A long time ago, I bought a couple (or seven to be precise) of cheap lights on Banggood. They were around £6 each and performed surprisingly well for that price. Over time, each of them developed a fault in the potentiometer responsible for brightness and the lights became hard to use. I’ll fix or re-purpose these at some point, but until then, I need a better substitute.
When picking lights for your studio, have a goal in mind. It’s tempting to buy inexpensive light that we assume should perform in every circumstance, but there is nothing further from the truth. Lights are tools, designed to be used in a specific way. Pixel G1S are best for:
- products photo/videography
- accent light
- edge light (in close proximity)
I needed small RGB panels that would accent my product b-roll and set the overall mood for the photo shoot. I have another light acting as a fill light (which I’m not particularly happy about) so I picked two Pixel G1S for my new permanent photography studio in my garage.
I wasn’t sure how these would perform. They looked good on Amazon product shots and came with surprisingly good reviews. Perhaps too good to be true? After the poor quality of potentiometers supplied with VIJIM VL81. I was most concerned about the control surfaces. Holding Pixel G1S in my hand, I feel that I made the right call. They feel solid and control rings are rigid but easy to use.
Each ring has a push button inside it for easy function selection, there is a dedicated power slider on one of the edges and an extra button between the rings to cycle through the main options (CT/RGB/Animations).
Each panel costs £63.99 (at the time of the purchase), which strikes a good balance between quality and being affordable. These are pocket RGB panels with CRI97 which is good enough to reproduce nice intensity colour without artefacts. Rated for 1500 Lux with a great CT range of 2500K -8500K, the panels are flexible enough to act as the fill light in my mini studio.
The LED matrix is embedded inside an aluminium enclosure that acts as a heatsink. The battery inside is charged with USB-C (QC3.0) and the light comes with a dedicated pouch, cable and basic clamps to hook up the extendable arm to your photographic equipment. While the light isn’t strong enough for general work, the arm comes with a shoe mount, so even if you end up positioning it on top of your camera, you can still mount your microphone and other top-mounted gadgets.
OLED display and effects
The back of the light is dominated by a Hue strip (sadly it’s a sticker, I would love a touch interface like this to select the colour range quickly) and a small but bright OLED display. OLED provides quick access to menus and battery information. Dedicated brightness ring increments the brightness by one step (with accelerated scrolling incrementing more values) and the button inside lets you cycle between preset values (every 20%) for quick adjustments.
The middle button “SET” changes the light mode from CT to RGB and presets. The bottom dial acts as a menu control and allows you to change the colour, and temperature or navigate through presets. The menu is simple to use and navigate, with the only sticking point – animations. The screen shows 2 options at the time, but you can only change settings for the one listed in the top slot turning the other icon into what effectively works as “next position on the menu”.
The product page lists a 3200mAh battery that should last about 2.5h depending on the brightness and colours used. It’s about right, but you can also charge and use the light at the same time – with one caveat: you will be limited to 80% of the total brightness as long as the charger is connected. I assume this is imposed to prevent the panel from overheating. QC3.0 takes around 2h to charge it up.
One of my favourite Pratchett quotes accurately describes why working with a limited budget often ends up being more expensive.
Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.
But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.
This was the Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness.”Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms
This explains why spending a little more pays off in the long run – as long as the ring controllers last. I will revisit this post in a year’s time and see if the choice stood the test of time. Right now, I’m extremely happy with the panels which you can definitely see in my recent thumbnail work for NotEnoughTech. Now, I need to find a nice fill light to fit my needs as the one I picked on Amazon, doesn’t have individually addressable LEDs. Let me know if you have any recommendations in this Reddit thread.
💳📈 – See the transparency note for details.