Hands-on review: Zhiyun Fiveray FR100C Light Wand
Image credit: Zhiyun
Let there be more light.
With both photography and videography becoming hugely popular - we've all got a good quality camera in our pockets now - people have also come to expect a certain degree of professional quality from the images they both view and create.
In tandem with this uprating of content - online, on social, on TV - and given the surge of interest in creating content, the tools to support creating your best work are also becoming more accessible, flexible and powerful.
If you're looking to take your camera work (whether your pictures are still or moving) to a higher level, something like a light stick is a good investment, as it gives you greater flexibility to control the lighting in any location, for better and more creative results.
Having taken to equipping its smartphone and camera gimbals with more and brighter magnetic and built-in lights, it makes sense for Zhiyun to launch its first entirely standalone, dedicated lighting product for photographers, videographers and filmmakers.
The Fiveray FR100C is a handheld light stick, measuring approximately 502x46x47mm - roughly the same dimensions as, say, a full-size baguette.
Five times brighter than comparable portable-lighting accessories from other companies, according to Zhiyun, the FR100C also has full control over light temperature range, a large six-cell rechargeable battery, fast 120W PD charging via USB-C and easy, ergonomic thumbwheel control, so it can be used one-handed.
The FR100C is certainly capable of extreme brightness. The first time we held it, clicking and wheeling the control dial out of chimp-like curiosity, when the stick suddenly lit up at near-full illumination it practically scorched our eyeballs. Blindingly bright hardly does it justice.
Having recovered the use of our sight and pointed the light side of the stick away from our face (helpful hint, take note), we were able to scroll through the FR100C's various settings and the full 100 dimming steps of its full brightness range - up to 21195 lux (at a 30cm distance from the object/subject). We can't imagine any situation on Earth - possibly even in space - where the FR100C couldn't throw some useful light on to proceedings.
Weighing just under a kilo (at around 920g), it's pretty easy to hold for long periods without too much discomfort. The FR100C can also be mounted on a tripod or boom arm via the standard 1/4" threaded screw hole, so it can be permanently positioned for longer shoots with no human arms required. The stick shape of the FR100C also lends itself well to positioning in tight spaces, where a round lamp might struggle to fit.
The temperature range of the light covers 2700K-6300K, which is basically all the tones and shades of white you could need, plus there's RGB hue, saturation and brightness using the HIS full-colour mode for more creative lighting.
Everything about the FR100C can be controlled from the scroll wheel, with data feedback coming to you via the status display just above it. It's a very easy tool to use: it has one job (light - and lots of it) and it's about as easy and intuitive to adjust as it could be, so it doesn't get in the way of whatever image goals you're trying to achieve.
Clicking in one of four areas on the wheel gives you control over the key parameters, e.g. the HSI (Hue, Saturation, Intensity) menu, which introduces neon tones to the light; a maximum output option (exceedingly bright, but commensurately power hungry); the CCT option, whereby you can dial in the colour temperature, and a fourth option which dims the intensity of the stick. Being light, it's very obvious to see what's happening when you click and scroll the wheel, so fine-tuning the effect is perfectly straightforward.
There is potentially a lot of heat to be generated from such intense illumination and its 100W of power, so Zhiyun has equipped the FR100C with built-in cooling fans. These also enable the light stick to go with you into any ambient temperature conditions, e.g. enclosed spaces, underground locations, out in the desert etc.
The fans rarely kicked in during our tests, where we kept the light running on high (not full) brightness for a couple of hours. Even when they did start up the noise was minimal, so it shouldn't prove too intrusive if you also happen to be recording audio simultaneously.
It's not waterproof, so using it outside in a thunderstorm or for underwater illumination is not an option. It does feel reasonably tough at least and ships with a slip-on cover, so it's easy to safely toss into a bag and take anywhere. It doesn't fold, so its 'light saber' shape has to be accommodated, but this is no more inconvenient than a tripod or other camera accessories.
It's the work of a few seconds to set it up, so for 'run and gun' photography or filming work - especially in public places - it can be a real timesaver.
The great advantage of something like the FR100C is that you're not reliant on available light for the best shots. You can either amp up the lighting for dramatic effect or more subtly complement the tones of the natural light. Having a standalone dedicated light source also frees up the camera operator to position themselves separately from the light. It really opens up many more possibilities for more interesting results. The FR100C's dialed-down, more diffuse light temperature can also be less harsh and spot-specific than a flash gun - or it can be used in tandem to achieve certain effects.
The FR100C comes in either a black or white finish (we had the black on test). Since the launch of this, its first light stick product, only a few months ago, Zhiyun has also recently announced an additional model, the F100, with a few nice enhancements (such as brighter colours in RGB mode and special effects), although there is a price increase attached.
For many people, the brightness of the FR100C is likely to be sufficiently intense. As with most Zhiyun products, there are two purchase options available: just the FR100C or a Combo kit that includes a 120W switching adapter. Naturally, there's a premium for the Combo kit. However you charge the FR100C, you can continue to use it whilst it charges, which is ideal for all-day use.
The FR100C is a great solution for any photographer or filmmaker who has ever found themselves rueing the poor available light conditions in what is otherwise the perfect location for a memorable shoot. 'Fixing it in post' is all well and good, but it's better to get optimal results in the first place. Zhiyun's Fiveray Light Wand will help you achieve your best results every time.
Combo pack with 120W power adapter, £189
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