In search of cheap video lighting

I’m delighted with my Sony DCR-HC22E camcorder. But one thing that has been disappointing is its performance in low-light. It isn’t a patch on my old Canon Hi8, which can pretty much shoot anything the eye can make out and also corrects the colour well — even in street lighting at night.

For indoor shooting, I had equipped myself with several 60 watt spotlights from IKEA, which produced good results with the Canon — even for bluescreen special effects. But these aren’t enough for the Sony. The images are noisy.

So, what’s the solution for my ‘no budget’ film making?

I have a couple of Photax photographic stands and lamp holders that have provided faithful service for 25 years now. They take ordinary screwfitting domestic bulbs or photoflood bulbs (which come in 275 watt or 500 watt versions).

Trouble is, photofloods are expensive (£7 for a 500 watt bulb) and they have a short life.

An alternative is to use 200 watt domestic bulbs. Purists will point out that these change colour with age but, in practice, it isn’t a problem.

What IS a problem is that I can’t find any 200 watt bulbs in central Manchester (the third largest city in England). So I’ll probably have to order the bulbs online.

Work lights from Screwfix

An alternative is work lighting. Screwfix do two 500W tungsten halogen lamps, on a 1.8m telescopic tripod stand, with a 4.5m cable — for just £16.99 and replacement bulbs cost just 76p. You can imagine how much a ‘special video lighting’ version of this set-up would cost from a photo shop!

The lights will work great if bounced from a white wall or ceiling, or shone through some kind of diffuser. So I may order this too.


  • paulr says:

    Did you buy these screwfix lights inthe end. Was thinking of getting some myself but not sure of the quality, nice price though.


  • gary says:

    I bought some from Lidl and have used them for filming quite a bit. The light stand supplied is fine if bouncing the light but isn’t tall enough for some situations. But I found that I could combine the lamp head with some old Photax photoflood lampholders that I had and use it on the Photax light stands, which go up to about 8ft high. Minus points are that you don’t have any barn doors to control the light (could make some), or any spot/flood facility as on a pro light. But running costs are near zero, whereas with a pro lamp a bulb blowing would be a quite an expense.

  • I’ve used a couple softcubes from buhl electric… low heat, low enegery, great color and long bulb life. not a bad deal ;)

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