Zhiyun F100 review: a new kind of light stick
The Zhiyun F100 RGB light stick is somewhat of a hybrid between a light tube and a more traditional bar. If you are familiar with the YN360 stick, you will find the form factor pretty familiar. But, unlike the YN360, the F100 is a significantly brighter light. In fact, the power draw is so significant that Zhiyun added a fan array for heat management. Between the battery, fans, and electronics, you are looking at quite a heavy piece of gear – almost a full kilo.
Let’s dive in
Features and Presentation
The first thing we saw when we opened the box was that the light was white. I am still undecided if I like this, but it is a nice refreshment from the regular black light. I can see it becoming an issue if you will use the F100 as a practical light. If you do care about the shell color, Zhiyun also offers this light in black.
The F100 features both RGB and White Light modes. I love it when a single light has both white and RGB LEDs. It gives a lot of freedom in terms of light and the ability to match with other lights. That said, there is no green/magenta correction menu which is critical for light matching. I hope they will add this feature in a future firmware upgrade.
Another feature that you usually find in high-end LEDs is Addressable LEDs. Those are great for light painting because they allow you to create unique designs and patterns. They are also lots of fun when you need special effects. However, the lack of control over the pattern is a shame. With the F100, you can only use a limited number of patterns included in the firmware.
The F100 comes with a ¼” thread on the bottom. It is the only mounting option included in the package. This may be a limitation for users who want to mount the light in different ways. Zhiyun didn’t skimp on that thread’s robustness and can take the F100 weight on both a horizontal or vertical position.
In the Box
The set is quite nice and comes with a dedicated padded soft case and a very generous assortment of accessories:
- F100 LED light strip
- Barn doors
- Grid attachment
- Softbox attachment
- USB Type-A to Type-C cable
- Soft carry case
Zhiyun F100 light output
The Zhiyun F100’s biggest claim to fame is its 100W power draw. And we were curious to see if the massive light holds up to the hype.
We used a Sekonic C700 at one meter for our tests, and yup, it’s bright. This is what we measured at one meter away.
It seems that the F100 is not a “constant power” light. This means that the brightness of the light will change depending on the temperature of the light. This can be an advantage if you constantly use the 4200K settings, as it provides double the light. On the other hand, if you are changing your temperature, be prepared to change the brightness as well.
The light also lacks constant power in the RGB mode. If you need to maintain constant brightness, you should take this into consideration. Here are the RGB brightness tests.
There is a dedicated MAX output button, and when pressed, the light automatically goes to 4000K at 100% power. On the other two ends of the CCT range, 2700K and 6200K, the F100 is half as bright.
Zhiyun F100 light signature
Controlling the F100
The Zhiyun F100 RGB light stick does not have an app or remote. You can only control the light from the back control panel. This means you need to place the light in a place where you can access the controls.
The stick has four buttons and a dial. Good luck using this light without constantly looking at the menu. Each mode has its own dedicated button, and they don’t operate like other lights’ buttons. I would have explained it here, but it’s just too complicated.
On the good side, the Zhiyun F100 has a small OLED screen on the back, and it displays all the relevant information about the light’s settings.
Three light modifiers are included with the F100: horizontal barn doors, grid, and softbox attachment. The barn doors are covered in a silver reflective material that works great for the softbox. For cutting the light, though, we gave it a gaffer treatment so the reflective material would not spill light into unwanted areas.
If you push the light to its limits, the six-fan array in the back will kick in. It is not loud but also not silent, and it will interfere with audio recording. It would be nice to have a “studio” mode, limiting the fans’ power (and noise).
Using the Zhiyun F100 stick light
Aside from the trivial light painting qualities, I can see several uses in shooting environments.
Interestingly, the long square format of the light really lends itself to mounting on the bottom of a gimbal. It casts a light from a weird angle, but if all you need is a flood light, this is an interesting option.
We also liked using the light as a backlight. Between the long form factor and the barn doors, it was really easy to set up right behind our backdrop and avoid any spills.
Lastly, like any small light, it’s great as a flood light for small spaces (cars, bathrooms, corridors, and so on).
Zhiyun F100 Competition
While the F100 has a unique form factor, it is not the first rectangular light. The main competition comes from the Yongnuo YN360 III. The YN is lighter, but it also has lower battery life, and it is not as bright. The main difference, though, is the directional LED on the YN360. They have beads (or lenses) on each LED. Those will give a longer throw at the expense of a broader beam.
At 4000K (and POWER-MAX setting), we measured 2,510 lux with the F100 and 1,930 lux with the YN360. The brightness is similar if you only use the 100% option on the F100. (Again, considering the narrower beam vs. the wider throw of the F100)
The Zhiyun F100 outputs up to 100W of power, which is impressive for such a small light. Understandably, this high output will eat through the battery. The light provides 30 minutes of working time on 100%-MAX settings and about one hour of working time on 100% settings.
There are two charging options available for the F100: a Type-C PD charger and a 120W barrel connector (extra $50). If you get the power brick or have a 100W USB-PD source, you will be able to run the light at 100W continuously. Charging, however, is always limited to 25 watts, so it takes about there hours to fully charge the light.
You can also use the F100 USB-C connector for software upgrades. When I received the F100, I first checked for updates on Zhiyun’s website. I found a firmware release. I couldn’t figure out which version I was on, but I decided to bite the bullet and upgrade. Despite following the instructions, I didn’t know if the update was successful or not. However, the F100 is working, so I assume it was successful.
Concluding thoughts on the Zhiyun F100
The Zhiyun F100 Light Stick is a compact and versatile lighting accessory that offers impressive power output and RGB functionality for $249. It is the brightest stick we have seen to date, and if you need a bright stick, it’s a great choice. If you need wireless control or constant power mode, I guess you will have to wait for V2.
Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.