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Nanlite Forza 720B Bi-Color LED Review – A Great Balance of Portability and Output

The Bowens-mounted Nanlite Forza 720B immediately sparked my interest as a Bi-Color COB (Chip On Board) LED fixture. Compared to other recent 1200-watt and 600-watt offerings from both sister brand Nanlux and Nanlite competitor, Aputure, the Forza 720B  sits in an 800-watt territory that’s unique. During several shoots, I had the chance to put the 720B and the Nanlite projection accessory to the test. Here’s my full review.

With NAB and Cinegear behind us, lighting brands like Nanlite have been rolling out a series of impressive updates. The Nanlite 720B (B = Bi-Color) looks to fill the middle ground between fixture size and output, making it a perfect portable key light with punch.

When it comes to high output daylight LED fixtures, the Evoke 1200 from Nanlux and the LS 1200D from Aputure might hold flagship positions. Still, there’s a noticeable gap between these 1200-watt fixtures and the Forza 300B or the Aputure LS 600x (Aputure’s nearest competing fixture). Nanlite fills this gap with the Forza 720B Bi-Color and $1649.00 Forza 720 Daylight variant.

Image Credit: Graham Sheldon, CineD

Features of the Nanlite Forza 720B that stood out for me include:

  • Bi-Color: 2700K – 6500K Selectable CCT Range
  • Dimmable in 0.1% Increments
  • Bowens S-Type Mount (Tons of 1st and 3rd Party Accessories Available)
  • The $1849.00 Price Tag

Colleague Johnnie Behiri had a chance to check out the Nanlite 720B on the floor of NAB. That video is HERE.

First Impressions of the Nanlite Forza 720B

My first opportunity to use the Forza 720B was during a windy commercial shoot in Malibu. The talent needed to remain inside and in shade. The client (a health brand) wanted solid exposure on the beach in the background (otherwise, why rent a pricey location in a home on the ocean in Malibu?).

This scenario meant lots of soft daylight lighting in the form of a Nanlux Evoke 1200 + Nanlux 59″ NL Softbox, Aputure LS 1200D Pro with DoP Choice Octa 5 Softbox, and Litegear Litemate 8+. The Forza 720B was thrown into the mix, firing at the white ceiling with the included 55-degree reflector. A double net on a 12×12 frame was used behind the subjects (two people sitting in chairs) to help further knock down the background exposure and gain enough of a stop so that in the 2-shot, the beach wasn’t entirely out of focus.

We were able to gain an exposure on the beach, and the rest is history. The 720B played well with the other brands. Can I show you the shot with the talent and the beach? No! The health brand hasn’t officially launched yet. You’ll need to take my word that the 720B performed on my first shoot day with the fixture, and I was grateful for the extra lumens to fight the exterior California sun at noon.

The semi rigid case the Forza 720B ships in. Image Credit: Graham Sheldon, CineD

The Nanlite Forza 720B includes the following in the $1849.00 Kit:

  • Forza 720B Lamp Head
  • Semi-Rigid Case
  • Control Unit
  • 14.76′ Power Cable
  • 16.4′ Head Cable
  • Quick Release Clamp
  • 55-Degree Reflector (Fixture is 120 degree without the reflector)

If you have messed around with any COB LED light in the last several years, you’ll be able to put together the Forza 720B quickly. The designs for the lamp heads, in particular, haven’t changed much from fixture to fixture.

That’s not to say things haven’t improved within the Nanlite ecosystem. I was immediately impressed with the general quality-of-life improvements out of the box with the Forza 720B compared with, say, the Forza 500. The 720B has a square-shaped control box that is a pleasant surprise compared with the angled Forza 500 control box (a challenge to set on the ground). I prefer the quick-release clamp of the Forza 720B over needing to hang the Forza 500 control box on a C-Stand knob. Plus, improvements like a better yoke design (the teeth don’t slip) and longer head and AC cable are welcome updates.

The all-metal matte black exterior, complete with carbon fiber-esque sides, makes the 720B stylish to look at, and the large fan vents help keep the internals cool, but at the same time, suggest this won’t be the fixture you bring out in a rainstorm.

Control

You can control the Forza 720B over Bluetooth using the Nanlink mobile app, and you have available 5-pin XLR inputs for DMX control. However, the 720B doesn’t contain built-in wireless DMX options like Lumen Radio.

The Nanlink mobile app works in a pinch, but I would like to see continued updates, as the in-app functionality still feels a little rough around the edges. In particular, you can dim in 0.1% increments on the physical control box, but you can only dim in 1% increments on the app. Beyond that and other little eccentricities, you’ll find that connecting to the fixture itself over Bluetooth is quick and painless, and the basic kelvin switching and dimming functionality in CCT mode is all there.

Continue digging around in the control box menu, and you’ll see the Forza 720B has two distinct types of output modes: Constant and High.

Oddly when the 720B powers off, whether intentionally or not, the fixture doesn’t retain its previous settings in High Output Mode, but it does in Constant Output Mode. A good gaffer with time on their hands will note the intensity and kelvin settings of all lights under their purview, but sometimes things are moving fast, and this doesn’t happen. I would love to see Nanlite allow this fixture to “remember” the last setting in case a stinger is accidentally pulled out of a wall.

Image Credit: Graham Sheldon, CineD

In-menu fan control is also limited and only allows the fan to be turned “ON” or “OFF.” There are no choices for other fan speeds. There’s also no silent running mode.

Other menu settings include the ability to rotate the screen, change screen brightness and the button backlight, select different languages, and toggle a firmware update or DMX channel. There’s also a physical effects button on the control box that gives you many effects that have become standard in comparable COB LED fixtures such as Fireworks, CCT Loop, Explosion, Welding, etc.

Given that this is a Bi-Color and not a multi-pixel color fixture, there aren’t too many ways to get lost in the menu, and you’ll find everything easy to navigate. Hopefully, a future firmware update will add additional fan control options and the ability to remember settings in High Output mode.

Power

Image Credit: Graham Sheldon, CineD

You can use two 14.8V or 26V V-Mount batteries on the dual battery plates located on the sides of the control box, or you could certainly power the fixture off a block battery or small generator.

Image Credit: Graham Sheldon

If you don’t have access to generators or AC power, the power draw of this fixture means you’ll burn through batteries like an ARRI ALEXA LF on a hot day. Oddly Nanlite seems to be entirely a V-Mount operation and doesn’t offer native Gold Mount fixtures as Aputure does. Therefore, Gold Mount users will need an adapter.

Output & Color Handling

Image Credit: Graham Sheldon, CineD

I grabbed a few measurements on my Sekonic C-700U Spectrometer (now updated with the C-800U) to see how accurately the 720B 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 55-degree reflector accessory attached.

A result of 5270K is further from the 5600K target than I would like to see. In my experience, there’s a significant kelvin shift from the use of reflectors. Hop ahead to the last test to see if removing the reflector makes a noticeable difference.

And now for a target of 3200K.

A result of 3136K result with a target of 3200K and an output drop of only 11,000 [lx] is excellent. Now a test target at 4700K.

Okay, now back to that first test and the distance from 5600K daylight. Does the 55-degree reflector explain the earlier kelvin shift away from 5600K? To test that theory, I removed the reflector and got much closer to the 5600K target.

It appears the 55-degree reflector is shifting the daylight target several hundred kelvin warmer in the first test. Of course, if you have a spectrometer, you could always test your 720B fixture and shift your kelvin (an advantage of Bi-Color) closer to the end of the range at 6500 to meter an exact 5600K with the 55-degree reflector attached.

Projection Accessory

Announced in late 2021, the nearly 16 lbs. $479 PJ-BM aluminum-built projection accessory ships in a metal-rimmed hard case with a carrying handle but no wheels. The case is rugged and is a perfect solution to keep your pricey glass projection elements safe during transport. The case even includes a basic lock with keys to guard against those projection accessory thieves out there!

For this review I had access to a 19-degree lens with the projection attachment. You can also purchase a 36-degree lens for $223. Switching out the lenses takes just seconds.

Nanlite PJ-BM Projector. Image Credit: Graham Sheldon, CineD

Aputure’s $499 Spotlight accessory, the closest competing product to the PJ-BM, was created with the Aputure 300d MK II series of lights in mind. And using Nanlite’s projection accessory with the higher wattage Nanlite 720B while gaining output is useful. At least on paper, until Aputure optimizes a spotlight for their higher wattage fixtures, Nanlite has the edge over Aputure in the Projection/Spotlight accessory space.

A side view of the projector attachment overlooking a Malibu beach. Image Credit: Graham Sheldon, CineD

My primary goal when I look at an accessory like a projector or spotlight is how closely it emulates a Leko look — am I able to get hard and focusable cut of light and use gobos believably?

First, the 19-degree on the Forza 720B with the projection accessory does create a hard circle or other basic shapes, and I’m able to cut the light easily using the leaves on each side of the spotlight. However, I do get spill that reads outside of the beam, and depending on your exposure, this spill could read on camera and not look great. The gobos read as sharp from edge to edge and are easy to focus and de-focus by unlocking the lens with a small knob on the side and moving the lens forward and backward to find the preferred focus.

Image Credit: Graham Sheldon, CineD

It’s a minor quibble, but I wish the lens degree text were printed further forward on the lens itself, that is, closer to the front element, so I could see which lens is mounted without extending the lens out to see if I have a 36-degree or a 19-degree lens installed.

A few gobo types and an Iris control accessory (good for pinpoint circles) all come standard with the Projection mount. Image Credit: Graham Sheldon, CineD

A projection accessory like this is a complicated piece of engineering (lots of heavy glass and metal). Despite the evident spill outside of the shapes I was trying to cut, I’m generally happy with how this accessory performs. Being aware of the limitations of this accessory can help you plan for them. I should add this projection accessory does play well with one of my favorite lighting modifiers these days: the Lightbridge CRLS system. (The CRLS is not the focus of this article, but it’s worth reading up on.)

Beyond the Nanlite projection attachment and while using this fixture, I’ve found myself reaching for the Bowens mount Nanlite Para 150 Softbox, the LT-120 Lantern, as well as the Octa 5 Softbox w/Grid from DoPChoice.

Final Thoughts on the Nanlite Forza 720B

The Nanlite Forza 720b Lamp Head. Image Credit: Graham Sheldon, CineD

The line between the prosumer-aimed brand Nanlite and the more professional-focused partner brand Nanlux is becoming a little blurry for me. The Nanlite Forza 720B is, without doubt, a thoroughly professional lighting fixture. I wouldn’t have any qualms about throwing it on smaller to large sets over the coming months and years while keeping the lack of waterproofing and built-in wireless DMX in mind.

You can’t compete with the California sun at noon with the level of output you’re getting with the Forza 720B alone, but if you’re in the shade or inside, this fixture has plenty of punch to do the job. And Bi-Color means you’ll be taking it out on more shoots.

What do you think? Will you be adding the Nanlite Forza 720B fixture to your kit? Let us know in the comments below!

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