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Pixelstick review: Light paint any image you like with the Pixelstick

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The Good The Pixelstick lets even beginning photographers produce polished-looking light paintings. Energy-efficient LEDs mean that the AA batteries last for several hours of painting.

The Bad Its sheer size means working in confined spaces or smaller rooms can be difficult, and images need to be saved in a precise BMP format for the device to read. The Pixelstick is also expensive for a single-purpose tool.

The Bottom Line Photographers looking for a new way to spice up their light paintings will love how easy it is to get sophisticated results with the Pixelstick.

8.0 Overall

To trip the light fantastic means to dance or move gracefully.

That was pretty much the complete opposite of what happened the first time I used the Pixelstick, as I tripped sideways trying to create a light painting.

In photography, light painting is a technique that involves moving a light source in front of a camera while it is taking a long exposure. This produces an image where you can see the trail of light across the scene.

What is it?

The Pixelstick is a 1.8-metre (6.1-foot) wand that houses 200 LED lights designed to be used for light painting. Mounted on one side of the Pixelstick is a central control unit that tells each of the LEDs to "flash" a pixel in an image, one line at a time.

To the naked eye, the Pixelstick produces a sequence of lights. To a camera, the Pixelstick produces an image suspended in midair across the scene -- or, a light painting.

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Lexy Savvides/CNET

Any light source can be used for light painting, from a tablet to the humble torch, so US$349 (about £233 or AU$443) for the Pixelstick may seem a bit steep for a single-purpose device. For those inclined to DIY, it is even possible to make your own programmable LED strip with some Arduino (or Raspberry Pi) know-how.

What sets the Pixelstick apart from these other options is its plug-and-play nature. Within five minutes of assembling the device, you're ready to start light painting. Anyone who has ever tried to produce patterns, logos or text in light paintings knows that it can be difficult and frustrating to get the results you want. The Pixelstick makes it simple to get great results without investing a lot of time.

What's in the bag?

The Pixelstick arrives in a long padded case. Slide open the zip to reveal two internal compartments that house the individual components, each wrapped in plastic.

It sounds imposing, but there are only four main pieces that assemble to become the Pixelstick: two rows of LED lights on aluminium rails; a main controller that connects the two rails; and a handle. The LED rails need to slide into position on either side of main controller, which takes a bit of effort the first time around. Hand screws help secure everything together.

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The Pixelstick arrives in a padded carrying case. Lexy Savvides/CNET

The Pixelstick juices up by way of eight AA batteries. The manufacturer recommends rechargeable batteries, but it works just fine with standard alkaline units.

Also in the bag, cable clips are provided to secure the power cord running from the battery pack. There is also an extra swivel component to the handle to give different effects.

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All the components that make up the Pixelstick. Lexy Savvides/CNET

Once your Pixelstick is constructed, the main control unit is where the magic happens. The panel has a yellow backlight to make it easy to see in the dark (which is when you'll be using it) while a simple four-way control pad and centre button directly underneath are used to select options on the screen.

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