Trending Games | Path of Exile | Star Wars: The Old Republic | Lineage 2 | Star Citizen

    Facebook Twitter YouTube Twitch.tv YouTube.Gaming Discord
Register
Quick Game Jump
Members:3,910,421 Users Online:0
Games:786 

Elgato Key Light Review

By Christopher Coke on November 28, 2019 | Hardware Reviews | Comments

Elgato Key Light Review

f you’re a content creator, whether that’s a part-timer streamer to a full-time YouTuber, then you know how important lighting can be. Today, we’re looking at a premiere light specially made for streamers with the Elgato Key Light. It mounts to your desk, is WiFi customizable, and offers a ton of brightness. At $199, is it worth the investment for your stream? Join us as we find out!

Specifications

  • Current Price: $199.99
  • Brightness: 2800 lumens, adjustable
  • Color Range: 2900-7000K, adjustable
  • Power Consumption: Up to 45W
  • Dimensions: 1.18 x 13.77 x 9.84 in (light)
  • Weight: 2.86 lb (light)
  • Pole Mount Length: 22-49in, adjustable
  • Clamp: Padded and expandable up to 2.35in

Do you create content? You need a good light.

If you’re a content creator that uses a camera, you need a good light. It doesn’t matter whether you’re using a cheap webcam or a high-end DSLR, without good light, your stream is doomed to look bad. This is even more important if you post videos to YouTube where new creators are put side-by-side with multi-million dollar personalities. One of the first steps to making your stream look more than amateur is lighting.

The simple fact is this: no matter what kind of camera you have, you need enough light to feed it. If your scene is too dark, the camera will raise its ISO and lower its shutter speed, making your footage look grainy and low FPS. This is especially true for webcams where the quality can swing wildly from one streamer to another just by virtue of how well their face is lit.

This is especially true if you use a green screen. If you’d like to go for the classic “cut out” look where it’s just your body on top of game play, simply having a chroma keyed background isn’t enough. You need much more light to make green screens look good and light placement takes more consideration. I won’t go into all the detail of how to properly use a green screen here but the reality is simply this: if that’s something you want to do, desk lamps aren’t going to cut it.

Lighting - it’s more important than most new streamers realize.

There are lots of lights out there, so what’s special about the Elgato Key Light?

There are lots of lights on the market, but the Elgato Key Light is unique in at least one surprising way: it mounts directly to your desk. Believe it or not, that’s not something that’s been done before, at least as far as I could find - believe me, I looked. Every light I came across required a floor or desk stand. The Key Light, on the other hand, features a padded clamp much like you’d find on a microphone boom arm. Why this didn’t exist before is a mystery I still can’t wrap my head around. But Elgato delivered and it’s a genuinely useful innovation for modern streamers and desk-based content creators.

From there, it’s a fairly standard lighting pole. It’s high-quality and metal, so there’s no risk of it bending or breaking. Compared to the average lighting stand included with LED light panels in this price range on Amazon, it’s much heavier and more rigid. On top, Elgato has added a ball head with a 1/4-20 to attach the light panel and tilt to the most flattering angle for your face. It’s also expandable up from 22 to 49 inches. When I recorded the video review for the Key Light, I actually had it a bit too low which caused some glare on my glasses. A few extra inches of height completely solved that issue.

The Key Light also seamlessly integrates with Elgato’s other peripherals. If you already have a Stream Deck, you can easily add buttons to control the light’s brightness or color temperature right from the desktop. The same is true for Elgato’s capture software if you own a Cam Link. Modifying the light is something you’ll do often and this level of convenience isn’t something you’ll find on any other light if you’re already in that ecosystem. If you’re not, you can still control the light with your PC or smartphone using Elgato’s Control Center app.

How does it shine?

Once the Key Light is installed, it’s very simple to get up and running. There are really only two controls you’ll use to dial in your lighting: brightness and color temperature. Each are controlled with convenient sliders if you use software.

The Key Light can get bright, all the way up to 2900 lumens. That’s bright enough to light an entire room if you placed it in a corner, so lighting up a green screen will be no problem at all (just watch out for shadows - position matters). For normal use, I found keeping it between 25-40% was more than sufficient to create a comfortable luminance for my setup. It easily shifts from its dimmest, almost invisible brightness to its highest smoothly and quickly, which makes it very versatile for on the fly adjustments.

It also has a wide range for color temperature. It can deliver anything from very cold blue light (7000K) to very warm, almost orange light (2900K). This is great for making sure your skin tones look good. Blue light will often make you look pale but if you’re flush, it can even that out to a more natural tone. For me, I found warming it up to 3000K, similar to the “soft white” bulbs you’ll find in department stores, was the most flattering and made a good match for the Nanoleaf RGB panels I also have in my office.

The Key Light is also directional, though isn’t exactly a spotlight. The LEDs are only positioned on one side and bordered with a raised rim to keep the light facing one direction. Elgato has included a frosted white diffusion panel to make sure it stays soft, which is best for face cams. This design means that it won’t light up the rest of your set unless you tell it to. It also means that you can easily pair it with a second light of a different (or same) color temperature. This is a good strategy to draw out detail in a subject’s face, though will be overkill for most streamers. Still, it’s a setup that’s ready to scale and at this price, that’s good to see.

Video Demonstration and Review

Should you buy one?

Elgato has delivered an excellent video light, there’s no doubt about that, but there’s also no way around how expensive it is. At $199, it’s more than whole lighting sets, including stands, umbrellas, and softboxes. Clearly, this isn’t for everyone as there are more affordable options, even among LED panels, to achieve similar results.

The Key Light, then, is a good fit for people who are ready to move on from those beginner setups. What you’re paying for here is the space savings and convenience. Just as importantly, you’re paying for the ecosystem. Elgato has a lock on the streaming market right now. Between the Stream Deck, Cam Link, the plethora of capture cards, and the Green Screen, there’s a real value in keeping things inside a single system - not unlike Apple or Google. Once you’re in, it’s easier and more convenient to stay within that ecosystem.

The other audience is people who just don’t have the space for big softboxes or floor stands for their panels. I also count myself among that group. Being able to achieve the results you’re looking for without giving up even more of your room is compelling, even if you have to pay for it.

But, if you’re not part of those two camps or are only a casual creator, then this is probably a bridge too far compared to the competition. It’s a great light, but I’d love to see it priced more accessibly for the mainstream.

Pros

  • Easy to assemble and get running
  • Smartphone, PC, or Stream Deck control
  • Heavy-duty pole-mount and space-saving
  • Very versatile - very bright to extremely soft, very cold to very warm

Cons

  • Very expensive

The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purpose of review.

Christopher Coke / Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight