Rotolight NEO 3 Light Kit Review

The Rotolight NEO can be bought by itself or in a kit like the one we reviewed. The kit includes three NEOs with stands, mounting accessories and modifiers inside a hard case with wheels.

Our Experience

We took the Rotolight kit with us to a press event so we could use and experience the new Sony a6500. Our goal was to produce a full review while on the trip. This meant we had to convert our hotel room into a studio. Although there was ample light available in the room, we wanted to design the light we used, rather than to just work with what we got, so we controlled the sunlight coming into the room and supplemented with the Rotolights. Plus, we shot at night for complete darkness and used only the Rotolights to illuminate our tests: the product shots and A-roll.

Traveling with the kit wasn’t a big deal. Although it’s small enough to be carried onto the plane, we had too many other things to travel with, so we checked it. Checking it is a great way to test how strong the case is. The case was completely unharmed during our trip to Austin from Sacramento and back again.

Next, we used them in the Videomaker HQ Studio. The studio is light proofed to provide complete control over our set lighting, making it easier to judge what these lights could do. We shot two subjects, a poinsettia and an award trophy. The lights set up easily and work great in a three point setup. The barn doors made backlighting possible; without them, the lights are just not bright enough to get into the right position and be out of the shot with only the provided support. We would have liked an arm to be included for an overhead backlight.

The NEOs are bright enough to light a medium shot of one person for an interview or host. Any wider and they just don’t have enough power. We recommend using the included diffusers for the key and fill to spread the light around since the lights have to be close to the subject to provide enough light.

What’s Included

In addition to the three lights, the kit also includes some handy accessories. The stands that come with the kit are designed to fit into the case. When they arrived, they fit nicely, but after some use, it was a bit of a puzzle to get them back in. Because the stands are small enough to fit inside a small case, they aren’t very substantial. They worked good for what we needed them for, but their light weight could become problematic over the timespan of daily use.

Temperature adjust knobs
Unique round form factor

Also included are adapters that allow the lights to attach to stands as well as your camera’s hot/cold shoe and the added ability to rotate the lights. They adjust from a ball joint, making setup easier and more precise. 

Everything fits into the case, but just barely. The holds keep everything inside securely, which is nice, but make loading it up more difficult. There is only one way everything fits in — a very specific way. The case also has a bad smell to it. We hope that over time the scent will mellow a bit, but for us, so far, it hasn't. We have experienced this with a few other cases recently– most notably with the Atomos Shogun Flame and Inferno we reviewed. Maybe it’s a personal pet peeve, but it’s very hard to overlook when you get a waft of this smell — gross!

Build Quality and Features

The body of the NEO is made of plastic, along with both the dimmer and color temperature knobs and its on/off button. It feels nicely built, but because it’s all plastic, it could potentially have a shorter lifespan. We also found ourselves hunting for the power button every time we turned on the lights, which was a minor inconvenience.

The highlight feature of the NEO is that it can run off of six AA batteries. Combine that with a few sets of rechargeable batteries, and they’re ready to go off the grid. A nice combo would be combining a few JOBY stands with them to mount and position any way you can. This will make getting your light positioning much easier.

The lights have a TLCI rating of 91 and a CRI greater than 95. That’s the middle of the road, as far as performance. The color accuracy isn’t bad, but it’s not exceptional either. They can be switched from 3150 kelvin to 6300 kelvin via the bi color LEDs. There is no significant difference between color temperatures as far as light quality. It’s nice that they have the flexibility to match any daylight or any other lights, no matter their color temperature. Their shape makes their reflection more noticeable if your subject is reflective, but we like their unique look otherwise.

Temperature adjust knobs
Temperature adjust knobs

Marketplace

No matter if you buy a kit or an individual light, the NEO has lots of competition. Battery powered LED lights are a dime a dozen, but not all lights are created equal. Sure you can get a cheap LED, but your picture quality will suffer. Let’s compare the NEO to two other lights in its price range and offer comparable specs. The first is the ikan Mylo and the second is the Litepanels Lykos Bi-Color.

The ikan Mylo costs 550 dollars, is bi-color and comes with barn doors. It can be run off a battery for portable use. If you need a studio setup, it’s mounted on a yoke that is easily mounted to any baby pin. It has a 95-plus CRI rating, vs the 95-98 CRI from the NEO. We have used this light a lot and like it. If you don’t need the bi-color option, you can save $50 on a single color temperature model. The Mylo is also larger, but it’s not currently offered in a kit with stands and a case.

The Litepanels Lykos Bi-Color, is packaged as a kit or individually. When in a kit, it comes in at 2,250 dollars, almost 550 dollars more than the NEOs. You can save some money if you exclude batteries, but then you don’t have any portable power options. The Lykos mounts like the NEO via a quarter-twenty mount, and the kit comes with stands, power supplies, batteries, modifiers and mounting accessories. The only difference between what is included in the Lykos kit is that batteries are included. However, the batteries for the Lykos are not as easily procured as AA batteries, if you find yourself without them. The Lykos have a CRI rating of 95 for 5600 kelvin and 98 for 3200 kelvin.

Recommendation

The Rotolight NEO kit offers a unique lighting option in a small and compact form factor. The light produced is high quality and they can be powered with AA batteries for up to three hours. Their shape is unique but easy to notice in reflections. We liked them, but would have liked them to be a bit brighter. Overall they are a good value and we would recommend them.

Rotolight
www.rotolight.com

STRENGTHS:

  • Small enough to be carried onto an airplane
  • Case is stout and strong

WEAKNESSES:

  • Stands are hard to fit in case
  • Stands are lightweight and flimsy

SUMMARY:

The Rotolight NEO is a small, battery or AC powered LED light with a decent CRI rating. The kit comes in a nice package and offers a good value.

RECOMMENDED USERS:

  • Enthusiast filmmakers
  • Home video shooters
  • YouTubers
  • Jacks of all trades
  • Travel videographers
  • Educators

PRICE:

Kit – $1,690
1 Light only – $395

TECH SPECS:

Lamp Type: 120 LEDs
Beam Angle: 50°
Color Temperature: 3150K to 6300K
Tungsten Equivalent: 707 W
Overall CRI (Ra): > 95
Skintone CRI (R15): > 99
TLCI: >91
Luminous Flux: 530 lumens
Mounting Threads: 1/4"-20
Included Accessories

  • Add-On Color FX Filter Pack for NEO
  • Shoe Adapter to 1/4" Male Stud
  • 360-Degree Pro Ball Swivel To 1/4-20 Adapter
  • Compact Light Stand for Rotolight NEO and RL48 Fixtures

Chris Monlux is. Enough said. He’s also Videomaker’s Multimedia Editor.

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