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  • Stephen Knight

LED Panel Light Review: Zhiyun Fiveray M40

Updated: Jun 30

Most pocket LED panel lights max out at 12W power. The Zhiyun Fiveray M40 has an impressive 40W of power, an advanced cooling system, and variable (bi-color) white light output between 2700k and 6200k.


Disclaimer


The Zhiyun Fiveray M40 was purchased with my own funds. This review is from the perspective of a night time and urbex portrait photographer.


Zhiyun M40 LED panel light.
Zhiyun M40 LED panel light.

Construction


Zhiyun are well known for their gimballs, but have recently branched out into continuous lighting. This review is of the Zhiyun Fiveray M40 LED panel light, a very high powered 40W light for photography and video. This is a pocketable LED panel light, with bi-color/variable white correlated colour temperature (CCT) between 2700k warm white to 6200k cool white. There are 176 LEDs, 88 cool white, and 88 warm white. Unlike most pocket LED panel lights, there is no RGB colour output.


The size is 36.5mm x 77.8mm x 29mm. Whilst the height and weight is similar to other pocketable LED panel lights, it is twice as thick as most pocket LED panel lights due to the the internal fan and battery pack. The weight is also relatively heavy in this class at 320g. An internal battery pack contains 2x 2600mAh 18650 Li-ion batteries. The light has a ingress protection rating of IP20, which basically means that it is only protected from ingress by fingers. As panel lights are often used outdoors, I would expect a panel light to at least be splash and dust proof.


The M40 arrived in a branded box, with a USB-A to USB-C cable and manual. The user interface (explained in the next section) is rather basic, with two dials for power and CCT. The light can charge by USB-A to USB-C PD at up to 15W, and can also run continuously with an adequate PD power supply. Charging time was tested at 110mins with a Samsung 15W charger and supplied cable.


The M40 has an arm with two 1/4" tripod holes for mounting on tripods. There are no included accessories such as diffusers or mini-tripods.


The fan is required for cooling the powerful LED array. This can get noisy - equivalent to a laptop fan. This is OK for photography, but might be a problem for studio video or vlogging.


Zhiyun M40 LED Panel Light.
Zhiyun M40 LED Panel Light.

The Zhiyun M40 has 40W of max power.
The Zhiyun M40 has 40W of max power.

Zhiyun M40 Rotary Controls and USB-C Charging Port.
Zhiyun M40 rotary controls and USB-C charging port.

The Zhiyun M40 has 2 tripod threads.
The Zhiyun M40 has 2 tripod threads.

User Interface


Compared to most LED panel lights, the user interface is rather basic. There are no buttons, and no LED/LCD display. There are just two dials, one for power adjustment between 0% and 100%, and another for CCT adjustment between 2700k and 6200k. These dials have no clicks, or steps (other than on/off), and it is difficult to read the white on orange markings. The steps are rather large (0%-25%-50%-75% and 2700k-3500k-4300k-5000k-5600k-6200k) and it isn't clear where in the text actually aligns to that setting. Unfortunately, this means that is difficult to get consistently reproducible settings if you are using two or more M40 lights, or between shoots. I hope that Zhiyun improve this in a future version. As the light has no RGB LEDs, there are no effects modes, and no green to magenta tint adjustments available. There is a 4 level battery charge indicator, which is acceptable.


The Zhiyun M40 has two rotary dials for CCT and brightness.
The Zhiyun M40 has two rotary dials for CCT and brightness.

Beam, Output, and Runtime


Output is what the M40 is designed for, and it does this very well. LED panel lights typically have a very floody beam, with output measured in luminance (lux/distance), or less often, lumens. As LED panel lights are used to illuminate objects or people, then luminance is the preferred method of comparison as it shows how brightly that object or person has been illuminated. Lux comparisons are tricky as different manufacturers use different distances (or even fail to mention the distance) to fool customers into thinking a light is brighter than what is really is. Due to the inverse square law, when distance is doubled, illuminance drops to 25% of the previous value. In fact Zhiyun have stated 14,000lux, in the manual, but fail to mention that this is measured at 0.3m. Here is a comparison of tested and claimed illuminance against other pocketable portrait lighting options - the Weeylite RB9 (a relatively bright budget LED panel light), Convoy S21F flashlight (a useful flashlight for portraits), Lumecube 2.0 (a popular photography cube light), and Aputure MC (a popular LED panel light). I have used 1m as the distance for testing, which was measured at 30 seconds runtime.

  • Zhiyun Fiveray M40 - 100% output, 6200k - 1646 lux/1m.

  • Zhiyun Fiveray M40 - 100% output, 4300k - 1886 lux/1m.

  • Zhiyun Fiveray M40 - 100% output, 2700k - 1557 lux/1m.

  • Weeylite RB9 - 100% output, 6200k - 308 lux/1m.

  • Weeylite RB9 - 100% output, 4300k - 358 lux/1m.

  • Weeylite RB9 - 100% output, 2700k - 308 lux/1m.

  • Convoy S21F flashlight - 3/4 mode (highest sustained brightness), 5700k - 1109 lux/1m.

  • Convoy S21F flashlight - 3/4 mode (highest sustained brightness), 2700k - 886 lux/1m.

  • Lumecube 2.0 - 100% output, 5600k - 140lux/1m*.

  • Aputure MC - 100% output, unspecified CCT - 100lux/1m*.

* manufacturer claims.


The Fiveray M40 is far brighter on terms of luminance than all other pocket LED panel lights. In fact, even on 25% setting, initially measured at 32% brightness, it still outperforms most other pocket LED panel lights. The M40 allows for use of low ISOs for portraits instead of medium to high ISOs with most LED panel lights. The Convoy S21F flashlight, which has a very floody beam (suitable for portraits) is competitive for luminance. However, I find that photography models prefer LED panel lights than flashlights for portraits, as the larger panel light source is less blinding. Neither will produce flattering light.




Runtime testing was performed at 25C ambient temperature, indoors, with the following results:

  • 100% setting (100% output) - 4300k - 28mins runtime. Output gradually reduced to 80% by end of runtime. The fan started running at 1min, increasing to full power by 4mins.

  • 50% setting (65% output) - 4300k - 55mins runtime. Output gradually reduced to 52% by end of runtime. The fan started running at 2mins.

  • 25% output (32% output) - 4300k - 105mins runtime. Output gradually reduced to 20% by end of runtime. The fan did not run.

The runtime at 100% setting is rather short at 28mins, and may not last a full photo-shoot. At 50% setting the runtime is more useful, and brightness is far ahead of all other pocket LED panel lights that I'm aware of. At 25% setting, the runtime is quite impressive considering the light is still brighter than the majority of pocket LED panel lights. I will note that the first time I tested at 100% and 50% the runtimes were approx. 20% shorter - maybe the battery management needs a few charge/discharge cycles for optimal runtime? Ambient temperature may also affect the runtime.


Correlated colour temperature (CCT), colour rendering (CRI), and tint (DUV) were tested at 100% setting, with an Opple Light Master Pro 3 light meter.

  • 6200k setting - 5668k CCT, 100 Ra CRI, +0.0024 DUV.

  • 4300k setting - 3957k CCT, 99.1 Ra CRI, -0.0035 DUV.

  • 2700k setting - 2621k CCT, 97.8 Ra CRI, +0.0018 DUV.

At 2700k and 6200k settings, the light has a very slight green tint. When colour mixing, as expected, there is a very slight magenta tint shift. Unlike some high end LED panel lights (such as the Pilotcine Atomcube RX7) there is no green to magenta tint compensation or adjustment. However, the tint is pretty neutral at all CCTs, so this is only a minor issue. Colour rendering is excellent at 97.8 to 100 Ra CRI.


The Zhiyun M40 has 176 LEDs.
The Zhiyun M40 has 176 LEDs.

Zhiyun M40 beam profile.
Zhiyun M40 beam profile.

50% output. 5000K. f/2.8, 1/80sec, ISO1000. Model: @ashleighmarierogers
50% output. 5000K. f/2.8, 1/80sec, ISO1000. Model: @ashleighmarierogers

Conclusion


Positives:

  • Very impressive maximum brightness (lux/distance) for size.

  • Useable runtimes on 50% and 25% settings.

  • Useful CCT range.

  • Fairly neutral tint/DUV.

  • Very high CRI.

  • Fast 15W PD charging or power supply.

  • Effective cooling system - stays cool.

Neutral:

  • Gradual reduction in brightness, but no hard brightness step-downs.

Negatives:

  • Runtime on 100% setting may be too short for some photoshoots.

  • No RGB LEDs.

  • Rotary controls not great for reproducibility.

  • Markings on rotary controls are difficult to read.

  • No included accessories - diffusers, mini-tripods, barndoors, etc.

  • No effects modes.

  • Not water or dust proof (IP20).

  • Fan may be too noisy for some use cases.

The Zhiyun Fiveray M40 is designed for class leading white light output from a (just about) pocketable LED panel light. This is potentially useful for night portraits (or other on location portraits) where you need a bright white key light, but don't want to be carrying around heavy studio lighting equipment like softboxes and umbrellas. However, there are many compromises to keep the light within its US$100 price point including a too simplistic user interface, and no water/dust proofing.


At 100% setting, you will get impressive brightness, but runtimes may be too short for many photoshoots. At 50% and 25%, the brightness is still impressive compared to other pocket LED panel lights, and with more useful runtimes.



The Best Flashlights for Light Painting Photography 2024. article covers a wide range of lights useful for night photography illumination purposes.


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