The amaran brand, which is the more prosumer-focused little cousin of Aputure, is having a busy launch day with the release of a series of bi-color (F21x and F22x) and color (F21c and F22c) flexible lights alongside new 2ft and 4ft tube lights. Make sure to check out the full review here. I had the opportunity to take the new amaran flex lights out for a spin on several shoots in recent weeks, and here’s my full review.
In the last few years, the option of the flex style of LED lighting had slipped my mind. While I’ve spent lots of time working with Litegear’s popular “Litemat” style of bi-color and color fixtures, those aren’t considered truly “flexible.” I haven’t used flexible lighting like LiteTiles, FalconEyes, or Intellytech’s LiteCloths. This is because, with the help of excellent rigging professionals capable of rigging any fixture anywhere, no matter the form factor, I’ve been able to get soft overhead lighting, the most popular use case for flexible lights.
Nevertheless, I was excited to try out these new amaran fixtures precisely because I didn’t have a ton of experience working with similar flex lighting products. Why do we need flexible fixtures and who are these amaran flex lights aimed at? Let’s dive in!
First, there are four varieties of new amaran flex lights, differentiated primarily by whether they are bi-color or color and by their dimensions:
- F21x – 2ft x 1ft dimensions (x denotes 2500K – 7500K Bi-Color), $399
- F22x – 2ft x 2ft dimensions, $699
- F21c – 2ft x1ft dimensions (c denotes Color), $599
- F22c – 2ft x 2ft dimensions, $899
Unless otherwise noted, these four are reviewed interchangeably throughout this article.
If you have visited the Aputure User Group on Facebook anytime over the last several years, you might have guessed that tube lights were on Aputure’s design radar, given the constant requests. Still, I was pleasantly surprised by the launch of these amaran flex lights.
True to form, Aputure continues to ship lights within kits so complete, the need for additional accessory purchases is unlikely.
The full kit includes:
- Semi-Rigid Hard Case (Not Rolling)
- Controller (V-Mount or Gold Mount)
- Head Cable/AC Cable
- Stand Yoke with Pins for C-Stand Mounting
- 1 Stop Diffusion, 2-Stop Diffusion
You’ll find everything ships in a tidy case, the perfect size for vehicle transport, checked or carried-on plane transport. Given the flexible nature of the fixture itself, most components will be immune to damage. Most damage, not all. The controller unit might be subject to impact and therefore worthy of extra protection during travel.
Heavy reliance on velcro to mount the softbox frame to the rim of the lamp head itself was initially concerning, but that worry turned out to be unfounded over a half dozen shoots where the whole system held up well. If there is a weak spot in the provided accessories, in my opinion, it is with the grid. Its flimsy build doesn’t hold a candle to the more expensive options from DoPChoice or Chimera.
In the past, the yoke system was also flimsy in the amaran series. I’m happy to say that issue has now been addressed. Welcome news is the introduction of a straight pin and an angled pin that work perfectly with C-Stands and other common mounting hardware.
In the photo above, you can see the bendable metal rods used to mount the flex lights, and I wonder if, over years of constant bending, those metal rods might prove to be a failure point. Only time will tell, but I get nervous when I need to gently bend a piece of metal for mounting and then precisely bend it back to fit in the travel case.
For more mounting accessories or pieces of grid cloth, you’ll find plenty of room in the travel case for additions.
Output & Color Handling: F21x
I grabbed a few measurements on my Sekonic C-700U Spectrometer (now updated with the C-800U) to see how accurately the F21x handles color temp measured in Kelvin and output (lx) from a distance of 3 ft. Here are my readings with a target of 5600K and output set to 100%. This test was completed with no accessories attached.
A result of 5635K is excellent and the illuminance values are higher than I expected. And here’s a test with a target of 3200K.
Also excellent results at 3221 with only a slight drop in output on this side of the Kelvin range.
Output & color handling: F22x
Now for the 2×2 Bi-Color version — here are my readings with a target of 5600K and output set to 100% for the F22x.
A significant increase in output is to be expected given the additional LED emitters and the kelvin numbers are similarly great. And here’s a test with a target of 3200K.
Generally, the 2×2 fixtures have consistent results with the 2×1 fixtures with a similarly excellent kelvin score and a large bump in output measured by [lx] and [fc] noted above.
Output & color handling: F21c
I grabbed a few measurements on my Sekonic C-700U Spectrometer (now updated with the C-800U) to see how accurately the F21c handles color temp measured in Kelvin and output (lx) from a distance of 3 ft. Here are my readings with a target of 5600K and output set to 100%. This test was completed with no accessories attached.
And here’s a test with a target of 3200K.
The output to size ratio here is excellent and so is the cost to lumen ratio — good news on both counts.
Output & color handling: F22c
Now moving to the 2×2 color version — here are my readings with a target of 5600K and output set to 100% for the F22c.
And here’s a test with a target of 3200K.
As with the Bi-Color fixtures, the 2×2 color fixtures have consistent results with the 2×1 fixtures with a similarly excellent Kelvin score and a large bump in output.
As a relative novice to the world of flexible lighting, I’ll admit I had to be sold during the course of creating this review on the need for this type of lighting fixture. The most obvious use case, and one that I touched on earlier, is the ability to mount the amaran flex lights almost anywhere and to mount them without fear of hurting on-camera talent below. In fact, zip ties and safety ties alike will become your friend with this kit. Given the abundance of o-ring mounting points on the flexible portion of the light, it’s conceivable you could connect multiple fixtures to create especially large sources without much difficulty.
You could absolutely create a compact 3-light interview kit with a combination of the F21/F22x and F21/F22c kits. That configuration would be perfect for a solo operator or a travel-heavy job.
Whether you purchase the F21/22x (bi-color) or F21/22c (color version) is going to be up to you, though I’ll argue that, if you can justify the cost, going for full color at this point is a relatively future-proof option.
With these fixtures, you are limited to wired USB-C to 5-Pin DMX512 input (with the help of an adapter that isn’t included), but you do have the versatile Sidus Link App for Bluetooth wireless control. I am a little concerned about the long-term lifespan of the four bendable metal arms at the back of the lamp head, but that’s a minor quibble, and the cost wouldn’t be astronomical if they needed to be replaced one day.
In short, after a few weeks of testing and trial and error in the field, it’s hard to view these four amaran flex lights as anything other than great news for filmmakers. They are perfect travel lights, include everything you need to get started shooting (grid + diffusion), are mountable anywhere, and the affordability is impressive. Two thumbs up.
Price and availability
There is no further information on when the amaran flex lights will be available. We will keep you updated and add the information to this article as soon as it becomes available to us. Also, you can follow Aputure’s website for more information.
Are you in the need of some new lights? Are you thinking about trying the new amaran F21x and F22x flex lights out? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.