Way back in 2014, Lume Cube Inc. sailed past its fundraising goals when it launched its brand-new, eponymously-named LED lighting system on Kickstarter. Aimed both at still and video shooters, the original Lume Cube offered 1,500-lumen light output and Bluetooth wireless control in a remarkably compact package. And despite measuring just 4 x 4 x 4.5cm (1.6 x 1.6 x 1.75″), it was also both rugged and waterproof.
Enter the Lume Cube 2.0: as portable as ever with some key improvements under the hood. In short, we think it’s an incredibly handy little light with a robust ecosystem of accessories. See our condensed findings below and read on for the full analysis.
- Compact, size, rugged and waterproof construction inspire confidence and use in a variety of situations
- Excellent quality of light, with daylight white balance and a high CRI value
- Optical sensor to act as a slave flash for stills shooting
- Fine control over brightness
- Impressive battery run-time, but longer charge times
- Good max brightness for size, but still struggles under sunlight
- Excellent, if pricey, accessory system
Although it’s exactly the same size as its predecessor and has the same light output as before, the updated Lume Cube 2.0 now runs for three times as long at full power, and is easier to recharge too. And the light it produces has improved noticeably in terms of its color rendition, coverage and evenness.
The new version also offers an added low-light mode with a 1-10% power range in 1% increments, controllable either from the smartphone app or the Lume Cube’s own physical controls. And the product bundle has been expanded, with a modification frame and two filters included as part of the base product bundle.
Who is it for?
As before, the Lume Cube 2.0 is aimed both at still and video shooters, regardless of whether they’re using a sizable interchangeable-lens camera rig, GoPro, smartphone or even a drone.
For standalone cameras, most functionality can be used without a smartphone at all, and the Lume Cube works either a continuous light source or an optically-triggered slave flash. Alternatively, multiple lights can be controlled individually or as a group using an Android / iOS app.
Smarter physical controls and a better-placed optical sensor
The Lume Cube 2.0 looks quite similar to predecessor, and its size and weight are unchanged. The biggest difference is that the optical sensor has moved from the front of the light to its top, sharing its location with the status LED. In its new home, it’s now easier to trigger from a wide range of angles.
It sits in between a clearly-labeled pair of opaque black buttons on the top deck which replace the translucent buttons of the original model. These together provide access to power control, brightness adjustment, optical slave flash, and low-light mode.
|The non-swiveling hot shoe mount shown in this image is included in the standard bundle. The Pro Lighting Kit doesn’t include any mounts; the ball head mount shown atop this page costs $25.|
Charging is quicker and easier, but waterproofing suffers
Around back, the charging port is now a modern, reversible USB-C connector, and is covered by a soft rubber flap. While it’s still a bit fiddly to pull open with recently-trimmed nails, it closes securely, stays in place, and it’s really nice not to have to worry about the lights being affected by rain. (And to be able to take them underwater too, if that’s your thing.)
While less bothersome than the screw-in cover of the original Lume Cube, it’s also easier for water to circumvent, though. As a result the new model is waterproof to a maximum depth of 9.1m / 30ft, down from 30.5 / 100ft for its predecessor. That’s still plenty for snorkeling and probably a pretty significant proportion of recreational scuba too, but if you’re planning on deeper dives you may want to stick with the earlier version.
Wider, more even and daylight-balanced light
On the inside, everything is new. The battery, LED and optics have all been replaced, and while it still has a light output of 1,500 lumens (750 lux at 1m), the Lume Cube 2.0 now has a 5600k daylight color temperature, down from the 6000-6500k of its predecessor.
At the same time, the quality of its light has improved, with a Color Rendering Index score of 95. The Lume Cube 2’s new lens is also less prone to hot spots, and has a wider 80-degree coverage, up from its predecessor’s 60-degree beam angle.
|Here’s a view from the rear, with the Lume Cube on its optional ball head mount atop my personal Pentax K-3. This mount is much better than the basic one included in some kits, as it lets you aim the light in almost any direction.|
Smarter firmware and new features
The Lume Cube 2.0 has also received some smart updates in the firmware department. Perhaps most importantly, it now requires a three-second long press of the power button to switch on. This ensures that unlike its predecessor, it won’t switch itself on in your camera bag and drain its battery right before it’s needed.
The new firmware also allows brightness to be adjusted in either direction using the Lume Cube 2.0’s physical controls, unlike the original version which could only increase brightness to its maximum before looping back around to its minimum brightness setting on the next step.
And a new mode accessed with a long press of both buttons at once allows a much narrower 1-10% brightness range with a more precise 1% step size, rather than the full range in 10% steps as is the default. It’s handy if you’re shooting long exposures but still need just a little illumination.
Same accessories and mounting system, but now it’s in the bundle
A wide selection of filters and accessories can be attached to the Lume Cube 2.0 using the exact same modification frame attachment as before, allowing owners of the original Lume Cube to upgrade their lights or add new ones while keeping the rest of their gear.
|A wide variety of optional mounts are available, including this spring-loaded smartphone clip ($20) to which I’ve attached the ball head and a Lume Cube 2.0 with bulb diffuser.|
The frame itself now ships even in the base product bundle along with a pair of warming and light diffusion filters. Each of these uses name-brand LEE filter materials from the company’s LED-specific Zircon line. The level three warming filter drops the color temperature to 4,500 kelvin, and the diffusion filter is the lowest strength available.
Incredibly portable yet decent battery life too
The Lume Cube 2.0 is very solidly built, with not a hint of creak or flex anywhere. It’s also impressively small. Even with a modification frame attached it’d fit in looser pants pockets, and you could easily bring two or three in a jacket pocket and almost forget they were there until you needed them.
Given the compact size and relatively powerful output, I was really impressed by battery life, which is a huge improvement on the previous iteration’s 25 minutes. At 100% brightness, I could manage anywhere from 62 to 90 minutes on a charge, depending on whether or not Bluetooth was enabled, meeting the manufacturer spec precisely.
Battery life impresses, and you can charge the lights while using them
And by dropping to 50% brightness, I managed an average of three hours, 38 minutes per charge with Bluetooth active. That absolutely demolishes not only the original Lume Cube’s runtime, but also the spec sheet, which promises only 2.5 hours!
I must say it surprised me that controlling the lights via Bluetooth decreased the battery life as much as it did, though. The good news is that the Bluetooth radio does eventually go to sleep if the light is left inactive for a while. Once fully asleep, it needs to be woken back up with a physical button press before it’ll respond via Bluetooth again.
Fast charging requires a fast, modern USB-C charger and cable
The only place I didn’t come near the manufacturer spec was recharging. Lume Cube’s documentation promises around 45-60 minutes for a full charge, but using the supplied USB-C to USB-A cable and a wide variety of different chargers capable of up to a maximum of 18 watts per port, I was never able to recharge in less than two hours, 49 minutes.
To get near the claimed time you’ll likely need a recent, high-powered USB-C charger with Power Delivery support, as intended for charging laptops and the like, plus a Power Delivery-compatible USB-C to C cable. Unfortunately, I haven’t one to test with myself to confirm the claimed charging time.
Recharge and use your lights at the same time
The good news is that you can charge and use the lights at the same time if you’re within reach of a power outlet. This can potentially extend run times a lot, especially if you can switch off entirely or dial the brightness down significantly while setting up and between groups of shots.
I did just that while working to get the shot of my pet parakeets above, avoiding having to stress the birds any more than was necessary.
Note, though, that it’s not recommended to go above brightness level 80 while also charging. This is likely due to heat concerns, as after extended periods at 100% power, the Lume Cubes can get uncomfortably hot to the touch even without charging at the same time. (Not enough to burn instantly, but enough that you couldn’t persuade me to hold my finger on it.)
Best for smaller subjects or in lower ambient light
The Lume Cubes’ small size is great in terms of portability, but it comes at the expense of daytime usability. For what they are, these are pretty powerful lights but they’re simply no match for full sunlight, where they struggle to fill in shadows even at full power from just a couple of feet away.
A small reflector would be a better choice here, using the sun’s own power to provide light where it’s needed. In full shade or even indirect sunlight, though, even just a single Lume Cube can make quite a noticeable difference, so long as it can be kept fairly close to the subject.
That makes it quite well-suited to things like head-and-shoulders portraits, selfies and talking head video capture, and so on. And once you take the sun out of the equation, shooting indoors or at night the Lume Cubes really shine, if you’ll pardon the pun.
Up next, let’s take a look at the Lume Cube 2.0’s accessory mounting system, and its Android / iOS app experience, before wrapping up with a final conclusion.