Best budget studio lights: 8 tested

Elinchrom D-Lite 4it Studio To Go Two Head Kit - £550

There's plenty of power on hand from this kit's two 400Ws heads, which have a GN of 64. As with the cheaper Elinchrom D-Lite it 2/4 Two Head Umbrella Kit, it's easy to set up even if you've never used studio flash. There's a good handbook, plus a video DVD guide that demonstrates lighting techniques for getting great results.

As well as two full-power heads, this kit includes a pair of excellent-quality 66cm softboxes, rather than the brollies supplied in the cheaper Elinchrom kit. Both kits include full wireless radio triggering and auto power dumping, plus auto-sensing cooling fans in the heads. Plus, unlike some of Elinchrom's previous softbox-based kits, this includes a reflector. It's handy when you want to use bare-bulb lighting for a harder light source, or for illuminating a background with one of the heads.

The softboxes are quick and easy to put together and deliver a lovely soft lighting effect, and they're more directional and controllable than brollies. The bayonet attachment is reassuringly rugged, and the whole kit feels like it's really built to last. Our only slight complaint is that Elinchrom uses a non-standard 7mm brolly shaft, so you have to buy own-brand brollies if you want to extend your kit. Even so, the price of a pair of 83cm silver and translucent brollies is quite reasonable, at £25.

Performance

Best budget studio lights: 8 tested

Shooting through a translucent brolly positioned 2m from a target, we got an aperture range of f/4.5-16 in our tests. Impressively, the 1/10th stop push-button power controls were entirely accurate throughout testing.

As with the other Elinchrom kit, which features one of the same flash heads, power output was remarkably consistent throughout a long series of shots and colour temperature didn't change at all throughout the power range.