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  • Stephen Knight

LED Panel Light Review: Aputure MC Pro

Updated: Jun 30

The original Aputure MC was the first pocket LED panel light with HSI colour mixing, and in 2023 Aputure released the MC Pro, which is a considerable upgrade over the original. After much research into pocket LED panel lights to upgrade my lighting kit, I settled upon the Aputure MC Pro. This review takes an unbiased look at these lights.


Disclaimer


The Aputure MC Pro was purchased with my own funds.

The MC Pro is available from a wide range of retailers worldwide.

These product links are affiliate links.


Aputure MC Pro - pocket RGBWW LED panel light
Aputure MC Pro - pocket RGBWW LED panel light

Design and Construction


The Aputure MC Pro is a professional quality, USB-C rechargeable, pocket size, RGB+White+Warm White (RGBWW) LED panel light designed for photographers, videographers, and cinematographers. Whilst only having 5W output, the 45 degree optics result in brightness/illuminance that is almost best in class. The Aputure MC Pro's retail price is $199, which is at the higher end of LED pocket panel lights, but much cheaper than the also "professional quality" Rosco DMG Dash.


Below are the manufacturers specifications:

  • Power Input/Output: 7W/5W.

  • CCT range: 2000k-10000k - this is much better than most panel lights.

  • CRI: 95.

  • Operating Temp: -20C to +45C.

  • Battery capacity: 4200mAh (3.7V).

  • Battery charge time: 90mins (USB-C 5V/2A).

  • Battery runtime: 120mins (5600K, 100%).

  • Control methods: Manual/Onboard, Sidus Link App (Bluetooth), DMX/RDM, Lumenradio CRMX. Firmware upgradable via Sidus Link.

  • Dimentions: 10.8cm x 7.0cm x 2.5cm.

  • Weight: 247g.

  • IP rating: IP65.

  • Cooling: Passive, no fan.


The MC Pro is very compact in size, having less length and width, but more depth than most LED panel lights. It is solidly build, and unusually for a LED panel light has a weatherproof IP65 rating. This was one of the factors that made me decide upon the MC Pro. The light has relatively strong magnets on the back to attaching to ferromagnetic surfaces, so keep the MC Pro away from things that are sensitive to magnets.


The light comes with an impressive range of accessories, including a carrying case, flat diffuser, dome diffuser, 30 degree control grid, cold shoe ball head, 1/4-20" screw to magnetic plate adapter, USB-C charging cable, 4x adhesive magnetic plate, and carrying case. This excellent range of accessories should be factored into the relatively high price tag. The cold shoe ball head, and 1/4"-20in screw to magnetic plate adapter can be combined to mount the MC Pro to any ferromagnetic surface - this is very useful. The cold shoe ball head can also be mounted to cold shoes and tripod 1/4"-20 threads. The magnetic plate with adhesive allows mounting to non-ferromagnetic surfaces, but be aware that the adhesive on the magnetic plates is very strong, and is really a use once product.




The MC Pro has a USB-C charging port, and takes just 90 minutes to fully charge. A normal 5V/2A charger is adequate for charging, so no need for high power PD or QC3 chargers here. As per most pocket LED panel lights, the battery is not user replaceable, so best not to leave it fully charged or discharged for long periods of time unless you want to shorten the battery life.


The Aputure MC Pro is also available in an 8-light kit. This is designed for professional gaffers, and includes 8 Aputure MC Pro's, a carrying case that allows all 8 MC Pro's to be recharged simultaneously, and an impressive range of accessories.


As a side note, two seperate Australian retailers I purchased MC Pros from, had delays caused by the Australian distributors, who repeatedly provided misleading information on stock availability. Aputure need to improve their Australian distribution network.


Aputure MC Pro carrying case
Aputure MC Pro carrying case

Aputure MC Pro accessories
Aputure MC Pro accessories

Aputure MC Pro mounted on ball head accessory
Aputure MC Pro mounted on ball head accessory


The Aputure MC Pro has magnets on the back
The Aputure MC Pro has magnets on the back

User Interface


The Aputure MC Pro is an extremely impressive range of control options. These include manual/onboard, Sidus Link app (Bluetooth), DMX/RDM, Lumenradio CRMX. Firmware is upgradable via Sidus Link. I tested the on-board controls and Sidus Link app.


Onboard control features:

  • On/off button - press on/off for 1sec. Last mode memory.

  • Menu/back button.

  • Rotary control knob with push button.

  • Menu - Light Mode / Bluetooth Settings / DMX Settings / System Settings.

  • Light Modes - CCT / HSI / RGB / GEL / Source / XY / FX / Custom FX.


The range of light modes is very impressive and a big step up over my older Weeylite RB9s. CCT mode includes magenta to green tint adjustment. Hue Saturation Intensity (HSI) mode also includes CTT adjustment for when white light is used to decrease saturation. The Gel mode has a huge range of Lee or Rosco gels, with two CCT options of 3200K tungsten and 5600K daylight. Source modes mimic a huge range of studio, artificial and natural lighting types. Effects modes include ClubLights, Paparazzi, Lightning, TV, Candle, Fire, Strobe, Explosion, Faulty Bulb, Pulsing, Welding, Cop Car, Colors Chase, Party Lights, Fireworks. I found that some of effects modes such as Faulty Bulb, TV, and Lightning were not as effective as similar effects modes in some other manufacturer's lights.


As per most LED panel and tube lights, there is a delay when pressing the on/off switch. This makes the light tricky to use for creating light trails for light painting photography. However, this light is much more suited to the nearfield illumination side of light painting and night photography. Intensity can be adjusted in 0.1% steps from 0.1% to 100%. This allows for use with low level landscape lighting and astro-photography.


Aputure MC Pro on-board user interface
Aputure MC Pro on-board user interface

Aputure MC Pro display and scroll wheel
Aputure MC Pro display and scroll wheel

The Sidus Link app can control most of the features available with the on-board controls, with much better visualisation of HSI and Gel modes, and additional colour picker mode. I liked that the Gel mode settings such as Hue (degrees) and Saturation are displayed below the Gel example. There are inconsistencies in source mode options between the app and on-board controls, for example the Glow Stick modes are missing in Sidus Link. I found the Sidus Link app easy to use, though it took me a few minutes to work out how to pair my phone and the MC Pro for the first time. Bluetooth connectivity was stable - I had no issues with connections dropping, or reconnecting on subsequent uses of the light.


Screenshots using the Aputure Sidus Link App.


Beam, Output, and Runtime


The Aputure MC Pro has warm white, cool white, and RGB LEDs. The Correlated Colour Temperature (CCT) range is impressive at 2000K to 10000k. The Aputure MC Pro has a 5W output. Most pocket RGBWW LED panel lights are in the 8W to 14W range, with the Zhiyun M20C having 20W. However, something which seems to be tripping up many YouTube reviewers is brightness (illuminance) is not directly proportional to power output. The Aputure MC Pro has 45 degree optics, instead of the approximately 150 degree optics found on most panel lights. This means that despite less power, and less lumens than most of it's competitors, its illuminance (lux/distance) for white/bi-color light is almost the best in class, as we will see in the below tests.


The Aputure MC Pro has 45 degree optics
The Aputure MC Pro has 45 degree optics


Illuminance is the best method of measuring photography and videography light photometrics as it shows how bright an object such as a photography model is illuminated at a specified distance. Illuminance was tested with a Opple Light Master 3 Pro, and compared to other LED panel or pocketable photography lights. All lights are at 100% output unless otherwise stated.

  • Aputure MC Pro 2700K - 469 lux/1m.

  • Aputure MC Pro 4000K - 543 lux/1m.

  • Aputure MC Pro 5600K -535 lux/1m.

  • Aputure MC Pro 6500K - 511 lux/1m.

  • Aputure MC Pro 5600K Flat Diffuser - 295 lux/1m.

  • Aputure MC Pro 5600K Dome Diffuser - 148 lux/1m.

  • Aputure MC Pro 5600K Grid - 456 lux/1m.

  • Aputure MC (original) (unspecified CCT, manufacturer specs) - 100 lux/1m.

  • Weeylite RB9 5600K - 319 lux/1m.

  • Rosco DMG Dash (manufacturer specs, boost mode) - 320 lux/1m.

  • Zhiyun M20C 4300K 100% (manufacturer specs) - 539 lux/1m.

  • Zhiyun M40 5600K 1000% (bi-colour only) - 1756 lux/1m.

  • Zhiyun M40 5600k 25% (bi-colour only, comparable runtime) - 686 lux/1m.

  • FireflyLite NOV-MU v2.0 4500K (max sustained brightness @10mins) - 490 lux/1m.

  • Lume Cube 2.0 5700K (fixed CCT, manufacturer specs 140 lux/0.5m) - 35 lux/1m.

  • Lume Cube Panel Pro 2 (unspecified CCT, manufacturers specs 835lux/0.5m) - 209 lux/1m.


My test results measured approximately 25% higher illumimance than specification. The Aputure MC Pro is as far as I'm aware the second brightest pocket RGBWW panel light after the Zhiyun M20C (which has an achilles heel of a very short battery life at full power). It is approximately 4 times brighter than the original Aputure MC, though also twice the weight! Whilst the Aputure MC Pro is designed more for accent lighting, it can be used as a portrait key light at medium to high ISOs, bearing in mind that all pocket LEDs panel lights produce harsh light. Due to the 45 degree optics, there can be some colour shift between the hotspot and spill beam. This is eliminated when using any of the beam modifiers.


Aputure MC pro with grid beam modifier
Aputure MC pro with grid beam modifier


Aputure MC Pro beam profiles - L to R - no modifier (45 degree), flat diffuser, dome diffuser, 30 degree grid.


The 45 degree beam might not be for everyone, but at least this can be made more floody by using the flat diffuser, or dome diffuser. Even with the flat diffuser, the brightness is comparable to the Weeylite RB9/Viltrox Retro 12X (which is my favourite and brightest "budget" panel light). The beam can also be narrowed down using the 30 degree control grid, which creates a more controlled "flashlight like" beam with soft edge, and minimal impact to brightness. This is better in my opinion than the barndoors on the Zhiyun M20C which have edge artifact. The MC Pro does have to be more than 60cm away from the object being illuminated to avoid beam artifact from the grid. The relatively small size of the MC Pro lowers the risk of lens flare if the panel is in the camera lenses field of view compared to larger pocket LED panel lights.


Correlated colour temperature (CCT), CRI, and Tint with no beam modifiers at 100% output.

  • Aputure MC Pro 2700K - CCT 2794K, CRI 96.7 Ra, Tint +0.0023 DUV

  • Aputure MC Pro 4000K - CCT 3849K, CRI 96.9 Ra, Tint -0.0011 DUV

  • Aputure MC Pro 5600K - CCT 5313K, CRI 100 Ra, Tint - 0.0035 DUV

  • Aputure MC Pro 6500K - CCT 6406K, CRI 100 Ra, Tint -0.0039 DUV.

  • Aputure MC Pro 6500K +0.1 Tint - CCT 5305K, CRI 100 Ra, +0.0021 DUV.

  • Aputure MC Pro 6500K -0.1 Tint - CCT 5357K, CRI 100 Ra, -0.0048 DUV.


CCTs are fairly accurate. CRI is as expected above 95 CRI. As per most lights with bi-colour/adjustable CCT, the tint has a slightly positive DUV (very slight green tint) at very warm CCTs, and slightly negative DUV (very slight magenta tint) at other CCTs. The tint can be adjusted with green/magenta tint adjustment settings.


RGB colour output is harder to compare as most manufacturers do not release their specs. I have only seen Aputure and Zhiyun release RGB specs for panel lights. It cannot be assumed that RGB brightness is consistent with white/bi-color output. In the case of the MC Pro, it seems that RGB output is not quite as impressive as the light's white/bi-colour output. Based on a literature review of independant tests and indirect testing between some lights, I would estimate the MC Pro has relatively good RGB brightness, but a few pocket RGBWW panel lights will be brighter - notably Zhiyun M20C (at the expense of battery life), and Weeylite RB9/Viltrox Retro 12X.


Runtime on 100% output at 5600K CCT was exactly as specified at 120 minutes. The Aputure MC Pro has a very impressive runtime/battery life given the high illuminance output.


There is no noticeable Pulse Width Modulation - yay!


Backlit portrait using 2 Aputure MC Pros and a fog machine
Backlit portrait using 2 Aputure MC Pros and a fog machine. Model: @tay.tay.x_

Conclusion


Positives:

  • Professional build quality.

  • One of the brightest (illuminance) pocket RGBWW LED panel lights for white/bi-color light.

  • Relatively good RGB colour brightness.

  • Impressively wide CCT range, with green/magenta tint adjustment.

  • Excellent range of control options.

  • Excellent light control options e.g. CCT/Tint/Intensity, HSI, RGB, Lee/Rosco gel simulation, Light source simulation, Effects modes.

  • Very good runtime/battery life (with time remaining display in app).

  • Weatherproof IP65 rating.

  • Excellent range of mounting accessories.

  • Excellent range of beam modifiers.

  • Stable bluetooth connectivity.

Negatives:

  • Colour shift in spill beam (when used without modifiers).

  • Inconsistencies in Source mode options between app and on-board UI.

  • Some of the Effects modes could be improved.

  • Not cheap.

  • Poor distributors in Australia.

The Aputure MC Pro is one of the best pocket LED panel lights. It is has an optimal balance of high brightness, good battery life, weatherproof IP rating, and professional control features.


I would also like to give Aputure credit for being one of only a few LED panel light manufacturers who publish their RGB/colour photometrics, and photometrics with all beam modifiers.


The MC Pro is available from a wide range of retailers worldwide.


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