The Titan X1 from Rotolight is the 1×1 version of their popular X2 RGBW LED panel. In this review we will take a deep dive into its features as well as its usability and performance. TL;DR: This is the best 1×1 LED light I’ve ever used.
When Johnnie from CineD asked me if I’d be interested in reviewing the new Titan X1 from Rotolight I was very excited. Firstly it’s always nice to play with new gear, but secondly Rotolight is known for some very special lights, combining continous lighting (for cinematography) and strobe lighting (for photography) in one lighting fixture. As a cinematographer, who’s journey started in photography more than 20 years ago, this appeals to me for both of these reasons. More on the photography side of the X1 later.
First impressions of the Rotolight Titan X1
When I picked up the sample unit at CineD’s headquarter in Vienna, Nino asked if I „was here by car“? No I wasn’t. I did some research on the web, leading me to the conclusion that the fixture is around 6,8kg (plus some cabling), so I just walked there. I was a little surprised, when I weighed the whole package back at the office, and my scale showed 20,6kg. Fortunately, the softcase has two handles, and a very sturdy, nicely padded shoulder strap. Note to self: When returning the X1, get a taxi!
But on to the review: Inside the softcase of my test unit there is the 1×1 panel (with the yoke mount), the AC ballast, a mafer clamp with a clever quick-mount attachment for the ballast (so you can mount it either to the back of the fixture or to the bottom of your light stand).
Unfortunately, the two provided head cables aren’t very long. The shorter one is fine when mounting the ballast to the back of the fixture, but the longer one only lets you mount the ballast around 60cm below the light. This is definitely too short (especially because the power cable is only 290cm, as well).
So, if you’d run a stinger directly to your light stand, you could either raise your light to approximately 2,5m with the ballast mounted to the back (this would need some weight of shot bags), or be only able to raise your light 60cm above the ballast (which is 160cm in the best case). I’d need a longer head cable to use this light effectively!
Speaking of effectivity and workflow, all the controls (including DMX input and output) are on the back of the unit (touch-LCD, menu structure and buttons are very nice!) – this can lead to a “Kabelsalat”, as in cable salad, as we say in German, because you need to run all the different cables along your light stand.
I’d much rather prefer the DMX input and output on the ballast, and either a separate control box or a simple remote control. Yes, the Rotolight X1 has a wireless control (via LumenRadio or Skyport) integrated, but I don’t own any of these, so the only way to control the light is on the back of the fixture, or – if you are an iOS user – via Luminair 3 (which is available for € 109,99 in the App Store. There is no Android version right now).
The good stuff
It’s a beast. As mentioned before, this light is heavy, but also heavy duty. The cables are thick and sturdy (no cheap plastic) and all the plugs are high quality, made by Neutrik. Everything is solid, rugged and ready for rental! Doesn’t that say enough about build quality?
The handle, or more specific, the wheel on the right side of the fixture, that fastens the yoke, is nice and holds very well (I doubt any softbox, snapgrid etc. can get it to sag). No problem to use it one handedly. On my unit there are barndoors on the front. They are well made, protect the front panel, and have a very clever mounting system that lets you snap it on from the front – no fiddling to slide it in from the sides.
If you order the light with the yoke mount, you’ll get a combined baby/junior pin/receiver (if you can’t tell by now I like double duty things!), so it will fit to either a C-Stand or a Combo Stand. But unlike Aputure’s Nova 300 there’s no place to store the unused screw on the fixture, when using it in the junior pin configuration.
The panel does have two heavy duty fans inside, but in standard mode they won’t bother your sound technician, and it takes a long time for them to go into „MAX mode“. Ok, it’s the middle of winter and my studio’s temperature is around 22°C (71,6°F), so on a hot summer day it might overheat quicker. The ballast does not have any active cooling. I admit – the other way round would be nicer.
The Titan X1 is the smaller sibling to the Titan X2 (a 2×1 panel) and therefore plays in the same league as the Arri SkyPanel S30, Litepanels Gemini 1×1 and Aputure’s new NOVA 300. All of these lights draw between 300 and 400 Watts.
Rotolight claim that the Titan X1 has more output, better CRI/TLCI and uses less Watts than all of the others mentioned. So, I took out my trusty old Sekonic lightmeter and CineD’s colormeter and went on to measure it. And because I had one here, I also threw an Aputure 300D MK2 in the test, so anyone can hopefully compare the X1 to a familiar light.
One of the very special features of the X1 is its integrated electronical diffusion. By the simple dialing of a knob one can change the X1’s internal diffusion from 0 to 100% (in steps of 0,5%).
I’m no electrical engineer, so I don’t know what voodoo magic happens behind closed curtains to make this possible, but to me the electrical diffusion looks very much like the electronic ND used in Sony’s FS and FX line of cinema cameras. And it works like a charme!
I did some measurements for each light: 3m distance at 3200/5600K with no diffusion, 1m distance from the light to a 4×4 frame skinned with full white diffusion (Lee 216) and another 2m distance to the lightmeter, and for comparison 100% electronical diffusion on the X1 3m away.
Here are my findings in short: The claimed power output of around 1.000 Lux at 3m (9,8ft) for 3200/5600K is true – therefore it’s a little brighter than the Skypanel S30’s 908 Lux (with intensifier) and almost double when using the standard diffusion on the S30 – which measures in at 600 Lux (for both 3200 and 5600K). The Gemini 1×1 performs very similar to the Skypanel and the Nova 300 meters almost the same as the X1 (960 Lux at 3200K and 1010 Lux at 5600K). For camparison, my Aputure 300D MK2 meters 3580 Lux at 5500K (with the included 7“ reflector).
With the 4×4 frame things got a little more interesting. All three panels performed very similar, losing around 1 stop of light. Same for the 300D – keeping its first place. I went on to test the X1 with its in-built diffusion. 50% diffusion brings a loss of around 1/2 stop and 100% diffusion a loss of a full stop. And again, that’s exactly what Rotolight claims. So, well done! The big question remains: How well does the internal diffusion work, and how accurate is the color with and without?
Rotolight claim the Titan X1 has a TLCI rating of 98 (S30 is 90, Gemini is 94, Nova 300 is 96 and 300D is 96). I took the spectrometer and measured the X1 in its CCT mode at 3200/5600K and also on the far ends of its range (3000/10.000K), both with and without 100% of internal diffusion.
And I liked what I saw. Not only could I confirm all ratings, they also hold without any shift when using the electronical diffusion. And that’s very impressive!
Here you can see some of the results for yourself [pictures, at 3200K and 5600K with diffusion]:
Of course, the X1 has a built-in Magenta-Green shift (labeled -100 to +100 from magenta to green) to correct for different fixtures on set. RGBW and HSI mode work fine and have really nice saturated colors and a strong output. There’s even an XY mode and the obligatory SFX mode (fade in/out, lightning, strobe, color cycle, police light, fire, TV, fireworks, just to name a few).
And my personal favourite: filter mode! Twelve categories with literally hundreds (I did not count them, but the manual states 1400!) of pre programmed filters (Rosco, Lee, …). For example the ‘REDs’ category contains 74 red and reddish filters. All are switchable from 3200 to 6500K base color with the press of a button.
As I promised before, the X1 has a flash mode. To be specific, it has a High Speed Sync flash mode (up to 1/8000s)! You can trigger it either with Elinchrome’s Skyport transmitter or via 3,5mm plug with almost every brand’s flash control system on the market. As I don’t own any Elinchrom products, I tried it with my Canon and Fujifilm cameras (both triggered with their Godox transmitters) and it worked like any traditional studio strobe. Except for not needing any time to recycle.
And there is so much more: flash mode works in any of the base modes. You want your flash to be colorful? Enter your desired color in CCT, RGBW or even filter mode – change to flash mode and boom! Your highspeed flash now adapts to exactly this color. You can change output, color intensity and even the strength of the afore mentioned electronical diffusion. What a game changer for photographers!
The system runs on 24V, so with the optional battery adapter you can run it on two V-Mount batteries. This is especially interesting for run and gun type cinematography scenarios (i.e. Music videos) and photographers who need to overpower the sun (maybe even with colored flash).
DOP Choice offers a multitude of lighting modifiers for the X1, such as snapbags, grids, lanterns, their bunny-ear system and regular softboxes. These modifiers aren’t cheap, but their quality matches the X1’s quality.
On set use
After playing with the X1 for several days, I thought I could bring it to a shoot. Unfortunately, the only thing scheduled for me, so I could test the light, was a short film I’m DPing at the moment. Ironically, it’s a genre piece: a Film Noir.
All the beautiful colors will be converted to black and white anyways. Nevertheless, we brought the light to this test shoot and my colleagues were very impressed (especially by the internal diffusion!). Sadly, due to COVID, we had to cancel the shoot.
So, who is this light for? Who should buy it? Firstly, it’s a nice and portable addition if you already own its bigger sibling the X2. Half the size, half the price, half the output. As I sad before, this light is solid, so for any small rental house or independent studio this could be a nice addition. It’s brighter than the Skypanel S30, cheaper, has a lot more features and even a pretty interesting flash mode.
If you are an owner/operator who already owns a lot of Aputure lights, the NOVA 300 might be a better choice for you (if you are not interested in the flash mode) as you can run all your Aputure lights within one (free) App. From the small MCs up to the 600D, everything is controllable via the Sidius Link App.
I’m torn. I own a bunch of Aputure lights, but as a photographer I really liked the flash mode of the Rotolight Titan X1 a lot. And it’s so nicely built, and has such a good color rendition. Plus, the internal diffusion is great! Overall, it’s clearly the best light of its class.
Link: Rotolight website
What do you think about the Rotolight Titan X1? Share your experiences in the comments below!