Right outside the top, I̵
This interest led me to start looking at external lenses that add more possibilities to the iPhone many years ago. At that time, you needed external lenses to do any kind of zoom, macro or wide angle photography. While the rapid advances in smartphone cameras have changed the market for external lenses, there are a few companies that still make high quality models that take an already impressive current iPhone camera to the next level. Sandmarc is one such company that makes advanced, professional mobile photography accessories.
I am familiar with Sandmarc from reviews I have made of their Photography Edition Wide Angle, Fisheye and Macro Lenses for iPhone X in 2018 and their Tele Edition Lens last year. I was very impressed with the design, quality of construction and performance of all four lenses. So when a Sandmarc representative reached out to me to ask if I wanted to try their new Prolights lighting accessories, I was only hesitant because of my own limitations as a photographer, not the quality of the equipment. I knew this would be high quality accessories and first class accessories before they arrived.
Construction and design
I’ve never used anything other than a small external flash for an older 35mm film camera and a mirrorless digital Samsung, so I was not quite sure what to expect from Sandmarc’s Prolights. The first thing that caught my attention was the build quality. These things are SOLID. Sandmarc’s lenses are also durable and radiate quality, but Prolight’s metal bodies honestly feel like something Apple would make. This is very well built hardware.
Remember that when I say solid, I do not mean that Prolights are too heavy. They are actually quite light to have exterior metal. But they feel that they can survive significant use indoors or outdoors and deal with any kind of thing or thing. They are made to last as a piece of pro-level equipment should be.
I must point out that there is a difference between the two models in thickness and weight, with the RGB version coming in 1.5 oz heavier and 0.13 ″ thicker than the Bi-Color model.
Prolight’s design is simple and straightforward. Both models have a threaded attachment on the bottom and also come with a heating shoe attachment in the box that is screwed into the threaded attachment, and provides versatility.
This allowed me to mount the Prolight on top of the smartphone camera holder and easily use it with the iPhone with no other purchases required.
Speaking of accessories. Prolights also comes with a flexible diffuser that is easy to install and remove.
It has cutouts for all buttons and the screen, so there is no problem using Prolight with it on.
You also get a USB-C charging cable and microfiber cloth bag to store the light in, which is a great way to keep the light safe when not in use.
When it comes to layout, the light takes up the entire front minus a small frame around the edge.
The back of the Prolight has a small OLED screen that gives you all the information for the device. You have the battery indicator and light intensity adjustment on both models.
The Bi-Color Edition above has an additional color temperature adjustment, while the RGB version below has Hue and Saturation color selection controls.
On both models, an easy-to-use selector wheel allows users to toggle adjustments and easily move them up or down with a slider and slider control. Simple is good, and this is as simple as it gets.
A power button and USB-C port next to each other on top round off the design.
Both Prolight models have quality construction, simple but solid designs, and are easy to operate. From an engineering perspective, Sandmarc could not have done better, in my opinion.
I had no trouble judging the construction and design of Sandmarc’s Prolights. However, it is a little harder to rate performance for someone who is not a more polished photographer. Sandmarc’s website has some good examples of what kind of artistic effects you can get with Prolights, especially the RGB version. However, it will take some time and effort to get some of these looks into the hands of a beginner like me.
So from this point on I will stick to the basics and how I used Prolights. Just understand that they are capable of more in the hands of someone with more experience and creativity.
Prolight Bi-Color Edition
This Prolight was more accessible and convenient in the hands of someone like me. This light is the perfect color corrector and fill light for smartphone photography or video. As far as they have come, built-in smartphone turn signals are still anemic and have limited utility. Prolight Bi-Color, on the other hand, has a full 1500 lux at full capacity and packs enough of a battery to last for 100 minutes at maximum brightness. It blows away any built-in smartphone flash.
What made the Prolight Bi-Color valuable to me was the almost unlimited adjustment range for color temperature and brightness. If you find that your white balance is off for an image, Bi-Color is a great way to smooth out in a way that does not provide strong brightness or shadows. The included diffuser really helps to take the edge off, and I appreciate that it was included in the box.
For example, the lighting in my bedroom is not very good, especially after sunset. Using Prolight, I was able to reduce my editing on some recent review photos using this light to get the white balance right before I took photos.
I really appreciate this. It is always better to have the picture as close to it as you want before you take it, and then edit to call it in.
Prolight Bi-Color also makes an excellent filling light in all kinds of lighting conditions. It has enough power to remove shadows from portraits or images of objects outdoors or at a distance, and the wide range of brightness adjustment allows you to add a softer filling at a closer distance. It also works well as an additional light for taking video in low light situations.
Here are a few examples:
While the differences are subtle, the extra light helps the camera sensor pick up more details. The image without extra light is flat and lacks blows from the other two, while the other just bounces more and has more petal details.
You can also see how much Prolight Bi-Color can heat up an image in the second example. The effect is too much for my personal taste, but this example gives you a sense of how much this light can change a shot and the range it has.
Even in the hands of a casual photographer like me, the Prolight Bi-Color Edition is very useful. If you take pictures for a website or a business, or if you just want to take your game up one level, this is a great accessory for any smartphone photographer.
Prolight RGB Edition
This Prolight RGB was much harder for me to get hold of. It’s far more flexible, but it also makes it more complicated to use if you do not begin to know exactly what you want. I want to be completely honest in saying that I do not do that when it comes to adding color effects to photos. However, if you have more extreme color compensation needs or are a creative photographer who knows exactly what color effects you need, Prolight RGB is an extremely skilled accessory.
Most of what I said about the performance of the Bi-Color Edition also applies to RGB. This model is a little thicker and heavier, as mentioned in the section Construction and design, and has a little less battery life, and comes in at 90 minutes at maximum brightness. However, it looks and works about the same.
There are two obvious differences in performance with the RGB model. First, you can adjust both the hue and saturation to get the desired color output.
For a beginner, it will take time to figure out how to adjust these two settings to get exactly what you want or need. However, I managed to call in certain colors after some trial and error.
Prolight RGB comes with a small instruction booklet with a diagram showing how 0-360 Hue translates to different colors that other amateurs may find useful.
The other big difference is that Prolight RGB also includes 8 different FX modes. The first two are aimed at mimicking a red-eye photo flash on a loop. It can be of some use when you get the timing down. It would be nice if you could trigger them manually, but I do not think it is possible.
Other than the SOS light, which would be very useful if you find your car broken at night, the rest of the FX modes did not seem so useful to me. However, they could possibly be in the hands of a more skilled photographer.
The real value of Prolight RGB is to add color effects to photos and videos. Here are a few interesting examples from Sandmarc’s website that show how dramatic the effects can be:
One of the keys to taking a great picture is proper lighting. This is what makes low light photography so difficult, and why much of the innovation in smartphone cameras has been focused on night mode and better low light performance.
That said, even the best smartphone lens paired with the best AI can only take you that far. Whether it’s for extra light in the dark, color correction, artistic effects or to fill lighting to eliminate shadows, sometimes you need a little help that the phone alone can not provide. If you are often in such situations, one of Sandmarc’s Prolights is a great way to complement the lighting of your smartphone images.
As I said above, Sandmarc’s Prolight Bi-Color Edition is simple and straightforward enough to be valuable to almost any smartphone shutter release. It is versatile and useful for solving many common lighting needs, so I can recommend it to pretty much anyone who is trying to get the most out of their smartphone cameras.
Sandmarc’s Prolight RGB Edition is a little different. I can recommend it because of its superb design and construction and unique capabilities. However, it is a much more specialized device and requires more skill and creativity to get the most out of it. More than I have at least. If you have an eye for creative photography and color effects, or if you need to overcome some more extreme color correction issues, you should definitely look at Prolight’s RGB.
Prolight Bi-Color is available from Sandmarc for $ 99.00.
Prolight RGB is available from Sandmarc for $ 129.00.
Sandmarc also offers a Prolight Kit with both lights at a $ 199 discount.
Prolight Bi-Color and Prolight RGB were given for review on the iPad Insight by Sandmarc. For more information about the site’s review policies, see the About page.