Affordable Lighting for your Home Studio: We Review the SmallRig RC120B

Constant lighting has dropped dramatically in price, with companies like SmallRig making excellent products — along with accessories — that are refreshingly accessible. How good is the SmallRig RC120B, a bicolor packing a decent amount of power and coming in at just $259?

If you’re pondering your first constant light for use at home, or are simply seeking something affordable and don’t need too much power, the RC120B is a solid option. This review is geared towards those venturing into lighting for the first time and are researching options for YouTube videos and a bit of product photography/videography.

About SmallRig

Founded in 2009, SmallRig started out producing cages and rigging equipment for videographies, exploiting advances in machine tooling technology to produce a wide range of highly niche products. In recent years, these niches have only deepened thanks to their DreamRig program, allowing SmallRig’s community of customers to contribute ideas that then come to market. Need a cage for the XLR handle of your Sony FX30? SmallRig has you covered.

SmallRig's First COB Light

Despite the diversity of their products, it was something of a surprise last year to see SmallRig produce its first COB (chip on board) light. COB lights have allowed improvements in LED performance, increasing brightness while reducing costs, and giving videographers ever more options. The SmallRig RC120 — a 120-watt device — comes in two flavors: a daylight-balanced version with a fixed color temperature (“D”), and a bicolor version that allow you to vary the temperature from 2700k to 6500k — i.e., between warm and cold. The daylight version is marginally cheaper at $219.

The RC120 lights were later joined by the RC220, and SmallRig just launched the RC350 and RC450, all in daylight and bicolor versions, and all packing more power.

With the lowest power and the lowest price, the RC120 Bs and Ds have been a popular choice with anyone producing content at home. I’d been eyeing up a few options when SmallRig reached out to ask me if they could send me the RC120B to review, but just a few weeks after receiving it, I landed a new job which took me away from fiddling around with my own videos, and thanks to the odd bit of travel and catching covid, it’s taken until now to get around to writing a proper review. (My thanks to SmallRig for being patient!)

I've been using it for occasional videos and the odd bit of casual product photography and so far, it's held up well, and the Bowens mount makes a versatile option, both for now and for the future.

The Specifications and What’s In the Box

Without (top) and with (bottom) the hyperreflector.

120 watts isn’t a useful metric, but the 4,450 lux at a distance of 1 meter might at least start to give you an indication of the brightness. By way of comparison, with almost twice as much power, the RC220B offers 8,670 lux at 5600k. The hyper reflector (included) focuses this light, creating the boost in brightness.

At short distances, this is plenty of brightness for a home studio, but this all changes when you start to add modifiers in order to diffuse the light. Adding a softbox will dramatically reduce the output — more on this below.

The Bowens mount is a logical choice. It gives you a wide range of options as there are endless soft boxes, lanterns, reflectors, and more available.

Stepless dimming means that you can tweak to the brightness are smooth and without noticeable increments.

If you don’t know what the CRI rating is, it won’t be of much importance, but the CRI of 95+ means that colors are rendered accurately. For such an affordable unit, this is impressive — another indication of how COB has progressed lighting technology.

The carry case is a nice touch and for some, it will be the difference between the RC120 and the competition offered by Amaran (a subsidiary of Aputure), such as the Amaran 100x. The bag is smart, seems solid, offers good protection without being too heavy, and everything has a snug fit.

Lulu approves.

The Physical Details

Inevitably, there are areas where SmallRig has cut costs. This does not feel like a premium unit and with any entry-level product offered at an attractive price, you wonder how long it will last and how well parts will survive. The tilt adjustment — which offers 270 degrees — while solid and with metal parts where they count, could give up.

Those who expect consistent performance for many years will know they’re probably best investing in something more premium, but for occasional home studio use, it's probably more than sufficient. SmallRig has a reputation for making sturdy gear, at least. So far I’ve knocked it over once without any consequences.

The Controls

On the back of the unit, there is an on/off switch and a pair of dials. The first dial controls the intensity on a scale of 0 to 100. When clicked, it controls the temperature. The second dial cycles through a number of creative modes such as paparazzi and lightning. Both are easy to use and refining settings is straightforward.

Given that I can't see myself ever using these creative options, one dial for intensity and one dial for temperature would be a little more user-friendly.

There is an app that pairs fairly painlessly via Bluetooth, and the Apple Store notes that, beyond connecting to the light, the app does not send any data. When I first used it, I gave up fairly quickly as the app was both laggy and a bit buggy. When I revisited it for the purposes of this review, it worked fine.

Adding a Modifier

SmallRig has a small range of modifiers with these RC lights in mind — two parabolic soft boxes and a lantern. I opted for something cheap and cheerful from Neewer that does the job, but when trying to plan your lighting system for a home studio, keep in mind that all of this gear has a footprint. If space is at a premium, an LED panel might be a slightly better option, and the loss in brightness will be offset by how close you will likely be positioning yourself. Keep in mind that the LED panel will not offer the same level of versatility, however.

With a cheap softbox attached: 1/50, f/2.8, ISO 100. I think. I was busy blinding myself by playing with lightning mode.

The Fan

Like any light, it generates heat, and a fan clicks on to keep the temperature down. The hum is quiet and wasn't loud enough to be picked up while filming at my desk. Keep in mind that the fan is completely automatic and it will click on and off as required; it's much easier to remove a hum if it's constant rather than intermittent.

What I Liked

  • simple controls
  • versatile Bowens mount
  • good range of tilt
  • quiet
  • useful bag

What I Didn't Like

  • the app was a bit buggy
  • I'd prefer one dial for intensity and one dial for temperature


The SmallRig RC120B is a solid option for anyone on a budget and in search of a bicolor COB light. It's not as affordable as some of the LED panels available but the Bowens mount makes it far more versatile. At the time of writing, B&H Photo lists it at a discount, making it $181.30 instead of its usual price of $259. Already affordable, this is an excellent deal.

Andy Day's picture

Andy Day is a British photographer and writer living in France. He began photographing parkour in 2003 and has been doing weird things in the city and elsewhere ever since. He's addicted to climbing and owns a fairly useless dog. He has an MA in Sociology & Photography which often makes him ponder what all of this really means.

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