Tubelights are becoming ever more popular. The last player to join the game is IWATA (whom we remember for their excellent mini panel). Actually, the mini panel was so good and ubiquitous that “IWATA panel” became a generic name for those mini bi-color lights. It seems that that panel was retired, but we were thrilled to learn that IWATA is now making tube-style lights. They sent us two of their new light panels, the 32 cm Master-R light and the 23 cm Master-S light. TL;DR – we were impressed.
The Master Series
The IWATA master series is what you’d expect from a decent tube light. They are small and compact, with an internal battery, an app, and a full RGBWW light range. It is not as feature-full as the recently announced Pavo tube II or even the Godox TL-60, but it is positioned higher than the micro Ulanzi light wand. So, right there in the middle of the range. If you want something to compare it to, think of a more designed version of the YONGNUO YN360.
Both the lights that we got are pretty similar, and aside from a few minor features, the only difference is the length. Both feature a wide temperature range of 2000K-10,000K, an easy to control HSI mode, and what has become the pedestal of LED panels, and effects mode with 21 configurable effects. HSI stands for Hue-Saturation-Intensity and is quickly becoming the standard for controlling RGB LEDs.
In terms of power, the light charges from a USB-C port, and we tested the batteries for about two hours in full power. Or you can use the conveniently located USB-C port to run it off the wall, and it will run forever.
What’s in the box
All and all, it feels like IWATA is on the generous side of things.
The shorter Master-S light comes with a soft bag, heavy-duty USB cable, some magnets, 1/4-20 string hooks, velcro, and silicon bumpers. All and all, the package provides a solution to almost any mounting solution you’d need.
The Master R comes with a semi-hard case and a heavy-duty USB cable. It would be great if the Master-R would have had the same amount of accessories, but even just with the hard case, it feels like an excellent package.
Both lights boast an aluminum tube with some ridges for heat dispersion. There is thick diffusion plastic on the front side that protects the LEDs. Here too, the plastic feels very high-end and thick. And this is something that we see across the range they sent us. There is a lot of attention to detail.
On the R series, the ends are metallic, so there is no risk that they will break on contact with, say, a lighting assistant on set. It also feels safe to use the threads on the ends. The S series uses metal inserts for threads and feels slightly less secure, but even so, it is far better than some of the other tubes we’ve seen here at DIYP.
All and all, we light the light, though it seems that the two lights have significantly different use-cases in mind, so let’s break this up. But first, have a look at the nice spread that both lights give out.
Master-S – the S is the smaller of the two lights, and it has a semi-opaque diffusion sheet that gives out very soft and pleasing light. I can see the light being used on set as a small fill light or even a key light in a pinch. We tested the light for CRI with our Sekonic C-700 and hit the advertised 95 CRI. This is a great result, and 99.99% of the photographers will be pleased with it.
On the Master R, we got the same great CRI results. But the light pattern is different. The diffusion material on the R is translucent, and you can see the individual LEDs. This may not matter to some, but if you need full diffusion and are using the light from a close distance, you want to be aware of it.
The R also has a nice feature that allows you to control the size of the slit where the light is coming out. There are two built-in flags inside the tube that you can use to make the light slit between 3cm and 1 cm.
This difference in the diffusion and the built-in flags make me think that the R would be an excellent choice for light painting photographers.
Control and App
Generally, you control the LEDs with a set of four buttons and a small OLED. It is very similar to almost any modern light we have seen. There is a menu button, a function button, up and down buttons, and an on/off switch. Some functions, like effects, or switching between CCT and RGB, require a long press. There is nothing special about this menu, and it’s a good thing. It feels very intuitive.
The OLED shows all the data you’d need, the color temp, brightness, hue, and saturation, and the running effect and its settings.
But there is a twist (no pun intended). You can twist the bottom of the R light instead of using the up and down keys. If you are a light painter, you will appreciate the fast interface you get here. Unfortunately, there is no way to cancel this feature, so you need to watch out not to rotate those dials accidentally.
On the app front, we were less impressed. We could not find the app month e app store and had to look for the APK by a QR code on the packaging. This alone would usually deter me from using an app, but I was curious. We did not have a lot of success with the app. It does allow for some basic functions like setting the light parameters, grouping, and scene control, but it was so glitchy and lept disconnecting that we decided to let it go. I do hope that IWATA comes up with a more stable version.
One thing that the master series excels at is mounting options. Those are abundant and useful, though different between the two lights.
Both lights feature two 1/4-20 threads on both sides, so they can easily be attached to tripods, light stands, magic arms, and so on. The R unit also jas a built-in Arca mount so you can place it directly on top of some tripods. The S unit is magnetic and can be attached to road signs or other metallic surfaces. I wish that it was magnetic on all sides. With the current implementation, you can only attach the light from the back and not use the octagonal cap to rotate the light. It also comes with three tiny magnets that you can use to “hide” the light behind a curtain or other thin fabric.
All and all, we are pretty impressed with the lights, and for about $120 for the Master R model or $90 for the Master S model, they are well worth the investment. Once IWATA gets its app together, I foresee a great future for those lights.