App-controlled Lume Cube Air brightens your photos or video

Lume Cube Air with accessory hand strap and diffusors.

Lume Cube Air with accessory hand strap and diffusors.

The original Lume Cube is a success story in the photography accessory world; a tiny, lightweight, and bright cube-shaped light for shooting photos and videos in the dark. It has been quickly embraced by photographers and even drone pilots who adapted the little cube as onboard lighting for night flights. Now there’s a new Lume Cube available, Lume Cube Air ($69.95), which improves on battery life and mounting options.

A close-up of the tiny 1.6” x 1.6” Lume Cube Air

A close-up of the tiny 1.6” x 1.6” Lume Cube Air

Design

Like the original, Lume Cube Air is tiny — 1.6 x 1.6 x 1.1 inches (40.64 x 40.64 x 27.94 mm) and lightweight at 2 ounces (56.7 grams). The Air isn’t as bright at only 400 LUX at 1m compared to 750 LUX for the original, nor is it as waterproof, only good down to 30 feet (10 m) compared to 100 feet for the original. 

The Lume Cube Air has a nice rubberized exterior, which addresses one complaint that the aluminum housing of the original could get a bit slippery when wet. Both are controlled wirelessly through the free Lume X app and a Bluetooth connection. The app can control multiple Lume Cubes and Airs simultaneously for adjusting precise lighting conditions.

The big difference is in the mounting; the original used a 1/4-20 screw for tripod mounting, but many photographers found this to be too limiting. One handy included accessory is a hand strap that has a 1/4-20 screw on one end - the Lume Cube Air can be carried easily, then attached to a tripod. The Lume Cube Air has both the tripod mount and a strong magnetic mount so the light can be attached to cars, streetlight poles, signs, fences and the like. Sadly, the magnetic mount means that the Lume Cube Air cannot be used with many drones since the magnet interferes with the built-in electronic compass.

Lume Cube Air at 1% brightness with plain (left) and orange diffusors

Lume Cube Air at 1% brightness with plain (left) and orange diffusors

Lume Cube Air comes with a pair of silicone diffusers to soften the light (5600K daylight) a bit. One is a neutral diffuser, while the other is orange to provide a bit of warmth to the lighting. Manual control is limited to four brightness levels from the on-off button on top of the cube, and there are two strobe modes.

Function

Not having used the original Lume Cube, all I can think is it must have been blindingly bright. The Air turns on at a “dim” setting that is still quite bright, and successive pushes of the top button ratchet the brightness up. 

Linking the Lume Cube Air to your iPhone is simple - you just open the Lume X app and it “sees” the light! 

The app includes a camera. Tap on a subject in the viewfinder, and a hexagonal target appears along with a slider. Slide up and the intensity of the light increases; slide down, and the light gets a bit dimmer. It’s a very good way to adjust the brightness of the Lume Cube Air to perfection, especially when shooting portraits with the light.

The Lume-X app screen, showing some of the controls available to the user

The Lume-X app screen, showing some of the controls available to the user

Getting a full charge on the Lume Cube Air took a little over an hour. There’s a micro-USB charging port behind a latched door on the tiny cube; that door prevents water from leaking into the port. Once charged, Lume Cube Air can run up to two and a half hours at 50% brightness or 30 to 45 minutes at full brightness. The app keeps track of the remaining battery life.

It appears that the Cube Air doesn’t have the optical sensor capability of the original — and less expensive — Cube, as I was unable to unable to find some of the modes that appear on screenshots of the app when used with a Lume Cube. Those include the “optical trigger mode”, which allows the original Cube to act as a slave flash to the flash on a camera or smartphone. 

The app does toggle the Cube Air through flash mode, constant mode (used for constant lightning for video) and two strobe modes. Those strobe modes can be used for an attention-getting bike light.

Conclusion

I’m pretty happy with the Lume Cube Air as a fill-in light and flash, especially for portrait photography. The new magnet mount on the back of the Cube Air adds a lot of flexibility in how the light can be set up for hands-free use, and the diffusers are helpful for adjusting light color — especially when shooting under fluorescent lights. For drone pilots, divers, or those who want to set up slave flashes, you’ll still want to go with the original Lume Cube. The Lume Cube Air is a permanent addition to my camera bag!

Apple World Today Rating (out of 5 stars): ★★★★★