Last week I picked up Intellytech's version of a flexible LED panel. It's crazy thin, light, and portable. How does it stack up against a regular panel?
Firstly, this isn't a full review in which we compare the light to Westcott's Flex LED, nor Aladdin's version. This is a brief overview, after using it for a week. Hopefully it sparks some ideas, and opens people up to the idea that these are becoming affordable.
The reason I bought it, was because I needed a compact light to travel with. No soft-box, no Arri, and no bulbs. I could have used Aputure's LED panels, since I already own two. However they didn't quite fit when I was packing an entire interview kit, plus a gimbal and my clothes, in a peli-case and backpack. It's also nice taking a camera, tripod, radio mics, and lighting equipment all in one backpack. I needed a powerful light, and the Airlight was the ticket.
This thing fits beside my laptop in my backpack. No regular LED panel even comes close to that level of portability. It’s light enough to mount anywhere you can dream of. To top it off, the panel is bright. Very bright. Briefly testing it in B&H, I found it held up just fine compared to Westcott's equivalent light. I couldn't tell the difference. It makes sense because on paper, the lights are comparable to Westcott. They achieve about the same LUX (~4,000 at 1 Meter/3ft) and the same CRI (95+).
Unfortunately that's where the benefits end.
The biggest gripe, which Westcott suffers from also, is that the power supply and the control panel are two separate bricks. Now, I could fit the extra cables in my case without issue, but it's annoying that you lose portability when the two could arguably be in a single unit. You can't just tape one to the other either, because the power in/out ports are on the back of the controller, so you need both sides to be free.
If you were to opt for a Felloni, you'd be able to mount a battery on the back. If you want to use a V-Mount battery with this light, you'll need to plug it in with a D-TAP cord (included) instead of mounting it to the control panel. Unfortunately setup time with the Intellytech just isn’t as fast.
- The second issue is that while this light is flexible, it doesn't hold it's shape. This is the biggest difference between Intellytech and the other competition. This light isn't a flex LED so much as it's a very thin one, that can fold in the middle.
Personally, that's all I needed. And if losing that feature saves me money, then I'm all for it. It also means that you won't need a frame, like some of the bigger Westcott panels. This could be a serious deal breaker though, and it brings into question durability when the frame is more rigid.
The final issue is diffusion. Now, this comes with every portable lighting system, but it's important to remember. You're not going to get that gorgeous softbox wrap around with Intellytech's velcro-on diffuser. You may have to bounce it off a white wall, use an umbrella, or put a diffusion panel in front of it. It will fit inside a softbox also.
Westcott’s portable softbox puts a few inches of distance in between the light and diffusion cloth, which is worth noting.
But in the name of portability, you'll be sacrificing control over your diffusion. Luckily the LEDs do not have lenses on them, which means that the panel won’t act like a spotlight.
Now, maybe these issues are what drives the price down. Intellytech is selling this light for $700, and the smaller version for $500. The equivalent Westcott lights sell for $1,300 and $850, and that’s without a mounting bracket or diffuser.
The light is still versatile enough to warrant buying one. It’s a portable, bi-colour LED that you can stick in a lot of hard to reach places. A Swiss Army Knife of sorts and a pleasure to work with. For me, it’s definitely worth keeping in my kit bag - especially when it takes up so little room!