In recent years, budget lighting products have flooded the market, promising ‘studio quality’ lighting at a bargain basement price. As technology has improved, particularly with LED based units, the availability of good quality lighting has become more widespread and competition has therefore driven down prices considerably. Just five or six years ago, decent output LED panels would have cost the earth, making them out of reach for those of us working within tighter budgets and fluorescent tube based units were the only real option for panel lighting. These days however, things are very different and high output, good colour quality, practical LED panels are available in abundance and at the right price!
I first purchased a single PIXAPRO VNIX LED1000S early 2018 for a specific video project where I needed to conduct a number of on location interviews, and I wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about the idea of repeatedly assembling and disassembling fragile fluorescent units. I chose the VNIX series on the basis of a simple power to price to portability ratio. It was a bit of a punt, as I’d never really heard of the manufacturer, but online reports were generally very good and, as the supplier was only about a twenty minute drive away, I could try before I buy and also return the goods easily if I had problems. This was my first purchase from Essential Photo, who are the UK suppliers for PIXAPRO products, but it certainly hasn’t been my last, and I’ve become increasingly impressed with the quality of equipment that Essential Photo sell for very reasonable prices.
The VNIX LED100S is a flat LED panel, which boasts 1040 LEDs in a rectangular array. It comes in two basic flavours: a single colour, daylight (5600k) balanced unit, designated with an S at the end of its name, and a bi-colour, or B designated unit, which is variable between 3200k and 5600k, by blending two colours of LED. I opted for the daylight balanced unit on the grounds that I would get more output power and that I could always gel the fixture anyway to change colour temperature. As it happens, the unit is supplied with a slot-in diffuser and a rigid CTO gel as standard anyway; so temperature variation, although not available at the turn of a dial, is pretty easy to accomplish.
The panel is well made, constructed in steel and with a nice heavy duty feel to it. Not the prettiest thing in the world, but hey, it’s a light, right? The panel, power supply, mains cable remote control, gels and an ingenious optional soft box type diffuser (more on this later) all fit nicely into a robust carry bag, which although not padded, offers good protection from basic bangs and scrapes. Aiding their general robustness are the four, permanently fitted flags or barn doors, which fold nicely over the LED array itself to provide a hefty layer of protection to the fragile bit. I now have three of these lights, which I use on location quite regularly and, while I don’t exactly throw them around, I’ve never felt like I have to treat them particularly delicately. The panels are mounted on a good solid yoke, with clutches at each side to allow tilting. All you really need to add is a stand, which would be included with each light when purchased as part of a multi unit set.
The output of the VINX LED 1000S is quoted at 8900 lumen at 1m, which is pretty bright and certainly falls well into the territory of needing to warn people not to look into them directly. Working in a studio around 5x5m, I find that there’s certainly enough illumination to guarantee decent exposure without having to either ramp up sensor gain, shoot wide open, or get the fixtures in uncomfortably close to my subjects. They have a beam angle of 45º, a Colour Rendition Index (CRI) rating of ≥95% and a Television Lighting Consistency Index (TLCI) rating of 95; making them useable for all types of still or video work, without having to worry about odd colour casts etc. All in all, I’d describe the quality of light as good, particularly if you use the diffuser and the optional soft box.
The soft box: I love things that are clever and simple, and the optional soft box that I purchased with each of these luminaries has those qualities in spades. It simply fits over the 4 opened flags/barn doors, which when opened fully, tighten the soft box nicely. OK, a large octabox, or the like, would give a better result, but they’re such a prize pain to setup and require a good deal of room height to deploy, particularly if working with standing subjects. These simple little add ons really improve the quality of light from the 1000S units and make them eminently usable, even for portrait stills. They also come with a grid to help tame the light output even further.
The VNIX LED1000S has an industry standard V-Mount battery plate on the back, making them usable outdoors if needed. Add to this 10%-100% step-less variable output, a simple wireless remote control (1 remote can control the output and balance of multiple units if required), a DMX control option, and you have a very comprehensive lighting package with multiple applications. At 330mm x 210mm x 48.5mm, they’re small enough to be easily portable, again helping to consolidate their general usefulness. For the ecologically or frugally minded, they consume just 64w per unit at full power, about half that of comparable fluorescent units and about 10% of equivalent output tungsten fixtures. PSU and mains cables are both pretty standard and leads are more than long enough for most applications. All this for less than £250/unit.
My only regret about buying these LED panels is that rather than getting the three panel kit in the first place, I got one unit and then purchased two more later, which cost me a few extra quid. Still, hindsight is 20/20 as they say.
I am not connected in any way with Pixapro or Essential Photo, and I have not received any form of remuneration or other consideration from them for this review.