Rotolight AEOS in the Field: A Photographer’s Ultimate Portable LED?

Rotolight AEOS in the Field: A Photographer’s Ultimate Portable LED?

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.

With all these headline features, we took the AEOS with us on a recent shoot with SportFX for some fitness lifestyle portraiture, with Luke Ayling of Ranch Creative behind the lens.

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.

Shooting Inside

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.

Conclusion

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.

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17 Comments

Dominic James's picture

Sorry dude but most of this review is just a copy of the literature! I'm a commercial photographer, I read the same brochures as you did!

I went to The Flash Centre in London to try these out and as an idea sure reads great but in practice the flash is useless, it isn't even as powerful the old Canon 430EX! A complete waste of money if you think this feature will solve two problems in one bit of kit, you'd be way better buying a set of 4 x Godox flash and a dedicated LED video light for the same price as one of these! Also as you will have seen there is no flash data in the brochure that anyone could use to compare to normal flash, when pushed on this I got whole lot of explanations that still didn't answer the basic question of what the guide number is?

And finally as a video led light for the same money you could buy 5 of the Neewer Professional Metal Bi-color LED Video!!

You really should be honest with your readers about this nice concept product that fails to deliver and not sell the hype on these, no pro is going to be happy with these!!

And this is the powerfull one, they want us to replace our flashs with the weak neo 2.

They say it is 350 Ws equivalent.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4GaOvuIBXsY

Rob Hall says it is 4.8 stops difference between Rotolight Neo (small) and Godox Speedlight

https://youtu.be/uSjsRPe9ajA?t=4m9s

All Rotolight's material is so full of BS.

Flashing LEDs squeezes more out of cheap lights (you don't have to cool them as much) and batteries for photo and possibly is more comfortable for models. They don't freeze motion and can't overpower bright ambient like flash so is it really worth the trouble of syncing and flashing LEDs?

Better off buying brighter continuous LED lighting which is also good for video and you may still need flash for some work anyway.

Had to post again after realising what BS that 350Ws is.

The AEOS (in flash mode at the 100% all LEDs on 4300K temperature) has an equivalent guide number of 8 (iso 100, m) at 1/60th exposure.

The elinchrom D-Lite RX 2 is a 200Ws strobe and has a guide number of 45. 5.6 times higher meaning 31.6 times more light or 5 stops.

Edit: realised more BS. Straight after the broadly speaking 350Ws he brags about HSS and zero cycle time and shooting HSS right up to 1/8000th.

A 350Ws strobe dumping its 350Ws in HSS mode over say 8ms of shutter slit transit time is equivalent to a 44kW light. The AEOS is a 42W light so 10 stops dimmer.

Another way of looking at how rubbish this is - the AEOS equivalent GN is 8 at 1/60 which makes it 0.06 at 1/8000th. An AEOS at 1m, 1/8000th and iso 100 would need a 50mm lens with an aperture nearly 3 feet across to gather enough light.

The manual which is available to download on the Rotolight site has all the information you need within it so I am unsure as to how it is being withheld ?

https://www.rotolight.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/AEOS-User-Guide.pdf

Guide numbers are about the throw of the light to a certain distance. This is very easy for a typical flash as it is a harsh light source that comes from a chemical explosion. With an LED it is a digital signal and also a softer light source to start with so won't throw nearly as far.

The Flashes will have a bigger throw of light but you also need to diffuse that light before it is useable, this decreasing that guide number significantly. An LED being inherently soft means that is can be used without any diffusion whatsoever, in fact this is how I use the lights 95% of the time...

There is no power loss between normal sync and HSS as there is no need for the light to pulse as a traditional flash or strobe would. So you are not losing light when you go into HSS.

The Aeos when used is more than bright for most uses, it is not going to overpower the sun but when would we actively choose to shoot in harsh mid day sun ...

Flash tubes produce light with chemical explosions? LED use digital signals?. Hard light 'throws' further than soft light? All clueless drivel.

Continuous LED lighting has it's uses. Flashing LEDs 1 stop brighter like the AEOS so you don't have to cool the LEDs as much and use less battery is pretty much pointless.

Bragging about HSS and instant recycle features which are inherent in LED lights and only exist because you pointlessly chose to flash them is pure BS.

All continuous lights are any sync speed compatible and have zero recycle time and you don't have to mess around syncing with leads or radio.

I think it’s clear that you have made up your mind and there is no reasoning with you so you’re entitled to your opinion, but for those who want to understand the technology fully I will explain:

Its not clueless drivel, its a matter of physics. Getting more power out of the LED's and giving people the ability to get another stop of light with a flash isn't pointless. It may not be sufficient power for your work, but for thousands of photographers it is. I have many friends and acquaintances all around the world who love the Rotolight’s, particularly in flash mode!

Not all continuous lights will work in a High Speed Sync range. In fact a lot of the cheaper LED lights flicker, meaning you can easily end up with banding or not getting the full frame exposed due to the LEDs flickering. Rotolight’s are entirely flicker free!

The main thing you need to understand about the Rotolight’s is that no they aren’t the most powerful and never claim to be, but they offer probably one of the most versatile options for hybrid video and stills shooters out there, just like the reviewer said.

Trying to compare a strobe and a Rotolight is unfair - whilst both do similar functions e.g. provide light for a photograph, their use is entirely different

"get another stop of light"

If they cooled the LEDs properly they could get another stop of light out of them continuously dispensing completely with flashing and syncing and you get to see the light you are actually going to shoot with. Something which photographers would trade battery life for. That is why flashing is pointless and promoting rotolights on the basis they flash is BS.

Pretty sure flickering LED video lights isn't a thing any more, I have a couple of dirt cheap ones which don't flicker at all.

"Trying to compare a strobe and a Rotolight is unfair"

Lol - then tell Rotolight to stop doing it, to stop bragging about HSS and zero cycle time and how many more flashes per battery.

steve E's picture

Not to mention the lighting in the sample shot at the top of the article is dreadful LOL

Lars Daniel Terkelsen's picture

Yup. That cover shot is surely setting new standards. I hear that burnt-out pink is the new black.

Spy Black's picture

A thousand bucks for a flashlight,,,

Kirk Darling's picture

This is a niche-use light. It's for the photographer who already has everything needed for everything else.

It doesn't obviate the lights that can produce the same pictures this light can produce...and then do a lot more.

Good luck using a strobe anywhere in the city without a $300 permit + insurance.

Kirk Darling's picture

Your city, apparently.

Why would a photographer edit only one breast of their model...? Does it have anything to do with the LED?

Sylvain Carrier's picture

Would there be others who have used the AEOS and could share their experience?