The iPhone has been a transformative photographic device, not simply because of its own camera but for the universe of apps and accessories designed to aid professionals with “real” cameras. Apps and accessories like the Lumu.
Lumu is an ambient light meter that plugs into your iDevice’s audio jack and works in tandem with three apps: one for still photography, one for video and a third for pinhole photography. Third party developers can also access a Lumu SDK to build their own apps using the device.
The Lumu apps are free and the hardware retails for $149. The kit includes a necklace if you get the urge to wear the Lumu around your neck (we wouldn’t advise, but then again, you should never take fashion advice from us). There’s also a tiny pouch for carrying the Lumu less ostentatiously.
We paired with frequent co-tester, NJ photographer David Patiño, to shed some light on how the Lumu performed.
What We Liked
The app’s UI is simple, elegant and very well designed, allowing you to quickly identify the exposure value you’d like to measure for by doubling tapping it. You then slide your finger across the other values (shutter speed and ISO in photo, additional parameters, like frame rate, in the video app) to get your exposure values. You can also simply measure the light in terms of lux or foot candles by jumping into the settings menu. We also liked that the app has an analog setting so film shooters can get a more accurate measure at longer exposure times.
The Lumu app can also use your iPhone’s camera to read light in lieu of its own hardware. We found it less accurate, but still good to use in a pinch. Stacked against his $600 Sekonic, Patiño told us the Lumu hardware delivered consistently accurate results— impressive, considering the vast differential in price.
What We Didn’t
Photo and video functions are split between two apps instead of one. You’ll have to download and switch between both if you’re frequently bouncing between still and video shoots. It’s not the biggest inconvenience in the world, but still something that could be streamlined.
Also, as of this writing, Lumu is only available for iOS users. Android fans need not apply. The $149 price point struck Patiño as a bit steep.
Photographers who need flash metering should look elsewhere, as the Lumu can’t meter your strobes.
Street photographers or other natural light shooters, on the other hand, would definitely benefit from the Lumu. It’s smaller than your typical light meter (we’re not counting the size of your iPhone, since presumably that’s always with you anyway) and the app interface is more intuitive than most light meters as well. There’s another, less expensive product, the Luxi ($30) that works on all phones (not just iPhones) but relies on your device’s own camera and not its own sensor.
At the end of his time with the Lumu, Patino said that while it couldn’t substitute for his $600 Sekonic in a studio setting, it was a tempting gadget to toss into his gear bag. At $129 or better, $100, “it would be a no-brainer,” he said.