It’s fun and exciting to pick the best photography lighting kit. There are many options. There are many options, but there are also pitfalls. You can find cheap lighting as well as quality products from reputable brands. It is worth looking around to ensure you are getting a great deal on a high-quality product. This is why we have put together this guide to the top photographic lighting kits.
The type of photography you are planning to do will determine which lighting kit is best for you. Do you plan to use the lighting kit on location or will you be staying in the studio? Both can be accomplished with lighting kits. It is important to decide if you will be using flash mostly for stills or if you prefer continuous lighting for video.
Budget is another important consideration. You can find lighting panels and kits across the price spectrum, so take a look at your budget to determine what you can afford. This guide covers all types of lighting, including plug-in studio lights, battery-powered lighting kits that can be used on-site, and continuous LED lighting panels.
Our top flashguns list has the best options for you if you are looking for something simpler, lighter, and more portable. Although flashguns can be handy in an emergency, they have limitations in terms of how much control and light you can exert.
Let’s first take a look at each category to understand what we mean when we talk about the best photography lighting kit.
Which type of lighting kit should you choose?
A mains-powered studio flash is the best choice for indoor shooting or home studios. The top options are the Elinchrom D-Lite or Interfit Honey Badger twin-head kit, which are compact, lightweight, easy to transport, and quick to set up and use. They’re not useful if you are on the move and don’t have access to an electrical outlet.
There are now a growing number of battery-powered location flash’ kits. They use the same IGBT (Insulated Gate bi-polar Transistor), technology as regular flashguns but have similar power to studio flash heads. You can also add a hot shoe-mounting trigger to the kit, which will provide automatic TTL flash metering and high-speed synchron flash for fast shutter speeds.
Constant light is a third, less-known option. While the latest LED panels have a relatively high output and are cool to run, they are much less powerful than regular flashguns or flash heads. The maximum output is measured by Lux at a distance of 1 meter. The quality of light is measured using CRI (Colour Rendering Index). The plus points include the ability to use constant LED lighting for lighting subjects, which is much more effective than flash heads.
Flash for studio or location work
These flash units are brand new and offer top-notch features at an affordable price
Head power Power rangeAdjust power Supply of power: Cooling fan Modeling lampModifying lamp settings sync socketWireless RF trigger dedicated TTL/HSS triggering Dimensions of the head: Weight per head2,000g/2,500g
- There are many advanced modes available
- Designing an interface that works
- Only mains power
- It’s not the cheapest
With the ELC125 TTL and ELC500 TTL heads and kit, Elinchrom has significantly updated its portfolio in studio flash units. These two heads are available together as a single kit. They make use of IGBT technology (Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor), which allows for more advanced shooting modes.
Both heads have a remarkable power range. Each can output as little 7Ws and maximum ratings of 131Ws for the 125 TTL and 522Ws for the 500 TTL. The integrated transceiver is used in conjunction with the Elinchrom Skyport Pro trigger. There are seven variations available to suit different camera makes, including those of Canon, Nikon, and Micro Four Thirds. High-Speed Sync is added to the equations. This allows the user to capture flash images even at extremely fast shutter speeds such as 1/4,000sec and 1/8,000sec.
They are made of solid metal and have sturdy chassis. The cooling fans are powered by a smart pro-active cooling system that ‘learns your shooting techniques to ensure the best cooling. These units can also be used with Elinchrom’s wide range of light modifiers, which is why upgrading to them makes perfect sense.
This studio flash kit is the best around. It comes with real clout.
Head power range Adjust power supply of power: Cooling fan modeling lamp Modifying lamp settings sync socketWireless RF trigger dedicated TTL/HSS triggeringDimensions of the head: Weight per head1,500g
- Excellent build quality throughout
- Excellent performance, simple to use
- It is more expensive than other competitors
- Requires HSS flash trigger upgrade
Elinchrom’s DLite flash kits and heads have a great reputation for their excellent quality, easy-to-use, and outstanding performance. Elinchrom D-Lite RX 4/4 to Go is a top-of-the-line kit. It includes two 400Ws flash heads, sturdy stands, and a 66cm square softbox. A 56cm octagonal softbox can also be included. There’s also a translucent deflector for beauty dish effects.
The included EL Skyport Transmitter Plus radio frequency trigger allows users to remotely adjust flash head settings and has a range up to 200m. You can also upgrade to the Elinchrom HS Transmitter which offers high-speed sync flash. Alternate save modes includes using a flashgun to trigger and disregarding any pre-flash pulses.
The push-button control panel is elegant and intuitive. It allows for easy adjustments of the power output in a 5-stop range. Each increment is 1/10th of a stop. The 100W standard bulb makes it easy to select proportional, full, low, or no modeling lamp output. The head features an auto-sensing cooling fan. The output is extremely consistent from shot to shot, and power adjustments can be made with great accuracy.
Interfit Honey Badger, 320Ws 2-Light Set
You can’t go wrong with a flash kit that is affordable, but you need to be serious about it.
Head power, Power range Adjust power supply of power: Cooling fan modeling lamp Modifying lamp settings sync socketWireless RF trigger dedicated TTL/HSS triggeringDimensions of the head: Weight per head1,400g
- Compact and powerful, but still quite compact
- Competitive price
- Fans of Audible run continuously
- Pop-up softboxes are of poor quality
The Interfit Honey Badger 2 Light Kit 320Ws is the ideal photography kit for those on a budget. The Interfit Honey Badger head is named after the world’s most fearless animals. It has a strong maximum power rating (320Ws) and makes a bold entrance in bright red and black. This kit is close to the Elinchrom DLite kit, which we ranked number 1. The relatively small heads are quieter because they have cooling fans that work full-time and do not just kick in when it gets too hot.
We have chosen the dual head option with softboxes, and a wireless remote lighting kit for photography beginner. This allows you to adjust flash head settings, and trigger them using the hot-shoe mounting transmitter. This should be sufficient for most shooting situations.
The maximum flash intensity is slightly lower than the Elinchrom D-Lite 4. This is not surprising considering that the Honey Badger’s 320Ws rating is higher than the 400Ws. The Elinchrom D-Lite 4’s lowest range flash output is less noticeable than the Elinchrom. This corresponds to an aperture of f/7.1 instead of f/16 in our one-meter ISO 100 test (with a standard reflector, no brolly, or softbox). Both heads have the same recycling speeds.
Flashpoint Xplor 300 Pro / Godox AD300Pro
- This is a very worthy B10 competitor at a fraction of the price
- Head power range Adjust power supply of power: Cooling fan modeling lampModifying lamp settings sync socketWireless RF trigger dedicated TTL/HSS triggeringDimensions of the head: Weight per head1,250g (including the battery)
- Amazingly compact
- Battery life is amazing
- Videography can be done with a bi-color modeling lamp
Is the mains not powered?
This flash head, also known as the Flashpoint Xplor 300 Pro (USA) and the Godox AD300 Pro (rest of the world), was a brilliant addition to the market. It is now vying for the Profoto B10 (everywhere else on this list). The 300 Pro is only one-third the price, although the B10 is certainly better in terms of consistency and control.
The kit version of the 300 Pro is currently back ordered. However, it is so powerful and affordable that you can get a few heads and modifiers to make your own kit.
The 300 Pro is a compact unit that can be carried around easily. It packs 300Ws power and has the option to use 1/8000 sec high-speed sync to take over the sun and control the scene on location. The 3000 1/2 K to 6000 1/2K temperature range makes it ideal for video.
This powerful battery can provide 320 flashes at full power and charges in 2 1/2 hours. Optional adapters are available to mount Profoto, Elinchrom, and Broncolor accessories. The 2.4GHz trigger system can also be used with 7 brands of cameras.
Interfit Honey Badger Unleashed 250Ws
- The best flash kit for a budget location
- Head power rangeAdjust power supply of power: Cooling fan modeling lampModifying lamp settings sync socketWireless RF trigger dedicated TTL/HSS triggeringDimensions of the head: Weight per head2,300g
- Incredible value
- Running in silence
- Rated at 250Ws per head
- Cannot be mains-powered
The new Unleashed edition is slightly larger than the Honey Badger head (number 2). It weighs almost a kilogram more and is nearly one kilogram heavier than the mains-powered Honey Badger head (number 2). You can’t use it from the mains like the Elinchrom or Profoto battery-powered kits. So you may need to buy a few extra batteries for around PS59/$60 each.
The kit includes two heads, batteries, mains chargers, 2 pop-up softboxes measuring 60 cm, and a backpack. At PS80/$100, the Interfit HSS remote trigger TTL is also a great value. As its name implies, this remote trigger allows TTL and high-speed sync flash modes. The Unleashed edition has no cooling fan, unlike the mains kit. This makes it virtually silent when in use.
Although the 250Ws head produces less than the 500Ws head, it is the only kit with two flash heads, which makes it an excellent value for the price.
- The new “Plus” is larger and more powerful. It’s the ultimate luxury flash kit for luxury locations.
- Head power range Adjust power supply of power: Cooling fan modeling lamp Modifying lamp settings sync socketWireless RF trigger dedicated TTL/HSS triggeringDimensions of the head: Weight per head1,900g
- Luxury quality and super performance
- High-power modeling lamp
- Accessories can be expensive
- Competitor kits have half the battery life
The new Profoto B10 Plus edition, which is 400g heavier and larger than the standard Profoto B10 is, has 500Ws of power. The battery clips into the head, much like the Honey Badger Unleashed (number 4) but is still housed in separate power-packs. However, the Profoto B10 Plus edition can be powered from both the mains and the battery.
The kit includes a stand adaptor, a battery, charger, and a padded bag. These accessories and kits are quite expensive. The heads don’t have a sync socket, and the Profoto Air Remote TTL trigger will cost you an additional PS349/$429. Profoto’s OCF Magnum Reflector is priced at another PS189/$209.
All components are very high quality. The controls on the rear panel are easy to use and intuitive. There are TTL, high-speed sync, freeze flash, and TTL modes. An iPhone companion app can also be used that connects via Bluetooth.
This powerful LED modeling light can be used for both stills and video and has an adjustable color temperature. Although recycling speeds are quick, the battery life is limited at 200 full-power flashes.
Broncolor Siros 400S Expert Twin Headkit WiFi/RFS2
- This is a high-end studio kit that serious users will love. It allows for exact color replication.
- Head power power rangeAdjust power supply of power: Cooling fan modeling lampModifying lamp settings sync socketWireless RF trigger kit weight:3,200g
- Amazingly fast flash cycle
- Amazing color stability
- Higher than other prices
This Broncolor kit is at the lighter end in the premium lighting kit market. It’s built around two Siros 400S lighting heads. These 400Ws monolights offer a lot of functionality, not to mention their nine-stop power range, 1/19,000sec flash duration, and allow you to be extremely precise with your lighting.
Siros S has a special Speed Mode that speeds up flash duration and charges time for super-fast exposures. This allows you to capture fleeting moments with great detail. This setting can allow for up to 50 flashes per second at maximum speed, but this comes with a decrease in maximum power.
The kit includes a softbox, speedring, umbrella, basic M-stands, and bags for transporting it all. This will allow you to create a studio from scratch. The Broncolor Siros400 S Expert Twin Head Kit provides professional lighting solutions that are fast and efficient.
Continuous LED lighting
- A lamp is more than a complete set
- Maximum output: Adjust power supply of power: Bi-colour index of Colour Rendering: Flicker-free Cooling fan Wireless RF triggerDimensions of the head: Weight per head1,400g
- Amazing light quality
- Excellent maximum power
- Video lighting effects
- Buy expensive
- There are very few accessories included
Next up is the Rotolight RL AEOS, our choice for the best-LED panel. The AEOS is almost three times more expensive than the Manfrotto Lykos BiColor LED light (number 8, below), but it is still much more powerful and offers a few additional tricks.
The AEOS is great for stills but also excels at video capture. It has a customizable fade up/down, customizable fade up/down, and a variety of effects such as flickering fire and lightning. Bi-color LEDs are able to produce flicker-free output for 100,000 hours, just like the Manfrotto. They also have a color range from 3150-6300 Kelvin. The maximum output is 5750 Lux, but it can be seen from a shorter distance (3ft) (0.9m). If you purchase an additional Phottix Odin IIRF trigger, the flash mode will double the output with zero recycle time and high-speed sync.
The downside is that the basic kit does not include the circular LED panel, mains power supply, and a heavy-duty, ball-head filter. An optional carrying case is available for purchase at PS150/$165. A V-mount lithium battery, which can last up to four hours without charging, costs PS275/$300.
Manfrotto Lykos Bicolor
- This handy LED panel makes a great companion for your camera
- Maximum output: Adjust power supply of power: Bi-colourIndex of Colour Rendering: Flicker-free Cooling fan Wireless RF triggerDimensions of the head: Weight per head470g
- Lightweight and small
- Bi-colour LEDs offer a useful range of colours
- Below average Colour Rendering Index
- Not the softest lighting effect
The lightweight Manfrotto Lykos Bicolor constant lighting is made to fit into your camera’s hot shoe via the mini ball head. You can mount the ball head and lamp on any regular tripod head to use off-camera, using standard 1/4-inch threaded sockets.
This kit uses a rectangular panel measuring 26x4x15cm. It also contains 48 high-intensity LEDs. Bi-Color Edition is the version we tested. It contains a mix of daylight and tungsten color temperature LEDs as well as an additional control knob to adjust the color balance. A rear-panel light shows the power setting and the split of the bi-color LEDs. The lighting effect from larger LED panels is less effective.
The panel is 50° in beam angle and rated at 1500 Lux per meter. This gave rise to an overall power range of apertures of f/1.2 up to f/3.5 at 1/6th of a second using ISO 100 sensitivity. If you only use daylight- or tungsten-rated LEDs, the required aperture shrinks to f/3.2 at maximum power.
NanGuang Luxpad 43H
- A bi-colour LED panel is extremely affordable
- Maximum output: Adjust power supply of power: Bi-colourIndex of Colour Rendering: Flicker-freeCooling fan wireless RF triggerDimensions of the head: Weight per head910g
- Good quality, but relatively cheap
- Output in bi-colour
- Quiet and fanless operation
- It could be even more powerful
- The rear panel does not have a status indicator
The NanGuang Luxembourgpad 43H is the best budget LED panel. This NanGuang weighs less than one kilogram and is heavier than the Manfrotto Lykos Bicolor (number8). The price is also about a third to half of that of the Manfrotto, which makes it easy on your wallet. You don’t have to sacrifice high-quality illumination because it beats the Manfrotto Colour Rendering Index.
This LED kit is mains-powered, just like the other LED kits we have reviewed. The kit comes with a multi-voltage AC adaptor. You can also use the optional Sony SPF type liion rechargeable battery to power the panel. An optional adaptor for six AA batteries is also available.
Bi-colour LEDs allow for stepless temperature balance adjustment. This range is 3200-5600K and can be used from tungsten to daylight. Both the output power and temperature control have stepless controls. Both adjustments are made using dedicated rotary knobs. The back panel does not have a status display.
- This Interfit head combines monolight and LED
- Maximum output: Adjust power supply of power: Bi-colourIndex of Colour Rendering: Flicker-freeCooling fan wireless RF triggerDimensions of the head: Weight per head2,120g
- Allows for the fitting of light shapers
- It’s easy to use
- Temperature of ‘daylight” color fixed
- The sound of a cooling fan running is constant
Studio flash heads have the advantage of being able to use modifiers such as brollies, softboxes, and honeycomb grids. This Interfit constant LED monolight is sold in the UK as the LM8 100W Monolight and in the US as the Studio Essentials 100WLED Monolight. It has a similar design as a mains-powered studio flash and comes with a Bowens S type mount. The same accessories can be attached to the monolight.
Interfit’s Honey Badger kits include a lamp and a pop up softbox for PS180/$200. The twin-lamp kit, which includes softboxes and lighting stands, is also available at PS400/$400. The lamp is daylight-balanced with a 500W equivalent light output, and a good 95+ CRI rating. The tungsten-daylight temperature range is not available in this LED kit. You can dim the intensity of the output with stepless control via the knob at the back of your head.
The power range was f/2.2 to F/4 in our one-metre standard test (1/60th second, ISO 100). Given the 14,100 Lux rating at one meter, we were surprised that the maximum output was not higher.