Aputure has long held a dominant position in punchy LEDs and soft lights. With the new tube and flex lights, the company is moving to expand the map into new territory.
But are they any good?
Aputure has been making a major push in the last few years, even in the last few months, to be very dominant in the "punchy" wall-powered LED lighting space. The 1200d and 600d can blanket an alleyway or a field, while only being powered off a wall outlet or battery pack. This move has carved out quite a comfortable niche for Aputure, making its lights the default unit you can expect on a lot of smaller productions.
But now, Aputure is expanding its real estate into multiple directions at once. Instead of just focusing on brighter and brighter lights, the company has developed different shapes and use cases with two new lineups, the T2 and T4 Tube Lights along with the F21 and F22 Flex Light Panels. Both are available in either X (bi-color) options or RGB-WW.
This is exciting news not just because it's nice to have more options to choose from when light shopping (in tube lights alone we've got Astera, Quasar, PavoTubes, and the TL units from Godox, just off the top of my head). It's also nice to see the increasingly growing lighting ecosystem that is equally budget-friendly.
But what makes Aputure such a robust option is that their products are built around an app platform, the Sidus Link, which uses a Bluetooth mesh to sync all the lights together for unified control.
This means you could now rig up the Aputure 1200d as a high backlight at the end of an alley and have a handheld tube light giving you frontal fill, all controlled off a single app without having to interface with DMX.
Setups like these are now easier, but also automated. It's an exciting time to be lighting scenes with LEDs, to say the least.
Amaran T2c and T4c
Let's start with the tube lights first.
Available in two flavors (T2 for 2-footers and T4 for 4-footers), these Aputure lights are both RGB-WW, which means that on top of the red, green, and blue diodes, you'll also have two types of white diodes, leading to better color reproduction in both daylight or tungsten situations.
With a pure RGB unit, you sometimes run into some very wonky color issues, but a full -WW unit should avoid that, and in our tests with these units, we'll be very surprised with the high level both of light output and color accuracy.
Aputure has decided to keep the battery outside the unit. This makes the unit itself lighter, and smaller, and it also means that if the battery dies, you don't have to throw out the whole unit.
However, this also means you always need to plug it into a battery or a power base, and having internal battery units at times is super convenient. Aputure has bridged the gap with a very smart solution, a battery "handle" that attaches quickly and easily to one end. The only real way to say it is to call it "Jedi-style."
We're pretty sure more than one filmmaker will be making lightsaber sounds when setting these up.
Overall, the battery handle is a great idea, since if it ages out through constant use, you can replace it without having to replace the whole unit. It's a simple mounting mechanism that is less complicated than some competitors (which often have rails for a V mount battery) and doesn't require buying additional accessories. It adds some length to the setup, but that should be okay in most applications and give users a nice handle to control the unit.
It won't be as waterproof as a sealed unit, but that's a tradeoff that is worth it for more applications. Just don't go dunking it underwater like a Voyager from Digital Sputnik.
As befits a modern light, you get a lot of avenues for control with some robust and easy-to-use on-screen menus. Then you've got the Sidus Link app and even DMX over USB if you want it. With the combination of infinitely controllable color and prebuilt lighting effects, you should have a full range of options for recreating a lot of common sources.
One of my longest-running dreams is to have an LED RGB-WW tube light that I can stick in a normal 2-foot or 4-foot Bi-Ax fluorescent fixture. The uses for this are myriad; if you can prelight your scene, imagine replacing all of the bulbs in a location with RGB-WW units that you could have total control over, instead of being stuck matching the existing sources. Much like the setup in the TV series Legion.
Because of the way most tube lights are built, this hasn't been possible. Most have "hardware" at either end that extends the length of the tube to be too long to fit. With the T2 and T4 from Aputure, they have been designed in such a way that they can sneak right in, which is huge.
Now, there still needs to be some power adapter to allow for powering these over the light sockets for fluorescents, which is further complicated by the ballast those lights have, but it's not impossible to imagine someone might be able to build such an accessory. Then you are cooking with gas.
We're not there yet, but I'm going to keep dreaming.
The Amaran F22C/X & F21C/X
Aputure has also rolled out some flex lights, available in either Bi-Color or RGB-WW with 2x1 or 2x2 orientation options. If you haven't worked with flex lights yet (sometimes called matt lights), it's time you start experimenting with them. The beauty of a flex light is similar to the beauty of a tube light. There are just more places you can easily stick them.
Flex lights took off primarily for car work. If you want to rig them to the ceiling of a car, or light just out of frame, up next to the C pillar, flex lights let you stick units that were soft in places you just can't in any other way.
The beauty of these units is that they are available both in bi-color X units, which will have more output, and full RGB-WW units. If you are stuck in a small space, trying to match the base level of lighting coming off a dashboard in the window from a streetlight, RGB-WW is going to be a huge perk in making the lighting match.
The nifty bit about the "flex" lights is that they come with frames and attachments to work as a normal old soft light as well. While they won't have the raw output of something like a P600c, they will still put out quite a bit of light, and it's nice that the unit can both act as a normal soft light, or can fold a bit to hide in a corner when you need it to.
Both the tube lights and the flex lights roll out with some accessories, including a softbox for the flex light and an optional egg crate for the tube light. These are both super appreciated, especially the egg crate which gives an extra layer of output control.
A tube light is wonderful on set but sometimes spills a bit in a way you don't want. If you are lighting an interview subject against a white wall, being able to pop on a crate and take off some of the side spill will be a huge benefit.
If you're already in the Aputure ecosystem, these new lights will be a welcome addition to your tool kit. If you're not, then the growing product line might be worth a trip over the fence to greener pastures.
- T2c & T4c - $199 & $329
- F21c & F22c - $599 & $899
- F21x & F22x - $399 & $699
Both the Amaran tube lights and flex panels are available now either directly from Aputure or your local reseller. Let us know if these lights will find a way into your tool kit and if not, what other features would you want them to have to nudge you to make the switch!
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