There are some photo products I review that, by the end of the test, have me thinking: Yeah, I’d buy that for myself. But there are other products that are so useful that even before I’ve written the conclusion on a review, I’ve already placed an order with my local photo retailer and purchased the item for myself. The Rotolight Anova LED EcoFlood Light is just such a product—though, this time, I wasn’t the one doing the purchasing. My frequent co-tester, photographer Jordan Matter, was so jazzed about this powerful and versatile continuous light while we were trying it out, he ended up purchasing the actual test unit loaned to us.
If you’re not familiar with Rotolight, this British company’s lighting offerings have recently started turning up in the U.S., and I’m glad they’re available here now. We featured another Rotolight product, the RL48, in a roundup of lighting accessories last year because we were impressed with the small ring light’s 48 LEDs in circular configuration and that it mounts on the hotshoe of a digital SLR, around a shotgun microphone or on a light stand.
The Anova LED EcoFlood Light is similar to the RL48 but at ten times the scale. With dimensions of 14.96 x 13.38 x 2.16 inches and weighing around five pounds, the Anova is not a huge product—I was able to easily pick it up and hand hold it over my head for a portrait session—but it does offer significant LED power. The configuration we tried out, which Matter ended up purchasing, included a set of adjustable barn doors; a lightweight, Multiblitz stand to mount the light on; and a Porta Brace case with a shoulder strap to transport the kit.
You can plug the Anova into the wall for AC power but the real fun of this product is using it with a battery for maximum portability. The Anova is compatible with all V-Mount batteries, so we mounted a Hähnel Extreme Li-Ion battery onto the back of the light and were good to go. Once we got everything packed away, we took the Anova out and used it on a number of shoots. Here’s what we thought of this powerful portable LED kit.
Lights, Camera, Action!
With the barn doors attached, the Rotolight Anova looks like a slimmed-down version of one of those floodlights you’d see on a Hollywood movie set. While we used the Anova for still photography portrait sessions, it’s also well suited for video shoots. The Anova’s flicker-free LED lights don’t use wave pulse modulation, making it ideal for high-definition or slow motion (via high-speed recording) footage. Plus, the soft, wraparound light of LEDs looks fantastic on faces in videos.
One of the best things about the Anova is its extensive control including wireless adjustments you can make right from your smartphone. On the rear of the light is a metal, push-button dial that gives you a range of adjustment options. For example, you can adjust the light from 100 percent power all the way down to zero just by turning the dial. The light’s bi-color LED system lets you adjust the range of output from candlelight level to full daylight.
At full power, this is a bright unit. There are six individual panels on the front of the Anova, with 96 LED lights on each, for a total of 576 LED lights. Rotolight says the latest Anova is 350 percent brighter than the previous model, making it equivalent to using a 1,000-watt tungsten bulb but using only 38 watts of power at full output. That eco-friendly power consumption gave us approximately three hours of continuous run-time using the Hähnel Extreme battery. That’s pretty remarkable and allowed us to shoot several battery-powered sessions, stress free.
For our first test, we tried the Anova in conjunction with a shoot we were doing of a former professional football player jumping to catch a Frisbee out of the mouth of a leaping dog. (More about this test in the review of the Hasselblad H5D-50.) Because it was a wide-angle shot—we wanted to include the dog, the player and the person throwing the Frisbee—I had to hold the Anova light from a distance to illuminate the scene.
Even at full power, the Anova wasn’t quite strong enough to light up everyone from 30 feet away. But reviewing the shots later, we did notice that the Anova provided a nice splash of light on the player’s face with catch lights sparkling in his eyes, looking natural and otherworldly at the same time. It was a cool effect, even if the light wasn’t, perhaps, the right tool for this job. Plus, while the Anova is relatively lightweight, it would be nice if it had some comfortable handles to grab on to, rather than just the adjustment knobs on the side. Holding this light for long periods of time can get uncomfortable.
After our outdoor shoot, we brought the Anova indoors for some classic portrait sessions. This is where the light really showed its best qualities and had Matter reaching for his checkbook to purchase one. He typically shoots portraits in his studio using only window light. But when he set the Anova on a light stand and turned it on, he realized what he had been missing. In this case, he turned the LED all the way down to 1 percent power, and it provided beautiful, soft light on his subject’s face. He also used it from behind his subject as a hair light and to create a halo effect, freely moving the setup around his studio to create different looks. And that’s part of the beauty of a continuous light. You don’t have to wait for the strobe to fire, you just move, shoot and go.
The control dial on the back of the Anova also lets you adjust color temperature and connect for full DMX control, if you want to daisy chain several lights together and control them with one master adjustment panel.
Another fun feature of this light is its wireless connectivity. You set that up by rotating the dial on the back to Wi-Fi, entering a user-generated PIN number and then connecting the light to your smartphone using Rotolight’s Magic Eye app. Virtual sliders and buttons on the app will let you make a range of wireless adjustments to the light without leaving your seat. The benefit of all this is less wires to accidentally yank, trip over or fumble with during crowded portrait sessions. Also, because the LED light is bright but not hot, there will be fewer makeup touch-ups on your model.
The Bottom Line
Continuous LED lighting is one of those things where once you try it out for video or still photography, you’ll likely be blown away. Case in point is the Rotolight Anova LED EcoFlood Light, which my co-tester liked so much during our testing, he decided to purchase the loaner unit, and now uses it for his studio and outdoor portrait sessions. Along with being a lightweight, portable, battery-powered lighting solution, the Anova LED EcoFlood Light produces such soft, flattering, flicker-free light it’ll make faces in both still and video sessions look radiant. Plus, it’s incredibly easy to use: just turn it on, adjust it to where you want it and start shooting. You’ll be hooked.
Pros: A simple, versatile and portable LED lighting solution for video shoots and portrait photography sessions
Cons: Comfy side handles would help for handholding this light during long photo or video sessions
Price: $2,587; www.rtsphoto.com