In addition to my writing for Geek News Central, I record the occasional product review video to accompany some of the articles. Over the years, I’ve been improving my equipment – tripod, boom arm, lavalier mic, cage – and now it was time to improve my lighting. After some market research and a friend’s recommendation, I decide to buy a Lume Cube Panel Mini. I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks now, so let’s take a look at the Panel Mini in more detail.
The Panel Mini is a pocket-sized LED lamp roughly the size of a credit card (90 mm x 55 mm) but quite a bit fatter at 10 mm and it weighs in at 85 g so it’s heavy for the size. The Mini’s case is made of metal in a gunmetal grey with softly rounded corners and it feels like a quality item. In the box with the Panel Mini is a rubbery white softening diffuser, a simple hot shoe mount and a USB C charging cable.
Looking over the Panel Mini, the array of 60 LEDs is visible on the front, and on two sides there are 1/4″ threads for mounting the light in a preferred orientation. On the third side, there is on/off/select button, a rocker dial and a USB C charging port. Finally, round the back is a small monochrome OLED display showing battery life, brightness and white temperature.
The Panel Mini powers up with a long press on the small button on the top right. Once turned on, the same button toggles between brightness and colour temperature, and the rocker dial is used to control brightness and temp. The brightness goes up in 5% increments and is rated at 550 lux at 0.5 m on 100% brightness. The white colour temperature goes between 3200K and 5600K in 100K increments and allows matching colour temperature to the ambient light.
At maximum brightness, the display shows around 1.2 hours of use: that’s 1 hour 12 minutes. In one test, I got 1 hour 7 mins but as soon as the brightness comes down, the battery life goes way up. The spec says 1.8 hours for recharging and I wouldn’t quibble about that.
I have my Panel Mini mounted onto a SmallRig frame as shown in the picture on the right. In that shot, the light diffuser has been put on. Overall, the Panel Mini works really well both for pieces to camera and for doing product reviews on the bench.
Frankly, the only issue I have is the softening diffuser and there are two problems. First the hole in the rubber is 1/4″ size so when using the supplied hot shoe mount, the retaining wheel slightly crushes the diffuser. It would have been much better if the hole in the diffuser had been a bit bigger. Secondly, the black rubber washer on the top of the mount is discolouring the white rubber. Look closely at the area around the hole in the diffuser in the first photograph and the yellowish fading can be seen.
In terms of price, I paid GB£69 for it at Amazon.co.uk but it’s priced 51.95€ and US$59.95 on Lume Cube’s website so there was definitely a bit of premium added there. Watch out for that and see if you can get a better deal than I did elsewhere. Aim for between GB£50-£60.
There are a number of copycat lights out there with dubious names for half the price and although I haven’t any direct experience of these, my feeling is that you get what you pay for: the Panel Mini feels well made.
In summary, I bought the Panel Mini on the back of four promises: Lume Cube’s reputation, 1+ hour battery life, white colour temperature adjustment and USB C charging. I think it’s been a good call and I’m really expecting the Panel Mini to give my product reviews and presentations a lighting boost. Watch out for more videos coming soon.