Best budget studio lights: 8 tested

Interfit EX150 Mark II Home Studio Kit, £220

Remarkably, this complete Interfit EX150 Mark II Home Studio Kit costs less than many a mid-range flashgun. Open the box and you'll find two 150Ws flash heads, light stands, two reflectors, a 60cm softbox, a 90cm translucent brolly and all the cables. However, you don't get a carrying bag, so the emphasis really is on 'Home Studio Kit', and there's also no handbook. The latter omission isn't too much of a problem because at least there's a video DVD guide to setting up and using the kit.

The flash heads are compact, but they're also basic. For example, the modelling lamp only has proportional and off settings, there's no auto power dumping facility, and you can't even turn off the audible recycle/ready beep. The lack of auto-dumping means you have to manually fire a test flash each time you reduce power in the head, or risk over-exposure.

The flash heads don't feel very robust and the light stands are a bit on the wobbly side, especially when extended to their maximum height. By contrast, the square softbox is well made and even features a secondary internal diffuser for super-soft lighting. The translucent brolly is of reasonable quality too.

Performance

Best budget studio lights: 8 tested

With a power rating of just 150Ws and a GN of 32, these are the lowest-powered heads in the group. The calibration of the stepless rotary power control proved fairly accurate between 2-4 but power dropped off dramatically at the lower end of the scale.

Firing through the translucent brolly from 2m, each head gave a maximum power level equivalent to f/11 at ISO 100. At the lowest setting, the flash wasn't even strong enough to trigger our Sekonic flash meter. At least power was consistent throughout a long series of test shots. If you're after a super-cheap kit for occasional home use, this is worth considering.