For far too long I have been bouncing multiple speedlights off of ceilings and walls. If you want to stay near your lenses sweet spot, and want to keep quite a bit of depth of field in an interior at around f8, the little speedlights start to show their weaknesses real quick. On many occasions, I had held up to four speedlights in my hands, all firing at full power.
When you are trying to light a small bedroom or bathroom, the speedlights work great.
But if you walk into a large room with high ceilings and try to use them, you are in for a world of hurt.
Enter Flashpoint's Rovelight 600. Is it the powerful and portable solution of my dreams? I'll start off the review by saying this light is not perfect, but its price certainly is. If you are doing the type of interiors work I am, another possible solution may be something like the Einstein by Paul C. Buff. However, the Einstein is powered by a standard wall outlet for a source. I honestly can't even imagine at this point, looking for an available power outlet for every single shot I take, not to mention the cloning out of all the power cables that would invariably get in the shots. Considering the Rovelight and the Einstein are about the same price ($500 give or take), it really isn't even a consideration, the Rovelight is just much better equipped to suits the needs of someone like me.
EDIT: Rovelight 600 Bowen's mount units are currently (January 15, 2016) selling for $400! This now makes them even more attractive relative to the Einstein units.
How does the Rovelight perform? It is a mixed bag. Let's first look at its shortcomings.
The built in triggering system, along with the included transmitter that sits in your hotshoe do quite a good job actually. I was fine with their quality and functionality, until I actually went out into the real world. Below is the actual frame/moment when I realized the Rovelight's built in trigger is horrible. You see that dark room over there on the right behind the white threshold? That is supposed to be lit up in this photograph. I am sitting in that room, Rovelight pointed at a wall, and waiting for it to pop. The transmitter and receiver unit built into the Rovelight could not even make it through a single wall! That makes the built in trigger totally unusable for me. One thing to note, if you are listening Adorama, if the problem here is with the transmitter and not the receiver inside the Rovelight, there exists the possibility to upgrade to a better transmitter one day so the built in trigger on the Rovelight can be put to use. That would be ideal.
EDIT: The Rovelight is in fact now shipping with a new and improved "version 2" trigger. I have used this new trigger and found it to be quite reliable. Truth be told, I still use my Yongnuo units to trigger my Rovelight because I think the range is better, but this was certainly a solid response by Adorama camera to produce a new trigger among the growing concerns about the original. Also, for those who purchased the Rovelight before the new trigger was released, Adorama will send you the version 2 trigger free of charge. Simply contact Helen Oster (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your order number handy, and she will guide you through the process. Way to go Adorama; this sort of response to a problem is certainly to be commended.
I had to hold the little antenna on the Rovelight very close to the threshold on the right there to even get it to fire. My solution to this problem was to velcro a Yongnuo receiver unit to the side of the Rovelight, and that receiver is plugged into the back of the Rovelight via a 3.5 mm jack (sorry, no picture). This has been working great! I can now fire the Rovelight up and around any corner or room like I am used to being able to, AND if I want to use my old speedlights I already have their triggering mechanism on the top of my camera, so just get them out and turn them on and I am ready to go. Shortcoming of the Rovelight solved for a cool 30 or 40 dollars for the Yongnuo triggers and some velcro.
The second shortcoming I will address is the quality control on the units. The first Rovelight I had shipped to me was not even functioning properly. The triggering system, discussed above, was failing a good one out of ten times in direct line of sight! I contacted Adorama, and they were great and sent me another unit after I shipped the original one back, but I could not help but wonder if this is common? A quick check on the internet forums will leave you in a little bit of a dubious position if you see this light in your future. It is a great little unit, but it does seem to have its issues. Some report misfiring like I experienced, others report strange scratches on the units, which I saw on both of my units as well. My advice is simply, if you are unsure about the light, yet really do feel like it is a good fit for you, buy it for sure but make sure you get a good, working unit. Adorama carries a one year warranty on them, and their service with the units is really quite good, so I would not hesitate too much even after reporting the issues with the quality control on these units
Let's end with the positive. Well, there is almost too much to write here from my perspective, but I'd like to try and be brief. This unit is amazing. It is pretty much a portable Einstein with about 400 full flash power pops at the same price as an Einstein! Mind you, Einsteins are known for being a great light at a very low price. In fact, I would probably have ordered an Einstein by now if it weren't for the fact that they charge a pretty hefty shipping fee. I don't know if it is just me or what, but I just don't like the idea of paying for shipping anymore, and Adorama hasn't dropped the ball on this one either, currently offering free expedited shipping on the Rovelights. Thank you.
The build quality also seems very robust, I also like the warranty and service offered with the unit. I have used it in the field for a couple of weeks now and will tell you that the battery on this thing is amazing. I have shot multiple homes in a day, with approximately 100-150 full power pops and barely put a dent in the battery. It has all the power I need for a full day's worth of shooting. I love the diffuser it comes with as it works well when I am shooting light into low (close) ceilings and walls, and the reflector has also been great. And, I have not even explored the unit's high speed sync capability yet, but look forward to that in the future when I pick up some TTL triggers. The only qualm I have with the interface is that it makes me adjust power in 1/3 stop increments, which can get tedious.
EDIT: I did explore the HSS feature of this light, and personally didn't find it to be adequate. This really is not the reason I purchased the light, so take my opinion with a grain of salt, but the resulting images just had too prominent of a light gradient for my liking while using the HSS function (HSS may be the wrong term, but that's how I will refer to it for our purposes here).
So, the Rovelight isn't perfect. But what is? Especially at this price point. I am sold on the units though, and if you are willing to deal with potential quality control issues and a work around for more rigorous use of the triggering system, I think you will be more than pleased as well.