REVIEW – These days I often create a short video to add to my reviews here at The Gadgeteer. A couple of recent examples include the setup of UREVO’s treadmill and Flexispot’s standing desk. As we’ve said many times on this blog, lighting is key to good photography, and that’s also true for good videography. I previously reviewed a ring light from TONOR, and I use it in many of my stills; honestly though, I need more light for videography. Lots more light. I think I’ve found the solution to my problem: Hundreds of little LEDs found on a pair of photography lights from PIXEL.
What is it?
PIXEL’s lighting kit includes a pair of lights (model K80 RGB) that are powered by LEDs and mounted on a pair of tripods. It all fits into the included bag, making it a portable solution. Each 45W light has 552 LEDs and features three different modes of operation: white lighting, colored lighting, and special efforts. Pixel is “a professional photographic equipment manufacturer, committed to building a leading brand in technology, quality and fashion.”
What’s in the box?
- Two lights, each with built-in barn door and mounted on a U bracket
- Two power supplies
- Two tripods
- Two soft diffusers
- Two Velcro straps
- Storage bag
- User manuals for the lights and the diffusers
- Color Temperature Range: 2600 to 10,000k
- Power: 45W
- LCD Display Size: 2 inches
- Light Size: 12 x 9.5 x 6.x5 inches (in the U bracket)
- Power Supply Length: 168 inches
- Max Height on Tripod: 83 inches
- Material: Aluminum alloy and plastic
- LEDs: 240 RGB, 156 warm, 156 white
- Special Effects: 9 presets
Design and features
PIXEL’s lights look very similar to other LED continuous light panels. They have matte black bodies with barn doors (aka baffles) on all four sides. The front features rows and rows of little LEDs, and the back has a control panel. The body is mounted on a U bracket that allows the lights to rotate in the vertical plane. The bracket mounts onto the tripod, which allows it to be raised and lowered as well as rotate in the horizontal plane. It’s a functional design that is fairly standard in the videography world.
Most of the body, including the barn doors and U bracket is made of an aluminum alloy; the control panel is made almost entirely of plastic. The barn doors and the bracket are removable.
Installation and setup
Everything in this kit arrived well-packaged and inside the bag, thus providing plenty of protection. Setting up these LED lights was trivial, as the barn doors and U brackets were already attached to the lights. First, I slid the diffusers into the slots between the lights and the barn doors. One detail to note is that the barn doors on the lights cannot be closed without removing the diffusers first, so the diffusers must be removed before the lights can be put back into the bag.
Second, I unfolded the legs on the tripod and set them on the floor. Third, I mounted the lights on tripods and secured it using the top knobs. Fourth, I plugged in the power supply and connected it to the control panel. The only thing left to do was to turn them on.
The lights seem to be fairly sturdy due to their aluminum allow construction, and the same can be said for the tripods. Unfortunately, the sum is less than the total of the parts, because these tripods were not designed to work with these lights. There are three ways to know this:
First, the connector of the U bracket does not fit correctly onto the threaded mount of the tripod top, the proverbial “square peg in a round hole” problem. There’s no threading on the bracket, so it completely ignores how it’s supposed to be mounted on the tripod. Instead, it uses a knob to tighten a screw onto the side of the mount; the resulting force pushes it off-center, leaving it wonky and somewhat unstable.
Second, while the tripods are pretty solid pieces, the three legs are not wide enough to keep the lights steady at max height; in fact, any time the tripod is raised to be over five feet tall, the lights feel like they could be knocked over at the slightest touch. At max height, these lights are an accident ready to happen.
Third, these tripods are very tall. When fully extended, the top of the lights are nearly seven feet high. At this fullest extension, the power supply is pulled off the ground and up into the air, thus unbalancing the tripod even more. While the total length of the power supply is an amazing 14 feet long, the DC side of the supply isn’t long enough to keep it on the ground where it should be.
When I use the lights, I keep them between three and five feet tall, where I feel like they are stable enough to avoid problems. When PIXEL creates lighting kits in the future, I hope they won’t continue to take cheap shortcuts like this, and instead select quality parts that actually fit together correctly, the way there were designed to be connected.
The manual is written in five different languages, including English. I can’t speak for the other languages, but the English is very poor. (This is also true for their website.) PIXEL needs to find a native English speaker to help them write their manuals. I had to use the old trial-and-error approach to figure out how to work these lights, and there are still a couple of features that I’m uncertain about.
Despite the issues with the tripods and the manual, I like these lights; in fact, I like them a lot. They have one major thing going for them: Their brightness. These lights are super-duper bright. I’ve used them both for photography and videography, and they make it a lot easier to get a good shot.
Before I could use the lights, however, I had to figure out the control panel. In the end, the basic settings aren’t that difficult to use. There are three modes, which can be cycled through by pressing the mode button. For each mode, the button inside the dial can be used to select the settings, and the dial is used to change the value of the settings.
The first mode is CCT, which is the color temperature mode. In this mode, the brightness can be set from 0 to 100%, and the color can be set from very warm to very cool. This is the mode that I use for nearly all of my shooting, and I prefer a setting that is right in the middle between warm and cool.
The second mode is HSI, which is the color gamut mode. In this mode, the brightness can be set from 0 to 100%, the color can be set from 0 to 360 RGB (all the colors of the rainbow), and the saturation can be set from 0 to 100%. In the work I do for The Gadgeteer, I don’t have a need to shoot with colored lights, but it could be cool to try one light in a color and one in white to get a certain ambiance.
The third mode is FLS, which are the special effects: SOS (in Morse code), lightning, TV screen flicker, police, ambulance, and fire truck flashing lights, and rotating through the RGB colors. These are kind of gimmicky, in my opinion, but the lights really do flash, especially the one for the police car, which I tried to capture in this photo.
The following 1080p video demonstrates how to use the control panel, what the various lighting settings look like, and how to adjust the light physically:
The explanation of the channel and group settings in the manual is incoherent. My best guess is that the channel sets how the light communicates with PIXEL’s LC8 remote control, which can be purchased separately on Amazon for $30, and that the group defines a group of related lights that can all be changed at once to have the same setting. PIXEL did not include a remote, so I’m unable to verify my guess.
As you can imagine, so many LEDs in such close proximity can generate a lot of heat. Undoubtedly this is why most of the K80 is made of an aluminum alloy and why there are holes all over the back, top, and sides.
I like that PIXEL included a case for this kit, as these lights are definitely portable enough to move to shoots. The case is not custom-fit for the lights but rather uses moveable dividers with Velcro on the ends to create spaces for each light, the tripods, and the power supplies. The case is all black and made of synthetic nylon-like material on the outside and a soft lining on the inside. The walls and dividers are all padded, which should provide plenty of protection for lights. I’m pretty happy with the case.
Unfortunately, the first time that I disassembled the lights to store them back in the bag, I ran into an issue. The plastic beam that supports the barn doors on one of the lights broke in four places, each right next to a barn door hinge. It turns out that this support beam is made of plastic, and apparently it’s not thick enough right at the hinge to handle the stress of opening and closing the barn doors. It’s very strange because there’s not that much stress. My guess is that the plastic bars that rotate inside the corner pieces were never lubricated, so they are twisting and snapping instead. With this many breaks, I decided to simply take off the doors rather than try to glue them back together. When I removed them, I found the plastic to be very brittle; I wonder if they can’t take the heat of the LEDs. Sadly, this means that I lose the diffuser because the barn doors are what held them in place. Even worse, I now have nothing to protect the LEDs when I put this light into the case; previously the folded-down barn doors provided this protection. PIXEL needs to take this design back to the drawing boards and rebuild these pieces with aluminum alloy instead of plastic.
The kit comes with two Velcro straps, but there’s no explanation in the manual of their purpose. I suspect that they are used to bundle the power supply cable together when in the bag and to strap it to the tripod to keep people from tripping on it during a shoot.
The photoshoots that I do are normally inside my house. If, however, I wanted to travel to a remote location to shoot, I could power each light with a pair of NP-F batteries (various options from NF-550 to NF-970). No batteries are included in the kit, but they can be found on Amazon for around $15 to $25 per battery with a charger.
What I like
- Very bright lights
- Flexible controls
- Diffuser and barn doors
- Included bag
What I’d change
- Pick a U bracket and tripod that work together properly
- Pick a tripod that’s steadier when fully extended.
- Redesign the barn door beams
PIXEL’s lighting kit includes a pair of K80 lights, a pair of tripods on which to mount them, and a well-padded bag for storage and transport. The lights are amazingly bright, and the control panel allows fine adjustments for brightness, temperature, hue, and saturation. Though I really like these lights, their brightness does not, ahem, outshine their faults. PIXEL took a shortcut by using a tripod that is not designed to be paired with the U bracket on the K80, and this results in a less-than-stable connection. Additionally, these tripods are not very stable when fully extended and are a safety hazard. Even worse, the broken plastic holding the barn doors broke after less than two weeks of testing, leaving me without barn doors or a diffuser. Although I want to recommend this kit, because the lights are amazing, I just can’t. PIXEL’s product is not ready for prime time; hopefully, they will make some major changes and come back with a better gadget in the future.