Best budget studio lights: 8 tested

Lastolite Lumen8 SV 400W Twin Head Softbox Kit - £455

This complete studio kit is based around a pair of robust, well-engineered 400Ws heads that sit on particularly sturdy stands. It's just as well, because the stands extend to a towering 3.52m, dwarfing everything else in the group. The stands are air-cushioned too, which is a nice touch.

At a GN of 60, the heads are a little down on maximum light output, compared with other 400Ws heads in the group. They also lack an auto-power dumping facility, but a test flash is fired automatically, as needed, when you reduce the power setting. The only downside is that the flash tubes are fired more often than necessary and, unfortunately, the Lastolite heads are the only ones in this group where the flash tubes are not user-replaceable.

The 66cm softboxes are of luxurious quality and feature a secondary internal diffuser panel. They produce a very soft, even light, but aren't ideal if you're in a hurry. They're fiddly and time-consuming to set up – the softboxes have their own illustrated assembly guide with no fewer than 30 individual steps.

On the plus side, a reflector is supplied for each head, so you don't have to buy these separately if you want to use bare-bulb flash or add brollies. As with all but the Elinchrom heads, they feature a standard 8mm brolly shaft.

Performance

Best budget studio lights: 8 tested

The stepless rotary power dial enabled an aperture range of f/2.2-14 in our tests, firing each head from 2m using a translucent brolly. The calibration scale is only nominal, however, and proved quite inaccurate. The maximum power equivalence of f/14 is quite disappointing for a 400Ws head. In other respects, colour temperature and shot-to-shot power output is consistent throughout the power range and over long sequences of shots.