5 CFL Bulb Video Light Head vs. 800w RedHead Lighting

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.

5 CFL Bulb Lighting Kit

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.

5 CFL Bulb Dimmable DImmer Switches

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.

5 CFL Bulb Light

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.

Screen shot 2011-04-28 at 10.24.42 AM
find-price-button 2pc. 5 CFL Bulb Lighting Kit Softboxes Lightstands Travel Bag

5 bulb CFL lighting kit boom arm
find-price-button 3 pc. 5 Bulb CFL Lighting Kit with Softboxes Light Stands

28 thoughts on “5 CFL Bulb Video Light Head vs. 800w RedHead Lighting

  1. Emm

    Post author

    @Drew - The CFL kits won't draw that many watts. Safe to use in most household circuits.

  2. Drew

    I was checking out that 3 piece lighting kit you linked on Amazon... it says "over 2500 watts output" but the actual tech details say it's 10 x 45w light bulbs and a 60W bulb... does that mean it's "equivalent to the brightness of 2500 incandescent watts" but really only draws 510 watts of actual juice? I'm planning a video project and the room has just a standard 20 amp circuit... 510 watts is no problem, but 2500 would blow the breaker!

  3. Pingback:

    Infinite White with Cheap 5 Bulbs CFL Lighting » CheesyCam

  4. @Emm, Does that bulb you linked to say 110v on the box? If so I'll probably pick up a few. Through most of my research it seems the 110v bulbs should either be 650w or 1000w. The ones I found that fit my redhead are 650w and are working great so far.

    And btw, I got all my knockoff Arri fresnels in this week, and I'm extremely happy with them. Going to do a real video review on them soon.

    @getem I was able to get my 650w 110v 80mm bulbs from Barndoor Lighting Outfitters. The folks over there were very nice and helpful, and I'm going to continue to shop with them.

  5. getem

    @Emm My apologies on not being more clear, my question was that I feel the 800 are to high and would like to use something smaller in the 500watt range, does anyone know where to find bulbs of lower wattage?

    Thank you

  6. Chris

    Do you have any video footage of these used in an interview? I am looking to purchase a set and would love to see the difference between these and the redhead set.
    Thanks for putting so much work into this site and getting the information out. You have saved all of us a TON of money and time. Have a great week!!

  7. getem

    Em you mention that you can buy less wattage bulbs for the red heads, I feel 800 is to much and would like some in the 500-600 area, where can I find these?


  8. They look pretty good, maybe it's time to buy a set while i can.

    Companies should pay you a little commission hahaha

    Thanks!! Really love this site, you do an excellent job.

  9. The nice thing about using big CFL boxes for DSLR video, is the situations you would use them in rarely require a fast frame rate. The 50 or 60 fps you would use for indoor scenes and interview shots should be just fine. The only time you really want to ramp things up is when shooting action or sports, which often happens outside.

    Because of the gorgeous soft quality of CFL soft-boxes, you probably wouldn't use them too often for the violent scenes that usually play well with a higher framerate.

    A little tip for getting a great shot with CFL's and LED's:

    Set up your subject with their back to a window. Expose the window so it's slightly overexposed, backlighting your actor. Then add your CFL's or LED's as key and fill until your actor is properly exposed. Makes anyones living room look like a movie studio with only 1 or 2 lights.


  10. Carefull with these I brought them last year. U can screw out the socket in side the lamp where the bulb goes. Due to cheap design that will render that socket unsuable

  11. Anthony

    @Emm - That's probably a good idea. I'm sure potential clients won't want to know that you have the potential to test out cheap equipment for their wedding. 🙂

  12. Emm

    Post author

    @Anon - Crap. Thanks for the catch. Sometime I ignore auto-correct on my typos, like when i'm typing 'Tamron' it tries to correct it with 'Tampon'. LOL.

  13. Emm

    Post author

    @Marshall Baker - Yes some dimmable LEDs wil flicker, normally when dimmed to a certain percent. The dmmer changes power and flickering can also be caused when the voltage is too low (batteries).

  14. @Emm

    Sorry, I do both but I guess I got video-centric there. 🙂

    Looked at both of these kits a while back and didn't find a lot of good info/test vids specifically for them, so I invested in glass instead. Appreciate the post and will definitely be looking at them in the future.

    Thanks Again

  15. Emm

    Post author

    @Zack - Yes, but some people want to know this for Photography. This would be fine for DSLR video for sure.

  16. But isn't it common advice to leave your shutter set to double the FPS of your video setting(24p, 60p), then only adjust F-stop and ISO?

    Since banding didn't really start to show until 1/160th, do you think the quality would be OK using that standard?


  17. Hi Emm, do you know where i can find videos of the 3pc halogen lights in action? Trying to decide if investing in a set is a good idea.


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