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Rotolight RL48-A LED Ringlight Interview Kit

Maybe I’ve got a bit hardened by the mass of cheaply made, cheaply finished lighting equipment coming in from the Far East but when I opened the Rotolight packaging I was immediately impressed by the care and thought that’s gone in to this product. Everything about it screams class, and the finishing – right down to the integrated gels (and even a guide to using them) is just quality. All in all, a very good start.

The first thing we need to get out of the way is that this ring light isn’t really a ring light. At least not how photographers think of one. It was originally designed to allow a unique mounting method on professional video cameras. The design allowed the light to be mounted on the shot gun microphone mounted on top of the camera. This left the hot shoe or more correctly the cold shoe on top of the camera to be used for radio mics and other accessories. I wonder how many times the people at Rotolight have had to explain why a lens doesn’t fit through the hole in the middle of their product!
Instinctively a ring light that doesn’t go around the lens doesn’t seem to make much sense. However in practice it provides a relatively large and soft light source that gives a very pleasing quality of light. I must admit I found I liked this product more than I thought I was going to. A lot more.

If you’re a photographer you’re going to want to use it for both stills and video. Let’s look at the two applications individually.

Still photography
The RL 48’s 48 LEDs certainly appear bright when you look straight at them, but of course this is something of an optical illusion because compared to daylight or flash they provide much less light. I measured an EV of 7 at 1m and this is equivalent to an exposure of F2 .8 at 1/30sec at ISO 800. Of course it’s very rare that you will be shooting with no other available light so in practice the Rotolight becomes a very effective fill light. Many respected photographers use battery-powered tungsten video lights as fill lights on location and in this role the Rotolight excels. Not least because the high-quality LEDs provide a natural 6900 K daylight colour temperature without the need for gelling and the associated loss of light.

In my example the subject is strongly side lit by window and the use of two lights, one camera left and one behind the model slightly to the left created a very pleasing fill and backlight. I used a quarter CTO on the front light and three quarters CTO on the rear to match and enhance the warm late afternoon light coming from the window. The fact that the gels are carried inside the lights and are therefore always with you is a major benefit. I was supplied with the Rotolight interview kit for review which also includes a set of colour effects filters in addition to the diffuser, ND, and CTO gels which come as standard. This allowed for some interesting washes for backgrounds and backlights.

I haven’t seen a more pleasing quality of light from any other form of camera mounted light. Compared to a traditional on-board tungsten light source it provides a softer more flattering fill and because it’s LED it’s not going to need to conversion to daylight so more of the light gets to the subject. I found myself using one light on camera and the second behind and to one side of the subject using a classic cross lighting technique. For my own preference I like to add warmth to my backlight and I would usually do this with supplied three quarter CTO gel. When you need to shoot indoors simply open up the Rotolight, remove the CTO gel and install. Simple convenient and even runs (for ages) on 3 AA batteries – I’m on 7 hours and still going strong!

You can probably tell I’m impressed. I’ve seen Rotolight’s product in adverts and at trade shows and have never understood why I would need a ringlight that isn’t a ringlight. Now I understand. If you’ve ever had the experience of switching from the classic 800W redheads to the elegant and beautifully engineered Dedolights your know exactly what I mean. These Rotolight RL 48s are elegant and well made products that are create great light and represent excellent value for money.

Kit as tested:
Rotolight Interview Kit:
2 x Rotolight RL48-A
2 x Rotolight Stand
1 x Colour FX Filter Kit
1 x Rotolight Pouch

MSRP £241.66 ex VAT