Bought a bundle of multifunction USB rechargeable LED lights from a supplier AliExpress. I actually a bought batch of both types shown below because I like them so much. I paid a bit over a fiver each for them. Quite amazing for their size, weight and cost. Tough, water-resistant and rechargeable via USB C, c/w charge indicator. They even have ¼” BSW thread for tripod mount…
Very hard to tell how long these multifunction USB rechargeable LED lights will last. As cheap Chinese stuff goes, they seem better-than-average quality. The USB sockets are of the “C-Type” which are generally much tougher and longer-lived than either the mini- or micro-B types. But they are powered by LiPo batteries. These never seem to last as long as manufacturers claim. Nevertheless, unit I am testing has received a pretty good hammering and I’ve not managed to break it yet! Apart from a few dents and scratches, it seems good as new.
However, the supplied USB charging lead has failed already! Not an issue for me because I have loads of the things. Most rechargeable lights have no USB lead at all. C-type has become a global standard – it’s the same as most modern mobiles use. Quite often manufacturers assume you already have a lead.
How to use it?
Essentially these this have seven functions, as shown in the image below
Are they any good for photography?
Yes they are, but they have some limitations.
Firstly the good part…
The “yellow”light is in fact warm white with a colour temperature of approximately 3500 Kelvin. The “white” is cool white ~6500 Kelvin. Having the red light function too means you can use a pair as bike lights too. And it seems that fishermen like the red light due to its lack of glare.
The “long press super strong” mode uses the warm light and cool light together, full-blast, and is very bright indeed. It produces a light around 5500 kelvin. It also gobbles the battery pretty quick in this mode. But it does perform quite well as a fill-in for facial shots in sunlight. Just be careful not to shine it directly into your subject’s eyes.
The not so good part, from a photography perspective, anyway…
They flicker. I estimate the flicker rate is around 120 Hz. I guess the engineers have done this to save power. The flicker is not visible with the naked eye. Nor is it a problem if your shutter speed is below 1/100 of a second – as mine usually is when shooting with LED. But if you want to use them as ‘fill-in’ at high shutter speeds, then forget it!
Speaking from an engineering perspective, this is a limitation that any competent photographer should be able to work around. When I shoot using LED, I can hold the camera steady enough to shoot with shutter speeds in the range of 1/20 to 1/50. Many cameras also have image stabilisation these days too. So slower shutter speeds have become more viable anyway. So the flicker is not generally a problem – certainly not for me, anyway.
Another word of warning, you may wish to purchase a few extra because almost everyone who sees them seems to want one. I bought 14 of the things so far. Almost all of mine have gone already! I’ve literally had to hide the few remaining units in my photography cabinet and pretend they are not there! 🙂
The two types of multifunction USB rechargeable LED light that I chose