Zhiyun Fiveray M20 review: Pocket video light first look

Zhiyun Fiveray M20 review: Pocket video light first look

Zhiyun have added another powerful offering to their steady lighting range with the Fiveray M20 review. I got my hands on this pocket fill light, designed for photographers and videographers alike, to see how it holds up. In this first look Fiveray M20 review I’ll show you the basics of how this light performs.

You might have read how I accidentally destroyed my video light, so when I got the opportunity to grab one of the brand new Zhiyun Fiveray M20 to review I was pretty excited. And this one doesn’t use AA batteries that I can accidentally leave in there to destroy it, so that’s one plus already. Let’s dive in and see how the Fiveray M20 performs.

Pros

  • Adjustable color temperature
  • Brightness can be controlled from 0% to 100%
  • Lightweight: Weighs only 200g
  • Can be used while charging, e.g. by a power pack while in the field
  • Magnetic attachment means it can be mounted on metal surfaces with ease
  • Included modifiers in the Combo pack give excellent control over the quality of light
  • Cold shoe and tripod attachment built-in
  • Short press, long press on button prevents accidentally turning the light on in your bag
  • Flexible, multi-purpose light that will meet a variety of needs

Cons

  • Battery is built-in so you can’t switch batteries in the field

Zhiyun Fiveray M20 – Technical specifications

The Zhiyun Fiveray M20 Combo kit comes with the light as well as three modifers to give you total control over the light.

All technical specifications have been taken from the manufacturer’s website.

  • Color temperature range: 2700K-6500K
  • Television Lighting Consistency Index (TLCI) ≥ 97
  • Color Rendering Index (CRI) ≥ 95
  • Peak Illuminance: 2010Lux
  • 10 lighting effects for video: SOS, Paparazzi, TV, Bad Bulb, Lightning, Strobe, Candle, CCT Loop, CCT Flash, CCT Pulse
  • Built-in Battery: 4500mAh
  • Run time: 40min at max 20W, 1H 20min at 10W and 3H at 5W
  • Charging time: 2H, supports use while charging, charges by USB-C
  • Weight: 200g
  • MARK II DynaVort Cooling System
  • Combo kit comes with: Fiveray M20 Light, Storage bag, Extension Bracket, Diffuser, Honeycomb Grid, 4-Leaf Barn Doors, USB-C charging cable
  • Standard kit comes with: Fiveray M20 Light, Extension Bracket, USB-C charging cable

I was provided with the Zhiyun Fiveray M20 in exchange for review. All opinions are my own. I got the Fiveray M20 Combo set, which includes magnetic mount modifiers (details below). It’s also available as a standalone light (no modifiers included).

Also, it’s worth noting that there is also the similar Fiveray M20C available: This version has Bluetooth connectivity and can be controlled by the Zhiyun ZY Vega APP (read the review here).

Zhiyun Fiveray M20 – Ergonomics and build quality

A video light like the Fiveray M20 is an essential part of the kit for a photographer. Of course, their main use is for, well, video. Videographers can’t rely on the magic of speedlites so a portable, steady light source is a must. I’m not a videographer though. So what purpose does a video light serve for photographers?

For wedding photographers it’s useful for macro photography of rings, flatlays and details. Also, popping soft light into a scene fast without needing to rig up your off-camera flash system is a major drawcard. For event photographers it give portability and flexibility, with fine-grained control over brightness and temperature to match the environment without disrupting with flash bursts.

Food, flatlay and craft photographers will find a video light handy to add light. Not to mention adding flattering illumination to video meetings and content videos.

I am impressed with the build quality and ergonomics of the Zhiyun Fiveray M20 so far. It’s lightweight but feels good quality. A combo of metal and plastic build, everything fits together perfectly for a sleek, small package. Zhiyun have carefully thought about how this can be used. The Extension Bracket included in both the Standard and Combo kits is magnetic and has attachments on all four sides, making it possible to mount on tripod, cold shoe, light stands or metal surfaces.

Zhiyun Fiveray M20 – In the field

zhiyun fiveray M20 review barn doors
The light can be mounted in a number of ways, including magnetically to metal surfaces, tripod, or lighting stand.

I’ve mounted this on my Manfotto tabletop tripod for these shots. You can also use the cold shoe mount to attach it to the top of your camera. I have not had a chance to get this out to a real life evening event yet. Apologies to anyone with a creepy doll phobia because that was my subject for my test images for this Fiveray M20 review. Let’s dive in!

Quality of light

While testing for this Fiveray M20 review of the light quality, I set the color temperature to 4500K for each of these brightness images. Above you can see the brightness at 0%, 50% and 100% (no modifiers and no edits applied to these images). The quality of light is even and soft even without the diffuser.

Note that I had the light very close to the subject. The closer your light is, the softer the light because the bigger the light source effectively is (that’s the objective behind umbrellas and softboxes, too). I will be testing this light with real people over the coming weeks and this distance is not likely to be practical (for the safety of their retinas!) so stay tuned for those results.

For the above color temperature comparison I set the brightness to 50% for all. The temperature is 2700K, 4500K and 6500K from warmest to coolest. The point of changing the color temperature is to match the ambient light and/or create a mood. There’s plenty of room within the Fiveray M20 range to do that.

Modifiers included with the Fiveray M20 Combo kit

The Combo version of the Fiveray M20 includes three essential modifiers, all designed to attach magnetically (and stack if necessary) to the front of the light. This makes for easy storage and use because you can leave all stacked on and remove those you don’t need before shooting.

The above shows my little subject with no modifiers, for comparison.

The Diffuser adds a softness to the light. This will be useful for portrait photographers and for simulating natural light for product photography, hobbies and food photography.

zhiyun fiveray M20 review honeycomb grid
The Honeycomb Grid, like the other modifiers, attaches magnetically to the front of the light.

The Honeycomb Grid, on the other hand, is for controlling the light. It cuts out spill and focuses the light onto the subject.

You can see above how the grid focuses the light instead of scattering it as the diffuser does.

zhiyun fiveray M20 review barn doors
The 4-Leaf Barn Doors allow precise control over where the light falls.

The 4-Leaf Barn Doors give even more control to what is illuminated. Moving the leaves in and out cuts the light where you don’t need it.

This shows the effect of closing the barn doors inwards to focus the light just on the subject’s face.

fiveray M20 barn doors
The numbers on the leaves show you how to close the Barn Doors.

The 4-Leaf Barn Doors come with a handy numbered notation to show which order to fold them in. This makes it easy to get it back into its compact, pocket-sized form ready for stowing.

Controls, menus and display

The light is controlled by two dial buttons on the back. The left dial features a short press, long press to turn on. This prevents accidentally turning the light on in your bag and draining the battery before the shoot begins. The LCD display on the back of the light prompts you to complete this

The left dial button gives you these options:

  • Short press / long press: Turn on
  • Long press: Turn off
  • Single press: Switch modes
  • Double click: Go back to the previous mode
  • Spin dial: Switch option in the menu or adjust the mode parameters – when in the standard CCT mode this dial controls the color temperature.

The right dial button allows you to control:

  • Single press: Quick adjust for the current parameter – for standard mode that will rotate between 0%, 50% and 100% brightness
  • Spin dial: Fine adjust the parameter – in standard CCT this will increase or decrease the brightness by 1% at a time.

The LCD display packs a lot of info in for a small space. I found everything pretty self-explanatory and easy to navigate.

Battery life

zhiyun fiveray M20 standard
Because the light can be used while charging, you can power it with a battery pack on the go if the battery runs out.

The manufacturer’s website states 40 minutes of run time at the peak brightness. So far I have tested this out at home, not at an evening event. When I get in the field I will have a better idea of how this performs in more real world working conditions.

So far, I have been happy with the battery life. Because I can’t change batteries on the go (e.g. a speedlite can have the AA batteries replaced during a shoot) I need to be able to rely on the batteries making it for a whole shoot. So far, that has been fine.

However, it can be charged while being used. That means there’s the option to charge in the field with a battery pack – same as the kind you’d carry around for your mobile phone. This adds a great backup option for photographers who are using the light on the go. You can charge it from a portable battery pack with the included USB-C cable and keep shooting.

Zhiyun Fiveray M20 review – Final thoughts

This is a flexible light that will meet the needs of many photographers. For hobby photography, the Fiveray M20 is perfect because it can be used for phone cameras and pro cameras alike.

I am more impressed with Zhiyun lighting with each additional product I get my hands on. I reviewed their Fiveray V60 Light Wand last year and I was as blown away by the quality with the M20. Zhiyun are delivering pro quality products at affordable prices. The specs of what these lights can do goes above and beyond for the price point.

The Fiveray M20 is a great choice for photographers and videographers looking for a versatile, lightweight, compact yet powerful and adaptable light for a wide range of purposes. I can see this becoming a staple for evening events, desktop photography, macro, wedding details and more. Plus, it’s going to double as a light for video meetings, recording for clients and social media. I’ll be using it for my pro cameras and phone camera alike.

For photographers looking to build a complex, powerful system of lighting based on Fiveray units then the Fiveray M20C would be the choice for you. This model lets you connect and control multiple units with the ZY Vega APP. At only $159 from B&H these are great building blocks for a full lighting setup.

The Fiveray M20 starts at $79 for the standard light (no modifiers) or grab the Combo kit with modifiers included for $129. If your budget allows I would splash for the Combo kit. The magnetic attachment diffuser will soften light for flattering portrait photos and videos. The barn doors are key for controlling where light falls in your image. And the honeycomb grid eliminates light spill where you don’t want it. All in all the Fiveray M20 is a powerful pocket light for the price, providing flexible lighting for a wide range of uses.