I am starting my search for lighting gear that is cool and easy to set up.

In this video I compare the quality of Halogen to Fluorescent lighting for video work.

I have been using halogen work lights for lighting my studio videos for many years. I have a project coming up where I need good portable lighting and my halogen’s are really not that portable.

The halogen lights give good results for a small price but they have several issues with them. They use a ton of current, this one set of lights is using about 900 watts. They also are very hot, so hot I never leave them unattended. Needless to say they are also not very professional looking. They don’t mix well with daylight because of their lower color temp.

There are so many types of lights out there, but which is best for portable use? I see HMI’s used on  movie sets, but after looking at the pricing I can take that off my list. I also hear good things about Tungsten lights, but after talking to a Westcott rep, Tungsten bulbs only last about 80 hours, I can take them off the list too.

Comparing CRI Color Rendering Index on different lights

Testing color rendering index cri with diff lights

I am looking for something that runs cool and doesn’t take a ton of power.

So what does that leave me with, LED and Florescent. LED’s are coming down in price and coming up in quality and I will be review them soon, but for this video I want to compare where I started (Halogen) from to where I might be heading (Florescent).

My first question I have is which is better, Halogen or Florescent in terms of quality. My halogen’s have a color temp of about 3,200K while the Westcott softbox that B&H sent me which has Fluorescents is 5,500K. It is easy enough to white balance both sets of lights to make them look similar but I am more interested in the quality of light. I want accurate skin tones.

From what I understand one way to measure the quality is with CRI, color rendering index. From what I understand the higher the CRI the better, for instance daylight has a highest rating of 100. If you have a very low number for instance 20 for mercury-vapor you might see in a parking lot or street light makes colors looks drab and boring. Anything above 90 renders colors very accurately. For those wondering a normal Incandescent and halogen bulbs have a CRI of 100, Tungsten is around 95 for the research that I have done.

The Westcott florescent bulbs CRI is rated 93+. As you can see the quality of light for the Fluorescents are about the same as the halogen.

The Westcott bulbs are dead silent.

I didn’t see any flicker with the lights but I did notice banding happen above 160 shutter. The LED that have banding all over the place except for 60, 30 and 40.

So it looks like the Fluorescents are OK to use if you have a good quality bulb like these from Westcott. In my next video I am going to  do a full review of the Westcott.

Royalty Free Music by Premiumbeat.com, song is “New York Club”.

Thanks to Joel Young for the opening bumper.


  • Dave,
    As usual, very informative. I’m all for a “green” approach to shooting pics and videos by using less energy (okay a balance between green and cheap). I’ve been mostly shooting outdoors with “El Sol” as my key light, but winter is about to arrive in New England and will need to rely more on electric lights. Thanks for the info and I look forward to your video re LED lighting.

  • Dave,
    Thanks for putting your creative gray matter onto this topic that is valuable to all of us video enthusiasts. That Wescott box is not cheap, at over $800!! Ouch. 300watts of CFL light is a lot of light – are you planning on two of those? Have you seen the Promaster Systempro Cool Light 3-in-1 ? It’s @$100. without bulbs (another $40 or so for 4) and rated at 85watt capacity. I’d sure like to see you test two of those as an alternative at less than half the price of one Wescott. It would be about half the wattage output, so it’s open to question whether there would be enough output ??

    Thanks for exploring this !

  • Thanks for the video Dave! Haha, now that you mention it you do look like a robot in your test!

    Keep the videos coming!

  • Dave your vids are getting better and better. I like how you’re getting creative with your b-roll and titles. Did you use afteraffects for that fire?

  • Very nice Dave! It’s funny, I just purchased a couple sets of those halogen work lights at Home Depot the other day. @ $20 for two 500w lights with “cheap” tripod base included, not bad. They do run extremely HOT, but since it’s winter and my apt. is cold, it’s a nice feature 🙂 Thanks for the review!

  • I started out using halogen work lights, and still have a few. I went to CFL’s for most of my lighting about a year ago. I use 100w, 2700K bulbs that are dimmable as I put dimmer switches in all my extensions cords that I use for my light kit. Not sure of the CRI rating, but guesstimate them to be bout 85. They work like a charm. They are cool, give plenty of light and cost about $10.00, The non-dimmable mind are only about $4.00 at my local Wal-Mart.

  • Dave, your halogens with large homemade diffuser look really quite exceptional for what they are. To my eye both the color and softness actually looked better. But I suppose if you white balance for the fluorescents the color will look about the same. Not so sure about the softness though. Great test as usual.

  • There’s some cheaper Arri Fresnel knock offs on ebay direct from china that are better than work lights (Look up As Arri). Lowel.com has some tutorials on mixing a little daylight with halogen. http://www.lowel.com/edu/color_temperature_and_rendering_demystified.html Wish I could afford some of those Lowel products. Two other companies I’ve found doing interesting and affordable products are Alzo & Coollights. Also read about the ‘Chiaroscuro principle’ in lighting http://efplighting.com/2011/07/27/4/ the site is under construction but could be worth following for future.

    Some art studios are using flo’s with a CRI of 98 to render colors of artwork better. Philips T90’s series tubes. You can buy them in packs of 25, find the appropriate electronic ballast and build your own. I think from memory they replace regular T8’s which are 4ft long? wow imagine that! Not sure if its the same ballast though.

    Btw I think the blue looks better under Halogen.


  • Another excellent video. Thank you.

    Another cheap set up you may want to evaluate is using inexpensive fluorescent shop fixtures with electronic ballasts and no plastic covering. Install full spectrum tubes in the fixtures and you have a nice high quality lighting set up.

    Electronic ballasts relieve the reduce the flickering picked up by cameras.
    Regular fluorescent bulbs have a terrible color spectrum and should be avoided. As an experiment turn off auto white balance on your camera and take a photo with under regular tubes and then switch to full spectrum tubes. You will be amazed.
    Plastic light coverings will filter light and provide their own color cast.

    LED lamps are years away from providing real full spectrum illumination.

  • What I did with my five halogens was to partition a large plastic box. Least that makes them easy to transport.

    I also added some metalwork to the front of each lamp so I can add / remove / rotate a PAR56 barndoor in front of the light. This also has a filter holder, so I can add some A-D filters to correct the temp.

    I also amended the worklight stand so now that goes up to 3 metres if required

  • CowboyStudio Lighting is affordable and depending on which lights you buy can be portable and high-quality (well, budget-friendly high quality, anyway). A friend of mine has either two or three daylight fluorescent softboxes from them and they work pretty well. So, if you’re looking for an affordable option, that’s one place you could look.

  • Dave, I am shooting with 5d mark 2… I am finding it difficult to focus on all the characters in the frame… plese provide some information on how to focus properly……