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Rift Labs Kick iPhone-controlled photo light offers a whole spectrum of colors

Our good friends at Photojojo were excited to tell us about a new product for iPhone that is bound to be a winner for iPhone photographers and videographers who want to add special lighting effects to their masterworks. The Kick (US$179) is an app-controlled photo light that not only provides adjustable brightness, but an infinite variety of light colors as well. The product began life as a Kickstarter project that received over $210,000 of funding, and it's now available for sale -- when it's in stock.

Design

Like many LED photo lights, the front of the Kick has a grid of lenses located over the 40 physical LEDs that help to diffuse the light that is generated. Those LEDs are powered by an internal battery pack charged by the usual USB to micro-USB cable. A charge LED gradually changes from red to "greenish" to indicate that the battery is topped off and ready to go.

The Kick works with the iPhone 4/4S and also with the iPhone 5. There's a small rubberized pad included to make the Kick work with the iPhone 5, since the phone is thinner than the earlier versions.

For manual lighting of your photographic or video subjects, there are two sets of +/- buttons on the "top" of the unit. One controls the brightness of the LEDs, while the other adjusts the hue through a rainbow of colors. Power to the unit is controlled by a single button on the charging end of the Kick.

Rift Labs Kick iPhonecontrolled photo light offers a whole spectrum of colors

There's one really important button on the unit; the Wi-Fi button. Pressing it enables a peer-to-peer Wi-Fi network named "RiftNet." That Wi-Fi network becomes extremely important when you are using your iPhone to control the Kick. Yes, there's a free app that allows remote control of one or more Kick lights over that network.

Rift Labs Kick iPhonecontrolled photo light offers a whole spectrum of colors

Therein lies the power of the Kick light. Professionals or dedicated amateur photographers can set up a number of the Kick lights around a subject and then tweak the lighting to achieve a particular effect.

One more thing; you won't mind carrying the Kick around; it's pretty lightweight (3.6 oz) and can slip into a pocket or backpack. Its bright -- 400 lumens at 5400 Kelvin, and it has a wide color range -- 2500 to 10000 Kelvin.

Functionality

While some might think that spending $179 for a small LED light is madness, I can see where professional photographers or others who just want to add some pizazz to their iPhone photography could really make use of the Kick light.

I found that it takes a little time for the iPhone to recognize and lock onto the RiftNet Wi-Fi network. I started waiting about two minutes after switching over from my usual network so I could make sure that the iPhone was ready to go on RiftNet. Note that this could be an artifact of using (ahem) a beta operating system on my iPhone.

The app interface is a bit busy, but it doesn't take all that long to figure it out. One feature I like is being able to pick a color from either something in your Photo Library (including a video) or in "real life." The LEDs then adjust to mimic that color as closely as possible. In addition to the ability to match colors in existing photos or in real life, there's also a standard color picker available.

There are also lighting effects that can be added to video with the tap of an icon. Want a strobe effect? One tap and you're there. How about a repeating rainbow of colors? Ditto (see video below). Want a lightning effect for that horror movie you're filming with the iPhone 5? It's a tap away. Using the color picker on a video can be really fun -- the video above shows an example of grabbing a light color from a campfire, complete with all of the variations in brightness and hue that exist in the "real" light.

Conclusion

Owners of iPhone 4, 4S and 5 smartphones who want to add professional quality lighting to their images now have a relatively inexpensive solution complete with a Wi-Fi peer-to-peer network for adjusting a number of Kick lights. It's the perfect marriage of a powerful iOS app and device with advanced lighting technology.

Pros

  • Relatively inexpensive for professional lighting
  • Lightweight, compact, and able to be attached to a tripod
  • Almost infinitely adjustable brightness and hue
  • Lighting can vary in real-time
  • iOS app is robust and has the flexibility to create a variety of lighting effects

Cons

  • None to speak of

Who is it for?

  • Professional photographers and videographers who want a compact, infinitely adjustable lighting solution, or iPhone photographers interested in adding professional-quality lighting to their bag of tricks.

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