The Rotolight NEO 3 builds on the success of the preceding NEO 2, adding a raft of impressive new features. Both models deliver flash output as well as constant lighting, but the NEO 3 delivers a full range of color in both modes, with full RGBWW options. It comes in various configurations and kits and accessories will vary according to which you choose.
The Rotolight NEO 3 also adds an integrated Elinchrom Skyport RF receiver, enabling wireless flash triggering if you have (or buy) the companion Elinchrom/Rotolight HSS Transmitter. As its name suggests, the hotshoe-mounting trigger comes in dedicated options for different makes of cameras and enables high-speed sync, with shutter speeds of up to 1/8000th of a second. It also comes complete with a hotshoe adaptor so you can mount it directly on the camera, and features a 3.5mm sync socket.
Max output (constant): 5,443 Lux at 3 feet
Max output (flash): 10,700 Lux at 3 feet
Beam angle: 50 degrees
Wireless control: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Mounting: 1/4" tripod, cold shoe
Power consumption: 50W
Battery type: NPF-750 24V
Dimensions (dia x depth): 145 x 50mm
Weight (excl battery): 354g
In regular CCT mode, the color temperature range is extended to 3000-10,000 Kelvin in the new model, compared with 3150-6300 Kelvin in the NEO 2. The change is even bigger when it comes to color lighting, as the NEO 3 adds an HSI mode, where you can select output from a full range of 16.7 million colors with full control over hue, saturation and brightness. Next up, there’s a new filter mode in which you can match the output to as many as 2,500 digital filters, complete with a ‘source matching’ option for directly setting gel filter effects like ‘D65’ daylight and ‘D32 tungsten.
Strong features of the NEO 2 are carried forward, like wide-ranging special effects that include fade, lightning, strobe, cycle, fire, police, TV, gunshot, neon, film, weld and paparazzi. F-stop dimming and the ‘designer fade mode’ are also inherited. However, with so many more features at hand in the NEO 3, another key upgrade is the full-color touchscreen which eases navigation through the extensive menu system. It also adds the ability create user-defined presets, so you can quickly and easily return to favorite settings.
Build and handling
The NEO 3 is conveniently compact, with a diameter of 145mm, a depth of 50mm and a weight of 354g, excluding the battery pack. The battery itself is a clip-on NPF-750 24V Li-ion type, and weighs around 200g. That makes the whole package easily manageable to handhold, or to slot into a camera’s hotshoe via the supplied adaptor. The lamp itself also features a tripod mounting socket. As an alternative, you can power the lamp directly from the mains, if you buy the optional Rotolight NEO 3 PSU (power supply unit).
Three different kits are available. The NEO 3 Starter Bundle includes the lamp and battery plus a USB charging cable and carrying bag. The NEO 3 Ultimate Kit adds a good-quality clip-on diffusion dome and a pretty basic USB dual-channel fast charger. Finally, there’s the NEO 3 - 3 Light Kit, which contains three lamps, three diffusion domes, three batteries, one dual-channel fast charger, three light stands and a hard case. For our money, the NEO 3 Ultimate Kit is the best value.
Build quality feels of a pro-grade standard and handling is much improved over the previous edition, thanks to the addition of the color touchscreen and availability of user-defined presets. Another serious handling upgrade is that the NEO 3 adds integrated Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, so you can control one or multiple units direct from a smart device if you download the companion iOS or Android app.
Rotolight is keen to point out that the NEO 3 is the world’s most powerful on-camera LED to date. It certainly packs a punch, with a maximum constant output equating to 5443 Lux at 3 feet. Running at full pelt for prolonged periods will bring the dual cooling fans into play, but they’re pretty quiet.
Color accuracy is excellent, with a CRI (Color Rendering Index) of 95 and a TLCI (Television Lighting Consistency Index) rating of 99 out of a maximum of 100. That’s entirely reassuring, given that anything in the 85-100 range is considered to need no color correction.
In our tests, measuring flash output with a Sekonic flash meter, the maximum power worked out to Guide number of Gn 4.5 (metres, ISO 100). As a point of reference, the tiny pop-up flash of low-budget cameras like the Nikon D3500 and Canon EOS 4000D have ratings of Gn 8 and Gn 9.2 respectively. In its favor though, the NEO 3 enables high-speed sync as well as instantaneous recycling for repeated flash output.
Small but powerful and extremely versatile as a constant LED light, the NEO 3 is a quantum leap forward from the previous NEO 2 model. It delivers a full color range in both constant and flash modes, with a huge range of electronic color filters and special effects, all available via a simple and intuitive color touchscreen menu. Maximum flash output is disappointing compared to a ‘proper’ flashgun but, even so, it’s a brilliant solution for anyone who needs to shed a little extra light on both stills and video capture.