12th October 2022 – Written by Nick Rowe @ Technuovo.com
As part of Technuovo, I’m always taking photos of products and also recording video footage for videos, and what do they both need? Great lighting. When Zhiyun got in touch and mentioned their new Fiveray FR 100C light stick, I was both intrigued and excited, this really could be useful. Well, they sent one over for me to take a look at and here are my thoughts after using it for a few weeks.
Out of the box, I’m instantly drawn to say it’s like a mini lightsaber. It’s got a handle at the very bottom, with a nice textured grip where my thumb lies if gripping it in my right hand. To the back of the handle, is a small display that indicates various settings, and then a rotary push button is used for selecting said settings. The button does include labels so you know what’s what, plus there is a handy colour spectrum, as you need to manually change figures to get the colour you want, but more on that later. Above the handle, the LED light itself, with a white frosted cover to the front, with grilles around the other 3 sides to keep those chips cool. The grille directly behind the LED’s actually holds 6 small fans which will turn on automatically when needed. The LED part measures 350mm, while the handle is an extra 150mm, so 500mm in total. The weight sits at just under 1kg. There is also a standard quarter-inch thread so mount it to a stand.
The overall build quality is very good, it appears to be very well built and due to its shape and size, reasonably practical too, either handheld or on a stand.
In the box, you get the light wand, a USB C cable and some instructions.
- CCT Mode, allows for dual colour temperature lighting in regular and max mode.
- Colour temperature – warm white 2700k upto cool white 6200k.
- Full RGB HSI Mode – Hue 0-360degree / saturation 0-100% / intensity 0-100%
- Colour rendering index (CRI is 96 or greater
- TLCI is 97 or greater.
- Charing via USB C or mains adapter (sold separately)
- Charge time circa 2hrs 30mins.
- Battery life UPTO 5hr 40minutes (heavily caveated)
In terms of light performance, it’s bright and it’s flexible. At 100%, or I should say 100% on the display, it’s very bright, more than bright enough to allow me to light up a product I’m shooting, or provide just about enough light for a video shoot. However, activate the boost mode which I feel adds another 50% output and that light output becomes almost blinding if held too close to you. Ideal for external shoots, or anywhere you just need that extra boost. This does drain the battery even more though. It’s linear, rather than circular, which does offer a different spread of light but the further away you stand from it, the less noticeable that is. The light is diffused by a frosted cover, you can still pick up the singular LEDs and I’d say you still need to soften it further if you want to use it for video shooting i.e. stick a softbox on, somehow.
It’s not ideal but see below some shots using the light. Camera settings remained the same for all shots, the only thing that changed was the light percentages.
Lighting colour can be easily changed via the scroll wheel. Warm white at 2700k upto cool white 6200k works well and can be adjusted in increments of 100k. Dimming control is even more flexible and can be changed in increments of 1%, which is good but takes quite a few screws to go from 0 to 100%. The colour option is a nice touch but it takes some getting used to, to achieve the colour you want. There are no defaults, and no quick options, instead, you have Hue and Saturation options on the screen, and you need to manually adjust both of those figures to achieve the colour you want. Cheat, find a colour online with associated H & S outputs, or do it manually and fiddle with both figures for ages until you achieve the colour you want. The last colour selected is saved, so the next time you turn the light on, that colour will show. The RGB colouring can also be dimmed the same as the white light. The controls as a whole work quite well, once you get used to them and understand what each option does.
Noise could be a concern for some. With 6 small fans, rotating at varying speeds to dissipate the heat produced by the chips, it can get loud. When you first turn the light on, the fans won’t kick in, it’ll be silent. As the temperature of the chips increase, the fans will automatically turn on. They will start to rotate slowly and ramp up the speed in line with the increased thermal output of the chips. At peak, the fans are whirling, it’s very noticeable they’re on and could be off-putting. Ideally, if you’re outside on a shoot, or maybe even inside but taking photos, I don’t think it would be an issue. However, if you’re shooting video and depending on the type of microphone you use and its position, it might pick up the sound of the fans which will ruin your audio. For me, I use a lav mic attached to my t-shirt and I found it ok. The light was about a meter away from me, the fans are out the rear so the sound is directed away from me and the mic, and my voice, with some subtle background music on a video, the fan noise wasn’t an issue. The fans do a fairly poor job of removing heat. I’d put my hand on the front of the light, when the fans were full speed and it was really hot, to a point you should hold your hand on for too long.
Battery varies drastically on how you use it. Full power, 100% you might get 30 minutes out of it if you’re lucky. As you reduce the output, the battery life will last longer. Drop it to 50% and you might get an hour, down further, maybe 2 hours and then down to 10%, you might get up to 5 hours on battery life BUT, is it worth it? It doesn’t provide that much purposeful light, it would have to be background only.
As it comes with a ¼ quarter inch thread, you can attach this to a tripod, big or small, or a gorilla pod, or anything that can provide a ¼ quarter inch screw. For me, I attached it to various tripods, some bigger than others and some had a flexible head on them, which meant I could angle the light very easily. I tried having the lighting above my head, at head level, at varying angles, down below and facing up. It can be used as versatile as your tripod will allow it and ideally, you want a ball joint to get maximum flexibility.
Overall, a very handy and portable light stick. It’s incredibly flexible and versatile but it is noisy and takes a little time to get used to how the controls work. The battery as well, at the full output it’s not going to last very long and maybe not long enough. Price wise at $199/£199 (1 to 1?!) you may think it’s expensive but when you shop around, there aren’t too many products like this on the market and it does offer alot for the money. In certain applications, this could be a sound investment but the key is, weighing where and when you’d use it to justify the cost.
For more info, head over to the official Zhiyun website.