SmallRig 220 Series LED Lights Review

Tips & Techniques

I’ve loved SmallRig’s camera support gear for years. While I most associated their brand with the high quality cages and L-plates that I’ve put on each of my last few cameras, I was surprised to see that they have branched out into lighting. Do these new light products continue the brand’s reputation of great performance at a very competitive price point? In this review, I’ll put the new 220D and 220B COB LED lights to the test.

Table of Contents

Light Basics

In this review, I’ll be taking a look at both models, the 220D and 220B. Both lights are rated for 220 watts of power. Their designs are identical, with the only difference being the actual LED on the front. The D models are daylight balanced, with a color temperature of 5600K, while the B models offer a range from 2700K to 6500K.

To be clear, this isn’t SmallRig’s first lighting product. SmallRig has also produced some other LED products, typically smaller LED panels for on-camera and vlogging use. They previously offered the 120D and 120B, which are also COB LED lights, and both feature 120 watts of power. All of these lights are continuous as opposed to strobes.

Design

The overall design is similar to that of other monolight-style COB LED lights, with a stylized, boxy, and compact form factor. Compared to some other monolight LEDs I have, they’re more compact, while still offering more power. They come with a standard mount on the bottom, which supports tilting, locks easily and securely, and supports an umbrella right from the mount (a nice convenience feature for lightweight travels).

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Mount

Moving to the front of the light, there’s a Bowens compatible mount on the front. It’s really nice to see SmallRig using an industry standard mount like this – if you haven’t shopped for lighting modifiers before, Bowens mounts for lights are like the equivalent of an Arca-Swiss tripod mount, a de facto industry standard. They support easy attachment, by just twisting on the modifier, along with a built in lock.

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Output Specs

The light includes, among its many accessories, a metal reflector they call the hyper-reflector. While that’s a bit of branding buzz-speak for an otherwise standard reflector, it really does a good job. With the reflector mounted, the 220 models can throw out a tremendous amount of light, with the 220B rated for 84,500 lux and the 220D putting out 98,700 lux. To put that in perspective, I bounced one of these off the ceiling of a 400 square foot room, and was able to easily light up the entire room with a single source.

Directed at a subject, you can just bathe the area in high quality light, even through a dense modifier. On light quality, there’s a few metrics to understand: CCT drift, CRI, and TLCI.

CCT

CCT should already be a familiar concept if you’ve manually set white balance, with the color temperature roughly referring to how “warm” or “cool” the light is. Warmer lights, with a lower color temperature, like 2700K will light a scene like old incandescent bulbs, while 5600K is industry standard for “daylight.” The D model is fixed to 5600K, with a margin of error of about 200K, while the B model can reach up to 6500K for a cooler look.

CRI and TLCI

Color rendering index, CRI, and television lighting consistency index, TLCI, are two similar concepts. Both look at how the light reproduces certain colors compared to daylight or a standard artificial source. A good CRI or TLCI of 90 or above, with higher being better, means the light will faithfully represent the colors in your scene. In this case, the SmallRig 220 models are rated very high, with a CRI of 97 to 99, and a TLCI of 99.

This matches or beats the rated scores from their competitor’s lights, some of which can cost twice as much, like the Nanlite Forza 200W.

Accessories

These lights definitely don’t skimp on the accessories. In the box is a very nice quality light bag, with precut foam inserts for the lights and accessories. The bag is zippered and tastefully branded; it would be a great option for continued use with the light. It also features a zippered pouch along the top, making it easy to store some gels or diffusion material right in the bag.

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Also included is a plastic protector for the LED itself, as well as foam for protecting the reflector.

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The power cord is about 20 feet total in length, with the brick portion located halfway down the length of the cable. The brick isn’t small, nor is it light. Further, the surface of the brick is smooth – as such, I’d love to see some mounting options for the brick, like a strap or loop to allow it to be hung from a light stand.

In Use

Both lights are very straightforward to use. Plug the included AC adapter into the wall, then attach the XLR style plug to the light, and you’re ready to go. If you’ve purchased the separately-available V-mount battery adapter, the setup is still the same, just via battery power instead.

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It’s particularly nice to see this battery option, as it provides a ton of flexibility in use, and if you find yourself shooting in the field or anywhere where lighting plugs aren’t common, definitely consider getting this accessory.

When powered, operating the lights is simple. On/off is controlled with a flip switch on the back, while two dials control intensity/CCT and effects. There’s also a small reset button.

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Output

The light has a controllable intensity of 1 to 100% output, with the individual steps being incredibly smooth.

Unlike RGB lights, these lights are focused on white light output, and so they come with fewer alternate modes. The B model supports adjusting the color temperature, and both models offer 9 lighting effects. These include simulating flash bulbs, paparazzi, lightning, parties, faulty bulbs, TVs, flames, fireworks, and a “breathing” effect.

I don’t typically use these special effects modes, but they’re a nice option to have for video uses.

Remote Control

Once the light is rigged up, accessing the various controls may be difficult. Fortunately, the light supports app based control via the SmallGoGo app (SmallRig’s lighting control app). The light is available on both iOS and Google Play.

Pairing is slightly unintuitive, requiring your phone to be on and in Bluetooth range. Then, from the Add Equipment page of the app, you can manually turn on the light, and press and hold the reset button. The light should then appear on the equipment page.

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As a side note, I don’t like that the app requires a login. For what amounts to a Bluetooth controller, login feels like an unnecessary and frictional step for basic functionality.

Once logged in, however, the app performs very well. Adjustments transfer to the light almost instantly, and it’s easy to dial in specific settings like color temperature.

Setting aside the login annoyance, it’s really nice to have a remote control option at this price point. I’m used to being able to control all my strobes via remote and having that same functionality in continuous lighting is very convenient.

Sound

One concern for any continuous light is how the light manages heat output. Since continuous lights are always producing heat, they often need an active cooling solution, like a small fan or heatsink. The 220 models handle heat well, with their mixed aluminum and polycarbonate body able to shed heat passively, while a quite active cooling system kicks on only when the lamp body exceeds 140F.

This active cooler is virtually inaudible, with SmallRig rating it at 25dB at 3 feet. This puts it somewhere between rustling leaves and a whisper, and at a level that I couldn’t even pick up on my basic audio setup. Whether you’re using the light for video or just in a photo studio, it won’t pollute your set with fan noise.

Compared to Other Models

Against models from Aputure, Nanlite, and Godox, SmallRig’s 220 line offers great performance and value. Let me go through some of the top competitors below.

Aputure

Aputure’s amaran 200D and 200X are close competitors. For a few dollars more at MSRP, the SmallRig lights offer higher lux output, higher CRI and TLCI, and a better battery implementation option. Along with that, the SmallRig light’s dual dial controls are a bit easier to operate than the single dial of the Aputure.

Nanlite

At about twice the price at MSRP, the Forza 200 from Nanlite is a significantly more expensive option. The Nanlite is rated for a lower total output, and notably, has a fixed 5600K color temperature. This can make it tricky to integrate with ambient light sources, or even just other brand’s daylight LEDs, which can each handle 5600K slightly differently. The light also takes Forza mount modifiers, requiring a separate adapter to take Bowens mount mods. I do like that Nanlite includes a V-mount adapter in the box.

Godox

Godox offers two comparable models, the FV200 and SL-200W II. Both are larger and more expensive units, with lower rated specs for output and CRI. The FV200, however, has an interesting flash style mode, which may be worth looking at for hybrid shooters. Otherwise, these lights don’t present the same value as the SmallRig setup.

Conclusion

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As I indicated in my guide to continuous and strobe lighting, lighting gear is all about trade-offs. Size, cost, output quality, and a myriad of other factors have to be balanced when choosing your kit. The SmallRig 220 series isn’t flawless, but it handles these tradeoffs well.

On the whole, my complaints with the lights are minor. I’d like to see the control app not require a login, and it would be nice to have a way to secure the power brick to a lightstand.

At an MSRP of $329 and $369, these lights are a good value. Beyond just being reasonably priced, however, they’re powerhouses, with the 220 watt spec and strong real world performance making them perfectly capable of filling modifiers and lighting a scene with ease. It’s nice to see SmallRig continue their high standards and reasonable prices even as they branch into the lighting world.

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