Editor's Choice 2019, Reviews, Video

Colour accuracy and power characterise Aputure’s Amaran AL-MW LED videolamp

CRI is not a good indicator of colour rendition for use in visual assessment, especially for sources below 5000 Kelvin, so if you’d be using a video light or photo light with a CRI of >95, that wouldn’t tell you much about the light’s capability to render colours well. But if that same light would also have a TLCI of >95, that would be more like a trust inducing metric. If that light then also produced up to 6000lux with 10 levels in-between and were capable of some nice effects, I bet you’d be interested in knowing more about it. Reasons enough to take a closer look at the Aputure Amaran AL-MW.

Aputure recently released its Amaran AL-MW LED light and it even outperformed my trusted CRI Ra 98 Akurat d2120A1 with V-White LED technology (which is Akurat’s description of using the colour-accurate violet LEDs). Akurat doesn’t publish TLCI ratings but the Guild of Television Camera Professionals does. The A1 there earns a TLCI of 91 at 3100K and 99 at 5600K. The light is capable of a maximum output of 813lux at 60cm. With all options included, the A1 does cost north of €400 VAT incl.

Just like the Akurat, the AL-MW is made of aluminium, but only weighs 300g, fits in a shirt pocket and it too has a CRI and TLCI of 95+. Those results are published by Aputure in a chart format.

The Amaran AL-MW retails at €240 VAT incl. and is even brighter than the Akurat. In fact, it’s the brightest on-camera LED light that I have come across so far. It outputs 1250lux at maximum level (60cm) and 5800lux in Boost mode which is limited to 60 seconds (probably for heat dissipation reasons). It has a 1/4in mounting thread but also comes with a double-sided velcro strip so you can position it anywhere you like.

In the carrying case you’ll also find a clip-on gel holder with a range of CTO and CTB filters (full, 1/2, 1/4 CTO – full, 1/2, 1/4 CTB). There’s a 1.5 stop diffusing frost in the box and a 2.5 stop silicone diffusion cap as well. The USB-C/USB-A charging cable is also included. Aputure’s light is waterproof to a depth of 10m (IP68).

The built-in battery is able to run the light for 24 hours at minimum output and 80 minutes at highest setting. There are five built-in effects (paparazzi, TV, faulty bulb, fireworks, lightning).

Who’s the Amaran AL-MW for?

Based on specs and on my tests, I think that calling the AL-MW a video light is doing it injustice. The AL-MW can be used as continuous lighting device in a photographic environment too. Its colour rendition is very good, it outputs enough light to lighten up a small studio and it’s cheap enough to buy several of them, so you can use them for all types of lighting.

I think you could even use them – in some cases – as a replacement for large, unwieldy reflector screens.

Having said that, the AL-MW is a video light first and foremost. It invites to be concealed, submerged, thrown about and mounted on a camera or a light stand to fully light a scene or to create high-contrast atmosphere. Video creators – the Youtubers – will love the light for its quality, build and price. Filmmakers will love the light as well. Remember: “…a high TLCI metric tells us that a light source will render colours well in a film or photography context.” (Source: Yuji International)

How I tested

I first wanted to know how accurate the Amaran AL-MW can render colours. As it has 10 levels, I tested the light with each of them. I used the iOS Lumu Pro light meter that can measure colour temperature with an accuracy of deltaE 1. The results were quite astonishing. The Amaran AL-MW kept a steady 5350K colour output throughout its power levels. That’s pretty amazing, if you consider other lights will fluctuate between levels. It’s not on target considering it should maintain 5600K, but it’s much closer than the Akurat at some levels and better than the Rotolight NEO 2’s maximum level that can only be attained at 3950K. The included gels also allow you to correct so that you can come very close to the Holy Grail of 5600K.

My second test was to see if the Amaran AL-MW can compete with the sun, so, with the light mounted on a tripod next to the camera pointing into the direction of a low morning sun, I went to stand in front of the setup at a distance of about 70cm. I had the sun in my back and made sure she occasionally peeked out over my left shoulder. The highest output level of 4000lux already did the trick and Boost mode was, of course, even better.

My third experiment involved putting the Amaran’s waterproof claim to the test. I filled a bucket to the rim and threw in the light. It kept working and I didn’t get electrocuted when I put my hand in to get it out of there again. Aputure claims you can use it up to 10m deep, which makes this light usable as a diver’s lamp as well.

Conclusion

The Aputure AL-MW video performs extremely well in many areas, much to my surprise, to be honest – given its price point. It features a high TLCI (television lighting consistency index), has a very high light output, is colour-temperature consistent across all levels of output.

The AL-MW is sturdy and has handling and other features that make it a light you can use everywhere, anytime and for video, film as well as photography.

It retails at €240 and outperforms similar lights that are twice as expensive.