Flexible LED panel lights are all the rage, aren’t they? I always thought they looked a bit gimick-y… until I owned one myself. Now I’m a complete convert.
The truth is there are so many benefits of having a light of this design. I’m going to review the Soonwell FB-21 — which is awesome, by the way — but a lot of these benefits can be seen on most flat LED panel lights.
But why a flexible light, Cousin?
Having such a light-weight design means you can mount this light in much more tricky areas. You could even stick the panel to the wall (or ceiling!) if you’re struggling for space. Try doing that with a molten-lava traditional light I dare ya.
(no, really, please don’t!)
You can even bend these LED panel lights around corners, tilt them any which way. It’s a very freeing experience, especially if you shoot a lot in unpredictable places, like me. Sometimes the room I’m given for family portraits is small, or an unconventional layout. A traditional mains powered lighting would not only be impractical, but it would heat up the guests in a heartbeat and cause a potential fire/burning hazard. Traditional lighting can get HOT.
Which leads me to my next point. The actual light panels don’t get warm at all, even after an hour of use. All the power is coming from the power-brick/control panel, so that’s what gets warm instead, and you can leave that blissfully far away with the long supplied cables.
LED panel lights ensure the environment you shoot in doesn’t make anyone’s makeup melt. It’s also just generally more pleasing for everyone involved. No one enjoys working in a too-bright sweatbox.
And for YouTubers, if you waffle on for ages like me under your key light, you’ll really appreciate the heat management. You’ll also appreciate how easy it is to set your own lighting, dialling in the temperature and strength. I have mine at about 10% strength when I film, because my room is small. Having this flexibility (pardon the pun!) is wonderful.
It’s more practical (and safer!) to move the light panel around too. You can get it as close as you like to your subject. You can point it towards a white wall for some fantastic bounce-light, without worrying about any potential health and safety issues.
lovely working environments. Ahhh how cool.
Speaking of cool, they do look a bit cool don’t they? Let’s go through this fantastic LED panel light in depth and see what it offers.
Soonwell FB-21 Cool Bits:-
100W bi-colour light mat (3000k - 5600k)
Touch screen AND physical controller
Very compact and lovely bag
Brilliant build quality
6mm thin LED panel
Optional battery adapter
And of course super versatile, bendy lightweight construction (that’s my official term!)
See! You can create B-Roll ANYWHERE with this light. The results are in a video at the end of this article. I was rennovating my office and was stuck filming a review in my spare room…. the Soonwell FB-21 actually not only let me pull this off, but the results are ace too. I don’t think anyone would be able to tell I was working with ten square inches on the top of some old drawers…
The controller: the best one I’ve ever used.
I have to say that the control panel on the Soonwell is much better than most of the competition. Most have a touch screen controller, where you can dial in the light intensity as well as temperature. The Soonwell goes above and beyond, though. Not only does it have a wire attachment hook, so you can hang your controller somewhere sensible (I sometimes hang it off the light stand) but it also has… brace yourself…. TWO physical buttons/dials. In a world of touch screens, I do sometimes miss dials.
On the top of the controller, which is facing up if you use the wire hanger, you have two buttons which also work as dials — one for power, one for colour — and you can change your settings very quickly, and without even looking. The touchscreen looks amazing of course, but it takes an ounce more brain power to use. The dials are fast and don’t slow you down.
I just think it’s a lovely touch that the Soonwell supplies both.
The dimensions of the Soonwell are brilliant. As the name suggests, it’s a 2x1 panel, which means it’s a thin rectangle to the rest of us. It’s a large enough light source for a key light, but the shape of it lends its self very well to being a hair light, fill light, or a B-roll light.
The Falconeyes RX-18TD is a large light source, and is therefore softer — especially with the tent diffuser which I wax lyrical about in my review of it — but I have to say, the Soonwell packs a nice soft punch even if it is narrower.
The included softbox with the Soonwell does a great job. It’s well built, easy to construct, and softens the light to a degree. If you want super soft light, check out the Falconeyes tent diffuser, or see if there’s an equivalent diffuser available for the Soonwell.
Soonwell FB-21 Setup… tricky?
Setting the Soonwell FB-21 up takes a little bit of getting used to. You have to push an X bracket into the corners of the panel light, and it gets to be quite taut. It took me one or two tries the first time, but now I think I’ve gotten the hang of it.
Just make sure that the first time you assemble it isn’t in front of clients…!
The bag. All hail the bag!
The Soonwell bag is TINY. It’s a bit of a squeeze to get everything back inside but once everything is there the bag really is a revelation. I had no idea the light would be as big as it was when first seeing the bag. If you want something truly portable, this is a very attractive package indeed.
And I know it’s completely aesthetic, but I do love it when a company provides a professional looking, well thought-out bag for their gear.
Let’s be honest, there is a lot of competition in this space. Flexible LED panels are cropping up left, right, and centre. I think the Soonwell adds a professional touch to its offerings, going above and beyond where the rest of the brands have stopped.
The controller is a brilliant touch, and the bag is too. I just wish the pack included different diffusion options, though I know they are available to buy separately from the Soonwell website.
This smaller, narrower panel is ideal for those stuck for space. It would make a perfect vlogging light — it would work brilliantly in even the tiniest of rooms, and the directional, easy to angle, light source would be perfect for B-roll segments of products and flat lays. It is my go-to B-Roll light for this very reason. You can get professional, soft, lighting, in a selection of temperatures, in any space you require it.
The Soonwell FB-21 is a little on the small side for portraits, though it would work just fin for one person portraits, or smaller groups. I managed a 23-person group shot with the larger Falconeyes RX-18TD, but I’ll be the first to admit that’s a very niche requirement!
The Soonwell is high-quality, robust, and easy to use. It’s a brilliant light for photographers and videographers alike. The bag it comes with makes it truly portable, and I haven’t looked into it personally, but having the battery powered option has to get those indie filmmakers thinking long and hard about this proposition. Hell, it’s got me thinking about twilight wedding shoots outside…
The video is a little bit irrelevant, but I used the Soonwell LED panel to light this video and the included B-Roll. The B-Roll was filmed in a tiny space and I think I made it work. See… it’s an AMAZING B-roll light!