Flashpoint CL-1300B LED Light Review

Taking the sting out of LED lighting.

Flashpoint CL-1300B LED Light

LED lights aren’t particularly new or revolutionary, but until now there have been a handful of barriers to making the switch from tungsten or fluorescent lights to LED panels. Primarily, the cost has been prohibitive. A decent one-foot square panel could cost well into four-figure territory with a limited feature set. The second barrier has been the output level of the LED light. It takes a heck of a lot of LEDs to match the output of some pro lights using other technology. On the plus side, LED panels last practically forever without the need to replace bulbs, and they don’t get hot. Set up, shoot, pack up - no waiting.

So, they’re good and bad, but some new releases have been effective at minimizing the bad and maximizing the good.

Take, for example, the latest release from Adorama’s company-exclusive light brand, Flashpoint. The Flashpoint CL-1300B LED is a 1296 LED, bi-color, dimmable LED panel for under a grand. Well under a grand, at that.

The good folks at Adorama were kind enough to loan us a Flashpoint CL-1300B LED light panel to test and review, and we put the panel through it’s paces. It came on more than a dozen professional shoots, powering everything from webinars to television commercials, and most of what’s in between.

First Impressions

Upon receiving the Flashpoint panel the first impression this writer had was that the packaging was attractive and professional, reminding me a little bit of the lovely packaging used by Blackmagic Design - a well-designed glossy box with gorgeous imagery of the device to be found inside.

Opening up the box is a snugly packed LED panel and a high quality carrying bag with shoulder strap and front pocket. There is also a power supply and a slide-in filter to soften the light emission.

The panel itself feels high quality, lacking the flimsy cheapness common to low-priced import lighting hardware. Construction is rugged black ABS. No thin metal, nothing sharp, nothing at all to indicate this was an affordable piece of equipment.

The light panel is mounted in a tilt-frame to allow the light to tilt forward and back with easy, with the friction adjusted with finger tightening fasteners on either side of the panel.

The back of the panel has a master power switch, a knob to adjust the light color between 5600k daylight and 3200k tungsten warmth, and a slider to control the output power. There is also a mount for a V-mount battery, for cordless shooting. There is also an RJ45 port for connecting up to four Flashpoint 1300B LED panels, either on separate stands or using the Flashpoint Joint Bracket to create one single 2’ x 2’ square panel. All plugs feel snug and well-made, and the output slider offers a firm, nicely resistant tactile experience.

So it’s pretty decked out, but there are options for those looking to further dress up their Flashpoint CL-1300B LED.

A bit of research on Adorama’s website also shows that there is an optional Remote Color Temperature Controller, a Joint Bracket for connecting two of these panels, Barn Doors for directing the light output, as well as stands, batteries and softbox add-ons. The accessories are reasonably priced and - if all purchased - should really extend the flexibility of this light panel.

Of course, we had none of that to test with, so let’s see how the 1300B fared on it’s own.

Road Testing

This writer subscribes to one of two distinct schools of thought when it comes to reviews. While many reviewers will take test items to a studio and analyze the heck out of a device versus the promises of the manufacturer, I prefer to pack up my lovely loaner gear and take it with me on actual professional shoots.

For many of my shoots in the past I’ve shot using a wide array of tungsten lights from ARRI, Lowel and the like, and my go-to interview and headshot lighting kit is the Westcott TD-5 (with two large softboxes) and TD-6 (also with two large softboxes). I’ll usually use the two dimmable softboxes as key and fill lights with a tungsten light as a hair light.

With just one Flashpoint CL-1300B LED at my disposal I tried a variety of setup combinations to see what yielded the best results. For cameras I tested the light with three distinctly different models. On the consumer side I chose a Canon Vixia HF G10 camcorder. It’s a slightly older model, but in the right setup, can rival high end DSLRs for image quality. For prosumer level shooting I went with a Canon 5D Mark III, a wonderful full-frame DSLR. On the pro end, I chose a Blackmagic Design URSA 4K. For lenses on the two latter cameras I tested with the Canon 24-70mm II f/2.8 from their coveted L-series.

The first lighting setup I experimented with was with the Flashpoint CL-1300B LED on it’s own in a lit room, for a CEO address to her large mining company. I used the URSA for this shoot, not only for it’s image quality, but also because it looks absolutely flashy in front of clients. The 1300B matched well with the URSA, setting up quickly on a Lowel light stand about six feet away from and one foot above the subject. With both the camera and light running on V-mount batteries, setup took less than 10 minutes, including camera adjustments and light positioning.

The result in a single light operation was exceptional, with the CEO exuberant over the results. The previous videographer was shooting with a Sony XDCam of some sort. Their footage looked like it came from an EX-1/3 with at least two lights, but the 1300B did a better job of illuminating my subject without casting massive shadows or creating glare. The URSA’s big 4K sensor, combined with some nice glass really let the light panel bring life to the subject. We weren’t able to shut off the overhead fluorescent lights so we were battling the room, but it was easy to pull a vibrant image from an otherwise dull environment.

In a second shoot we were capturing an interview with a trucking company executive in a large (40’ x 30’) classroom. This shoot gave us a few extra options. We had unlimited setup time, and a huge space to work in. We shut off all of the room lights, used the 1300B as our key light, and - after some experimentation - settled on a two light setup with nothing but a small 244 LED Lumahawk light behind and offset from the subject to light his hair highlights. This simple setup gave us a dramatic image, and the controls on the back of the 1300B really let us dial in exactly the look and feel we were going for. For this shoot we paired the 5D Mark III with the Vixia camcorder as a second camera. Both devices really seemed to deliver the very best of what their sensors are capable of in this scenario.

In my opinion, the ultimate setup for this type of work would be something along the lines of a 3-4 panel setup, with Flashpoint 1300B panels for key, fill and hair lights, with maybe the key light being a double panel, if the room was much bigger than what we shot in.

With adjustable output and light temperature there are literally thousands of potential setups for Flashpoint 1300B LED panels.

The Nitty Gritty

So, we know how the panel performed in professional environments. What additional thoughts came to mind during our shooting?

One interviewee used to our big softboxes complained that the panels were a bit harder on the eyes. While they shouldn’t have been staring directly at the panel, everybody seems to anyways. A small positioning update made the subject quite a bit more comfortable.

The next major impression we had was just how cool the panels really stayed. Even fluorescent fixtures get hot, and bulbs get scorching. Tungsten fixtures and bulbs are even worse, heating up rooms and subjects over the course of longer shoots, particularly in smaller environments. The 1300B was comfortable to the touch, even after shooting for four or more hours. Speakers commented on how nice it was to be able to shoot in their small offices without the room heating up, making them sweat on camera.

Emission from the 1300B was excellent, pushing out a very nice, wide light. That said, it would’ve been nice to see the optional barn doors included in a kit with the light. Directing this kind of light is a good thing, as it’s nice for avoiding shadows on walls next to subjects.

The Conclusion

Overall, the Flashpoint 1300B LED is an impressive piece of kit with a practical feature set. When thrown into production environments it performed admirably, competing nicely with more expensive lighting devices. It was really a treat to be able to pull a panel from a shoulder bag, mount it on a stand, plug it in or add a battery, and start shooting. In fact, the light was so simple and flexible I felt freed up to really put time into perfecting my camera setup and striving for exactly the look and feel each shot deserves.

At $349.95, the Flashpoint 1300B LED panel does more than it’s low price suggests. It frees up one-person production companies to take on larger projects. Packing three or four of these in a bag and managing a two camera shoot is a real possibility now. The lights are very much set, adjust and forget simple, leaving the shooter free to manage other equipment.

The light is balanced and truly flicker free, providing light every bit as good as panels costing three or four times as much.

The Flashpoint 1300B LED light panel is an inexpensive yet powerful addition to any shoot setup.

Highly recommended.