ColorRight is well known for its white balance tools and flash modifiers. It has expanded its reach into the LED lighting market with products that can be used as a complement to your speedlight as well as on their own: the Lumenator range of LED lights.
Upon opening the packaging of the €119.00 priced Lumenator Pro device I tested, the plastic shell holding the actual LED lights fell apart. It looked as if it had been pried open by a previous reviewer — or at least, that’s what I hope has happened. If not, the ColorRight people have a huge quality control problem on their hands.
For me as a reviewer, the defect was a godsend, offering me a nice look inside. It showed the Lumenator to be made of a plastic shell with one half containing the LEDs as well as the electronics and battery/power interface and the other holding the semi-transparent reflection disc. The LEDs are placed at equal distances along the edge of the light disc, with a bright white background to reflect the light.
My unit definitely had been used. From the brownish discolouration along the edge where the LEDs sit, I couldn’t tell how long, though. Not only does this spell bad news for the Lumenator’s white balance over an extended period of time, it also put me on guard for overheating and subsequent melting. However, after having tested the included battery’s runtime for over 2.5 hours at full output, I can safely say that, although the unit does get quite warm, it never got really hot.
The other half of the Lumenator holds the white front disc — which in my case was unseated as well. I glued the whole thing back together and started this review by reading the instructions to use the battery. Those instructions are a literal translation of Chinese into English — it’s gibberish. After reading it a couple of times, I understood I had to use the one power adapter in the packaging without a European power plug.
ColorRight should really make the small effort to include a proper English instruction sheet for the operation of the battery, especially as improper charging of batteries can be dangerous devices.
The actual test results
The ColorRight website tells us the LEDs used are Samsung LED lights. These LEDs are claimed by the company to produce the smoothest, most natural LED light available and yes: the Lumenator in its highest brightness setting does send out a nice disc of light. With the dim switch in the lowest position, however, the LEDs along the edges become apparent.
In addition, the dim switch is a low quality contraption. You can keep on turning it beyond its lowest and highest setting. Dimming also isn’t flicker free, despite the claim on the website. Especially turning down brightness will result in occasional flickering, which makes the device less suitable for video.
ColorRight also claims the Lumenator to be thinner (1.25cm), lighter (370 grammes) and more flexible (triple purpose), than any other LED light. Those claims are false, except for the last one.
In fact, I am about to receive an Akurat Lighting LL2120hc3 V-WHITE. This is a European made aluminium device that is actually lighter (270 grammes) and about as thin (1.7cm) as the Lumenator (but admittedly at twice the price). To the Akurat’s advantage speaks a CRI (Colour Render Index) of 98, while the Lumenator is much less impressive in that — very important — area. In May of this year, Samsung Electronics announced that it had improved the light quality of its LED packages and modules based on a 90 CRI for use in advanced lighting applications. We may therefore safely assume the Lumenator has a CRI of 90 or even less.
You can use the Lumenator mounted on your flash or directly on any hot/cold shoe. It serves as a flash diffuser — which has limited use, as most flashes come with a diffuser built-in — as an additional continuous light (which does make sense) or on its own.
The battery in the Lumenator Pro package is a small-factor 2800mAh Li-ion non-standard plastic brick with associated charger. However, in my test pack the battery was a 3800mAh brick. As professional and semi-pro video shooters will prefer standard type batteries (Bauer, Sony NP…), I don’t think the Lumenator will penetrate that market big time. Amateur video enthusiasts might find a non-standard battery type of less importance.
Mounting the Lumenator onto a flash is done using a secure velcro strap, which makes the unit a fit-for-all-sizes tool. The marketing babble states the Lumenator is powerful enough for studio use, mounting on any standard light stand. The latter is due to a 1/4” thread in the bottom of the unit itself, as well as the inclusion of a microsize ballhead with the Pro edition. However, the studio use claim is a bit exaggerated.
At its highest setting and measured at a distance of 50cm, the Lumenator Pro spit out 420 lux (lumen/m²) in my test at 5920K. At half output setting, the unit’s luminous emittance dropped to 76 lux at 5860K. At its lowest setting, we were left with 42.5 lux at 5800K.
You can see in these photographs what this amounts to in a real-world setting. I set up my “model” at a 1 metre distance from the camera. I fixed the camera at an exposure time of 1/250 and an f2.8 aperture. The first photograph was shot with a LumoPro LP180 flash set at 1/128 and zoom factor 50mm, mounted on the camera and aimed directly at the puppet. The second photo was shot with the Lumenator mounted on top of the camera, aimed directly at the puppet and at full brightness.
Proper exposure of the puppet with the Lumenator alone would have necessitated an exposure time of 1/30. I think you can draw your own conclusions. The Lumenator Pro comes with two filters — one warm, one cold — that you can mount on the front bezel using velcro strips.
Many of ColorRight’s claims related to the Lumenator don’t stick. One unit is not enough for studio use. I doubt if three would even do. The CRI is average and certainly does not justify the marketing moniker “LEDnatural” nor ‘most natural LED’ and the Lumenator is not the lightest unit.
The plastic shell is rather flimsy and you need to be careful not to break the shell halves apart. The white reflective background inside shows discolouration after usage — how much usage I can’t say as I don’t know how many reviewers had my test unit before me. It could be weeks or years of normal use, but the major issue is that discolouration occurs.
The Lumenator uses a non-standard type of battery. The dim switch is of inferior quality and dimming does introduce occasional flicker.
All these findings are based on testing a unit that was damaged upon receipt and that had been used before by an unspecified person for an unspecified period of time. As I always try to give vendors a chance to defend their product if I find it performing below par, I emailed the company informing them of the state which I received the product in and asking them if this is what their regular customers are to expect. They have yet to reply.