The new amaran 2ft (T2c) and 4ft (T4c) tube lights by Aputure are here, and they come with a new feature that makes them stand out from the rest of the tube light crowd: locking external batteries. I took these new lights for a spin over several weeks, and here’s my full review.
There’s been a long-running joke on the Aputure User Facebook Group that the most-oft-requested Aputure fixture of a “tube light” is one of the few lighting products Aputure just wasn’t going to make. What a difference a few years of asking make. The Aputure tube light is finally here, and, in a twist, it isn’t branded “Aputure” at all but is branded under the more prosumer-focused “amaran” name.
As to why the Aputure team branded the new tube light under “amaran”, this was the response from Brandon Le, Product Marketing Manager:
1) This is our first venture in the Tube market, and we wanted to first open this form factor up to the amaran brand to grow the ecosystem for our prosumer users.
2) Making this an amaran-centric product allows us to target these products to a more price-conscious consumer.
3) This product doesn’t have some features that we would need to integrate in order to brand it an Aputure product, such as LumenRadio CRMX, Waterproofing, and potentially other features.
Brandon Le – Product Marketing Manager, Aputure
As a professional user of various higher-end Aputure products ranging from their 1200d Pro (check out my review here) to their Nova 600c (my review), I’ll admit I get a bit tentative testing products billed as entry-level. Maybe they just aren’t meant for me and the work I do. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things I appreciate about these new amaran tube lights. I’m always looking for fixtures that can maintain flattering skin tones or can quickly be mounted to tricky spots or even portable lights to check on a plane if needed. Let’s see how the T2c and T4c hold up.
At first glance, the amaran tube lights, with their edge-to-edge LED emitter coverage, lean more towards the Astera Titan exterior feel and less toward Nanlite Pavotube offerings. I appreciate this because I want as much real estate as possible devoted to lighting talent on a single side of a fixture and less space devoted to button management. The design also makes for a sleeker on-camera look if you use the amaran tube or Astera Titan as a background practical element.
The build of both the T4c and T2c is heavily dependent on plastic, which suggests these fixtures can’t take any sort of impact. On the plus side, this lack of metal keeps the overall weight down.
Thankfully, the amaran team has decided to go with a standard T-12 width with both the T2c and T4c — which means you’ll find a wide variety of third-party accessory options available.
Plenty of 1/4-20 and hardier 3/8th-16 mounting points are present all over the rear of the tubes, though you’ll be limited to 3/8th-16 on each end. Given the relatively low weight of the 2ft and 4ft amaran tubes, you could perhaps get away with a single 1/4-20 mounting point (with a safety tie). The industrial strength magnets I use for mounting fixtures work very well on the amaran tubes. You can also find a variety of options on B&H and CVP.
To summarize: although the plastic build gives some concern, the multitude of mounting mounts and the low weight without the battery attached (more on that in a second) make for a positive first impression.
Any chance that I’d confuse the amaran tubes with other brands quickly vanished when I picked up the external battery pack that is interchangeable between the 20W 2ft and the 40W 4ft versions. This 77Wh battery pack may be the coolest feature and, when mounted, gives the whole fixture where the battery becomes the grip a lightsaber vibe. (Warning: Do Not Use Tube Light as Lightsaber.)
Powering tube lights has always been hit or miss. Internal battery packs eventually reach the end of life, requiring either 1) the whole unit to be shipped to repair facilities or 2) the attaching of heavy external camera batteries reducing the form factor of the tube light that made it so appealing in the first place. The amaran tube lights present another power option that feels safer (everything clicks into place seamlessly) and potentially more useful in the long run.
At 100% intensity on the T4c with the battery pack, I got just over an hour and a half of battery life.
The only issue I have with the external battery pack is the weight of the pack itself. The center of balance moves directly under the end-mounted battery pack making mounting the whole fixture overhead a little less easy.
Below is an example of how you might mount both tubes overhead (pictured here without external battery attachment).
You could also power the T2c or T4c from wall power using the 12-16.8V 24V DC barrel input. Unfortunately, barrel inputs are finicky in my experience and prone to being yanked out mid-shot compared to locking LEMO or other power options. Still, note, those options tend to be more expensive.
We can’t pretend that the LED color tube segment isn’t a crowded place with the likes of Astera, Quasar Science, Nanlite, and others all vying for market position. You can read my recent review of the Quasar Science Rainbow and Double Rainbow fixtures here.
Some of the other 4ft color LED tubes on the market:
- amaran T4c – $329.00
- Astera Titan – $850.00
- Quasar Science Q50 Rainbow 2 RGBX – $750
- Nanlite Pavotube II 30x – $579.00
- DigitalFoto RGB Tube – $299.00
Keep in mind that each of the above varies in capabilities and feature set. Only in length (4ft) are they similar. (FYI: At 2ft length, the amaran T2c runs $199 USD.)
The biggest initial draw with the amaran tube light might simply be that it works well with the Sidus Link App you already use for your other amaran and Aputure products, and, for some, that might be enough to justify the cost of admission. Having your Light Storm 600d Pro, LS 300d MK II, and Nova 300c controllable with your favorite mobile device is just too darn appealing to pass up.
However, at a certain fixture count, LumenRadio CRMX will be the only way to go. Unfortunately, built-in LumenRadio CRMX is not available in the T2c or T4c. amaran tube lights do have a USB-C port marked DMX that requires a USB-C to 5-Pin DMX512 adapter (not included) for use.
Output and color accuracy testing: T4c
I’ve tested the output using lux and color handling (using kelvin) of the T4c at a distance of three feet with my Sekonic C-700U Spectrometer and here are the results with no modifiers attached. This is at 3 ft with a Target of 5600K:
Hitting a result of 5620K with a target of 5600K is fantastic and one of the best results for Kelvin accuracy I have seen recently. And here’s a test with a target of 3200K.
Also, a very solid kelvin result (3270K) with a slight hit to overall output when compared with the previous 56K targeted test. And now for a test somewhere in the middle of that range at 4700K.
Again, spot on with that kelvin target, and the output remains in a similar spot to the 32K test. Here’s a quick look at how accurate the colors are coming out of the T4c:
We’re landing in the mid to lower 90s in terms of average CRI with the exception of R9 (Red) and R11 (Green). These are decent results for our color rendering test, but notably not as good as for the Nova 600c. You can find the Nova 600c testing results here.
The CRI results were identical with the T2c and I saw a 40% hit to output with the 2ft version when compared to the 4ft version.
A plastic build, heavy externally mounted battery, and limited DMX options can’t detract from the wealth of available mounting points, fantastic kelvin scores, and the fact that you have a mountable battery, to begin with. The edge-to-edge design of the T4c and the T2c make these practical and usable fixtures worthy entries for amaran and Aputure into the tube segment.
Price and availability
There is no further information on when the amaran tube lights will be available. We will keep you updated and add the information to this article as soon as it becomes available to us. Also, you can follow Aputure’s website for more information.
Guys, what do you think of these new tube lights? Will you add the T2c or T4c to your kit or do you prefer other brands? Let us know in the comments below!