Starlite Star Bright
One of the most frequent requests for information we get is about lighting. It seems that a lot of people hold opinions about CCDs vs. CMOS, progressive vs. interlaced, and all kinds of formats. But when it comes to lighting equipment, those same people shrug their shoulders in confusion. They know they need it, but what do they buy? Incandescent or fluorescent? Daylight or indoor balanced?
Photoflex has come up with a single light that does both: the Starlite Dual Spectrum Kit. Included in the kit are both florescent and incandescent lamps that fit into the same socket via an adapter. Also included are a soft box, light stand and carrying case. Let’s take a look at the setup.
Setting up and breaking down the Starlite is a fairly simple operation. Building the light from its components in the case to a fully functional soft-box only takes about 10 minutes. If you’re one of those people who have trouble folding up maps and reflectors, it may take longer, but with practice you’ll get it down to a smooth operation. Essentially, you set up the stand, attach the light head, then assemble the soft box using the rods and fabric. The whole box snaps into place via a locking ring on the light head, and you insert your lamp of choice. Plug in the power cord and you’re ready to illuminate.
This kit is a soft-box, designed to project nice, evenly diffused light on the subject. There are no barn doors to flag the light into certain areas or frames to hold gels. However, you can remove the front fabric from the soft box to get a high-contrast light if desired.
There are two types of lamp that fit into the Starlite Dual Spectrum Kit. The first is the colossal CoolStar 150. While claiming to be a compact fluorescent lamp, it becomes a lot less compact when you put 8 CFL’s together into one package. The CoolStar 150 even comes with its own protective case to keep your large, and fragile, lamp intact in transit. The CoolStar is daylight balanced at 5600K, sips a meager 150 watts of power, while putting out 8,000 lumens (the equivalent of a 450-500 watt tungsten light). Replacement lamps are a bit pricey at $240, but Photoflex claims a 6,000 hour lifespan for the CoolStar, making it much more economical if you factor in the long term. While not exactly a light cannon, this cool running and efficient fluorescent lamp is much easier to handle for crew and talent alike.
The other lamp included in the kit is a standard 1,000 Watt tungsten lamp with a color temperature of 3100K (replacement lamps are $50). This lamp is attached using the supplied bi-pin adapter, which has a glass case that goes around the lamp itself. This clever design involves inserting the lamp into the adapter base with gloves or tissue, and then a glass cover is screwed on over the lamp. This allows you to screw and unscrew the lamp assembly with your bare hands, without worrying about your skin oils causing hotspots and possible blowouts on the tungsten lamp. However, basic lighting safety should always be in effect. Tungsten lamps are extremely hot, and pull a lot of power, so wait until the lamp is cool, and unplugged, before you touch it with your hands.
For some reason, lighting equipment seems to take the bulk of the abuse. It’s the first to go into the trunk and thus ends up underneath all the other equipment. So one of my first considerations in buying a light kit is its case. It doesn’t matter how expensive your light is if you end up with a box full of twisted metal and glass shards on location. The Starlite kit comes with Photoflex’s Transpac case, a rigid, wheeled transport that measures 36″x 12″x 10″. The case is nicely constructed with heavily reinforced zippers and hard plastic corners. Not to say I wouldn’t cringe if I saw it soaring carelessly from the tarmac into the cargo hold of an airplane, but it seems to be able to handle the daily abuses that a light kit gets in a field environment.
The Starlite QL light head itself is compact (2.7 lbs) and easy to assemble onto its base. A nice feature of the QL is the locking tilt handle, similar to what you’d find on a tripod. This makes it very easy to adjust the light vertically without having to touch the light head itself, which can get very hot.
The light-stand included in the kit is nicely put together, telescoping to a maximum height of 8’2″. It’s made from aluminum, and the knobs and joints seem tough enough to put up with a little bit of abuse.
The SilverDome soft box is made from a tough, high-temperature resistant material and has some nice touches, such as an internal diffuser, so that there is no “hot spot” in the middle of the box, and venting holes that help keep the internal temperature down when using the hot tungsten lamps.
This is a very solid light that, given a modicum of care, will last you for years. While there are less expensive models out there, in this case you do get what you pay for. The advanced engineering touches, the ability to switch from indoor and outdoor color temperatures, and the solid-build quality make the Photoflex Dual Spectrum Kit a good value.
Light Specs: CoolStar lamp in Medium silver-interior soft box (at 3 feet)
with single layer diffusion, f6.8 @ 125 shutter speed @ low
gain, f3.1 @ 180 shutter speed @ low gain, f2.8 @ 250
shutter speed @ low gain
Kit Includes: Starlite QL light head with Starlite Swivel, Starlite Connector,
1-CoolStar 150w Compact Fluorescent Lamp (5600K),
Reinforced CruzTube for CFL transport, Bi-Pin Socket Adapter,
1-1000w bulb (3100K) for Bi-Pin Adapter, Medium SilverDome
soft box, LiteStand 2214 (8; 2″), Transpac Single Kit Case
- Quality Build
- Well Engineered
A versatile multi soft-box light kit, well engineered with dual color temperature options.
John Burkhart is Videomaker‘s editor in chief
Photoflex Products Inc
97 Hangar Way
Watsonville, CA 95076