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REVIEW: Fotodiox Flapjack Edge-lit LED Lights

It’s been about a decade since the first usable LED camera-top lights made their debut.  I have fond memories of an original LitePanels unit that was essentially a hundred daylight LEDs soldered to a huge heatsink and powered by a lithium-ion battery.  While it was certainly an improvement over any tungsten-bulb lamp, it wasn’t without its limitations.  Somehow it was bright but rather “punchless,” harsh if not filtered (which cost a lot of intensity), and if you were using it near any wall, the hundred LEDs each cast their own shadow – a truly disconcerting effect.  There have been many attempts to cure these issues, and at NAB 2015 Fotodiox – yes, the lens adapter folks – announced a new line of lights called Flapjacks, with a new approach called “edge-lighting.”  And to add a cherry on the sundae, the Flapjacks have built-in dimming and are color-temperature selectable. 

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Edge-lighting is just what it sounds like – instead of an array of front-facing LEDs, the LEDs are arranged around the edge of the fixture, facing into a large, milky-white diffuser.  The smoothness and intensity of the Flapjacks is quite remarkable; while they won’t out-punch an HMI sungun, they are amazingly effective for their size, heat and energy consumption.

I found two versions of the Flapjack lights on my porch one afternoon.  The C-200RS is a 7” circle that is about ½” thick, with a flat white front and a back that features a Sony-format battery mount and a control panel. 

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Two knobs control brightness from 0 – 100% and color temperature from 3200 Kelvin to 5600 Kelvin – the normal spread from tungsten light to average daylight.  A liquid crystal display shows color temperature, brightness and battery status.  The other light is the C-218AS, which has an 11” x 4” rectangular form. 

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The controls are the same, and the C-218AS features two ¼”-20 threads for mounts (the C-200RS has only one.) The lights come packaged in a semi-soft case with a Sony-format battery, a battery charger, a wall-wart transformer, a cigarette-power adapter and a ball-mount that slides into the “shoe” on top of your camera.

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I tested the Flapjacks both in my studio and on a 5-day roadtrip across the north of Wisconsin.  Using a Sekonic light meter, I found the Flapjacks both had remarkably similar output – about 15 footcandles at 5 feet, and near 40 footcandles at 3 feet.  Even more interesting is that the light output doesn’t vary at all across the color spectrum, from 3200K to 5600K.  Measuring the color temperature with my Sony NEX-EA50U camera showed the tungsten color at 3100K and the daylight around 5200K – not enough of a diversion to worry about. 

It is a rare shooter that hasn’t had to fight the scourge of florescent lighting.  Neither tungsten nor daylight, florescent lights often have a greenish color temperature in the 4400K range.  The adjustable color temperature on the Flapjacks is made for this situation; dialing in a workable, color-appropriate hue is a piece of cake, and the precise display makes recreating a preset a no-brainer. 

On my roadtrip I used the rectangular Flapjack C-218AS for a different purpose – to illuminate a banner.

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I mounted the fixture to a Manfrotto Magic Arm and pointed the light up from the floor.  I got two hours of light from a full battery charge, and the extra light really helped in making the banner stand out.

With prices online ranging from $230 for the C-218AS and $260 for the C-200RS, they are both useful and cost-effective lighting tools that can be deployed in many ways to add fill light where it is needed.  And considering that the price includes a case, a battery, a charger and other power options makes adding a Flapjack or two to your light kit a no-brainer.


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A 1981 graduate of the Boston University College of Communication, Bruce A. Johnson got his first job in broadcast television at WFTV, an ABC affiliate in Orlando, FL. While there, he rose through the ranks…

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