Introducing the Aputure Amaran AL-H160 and AL-528C
Having used all manner of studio lighting in the past for both stills photography and filming, I have been somewhat intrigued by the LED (light emitting diodes) lighting kits available today.
The main benefits of LED lighting are:
- Highly portable
- Powerful (with low voltage)
- They run cool (with very low UV emissions)
- They have a long run time off batteries
- Energy efficient (and green)
- Durable and long lasting
- Instant light power (no time to warm up)
- They will run in both extremes of temperature (hot/cold)
- No flickering
- They are cheap!
When I have used video lighting for video in the past, the lights I used to use would run incredibly hot and before long, the studio was unbearable to work in. LED’s change all that.
The first LED lights I bought were a mere £30 from Amazon for a small panel of LED’s which worked very well…and still do. Then I was asked to review an LED macro ring light set up from Aputure which overall was very good for a starter kit.
Now, I have received two larger LED panels from the same company, Aputure, which I recently used on a commercial job in Lanzarote. You can see the review in the video above or keep reading for the written version.
Aputure Amaran AL-H160
The AL-H160 is the smaller of the two panels. It houses 160 LED lights which all run at the same colour temperature. The dimensions and weight make it a great solution for portability and light power:
Dimensions: Length 151mm, Width 56mm, Height 100mm
Design: 16:9 widescreen design for wider spread of light
A huge problem when videoing is flicker from artificial lights…especially fluorescent. These lights flicker at twice the line frequency so:
In the USA, the rate is 60hz so the lights flicker at 120hz. In the UK, the rate is 50hz giving a flicker rate of 100hz.
The problem comes mainly from your frame rate and shutter speed.
For example, if you are filming under fluorescent lighting in the UK (50hz) and set your frame rate to 60fps or your shutter speed to a 60th/sec, you will more than likely see a flicker occur which is really difficult to remove in post processing.
The solution is to match your shutter speed and frame rate to match the countries hz rate.
Note: It is generally better to double the shutter speed of the fps (i.e. 25fps = 50th/sec shutter speed).
UK (50hz) – Use shutter speeds of 25th/sec or multiples of (50th, 100th, 150th (160th), 200th…) and a frame rate of 25fps or a multiple of (50fps, 100fps, 200fps…)
USA (60hz) – Use shutter speeds of 30th/sec or multiples of (60th, 125th, 180th…) and a frame rate of 30fps or a multiple of (60fps, 90fps, 120fps…)
The next solution is to use LED lighting…this runs at a constant output meaning it is flicker free!
Some people on some forums and review comments have said these lights flicker when powered via AC current (and batteries in some cases). The entire video above was shot with both lights in this review and with the AL-528C running on AC power.
I also tried filming with both running on battery power whilst adjusting the shutter speeds and could not see any flicker.
Colour Rendering Index (CRI)
One of the best things about the HL-160 is that it has a CRI or 95+. This is as close as you can get to truly accurate and vibrant colour rendering across the spectrum.
Whilst the AL-H160 will not accept an AC power source, it will run from either 6 x AA batteries or the larger Li-ion batteries which come in a wide variety of size and power output.
I have found that due to the energy efficiency of LED lighting, this unit will run for hours on a single set of batteries which is great for location work.
As you can see in the photo above, the AL-H160 has a handy battery level indicator as well as a dial for adjusting power output.
Also, the AL-H160 can be used in either portrait of landscape mode to match your subject and can be used together with a total of 9 panels all locked together using the brackets show below which can be fitted to three sides of the unit.
This will give you a LOT of light!
Using the supplied adapter, the light can be also fitted to the hotshoe of your DSLR, video camera or any other camera or bracket/rig with a hotshoe attachment.
Lastly, the light comes with a diffused cover and an orange filter to alter the colour temperature.
- 1x AL-H160 LED Video Light
- 1x Lamp bracket
- 1x Diffusion filter
- 1x Color temperature orange filter
- 1x Extension attachment
- 1x User Manual
This is a very powerful, portable and handy light to have in your kit and at the time of writing is only around £30 in the UK and around $45 in the US.
Buy from Amazon UK – Aputure Amaran AL-H160 CRI95+
Buy from Amazon USA – Aputure Amaran AL-H160 CRI95+
Aputure Amaran AL-528C
The first thing I should mention is that the AL-528C from Aputure does not have the same high CRI of 95+ as the previous AL-H160 but has 85+. However, it does have quite a few other plus points.
Weight: 2kg (full package), 540g (light only)
Dimensions: 238mm x 190mm x 32mm
Design: Approximate size and shape of the Apple iPad Air
Like the AL-H160, the AL-528C has no flickering due to its constant output. This means it can be used with the AL-H160 and any other LED lighting set up without having to worry about differing hz ratios.
The biggest benefit of the AL-528C over the AL-H160 (other than its size), is the fact that you can run it from both batteries and an AC adapter.
Note: You will need two Li-ion batteries (Sony F/FM/QM Series) for this product, a downside yes but the upside is the sheer amount of power you can have on your travels.
UK: Sony NP-QM91D
USA: Sony NP-QM91D
Not only that, when you are plugged into the mains, with the batteries attached, the unit will power from the AC adapter but will also charge the batteries at the same time…very handy!
This for me is a huge bonus as I like to run my lighting continuously without having to keep switching them on and off between shoots as I did with standard video lighting (due to the heat and power consumption).
The Aputure Amaran AL-528C has a total of 528 LED bulbs, half of which are orange and half of which are the full white LED. The power output for all is adjustable from 10% up to 99% via a small dial on the back of the unit.
The sharing of coloured bulbs allows you to almost infinitely alter the colour temperature too from 3300k to 5500k (daylight) using a second dial. Great for adjusting skin tones etc.
Beam Angle: 75°
Color Temperature: 3200k~5500K
Power Supply: DC 18V
Size: 238mm x 190mm x 32mm
Power Adapter: Input: AC100V-240V, 50/60Hz, 1.5A; Output: DC18V, 2.8A
- 1x AC Power Adapter
- 1x Light Bracket
- 1x 1/4 to 3/8 stud
- 1x Diffusion Filter
- 1x Carrying Bag
A wonderful light with plenty of power for most situations (although I would like it a little brighter) and adjustability…highly recommended if you like portability and the ability to set your colour temperatures. This unit also comes with a fantastic carry case to fit everything in (batteries, power cord, main unit, spiggot, adapters etc).
Buy from Amazon UK – Aputure Amaran AL-528C
Buy from Amazon USA – Aputure Amaran AL-528C
For more information, visit the manufacturer’s web site at aputure.com.