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Rovelight with Bowens Maxlight 8″ 65 Degree Reflector

UPDATE 9-21-16 

Adorama’s Flashpoint XPLOR 600 TTL Review

UPDATE: June 22 2015

Sadly I can no longer recommend Adorama’s Rovelight. Click here for my reasons.

OCD, yup that’s me with light. This summer I have several outdoor dance shoots planned and in my normal way I’ve been obsessing about the light. The Rovelight was an answer to my prayers due to its HSS capabilities, portability and 600WS light output. But just the right modifier has escaped me up until today. I have been researching hard modifiers rather than octas, softboxes, umbrellas and such. You see where I shoot and what I love is wind. Moderate wind that makes hair blow back, wardrobe flow, all of those yummy facets in a photo that suits my shooting style. (Let’s not talk about my portable smoke machine, I don’t want to give any fire department fuel for my future trial…)

Bowens Maxlight reflector
Bowens Maxlite 8″ 65 degree reflector

Wind – anything more than a soft breeze plays havoc with soft modifiers, even when you use a voice activated light stand. (human) I’ve used beauty dishes before and sure they’re OK, but man they are a pain to haul around and hold on a boom or light stand in the wind. Sure you can sandbag them, but my most hated duty is lugging…I HATE LUGGING. And great locations are not right off the side of the road or a nice leisurely walk to the beach. Nope they’re always a hike, a climb up and down, over water…..yada yada yada you get the picture.

And sure if I really have to I’ll haul whatever I need to make the shot look like what’s in my head. But if I don’t have to…. So after much research I found some reviews on the Bowens Maxlite 8″ 65 degree reflector.

Only four reviews but almost all were five stars. The only four star review was by someone whose ‘review’ was one line…not much use. It’s not a cheap reflector for an 8″, but I thought what the heck I can try it and if I don’t like it, they have a great return policy. So rather than having to read through all of my babble I will simply say I LOVE IT.

My goal using the Rovelight’s HSS is twofold. First for high action dance shots outdoors in high ambient light. The ability to shoot at 1/8000th ensures no motion blur. For those shots I plan to use my Canon 1DX. For what I own and use in my gear bag it is the most capable tool to use to track movement. It has never let me down and on those occasions when I completely blew a shot, it was always user error. For portraits in high ambient I will pair my beloved Fuji X100T with the Rovelight. Why use two different cameras?

In HSS mode the Rovelight’s recycle time is about 2.5 times slower than in non HSS mode. I don’t think it matters whether you’re using Turtle or Rabbit mode in HSS, but I may be wrong. (RANT: I’m sure there are forum trolls who have measured the difference and will tell me. Do they ever shoot pictures other than ‘test shots?’/RANT) That’s no big deal because dancers and athletes are not repeatedly and immediately running and jumping like pinto beans on a hot skillet. Each jump or movement is choreographed and they know where they need to catch their sweet light when performing the movement. I have never used the 1DX’s 12 FPS to capture an artist. One shot at the apex of their movement is my preferred method. So there’s plenty of time between recycles for those pictures.

Oh…and if you’re gonna ask me how many FPS your camera can shoot with the Rove in HSS I have no idea.

On the other outdoor portraits  hand are a different story. Human expression changes in the blink of an eye, so the recycle time of the Rove is critical. Waiting for any strobe to recycle is a no no in my world. Because the little Fuji has a leaf shutter as well as a built in 3 stop ND filter I don’t have to use HSS on the Rove to drop down ambient. I can shoot at 1/4000th, f2.0 ISO100 (JPG only) and if that’s not enough to drop the ambient I can enable the ND filter and lower the speed if it makes the ambient too dark. The real point here is shooting at a lower power level on the Rove keeps its recycle times low while still getting the ambient the way I want it. I love having my cake and eating it too!

So I finally did some ‘test shots’ (WTF has become of me?!) to illustrate the smoothness of the Maxlite. It’s even without hot spots and has a wonderful feathered fall off! Let’s start with the 1DX. I shot all of the examples you’ll see at full power on the Rove 1/1 in HSS mode (except for natural light shots) at ISO 100. I have NOT adjusted any exposure, just corrected for lens distortion.

Rove with the Bowens Maxlite. Why the strap? One of the things I dislike about the Rove is the umbrella mount. It’s a friction mount and allows a larger umbrella to sag. I simply use the strap to support the umbrella shaft so it remains as close to center with the Rove as possible.

Let’s start with the 1DX (all shot at ISO 100 using a EF24-105mm f4.0 L IS lens. All 1DX shots lit with the Rove in HSS at 1/1 power shot through Bowens Maxlite Reflector. Triggered by the Rove trigger on top of a CellsII-C transmitter.

1DX test shots: Rove was placed 11 feet from the wall.

Natural light only 1/800, f4.0 ISO 100
1/2000. f4.0 ISO 100. Notice the ring of light just in front of the plants. A very smooth and quick falloff from the Maxlite
1/8000, f4.0 ISO 100. Notice the smoothness of the falloff and the even coverage of the primary area of light.

1DX action example

The scene as lit with just natural sunlight. Notice my son’s shadow at 11:00. Very defined and harsh. Rove is about 8 feet away and above him about the same distance.
1/4000, f4.0 ISO 100. You can see the sun’s shadow at 11:00 to my son. Very defined and harsh. In comparison the shadow produced by the Maxlite is softer.

 Fuji X100T (Rove set at 1/8th power, no HSS) Trigger – Rove trigger only.

1/2500, f2.0 ISO 100. 3 stop built in ND filter enabled. Rovelight set a 1/8th power. A leaf shutter is incredible at reducing ambient without concern about sync speed.

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By complete coincidence, I bought a used, matched pair of the Bowens Maxlite 8″ reflectors and they just arrived today for my pair of Rovelights. Bad news, sort of, is that the older models use a plastic grommet for the s-type mount that overhangs about 3/32nd of an inch (presumably to not scratch the base of strobe mount), that makes them not fit without filing the rounded tops down . However, I’m highly encouraged by your review to try them out without a sock. What’s been your experience with the Maxlight’s light loss and feathering, using a sock?