Today we continue our LED review series with a portable LED that we received quite a long time ago called Lykos which was developed by the U.S. manufacturer Litepanels for Manfrotto several years ago.
Just like we did with all of our previous lighting reviews, we will take a look at the build quality and features, the light quality and power options and some actual measurements as well as add few comments about actually using the light before giving our final conclusion.
The Lykos is made out of plastic. We had it for almost two years now and it held up very well. We would certainly like to see a newer metal version of this unit, but the upside is that this light only weighs a bit under 500 grams (or just under 17 ounces).
There really is very little physically to look at wit this light. On the front you have the LEDs, on the top and button, you have 1/4″ 20 threads as well as a female cold shoe on one side (the unit comes with a pretty nice small ballhead as well). On the back, you have an on/off button and a knob that sets the power from zero all the way up to 100%. The light also has a physical handle which lets the user conveniently hand hold the light in any angle.
In terms of power, you have a Sony NP-F style battery connector (no battery is included with the light) which is probably the first thing that we will change about this unit (it has a plastic release knob which we don’t really like).
The back of the Manfrotto Lykos
Output and features
The Lykos is actually a family of products. There are currently two members of this family – a bi-color light (3000K-5600K) and a Daylight version (5600K only) which is what we are testing today. On paper, the Daylight version is just a little bit more powerful at 1600 lux at 1m vs. 1500 Lux of the Bi-color version (we will see how the Daylight actually performs in a second).
The Lykos series has an optional ($100) Bluetooth Dongle that can control your light from your smartphone. Sadly it only works on an iPhone and the Manfrotto Digital director and as Android users, we couldn’t test it.
Like we did with all previous lights that we recently reviewed here, we tested the Lykos with our Sekonic C700 spectrometer looking at both power output, color quality, and accuracy.
We got the light with 3 different gels (one is more like a diffuser) and we measured the light output and color with each of them and you can see the results below (one note: the results we mention in the video are a little bit different, measurements are not always exactly repeatable apparently, but they are close enough to get a good understanding of the light’s capabilities).
No filters – without any filter we are looking at:
- 2370 Lux at 1m – very impressive and well above the official specs.
- Color temperature is a bit cooler than it should at almost 6400K.
- 94.8 CRI overall – pretty great.
- Good reds (91.1 R9) but the blues are quite low (R12 is only 68.6).
Transparent diffuser – this diffuser cuts quite a bit of power but it does the job:
- 1300 Lux at 1m.
- Color temperature is closer to daylight with 6066K.
- CRI overall is 95.
- 90.8 – R9 and 69.6 – R12.
Orange Gel 1 – Warm:
- 1870 Lux at 1m.
- Color temperature is much warmer with 4922K.
- CRI overall is 95.6.
- 89.2 – R9 and 69.6 – R12.
Orange Gel 2 – Warmer:
- 1330 Lux at 1m.
- Color temperature of 3227K.
- CRI overall is 97.9.
- 87 – R9 and 85.2 – R12.
In the field
We have been using the Lykos extensively since we got it. Actually, you might consider this a long-term review, which can tell you a lot more about a product than the more common reviews based on a few days or even weeks of use.
We used it for anything from small product photography and videography, to some more demanding tasks of fill and even main light when we needed a little extra boost for shooting outdoors (it can’t overpower the sun but it can be useful in the shade) and we even took it with us for some commercial shoots to light the background and it even helped us in some interviews back in Photokina 2016 (yes, we had this thing for a really long time now).
The light never failed on us and although it can drain batteries like crazy (expect 1-2 hours of battery life – depending on the battery and how you set the light), when it works it is great and when we want to make sure that it will keep working, we try and use the included AC power adaptor.
The Lykos has been hands down our favorite portable light. It is super simple to use, lightweight and compact has good power options, and it doesn’t get too hot.
Even more importantly – this light packs quite a punch in terms of raw power but the biggest upside is the color quality – on par or better than the best lights that we have tested including pro ones that cost twice as much or more.
Not new, but still one of the best portable LEDs around
This doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. The BT dongle – a neat idea which we would actually like to see built into the light – only works with iPhone for some reason and probably the biggest downside is the plastic body and especially the battery plate and release mechanism which we feel should have all been made out of metal for the price of this unit especially with what has been going on with the competition in this market segment (to be fair the Lykos was announced back in 2015 so there has been a lot of changes in the industry since, although the light is still very much relevant in our opinion).
As for the cost – this is a pricey unit, selling for just around $350 (the bi-color version sells for just over $450). We feel that for 2018, Manfrotto needs to work with Litepanels and release an updated version, with a full metal casing, better battery plate, integrated BT (with Android support) and maybe even a little bit more power and color accuracy.
At the end of the day, if you can afford it and despite its age and design, the Lykos is still one of the best truly portable lights that you can buy on the market right now.
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