Nanlite PavoSlim 120C review: a powerful LED panel

Nanlite’s PavoSlim 120C is a powerful yet portable LED panel that’s suitable for mains powered studio shoots or by battery power on location

PavoSlim 120C video light in use
(Image: © George Cairns / Digital Camera World)

Digital Camera World Verdict

As an iPhone user I shoot a mix of stills and clips, so the PavoSlim 120C’s abilities to produce a wide range of colours and animated lighting effects are very attractive. Although it can be powered by battery and controlled by an app for portable location shoots it’s best suited for lighting video and stills in a studio - a fact that is reflected in its relatively high price and accessories such as its chunky control box.

Pros

  • +

    Strong light source

  • +

    Animated lighting effects

  • +

    Wide colour temperature range

  • +

    No fan noise

Cons

  • -

    Plastic power plugs

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LED (light emitting diode) lights come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, from the best light wands to the best LED light panels (both rigid and flexible). The PavoSlim 120C is a rigid but very slim rectangular LED light panel, but you can also buy circular LED panels.

The PavoSlim 120C is manufactured by Nanlite, a company who have been producing a wide range of professional lighting equipment for 30 years - from portable LED light sticks like the PavoTube 30C to more traditional-looking LED spotlights such as the Nanlite Forza 60C

I’ve enjoyed testing and reviewing 17 LED lights for Digital Camera World to date, three of which were manufactured by Nanlite. The Nanlite PavoSlim 120C is comparable in features to the like the Rotolight AEOS 2 though the PavoSlim is rectangular in comparison to the Rotolight AEOS 2 circular shape. 

Regardless of their shape LED lights remain illuminated during a shoot, so you don’t need to sync them to flash at the press of a camera’s shutter button. This review is designed to help you decide whether the PavoSlim 120C panel will suit your requirements as a photographer or a videographer. Spoiler - it’s suitable for both!

The soft box expands once you remove the LED panel from its storage slip in the carry case. (Image credit: George Cairns / Digital Camera World)

Nanlite PavoSlim 120C: Specifications

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Power150W
LED typeRGBWW
Output12,830 lux on 5600K @ 1m
CCT2700K - 7500K
Animated preset effectsHue Loop, CCT Loop, INT Loop, Flash, Pulse, Storm, Police Car, TV, Paparazzi, Candle/Fire, Disco, Bad Bulb, Firework, Explosion and Welding.
CRI96 average
TCLI97 average
SSI at 5600K74
TM-30 Rf94 average
TM-30 Rg100 average
Dimensions602 × 306.3 × 18.6mm / 23.7 × 12.06 × 0.73"
Weight1.76kg / 3.88lb (light) 1.84kg / 4.06lb (control unit)

Nanlite PavoSlim 120C: Price & Availability

At the time of writing the PavoSlim 120C panel costs $799 / £875.  The smaller 1 x 1 shaped PavoSlim 60C is a cheaper $599 / £649. 

Nanlite PavoSlim 120C: Design & Handling

The PavoSlim 120C ships in a padded carry case and my first impression was "this is heavy!". The PavoSlim 120C itself weighs in at 1.76kg / 3.88lb so it’s light enough to carry in one hand, but the rest of the case’s weight comes from a wide range of accessories such as a light stand, various clamps, and cables plus its chunky control unit (which itself weighs .84kg / 4.06lb which makes it heavier than the PavoSlim 120C panel). 

The front of the PavoSlim panel was initially concealed in a fabric soft box but after unclipping its hook and look (velcro) fasteners I was able to examine the panel’s LEDs.  

(Image credit: George Cairns / Digital Camera World)

At 1.86 cm the LED panel looked and felt very slim. The rear of the panel was constructed of a satisfyingly lightweight but sturdy metal (which is designed to dissipate heat so there’s no need for a built-in noise-inducing fan). The rear of the panel had a range of mounting points that you could easily and quickly clip a range of supplied attachments to with a simple slide-and-click operation.  This made the light very quick and easy to mount on the supplied light stand. The front of the panel featured rows of LED chips that looked like tiny opaque lenses, but these became dazzlingly bright and colorful when powered up and set to various modes.

The control unit’s dials, buttons and screen provide a tactile way to adjust LED properties such as Gels and Effects.  (Image credit: George Cairns / Digital Camera World)

To power the light I attached the rather large and heavy control box to the light stand using the supplied clamp. I then attached the control box to the mains and plugged the panel’s power cable into the control box. Initially, I struggled to attach the mains power cable’s plug to the control box until I realized I had to rotate it slightly so it would lock into place. The locking mechanism ensured that the plug wouldn’t pop out during a shoot - a nice design touch! 

Despite the control box weighing more than the light panel, the whole rig was relatively stable when attached to the light stand (though there can be an initial short wobble after you’ve handled the control box buttons to make adjustments). The two main dials on the control box enabled me to adjust a host of LED properties with ease. The dials also function as clickable buttons for more control. The panel’s soft box with its built-in diffuser was very easy to attach the the panel using the hook and loop fasteners. 

Two supplied mounts (the baby pin holder shown here) and the universal holder both clip securely to the metal rear of the panel. (Image credit: George Cairns / Digital Camera World)

Nanlite PavoSlim 120C: Performance

For a detailed look at the PavoSlim 120C in action check out my supporting video below. I took the PavoSlim 120C to a local TV studio and was glad I could park outside the location as the carry case was rather heavy. 

However, once I reached the studio it didn’t take long to slip the panel from its protective pocket in the case, clip it on the light stand, and power it up. The softbox with its built-in diffuser is clamped flat to the panel when stored, but with a quick unclipping of hook and loop straps the softbox expanded (thanks to collapsible metal prongs that push the diffuser a few inches away from the LED panel). 

The diffuser enabled the panel to emit a strong but soft key light, though to produce harsher shadows you can easily remove the diffuser and soft box completely as you’ll see in my video. 

The LED panel was attached to the light stand via a double ball-jointed mount, so it was an easy operation to tilt the panel at various angles. The bulky control box clipped via its quick-release v-mount onto a clamp attached to the light stand. The control box has a screen that instantly shows you the properties of the mode you’ve chosen. You can then rotate the left and right dials to change properties such as color temperature or gel color. These physical dials/buttons provide a pleasantly tactile way to fine-tune your lighting set-up.

The control box has a v-mount so you can clip on a battery and shoot free from the constraints of a mains power cable. (Image credit: George Cairns / Digital Camera World)

The control unit has a wide range of color-changing modes, from HSI which lets you change hue, saturation, and brightness from the LEDs to the very handy Gel mode which lets you dial in specific gels such as Dark Lavender or Daylight Blue. 

As a videographer my favorite mode was Effect. Here I could summon lighting using Storm or unleash a throng of Paparazzi photographers. My favorite effect was Police Car - very handy for crime dramas. Many LEDs can only produce the red and blue flashes of American police cars but with the PavoSlim 120C, you can customize the LEDs to flash blue and white to suit the lights from other police forces. 

At 12,830 lux the PavoSlim was able to illuminate the distant recesses of my TV Studio test location so I often needed to dial down its brightness to around 60%. One feature I particularly enjoyed was using the Nanlink app to control the PavoSlim 120C remotely. This Bluetooth connectivity enabled me to film myself standing in front of the light while controlling its modes and settings from a distance.

The Nanlink app enables you to perform all the commands to can apply from the physical control unit. (Image credit: George Cairns / Digital Camera World)

Nanlite PavoSlim 120C: Verdict

Being able to remote control every mode via the free smartphone Nanlink app makes the PavoSlim 120C an attractive purchase for self-shooting solo operating videographers. Its extra-wide CCT range gives you the ability to complement (or mimic) a wider range of color temperatures than you can with many other LEDs.  I was also impressed by the option to power the PavoSlim 120C with a v-mount battery and the control unit’s thick leather carry handle meant I could comfortably carry and operate the Control Unit and LED on location. 

I enjoyed using the PavoSlim 120C, though, for my ‘run and gun’ approach to shooting everything on an iPhone (including this page’s video review of the PavoSlim 120C), I would probably stick to a much cheaper LED light wand such as the ZHIYUN Fiveray F100 so I could travel light. Nevertheless, there will be studio photographers and videographers who will find the PavoSlim 120C a versatile and essential addition to their lighting set-ups.

Here we’re lighting on the move by holding the panel by the baby pin holder and powering it via battery. (Image credit: George Cairns / Digital Camera World)

Should you buy the Nanlite PavoSlim 120C?

✅ Buy this if...

  • you need a powerful ‘always on’ light source for stills or clips. 
  • you want a quick and easy way to change colours in degrees Kelvin or to mimic creative Gels. 
  • you need the option to light without being tethered to a mains socket. 

🚫 Don't buy this if...

  • you’re on a low budget
  • You don’t need to emit 12,830 lux

Alternatives

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The PavoSlim 60C has the same color-changing and effects modes as the PavoSlim 120C, but it is smaller and lighter than its big brother.  The 60C has a square 1x1 shape instead of the wider 2x1 rectangle panel on the 120C. So you can enjoy the same features without busting your budget.

Image

If you want a panel as large and slim as the PavoSlim 120C but don’t need it to emit creative gel-like colors, then check out its cheaper Bi-Color cousin - the PavoSlim 120B. This still ships with the Control Unit and has the 2 x 1 shape but at £599 it is far cheaper than the 120C version. And it emits even more light at 17,620 lux (compared to the PavoSlim 120C’s 12,830 lux!)

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George Cairns

George has been freelancing as a photo fixing and creative tutorial writer since 2002, working for award winning titles such as Digital Camera, PhotoPlus, N-Photo and Practical Photoshop. He's expert in communicating the ins and outs of Photoshop and Lightroom, as well as producing video production tutorials on Final Cut Pro and iMovie for magazines such as iCreate and Mac Format. He also produces regular and exclusive Photoshop CC tutorials for his YouTube channel.