SmallRig RC120B COB LED light review
Today, SmallRig announced their first COB light, the RC120D. This moves the company from being a cages and other mechanical parts manufacturer into the domain of Light Manufacturers. Brands like Aputure, Nanlite, and Godox. It seems that they are aiming right into the “bread and butter” product – the 120W COB LED. They do this with two new lights, the RC120B and RC120D: a bi-color unit and a daylight unit.
Along with the 120-Watt lights, SmallRig also announced a set of modifiers, which probably signals that they are going to build a family of lights in the future. Let’s see how the light performs and is it worth investing in this system vs. getting an Aputure Amaran or a Godox VL light.
The SmallRig RC120B COB LED
With your light, you get a lightweight, semi-hard case loaded with the basics: a power block with a mickey mouse connector, a power cable, a high-power reflector, and the RC120B units. Oh, you also get a cute sheet of cool stickers. I thought it was a nice touch.
The light is well built, with a nice gray textured finish. It is a bit plasticky, but that can be expected given the price point. If you need a reference, it is more light the Aputure Amaran than the Light Storm series. Like all recent COB lights, it uses the Bowens mount system. It does click nicely when you engage a modifier into it. To control the operating temperature, the RC120B uses a fan. We were happy to discover that it was super quiet and was not noticeable.
On the mount side, the RC120 uses a slightly different mount from the regular yolk mount. It’s similar to a swivel mount that you’re used to from small camera strobes or other small COB lights. The handle is made of plastic, and I suspect it will only take limited abuse. On the flip side, you can throw a brolly directly on the light.
SmallRig RC120B Control
Control-wise, this is one of the more intuitive lights that I got to work with. There are two dials: one for brightness/temperature, and one for effects, with constant light being effect number eight. Go figure… It seems that there is also an app option, but the app was not available for our pre-production unit. (Between the shooting and now, the app became available, we may address it in a follow-up review).
SmallRig RC120B Light Quality
Let’s talk light quality. Intensity wise we measured twice at one meter going bare bulb: we got about 3900 and 3150 Lux at 5600K and 3200K at one meter. The temperature was also spot on at around 5768 and 3280. This is a tiny deviation for the price point, and it was a pleasant surprise. It seems that low CRI is no longer a thing with photography lights. SmallRig advertises a CRI of 95, but we measured an even better CRI at both edge temperatures: 97.5 and 97.9.
If you put the reflector on, you get significantly more light. We measured 12,500 and 2200 at 5600K at one and three meters. Roughly three times the light. This is a nicely built reflector that is slightly conical in shape and has a faucet pattern on the reflective side. It is more efficient than the standard reflectors that we are used to from older lights.
SmallRig RC120B Lighting Modifiers
SmallRig came up with an entire lighting modifiers system that includes a 55 centimeters parabolic softbox, an 85 centimeters parabolic softbox, and a Chinese lantern. The only accessory I am missing from this system is an optical snoot. But, given the commitment in the system, I would not be surprised if it came soon.
Both softboxes use a semi-quick release system. You need to tension each rod separately, but it is still a relatively easy process. On the other hand, the Chinese Lantern is a push-to-assemble unit, which we were very impressed with. Each softbox comes with its own grid and case. These are definitely on par with the high-quality modifiers we are now seeing in the market. I love the modifiers, and you can see that a lot of thought went into making them (round tips, easy assembly, marking on the speeding). My only wish is to add text on the cases, so we know which modifier belongs in each case. Until that happens, we use Gaffer :)
Here is a quick look at all the modifiers:
85 centimeters parabolic softbox
The big softbox is 85 centimeters in diameter and gives a nice fall-off. 120 watts is not a lot of light to push through such a big modifier, but it would work well for controlled environments. We did note a slight light shift going through the modifiers from 5600K to about 5400K. So expect them to knock 200k off your temperature.
55 centimeters parabolic softbox
The smaller box is a bit more punchy, and the shadows are a bit harsher. But as you can see, both units use double diffusion with an extra bit of fabric to kill that horrible hot spot you get from point-source lights.
65 centimeters Chinease lantern
The last modifier, which is slowly becoming my new favorite, is the 65 centimeters Chinese Lantern. Essentially it creates a soft ball of light. It’s a great modifier to mimic an overhead light or simply to add some fill to a scene.
Is the SmallRig RC 120 B a good light for you?
The light quality is definitely there, and the build quality is more than decent. My only concern would be that this is still a system in the making versus some of the older brands in the market. If you are OK with this, 250 Dollars is a no-brainer for this light. If you want to knock a few Dollars off, you can look at the light’s little brother, the RC120D, which is an almost identical tween but only provides daylight balanced light. This one would be only $200.
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.