The Nanlux Evoke 1200 has a lot to offer on paper: high output, a variety of first-party accessories shipping now, built-in DMX and Bluetooth connectivity, and IP54 dust and water resistance — all fantastic, but how does the light operate in the field? Does the hype align with real-world usefulness on location? I took the Evoke 1200 on various productions, and here’s my field review.
Over the past several years, I’ve worked with a variety of lights from Nanlux and sister company Nanlite, and I have to admit the Evoke 1200 feels like a true evolution and clear proof that both companies are listening to feedback. Many of the things I’ve found annoying or in some way “less than” in the early versions of their products have all been addressed with the design of the Evoke 1200. That isn’t to say the Evoke 1200 is perfect (no light is), but this fixture is, without doubt, a huge step in the right direction.
Evoke 1200 – first impression
If you’ve got the idea that LED takes up less of a physical footprint than comparable HMI lighting, let me dispel that notion right now. That isn’t true with the Evoke 1200, which is similar to an Arri M8 once everything is connected. I found it to be much smaller when compared to Mole Richardson fixtures of equivalent wattage I’ve used in the past. The light is large, but once out of the case, probably manageable for the solo user.
Now, let’s talk about that case. Nanlux shipped me the Evoke 1200 in a “flight case” that, when packed with the Evoke lamp head, ballast, yoke, fresnel/barn doors, and applicable cables, weighs 56 lbs. I put quotation marks around “flight case” because it wouldn’t be allowed on most flights in the US without special permission from the airline. At a minimum, I would suggest two people lift the $875 flight case safely. It does come with lockable wheels.
That being said, the case is indestructible (not a word I throw around lightly) and will fit nicely in a rental house without any concern that the interior will be damaged. The case might not be the easiest to travel with without a dedicated G&E truck, but the tradeoff is a really well-built product.
As I began taking the different parts out of the case, I was initially most impressed with the $935 F-35 Fresnel build quality. It’s a bit plasticky on the exterior, but the large front glass element takes me back to the tungsten lighting days (not so long ago!). The fresnel feels classic in all the right ways and could even work as a background art element in a pinch.
For transport, the Evoke 1200 lamp head sits in the F-35 Fresnel with the yoke separated. I would have preferred the lamp head sit disconnected from the fresnel to save time from having to remove the fresnel in order to add another accessory. The head cable and AC sit separately in the case, along with the ballast and a single reflector.
I really appreciate that Nanlux left a spot for a wide reflector in the case, which means we don’t have to pack the reflectors 100% separately. I’ve mentioned this in past reviews, but having everything in a contained kit makes my life and my crew’s life easier when moving quickly from location to location. You never want to be in the position of having to remember to bring 3-4 little soft cases just to make a single light operate correctly.
Now we move to the ballast, which is protected at each corner by plastic and is relatively simple (two cable ports and a power button). The simple design is because control of the light takes place at the rear of the lamp head or wirelessly. More on this later.
Remember that the Evoke ballast is only IP54 water-resistant when placed horizontally and not vertically. This fact will be very important when the rain starts coming in. Obviously, you can’t put this ballast in a puddle, so I’d still use standard rain coverings and just rest easy knowing a fast-moving storm won’t instantly destroy your Evoke, giving you time to react and the fixture.
The only finicky part of closing the flight case is making sure the barn doors align with the molded foam in the lid.
If the flight case sounds a bit too heavy duty for your needs then you could also consider the upcoming CC-ST-EV1200 Trolley case — which is a bit more compact for travel.
One of the more impressive aspects of the Evoke 1200 ecosystem is how many 1st party accessories are available for the light now.
During testing, I had the opportunity to work with the Nanlux 150cm softbox, the 100cm softbox along with a lantern, the previously mentioned fresnel, and three types of reflectors (26-degree, 45-degree, and 60-degree). I’m also told by the Nanlux team that there is a 12-degree reflector coming soon. The Evoke 1200 has a proprietary “NL” mount for accessories that I initially viewed as a negative because I have a variety of Bowens accessories from many different brands I would have liked to have used on the Evoke 1200. However, my thinking on this changed after actually working with the NL mount — which is excellent and locks accessories in place quickly and safely.
Both softboxes I tested use a click-in-place method for each rod that doesn’t require bending the metal rods like in older Chimera softboxes. As a result, this rod mechanism is much faster and requires less physical strength to build these softboxes. Aputure also uses a similar system with their latest softbox generations. Another plus is that the design makes it easier to break down at the end of the night.
The Nanlux lantern has a similar mechanism for placing each expanding rod. You simply expand the lantern by hooking an internal aircraft cable to both sides of the NL mount itself. The process is simple and, generally, all the softboxes and the lantern I tested build faster from out of their respective travel cases than I expected.
For me, the only new accessory I’d like to see in the future is something akin to the current Nanlite projection attachment but designed for the COB size of the Evoke 1200.
DoP Choice Octa 5:
DoP Choice, a 3rd party accessory manufacturer for lighting accessories, has been especially quick out of the gate these days adopting new platforms and engineering new accessory solutions (here is a recent example for the Astera Nyx Bulb). Their Dual Bowens mount adapter also turned some heads amongst my filmmaking circle and you can read a post about that nifty solution here.
Perhaps it is no surprise then that they already have an adaptable solution for the proprietary NL mount of the Evoke 1200. I’m not a huge fan of adapters for optics personally, but I’m quickly becoming a fan of lighting adapters in tandem with the Octa 5.
The Octa 5 (Model: SBRRUO5) ships with a “universal” back mount that is adaptable to both Bowens Mount (Model: SRRU-BM) and the brand new NL Evoke 1200 mount (Model: SRRU-NL) and I assume future mounting systems could also have an adapter for this Octa 5 system. Suddenly the Octa 5 softbox becomes cross-compatible and infinitely more useful if you are already heavily invested in a Bowens mounted lighting ecosystem.
I found each of the adapters takes just seconds to attach and they lock into place with ease and no pesky wiggle. The quality of soft natural light out of the 60.6 x 60.6 x 28 in / 9.3 lb Octa 5 (when installed) is incredibly soft when paired with the Evoke 1200 and its native 120-degree beam angle.
A quick word on pricing.
Depending on which adapters you choose out of the gate you’ll be spending roughly $1500 on your Octa 5 softbox system from DoP Choice and that is without an available 40-degree grid that will set you back an additional $1490.00. Spending in the realm of $3,000 for a huge soft light accessory solution may be tough for some, but much like tripod purchases — you get what you pay for here and these DoP Choice accessories are durable enough to last for years and years. There is also no doubt in my mind that this is the way to go if you rent out your kit often.
Considering the DoP Choice Octa 5 system versus the comparable Nanlux 150cm softbox for a moment — I would suggest the Nanlux 150cm softbox for solo owner/operators and the DoP Choice Octa 5 for medium to large-sized crews.
The F-35 Fresnel deserves its own section because it’s a rarity in this category as Nanlux competitor Aputure has yet to release a fresnel designed specifically for their LS 1200d Pro. As I previously mentioned, the Evoke 1200 ships in the flight case already fitted inside the F-35 Fresnel.
Before using the fresnel, you’ll need to attach the yoke to it and not to the lamp head. I found attaching the yoke to be a quick process that involves unlocking a side latch that is well-marked with a locked or unlocked symbol.
Changing the beam angle from 45 degrees to 11 degrees is also simple. Just turn the reinforced plastic ring on the exterior of the fresnel. The fresnel has a clever internal mechanism that slides the lamp head forward and back to alter the beam angle. Initially, I had misgivings that this mechanism wouldn’t measure up to the moving glass elements in a more traditional fresnel design but in practice, it works quite well. The effort needed to move the lamp head back and forth is minimal.
Two areas that need improvement with the FL-35 Fresnel are possible light seepage and balance issues. Yes, the light bleed present around the fresnel edge can be controlled with flags, but that’s one more step. The vents on the exterior of the accessory are likely there for passive heat control, but I wish there were a different way to engineer the handling of that heat to avoid light spill. The FL-35 also makes the overall fixture front heavy (especially when the lamp head is in its most forward position). This front heaviness is something to be wary of when using this accessory combo. You don’t want a crew member smacked in the head, or a hand pinched.
Cranking down the yoke handle slightly means the FL-35/Evoke 1200 Lamp Head won’t slip, so I wouldn’t be too worried about the fixture dipping forward during a typical day as long as the tilt is correctly locked in place by the user.
It is worth pointing out that I personally didn’t see a huge overall output increase using the FL-35 Fresnel accessory.
Generally, I’m a fan of this accessory — the quality of light is classically fresnel-like, and minor quibbles aside, I’d put this accessory in the recommended buy category if you’re picking up the Evoke 1200 kit. We’ll get to use cases in a moment, but as for me, I found myself using the Evoke 1200 primarily as a hard light source throughout my tryout with the fixture and less as a soft source. You’ll find your use depending on the type of work you do.
You’ll likely spend most of your time using the menu with the rear-facing Arri Orbiter reminiscent control layout. You can control intensity down to very small increments (even below 1%) by using the “Daylight” button on the far left. Triggering effects like “lightning” is also very easy with the “Effect” button.
Unfortunately, the in-menu Fan setting has only an “On” or “Off” option, and I found the fan noise on the loud side. However, given the output of this light, you probably won’t need to place the lamp head right next to your subject while recording audio. If you do, since the fan noise is consistent, it can be removed with some basic audio tools. As there’s potential for firmware updates, options may be available in the future.
On the wireless side, you can control the Evoke 1200 with Bluetooth, WIFI, wired DMX, or wireless DMX using Lumen Radio. The Nanlink app itself can, in my opinion, still use some work. To me, the app feels like it’s in the ongoing development phase, but, in a pinch, it works for basic output intensity changes and for triggering effects.
The affordably priced $89 Nanlite Nanlink Transmitter Box (a bit of a tongue twister if you say it out loud) is a small box that allows you to control a variety of Nanlite products out of the same app regardless of whether the product uses 2.4 GHz or Bluetooth for wireless control.
Setting up the transmitter was painless. I simply turned on the internal battery-powered transmitter with the power-button toggle. Without issues, I was able to detect the device in my Nanlink app and use it to connect with the Evoke 1200 as well as a few newer generation PavoTubes.
I wish the transmitter were built with less plastic and more aluminum like a Teradek because I worry that one good hit will take it out, but that would have likely meant a more expensive price tag.
There was a slight delay when triggering and controlling lights using this transmitter, but it was minimal, and the overall control range seems to be much improved. The device is powered by USB Type C (cable not included).
Output & color handling
I grabbed a few measurements on my Sekonic C-700U Spectrometer (now updated with the C-800U) to see how accurately the Evoke 1200 handles color temp measured in kelvin and output (lx) from a distance of 3 ft. Here are my readings with a target of 5600K and output set to 100%. This test was completed with the Nanlux 45-degree reflector attached.
148000 lx is a very, very impressive output of output and probably one of the results you’ll care most about with this light. The 5411K result is comparable to other LED fixtures I’ve tested, but I would love to get this result a bit closer to the 5600K target.
In terms of color rendering, the Evoke landed in the high 90s in terms of CRI across the board with the exception of the R12 blue channel. This is excellent.
Here’s a look at spectral distribution again with the 45-degree reflector attached.
In short, high CRI paired with excellent output and just a slight manageable shift away from the kelvin target is all good news.
I had the opportunity to test both the Aputure LS 1200d Pro and the Evoke 1200 around the same time, and if I had to compare the two, I prefer the quality of light out of the Evoke 1200 a bit more. The Aputure LS 1200d Pro has a definite hot spot in the center of its beam, granted not a problem with many modifiers and the CRLS Lightbridge system. Still, it was the shadow quality out of the Evoke 1200 that, in the end, felt more natural to my eye.
With that in mind, I used the Evoke 1200 heavily to fill out the background and mid-ground of shots on several projects I’ve been filming during this testing period. It makes for a great natural-feeling source that feels very sun-like. I’ll do my best to update this article and share some of those images once the projects go live and the NDAs are no longer in effect.
Despite the fan noise, I also found plenty of opportunities to key with the Evoke 1200. In scripted projects, I’m often “key-ing” from outside windows or to allow for wide establishing shots, from a good distance.
The FL-35 Fresnel or the narrow reflector also offers the opportunity to give your subject a little shape in heavy sunlight in the middle of the day while still using the sun for key-ing with or without an overhead modifier of some kind.
I wasn’t able to test extremely high frame rates personally beyond 120fps without access to a Phantom or another type of high-speed camera (please comment below if you have been able to test for flicker with this fixture with high frame rate options). Nanlux claims, due to the 151,000 Hz refresh rate of the Evoke 1200, flicker-free performance at least up to 3000fps with the Phantom Veo 4K — which would be very impressive.
At the risk of repeating a Director of Photography cliché, there is something to the idea that once you have easy access to output like this, it’s tough to go back to lower wattage fixtures.
I didn’t expect to like the Evoke 1200 as much as I did. Despite the few drawbacks I mention in this article, I’m left with a very positive impression of this fixture. I would love to see Nanlux expand the already great Evoke ecosystem into Bi-Color offerings and beyond. Since there are plenty of NL accessories already shipping, I don’t feel forced into going back to a Bowens fixture due to a lack of modifiers.
The Evoke 1200 can play well from small to larger scripted sets. Because of the size, the Evoke 1200 wouldn’t be my go-to for documentary run & gun projects, and that’s absolutely fine. Indie scripted filmmakers (with a small van or SUV) will find lots to love about the Evoke 1200, and rental houses will welcome this high output light that can take a beating and keep on kicking in the rough and tumble world of production. The cost too is impressive, and for between $4000 and $5000, you can build out a very reasonable kit complete with a variety of 1st party Nanlux accessories.
What do you think? Will you be adding the Nanlux Evoke 1200 to your kit? Do you have any use cases in mind for the Nanlux Evoke 1200 that you think I missed? Let us know in the comments below!