I built my own light kit two years ago using an acid battery, an inverter and a set of colored fluorescent lights. The battery can power them for about 2 hours. These lights are powerful, I can light up a pretty big space with them or give subtle accents to my subjects. But one thing they are not is portable. They’re delicate and break easily, I’ve gone through several after a few accidents in the past where they drop and shatter.
Yongnuo released the YN360 not too long ago and I’ve had my eye on it for a while. I wanted something portable to take on travels where I might do a shoot. So I picked one up and thought to write a bit about the experience so far.
The price for the Yongnuo is around $100, despite online reviews saying it goes for around $70~. You need a Sony battery, and Yongnuo recommends the Sony NP-F750 battery which you’ll likely only find as a brand X battery and not the original Sony battery. This is fine but expect it to add another $40-50 to the price tag with a charger.
There are plenty of reviews that talk about the tech specs, but none of them talk about using it in a real shoot. So I took it out and did two model shoots with it. Both were on dark rooftops, one where I used it alone with no other lights, and the other where I used it as a compliment to my own custom light kit.
For the first shoot where I used it alone, I found the 5500k white light to be blindingly bright. Which is great, you can really light a huge space up with this thing, but you’ll also blind your model unless they’re wearing sunglasses. The RGB lights are about half as bright as the max brightness of the white light. For some intimate shots, such as portraits or torso shots, it’s great, you can light up about half the subject and a bit of the surrounding scene with color.
For full body shots, it’s a bit tough if it’s the only light source. I had a hard time lighting up my model and the space around her with the RGB LEDs only. I wound up having to really jack up my ISO to get it, and then I shoot with a D810 which produces a LOT of noise past ISO1000 so this was far from ideal.
This shot of Keziah is a good example of how bright this gets in a very dark space. I increased the exposure just a little in Lightroom, but you’ll get the idea from this shot that it’s quite tough to really light a large area with it.
I don’t bother using the app as it drains the battery life and the interface is not great. There’s little point to it as the dials on the hardware itself are nice and smooth and easy to adjust. The app is more of a novelty I felt.
For this shot of Sally, I used it as a slight blue accent which I felt worked well.
For the second shoot, I used it as an accent to my custom light kit. This combination worked really well. I’ll often use warm and cool tones and using the YN360 I could create a nice balancing tone between those two. This worked well and the light had enough power to not get entirely washed out by the fluorescent lights. For this shoot, as the roof was very very dark, having the 5500k white LEDs was handy as I could create an interesting harsh high contrast light.
I can see how this would be ideal in pairs, having just a single YN360 is good as a compliment to a larger light kit. On it’s own it’s fun, but on the border of being a novelty. For videographers I’m sure this light is awesome as the white light is powerful and big. I never bothered using the magnetic orange cover which is supposed to make a warm light. I do a lot of post-processing so things like color temp I can adjust later.
If you’ve got about $140-150 to spare, I do recommend it. It’s pretty sturdy, we dropped it by accident on pavement during the first shoot and it was totally fine. You do need to remove the battery when you’re not using it as it will drain regardless of whether it’s on or not. It comes with a nice shoulder carrying case and it’s very portable. I brought it with me on a trip to Seoul and the airport staff had no issue with it. One guy opened it and made a joke asking me if I was practicing to help land aircraft with it since it looks like the light wands they use.
- Compact, lightweight
- Price is reasonable
- Extremely bright white LED lights
- Achieve a wide range of colors
- Weak RGB LED lights compared to the white LED lights
- Need to buy a battery and charger separately
- Battery drains even when YN360 is turned off
- Small hardware issue but if you leave the battery in, it’s too easy to turn it on and quickly drain the battery in the bag