of output?
The new Amaran units are smaller and integrate the controls into the head unit. This means instead of having a large control panel you can use to dim the light, you have to get to the head to make tweaks. This is rarely a problem since most lights have their controls on the head, but it's something to be aware of.
These lights are also fully compatible with Sidus Link, the app system launched by Aputure that gives you control at up to 300 feet away from the unit via smartphone or tablet, so the lack of a remote control panel is not an issue.
However, that panel with the LightStorm comes by default with a battery mount for V-mount batteries, and battery usage is one of the more popular options with LightStorm units. The ability to just bring along some V-mounts and shoot in the wilderness without cable power is a big plus on something like the 300D. With the Amaran unit, you'll need to buy a battery adapter for the unit as an extra cost.
If you don't think you'll use batteries much this isn't a big deal;, it really depends on your intended use. If you are doing a lot of interviews, you'll likely always have wall power available.
In addition to their smaller size, the Amaran units have two other big changes, getting rid of the yoke and getting rid of the active cooling fans. The yoke seems like a fair trade-off since the new under-mount tilt unit seems robust and like it will hold the lights and small accessories well.
The lack of active cooling fans is more interesting. While testing will be needed to see how passive cooling handles the new lights, we would be worried to do a hot weather shoot without fans. Maybe technology has progressed enough they stay cool on their own, but this is the biggest question mark for us as we look over the specs. If you generally work on a well air-conditioned stage or in cold weather climates, not a worry, but if you shoot a lot of indie projects in the summer in small apartments, we wonder about overheating. There are fins to help with cooling, but you still need air moving over those fins.
Overall these look like excellent products, especially for the price. While we love the "let's give you every feature you could want" design of the LightStorm units, sometimes it's nice to strip some features, like the battery mount, out and sell a more affordable unit to those who won't actually use every bell and whistle. We guess that 200D is going to come in the right place for price and performance and be a big hit.
What do you think of the new Amaran series? Let us know in the comments below.