This $80 Flash Will Revolutionize Your Action Photos

Credit: Hansi Johnson

As an avid action sports photographer who shoots frequently in remote locations, it’s always a challenge to find an off-camera lighting system that’s lightweight, easy to carry, and effective both day and night. This is especially true in locations where dense canopy and varied weather can wreak unexpected havoc on even the best-planned shots. Historically, we’ve had but two options. One: carry bulky, expensive, and fragile off-camera flash units as well as the triggers, batteries, and whatever else they may need to function; or two, shoot without flash.

Recently, though, a third choice was added to the mix.

Lume Cube ($80 at Amazon) is a tiny, inch-and-half-square light housed in a bombproof metal case. It’s waterproof to 100 feet, can be controlled with my smartphone, and is USB rechargeable. All for $150 a pair. That’s way more functionality at a fraction of the size, and at half the cost of a quality off-camera flash.

A flash set-up might not sound like a lot to pack, but when you’re doing an extended canoe, hiking, or bike-packing trip, space is at a minimum. Lume Cube eliminates the conundrum for me. Instead of sacrificing some essential items to keep that critical flash in the bag, now I have a system that takes up about as much space as a king-sized Snickers.

At 1,500 lumens, a single Lume Cube has nearly double the brightness of a 60W incandescent bulb and can be manually or remotely controlled to adjust up or down in 150-lumen increments. Even better, with the smartphone sync feature, I can adjust the lighting without moving a step. This function even works while the Cube is underwater, which opens up a ton of interesting creative options.

For true camera geeks the Lume has an “Optical Slave” function. Once activated, the Cube can be triggered with your camera’s on-board flash. Otherwise, it functions as a “Modeling Light,” which means it’s always on. This can greatly simplify lighting for new photographers, and it’s even better for videographers and action-cam users.

As far as I can tell there are only two negatives when it comes to the Lume Cube. The first is that battery life at full lumen power is only 30 minutes. That may not sound like much, but at 500 lumens, the battery life is extended to a more acceptable two hours. The second is that it’s so popular that it’s on currently on back order at most retailers.