I’m not usually the first one to buy a new piece of gear. I’ve pre-ordered something maybe twice in my life. But when I heard about the Aputure Fresnel 2X I thought… this is the kind of design mistake I can get into.
I was really excited about the possibilities of this tool. The Aputure Fresnel 2X is designed to fit onto any Bowens mount light and increase its output anywhere from 2 to 14 times it’s maximum. It’s a Fresnel, which means it’s focusable, from 40 degrees to 12 degrees—at least according to the literature. It’s a design mistake, in my opinion, because it essentially turns any cheap 60-100 watt light into a monster, able to compete with the likes of the thousand-dollar Aputure 300d.
Of course, I was wrong about that… and that’s a big problem.
Aputure implies that this will work with any Bowen’s mount light, and to be blunt, it doesn’t. I don’t own the Aputure 120d, the light it was specifically designed for, so I don’t know how its construction differs. But in my tests with two cheap lights, the Zuma LED60 and the RPS Studio 100 watt light, the unit just doubled the light, increasing by one full stop. Now that’s not bad, and it’s within Aputure’s claims, but that wasn’t the only disappointment. On the RPS Studio, it failed to act as a Fresnel. The beam didn’t widen or narrow—it stayed at what I suspect is about 12 degrees. On the Zuma I did get it to open up some, but not to a full 40 degrees. And the Zuma light had another problem: you could make out the bi-colored LEDs when the Fresnel was zoomed in. Really ugly.
12 Degrees Will Trip You Up
Now you may think, “well, it does double the light so it’s worth it.” But the 12 degree angle is a problem. You can’t really shoot it into a scrim or bounce card, because the beam is too small at 3-5 feet away. To fill up the card, you have to back the light even farther, thus reducing the amount of light that reaches your subject. This takes away the one stop of light you gained. Remember, if you double the distance between subject and instrument, you half the amount of light. And 12 degrees is less than a third of 40. The beam is so narrow at that distance, that I suspect it will even have problems in a softbox, when used on a third party light like the Zuma or RPS. It’s also a pretty big attachment, so it’s not something I’d want to carry around if it wasn’t a flexible tool.
At this point, I’d love to see some real world reviews of the light on the Aputure products to understand whether these limitations are just for other brands, or if it doesn’t fully perform up to spec. There’s a reason Aputure makes such a wide claim of “2 to 14 times” the output. The design of the Fresnel 2x appears to be based on a very specific light design. I’m sad to report these findings because I’m a big fan of Aputure. They make quality goods at a decent price. But the Fresnel 2X isn’t something you can use on non-Aputure products, and that’s extremely limiting. Leave me a comment if you’ve had success with the 2X on other third party lights.