As a video professional since the early 90s, I’ve used classic lighting kits such as Arri ‘Redheads’ to provide classic three-point lighting setups for interviews. These lights used conventional bulbs (or lamps) that would occasionally blow and spoil a take (which is why they featured a protective mesh to stop shards of glass spraying the set). Modern LED (Light Emitting Diode) lights such as the SmallRig RC 350D COB LED Video Light don’t need to have bulbs replaced, making them safer and more reliable than traditional video lighting kits.
I’ve tested and reviewed several LED lights for Digital Camera World, from the tiny JOBY Beamo (opens in new tab) that’s a perfect lighting accessory for smartphone content creators on the go to the more expensive ZHIYUN Fiveray F100 light stick (opens in new tab) that boasts a range of useful special effect presets. The SmallRig RC 350D COB LED Video Light blows all of these LEDs out of the water in relation to its power, performance, and budget-blowing price tag.
This LED is aimed squarely at professional video makers who need to have a powerful key light to illuminate interviewees or add special lighting effects to complement the performance of actors. The RC 350D that we tested is part of a new wave of SmallRig COB video lights – the RC 450B, RC 450D, and the RC 350B (more on this comparable model later).
SmallRig RC 350D specifications
Brightness: Up to 149,000 Lux
Weight: 7.87 KG
Colour temperature: 5600K (+ or - 200K)
TLCI Index: ≥97
CRI Index: ≥96
Power: 100~240V AC voltage input
SmallRig RC 350D features
The SmallRig RC 350D is designed to give professional video makers optimum performance thanks to double-sided, six-layer coated front glass that has a transmittance of more than 97% in the visible wavelength range, ensuring lossless light flux. The 350D boasts a maximum illuminance of an eye-searing 149,000 Lux (far exceeding the output of portable battery-powered lights, such as the ZHIYUN F100 (opens in new tab)’s 20,708 Lux output.)
Read more: Best video lights (opens in new tab)
Indeed during my test shoot in a TV studio, I didn’t need to increase the light’s output beyond 43% as this caused my subject’s highlights to become over-exposed (see our supporting video). This powerful performance puts the 350D in the heavyweight category compared to the featherweight output of other LEDs that I’ve reviewed previously on this site.
Another key feature that shows the light is aimed at professionals is its ability to faithfully reproduce accurate colors from illuminated subjects thanks to high scores of +97 on the TV Lighting Consistency Index (TLCI ) and +96 on the Color Rendering Index (CRI) (though to be fair the far cheaper ZHIYUN F100 also boasts these color rendition scores!).
On the downside, the 350D has a fixed daylight color temperature of 5600 degrees Kelvin. You’ll need an alternative (but more expensive) model such as the bi-color RC 450B if you need to adjust color temperature between a range of 2700K - 6500K.
When recording drama or interviews the professional filmmaker needs complete silence on the set. The 350D boasts quiet cooling fans with an intelligent temperature control algorithm that improves heat dissipation and produces a mere 28dB sound within 1 meter of the light, so there’s no danger of whirring fans spoiling a take. Another key feature is the 9 special effect lighting presets that you can trigger with a press of the FX button. More on these in the Performance section…(opens in new tab)
SmallRig RC 350D build & handling
The RC 350D COB LED Video Light has an eye-catching futuristic look thanks to the streamlined aerodynamic shape of its black and grey curves. It’s constructed on a mix of metal and non-inflammable material. It ships with a useful carry case that contains all the components you’ll need including an attachable reflector that channels the LED’s output into a beam of light wide enough to illuminate a typical ‘talking head’ subject.
The fully laden case weighs in at a manageable 7.9 KG (though I did appreciate being able to park close to the studio where I tested the LED as I also had to carry a sturdy lighting stand and a camera bag). To save storage space in the carry case the adjustable head that attaches the lamp to the lighting stand is detachable (rather than being a permanent part of the light body).
This head has a hinge that enables you to adjust the angle of the light (though 220 degrees). The head’s hinge feels very stiff and you really have to push hard to make the light tilt. This secure damping system is a deliberate feature as the resistance of the hinge is designed to make the light stay in place. This will re-assure lighting professionals who may have suffered loss or damage in the past due to a light tilting or flopping on its stand during a shoot. There is also a locking mechanism on the hinge to make sure the light stays angled correctly which is the type of belt and braces approach to kit safety that a professional will welcome.(opens in new tab)
SmallRig RC 350D performance
The light is controlled by a simple LCD panel on the rear. There are two key buttons to tinker with. INT controls the intensity of the light’s output and FRQ controls the frequency of special effects (such as the burst speed of Paparazzi flash guns or the pulsing glow of the Breath preset effect). An FX button lets you toggle through the 9 preset special lighting effects.
Presets such as TV bathe the actor in the flickering light from an offscreen dial and there’s the obligatory lighting FX preset that you’ll also find on the ZHIYUN F100 (opens in new tab) and the Nanlite PavoTube T8-7X (opens in new tab). Unlike the two cheaper LEDs I’ve just mentioned the SmallRig RC 350D COB LED can’t change the colors that it emits, so that does limit the effectiveness of its effects.
We also tested the SmallRig COB LED Video Light Control Panel (opens in new tab) which is an accessory that you need to purchase separately. This contains an identical LCD control panel to the one on the rear of the 350D and with INT and FRQ buttons. It also costs an extra CCT button which enables you to tweak color temperature on compatible SmallRig LEDS such as the RC 450B. The 350D that we tested has a fixed daylight color temperature of 5600K which made the CCT button redundant. The Control Panel ships with a clamp that you can attach to the lighting stand.
The clamp has an adjustable magnetic head so you can attach and angle the control panel to suit your needs. The panel also has a 3-meter cable so you can operate the 350D from a distance if desired. In theory, you can also control the 350D via the SmallGoGo app but we failed to get our smartphone to connect to the lamp despite multiple attempts (and by using different smartphones).(opens in new tab) (opens in new tab)
SmallRig RC 350D verdict
The beautifully designed SmallRig RC 350D LED kicks out more light than anything we’ve reviewed before and yet still operates quietly thanks to its dual fan cooling system. The high price aims it squarely at the video professional who needs accurate colour reproduction, though its fixed daylight colour temperature of 5600K might lead one to look at the 450B instead (though that will cost you $300/£250 more).
Subtle features such as a locking mechanism on the power plug and the detachable cushioning stand adaptor give the 350D an attention to detail (and safety) that professionals will welcome. Its special effect presets will be useful for daring content producers, though they lack the colour changes produced by far cheaper LEDs.