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The Rotolight NEO On-Camera LED Light

-Versatility at it’s best

The two biggest challenges of LED lighting has always been the brightness factor and color balance for shooters new to LEDs. The new Rotolight’s NEO is the missing link in this LED evolution. This is an LED light that can mount to your camera or can be used off camera using boom poles or light stands. This constant light source that can run off six AA batteries claims to be industry leading in areas such as brightness and color accuracy. But the biggest question is - at such a price range, is it a worthy investment? When you have an option of four cheap Chinese-made battery-powered LED lights at the same price! Let’s get into the technicalities.

Build And Features

In Rotolight’s product lineup, NEO comfortably fits between the compact RL48 and the big kahuna Anova, offering a “Goldilocks” solution by happily blending features of each light while adding a few new ones. NEO delivers 1077 lux at three feet and is slightly larger (5.7-inch diameter vs. 5.3) than the RL48 that produces 242 lux. The new light contains 120 LEDs with a 50-degree beam angle and since Rotolight’s LEDs ensure against Wave Pulse Modulation, there’s no output-robbing flicker.

NEO appears solidly built with more on-board electronics, weighing in at 12.5 ounces compared to the RL48’s six ounces. It requires six AA cells compared to the RL48’s three or you can use an AC adapter or D-Tap power cable, something the RL48 does not offer.

Batteries give three hours of continuous use at 100 percent power (longer with lower power levels). The rear display can be turned off or dimmed, providing an additional run time when using batteries.

NEO has an overall Color Rendering Index of 95 with a skin tone reproduction rating of 99—out of 100. Color temperature is adjustable using a rear-mounted rotary knob from 3150 to 6300K in 10-degree steps. Brightness is adjustable from 1 to 100 percent in 1 percent steps while a Dynamic Drift Compensation driver built into NEO prevents color shifts during changes in brightness.

To calculate correct aperture, NEO uses the camera’s shutter speed, ISO, and distance to the subject along with data from the light itself. As you adjust the distance from your subject or the NEO’s brightness, you re-enter the relevant settings into NEO and it displays the updated recommended aperture.

For video and hybrid shooters, NEO offers SFX Mode, featuring a menu of special lighting effects where you can also control brightness. Effects include Strobe light, from a slower to a faster strobing effect; TV for a random flicker, mimicking the effect of a subject watching television; Police car’s rooftop lights; Fire, from candle to campfire to all-out blaze; Lightning and others, including Cycle and Throb. You can even program a 12-second repeatable fade up or down command. NEO’s firmware can be updated using a port in the battery compartment.

Rotolight’s NEO 3 Light Kit ($1,698) includes three NEOs with a Lee Color FX filter pack, three Lee standard filter packs, three shoe to 1/4-inch studs adapter, three ball heads, and three seven-foot light stands all packed into a waterproof Pelican-style rolling case. The standard filter pack contains #216 and #250 Diffusion, #184 Cosmetic Peach, and #279 Minus Green filters. Color FX filters are Hollywood Frost (#255), Straw (#103), Rust (#777), Medium Blue-Green (#116), Bright Pink (#128), Moroccan Frost (#791), Mist Blue (#061), Bedford Blue (#712), Light Red (#182), and Bastard Amber (#162)

The unique selling point of the Neo is in its creative and effects capabilities. This battery-powered light source can help you create a beautiful, wrapping light around your subject anywhere you are shooting, with the added benefit of getting an attractive circular catchlight in the eye. Though one might feel that the included filters should have ben made of a harder material, the technical reason behind this given by Rotolight is: the NEO produces very little if any heat. Thus the filters provided have no issue with heat degradation that they would do if used with a traditional ‘hot’ light. Instead, the advantages include overall weight reduction (as they are considerably lighter than a semi-rigid filter) and it gives the luxury of a much wider selection of filters for the user with a range of diffusion, cosmetic skin tones and FX filters that would have been possible to fit within a kit of this size (the kit overall includes 22 filters).

Lighting is inevitably one of the most important tools for a videographer, so investing well in the right gear that will provide consistent results is of great importance. Also, for solo operators or those who travel a lot, having a small, compact light kit is essential. Finding a good, portable, colour-accurate, reliable and compact three-light kit at an attainable price is no less than a Herculean task!

Rotolight understands such nuances and thus have invested heavily into the technology that is included in the Neo. The light is very well built, and the dial control is simple and reliable, yet light enough to mount on top of a camera or a camera rig for run and gun shooting. Thus, investing in such a rewarding technology is not a bad idea – it’s totally worth it!