The Rotolight RL-48B
By Stan Sholik
As more photographers combine still photography and video in their client services, lighting manufac- turers are introducing innovative new products to meet their needs. Basic to many of these products is the use of LEDs (light emitting diodes) as a light
source. LEDs combine continuous output, good color balance, and
compact size with low power consumption. This combination of
features makes LED sources ideal for location
shooting and useful in the studio as well.
Rotolight, a British company located at
Pinewood Studios in England, has several
LED lights and lighting kits for
still and video photographers. The most compact
and least expensive
light is the Rotolight
RL-48B, distributed in
the U.S. by R.T.S. Inc.
The basic RL-48B consists of a 5.5-inch round
light source containing 48
LEDs powered by three
AA batteries. The default
color temperature is given as
6300K (more on this later),
with color balance filters
supplied for 5600K, 4300K
and 3200K. Other filters include a diffusion filter, and 0.5- and 1-stop neutral density filters.
Also provided is a bracket that allows mounting on a still or video
camera accessory shoe or on a light stand.
Of course, one light only gives you a minimum of lighting options.
I tested the Rotolight Interview Kit, primarily designed for talking
head video interviews but providing far more possibilities for still
photography. The Interview Kit consists of two RL-48B basic lights,
eight LEE Colour Effects Filters (063 Pale Blue, 0712 Bedford Blue,
020 Medium Amber, 182 Light Red, 765 Sunlight Yellow, 730 Liberty
Green, 052 Light Lavender, 128 Bright Pink), two LEE Cosmetic Filters for skin tone enhancement (184 Cosmetic Peach, 791 Moroccan
Frost) and a belt pouch that holds everything.
I was immediately impressed by the efficiency of the Rotolight
design. Removing the back of the light (with a twist and a bit of effort) reveals the holders for the AA batteries and storage for the color
filters. Removing the clear front cover of the light (with considerably
more effort) allows you to place the filters over the LEDs. The filters
are securely held in position when the front cover is replaced.
Although the RL-48B is round with a center hole, it is not a ring
light. The center hole is designed for the camera or light stand con-
nector that ingeniously snaps apart for transport and together for
mounting. It wouldn’t lock onto my DSLR hot shoe until I realized
that there were two rotating collars on the connector that required
pliers to separate. One collar locks the light to your camera; the
other allows you to rotate the light on a light stand.
Once assembled, I checked the color temperature of the unfiltered light using my color temperature meter. I discovered that it
differed from the published 6300K spec;
not only that, it depended on the type
of battery I used and the state of charge
of the battery. With high voltage nickel
zinc rechargeable batteries installed, the
color temperature is much cooler than
expected (7800K vs. 6300K). With
the recommended Energizer
Ultimate Lithium batteries, the temperature is
somewhat warmer than
expected (5900K vs.
6300K). White balance
is easy to correct in post
production, so this isn’t
really an issue. But if it is,
include a gray scale while
Battery life is on the RL-
48B is great. The LEDs were
still shining after the specified four hours of continuous running with the NiZn rechargeables, though nearly a stop
dimmer and 1000K warmer that when I started. You’ll want to
keep checking white balance and exposure if you shoot with these
lights for any length of time. This is all less critical with video than
with still photography.
Even with 48 LEDs and as bright as the RL-48B unit looks when
switched on, light output is only equivalent to an 80-watt bulb. This
means high ISO settings and fast lenses for still photography and
talking head distances for video, both with low ambient light levels.
The Rotolight Interview Kit includes everything you need (other than batteries and
light stands) to do talking head video shoots as well as portraits and even simple
product photography. (Photo courtesy of Rotolight.)
Size: 1380D/381D (mm)
Weight: 6 oz/170 grams
Power: 3 x AA Batteries
Battery life: 4 hours (constant)
Hot light equivalent: 80 W
Color temperature: 6300K, 5600 K, 4300K, 3200K
Beam angle: 110 Degrees