Zhiyun LED tube light review: Let there be light, for photo and video


The Zhiyun-Tech LED Tube Light is a new light that boasts some interesting features. The manufacturer claims that this tube light is five times brighter than competing tube lights.

But just how bright is it? And is it versatile enough to be used for portraits, videos, macro, light painting, and more? We were sent the new tube light and put it through some real-world usage. Find out what it can do in this full review.

Pro

  • Versatile for many photographic and video applications
  • Bright (100 watt max power in CCT mode)
  • Relatively lightweight and small
  • High quality RGB and CCT light
  • Easy to use
  • Can mount on tripod, gimbal, stands, or Joby Gorillapod
  • Relatively compact size
  • Five-segment battery life indicator

Cons

  • If you are use the HSI setting, power the unit off, then turn it back on, it will revert to CCT setting
  • No presets
  • Controls can be a little touchy

Zhiyun-Tech FR100C RGB LED Tube Light — Technical specifications

Zhiyun-Tech LED Tube Light in RGB Mode.

Specifications for the Zhiyun-Tech LED Tube Light are from the Zhiyun-Tech and B&H websites:

  • Integrated fans prevent overheating automatically based on temperature
  • Can reach up to 21,195 lumens at 100W max power
  • Fully adjustable 0 to 100% brightness
  • RGB adjustment (HSI Mode): Hue 0°~360°; Saturation 0~100%; Intensity 0~100%
  • Supports 28W fast charge via USB Type-C
  • Using compatible TransMount 120W power adapter allows for simultaneous use while charging (additional cost)
  • 1/4″-20 thread for mounting on a gimbal, tripod, or stand
  • Battery Capacity: Built-in Battery 6S/2600MAH
  • Charging Time: 2H, 30 min. for PD (20V/1.2A 25W); 2h, 33 min. for DC (24V 25W~28W)
  • Color Temperature Range: 2700K~6200K
  • CCT Mode 6200K/100% Illuminance (LUX): 1200 (in 1 meter)
  • Max Power Mode 4000K/100% Illuminance (LUX): 2200 (in 1 meter)
  • TLCI Index: ≥97
  • CRI Index: ≥96
  • Operation Temperature: -10°~40°
  • Product Size: 1.65′ x 1.81″ x 1.85″ (502 x 46 x 47mm)
  • Net Weight: 2.028 pounds (920g)

Control Center functions

  • Dim and CCT button can toggle between brightness or color temperature adjustment
  • HSI button switches between hue, saturation, and intensity interfaces for RGB color
  • Max button to turn on/off max power mode
  • Power button can be held down to turn light on/off

Run time based on watts used

  • 10W: 5H, 40 min.
  • 25W: 2h, 10 min.
  • 50W: 1h, 4 min.
  • 100W (full power): 31 min.

Zhiyun-Tech FR100C RGB LED Tube Light — Ergonomics and build quality

Above: The above four photos shows the light at different brightnesses. The first two photos show the light in CCT mode at 4000K at 100% and 50% brightness. The last two photos show the light set in HSI mode at 222 RGB at 100% and 50% brightness. All four photos were taken at sunset.

The ergonomics are adequate. It doesn’t feel flimsy but doesn’t feel like the plastic casing could handle a hard fall either. There is a bottom rubber grip facilitating handheld use. The controls also feel adequate and respond quickly once you get used to how to switch between modes.

Zhiyun-Tech FR100C RGB LED Tube Light — In the field

The light is adjustable from 0-100% brightness, which allows for maximum flexibility, even with high ISO images such as this. This could be used for a stationary light for photographing the Milky Way or countless other scenarios.

Ease of use

Without reading the manual, I was able to easily switch between CCT and HSI modes and adjust them. You may click on the Max button once to activate CCT Max, which seems absurdly bright given the size of the tube light. Clicking on the button once more turns off CCT Max.

Turning the control panel dial on any setting allows you to adjust the parameters. For example, this will adjust brightness or Kelvin setting in CCT mode or hue, saturation or intensity in HSI mode. This works quite well although if you apply too much pressure while turning the dial, you may change the setting.

Annoyingly, if you are in HSI mode and turn the unit off, it will power back up on CCT mode. Thankfully, if you switch it back to HSI mode, it remembers your previous setting. My workaround is to dial the intensity to 0 so that the light is effectively off.

The fans kick on automatically when needed. They do make enough noise that they pick up on a microphone when three feet away. However, my guess is that most people who are using this for video podcasting, YouTube videos and so forth would not need this at such a bright setting that the fans would activate.

Controls

The dial/button control is a typical one-piece construction. Like all one-piece construction controls, they are conceptually easy to use. However, making side-to-side and top-to-bottom adjustments can be a little touchy and can change parameters you did not intend.

Compounding this is that the control incorporates a spinning dial to adjust values ​​to parameters. If you spin the dial but press a little too hard, the control will jump to another parameter. A light touch seems to do the trick.

I would prefer separate buttons and a separate value dial. However, that would undoubtedly greatly increase the cost of the unit as well. So… a light touch it is. I did notice that after I used it for a while, I got much better at changing settings without making mistakes.

I should note here that there is no way to control this remotely via app or other device.

Menu display

This is bright and easy to read. I never had an issue figuring out what it was doing. It displays each mode logically.

Flexibility as standing light

The tube light on a Joby Gorillapod flexible tripod

The tube light accepts a 1/4″ thread for mounting on a stand. You may mount it on a gimbal, stand, or tripod.

Because I am curious about what I can get away with, I decided to see if I could mount it on a Joby Gorillapod for SLRs. Despite the relatively tall tube light shape, the Gorillapod held firm. This does admittedly make the light look like one of Sid’s mutant toys in “Toy Story,” but that’s half the fun. Regardless, using a Gorillapod also gives us additional options and angles. You may use a Gorillapod to mount the light on the back of a chair, railing, fence post, or tree branch.

This versatile light could be easily used for macro, product and fashion/model photography and much more. Portrait photographers could likely use this as a constant key, fill or back light.

Also, because of its even lighting, you could use this for lighting yourself for YouTube videos or videos in general. Since it’s a relatively small handheld light, someone may hold and move the light easily, more options. And because of how bright it is, you really do have more options.

Light painting

Naturally, as a night photographer, I had to test it for light painting. I am happy to report that it does this quite well.

Because of its brightness as well as both CCT and full-spectrum HSI light mode, the wand is quite capable of light painting subjects beautifully. As with any wand, it is good at illuminating large surfaces and areas evenly. This differs from flashlight-type light painting, which usually requires you to move the light around more to light paint large areas with even strokes while avoiding “hot spots.”

CCT mode is considerably brighter than HSI mode. To light paint the blue and red versions of the tree photos above, I had to move much closer to the tree and still leave the light on for twice the length of time to get these results. I don’t consider this to be an issue, but it bears mentioning.

Light writing as an LED light wand

My hideous attempt at using it as a light wand using HSI mode to make a circle. After that, I also light painted the tree, illuminating it from both the left and right sides with a white CCT light.

The Zhiyun LED Tube Light is not designed as a “light writing” wand. Current LED wands often offer microSD cards for you to store patterns for shapes, strobes or other animation modes, color presets so you can flip from one color to another easily, start up on the same setting, and so forth.

A typical LED light wand might be slightly lighter although this is definitely not heavy. This tube light is equipped with a bright light and six cooling fans, so it’s not as svelte as a typical LED light wand either. However, it can be used for one in a pinch, adding to its versatility.

Because it’s not designed as a light wand, I do not consider these to be shortcomings. However, I feel that presets would benefit anyone no matter what they are using the light for.

Quality of light

Both the CCT and HSI lights are pleasing and have a useful “throw.” When using it on a stand, I noticed that the tube light seems to light the subject evenly. Both the CCT and HSI lights created beautiful light for light painting. The light uses a built-in frosted plastic diffuser. This worked well at creating nice, even light without hot spots.

I don’t know whether it’s five times brighter than competing tube lights. However, I can tell you that it is absurdly bright. 21,195 lumens at 100W max power, according to Zhiyun-Tech.

Battery life

The light is powered by a six-cell 2600 mAh internal battery with quick 120W PD charging via USB-C. Given how bright it is, the light lasts for a long time. At 25% brightness in CCT, which is still rather bright, the light lasts for over two hours. I’ve also been able to use it as a work light and video light because it produces sufficiently bright light for several hours. I also like that the light offers a five-segmented battery life indicator similar to one you might find on a camera, providing useful information about remaining battery life.



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