Best Ring Light of 2021
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|Pros||Bright, digital readout, can mount a phone or DSLR, battery option, remote control||Extremely bright, sturdy tripod, phone and camera compatible, step-less dimmer||Easy to use, sturdy tripod, bright for a midsized light||Easy to use, compact, sturdy tripod, ball joint, budget-friendly||Unique, fun color options, super sturdy tripod|
|Cons||Batteries are pricey and sold separately, large, tripod doesn't fit in bag||Bulky, Requires AC plug-in||Heavy, small phone holder||Could be brighter, phone mount too small for larger phones||Subpar brightness, not very user friendly at first|
|Bottom Line||With its digital readout, multiple remotes, and battery compatibility, this ring light will help you bring your photography and videography to the next level||This ring light kit has everything you'll need to make beautiful home portraits and videos||This ring light is reliable, easy to use, and has one of the most solid tripods in our test||We love how well-designed this ring light is, from the sturdy table-top tripod to the ball joint and the solid phone holder||This ring light will help you create a unique look with its eleven color options|
|Rating Categories||Neewer 18" Bi-Color...||Neewer 18" Kit||UBeesize 10" with T...||UBeesize 10" Table Top||LAVKOW RGB|
|Light Quality (50%)|
|Ease Of Use (20%)|
|Specs||Neewer 18" Bi-Color...||Neewer 18" Kit||UBeesize 10" with T...||UBeesize 10" Table Top||LAVKOW RGB|
|Max Brightness (from 36")||1393 lumens||2065 lumens||240 lumens||155 lumens||168 lumens|
|Comes with Bag?||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Weight||10.6 lbs||10.3 lbs||2.99 lbs||1.91 lbs||1.1 lbs|
|Dimmer||Stepless||Stepless||11 steps||11 steps||Stepless|
|Light Temp Mode||Sliding scale||Sliding scale||3 colors||3 colors||11 colors|
|Camera Mount Option?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Power Options||Wall plug & battery||Wall plug||Wall plug||USB||USB|
The Neewer 18" Digital is by far the best ring light we've tested, thanks in particular to three unique features, the first of which is a digital readout. Having the ability to set your ring light to an exact brightness and temperature every time you use it allows for a level of standardization you wouldn't otherwise have. This is helpful for multi-day shoots or anything requiring a certain level of consistency across photos or videos. The second useful feature this ring light offers is its two high-capacity batteries (sold separately), which allow for stress-free outdoor shooting. We were worried that the light would be dimmer when running on batteries, but our brightness tests showed no difference between wall-power and batteries, and the batteries lasted a full hour at 100% brightness. The third feature we appreciate is the wireless remote. The Neewer Digital is also extremely bright, feels well-made, comes with a nice carry-bag, and has various attachment points for both DSLRs and phones.
This large light might be overkill if you don't need a standalone unit, as it definitely won't fit on a desk, and we wish the light came with the batteries. It is also on the pricier side of the spectrum, but if you want a durable, solid light with a ton of useful features, the Neewer 18" Digital is easily the best ring light in our test.
The UBeesize 10" Table Top is a well-designed and easy-to-use ring light at an amicable price. Every aspect of this device is well thought out. The textured ball joint allows for completely customizable angle adjustments. Unlike many cheap ball joint tripods, this one actually stays put once you tighten it in place, so you don't have to worry about it dumping your phone or expensive camera. Its simple design and easily adjustable leg height allow for a speedy 10-second setup, while its size is conducive to tabletop photo shoots and traveling. Whenever we needed a small tripod for our DSLR, we reached for this one because it's generally easy to use, and the stability is trustworthy. It also comes with a small carry bag and a handy remote trigger for easy selfies.
On the downside, we wish the phone mount worked a bit more seamlessly with chunky Otterbox cases. Additionally, this smaller ring light is a fraction of the price of some of the others in our test suite and, as a result, simply does not provide the brightness that larger, more expensive options do. However, neither of these issues is a dealbreaker compared to how much we like this light. This is a great option if you want to be small and simple while on the move, all at an unbeatable price point.
The Neewer 18" Kit is a top-tier performer. Above all else, it offers amazing light quality. This strong LED ring light is sure to brighten up any photo set to your liking and will create great catchlights in your subjects' eyes. Not only is the brightness high caliber, but the build is too. It is both stable and durable and comes with a number of tools that render it very versatile. While it is on the larger side, this Neewer comes with a carrying bag for easier transport. It also comes with some additional filters and a phone/camera holder. The solid tripod holds a heavy (five-ish lbs) DSLR set up well, and we're confident that it can handle more. Additionally, we like its stepless dimmer, which lets you set the exact level of brightness you want.
The Neewer 18" is slightly larger than the Neewer Digital, but it lacks the digital readout, battery-powered option, and remote control. As a result, you'll need to have access to an outlet, but if you're looking to buy a larger light without all the bells and whistles, this one is a great choice.
We love the versatility of the UBeesize 10" with Tripod — it comes with some great features, and they're all well designed. It has an excellent and fully functional tripod, as well as a carry bag for the light. There's a separate carry bag for the tripod, and it includes an easy-to-use remote trigger for your phone as well. This light sets up fast (18 seconds), and it is a dream to adjust. It also features the same phone holder as the UBeesize 10" Tabletop, which is easy to twist to whatever angle you want.
Unfortunately, the phone holder on this model has the same issues as the others — it doesn't grip larger-cased phones well. We also wish the light was slightly brighter, though it's the brightest of the 10" sized lights we tested. This is a great mid-size option at a very accessible price point.
If you're looking to add color and variety, the Lavkow RGB light will be perfect for you. While almost all the lights in our test allow you to change the temperature (how warm or cool the light is), this one also allows you to choose whatever color you want. It offers bright purple, red, cyan, as well as more standard options. On top of all these fun color options, it comes with a surprisingly solid tripod.
This model does have some downsides, though — it won't hold a larger camera, the phone holder doesn't work very well, and it's dim compared to similarly-sized (10") options. We also found the light control to be a little confusing, and it was initially difficult to get the color we wanted. However, we were able to figure it out after a few minutes of button pressing. If you like artsy color options, the Lavkow is a great choice at a fair price.
While it is far from the most bright in our test suite, the Mactrem 6" still offers decent light quality, especially considering it's significantly smaller than the other USB lights in our lineup. We recommend this model if you don't have much desk/storage space or plan to travel a lot with your setup and want to keep it small and low weight. As long as you're using the light close-up, it should fill your face well and give a decent ring light effect.
There are some drawbacks to the small size. Since the Mactrem is so tiny, it can't fit a phone on the light. It requires two tripods, one for the light and one for your camera/phone. However, since ring lights are generally placed around the camera lens you're using, the double tripod arrangement makes lining things up a bit tricky to achieve the desired effect. The small ring provides some light when used close-up, but it's so tiny that the eye catchlights are not rings; they're points. We also weren't thrilled with the quality of the different components in this kit. The tripod for the light is teensy, so we were frequently worried it would fall over. Still, if a tiny and portable setup is what you need, this one is a decent choice, but keep in mind that a ring light should be larger for an optimal effect.
Why You Should Trust Us
Richard Forbes, our lead tester, has been shooting photos with a wide range of cameras (from phone and film to pro-DSLRs) for the last 19 years and has been a working photographer for seven years. He firmly believes that photography is painting with light, and as a result, he spends way too much time thinking about how to get the right light in the right place. He loves to use ring lights on shoots, as well as for his own selfie game. Richard is joined by Hayley Thomas, a lover of photography since she was a child, growing up with her photographer mother. She has a keen eye for composition, and her Canon Mark IV 5D is never far from her side.
To test these devices, we took hundreds of photos with all the different lights and conducted controlled photo experiments to measure relative brightness. We played with each light's different features, timed setups and breakdowns to assess ease of use, and monitored stability by attaching our phones and cameras to each product. We determined the durability by physically comparing each model throughout our testing and digging through online user reviews to find any frequent issues to consider while testing.
Analysis and Test Results
Ring lights are an essential tool for anyone who films or photographs faces. They provide a kind and diffused light that removes shadows and helps subjects stand out from their backgrounds. Even if you're just doing a ton of Zoom calls, ring lights will help you look your best. Our expert testers subjected each product to a series of rigorous tests designed to reveal any strengths or weaknesses then sorted the results into four weighted categories.
The value of an item is distinguished by comparing the price to the performance. We all know the phrase — you get what you pay for — but that doesn't mean that the most expensive item is always the best.
The Neewer 18" Bi-Color Digital may be one of the most expensive ring lights we have tested, but it performed extremely well across all of our metrics. The light quality and sheer brightness alone make this ring light worth shoveling out some extra cash. Not to mention it is easy to use, stable, and durable, making it a versatile and long-lasting product. That said, this option is only worth the money if you are looking for a more advanced model. If you are looking for something of the same caliber but don't need or want to pay for extra features, the Neewer 18" Kit is a solid runner-up. This was the brightest ring light in our test fleet.
On the other hand, if you are looking for the bare minimum, the UBeesize 10" Table Top is a quality option. With the significant cut in price, you forfeit features that the more expensive options offer; however, you still receive a decent quality of light, stellar stability, and good durability.
We focused the majority of our testing on the amount of light and the quality of light produced by each product. We deemed brightness the most important factor of light quality; however, a few other characteristics play into the scoring of this metric, like the ability to dim each light and the variety of tones that each kit offers.
To measure and compare sheer brightness between these often very similar devices, we used the LT300 Light Meter by EXTECH. We were sure to measure each ring light from the same distance of 36 inches away and with no ambient light present. This offers a very controlled environment. We even tested each light multiple times to confirm all readings. The lights in our test suite emit a large range of lumens
Most light bulbs are measured in watts, which is actually a measurement of the energy being emitted. So the higher the wattage, the brighter the light. Since light-emitting diode (LED) technology uses energy more efficiently, wattage is not a viable measurement of brightness, which is why LEDs are measured in lumens.
When it comes to sheer brightness, the Neewer 18" Kit wins by a landslide, emitting a whopping 2065 lumens. The Neewer 18" Bi-Color Digital falls behind at 1393 lumens, which is still extremely impressive compared to the rest of the products in our test suite. These two models are wall-powered lights (though the Neewer Digital also allows you to use batterie). Part of the reason for the out-of-this-world brightness is their size; they both have roughly 25 times the lighting surface area as the tiny Auxiwa Clip-On, which gives them quite the advantage. Both of the Neewer models also offer stepless dimming. This means that the dimming is completely customizable. The Neewer 18" Digital also offers a sliding tone scale, which is a rather unique feature. If you are in search of the absolute brightest, you should go with one of these larger lights.
However, it would be disingenuous to ignore the obvious issue with a "brightness only" approach — there's a huge range of sizes in this test, from the enormous 18" Neewer models to the tiny Auxiwa Clip-On. Obviously, the largest lights should be the brightest, so we also measured the ring lights' exact sizes (which were roughly as advertised) and compared these values to brightness values.
In our test, there are four tiers of light sizes:
- Largest 18" plug-in models
- 8-10" USB models
- The Mactrem 6" (which falls in between categories)
- The Auxiwa Clip-On
In case you haven't used many ring lights, we wanted to compare how each light size category affects a portrait. One of the big things is the "catchlights" — if someone has used a ring light, you can almost always see the characteristic circles in their eyes.
To show more about how they look (and how the different lights compare), we took a bunch of selfies with different exposures (in camera) to make the lighting similar. This approach shows how the different light sizes change the face and the photo. We did not edit these photos at all.
We want to mention that all of the lights have varying brightness levels, from the stepless dimming of the Neewer Digital and Neewer 18" Kit to the 9-11 brightness settings of the USB lights, and the three levels of the Auxiwa Clip-On. However, we found ourselves almost always using the lights to their full capacity, so the dim settings didn't seem to matter much.
Finally, almost all the lights have "color temperature" controls (besides the Auxiwa Clip-On). The USB lights have three different controls, which allow them to provide warmer or cooler light depending on the vibe you're going for. Both the Neewer Digital and the Neewer Kit allow you to dial the white balance between 3200K and 5600K, and the Neewer Kit also includes red filters you can snap onto the light.
No ring lights in our review came close to the light quality the Neewer models offer, but of the smaller lights, the UBeesize 10" with Tripod performs significantly better than the rest. This 10" ring light offers 240 lumens and 11 dimmer steps and three different tones ranging from cool to warm.
An honorable mention in this department is the Lavkow RGB. What it lacks in sheer brightness, emitting just 168 lumens, it makes up for with a unique set of light colors. This kit comes with eight fun colors and three warmth options. On top of these 11 light color options, it offers a stepless dimmer. If you're looking to spice up your selfies and videos with edgy lighting, the Lavkow is a fun option.
Ease of Use
As with many things, you're not going to use your product if it's challenging to do so. Within this metric, there was a wide range of well-designed (and not so well-designed) products, and to sort out which products made it the easiest on us, we set them up and broke them down repeatedly.
Our timed setup test revealed this most clearly, as the large Neewer lights took the longest to set up (at roughly one minute and 15 seconds each), while the Auxiwa Clip-On took only five seconds to jam onto our phones. In the middle of the pack, some lights were unnecessarily fiddly: in particular, the AIXPI 10" with Tripod took 50 seconds to set up just because the parts didn't fit together super well.
We also looked at additional features in this category. We gave products higher ratings if they included things like a remote trigger (for use with a phone), like the UBeesize 10" with Tripod, or that can turn into a selfie stick, such as the AIXPI 10" with Tripod. The Neewer Digital includes the most add-ons, with a remote trigger, a remote to change ring light settings, a DSLR camera holder, and three phone holders (which feels a bit excessive).
The ring light you choose needs to be able to stand up by itself with a camera/phone attached. We set up each model, attached the largest camera or phone possible, and then jostled it vigorously to see whether it could stay up. We also assessed whether each could support a phone or DSLR and whether we felt confident that our electronics were actually going to stay where we put them.
The top-scorer for stability is the UBeesize 10" Tripod. Both Neewer models achieved a high score in this category as well (like all categories), inspiring confidence with whatever device we needed to use. Obviously, the Auxiwa Clip-On model was also very "stable" because it doesn't require setting up and balancing a tripod — it's as stable as your hands are.
There were a lot of different DSLR holders and phone holders, though some were better than others. We were impressed by the UBeesize phone holder on all three models we tested: the UBeesize 10" Tripod, the UBeesize 10" Tabletop, and the UBeesize 8" Selfie. It has a solid feel and grips the phone well.
Durability is a difficult metric to measure because there's no way to figure out how long a product might last without literally using it for years. That said, we spent time setting up and breaking down each light repeatedly to identify any weak spots they might have and supplemented our own assessments by reading user reviews to see if there were any common problems. We also weren't overly gentle with any of the lights, making sure to put them through all the paces that a busy videographer or photographer might.
The UBeesize and Neewer lights were the most sturdily designed. We're certain the UBeesize 10" Tabletop, UBeesize 10" Tripod, Neewer Digital, and Neewer 18" Kit will all last a long time.
We hope this intensive breakdown gives you a better idea of which lighting setup meets your needs, no matter if you're looking for the best ring light for studio use or the most portable option.
— Richard Forbes and Hayley Thomas