The LED panel and LED Bowens mount are both familiar form factors of LED lights. In the last two years, we are seeing a third type of LEDs enter the market – the Mat LED, A.K.A Flex-LED. Essentially it is very similar to an LED panel, only instead of the LEDs being mounted to a rigid surface, they are placed on a flexible mat, hence the name – Flex light.
The Soonwell FB21 is the last member to enter this family. It is conveniently priced at $428.00, which is by far on the low end of flex LEDs. Well, at least compared to the similarly sized $1,199.90 Westcott Flex. Here are our thoughts:
The Dry Spec
- Power Draw: 100W
- CRI: Ra95~98
- CCT: 3000-5600K
- Light Angle: 10° – 360°
- Dimming: 0-100%
- Dimension: 610*305mm (2*1ft)
- Light Weight: 0.5KG / 1.1lbs
- Kit Weight: 2.3 KG / 5lbs
- LEDs: 504pcs
- Lumens: LUX(0.5m): 9920; LUX(1m): 3660; LUX(2m): 933
- Control Mode: Touch Screen & Support 2.4G Wireless Control
- Footcandles: 0.5M:922; 1M:340; 2M:87
- Power Source: 100-240V AC or DC 15V 7A
- Operating Voltage: DC-15V 7A
- Dimmer Input: 12V to 30V
- Power Unit: Automatic Voltage 90V–260V
What’s in the box?
- Soonwell FB-21 Flexible LED Light Mat
- vmount-enabled control box
- Power Adaptor
- Softbox + Eggshell type grid spot
- Carry Case
There is a remote which did not come in the package and can be bought for additional $60.
The LED Mat
The LED mat is 30cm x 60cm (or one foot by two feet, which I assume gives it the “21” name). The mat is embedded with 504 LEDs, half warm and half cold. This gives the mat a range of 3000K-5600K color temperature. I kinda wished the lights went from 2700K to 6000K giving a bit more creative freedom over the light.
The LEDs are rated for 100W, and for that, the mat is extremely light and low profile at 0.5kg. This means that for internal use and low winds it can be used on a small light stand even without a sang bag. (Though it is generally a good practice to sandbag even small lights).
If a light stand is your route, there is an X-type bracket that makes sure that the mat is spread nicely. The bracket attaches to a swivel, and from there on it’s standard handling. The X bracket is not trivial to understand, but once you get the hang of it, it mounts and folds fairly quickly.
The other interesting mounting option is using the four rings of the mat to simply hand it on the wall, at less than 2cm width it takes practically no space. Or you can use the included velcro to attach the light to practically any surface.
Measurements proved the light to be pretty accurate both on the cold side and on the warm side. CRI is at about 96 and CCT was at about 3000-5450K.
Other than that, the mat feels nicely built, definitely above its sub $500 class. The case is stellar and everything fit nice and tight for easy storage and traveling.
The remote is a button/semi-touch screen hybrid, and I found that using the buttons is way easier than using the touch functions. You get to move between 1% and 100% dimming at 1% increments and 3000K to 5600K at 50K increments.
We also got an antenna which probably works with the remote which we could not find. If you know where to get it, please pop the link in the comments.
The control can connect to a power brick or to a VMount battery. We tested with the IndiPRO Tools 98Wh, and got a few seconds under 75 minutes. (so, either the battery has more capacity that its specs, or the light has less than 100W of power).
There are two nice bonus features to the light:
- If you are running a DMX box, the controller has DMX in/out ports. That would be useful for stage lighting or for running big sets.
- The light, the controller and the power box are using passive cooling (i.e. fanless). The units it absolutely quite and will not interfere with your audio.
I see pros and cons to separating the control unit from the power block, by for my style of shooting which is usually in my small studio, I’d prefer the two units to be combined and save on cables. Every cable is both a potential failure point and another thing that you can forget when transporting.
The Soonwell FB-21 comes with a softbox and an eggshell grid spot. They are easily mounted and take no space in storage. The diffuser on the softbox is placed just in the right distance to kill any multiple shadows, and the grid does a great job at controlling the spill.
All and all, I am pretty happy with the Soonwell FB-21, and definitely happy at this price point. It is extremely bright and gives a nice soft light. It is easy to carry and has plenty of mounting options. To get my full 100% score It would need to be 2700K-6000K, combine the power block and control, and make the remote more… emmm…. locatable. That said, for a sub $500.00 unit the value for money is incredibly satisfying.