Best budget studio lights: 8 tested

Look out for these key features when buying your budget studio lights:

Carry handle

The absence of a handle is hardly a deal-breaker but, where fitted, they do make for more secure carrying, especially with hot lamps, and lessen the likelihood of an expensive accident.

Modelling lamp

Modelling lamps in this group range from 50W to 250W. Higher wattage lamps give a brighter, clearer view, but will tend to run hotter. It's a good idea to buy a couple of spares.

Controls

Best budget studio lights: 8 tested

The back of the head usually features all the available controls, as well as a photo-electric slave cell, for triggering one head from another without extra cables.

Reflector

These generally have a bayonet-fit and are available in standard or wide-angle versions. They're not used when a softbox is fitted, which mounts on the head in the same way.

Clamp

A sturdy clamp enables you to lock the flash head securely in position. There are normally splines on the joint to avoid the head slipping downwards during use.

Flash tube

Flash tubes don't last forever but are generally user-replaceable. This is the case with all flash heads in the group apart from those in the Lastolite Lumen8 SV 400w Twin Head Softbox Kit.

Clip locks

Using the bottom clip lock, you can splay the legs as far apart as possible. Position the front of the flash head directly over one of the legs to give maximum stability.

Light stands

These should be robust and sturdy, so they can give plenty of support to flash heads even at their maximum height and with a large softbox attached.