I never thought I needed more LED flashes in my life. My phone, whichever model it happened to be, came with at least one and that was supposed to be enough for those instances when I was in dark surroundings. But then I spotted the original iBlazr on Kickstarter and immediately fell in love with the idea. An LED light that you could attach to your phone, use on demand, and even with front-facing cameras? Sign me up!

But upon delivery, I discovered a few flaws with the concept. You could only insert it into the 3.5mm plug on your phone, which made no sense for devices with the plug on the bottom since it put the flash far away from the camera. The iblazr Android app was next to useless. And it was nearly impossible to get the app and phone to work together to take a single shot.

Like most crowdfunded projects, the Concepter team learned from its mistakes and launched a second generation product to address these issues. The iBlazr 2 is wireless, has better lights, more solid build quality, and worked from the first try within my regular camera app.

The iBlazr 2 explained

The small iBlazr 2 unit contains 4 LED lights on the front, a touch panel on the back, a button on the side, and a MicroUSB port on the bottom.

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It ships with a white diffuser silicone that wraps tightly around the lights and sides (even taking into account the side button) and provides a lanyard loophole to attach to your keyring.

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Also contained in the box are instructions for using the iBlazr 2 and checking the charge level, a MicroUSB charging cable, a keyring holder, and a phone mount.

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The phone mount can slide onto any device without scratching it thanks to rubber-covered plastic. The iBlazr 2 slots in from the other end and the mount's sides have two handles that hold it in place. It works with the unit both naked or wrapped in the diffuser.

Unlike the original iBlazr, since you're not bound by any port on the phone, you can place the iBlazr 2 anywhere. Top of the phone and next to the camera, side of the phone if you're planning to hold your device in landscape, and you can even put it somewhere else, independent of your phone, to create an angled lighting effect.

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Mounting the iBlazr 2 with (L) or without (R) the diffuser, in portrait (L) or landscape (R).

Aside from decoupling it from your camera, the other advantage that the iBlazr 2 has compared to your phone's flash is that you can face it toward you. Very few phones nowadays have front-facing LED flashes, so most selfies you take or see are poorly lit, grainy, and noisy. This addresses that issue by providing an on-demand flash to complement the front camera.

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It also works as a flash for front-facing cameras.

It's worth pointing out that the iBlazr 2 doesn't ship with any carry pouch. Sure, you can attach the flash with the diffuser to your keyring, but what do you do with the phone mount? I've been using my first-gen iBlazr pouch to carry the unit around in my purse, but even that wasn't ideal. I ended up losing the phone mount while packing to move to my mountain house. Seriously, I rarely lose anything, especially gadgets, but this one just disappeared. Insert sad face. Concepter doesn't even sell these by themselves, so I'm left mount-less, and I really liked that mount. It also doubled as a phone stand when in a bind!

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Flash intensities and color temperatures

The iBlazr 2's flash can be triggered in one of two ways. You either double tap on the blue flash light at the back of the unit for a short burst for photos, or you click the side button to turn it on continuously for videos or to adjust the light to your liking.

The LEDs can be set to two intensities, low and high, depending on how much light you need in your photo. The low intensity one is good for close objects and for selfies, since it doesn't shine a super bright and concentrated light. The high intensity light is better for further objects and the rear camera. But of course, you can try them both and see which one fits your current situation.

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There are also two different colors for the LED flashes on the iBlazr 2, as seen in the top image of the article: these are set diagonally to white and yellow. The back of the iBlazr 2 has a touch panel where you can slide your finger up and down to control the intensity of each of these colors and thus set the temperature of the flash.

The temperature can go from 5600K (cold, white) to 3200K (warm, yellow). It does so by switching through these 5 stages, as seen in the images above:

  • 2 white LEDs at high intensity
  • 2 white LEDs at high intensity + 2 yellow LEDs at low intensity
  • 2 white LEDs at high intensity + 2 yellow LEDs at high intensity
  • 2 white LEDs at low intensity + 2 yellow LEDs at high intensity
  • 2 yellow LEDs at high intensity.

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White (L), white + yellow (M), and yellow (R) flash color temperature.

Camera and Shotlight app

The easiest way to use the iBlazr 2 is to pair it with your phone and just use it with your phone's camera app. It registers as an input device, which allows it to mimic the shutter button in your camera (the same way those wireless selfie sticks work) and thus trigger the flash and a shot at the same time with a simple double tap on the back blue flash logo.

I've tried it with the LG G5, Galaxy S7 Edge, and Nexus 5X, and found it works well with the camera app on all of them. This simple integration means that you don't have to worry about installing third-party apps or learning a new camera interface to use the iBlazr 2.

However, if you want more out of your experience — more control over the LED intensity and color, more manual controls to shoot each photo, more iBlazr 2s working in unison for a shot or video — you will need the Shotlight app.

Shotlight
Shotlight
Price: Free

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This free app lets you connect several iBlazr 2s and control their light intensity and color temperature separately, set a timer, choose whether you want to trigger the phone's camera too or not, and manually control exposure, white balance, ISO, and focus.

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In my experience, if your phone's camera app has manual controls and you only have one iBlazr 2 unit, there's very little reason to get Shotlight. But the app is decent for those instances where you do need it.

The result in photo samples and comparison

Depending on your subject, you'll have a lot of fun with the iBlazr 2 if you like photography. You may want to use the iBlazr's flash alone, you may want to combine it with your phone's LED flash, you may add the diffuser or not, and you may want to try different color temperatures to see which one suits your photo better.

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Left: phone flash. Middle: phone flash + iBlazr 2. Right: iBlazr 2.

From my experience, in close shots (say about 1m or less), the phone's flash — which is the Galaxy S7 Edge in all samples in this article — is usually concentrated and unnatural. Using the iBlazr 2 alone might mitigate that, but it's even better to combine it with the phone's flash for a better effect.

However, if your subject has lots of small details, adding the diffuser will help a lot in making these details more visible in the shot and reduce over-exposure in some parts of the photo due to the concentrated light.

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L: iBlazr 2 with diffuser, normal light. M: white light (5600K). R: yellow light (3200K).

The color temperature slider can help create different ambiances in your photo, ranging from regular to warm or cold. It helps to tinker a bit with these to see which setting benefits your shot the most. In the example above, I prefer the 5600K photo to the regular or warm 3200K one: I like my pinks dense and saturated. But in the example below, I prefer the normal light shot instead of the warmer or cooler ones.

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L: iBlazr 2 with diffuser, normal light. M: white light (5600K). R: yellow light (3200K).

When you step away a bit and start taking shots at about 3-4m, the intensity of the flash will diminish, but you will still find benefit in using it compared to your phone's. Take the shot below. The phone's flash alone renders a very cold shot with little detail on the black gate. But whether I'm using the iBlazr 2 naked or with the diffuser, combining its light with the phone's flash provides a more balanced light across the photo, and a slightly warmer tone that's closer to reality than the blueish white of the first photo.

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L: phone flash. M: phone flash + iBlazr 2. R: phone flash + iBlazr 2 with diffuser.

But at these distances, it's better to keep in mind that the iBlazr 2 alone won't provide enough light for your shot. Check the third photo below and see how dark and pink-hued it is compared to the phone's flash or the combination of phone + iBlazr 2. Also see the very dark vignette effect at the edges of that photo.

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L: phone flash. M: phone flash + iBlazr 2. R: iBlazr 2.

All of these examples above show small differences between the phone's flash and the iBlazr 2. Based on them, you could argue that there's little added value to using it to take the shot as opposed to your phone's built-in LED flash. However, there are instances were the iBlazr 2 completely won the game over my S7's camera and its flash.

First is in super dark environments where the phone failed to focus and auto-expose the shot right from the first try, like in the first sample below. That's a green vine, not a brown cemetery from a horror movie! After a couple of tries, I managed to get my phone to grab the green color, but it over saturated it (middle shot). Using the iBlazr 2 with the phone's flash resulted in a more naturally colored photo from the first try.

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L: phone flash. M: another shot with phone flash. R: phone flash + iBlazr 2.

Second is when your subject is more lightly colored than the dark background: the phone's flash concentrates onto the light parts and overexposes them. I tried taking a photo of this yellow flower and got a poor shot that looks obviously taken with a phone's flash. I repeated a few times with the same result. Using the iBlazr 2, with or without the diffuser, resulted in a better exposed shot. I like the one with the diffuser, though, it's more homogenous.

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L: phone flash. M: phone flash + iBlazr 2. R: phone flash + iBlazr 2 with diffuser.

There's one more example where the iBlazr 2 can be useful but that isn't shown here, and that is taking photos of documents. The phone's flash usually creates a big bright spot in the middle of pages, and using no flash results in lots of shadows depending on your light source, but if you use the iBlazr 2 with the diffuser, you get super well lit documents that have no shadows and no over-exposed bits.

Final thoughts

If you own the original iBlazr, the iBlazr 2 is definitely a step up. It's better built, wireless and thus independent from the headphone jack's location, more powerful and more customizable. In my experience, it is easier to use thanks to direct integration with your phone's camera app, and even the Shotlight app works a lot better than the first generation iblazr app.

All in all, the iBlazr 2 is a very versatile additional flash for your phone. It can be used for front and back camera shots, photos and videos, with or without the diffuser, in combination with the phone's flash or not, for regular or warm or cool temperature colors, and with the phone's regular camera app or with its own Shotlight app. The only real downside is the vignette effect you'll get in some shots, and the lack of a carry pouch. Hey, I'm still mourning the loss of my phone mount.

But is there a real value in using the iBlazr 2 compared to your phone's built-in LED flash? Yes, definitely. You can point it toward you for better lit selfie shots, you can use it in landscape or portrait to illuminate your regular shots, and you can even place it away from your phone and put it at an angle to create a more artistic effect. Those are all freedoms that your phone's built in LED flash doesn't afford.

As for the result itself, I've found that the combination of the iBlazr 2 and the phone's flash got me better exposed and lit photos, for both close and slightly far subjects. The difference may not be significant in some instances, but it is there nonetheless and it's more pronounced for bright objects or challenging colors in dark environments where the phone's flash can over or under expose or mess up the white balance. The addition of the diffuser creates a more gentle light that usually improves the final shot, and the color temperature changes can help get you the right ambiance and effect for your photo.

The iBlazr 2 costs $59.99 on the Concepter store, but you can find it on Amazon for about $44.95 now. That's for the regular unit as described in this post. There are additional accessories and bundle packs that include a flexible charging cable, 5 colors of diffuser silicones, a DSLR cold shoe mount, that are only available on the Concepter store.

Buy: iBlazr 2 on Amazon