This professional video light from SmallRig is intended for videographers and filmmakers, optimized for on-location shooting at official sets in a dark studio environment. However, I am the furthest thing from being a professional filmmaker, and a complete novice when it comes to videography and video editing.
So for these reasons, I decided to review the SmallRig RC 220B Bi-color video light in the context of photographic use, with the intention to approach this review in the assessment of its practicality as a tool for photographers and still work, rather than its intended use as a videography and studio companion. Photographers need top-quality studio professional lighting rigs too, right?
SmallRig currently offers this video light at a price of $369 (around £336.90 / AU$531), which is considerably more affordable than similar products available from competitors such as Rotolight and Godox. Other COB LED lighting equipment and accessories from SmallRig's extensive catalog are also reasonably priced for both the professional videographer as well as for those first entering the field.
Most recently I had the opportunity to put the SmallRig RC 220B to the test during a last minute newborn baby shoot with my three week old nephew. The nature of this shoot meant that I needed a light source that was powerful enough, yet not too blinding for the baby.
It needed to be able to deliver results quietly and subtly without being obtrusive, which this light was brilliantly suited for, having been designed and intended for use on movie sets where silent shooting is an essential feature.
You can read all about the experience of my first newborn baby shoot (opens in new tab) and how it didn't exactly go to plan - but this was of no fault to the SmallRig RC 220B. For now, we'll focus on how the point-source video light performed during its debut test shoot with the subjects of a goldendoodle and a plastic bonsai tree.
SmallRig RC 220B: Specifications
Illuminance (1m): 84500 LUX within 1-meter
Power supply: Dual Adapter / V-Mount Battery
Power Consumption: 260W
Color Rendering Index (CRI): 95+
TV Lighting Consistency Index (TLCI): 96+
Color temperature: 2700K - 6500K
Mount: Standard Bowens
Power range: 0-100 per cent / 0-10 FR
Wireless: Smartphone app
Light effects modes: Flash, Paparazzi, Lightning, Party, Broken Bulb, TV, Flame, Fireworks, Heartbeat
Dimensions (main body/controller): 240×122×237.6mm
Weight (main body/controller): 5,500g (5.55kg)
Included accessories: SmallRig RC 220B COB Bi-Color LED Video Light (2700-6500K), plastic cover, RC 220 Series Hyper Reflector, AC Adapter, and Power Cable.
Separate accessories: RA-R6090 Rectangular Softbox & V-mount battery plate.
SmallRig RC 220B: Key Features
The RC 220B offers color temperature adjustment and 9 built-in light effects that include: Paparazzi, Firework, Lightning, Fault Bulb, TV, Breath, Flash, Party, and Flame. These can be changed using the back display screen on the light, as well as via bluetooth remote control with the smartphone SmallGoGo App, available on both iOS and Android Google Play app stores.
It has a built-in ultra-quiet active cooling fan system that automatically triggers when the temperature rises above 60°C or exceeds 140°F. A very faint noise can be heard from the light (even when using a softbox) when the fan is active, but this may be because I was sat on the floor directly in front of the light and in very close proximity to it, whereas in a studio or larger space I imagine this would be virtually silent.
The RC 220B boasts stepless dimming controlled via two adjustable knobs at the back of the light alongside the integrated display screen, to ensure that you achieve the precise meter of light needed for the brief.
The video light is extremely easy to use and operate, boasting the latest in COB light technology, and the high CRI rating and color fidelity make it perfect for professional use as well as confidence and certainty in still work and photography that your colors are accurate and subject well lit.
Included with the light is a high-reflectance circular hyper reflector, and at a distance of 1 meter (3.3ft.) away, the center illuminance and beam from the reflector reaches an output of 84,500 lux at 5600K! This power alone is a key feature of the light and improvement upon its predecessor, the slightly less powerful SmallRig RC 120B, and the variable color output is ideal for use in mixed light situations.
SmallRig also included the RA V1 V-Mount Battery Plate (opens in new tab) which is super handy and conveniently attached to my light stand in seconds to allow for convenient battery-powered supply to the light, instead of having to use the included power supply adapter. This arrived in a neat box with inner filling to protect the plate, and with the required power cable included.(opens in new tab)
SmallRig RC 220B: Build and handling
The rig part of the light has a convenient built-in umbrella hole, as well as a sturdy and robust integrated handle for a more secure grip and easier directing of the light source. The SmallRig RC 220B is designed and fitted with an industry standard Bowens mount that is compatible with most light-control accessories including reflectors and softboxes from a multitude of brands.
Included with the SmallRig RC 220B was an extremely luxurious high-quality portable storage bag with compartments to safely house each element of the video light. A gray carrying case was also supplied with the RA-R6090 Rectangular Softbox (sold seperately) that I used with the light, making each piece of equipment travel friendly and easily portable due to the ideal storage SmallRig provided with the products.
The softbox was fairly easy to assemble, having to lift each strain of the light upwards until it clicked into place, and then attaching both parts of the white velcro material into the softbox, the smaller sheet followed by the larger. The difficult part was de-assembling the softbox which I found nearly impossible until my partner stepped in to help. The mechanism requires you to lift up the inner poles even higher past the locking point for it to then release slowly folding into itself.(opens in new tab)
The back of the light features a high quality display, with two clickable and rotatable knobs for adjusting frequency, output and color temperature, with a dimmer control, and effects. Operating the light couldn't have been more simple, especially for a photographer like myself with only basic knowledge and limited transferable videography skills.
Turning the light on is controlled by a simple flip switch on the back of the unit, and in addition I spotted what looks like a small reset button. The instruction manual provided with the light unfortunately had very limited language options, and the app was also in Chinese! So this meant I had to do a fair bit of research online to discover what each button and function of the video light was intended for.(opens in new tab)
The overall feel and build quality of this video light felt robust and extremely sturdy, though it did give me some doubts that my own Fudesy stand (purchased on Amazon as part of a backdrop bundle) would be strong enough to support the weight of the light, and thankfully it was! SmallRig do not supply a stand with the light which may be important to note.
Having never owned a professional studio/video light this was a little surprising to me that a crucial accessory wasn't part of the package, although I guess professional videographers or studio owners would be expected to have a few stands lying around, I guess the same way that a tripod wouldn't be included when you purchase a camera.(opens in new tab)
SmallRig RC 220B: Performance
The overall performance of this light exceeded my expectations, it was astoundingly bright when I first powered it up, and even when lowering the frequency and dimming the light it still felt too powerful to be used without a softbox, let alone with a directional hyper-reflective beam.
The power of this light is truly unmatched by anything I've used or tested before and lit up the space beautifully once I had the settings narrowed down to a fine art.
Again, in a much larger and open space than my conservatory, in professional film and studio environments, I imagine this video light would truly have its time to shine (pun intended) and demonstrate its full-blown potential.
That being said, I still really enjoyed using the light and it will no doubt make an exceptional addition to my kit and really up my portrait game next time I have an indoor studio photography session booked.(opens in new tab)
As previously mentioned, the light can be controlled via an app, and while mine for some strange reason defaulted to Chinese on my Samsung S21 Ultra (opens in new tab), it still worked seamlessly and required virtually no setup as Bluetooth was already active on the RC 220B, so I simply had to input an email address and verification code, and then it was all set up and good to go.
The app made things much easier when operating light adjustments when not standing directly behind the light or facing the display screen, meaning I was free to move around accordingly without needing to work the light from one stuck position. The app even allowed me to update the light's firmware through Bluetooth and was super quick and easy.(opens in new tab)
For the very first initial test shoot, I had the light facing downwards towards the floor where my Goldendoodle pup Tilly was sitting patiently. Treats were necessary to keep her still as I shot using my Canon EOS 5DS (opens in new tab). I experimented using a higher and lower frequency and intensity, and gradually adjusted the light temperature to be a little warmer and found this worked best for my subject.
For the second test, I set up just a few meters away in the kitchen where my subject became a plastic bonsai tree. This allowed me the opportunity to really test out the light's modes and functions without scaring away my dog from flashing rhythmic lights.
The light during this test lit up the kitchen when I purposefully left the artificial lights off, and reflected behind the subject bouncing off the window behind the tree and lit it perfectly. I again used the softbox for this test as I found the beam light to be a little too overpowering for what I needed.(opens in new tab) (opens in new tab)
The third test involved a newborn baby shoot (opens in new tab) with my nephew, where the SmallRig RC 220B performed excellently. It was also my first time transporting this light out of the house and the second time around I found it much easier to assemble and set up faster, and the app was super helpful at letting me shoot while essentially controlling the light hands-free.(opens in new tab)
SmallRig RC 220B: Sample Video
This light was intended for video use after all, so here's a clip I captured demo-ing the different color temperatures and light affects that this SmallRig powerhouse can offer. If filming a scene based on a stormy night, this light meets the brief flawlessly.
SmallRig RC 220B: Verdict
Following the release of its predecessor, the SmallRig RC 120B COB Light, this beefier RC 220B video light packs more power, with a higher Lux output, greater power consumption, and being a little on the heavier side. Other specifications such as the TLCI, CRI, Radio Frequency, and app capabilities however are all exactly the same.
So what makes the RC 220B worth the upgrade for those that have the very slightly older model (released just six months ago)? Firstly, it's powerful enough to be used as a key light, and when paired with the hyper reflector, it creates a strong intense central beam with softer edges, that beautifully lights the subject from a distance.
Being the first generation point-source LED light of SmallRig's, this video light has virtually no faults found from my time testing it and truly exceeded my expectations. The RC 220B (bi-color) was launched with its sister, the SmallRig RC 220D (daylight) with no CT adjustment features. The SmallRig RC 220B costs $369.00 (around £336.90 / AU$531), whereas the RC 220D sells for a $329 (around £283.50 / AU$485).(opens in new tab)
While this light is undoubtedly excellent, if you're a photographer looking to purchase a light for your regular setup - the extra equipment needed such as a stand, additional softboxes if the reflector isn't your style, and V-mount battery if you want to avoid long hanging cables - makes the price of this COB light much less budget-friendly for an entry-level videographer or stills shooter new to the field.
If you don't need the variable color temperature feature, then it might be worth considering the daylight version RC 220D instead to save a few dollars, otherwise, this light is superb overall with no faults to be found and would make a great asset to your kit collection, the ideal companion for portraiture and creative videography.