There are plenty of difficult lighting scenarios when conventional solutions simply can't deliver. Be it weight, space, or any other limitation, small lights are a must in any photographer's kit. Despite not being the most powerful, they are often most used on sets and locations. Among the sea of small lights, a few stand out. One such one is the Specular KYU-6. Here are my thoughts on this light.
They say live, laugh, love. I say, live, flash, love. Not only do I love flash, but I also rarely use constant light for photography. Sure, a little continuous light is nice for video and mixed sources photography, but it is not my primary driver. Nonetheless, the importance of small lights can't be underestimated. As a stills photographer, I still like to mix flash and constant light from time to time for artistic effect. Keeping an open mind, I decided to give the KYU-6 a try. Their small and flexible LED strips got me interested. For one thing, it’s a small product that does a lot of things. In short, they offer either bi-color or RGB LEDs that are dimmable and feature a magnetic mount, all while being small and flexible.
The light is made out of rubber and offers some water and dust resistance, which is welcomed by creatives out in the field. The charging port is a Micro-USB type and is protected by a rubber flap. It would’ve been nice to see a Type-C charger in the KYU-6. The design of the light itself allows it to be flexible, which makes mounting it anywhere a snap — literally. It can wrap around like a bracelet. The build of this light may just be my favorite thing about it, as there are very few places where it can't be mounted. Mounting on metal surfaces is done via the magnets that are inside the light. The light ships with a rubber band that will let you hang it. Lastly, because it wraps around like a bracelet, it can be put on any tube that is thin enough. Another reason I like this light is that it is light (pun intended). Weighing only 42 g, it won't even be noticeable in your camera bag, and it will stay fixed to surfaces really well. Handholding this won’t be a problem for most people either. The LEDs themselves are under semi-clear rubber, which makes each individual LED point a light source. It would've been nicer to see a matte white surface, which would diffuse the light and even it out.
Depending on the version of the light that you get, you will either have an RGB spectrum or white light. Turning it on, you have five brightness options, with the lowest one being almost unnoticeable in daylight, to the highest one being fairly bright and enough to light a table or a subject not too far from the light source. The RGB version and the bi-color could've been combined into a single product; however, given the small form factor, that would've led to accuracy problems.
The middle button switches between primary colors: red, green, and blue, while the third will allow you to fine-tune the other five secondary colors under each primary. Overall, you have a lot of color options on the RGB version, which should be plenty for some uses. However, in 2022, lighting manufacturers should really step up their game and offer app control of all color options. For example, a user who wants to program a specific tone into the KYU-6 won't’ be able to do that due to this limitation. Again, this won’t be a problem for most creators, but if you are looking for more precision, this light may not be for you.
A feature that I would love to see on the KYU-6 is app control. Given that these lights are as small as they are, it is easy to accumulate dozens of them on a set. Suppose you’re lighting an indoor location and are using these lights to add accents to shelves and features. There are easily a dozen of these LEDs kicking around. Going over to each individual one and adjusting it by hand is time-consuming. It would be incredible to see an app that can talk to all of them at once. That would also let users program their own lighting scenarios to it.
Another feature that I wish this light had is a large battery indicator or a small screen with other settings. As the battery on the KYU-6 isn't particularly long-lasting on high power. At the same time, it is surprisingly good for a light this light and small. Nonetheless, a battery indicator would be beneficial to many users.
I made this image with an iPhone. To me, this is crazy. Not only is product photography outside of my comfort zone, but so is shooting professional work with an iPhone. Lately, though, I shoot more and more with an iPhone as it's fun and easy.
Let's talk about the shot I made with some LED KYU-6 lights, a black backdrop, and an iPhone. First of all, the sneaker was all black, and coincidentally, I happened to have bought new ones on that day, so the choice of subject was obvious. Positioning the shoe in a "hero shot" position, I wanted to show the dimension and depth of the shoe. Hence, the camera was placed below, and a wide-ish angle was chosen. On the iPhone, it equated to 24mm. I made sure to shoot the image in raw format to allow for better color grading and more flexibility.
The lighting process was also pretty simple. I decided to use the colors available to me in the KYU-6 RGB and went for a rather popular purple and green scheme. The colors contrast really well, which added to the drama in the picture. The sole of the shoe lacked some structure, hence I placed a bi-color KYU-6 under the shoe and turned it to a warm setting. This allowed me to keep within the color palette, while also highlighting the detail on the bottom of the shoe. Lastly, a little blue accent was added to show the white color. This way, no part of the product was lost in the shadow, and the final image was created. It was important for me to do this shot with the most basic setup to show that you can do a lot with these lights and a phone.
Here is the image I shot with a color grade applied, but obviously no Photoshop. Depending on your skills, you could possibly take this image much further in post-production.
The KYU-6 is not for everyone, but many will find it fitting for their needs. This light is perfect for adding a splash of color to your photography or creating moody lighting for some scenes. It is also a good companion for long-exposure work, especially macro photography. It is easy to put this light in small spaces, hide it in plain sight, or wrap it around an object. Sure enough, it works as a bracelet.
It won’t be a good choice for anyone who needs long-life lights to light large sets, exceptional color accuracy, or app control.
Finally, the KYU-6 is marketed as a light that is always with you, and it absolutely lives up to this tagline, as the small form factor, lightweight, magnetic mounts, and flexible design give no excuse for anyone to not have it. You could even go as far as wearing this light on your wrist.
What I Liked
- Size and weight
- Flexible design
What Could Be Improved
- Battery life
- App connectivity
The Spekular KYU-6 is a lightweight, portable, and quite versatile light. Ideal for those who want to add a bit of color, light a small scene, or create an accent in a space where you can't fit a different light. For the price of $49, it is hard to beat, but if you are looking at something that offers more functionality and better battery life. For most photographers, including full-time pros, the KYU-6 will do the job, while also being a budget-friendly option. So, at the end of the day, I can recommend this light to photographers of all levels.