Falcon Eyes, a company that I have never heard of before, sent us a 2x2 foot light panel to test right before Christmas. The system looks shockingly similar to the Westcott Flex lights, but of course, there are some serious drawbacks to buying this third-party brand.
The entire kit comes in one of the cheapest canvas bags I've ever felt. It's significantly cheaper than those earth-friendly bags that cost $1 at the supermarket. To me, this isn't a big deal because we would want to keep ours in a padded roller bag anyway.
The light mat itself feels very similar to Westcott's; it's a flexible black mat with LED lights in an array on the front. One difference is that the Falcon Eyes light has a much larger "chin" on the bottom part of the bezel meaning that there are less LED lights in the same amount of space. The mat attaches to a light stand by a small "X" shaped frame that slides into each of the four corners of the mat. It's extremely quick to set up. To soften the light you can use the included softbox that attaches with Velcro. To shape the light, you can also add on the included grid.
This is a bi-color mat meaning that every other LED on the mat is either blue or yellow and the ballast (the box that powers the light) allows you to dial in color on the fly. The ballast itself is larger than its competition when you take into account the large power brick but it gives you both knobs and a touch screen for changing power and color. The ballast also has a small antenna which allows remote control of the light via the included remote.
How Bright Is It?
In our tests, the Falcon Eyes mat was half as bright as our Westcott Flex lights. Luckily, the Westcott lights are so incredibly bright that "half power" may be enough for some users, especially if you use them close to your subjects. We brought the Falcon Eyes outside in the middle of the day under a shady tree and were able to capture some decent looking photographs.
How Does It Work?
For the price? Really well. But in the short time that I have used it, I have noticed that shifting color isn't as smooth on the Falcon Eyes as it is on some of our other, more expensive, LED lights. The remote control also acted up once and we had to plug it in to get it to turn back on. While we were filming with it, the entire light fell over in the wind (we weren't rolling at the time) and the light still works fine but we did rip the back of the light where the bracket attaches. That being said, when you buy an "off brand" like this from some unknown Amazon reseller, you're taking a risk.
Should I Buy One?
Maybe. At around $500 it's a great value but it is not as good as the Westcott Flex lights. Flex lights are twice as bright, have a smaller ballast, and have a lifetime warranty on the mats themselves. If your Falcon Eyes light breaks, I doubt you're going to get them repaired or replaced. If you want the best product on market, stick with Westcott, but if you're looking to save some money and you're willing to take a risk, the Falcon Eyes might be for you. But, before you make the jump either way, you may want to wait just a few more months. I recently heard that Westcott is about to release some exciting new features with their Flex system and it could sway your decision.