Any filmmaker worth their salt knows the importance of good lighting, and one the most popular lighting setups popularized in 2023 by single-person YouTube and TikTok channels is the humble right light.
I'm familiar with the ring flash from my studio photography days way back when. The shape of the light gives a punchy yet evenly distributed illumination, and a dynamic circular catchlight in the eyes. For single-person talking-to-camera productions, the ring light is a perfect, compact choice for use with your best camera phone.
This is the latest in a regular series of articles in which we test really cheap gadgets to see if they're worth even the small price you'll pay for them. Read them all here.
As with any popular product, there's a huge list of options, and I'm here to tell you that you don't need to spend big to spread a little light on your productions. In fact, the ring light in question here cost me £12.72 from Amazon UK, and there are versions of it in the US and Australia that cost under $15 / AU$25. While these prices fluctuate ± 15%, this particular light is a bargain and you can find alternates with different accessories included.
Let's take a look at what you get in the box, how the kit fares, and why it's still enough compared to pricier alternatives.
Let there be light
First up, the light itself is a 10-inch ring light. The distributors boldly claim it's bigger than similarly priced alternatives, and size here is important. I've attached my diminutive Google Pixel 4a to the ring light via the sturdy clamp and bendy arm, and where the phone sits inside the light I wouldn't want it to be any bigger, or the light to be any smaller. A larger handset would still be OK, but not ideal, and I’ve certainly come to appreciate 10-inches as the minimum acceptable size for a ring light – there are much larger alternatives available, at significantly greater expense.
It’s not the sturdiest bit of kit you’ll come across, a cheap plastic in fact. I suspect it will break when thrashed around – it’s a case of looking after the product, and it will look after you.
The light is powered by the old-school USB. You can plug the cable into the wall, your laptop or – if you want to move about – a portable power bank will do the trick.
What's in the box
- 10-inch ring light
- USB-C power cable with control switch
- Bluetooth camera control
- 2x clamps for different-sized phones
- Bendable arm
- Table-top tripod
Pricier and chunkier ring lights in the region of $150 / £130 / AU$225 offer plug-in power and battery power, supplying a couple of decent high-capacity batteries in the box. However, while convenient, battery power could be an unnecessary feature. I used a tiny 4,000mAh power bank to power this cheap ring light and got at least five hours of continuous light before the bank ran out of juice. And that’s a tiny power bank. It would be no bother at all to create a velcro fastening for the power bank to the ring light to keep it out of the way.
Inside the 10-inch ring diffusion panel is 160 LEDs, and the remote offers clicked brightness control and three color temperatures that are advertised as warm, natural, and cool. For the technically minded, the coolest is 3,200K, and the warmest is 5,900K, although in certain cases temperature is a moot point if your phone automatically color corrects anyway. The natural setting is around 5,000K judging by my white balance readings and proved to be the option that I stuck with most of the time.
Given the LED technology inside, we could have a full spectrum color array, and that's what you can get with a pricier ring light. Pick a color any color; go blue, red, orange, purple, whatever you like. If that degree of flexibility is important then this isn't the light for you – this is one for natural lighting only. But hey, it's cheap.
|Component||Electric Giant Right Light for Phone|
|Price||$18 / £13 / AU$25 approx|
|Dimensions||28.8 x 26.7 x 4.2cm|
|Connections||USB (power only)|
|Other features||Standard tripod mount, desktop stand supplied|
There’s no official info on the maximum output of the light in watts. The minimum brightness setting offers the tiniest fill light, while maximum brightness is sufficient for any indoor environment and acts more like a fill in the bright outdoors.
Output is where more expensive lights have the upper hand. However, again I have to question if we really need a light that goes brighter than the one in question here. After all, we the video subjects are staring directly at the light for extended periods of time, whether that’s a video call, online teaching, or creating social video, and that can get darn uncomfortable if the light is too bright.
I found the maximum brightness of the light on the right side comfortable to look at – any brighter could cause strain.
A modest supporting cast
Supporting the light is a flimsy tabletop tripod. The legs sink even under the weight of my small smartphone. However, the stand is sturdy enough with the legs fully spread. What can be an issue, though, is height. Unless you use a raised platform to elevate the ring light position, you'll be looking down at it, and uplighting sure ain't flattering.
Height is also an issue if you are using the ring light for video calls on a laptop because the light will be hidden behind your desktop display.
A pricier ring light will come supplied with a better stand – a proper tripod that extends in height, giving greater flexibility for light positioning. For desktop productions, even this Neewer RP10-H 10-inch ring light to the tune of $36 / £30 has a more sensible stand and could ultimately be a wiser choice, taking out the faff that comes with this short stand in question here.
In my circumstance, I already own a proper tripod and better still a self-standing monopod – any are compatible with the universal tripod thread on the underside of the ring light, and could easily swap out the stand supplied with the light.
Conversely, the 'gooseneck' bendable arm together with the phone clamp is a sturdy bit of kit and will happily hold your smartphone firmly in position; portrait or landscape orientation, it doesn't matter.
10-inch ring light: Is it worth it?
Most of the cons noted here are largely irrelevant in real-world use, or at least there are sensible and easy workarounds, which is what makes this ring light a bargain. Sure its build quality is cheap, but if it's a simple natural fill light you're after to give a lift to those video calls and online videos, or even as a desktop lamp, you can't go wrong with this sub-$15 ring light for your phone. If you do go this cheap, just make sure it's 10 inches or more, and if you can find an alternative with a taller stand, it will make a big practical difference day to day.
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Tim is the Cameras editor at TechRadar. He has enjoyed more than 15 years in the photo video industry with most of those in the world of tech journalism. During his time as Deputy Technical Editor with Amateur Photographer, as a freelancer and consequently editor at Tech Radar, Tim has developed a deeply technical knowledge and practical experience with cameras, educating others through news, reviews and features. He’s also worked in video production for Studio 44 with clients including Canon, and volunteers his spare time to consult a non-profit, diverse stories team based in Nairobi. Tim is curious, a keen creative, avid footballer and runner, and moderate flat white drinker who has lived in Kenya and believes we have much to enjoy and learn from each other.