Nanguang CN-ST288Cx2 LED Flex Panel
Which light source can you use without fear of short-circuits when shooting in damp spaces or in the rain? Earlier this year, we published an announcement of a water-tight and flexible LED panel from LedGo. That LED Flex Panel piqued by curiosity, since a water-tight solution for (LED) light is very rare. That also applies for the physical properties. The Nanguang CN-ST288Cx2 LED Flex Panel is not only flexible (2mm), but also very light (140 grams). The color temperature is smoothly adjustable to the environmental light (from 3200K to 5600K).
Combine these properties and you have a unique, versatile light source that weighs just a bit more than a bag of candy. I placed the Nanguang CN-ST288Cx2 LED Flex Panel on a shooting tent, without the thing collapsing. I couldn’t do that with the barn door LED panel that I normally use.
Specifications of Nanguang CN-ST288CX2
bi-color, flexible, water-resistant LED light
- CRI RA95
- Color temperature adjustable (3200K-5600K)
- Power: 28.8W x 2
- Light output: 3414 LM
- Power Adapter or V-Lock battery or Sony F750/970
- Weight: 140 grams
A big advantage of LED light relative to a flash is that it can also be used for video recordings, while a flash cannot. The low energy consumption of LEDs, in comparison with other continuous light sources, produces much less heat and a longer recording time on 1 battery charge. You also don’t have to use such big battery packs. I did the test with an FXLION BP-250S, which I use for longer video recordings, so that I never had to plug it in. A smaller, even less expensive power source would have been more than sufficient.
The product shot below clearly shows that the Nanguang Flex Panel consists of two different kinds of LEDs. That is also the secret behind the accurate color reproduction (more about that later). The two groups of 288 LEDs are individually dimmable, so that the color temperature is adjustable between 3200 and 5600 K. This allows you to match the color of the artificial light to the ambient light. That is ideal for situations where are mixing artificial with ambient light. Because you can match the color of the artificial light (what you see is what you get: WYSIWYG) to the ambient light without using filters, you save time in post-editing. Shots with different light sources that differ in color are sometimes great, but usually a disaster for post-correction.
Flex Panel and frame, in which the flex panels are placed next to each other, instead of being stacked vertically as in a later shot in this test. The included cloth that you easily attach to the LED panel makes the light softer, like using a soft-box with a flash. If the LED panel appears in the background in frame, that ensures that it will be blurred. Even with the cloth in front of it, you do still see the individual LEDs.
COLOR REPRODUCTION OF LED Flex panel
Three shots illustrate the smooth range of this light source. The shot on the left most corresponds with daylight, but for a warmer atmosphere or for coordination with other light source, you can easily choose a lower color temperature.
ACCURACY OF COLOR REPRODUCTION FROM NANGUANG LED LIGHT FLEX PANEl
The color reproduction of the Nanguang Flex Panel gives nothing up to the light source that we use for testing cameras.
Manufacturers often give the accuracy of a light source based on the CRI score. A low CRI score (below 90) is an important indication that the color reproduction is not faithful to nature. But a high CRI score is no guarantee for accurate color reproduction, because the CRI score is determined on the basis of a number of colors in which, for example, skin tones are missing. We tested the accuracy of the color reproduction with a Nikon D7200 (automatic white balance, standard image style). You are then testing a worst-case scenario, because you add together the errors of the light source and the camera (automatic white balance and the image style). You get the very highest color accuracy by calibrating a camera and manually adjusting the white balance to the light source. But none of that was needed. The color reproduction of the Nanguang Flex Panel gives practically nothing up to the flash test setup that we use for testing cameras. An average ΔE94 of 4.7 and a ΔC94 of 3.5 (the lower, the better) are very good: you only manage that with a camera and a light source of high quality. For comparison: in testing cameras in our studio, cameras score on average a ΔE94 of 5.9. With many LED lights, there is a characteristic peak in the green-blue range, which we did not find here. From the grey shades in the bottom row, you can see that there is a small color haze, which we could have eliminated easily with a manual adjustment of the color temperature to achieve a higher score. In practice, most photographers, however, work with automatic white balance, so those are the results that we chose to show.
PLAYING WITH LED LIGHt
I’m not really that much of a water lover. I tested the water resistance with a plant sprayer—everything kept working—to be able to focus on other points as soon as possible. Flexibility and a wide range of uses are also more important arguments for me personally to choose the Nanguang. So when testing the Nanguang LED Flex Panel, I focused on the wider range of uses for this light source. First of all, I thought it was great that the panel is delivered including tripod and frame in which the panel is easily secured with Velcro. In the photo on the left below, you can see the power supply at the bottom right, which is clamed to the included tripod with an included adapter. This adapter is not water-tight, but that is easy to solve. In the rain, I would put a plastic bag over it. You attach the battery to four pins on the adapter. With my test model, that was not all that secure. That was easy to solve by placing the battery at a bit of an angle on the adapter and only using the top two pins for the attachment.
You can place the two LED panels in the frame next to each other or in a vertical arrangement. In particular the ability to make a wide soft-box in this way appealed to me. Practically the whole subject is evenly lit, and you do not have trouble with intense reflections that you can get with a point-light source. I thought it was extra handy that you can also tilt the panel with the frame, so that you can direct it straight up or straight down, which is really handy for table-top photography.
Because the panel is nice and narrow, I had enough space left over to take a picture directly over it:
With the panel right behind the subject, you get a totally different image:
By turning the long panel horizontally, I could create a great backlighting situation.
ConclusiON OF REVIEW OF WATER-RESISTANT NanGuang LED panel
Which light source do you use for shooting in damp spaces or in the rain? A Nanguang CN-ST288Cx2 LED Flex Panel, if you protect the power supply with a plastic bag. Water-resistance, flexibility and the low weight of the panel are handy for those who enjoy playing with light and/or water. Even so, the usability of these LED flex panels goes much further than damp spaces. A variable color temperature without fussing with color filters—you immediately see how the shot will turn out—suitability for video and the low energy use are big advantages relative to a flash. The accuracy of the color reproduction is surprisingly good. For brightly lit subjects, the light output is too limited. On the other hand, LED panels are very energy efficient, so that you have more than enough power from a small battery pack for filming or photographing over a long period. Indoors or in the evening in the rain, you can indulge yourself with a water-tight LED flex panel for table-top set-ups or as a diffuse fill-in light on location. The Nanguang CN-ST288Cx2 LED Flex Panel is a light source for creative photographers, with which they can do things that you would not think possible.