Quasar Science Q-LED Lamps are really nice practical lighting fixtures. Popular YouTubers like MKBHD and Dave2D use them to spice up their studio background. The RGB tubes are also frequently used in music videos.
Some of my clients would like to have such practicals in their video, but find the rent price of these lights way too high. To answer their demands, my search for a cheap Quasar Science alternative began.
When you Google “Quasar Science”, some alternatives may be suggested like the Ledgo RGB tube, which costs €349,00. Another alternative is the Nanguang 4' Pavolite tubes, but they also cost up to $413. Both are not so cheap alternatives.
Of course, one of the cheapest solutions to this problem is to DIY create an RGB tube. YouTube hosts some videos about how to make them. However, the results aren’t that satisfying in my opinion. Furthermore, combining LED strips, batteries and transparent tubes requires some technical skill. When accounting for all parts, a single DIY LED tube will soon cost up to €100.
There are cheap prebuilt solutions. These include: kitchen lights and showroom lights. Those are inexpensive LED tube lights and can easily be purchased cheaply on Amazon. They look nice on pictures, but don’t offer RGB options. Frequently, information about light quality such as CRI or TLCI is absent. In addition, the diameter of these tubes is tiny, about 1 to 2 cm. A wider tube should have a nicer result on camera.
Another prebuilt solution is the ADJ LED Tube II light. That LED tube costs around €30 apiece. I’ve owned a couple of them in the past, and they got the job done. However, one interesting aspect of the Quasar Science Q-LED lamps is that they are also battery powered. The ADJ led tube lacks a built-in battery.
Searching for an alternative to the ADJ LED Tube II, the Equinox Pulsar came up. They are nearly identical to the ADJ lights, but they also offer a model with a built-in battery, the Equinox Pulsar Lithium with up to 12 hours of continuous battery-powered operation. That sounds too good to be true!
Note that if you don’t require the battery option, the ADJ LED tubes are fine. Equinox also has a non-lithium variant for even less money.
I bought an Equinox Pulsar Lithium and put it to the test.
Testing the Equinox Pulsar Lithium
Let’s start with the positive news. The product descriptions specify a charge time of 5 hours and a battery operation time of 12 hours. After testing, this seems to be true. At full white output, the LED tube works 12 hours before needing to be charged again. Great!
The lights are also quite bright! When used as practicals indoor, I frequently need to dim them down two or three steps. Not bad!
One interesting use case is to put these lights on the back seat of a car. This can create a great atmosphere for filming car scenes at night.
Note that when the battery level gets lower, the blue LEDs dim first, then the green and lastly the red ones. The result is that during the last 2 hours of operation, the white colour lowers its Kelvin temperature. While “full white” is quite blue on full power, an almost empty battery results in yellow to red-tinted whites.
Now let’s review the negative aspects. The major thing I dislike about the light is that it only comes with a UK power adapter. Equinox is a UK based company, but I think they should at least include an interchangeable power adapter. I bought the light from a Belgian webshop. At least they should mention the UK power brick. Furthermore, the power cable is really short, only 1 meter.
As mentioned earlier, when the battery is almost empty, the blue LEDs won’t turn on anymore. What I found strange is, that when the original power adapter is connected and the battery is empty, the blue LEDs still won’t turn on! It needs to charge for half an hour before every colour looks normal. This is really strange!
Of course, Quasar Science lamps are brighter and more versatile than the Equinox Pulsar. These lights can only be used as practicals, not for lighting a talent. I haven’t measured the light quality, but the lights definitely have too much blue and magenta tint in them to be used as key lights.
The major drawback in my opinion, is the colour options. The remote only offers 11 colours plus white. In addition, each colour has 11 dim levels. If only there were some bicolour options between tungsten and daylight. But what can you expect for €40…
Just like the Quasar lights, these lights don’t emit light 360°. They have a dark stripe behind the internal LED strip. This isn’t a problem though, because you can only see one side of the light on camera.
In addition, the bottom 5 cm of the light isn’t lit. This is probably the section where the battery and controller are located. However, the Quasar lights also have dark sides, on the top as well as on the bottom of the tube. So not a major drawback.
The power connector is not embedded in the light, but a loosely hanging cable of about 10 cm. I think it would be nicer if it was just a jack in the tube.
The lights are entirely made out of plastic. The stands are weak, but the lights haven’t tipped over yet.
One time, someone stepped on the little stands, and now one is broken. It’s not an easy fix with glue. Too bad!
These little feet can also be removed when the light is mounted on a wall using the twoincluded brackets.
I like the fact that the lights are made out of plastics. I think it is PVC. That way I’m not afraid of breaking the light anytime soon during transport. If they were (plexi)glass tubes, I wouldn’t like throwing them in the car without a protective case.
Lastly, the included remote is just like all cheap RGB lights: bad. It sometimes works and you really need to point at the light and be at proximity.
Now, I’ll try to create an IR repeater with a stronger signal. Maybe with a computer controlled IR sender, more colour options will be possible. I’ll write a blog post when finished!
To conclude, here are some interviews where the tubes where the tubes are used as practicals. The Medium story about these interviews can be read here: https://medium.com/@potvos/lod-lavki-100-jaar-documenaire-40c40a81ef74 (in Dutch).