Indoor dome cameras

Rotolight NEO 3 review: the ultimate on-camera photo and video light

The Rotolight NEO 3 is the latest update to the popular small continuous flash LED NEO model and expands its power and control capabilities. The result is a light that not only works well as a continuous light for video, but can also easily replace your regular flash.

The compact light can be used mounted on your camera’s hot shoe or placed on a stand and triggered remotely for more creative work. You can even combine multiple lights to build a portal studio set up for indoor and outdoor use.

Being LED-based, it actually offers RGBWW chips to provide a full spectrum of colors and color temperatures, even for flash use. This means you don’t need to invest in gels or filters to adjust your lighting and allows you to match other light sources and achieve the effect you want quickly and easily.

If you need something more powerful, Rotolight also offers the AEOS 2, which is a larger 1×1 version capable of providing a much brighter flash and continuous source for larger scenes.

Rotolight NEO 3

(Image credit: Rotolight)

Rotolight NEO 3 review: price and availability

First offered as a Kickstarter, the NEO 3 and its big brother, the AEOS 2, are now available as full versions from all your regular camera vendors. The basic NEO 3 ‘starter kit’ which includes the main light and lithium battery starts from £429/$599. It’s also available in the Ultimate pack, with a diffuser dome and fast charger for £458/$649 and in a three-light kit with light stands, diffusers, batteries and a hard case for £1,715/$2,399 $.

Rotolight NEO 3

(Image credit: future)

Rotolight NEO 3 review: Design

While the NEO 3 has a similar look to the previous NEO 2 model, all the light has been redesigned. The LEDs themselves are much larger, with lenses on each to provide 140% brighter light. It actually uses the same LEDs found in Rotolight’s Titan pro cinema projectors.

The biggest change however is on the back of the light. Instead of just a numerical numeric value, there’s now a 2.0-inch touchscreen. This allows full control of LED and flash functions, including color temperature, brightness, flash timing and special effects.

Power now also comes from a large lithium battery rather than AA, making swapping and recharging faster. The included battery gives you up to three hours of continuous use or 85,000 flashes.

There is an option for a diffuser that simply clips onto the front of the fixture as well as all existing Rotolight accessories. There are also adapters available to use Speedring and Bowens S light modifiers.

Rotolight NEO 3 touch screen menu

(Image credit: future)

Rotolight NEO 3 review: Features

The NEO3 uses an RGBWW LED matrix, which includes two white chips in addition to the normal RGB. This ensures brighter and more accurate white light at temperatures from 3,000 to 10,000 Kelvin, in addition to one of 16.7 million colors. There are 2500 digital filters built into the light, allowing you to achieve an accurate color display that is easily repeatable across multiple lights.

It is also very bright, delivering 4500 lux at 1m distance in continuous light mode and 10,000 lux in flash mode. According to Rotolight, this makes it the brightest built-in flash in the world. The NEO 3 is 140% brighter in flash mode than the previous model and more than enough for portraiture. By combining two or three of these lights, it is possible to use them as you would a basic studio flash. If you want to shoot larger subjects, like cars or groups of people, the AEOS 2 has you covered.

Unlike other flash and continuous hybrid systems, the NEO 3 uses the same LEDs for both. This means that all color temperature and filter options are also available for flash. And because no capacitors are used, there’s no recycle time needed, so you can keep shooting.

All NEO 3 controls are available on the rear color touchscreen. There are six main sections in the menu, covering continuous flash options and system settings. The CCT provides white light control with brightness and color temperature sliders. The HSI provides hue and saturation controls while the gels section gives you access to all 2500 filters, divided by color group. From the flash menu you can control flash speed, temperature and model light, as well as set the group and frequency for any remote trigger. The SFX provides lighting effects for video including lighting and strobe option.

Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are also built into the NEO 3, so it works with both the Rotolight HSS transmitter (or Elinchrom Skyport) or the dedicated iOS and Android app. From the app you can control all the features of the NEO 3 just like you would on the screen, as well as control multiple lights. If you have the AEOS 2, you can even control older Rotolight fixtures via the app, as the light will work as a wireless bridge. If you want to use other IR or radio triggers, or even a wired connector, the NEO 3 also has a 3.5mm sync jack.

Rotolight NEO 3 color effects

NEO 3 color temperature and freezing effects

(Image credit: future)

Rotolight NEO 3 review: performance

Shooting in continuous light mode, with the NEO 3 mounted on my camera’s hot shoe, it was more than 50% enough. In fact, neither was too much for the model a few feet away from the camera. Using the light off camera and further away from the subject meant I could use more brightness. If you’re shooting product or still life scenes, the brightness here allows you to use a nice fast shutter speed and get really sharp results.

The flash mode is really impressive. Digital filters allow the light (or color) temperature to be adjusted very quickly according to ambient conditions. Again, there’s plenty of power here and not having to wait for the lights to recycle comes in handy when taking quick shots. If you have settings that you use regularly, the memory functions are also very useful.

The true benefits of the NEO 3 really shine through when you use it as part of a set. Unfortunately the new app was not available at the time of testing, however, using the Rotolight HSS transmitter I was able to control both the NEO 3 and AEOS 2 lights, at least in terms of power. If you had multiple lights in a setup, it would be very convenient to control the power and temperature settings from an app.

The special effects (SFX) on the NEO 3 are interesting but probably redundant for many users. The strobe effect is a nice addition for video and although the fade and lightning effects are very clever, their usage is very specific.

Rotolight NEO 3 review: verdict

If you regularly shoot video and are looking for a powerful LED light, the Rotolight NEO 3 is an excellent choice. But what’s really impressive about this model is that it also offers flash power to make it useful for stills shooting and can easily be expanded for studio use.

I was not only impressed by the extreme brightness of the NEO 3, but also by the control it offered. The rear touchscreen lets you adjust brightness, color temperature, and easily add color gels. For those who regularly use gels, the savings in cost and hassle of adding physical gels more than justifies the price of the NEO 3.

Having carried around a large studio lighting kit before, the idea of ​​replacing it with a three-light NEO 3 setup is very appealing. Whereas for regular video and stills I would happily leave my Speedlite flash at home and keep a single one in my camera bag.

Rotolight NEO 3

(Image credit: future)

Rotolight NEO 3 review: think too

The size of the NEO 3 means it has limits in terms of the power and spread it can emit. If you’re lighting larger subjects or groups, the larger AEOS 2 light is much more appropriate. Starting at £1199/$1399, it’s perfect for studio and on-location shots and also comes in a two-light package.

If you just need a continuous LED light without all the fancy features, the Godox Esport LED Light is £150/$139. This light offers similar power to the NEO 3 and offers a variable color temperature from 2800 to 6500k.

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