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Lowel Ego Digital Imaging Light

Pro Results, Amateur Prices By Charlie White

Fluorescent lights such as those by Kino Flo have gained considerable popularity in the film, video and still photography industries, and for good reason -- they create an evenly-lit and soft look, they have greatly reduced heat, and they save energy at the same time. However, one of their main drawbacks is that they are expensive. Lowel lowers the cost of entry into fluorescent lighting for content creation with Ego ($99), an affordable fluorescent fixture that's ideal for tabletop work and close-up video, film or still photography.

Until now, to get that highly professional soft light look, you had to spend thousands of dollars on lights, scrims, and other pieces of equipment. Not any more. When I heard about these Lowel Ego lights, at first I was skeptical that they wouldn't be able to light a big enough area to actually get any work done. That's what I set out to test in this review.

For $99, what you get is basically a glorified lamp with two sockets inside, around which there is a plastic scrim with plastic-coated cardboard on the other side. That seems like a lot to spend for something made of this type of material, even so, the unit seemed quite durable and had a unique and highly functional design. The lights are able to stand on their own for tabletop work, or they can be placed on a standard tripod mount in the back for use with light stands as well. Included are two 27-watt compact fluorescent bulbs, each of which is the equivalent of a 100-watt standard incandescent bulb, and has a color temperature of 5500K and a color rendering index (CRI) of 90+.

For my review, I acquired two of the Ego lights, along with lighting stands and clips that are commonly available at photo stores. For this review, I used a special kit ($289.95) that's offered by B&H Photo that includes two high-quality Impact lighting stands, two mounting brackets and two Lowel Ego fixtures. For my testing, I also received the Lowel Ego-Sweep, which is a $25 accessory that consists of a backing support and an assortment of colors which can be clipped onto it. It allows you to achieve results that are the same as if you used a professional sweep table, where you get a smooth background without any visible corners. 

Taking the Lowel Ego out of its packaging, there was quite a bit of assembly required. It was a rather awkward process to stretch out the two container-like enclosures, screw in the two bulbs, and then secure the fixture in an odd way that was nevertheless well-described in the instructions.

Here's a close-up of the inside of the Ego light, where you can see there are two 27-watt compact fluorescent bulbs, each equivalent to a 100-watt standard incandescent light bulb. The color temperature is 5500K, which is a close approximation to daylight, with a color rendering index of 90+.

The Lowel Ego light is quite thin and can be mounted on the stand with an adapter or set on a tabletop.

Here's the Lowel Ego light mounted to a stand using an adapter from B&H Photo. The round object on the back is an adjustable support that's used when the Ego light is set on a tabletop without a stand.

A closer look at the back of the Ego light

Once I had both the lights assembled in on their stands, I was impressed to see how bright they actually were. I turned on each of them using their high-quality thumb switches, and they immediately lit up, without the waiting or flicker that's normally associated with fluorescent lighting. The two lights together put out a total of 108 watts; however that amount of compact fluorescent light is closer to 400 watts of incandescent light. This was clean, 5500K light, too, which looked just like daylight.

Here's the sweep table setup I used, with the Lowel Ego-Sweep, a $25 accessory that consists of a backing support and an assortment of colors which can be clipped onto it. It gives you professional-looking results where you get a smooth background without any visible corners.

I used the white piece of paper, one of eight colors included with the Lowel Ego-Sweep

After setting up the simple the little sweep table, I used our precision light metering equipment to first see exactly how much light I was getting from just one of these fixtures. From 1 foot away, each light was emitting 3390 lux. From 2 feet away, there was 1570 lux, and from 3 feet away there was 690 lux. This was a lot more light than I thought I was going to get with these lights. I took a picture of the light meter at a distance of 2 feet from the one light, using a reflector that was included with it. After adjusting the reflector to fill in some of the faint shadows, the results were very good.

 Here's a picture of my light meter using one of the Ego lights and a reflector that was included with it.

Next, I set up both lights, each at a 45 angle and 2 feet away From the light meter. The results were better and brighter, registering 2440 lux, but for this tabletop work not entirely necessary. 

Here's the shot using two of those lights without a reflector. The results were similar, with just slightly fewer shadows.


I also used the lights to shoot video, and I found them to be adequate even up to distances of 3 feet away from the subject (see my results in this article where I lit my subject using two Lowel Ego lights). For this, I was glad that I had two of these lights along with the stands. The best aspect of these lights is the soft light that emanates from them. It's particularly good for lighting faces. For lighting video and still photography, these Lowel Ego lights get the job done beautifully. Highly recommended. 9.5 out of 10 stars.

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Related Keywords:Fluorescent lights, film, video, still photography, evenly-lit, soft look, reduced heat, save energy, Lowel Ego, fluorescent fixture, tabletop work, close-up, review, Charlie White

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