Can the New Rotolight HSS RGBWW Flashes Replace Studio Strobes?

LED lights can be very fun, but we’re still not quite convinced that they can outdo flashes and strobes. However, Rotolight is currently funding something incredibly intriguing on Kickstarter. The new Rotolight NEO 3 and Rotolight AEOS 2 are brand new LED lighting products. They’re making the pitch to both photographers and filmmakers. But what’s really making our eyes sparkle is the promise of a high-speed sync light. This has been one of the many shortcomings for LEDs over the years. But did Rotolight finally get it right?

Rotolight NEO 3 Tech Specs

  • 16.7 Million colors or 2,500 digital filters
  • Zero recycle time promise
  • USB charging battery
  • Touchscreen
  • High speed sync flash, though there aren’t many details on this
  • Integrated flash receiver via Elinchrom
  • Bluetooth and Wifi
  • F-stop dimming
  • 354 grams
  • 3,000 – 10,000 kelvin

Rotolight AEOS 2 Tech Specs

  • 16.7 Million colors or 2,500 digital filters
  • Touchscreen
  • High speed sync flash, though there aren’t many details on this
  • Integrated flash receiver
  • Bluetooth and Wifi
  • F-stop dimming
  • 1.4kg
  • 120 watts of light, no word on watt second output
  • 3,000 – 10,000 kelvin

Can it Replace Your Flash and Your Studio Strobe?

I’m really scratching my head on the Rotolight AEOS 2 and the Rotolight NEO 3. Rotolight, in their press packet, is comparing these lights to LEDs and not to flashes. That immediately tells me that it’s probably not going to outdo what a studio strobe can do. There’s also no major information regarding the high-speed sync capabilities. Further, there’s no word on the flash duration or watt-seconds. However, a lot of the promotional imagery shows the lights being used on-camera. For a photographer, those seem pretty unwieldy. Let alone, I’m not sure which self-respecting photographer would shoot an event with an LED shining in someone’s face. I’ve had that done to me, and I hated it.

If you’re putting the light off-camera, they’re a bit limited. What if you wanted to put it in a beauty dish, softbox, or something else? You’d need a pretty crazy light modifier setup. 

The biggest problems with LEDs are still the following:

  • Flash duration: this stops fast motion at slower shutter speeds. So you don’t need to go into the nuclear high ISO zone. Plus, it can act as a second shutter speed at times. 
  • High Speed sync: Rotolight is claiming that they can do this, but we don’t have a lot of details on it.
  • Power: I seriously don’t want to raise my ISO levels up if I don’t have to. 

Compared to the power output of a flash or studio strobe, LEDs just don’t seem to make sense all the time. Further, strobes and flashes often have LED modeling lights built into them. Those are usually strong enough for most situations. 

Without testing the Rotolight AEOS 2 and the Rotolight NEO 3, I’m still not totally sure. In my eyes, LED lights and all that they do still encourage a world where you have to do endless post-production to a still image. But flashes and strobes really encourage you to get it right in camera. Yes, LEDs are easier to work with for sure. But they’re also never powerful enough.

Lastly, I’m also hoping that Rotolight gets its ethics in line. The photo industry has started to change for the better, and we’re pretty firm on ensuring that it keeps evolving. The lights are being funded via Kickstarter. So go check it out if you’re interested.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.