Just a day ago, I posted about the 800w RedHead kits that were back in stock. The search results also showed a few CFL (Fluorescent) lighting kits too. New questions came about these 5 bulb CFL light heads compared to the 800w halogen RedHeads, but I really couldn't speak on it. I've never had the chance to test these things out ....... - until now.
Turns out, these are fairly popular for talking head type interviews for their broad diffusion, low heat, and low power. I was pretty worried that they wouldn't hold up to the same light output, but in comparison, they are fairly close. They specs call for 1000w equivalent, i'm not sure about that, but they do hold up pretty well against the 800w bulb. I have to say, I'm pretty surprised. I was also doing my tests at F/4.5 cutting out a good amount of light. For talking head interviews, you can get your aperture wider.
Keep in mind that CFLs are very very diffused lights, and won't provide the same harsh shadows I sometimes desire on a set like Halogens would. If that's not your style, then these a good choice for basic studio lights. The only Cons you need to be aware of is that they are pretty hard to travel with using 5 large CFL bulbs each, and that they can present flickering if your shutter speed is set at certain speeds. They are dimmable by turning off individual bulbs at a time, so they are also not the most accurate in light control. One thing that is nice, is that they are actually cheaper than both LED lighting and Halogen kits.
The Heads aren't of the highest build quality, mostly plastic except for the Ceramic area on the bulb mounts. The softbox is a pain in the a## to assemble, so I don't suggest these if you require speed on your shoots. The softboxes don't have a speed ring, they are attached directly to the light heads. You'd have to just travel with the complete head and box. The light stands that come with this kit are of good quality, which I can use on some of my heavier setups. The kit also comes with a travel bag, useful only if you want to break down the softboxes.
I can't speak on the many other CFL heads on the market, but beware of that dreadful flickering. My tests on these particular ones showed you can probably squeeze in about 1/160th shutter which is not great, but more than enough for in studio video. If you're trying to use these for photography, know your limits. In the end, I was surprised, and these are some pretty nice source of lights. Even with the small interior diffuser and external diffuser panel on the softbox, the light output was fairly decent in comparison to the 800w head. I might do a test with a few of these for our next 'Infinite White background' video. These are available in both 2pc and 3pc kits found below.
2pc. 5 CFL Bulb Lighting Kit Softboxes Lightstands Travel Bag
3 pc. 5 Bulb CFL Lighting Kit with Softboxes Light Stands