Best budget studio lights: 8 tested

Bowens Gemini 400/400 Twin Head Studio Kit - £545

Not for the faint hearted, the Bowens Gemini 400/400 Twin Head Studio Kit comes in a single padded case and weighs in at 16.2kg. It's not too hard to lug around though, as the case features wheels on the bottom so you can pull it along.

The flash heads have a particularly robust, industrial feel to them. Like the Elinchrom D-Lite it 2/4 Two Head Umbrella Kit, the Elinchrom D-Lite 4it Studio To Go Two Head Kit and the Lastolite Lumen8 SV 400w Twin Head Softbox Kit, they have a 400Ws rating. But these have the highest maximum light output, at GN 76.

Helpfully, the rotary power adjustment knob is fitted on the side of the head rather than around the back. It gives continuous, stepless adjustment with nominal markings through a five-stop range.

Where other heads in the group feature modelling lamps of 100W or less, the Bowens has a bright 250W bulb, which you can set to full power, proportional or off. When reducing output power, there's an auto-dumping feature that eliminates the need to fire a test flash to dump additional power manually. For large adjustments, however, auto dumping is quite slow, so it's quicker to fire a test flash anyway.

A neat extra feature is that you can power the heads from an optional Bowens Travelpak battery unit, which plugs into a connector on the back panel. It's useful for location work where there's no mains supply, but comes at a hefty price of £500.

Performance

Best budget studio lights: 8 tested

The two 90cm brollies supplied have clip-on covers so you can use each one as a silver or translucent brolly. However, switching between options is a fiddly chore.

Firing each flash head at 2m from a target through a translucent brolly gave an aperture range of f/3.6 to f/18 at ISO 100, when increasing power from 1 to 6 on the rotary control. That's pretty powerful, but the dial lacks the precision of some push-button systems, as seen on the Elinchrom D-Lite it 2/4 Two Head Umbrella Kit and the Elinchrom D-Lite 4it Studio To Go Two Head Kit heads.