When the Rotolight package was delivered to my doorstep, I was apprehensively excited. I was apprehensive because light is everything in photography, and LED lights are notorious for disappointing me. But I was not disappointed. To say I had to rip myself away from playing with it in the studio to type up my review would not be an exaggeration. This light is prodigious.
Let’s start from the outside and move our way in to talk about the PRO AEOS 2 and PRO NEO 3. Although the press material didn’t talk about the bag, the bag is particularly important. Many of us photographers travel and shoot under a myriad of conditions, and if the bag isn’t protecting what is inside, that is a big oversight for me. I executed my first test: I poured a cup of water on it and left it for a few minutes while I made coffee.
When I came back, I was surprised to find the puddle of water still sitting on top of the bag. I opened the bag to see if it had seeped through, and inside was thoroughly dry. It passed the water-resistance test with flying colors.
The bag as a whole was extremely well-made: water-resistant, sturdy zippers, three large external and one internal pocket, thick padding, and a sleek black look. A+.
Now, to the good stuff: the lights.
I started by setting up the larger one: the PRO AEOS 2. I pressed the power button, and instantly, my studio was saturated with light. The output was impressive. The touchscreen display offered five operating modes, and it was intuitive to navigate.
The CCT (Continuous Light mode) has a touch-screen slider that allows you to vary the temperature from Kelvin 3,000 to 10,000 K with the slide of a finger. Two of the modes: HSI (Hue, Saturation, Intensity), and GELS offer 16.7 million RGB color and GELS for 2,500 digital filters. If that sounded too technical, let me simplify: you can literally put out any color you want. My biggest surprise was the smaller light: the PRO NEO 3. After setting up the PRO AEOS2 as my main light, I positioned the PRO NEO3 as my cross light and flipped the switch on. Woah, the light output! That compact light packs a punch, and it's loaded with all the operating modes as the PRO AEOS 2.
The reason I have often steered towards using strobes over continuous light in the past is that continuous light output is not strong enough to support shutter speeds fast enough to stop motion without pushing the ISO. If an LED panel is strong enough, the lights are usually blinding and put out heat that I don’t care to work with for hours on end. This light was easy on the eyes with the diffusion on it and also put out very little heat. I gave the lights a test run in studio. Leaving my ISO at a max of 500 and my aperture at f/7.1 for depth of field detail, I was able to stop the motion and create some beautiful splash shots making use of the GEL functions.
Another test I wanted to run was on the flexibility of the panels to create hard and soft light. Clients or creative directors often have specific looks with shadows. Hard, crisp shadows are the new modern trend, and I was curious if I could create a hard shadow by removing the diffusion on the light.
The VFX menu is sure to be the videographer’s favorite. With effects including strobe, fade, party, paparazzi, film, cycle, fire, gunshot, flame, cycle, and more, these pre-programmed lighting effects will provide high-quality scenarios for enhancing feature films or music videos. Rotolight paired up with award-winning visual effects designer Stefan Lange (James Bond Skyfall, Batman, Tombraider) to create these realistic lighting effects.
Rotolight delivered another industry-first by designing a built-in high-speed sync flash compatible with Godox and Elinchrom flash receivers. This development allows photographers to wirelessly integrate Rotolight into existing systems by utilizing transmitters they already own. With this new technology, you can use your Godox/Elinchrom transmitter to fire off the light like a strobe. There's no need to spend more money on a separate transmitter.
The fifth menu panel: System Settings allows you, among other things, to set up a connection between your LED panel and the Rotolight app. The app easily allows users to control the lights from their phone.
Who Is This Light For?
As I shot and explored the different settings, I could easily imagine a wide range of usage across the industry. Here are a few.
A quick scroll through Rotolight's Instagram feed shows this light's popularity with photographers who work in portraiture. Renowned portrait artist and educator Jake Hicks created this image using the lights.
Wedding and Event Photographers and Videographers
The lightweight design and portability of the lights make them ideal for event work. Whether shooting weddings, bar mitzvahs, nightlight life, or anything on the go, the lights are easy to carry, set up, and control. The PRO NEO3 can attach to the camera, providing light as professionals move around.
Videographers may be the most obvious benefactors of the upgrade to the already-successful PRO NEO and PRO AEOS lights. With a few nearly effortless steps, a professional setup can be designed with custom colors and pre-designed effects.
With businesses from skincare to food and beverage feeling pressed to churn out high-quality content weekly, creators have become an in-demand branch of the industry. Creators can use these lights to easily elevate the look of their photos, videos, and stop-motions without the space requirements or hassle of setting up strobes with modifiers.
I won't pressure you with closing statements of "this is the new must-have..." Is this the right light for you? It may be. You would know better than I would. The big appeal for me was the output power and versatility of the lights, while still remaining portable and compact. Retailing at $1,999 for the PRO AEOS 2 and $749 for the PRO NEO 3, they are not likely to be an impulse buy. As a professional photographer, I tend to invest in new gear when it does one of two things: if it makes my work significantly better or if it makes my job substantially easier. If you range on the spectrum of hobbyist to amateur, this could be the all-in-one upgrade you've been looking for to create a more professional look to your imagery. If you're a more established photographer that finds themselves wearily trucking a huge cart of gear to every shoot, this could be the one-stop swap to alleviate your load. Overall, for the continuous light category, I give the PRO AEOS 2 and the PRO NEO 3 an earnest A+. What are your impressions? Is this a piece you could see yourself adding to your setup? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.