Portable LEDs are now more powerful than ever with some manufacturers claiming they can replace strobes for most outdoor flash work. We took the Rotolight AEOS into the field on a sports fashion shoot to see if these claims are valid.Off the back of the success from the NEO 2, Rotolight introduced the AEOS to their line-up of premium LED lights. It includes all the wonderful features of the NEO 2 such as accurate color technology and SFX for creative video but has almost 3x more power and a larger light source. When pairing up this significant power boost with the built-in Elinchrom Transmitter, the Rotolight AEOS becomes an extremely versatile wireless flash that has the potential to shoot in almost all outdoor conditions.
Whilst the portability-to-power ratio of the NEO 2 is superb for an LED that runs on AA batteries, it makes little difference to an outdoor portrait in daytime at 3ft. So the AEOS seems to offer a solution to this exciting piece of tech Rotolight have built into their lights where the flash fires at double the strength of the constant light.
The benefit of LED flash vs strobe is that there is no refresh time, so you can switch your camera into continuous shooting mode and roll off endless frames, all with the flash being fired. You can also change the color of your flash to better match your ambient lighting since this is a bi-color LED.
Shooting in Daylight
In an ideal world, you would never shoot portraiture with such a high sun, but when timings are out of your control you have to roll with the punches. The AEOS is no way near powerful enough to compete with a strobe flash in bright daylight, particularly if you are looking to reduce the ambient exposure by overpowering the sun.
But the AEOS creates a nice key light if your subject is in the shade with the light 3-5 feet away. “Although it’s no replacement for my Elinchrom Quadra Kit, I found plenty of uses for it on this shoot, and can certainly see the appeal given it’s super portable” photographer Ayling continued, “but it was when we took the shoot inside that the AEOS flourished as a creative tool.”
We didn't shoot at dawn or dusk on this shoot, but when there is less ambient light, the AEOS comes more useful with its power output and we have seen some great results on other shoots in the golden hour using this as a key light.
When ambient light is lower, then the reduction of power of the LED light is less of an issue, and we saw this when we took our model into a fitness studio.
We played around with the AEOS Colored Gel pack and liked how a pink hair light complemented the green pattern in the background. The shot above used two AEOS lights, one as a key light with a diffused gel inserted into the gel holder at 5600K, along with the pink gelled hair light. We really liked the results, were able to work quickly, and change up the look with speed and precision.
Power and temperature can be controlled using the Elinchrom Skyport for Rotolight which is an added bonus. Here’s Ayling again, “It was an absolute luxury shooting with two AEOS’s in a controlled space since LEDs can provide a powerful continuous light source to be used as a model light. This means we can be very precise with our lighting on the subject without the need to fire off any shots. Getting that ‘live view’ was a treat and something I could get used to!”
Not Just a Flash
Judging the AOES solely on its flash functionality would be unfair given its primary function is a continuous light source. On this shoot we had to make a one-minute fitness video, and the AEOS provided a beautiful, powerful light source to illuminate our subject.
We used two lights on Rotolight Collapsible Stands, although one would certainly be enough power from 12-15 feet when shooting video on a single subject. On this shoot, we didn't use any of the creative SFX functionality built into the AEOS, but having these tools all built into the single light provides a small team a whole host of creative tools for video lighting.
In terms of usability, the Rotolight AEOS has been built for a purpose, it truly is a light for the field. At just 1400g without a battery with rigid metal handles, the AEOS can be moved and manipulated to the photographer’s request if there is an extra pair of hands-on location.
What I Liked
- Lightweight for all-day use with a V-lock battery.
- Attractive flash output for most scenarios with no recycled time.
- Accurate, powerful LED constant lighting.
- Well built in line with other Rotolight products.
- Creative VFX options for creating video such as fire, TV, and police effects.
- Gel filters are easy and quick to add.
- The travel bag that comes with the Two Light Set is very well made and can fit two lights, batteries, filters and two stands in comfortably.
What I Didn't Like
- It's not going to replace your strobe flash for power output, therefore is ineffective in bright daylight for when further than 5ft.
- The light itself is good value in terms of the functionality, accessories such as filters and batteries are overpriced.
- Elinchrom transmitter is not included, so it's only with a separately sold transmitter that the flash functionality can be used.
I’ve been frequently asked by videographer and photographer friends whether I think the Rotoloight AEOS 2 Light Kit was a sensible investment at $2,059.99. And my answer changes depends on who is asking, since photographers who regularly require bright strobe flash would be better suited investing in something like Elinchrom Quadra heads and batteries. But the photographers who need a versatile tool for when some video needs to be shot, and vice versa, the Rotolight AEOS is really in a league of its own when it comes to a portable, battery-powered, professional grade LED light.
The shoot was a busy day of traveling and shooting around The City of London, so having the two Rotolight AEOS’s in the travel bag that comes included in the Set of Two Kit was extremely useful. This catered for all of our flash and constant lighting requirements on this shoot, all within a carry bag. These LED lights won’t be replacing your strobes for overpowering bright, daylight sun for full body, action portraiture, but for almost everything else the Rotolight AEOS have you covered.
All images used with the permission of Luke Ayling.