We recently shared the news about Rotolight’s new flagship circular LED light, the Anova Pro 2. Well, we’ve had our hands on the next model down in the range for an in-depth review, the Rotolight AEOS.
These portable, bi-colour LED lights feature both a continuous output and an HSS flash function. Really, the Rotolight AEOS is more geared to filmmakers. It features a professional-grade color accuracy with flicker-free output and an adjustable color temperature to match the ambient light.
After seeing the hype around the Rotolight AEOS, we were very keen to try it out for ourselves. Read on to find out how we got on with the lights when shooting portraits of a friend’s band.
Rotolight AEOS: Ease of Use
Rotolight supplied us with an AEOS kit, which contains two AEOS light panels, light stands, 4-piece filter set and a carry case. We also had the optional Elinchrom Skyport HSS wireless transmitter, barn doors, yokes and V-mount batteries.
Really the two light kit is the bare essential. Also, we’d say that the V-mount batteries are a necessary optional extra, in order to make the most out of these lights for location work.
It takes just 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 on a light stand or held by hand using the aluminum brackets. It is really easy to hold the light by hand and position it at all angles. Add an optional V-Mount battery to a panel and the combination is above 2kg.
There is basic control layout on the rear of the light. This includes a small backlit LCD screen, that by default displays the output of the light. It switches to display whatever control is being operated.
Two red knobs control the power output and color temperature. The dials are sensitive to rotation speed, so you can make severe and precise adjustments. You get manual control over output from 1% to 100%, plus a color 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 color temperature of approximately 4,400 Kelvin, where all the bi-color LED bulbs are at their brightest. Go to either extreme of 3,150k or 6,300k and the light output is 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 most users will choose the flash to gain the 250% boosted output.
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 were used for this test 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 that the batteries were used for.
Of course, an advantage 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 the guys in the band and they were not uncomfortable by any heat emission at any point.
Rotolight AEOS: Continuous lighting
We most regularly used the AEOS lights at the tungsten end of 3,150k in order to match the ambient light when shooting the band. As this setting, the output is still reasonable when the panel positioned close to subjects.
Our camera exposure settings read as f/4, 1/200sec at ISO 800 for the group shot of four people positioned around 5 feet from the light when set to 3,150 Kelvin.
This level of output is respectable for such a compact light panel. Also, the CRI 96 and TLCI 91 ratings are professional-grade, so no worries about off-colors there within the color temperature range of 3,150 to 6,300 Kelvin.
An AEOS light is best suited to image making when the ambient light is quite low, like a cloudy day, at nighttime or indoors.
Over the course of the band shoot, a couple of the guys complained about the brightness of the light panel – it being too bright for them to look at. Indeed, they did get a little red-eyed. We could have added diffusers or reduced the light output, but that’s not a practical solution.
Rotolight AEOS: The flash
So, the LED panel has an HSS flash feature. How useful is it? Typically the flash provides a 250% boost in output of the maximum continuous LED output, with a 1/8000sec max sync speed and no recycle time.
That sounds great, but a 250% output of 5750 lux is a mere fraction of a studio flash. To its advantage, the flash does not have a recycle time. This means you can fire it repeatedly, with no delay, with a max flash sync speed of 1/8000sec. Take that, dedicated flash gun.
A neat feature of the flash is that the continuous output is dimmed between flashes, which is more comfortable for your subjects.
In reality, the flash is a nice added feature rather than a genuinely useful tool. We see the lights as better used in their continuous mode to illuminate subjects.
Whether shooting video or photos, the circular shape of the lights provides a lovely circular catch light, that is not too dissimilar to a ring flash.
Rotolight AEOS: Pricing and Availability
Each Rotolight AEOS panel costs $1,000 approx, or the two light kit is around $2,050. There are plenty of optional extras, notably the V-mount batteries ($299). Once all these extras are factored in, the Rotolight AEOS system costs thousands, which is expensive.
For more information about the Rotolight AEOS and for distribution, please visit the Rotolight website.
Rotolight AEOS: Verdict
The Rotolight AEOS is portable, light and easy to use. You can take the light with you wherever you go and set it up really quickly.
Where the Rotolight AEOS shines is a continuous LED light. The color reproduction is flawless and the cinemaSFX effects are a nice touch. We say that the flash is a bonus feature rather than a genuinely useful tool.
The continuous output is nice and bright for close up subjects and the lights really come into their own in slightly dimmer conditions like indoors or outside during an overcast day.
Six Reasons we love the Rotolight AEOS
• Flawless color reproduction for 3,150 to 6,300-kelvin values
• Circular shape gives a lovely catchlight
• Portable and light for location work
• Quick and easy set up
• No heat emission
• A vast array of optional extras
What’s not to like about the Rotolight AEOS
• Expensive, especially once all the extras are factored in
• Flash feature is no way near as powerful as a dedicated flashgun
• Not powerful enough if the ambient light is already bright or subjects are far away
• Your subjects may find the light panel to bright for their eyes