Rotolight AEOS Review
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British LED lighting specialist Rotolight is carving out somewhat of a niche with its circular LED lights that aim to cater for both video and photography. The Rotolight AEOS is one of three in the company’s range of portable professional-grade bi-colour LED lights, that also operate as a HSS flash unit. In the range is the recently launched Rotolight Anova Pro 2, which is the largest and most powerful. The Rotolight Neo 2 is the smallest with most modest output, while the Rotolight AEOS sits in the middle. It makes total sense to create lights that perform both continuous and flash lighting, what with more and more cameras and therefore image makers shooting both professional photos and videos. The LED lights provide professional-grade colour accuracy with flicker-free output and an easily adjustable colour temperature to match the ambient light. There are neat additional features too. Typically the flash feature provides a 250% boost in output of the maximum continuous LED output, with a 1/8000sec max sync speed and no recycle time. The Rotolight AEOS makes for great reading, but what is the reality? Read on to find out how we got on with the lights when shooting a band’s portraits. Each Rotolight panel costs £749.99 ex VAT, plus there are plenty of optional extras such as V-mount batteries (£241.66 ex VAT each). For more information about the Rotolight AEOS, which is also available as a two light kit with case and stands (£1583.33 ex VAT), please visit the Rotolight website.
Ease of Use
We had the Rotolight AEOS kit to test, which contains two AEOS light panels, light stands, 4-piece filter set and a carry case. Rotolight also provided us with an Elinchrom Skyport HSS wireless transmitter plus optional V-mount batteries, so we had good chance to use the lights out on location without needing mains supply.
It takes but a few of minutes to remove the panels from the case, mount them to stands and have them ready to go. Whether you are familiar with LED light panels or not, it doesn’t get much simpler.
Each light panel weighs approximately 1.4kg. They can be mounted to a light stand or held by hand using the aluminium brackets. It is really easy to hold the light by hand and position it at all angles. Add the optional V-Mount battery and things get a little heavier. The battery is half the weight of the panel again, meaning the combination is above 2kg.
Whether on a stand or held by hand, a Rotolight AEOS panel is easy to manoeuvre.
Rotolight offers ballheads with the light stands, but we tended to mount the lights onto the optional AEOS Yoke. Barn doors are also optional with the AEOS, but make for a good additional purchase as a really good light shaping tool.
On the back of the light one is faced with a small backlit LCD screen that by default displays the output of the light. Of course it will switch to display whatever control is being operated.
There are two red knobs that control the power output and colour temperature. The dials are sensitive to rotation speed, so you can make quick and severe adjustments through to slow and precise. You get manual control over output from 1% to 100%, plus a colour temperature range of 3,150 to 6,300 kelvin.
The maximum continuous light output is quoted at 5,750 lux at 3 feet. However, this is true when the light is set to a middle colour temperature of approximately 4,400 kelvin, where both bi-colour LEDs are at their brightest. Go to either extreme; 3,150k or 6,300k and the light output is notably reduced.
Press both red knobs on the rear simultaneously and a menu is opened up where the flash feature can be accessed. Again there is manual control over output, but we expect most users will choose the flash to gain the 250% boosted output.
We had the Elinchrom Skyport wireless transmitter attached to the camera, which paired seamlessly with the lights for the flash function.
Also, in that additional menu is the CinemaSFX effects, where the light panel can recreate lighting effects such as a flickering fire. These novel features may grab the interest of aspiring filmmakers.
The V-mount batteries that we used are claimed to provide up to 3 hours of shooting time, which is plenty of time for a full shoot. Certainly, we didn’t come close to draining those batteries during any of the shoots we’ve used the batteries for. If these lights are going to be used on location, then the v-mount battery is an essential optional extra.
Of course the advantages to LED lights over tungsten bulb lights is that LEDs do not overheat in the same way. If you’re in a cramped environment, it’s a godsend. We often positioned the lights close to our subjects and there was no concern of them becoming uncomfortable by any heat emission. No heat means one less thing to worry about.
As mentioned, the Rotolight AEOS has a maximum light output of 5,750 lux at 3 feet when at approximately 4,400k colour temperature. We used the light at the more tungsten end of 3,150k to match the ambient light and the output is still reasonable. Certainly, to make the most of the panel you’ll need to position them close to your subject.
To give you a small idea of the level of output, with the light set to 3,150k our exposure settings for a group shot of four people positioned around 5 feet from the light read as f/4, 1/200sec at ISO 800.
The light has a CRI of 96 and TLCI rating of 91, which is professional-grade. If you take a white balance reading of the scene you can then adjust the light panel accordingly to match the ambient light, knowing it will be spot on all within a colour temeprature range of 3,150 to 6,300 kelvin.
As for the flash feature, there is a distinct disadvantage and an advantage over dedicated flashguns. The disadvantage is that the output does not come close to a dedicated flashgun. On paper a 250% boost in output sounds great, but this is of the maximum continuous output of 5750 lux, which is a mere fraction of a studio flash.
The advantage to the flash though is that there is no recycle time, meaning your can use flash light continually, unlike a flashgun where you may have to wait 4 seconds until the full output is ready again. Also, the max flash sync speed is 1/8000sec, which is much faster than the traditional max flash sync of up to 1/250sec.
In regards to power then, the light is not best suited to image making when the ambient light is bright, like a sunny day. You’ll get a faint fill-in light when using the flash while the continuous output is even less noticeable.
The lights come into their own when the ambient light is a little darker. We used them in a shoot indoors and the output is plenty enough. We did find some of our subjects found the brightness of the light panel in continuous mode a little uncomfortable to look at and got a little red-eyed. However, the output can be adjusted, plus there are a host of diffusers available with the Rotolight AEOS. Also, when using the flash feature the continuous output is dimmed between flashes - a neat feature.
We do like the lovely circular catch light, that is not too dissimilar to a ring flash. You won’t get that with a flash gun unless a circular light modifier is attached. Circular catch lights in the eyes when making portraits are particularly pleasing.
We can’t finish before commenting on the cinemaSFX effects built-in to the Rotolight AEOS. There are several lighting effects programmed into the light, such as the flicker of a fire and the din of a TV. These effects may not satisfy high-budget filmmakers, but they do add a few lighting effects to the arsenal and we enjoyed using them. A read of the manual is helpful - for example the light is best adjusted to 3,150k when opting for the fire effect.
It’s a wonderful concept; a portable light that is at home in both the studio and on location, for both videos and photography. And to a large extent, the Rotolight AEOS works.
In the hand, the unit is portable and light. You can take the light with you wherever you go and set it up really quickly. The optional battery is actually half the weight of the light unit again. That’s no problem when it’s mounted to a stand, but feels a little less user-friendly when holding the light by hand. These batteries are essential for location shoots.
Where the Rotolight AEOS shines is as a continuous LED light. The colour reproduction is flawless, the cinemaSFX effects are a nice touch and the output is nice and bright for closeup subjects.
Does the Rotolight AEOS do the business for photography? Yes and no. The lights really come into their own in slightly dimmer conditions like indoors or outside during an overcast day. The 250% brighter flash output is a bonus feature, but is no way near the output of a dedicated flash unit. If the ambient light is already bright, you may struggle to see the benefit of the Rotolight AEOS.
With three lights in the range at three different size/ output points, we think the AEOS strikes a good balance. It’s portable and for the best part, powerful.
The light in itself is on the expensive side. When you factor in optional extras that are quite necessary to make the most out of the light for location work, then things get expensive. V-Lock batteries, charger units, waterproof covers all add up to a system that costs in the thousands.
Price aside, the Rotolight AEOS is a user-friendly and versatile light with perfectly accurate output.
|Ratings (out of 5)|
|Value for money||3|