Are you’re into streaming your games, creating content for Twitch, YouTube or any other format that requires you filming yourself at your desk? Well, you’ll no doubt have realised just how deep the studio equipment rabbit hole goes. From cameras, lens, tripods, microphones. It seems you can drop endless cash on every little aspect. One of the most important factors, however, is lighting. A well-lit scene can drastically improve video quality. Trying to film yourself in a darkened room is going to look awful for your viewers, and no doubt require a higher ISO on your camera, generating video noise in the process.
Since Elgato also makes the Stream Deck, the key light launches with updates to the Stream Deck (mini and regular) that allow for lighting controls from the Stream Deck. The fact they’re unifying this ecosystem is brilliant for content creators!
Does this look familiar? Big lighting setups and diffusers? It’s been a common configuration for a very long time. However, thanks to even better quality LED setups, we can get this size drastically down. The Elgato Key Light is one of the first such lights tuned specifically for this market, we shall see today.
“Flawlessly designed to beat the rising demands of streaming, Elgato Key Light sets the bar for high-end studio lighting. 80 premium LEDS output a massive 2500 lumens that you control via the Control Center app. A silky-smooth opal glass face guarantees balanced, glare-free diffusion. And a fully-adjustable metal desk mount keeps your space streamlined. Everything about Key Light says: you’re pro.”
In the box, you’ll find the tripod, power cable, and the lighting unit. It’s all very well packaged and spaced out, and pretty much ready for plug and play use. Now, let’s dive in for a closer look!
The light its self looks fantastic and features a very clean looking Opal front diffuser. Overall, the light is 30 x 350 x 250mm. Pretty compact, but still more than big enough to be useful. It’s also very slim at just 30mm, meaning it can be placed behind your desk, pretty much against a wall if required.
There’s plenty of ventilation around the whole unit, although I doubt it’ll get that hot anyway being LED. There’s also a standard 1/4″ thread mount in the middle of all four sides. Of course, you can use the included tripod, but also any other 1/4″ mount on any rig you want will do the job.
The main light is only half the thickness of the whole unit, the 30mm is mostly located at the central power unit.
It takes a simple power jack, as the whole thing is controlled over Wi-Fi to reduce cable clutter. There’s a power switch, “I” for on, “O” for off, and “II” is for reset.
The tripod is pretty robust, with a durable metal clamp for your desk on the bottom.
It’s a simple enough design and features thick foam on the clamp so that it doesn’t scratch up the surface.
On the other end, two telescopic extensions with locking nuts.
There’s also a ball joint 1/4″ mount so you can find that perfect angle with ease.
My desk is a pretty standard height Ikea desk. With the tripod fully extended from the desk, it tops out at 7ft, which would put the light topping out around 8ft at the top.
Obviously, this isn’t a practical place for it, but I have to show you the tripod somehow! Now, I’ll move it somewhere else.
A solution unique to my desk, I can mount it upside down from a shelf. Not as practical as I had hoped though.
Ah, that’s better, mounted to the rear of the desk. The slim form factor of the light panel means I can have it both close to the wall and navigate the shelving that would otherwise block it. The pivot mount also means I can have the light tilted slightly forwards.
Powering up the Key Light is easy enough, as it comes with a clever international plug design. Even better, it comes with a decent amount of cable, so you shouldn’t be too restricted when it comes to placing it.
You need the new Elgato Control Center before you can install the light. If you’re using a Stream Deck, you’ll also want to ensure you have the latest version which supports the new lighting features. My PC runs on LAN, so I had to use a USB WiFi adapter to get it to pair with the Key Light. However, you can use your phone/tablet to connect directly to the light, then configure it by using pointing your browser at the lights IP address. It’s not hard to do and only took me a few moments to run through.
Once installed, you can take full control of the Key Light from the taskbar. This popup allows you to tweak the colour temperature, as well as the overall brightness. It’s a light, so it’s hardly rocket science with a million settings. Just dial it in, and you’re good to go.
Of course, if you have a Stream Deck, you can create all kinds of profiles and settings and set them to the buttons. I’ve gone ahead and created a simple one. However, with the macro features, you can have a single button press do things like, dim the lights, play a sound effect, then brighten the lights again; if you so desired.
My lighting setup is pretty self-explanatory. Of course, since you can add completely custom button names and icons in seconds, I was able to visually customise the Stream Deck to make it easier (and a little more fun) to use.
Ironically, this picture was dim, and I thought “If only I had more light” and then I remembered what I was doing.
Ah, there we go, magically more light, what a surprise.
At maximum brightness, the Key Light will rip your freaking eyes out. OK, not really, but 2500 lumens is no joke, that is properly bright and should easily light a fairly big area quite nicely. Of course, if you have a bigger space and need even lighting for greenscreen, you can run another key light to kill those shadow demons.
It’ll drop down to 3% should you need a minimal light for whatever reason, and of course, you can run it up in 1% increments from there till you find the perfect setting for you.
While most will use the light around 5000K, a more neutral natural light, you can set it up to a cool white 7000K, or drop it to a very warm 2900K. Here’s a low, medium and max brightness shot of the 2900K. Keep in mind, my camera will adjust its ISO in relation to the increased brightness.
Obviously, the performance is something that’s quite hard to gauge in these images. Here I’m using it at high brightness, but with a very warm white light. And yes, I know I suck at selfies.
Again, still at max brightness, but with a cool white light. I’m facing this way to show the difference between the lit and unlit side of my face.
The same again, warm white then a cool white, 50% brightness this time. Hard to see in our website friendly compressed images, but there’s more noise in this one from the camera requiring a higher ISO.
Unfortunately, at the time of writing this review, we didn’t have any pricing information. The product is due to be revealed at CES 2019 in Las Vegas. We’ll be there at the show, and will have this information for you soon. However, until then, we’re as much in the dark about these lights as you are.
The Key Light is a fantastic solution for any content creators lighting problems. Older lighting tech required a huge amount of space, and big tripods, reflectors and more. Not only that, but the old setups were power hungry, put out a lot of heat and more. While they’re fine in a big studio, they’re often counterproductive in a gaming setup. Most people have their desks against a wall, or in a smaller room than a typical photo studio would be. Admittedly, LED lighting for studios is nothing new, we used them ourselves. However, they’re often battery operated, quite chunky, a little harshly lit, required slide in front filters for lighting colour control and more. The Key Light is much sleeker than all of that.
Being able to tune the colour temperature and brightness, and even the power on/off from your desk is awesome. If you’re live streaming, you don’t want to be getting up to dial in settings. I can sit at my desk, look at my output on the video stream and adjust the lighting of the scene set up as it should be. The brightness is something to behold too, and at 2500 Lumens, you’ll not be left wanting for more. Sure, you can use more than one though. If you’re using greenscreen, two Key Lights would help give you a shadowless backdrop that easy to key out in software. That would also give you a greater luminance overall, although you can dial the lighting power down a bit if you’re using two anyway.
Setup of the Key Light couldn’t be any easier. The WiFi mode is fantastic, as it means there are fewer cables in your setup and no need for USB control or anything. The included clamp/tripod is brilliant, really well made and very easy to set up too. Furthermore, my favourite feature has to be Stream Deck support. If ever there was a way to target this product to streamers, that was it, and you won’t get that feature from any other studio light on the market.
Honestly, I think Elgato are going to sell these in huge numbers. For our own YouTube studio, we use a bunch of LED lights that all feel inferior to this both in brightness, options, and ergonomics. No doubt this will be more expensive, but you get what you pay for. This is the first light I’ve seen like this, build for the desktop environment, and they’re a must-have for any streamer, YouTuber, etc.
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