Hands-On Review: The Litepanels Gemini 1 x 1 RGBWW LED Soft Panel

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Like many other photographers, I have found myself incorporating video into my practice with increasing regularity. Already irreversibly invested in studio lights built for stills, I have been reluctant to start a second collection of LED lights for video. Consequently, my experience with LEDs has been a mixed bag: Wallet-friendly models rarely deliver the quality of light or durability that my work requires, while the lights I prefer remain at a “rent-not-buy” price point. When presented with the Gemini 1 x 1 RGBWW LED Soft Panel to review, I wondered if this light could be the solution to my dilemma. I remembered my colleagues on B&H’s video team speaking highly of the Gemini 2 x 1, and was cautiously optimistic about the capabilities of its smaller sibling.

 The Gemini combines simple design and durable construction.
The Gemini combines simple design and durable construction.

Straight out of the box, two aspects of the Gemini impressed me: It is easy to use, and it is built like a tank. Settings are displayed on a rear LCD screen and controlled on-light primarily by three knobs with push-and-turn responses. Alternatively, the unit can be controlled via wired DMX, wireless DMX, or Bluetooth.

The menu system is surprisingly easy to navigate using three push/turn knobs. Six user-defined presets can be programmed into the buttons above its rear LCD screen.
The menu system is surprisingly easy to navigate using three push/turn knobs. Six user-defined presets can be programmed into the buttons above its rear LCD screen.

I was able to get the hang of menu navigation without needing to open an instruction manual, which is always a welcomed surprise. Above the LCD, there is a row of six buttons designating frequently used color temperatures: 2700K, 3200K, 4000K, 5000K, 5600K, and 6000K. At the end of the row is an A/B button that allows you to toggle between the six presets and six user-definable settings. This makes recalling the exact settings of a saved shoot as easy as pressing a button.

The Gemini produces flicker-free light at all power levels so you can shoot at high frame rates without worry. A CRI/TLCI rating of 97 for daylight balance and 94 for tungsten means reliable accurate color no matter your application. The light features a 95-degree beam angle and 157-degree field angle. At 10 feet, it can output 614 lux (daylight) or 557 lux (tungsten) while consuming only 200W of nominal power. During my time with the Gemini, it became my default light source for video conferences, which, in some cases, lasted up to 3 hours. The only times I would notice its fan is when I would look over and see it moving—I never heard it. Still, it can be disabled when necessary.

 Vivid colors are achievable through a variety of means with the Gemini.
Vivid colors are achievable through a variety of means with the Gemini.

Setting the Gemini is akin to a choose-your-own-adventure for achieving the exact light you are looking for. There are five customizable lighting modes, each featuring 0.1-100 intensity in 0.1 increments: CCT (Correlated Color Temperature), HSI Color, Gel, RGBW, and Effects. When working in CCT mode, you can select any temperature for your light from 2700 to 10000K and adjust green/magenta between -100 and 100. I found this to be the easiest means of matching daylight when taking still portraits with the Gemini. HSI Color mode allows hue (0-359) and saturation (0-100) adjustments for color mixing. RGBW mode opens up individual control of red, green, blue, and white LEDs, which Litepanels says can be used to achieve more than 16.7 million unique colors—I didn’t count—but I also had no trouble creating a wide array of vivid colors.

One of the more practical color settings is Gel mode, which can be used to match other lights quickly when working on set. Simply specify the source as daylight or tungsten and choose from 300 commonly used gels. Rounding out the color modes are 11 built-in special effects: Emergency!, Fire, Fireworks, Hue Burst, Lite-ning, Paparazzi, Party Lites, Pulsing, Squares, Strobe, and TV/Monitor. Each effect is uniquely customizable, and many can be either manually triggered or set to cycle at specified rates.

The included medium diffusion panel can be removed or replaced with separately available panels.
The included medium diffusion panel can be removed or replaced with separately available panels.

As noted earlier, you can tell as soon as you pick this light up that its aluminum construction will withstand the rigors of set life. The yoke and mount are solid, and the corners of the unit are reinforced to prevent damage to the light itself. The power supply adapter is secured to the yoke, ensuring tight, reliable power connections. Separately available V-Mount or Gold-Mount battery plates can be attached when you need to take the Gemini on the road. Full power is possible for up to 2 hours when using two batteries. Finally, the battery plate has a power through XRL connection so users can switch from AC to DC power without needing to turn the unit off or switch cables.

The Honeycomb Grid slides into place.
The Honeycomb Grid slides into place.

Among the appealing aspects of the Gemini 1 x 1 is its small size and manageable weight of 11.7 lb, which make it easy to handle on set and transport to locations. If you need more power, you can combine multiple lights into dual or quad arrangements using separately available yokes. You can also daisy-chain multiple lights via a dedicated mode to control settings across all units. Another nice feature is the ability to save settings and presets on a USB drive that can then be plugged into any Gemini for quick access and application. Firmware updates can also be implemented via the USB port to keep your light up to date.

The Snapbag softbox is quick to set up and tear down.
The Snapbag Softbox is quick to set up and tear down.

The Gemini comes with a medium diffuser that can be removed or swapped with heavy diffusion, “lite” diffusion, or an intensifier. I also had the opportunity to use the Honeycomb Grid, which was easy to slide into place to tighten the Gemini’s native 95-degree beam angle to 60 degrees. I also used the Snapbag Softbox, which has a folding design, making it extremely quick to set up and tear down. The front diffusion of the Snapbag can be replaced with three strengths of diffusion cloth. One minor annoyance for this lazy photographer, accustomed to positioning softboxes on strobes in virtually any direction, was the hindrance that the yoke presented to the Snapbag when trying to angle it downward on a C-stand. However, this issue could be fairly easily resolved with a more inventive setup utilizing the hole in its mounting hardware for a side or top-down mounting. Just be sure to apply adequate counterweight when changing the center of gravity of your lighting rig.

Matching ambient light is easy with the Gemini.
Matching ambient light is easy with the Gemini.

Overall, I enjoyed my time with the Gemini 1 x 1 a great deal. Writing this review, it was hard to imagine any serious flaws with this light for my own uses. While certainly not set at the lowest price for a panel LED, the Gemini performs and is built like a much more expensive model.

Have you tried any of the Gemini lights from Litepanels? Share your thoughts in the Comments section, below!

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