Ulanzi VL 120 RGB Review - Budget Lights under $30

Updated: Mar 18

So I got around looking to see what was the cheapest camera gear I could find online, and I stumbled upon these accent lights behind me right now lighting up the background, which adds a very versatile and cheap way to increase your production value. And that is this, the Ulanzi VL 120 RGB. A mouthful, I know. Now it might just be a knock off from the Aperture MC, but to my surprise it only costs $29.

And while you might consider, "Well why don't I just get the Aperture? Well because it costs 3x the price for just one of these, and you'd be surprised of what it can do.

Now I must state that Ulanzi didn't send us any of these lights or have any idea about me making this video, I bought them with my own cash and was truly impressed by how bright they are and how useful they can be. From adding some colour to my background here, to accent lights for product shoots, or even neat effects programmed to suit each scene you might be shooting.

Right out of the box you get the light itself, a very handy silicone diffuser, a USB-A to USB-C connector, and a hot shoe mount to go along with your camera.

On the module itself there's a ¼ inch screw mount, a brightness adjustment wheel, a Mode Wheel switch (which I'll explain in just a second), power/setting button, a Type-C port to charge up the 3100 mAh battery, and a very nice display screen at the back.

There are 3 modes programmed to suit various settings which are CCT Mode, which essentially controls BI-colour ranging from 2500K-9000K that provides a cool or warm tone. There's also RGB Mode which allows you to set 0-360 degrees of Hue Range, that also has a nice physical guide at the back so you always know which colour you plan to use. This can also be switched to HSI ONLY Mode (which stands for Hue, Saturation & Intensity) and you can range saturations depending on the colour you choose.

Lastly is Effects Mode that can be cycled through the Mode Wheel which has 20 various scenarios ranging from Cop Car, Ambulance, Fire Engine, Lightning, Fireworks, TV, Candle, Party, Faulty Bulb, Pulsing, Strobe, RGB Strobe, Paparazzi, Emergency, H/L Beam, Red Flash, Green Flash, Blue Flash, HSI Slow, and HSI Fast.

So a lot of modes to choose from for every situation you have in mind, and I must remind you that it only costs $29. So you can easily buy 3 of these and it would still cost less than $100. Now obviously the build doesn't exactly scream premium quality with a very plastic body and sides, cheap tactile buttons and it isn't magnetic nor does it come with a remote control app or wireless charging capabilities like how the Aperture MC's do.

But for budget lights to act as sort of a fill or background light, it pretty much does the job. With the ¼ inch thread, you could mount this to some light stands and have it bounce off a white wall, and you've pretty much changed up the entire mood of your set. And since it's very small and compact you could even attach it to some variable clamps you might have lying around and have it rigged in every position you can imagine. It'us also very bright I might add reaching up to 1250 LUX with a distance of 0.3m and 180 LUX at 1m.

I'm gonna switch off my key light here just for a second to show how it performs on it's own and have it bounce off my wall or even have it bounce off the soft-box I have right above me and as you can see I'm still very well exposed. Or you could even use it as a hair light to add more of a separation between yourself and the background. Add a second light, your key light and mix them altogether, you end up with a very well balanced - evenly exposed composition.

I even took the liberty to use them for a shoot I had a couple of days ago for a car detailing workshop and used them for some car interior shots, and it helped SO much in adding more detail rather than just cranking up your camera's ISO and probably ending up with noisy footage.

I also did some test shots here to create a fade-in fade-out effect of this watch, or even some HUE accent lights to add in for this dolly shot on this phone we were reviewing. Or even this shot to match the blinking lights of this DJI Mavic drone using the RGB strobe effects mode.

It managed to last about 5 hours of use (switching it on and off for different scenes) before I had to charge it up again, which states in the manual that it should get you up to 100% in 2.5 hours. So not the best in terms of battery life or charging speeds, but that's probably the tradeoff for buying cheaper lights such as these. But in my experience using it, I never had any issues with having it die on me during a shoot and 5 hours of on/off use is more than enough for real-world situations.

In short, I see myself buying a lot more of these lights and adding them to wherever I can just because of how useful they are. Now you could opt for the more expensive ones like the Aperture I mentioned earlier, but for me there's really no reason to get those knowing something like these Ulanzi VL 120's would essentially provide the same results. Aside from it lacking the remote control app or the fact it doesn't exactly have a nice name to it, I pretty much adore these lights and how simple yet cheap solutions are still a valid way to change up your production game just a step above than before.


Written by Fitri Aiyub