June 22 2015
It’s always so sad to have promising new gear not live up to its potential. I have now used my Rovelights on three separate commercial shoots. In all three I have been very disappointed with the performance of their radio transmission. I should say that I purchased these lights for on location shooting specifically when I need High Speed Sync to freeze action in high ambient light. I use the CellsII-C transmitter along with the OEM Rove’s for HSS. And yes, before you ask I’ve tested the Roves with and without the CellsII-C to ensure it is NOT the CellsII-C issue.
Example 1 – Line of sight, 35 feet from Rove
I was hired to photograph a ballet company in and around the Dallas/Fort Worth area. I had tested the Roves with the OEM transmitter combined with a CellsII-C HSS trigger for my Canon 1DX. In testing the Roves performed well, but I had NOT tested them outside of a studio. On location I found that after about 40-50 firings the trigger would only fire sporadically and in some cases not firing as many as 20 times in a row.
Example 2 – Line of sight, 25 feet from Rove to camera
I was asked to photograph a dancer at dawn at a location in San Francisco at low tide on the shoreline. Again I had tested the units outdoors and found that if I replaced the CR2023 battery they seemed to fire well. But as my session on the beach progressed, they began to misfire again. In this case I replaced the Roves with some AD360 bare bulb flash units I had brought along as backup strobes. Because I was shooting at dawn my need for a full 600ws of power was not needed.
Example 3 – Line of sight, 15 feet from Rove to camera (NDA no image for this one)
I had read that pressing the small ‘reset’ button in the transmitter battery compartment would be the holy grail of solutions and sure enough it seemed to quell my transmitter issues. But just in case I brought along my tried and true Einsteins and Vagabond minis as backups. They have NEVER failed me…EVER. It’s a darn good thing I did, because as before the Rove’s started misfiring missing as many flashes as before.
My lesson?! SHAME ON ME for doing this not once, not twice but three times! So just before I sent my units back to Adorama for a refund I opted to try something to see if my Phottix Odin transmitter/receivers would solve the issue.
Below is my little test:
I placed the Rove about 110 feet from my shooting location and behind a tree. I have found that organic matter interferes with radio signals much more than concrete and even reinforced concrete. Water, fiber and bark is a real signal killer. Using my 1DX with a 70-200 and the Rove with its stock reflector pointed at a wall with stippled shadows would clearly show me if the strobe would fire. I first used my Phottix Odins and shot at 1/500th to 1/8000th at f2.8 ISO 50 with a Canon 1DX and my 70-200 lens at 200mm. I ran the same test substituting the Odin with the OEM Rove trigger. You can see the results below…
Rovelight with Odin Trigger/Receiver
Rovelight with OEM Trigger and built in receiver
I have no idea if the absolutely abysmal results of the Rove’s OEM trigger/receiver performance is due to the trigger itself or the internal receiver of the Rove. Doesn’t really matter though does it? Yes I can continue to use the Roves combined with my Odins for bullet proof firing. But what about being able to keep the Rove’s OEM transmitter in my pocket to change power settings, turn on/off the modeling light? Well in a word in my testing scenario you CAN’T. If the Rove can’t receive the transmission NOTHING can be controlled. Sure I can walk over to the Rove and adjust it from its rear panel. But the reality is I SHOULD NOT HAVE TO DO THAT. Why? Well because it’s advertised as a remote controlled monolight. Imagine having a remote control garage door opener except the remote unit won’t open the door consistently! Makes no sense at all.
Here are the things I love about the Rovelight:
- Battery Life
- Watt Second performance
- HSS capability
Here’s what I hate:
- Radio response….simply does not work consistently whether you have line of sight or not.
Now some of you may have great luck with the Roves. Good for you! I’ve read that some of the ‘newer’ units have ‘better’ triggers. I have two and one was purchased just last month, the other back in March 2015. In a word, they both suck at receiving signals on a CONSISTENT basis. I’m a commercial shooter and any inconsistency in gear not working is just not acceptable. Is the price point, battery life and power worth keeping them if you have to buy third party triggers? Only each buyer can decide that for themselves. But for me no matter what the cost I expect gear to work as listed and advertised. If Adorama can fix the radio signal issues then yes, it’s a fantastic value. And Adorama if you’re going to fix it you may add a digital read out on the trigger as well. How Adorama handles this fix (if they feel it needs to be fixed) will be interesting. Will they supply users of bad triggers new ones? If not then the Rove’s reputation not to mention Adorama’s will be hit and miss.
My final thought is if you plan on using these lights stock, meaning using the OEM trigger/receiver assembly, best of luck to you. I’ll never subject myself or my clients to equipment that won’t work. And unlike the real Russian Roulette I want this sucker to fire EVERY time!