The skill challenge in macro photography is how to solve problems. Wind, cluttered backgrounds, shallow depth of field, and low light are the most common obstacles between mediocre and great macro images. And, low light is a problem that I’ve been struggling with since I started shooting macro more than forty years ago.

After trying many lighting sources over the years, including aluminum foil taped to cardboard, collapsible reflectors, electronic flashes, tungsten flashlights, and LED flashlights with warming gels on the front to warm up their blue light, I adopted my current LED flashlights made by ZebraLights. (For more info read “What’s in Les’s Macro Bag” blog article.)  These flashlights have been my favorites for small subjects, such as one-quarter life size to twice magnification, or something like a single flower. (I’m always searching for that perfect dew-covered flower side lit by the early morning sun, which could very well be set up on my kitchen table using a good background, a warm light source and a spray bottle of water.)

When I have larger subjects, such as a group of flowers, I need a larger light. But, I have a few requirements of such a light. It has to be small enough to fit in my macro bag, powerful enough to light my larger subject, have the right color temperature, and be easy to use. I’ve tried a few of the new LED panel lights, but none so far have fit all of my needs. Until now…

Recently, Gary Faber from Hunt’s Photo showed me a new LED panel light from Phottix – the Phottix M180 LED Light. I was instantly impressed with this panel light. It actually meets all of my requirements, plus it has some added features I didn’t even know I needed, much to this gear head’s delight!

The Phottix M180 LED Light is small and weighs very little (6 ounces). It’s just slightly larger than my iPhone. (And, it can even charge my iPhone!). It has 180 LED lights that create 1600 lumens at 1.6 feet away and has adjustable brightness and color temperature from 3200K to 5600K. The read out on the back indicates the level of brightness, color temperature, and how much power is left in the battery at the current brightness setting. And last but not least, this LED panel light is very easy to use. While Phottix is promoting this as a smartphone photography light, I think it’s the perfect LED panel for larger macro subjects.

Normally this light sells for $99.95 (at the time of this blog post), but you can purchase the Phottix M180 LED Light online at Hunt’s Photo for a limited time promotional price of $89.95. That’s a $10 savings. Gary has set up a special link to purchase the light via Hunt’s website – Click HereIf you’d prefer to order via phone, call Noah Buchanan at Hunt’s – Direct: 781.462.2356, Main: 207.773.9555).

Check out this new LED panel light, the Phottix M180, and let me know whether you agree that it’s the perfect solution for lighting larger macro subjects.

Large macro subject, a sumac leaf as seen in image above, without lighting.

Same subject lighted with Phottix M180 LED panel light.

The panel on the back of the M180 light shows two hours of battery remaining, 20 percent brightness, and a color temperature setting of 3300 Kelvin.