Search
  • Stephen Knight

Flashlight Review: Ants On A Melon RGB Critter 2.0

Updated: Nov 14

Ants On A Melon (AOAM) are well known in the light painting and flow arts scenes with products such as the Galaxy BitWhip. The RGB Critter was first announced on Kickstarter in 2019, which drew a lot of interest from light painting photographers, and was released in April 2022. This is an updated review, which includes the improvements to the RGB Critter 2.0.


Disclaimer


I purchased the RGB Critter and accessories during the Kickstarter campaign with my own funds. I was a Beta tester for Critware v1.1/RGB Critter 2.0.

Antsonamelon RGB Critter
Ants On A Melon RGB Critter

Design and Construction


The RGB Critter was announced in 2019, and drew a lot of excitement from the light painting community. Design changes, a pandemic, and supply chain issues delayed the release until April 2022. The RGB Critter 1.0 was a massive improvement over previous RGB flashlights and torches available for light painters, however the user interface was less than perfect, and finding the buttons was often tricky in the dark. Joel from AOAM has invested considerable time and effort into making the RGB Critter the best it can be, and in September 2022, the much improved RGB Critter 2.0 was released.


The RGB Critter is a compact to medium size light, 137.5mm long, and 33mm diameter (including sleeve), aluminium body, and a silicone sleeve (with choice of colours) for grip. There are 3 buttons integrated into the sleeve, which can be illuminated. In the RGB Critter 2.0, these buttons are slightly raised. The light has Red, Green, and Blue (RGB) LED emitters, and can colour mix, colour change, and colour fade. The retail price at the time of writing is US$125, plus shipping.


The RGB Critter contains an AOAM branded unprotected 3050mAh 18650 Li-ion battery. The battery OEM is unknown. Thankfully AOAM listened to early feedback, and made the battery user replaceable to extend the life of the product with better sustainability. Other included accessories are a micro-USB charging cable, Critter Key (to open up the tail to access the charging port and battery), and 2 spare O-rings. Due to the length of product development, micro USB is now a rather outdated, but still does the job. Charging time from empty is claimed to be 2 hours, and I found this to be accurate when using a decent 5V 2.4A USB-A power supply. The Critter Key is required to unscrew the tailcap and access the charging port, or replace the battery. I did find that the battery didn't slide out easily and needed some downward force (with my hand over the end to prevent the battery from flying out) to remove. The buttons pulse during charging, and blink every 10 secs to indicate full charge. Charging terminated correctly at 4.19V. The battery capacity was tested to be within +/-10% of claimed capacity. The RGB Critter can also be used with USB power supply connected, just make sure the cable is long enough. Whilst the instructions state to only use the included charging cable, the cable is rather short for my liking.


Unlike some other RGB lights I've tested, I experienced no issues with reliability. There are lots of accessories and light painting tool options, which for the first time in one of my reviews needs its own section of the review!


RGB Critter Optics
RGB Critter Optics

RGB Critter Tail Cap
RGB Critter Tail Cap

RGB Critter Charging and Battery Port
RGB Critter Charging and Battery Port

The RGB Critter uses an 18650 Li-ion battery
The RGB Critter uses an 18650 Li-ion battery


User Interface


The user interface in RGB Critter 1.0 was one of the light's weak points, notably triple click for off, reverse momentary, and advanced use being excessively complex. Based on feedback from multiple light painters and flow artists during Beta testing, the RGB Critter 2.0 is a massive improvement, with most major concerns being fixed.


The RGB Critter has three illuminated buttons on the side of the light. You will need to read the manuals!


Overview of the user interface in the RGB Critter 2.0:

  • 1 click on (with last mode memory), 1 click off.

  • Momentary mode - when enabled, hold for on.

  • Lockout, factory reset, battery check, and button light on/off options.

  • Analogue or Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) modes.

  • 9 Programmable effects modes (known as Colour Modes) - includes solid colours, colour fade, rainbow ribbon, and various other colour patterns.

  • 93 default effects "out of the box".

  • Speed can be adjusted for all effects (with memory).

  • Modes 1-8 have 8 customisable memory slots , and Mode 9 has 30 customisable memory to save programmed effects.

  • 39 colour options including 4 white CCTs, and black.

  • Special features menu - Strobe Speed (10 speed/frequency settings), Accelerometer, Sound Reactive, and Brightness (10 brightness levels) control.

The RGB Critter has a very impressive range of effects modes, including colour fade, and colour stepped modes, plus adjustable effect and strobe speeds. Out of the box there are now 93 different effects (plus static colours) of which modes 2-8 have 1 default effect plus 8 memory slot effects each, and mode 9 has 30 effects. It is possible to adjust the effect speed in 10% steps of all of these effects (with speed memorised). This results in 930 effect combinations, and that is before applying any special features!


The much improved special features menu makes it easy to overlay a strobe, with adjustable strobe frequency, or adjust the brightness level. The 39 static colour options are a big step up from other RGB flashlights. Thankfully, the RGB Critter also has last mode memory. Only a single click is now required for on/off. Momentary is now consistent with other flashlights - hold for on.


With the original RGB Critter 1.0, whilst basic use was easy, more complex use required me to bring the manual (or a self written cheat sheet) on light painting outings. The user interface in the RGB Critter 2.0 is much easier to remember, and I find that I am now confident to go out light painting without needing to bring any instructions. The mode change indicators have also been improved, making it easier to know when the correct function has been selected. PWM on/off may need more clarity though. The only remaining tricky part of the user interface is programming, but I would expect that few users would need to perform this 'out in the field'. The light also has useful options such as lockout, factory reset, battery level check, and button light on/off. The latter is essential for light painters. Be aware to disengage momentary mode after use, it if the light is left in momentary mode for a few days it will drain the battery.


The RGB Critter is one of an elite group of flashlights with adjustable strobe frequency. The special features strobe appears to be 50% on/50% off which is good (some effects modes have different strobe on/off timings). The strobe frequency can be varied in 10 steps from 1.25Hz to 120Hz, with most of these steps being very useful for light painters. The stepped strobe frequency in the RGB Critter 2.0 is also much better for consistency,


The RGB Critter 1.0 had 3 buttons which were not really tactile enough. The RGB Critter has 3 slightly raised buttons, which make finding them in the dark much easier. This is again a massive improvement. Whilst the button spacing is the same, the number of multiple button presses has been reduced, which means that button spacing is less of an issue. Some practice is required when learning the user interface, for example it took me a few attempts to get the fast triple click to enter/exit momentary right, but after a few attempts I got it.


Only RGB Critters shipped after 22/05/2022 (there is an orange dot next to the battery tube) are enabled for firmware upgrades at home to version 2.0 . This requires a Windows PC with USB(-A) 3.0 port. RGB Critters shipped before that date will need to be returned to AOAM for upgrade. Once upgraded, all future firmware updates can be done at home. The upgrade itself is free. For USA customers pre-paid return shipping is $17 (which includes up to 4 Critters). For international customers shipping in both directions is at the customers expense and will vary based on country. I expect that some international customers won't be happy about this shipping cost, but it may be a good opportunity to purchase a few more compatible tools, and the new shell with raised buttons.


The RGB Critter has a 3 button UI
The RGB Critter has a 3 button UI

The RGB Critter 2.0 has slightly raised buttons.
The RGB Critter 2.0 has slightly raised buttons.

Under the RGB Critter's silicone sleeve
Under the RGB Critter's silicone sleeve

Beam and Output


The RGB Critter's LEDs are not stated by AOAM. The optics appear to be a 20 degree TIR lens. The colour mixing is the best I've seen on a RGB flashlight. The beam profile has a 20 degree hotspot, bright 80 degree spill beam, and dimmer 150 degree outer spill beam, which I would class as "floody" due to the bright spill beam. "Throwy" optics with a higher candela per lumen ratio are generally better for use with light painting tools. Whilst some entertainment lighting can colour mix with a more throwy beam profile, this may not be practical in a suitably sized and reasonably priced RGB flashlight. The beam profile means that most of the generated lumens will enter the Sol Saber and Plexiglass Blade tools, though the spill beam will be attenuated with narrower input tools such as the BitWhip and Jupiter Rope. The optics makes the RGB Critter very useful for low to medium brightness coloured illumination purposes, but be aware that it is not covered by warranty when no tools are attached. The Orb Tool makes a good diffuser.


Coloured LEDs are nowhere near as efficient as most 70CRI white light LEDs, and thus RGB flashlights are never going to be as bright as white light alternatives. However, as coloured light tends to saturate camera sensors faster than white light, then sometimes coloured lights can appear brighter than the claimed lumens (in this case 170lm) would suggest. Some example exposures I used were f/4, ISO400 when using the BitWhip, f/4, ISO800, +1.9 exposure in post processing with the Jupiter Rope, and f/8, ISO200, +0.4 exposure in post processing with the Sol Saber. Compared to other flashlights connected to a 2cm diameter plexiglass rod, the RGB Critter with Sol Saber is:

  • Equal to one photographic stop brighter (dependent on effect mode) than the RGB Light Excursion Deluxe and Ignis Color LED Torch - making the RGB Critter the brightest RGB colour mixing flashlight I've tested *.

  • One to two photographic stops brighter than the Threeworlds Concentrate C5.

  • One to two photographic stops less bright than a 1,200 lumen white light flashlight, colour filter, and plexiglass rod.

* note: the Wurkkos WK40 is brighter, but with a 15 second long colour fade it isn't useful for light painting.


The RGB Critter provides options for an Analogue mode, or Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) mode. The Analogue mode creates smooth colour fades with no visible PWM in sample photos. This is a massive improvement over other RGB flashlights. My phone camera did detect some waveform rippling. If you want the "old skool" look with PWM (which appears as very fast strobing) then you can switch to PWM mode. PWM mode is probably more useful for flow arts than light painting.


Runtime is claimed to be 3 hours on white mode, and 9 hours on red, green, or blue, and this was tested to be fairly accurate. Brightness/runtime is interesting. Testing was performed with a freshly fully charged battery, with 100% being the brightness at 10 seconds measured by an Opple Light Master Pro 3.

  • White mode (RGB all on) - I measured a gradual increase in brightness during the first 10 minutes to 182% at 10 minutes. This is unexpected as most flashlights decrease in brightness during the first 10 minutes. Brightness then gradually declined to 133% at 20 minutes, and 93% at 30 minutes. I then switched the light off, turned it back on one minute later, and measured 213% at 10secs, which rapidly declined to 130% within one minute. Thus as with most white light flashlights, thermal limiting will come into play, and this may be affected by ambient temperature.

  • Red mode - I measured stable light output during 2 hours of testing with output being >96% of starting brightness. For the vast majority of colour and effects modes, I expect the RGB Critter to have a stable brightness.

RGB Critter beam profile
RGB Critter beam profile

Tools and Accessories


The RGB Critter comes with a large number of accessories, and compatible light painting tool, with even more tools expected in the near future.


Optional accessories include:

  • Fyber Kit - amazing looking fiber optic costume kit. Wish we had these when I went out clubbing two decades ago!

  • Critter Connector for connecting 2 RGB Critters end to end.

  • Spare 18650 Battery.

  • RGB Critter Case.

  • Lanyard.

  • Pull String Bag.

Light painting tools include:

  • Sol Saber - plexiglass lightsabers in various lengths and options.

  • Lumi Tube - a Sol Saber with light only emitted through holes.

  • Lumi Saber - a Sol Saber with various tube pattern designs.

  • Orbit BitWhip - 5.5ft long layered end glow fiber, with either 140 or 200 fibers.

  • Jupiter Rope - 3 or 6ft side glow fiber optic cable.

  • Plexiglass Blades - 10 blade design options.

  • Acrylic Writers - available in 1/2", 2", and 6" lengths, 1/4", 1/2", and 5/8" diameter, and various finish options.

  • Orb Accessory - an opaque light diffuser.

  • Fiber Optic Dusters - 5 options (but no black at the time of writing).

  • DIY Connector - for connecting homemade/other light painting system tools, and for beam collimation/snoot use.

I tested the Orbit BitWhip 140, Jupiter Rope 6ft, and Sol Saber 24" tools. The AOAM light painting tools all connect by screwing into the end of the RGB Critter. The warranty states that an attachment must be connected to protect the light, as a dented end may prevent tools from being screwed on. The screw connection appears to be metallic on the Jupiter Rope and Orbit BitWhip (with a bearing to allow the tool to spin), and plastic on the Sol Saber. The tools came with an O-ring for water proofing, though I found I needed to remove the o-ring for a tight fit.


The Orbit BitWhip has 140 or 200 strands, split up into 10 different lengths. I found this tool very useful for light painting portraits, and the bearing based attachment is useful. It is best used in low ambient brightness conditions. The Jupiter Rope is 6ft long and 8mm diameter, and again is quite useful for light painting portraits. It isn't the brightest side glow fiber optic cable tool I've tested, so very high ISO, wide aperture, and very low ambient brightness will be required. The 24" Sol Saber appears to be of tough plastic construction, with a diffusion film inside. It has 360 degree light transmission, and has impressive light input to output ratio allowing for use in medium ambient brightness conditions. There are options for a Sol Saber with Pixel Light Material (PLM) which has light transmission only on one side. This may be useful for Eric Pare style circles behind a model. Other variations of the Sol Saber include the Lumi Tube and Lumi Saber, with various pattern effects. An removable end cap would be a useful addition for light painting. There is a noticeable light gradient in the tested tools which results in a very high chance of overexposed light trails in the first few cm at the input end of the tool, I fixed this by adding white masking tape to the first 5cm of the tool to attenuate the "excess" light.


The extensive AOAM tool system is currently only compatible with the RGB Critter, though this may change in the future. I see the RGB Critter and its extensive range of compatible high quality tools as being a fantastic gateway to colour changing flashlights and light painting tools, and it would be very sensible to purchase a selection of AOAM tools when you purchase the Critter.


Many light painters are already heavily invested in many light painting systems, so I have also tested the RGB Critter with other light painting systems:

  • Light Painting Brushes (Universal Connector) - best results are by rolling back the silicone sleeve far enough to allow a stable connection between the Critter's metallic body and the Universal Connector. This may partially obscure the top button. However on/off/momentary uses the bottom button.

  • Light Painting Paradise - Fiber Optic Brush and Cables, plus Freehand Tip tools slot into the AOAM DIY Connector. Also, the Light Painting Paradise "All in one adapter" slots over the DIY Connector allowing use with all Light Painting Paradise tools.

  • Lumenman - Spira slots perfectly around the DIY Connector. Other tools are incompatible.

  • T8 tubes - do not fit the DIY Connector, however Light Painting King make a DIY Connector to T8 tube adapter.


Connector for Jupiter Rope Tool
Connector for Jupiter Rope Tool

Light painting portrait with the RGB Critter and Orbit BitWhip
Light painting portrait created with the RGB Critter and Orbit BitWhip. Model: @riley__aston

Light painting portrait with the RGB Critter and Jupiter Rope
Light painting portrait created with the RGB Critter and Jupiter Rope. Model: @riley__aston

Light plant with the RGB Critter, Sol Saber 24", and Jupiter Rope.
Light plant created with the RGB Critter, Sol Saber 24", and Jupiter Rope. Composite image.

Light painting with the RGB Critter 2.0 and Sol Saber 24".
Light painting with the RGB Critter 2.0 and Sol Saber 24".

Conclusion


Things I liked:

  • High quality construction and reliable.

  • Reasonable value for money.

  • Officially compatible with the extensive range of AOAM light painting tools.

  • Unofficially compatible with Light Painting Brushes and Light Painting Paradise tools (though care is required).

  • Excellent range of default effects modes and colours.

  • Ability to adjust the speed of all effects.

  • Last mode memory.

  • Single click on/off.

  • Momentary mode (now the correct way around!)

  • Adjustable strobe frequency with 10 speed steps.

  • Adjustable brightness with 10 steps.

  • Effects modes can be programmed and saved.

  • Brightest RGB colour mixing flashlight available (though not by a huge margin).

  • Stable brightness levels for most effect modes.

  • PWM is not visible in Analogue mode.

  • Good colour mixing.

  • Good instructions.

  • 18650 Li-ion battery is user replaceable.

  • Internal USB charging.

  • Can be used with USB power supply connected.

  • Firmware can be easily updated from RGB Critter 2.0.


Things I didn't like:

  • Whilst the RGB Critter 2.0 UI is a massive improvement, some button presses are still a bit tricky.

  • Noticeable light gradient - results in overexposed light trails at the input end of the tool, but easily fixable with white masking tape.

  • USB-C charging would be preferred over micro USB.


The Ants On A Melon RGB Critter 2.0 is very impressive, with a class leading range of colours, effects and features. It is the brightest commercially available RGB colour mixing flashlight suitable for light painting, and the first without PWM. The new user interface and silicone shell in the RGB Critter 2.0 are massive improvements over the original Critter, with most user interface concerns being addressed. The Critter is now considerably easier to use. It is impressive to see a company invest so much effort into improving a product based on feedback. The RGB Critter is the highest quality and best value for money colour mixing/changing/fading RGB flashlight available for light painting photographers, and is highly recommended.


RGB Critter 2.0 Product Link

5% off with code "KNIGHT".


Links:

Instagram @stephenk_lightart

Redbubble store - prints and more

Home page

Help support this website by donating to:

paypal.me/stephenklightart


2,223 views11 comments

Recent Posts

See All