Photography / Hands-on Review

Field Test: Bescor FM-256 Flexible Remote-Controlled Bi-Color LED Light Mat

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LED lighting options have become increasingly better, brighter, more innovative, and more affordable by the day. If you need an example of a light source that possesses all four of these attributes, look no further than the Bescor FM-256 Flexible Remote-Controlled Bi-Color LED Light Mat.

The benefits of this 12 x 12", AC-powered light source are multifold, which, in this case, can be taken both figuratively and literally—Bescor’s flexible LED mat can be rolled up to about a quarter of its 12" width for storage and transport in the included 4 x 5 x 12" nylon carrying case. The flexible nature of the light mat also allows you to bend and contour the mat to create various lighting effects or “mold” the light mat into tight corners. But that’s only part of the story.

The Bescor FM-256 LED Mat features 256 individual LED lamps (16 rows of 16 lamps) that together output up to 300W of continuous CRI: 90+ light at 60 flicker-free fps. Included with each unit is a white, palm-sized remote control from which you can power the unit on and off, as well as dim the output (100% to zero, fluidly). The remote also enables you to alter the color temperature of the light steplessly from 5600K (Daylight) to 3200K (Tungsten), as well as offering the ability to create up to four groupings for multi-light setups.

Included with each kit are four hook-and-loop-covered aluminum posts that snap together to create a square frame that turns the mat into a 1-inch-thick light box, easily mountable on a light stand or boom, using the frame’s ¼-20" threads.

During my time with the FM-256, I used this nifty light box on a Manfrotto boom for shooting a few tabletop setups. I also mounted it on a Platypod Pro, which enabled me to slide the light box right up to my subject like a reflector, flush to the table. Using two units, I could have set one as a main light and the second as a fill light by simply dimming the illumination until I got the fill ratio exactly the way I wanted it.

Considering the size and weight of the Bescor FM-256 (it’s only 2.4 lb), the unit outputs a powerful wall of light. To further soften the illumination, you can attach the included diffuser to the front of the aluminum support frame.

As mentioned up front, the FM-256 outputs daylight and Tungsten-balanced light. What’s nice about the unit is that you can warm or cool your lighting steplessly between the two extremes using the remote. It should also be noted that you can use Bescor’s FM-256 Bi-Color Light Mat for portraits, but be advised, if used as a main light at full power, your subject will undoubtedly be squinting—this puppy is mighty bright!

If Bescor’s FM-256 Flexible Bi-Color Flex LED Studio Mat fills the bill for you and you’d like a stand to go along with it, fear not—for an extra $20, you can get the Bescor FM-256 Flexible Bi-Color Flex LED Studio Mat with Light Stand. Included as part of this package is an LED light mat, a frame, diffuser, power supply, remote, hand grip—for occasions when you simply don’t have the time or working space for a light stand—a manual, and a nylon carry case

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