Kino Flo BarFly 400 & BarFly 200 Kits  Reviewed

In this review we take a look at the Kino Flo BarFly fluorescent fixture in two different kits: the 400 and the 200. They use the same technology throughout both models, the difference is that the 400 runs four lamps and the 200 runs two lamps. These lights are incredibly useful in demanding on-location or studio shoots. In tandem, they are ideal for even a small crew as they can be set up and struck in matter of minutes.

Slimmer Fixtures Adapt to Your Needs

The BarFly 400 and BarFly 200 fixtures are very thin and come with removable center mounts that literally snap on and off. This means that you can easily use the mount to connect the fixture to your C-stand or go without the mount to place the light in inconspicuous locations (gaffer’s tape anyone?). That’s always been a trademark of Kino Flo’s fixtures but this particular removable mount design is the easiest to work on and off the mount that you’ll have no problem taking a new direction from the DP when he wants to move the fixture behind a bookcase. The fixture without the mount measures just 2 inches deep and is lightweight enough that you could secure it to a wall, ceiling or some other surface in a pinch. Despite its weight, the fixture is rugged enough to withstand a life out on location with the crew and include a removable gel frame and a very unique Honeycomb Louvers that slide in and control the angle of the light.

Broken Lamp, No Problem

When our kit arrived one of the lamps had cracked upon transit, so our first task was to replace it. (Broken lamps are a common problem with shipping, even with the best protection.) The design for the lamp sockets make “changing a lightbulb” even easier if you can possibly imagine that. The socket slips in at an angle as you lay the lamp down towards the reflector in its resting position and snaps into place. Assuming most of your replacements will come when a lamp burns out (not broken), the ease of use here is outstanding. With a little bit of experience you could be doing this in a split second with a single hand. No joke. Anyone familiar with replacing incandescent light bulbs should be drooling at the thought. So, with this convenience and the convenience of the removable mount as we mentioned before, we instantly had an appreciation for these fixtures (and we hadn’t even turned them on).

A Ballast of Great Lengths

We often compared the BarFly kits to the Kino Flo Diva 400 we’ve been using for several years with much pleasure. The Diva houses the ballast on the fixture (making the depth thicker and a bit heavier), whereas the BarFly takes a more traditional approach and runs the ballast off 12 feet from the head extension cord. In our kit, we found a 25-foot extension which we could add to move the ballast off even further away from the fixture. This is ideal if you’re shooting in some tight locations and need the extra distance or the greater ability to hide the fixture somewhere. The BarFly documentation even notes that you can use up to three 25-foot extension cords, although we can’t imagine a shoot of our own where we’d need that much distance between the fixture and the ballast. This might be more appropriate for the Hollywood types, but at least it’s a possibility.

The ballasts are well built and control each lamp individually. For both the 400 and 200 kits, individually controllable lamps are ideal to adjust output (although not as ideal as being dimmable). This makes the 400 kit even more useful for those who might be interested in just a single kit as you can run it as if it were the 200 with just switching on two lamps. Versatility is really key with both these kits. It’s not only seen on the fixture, but it shows up again on the ballast with the individual switches. There’s also a standard and high output switch to choose from as well, which will give you an extra boost of intensity from the lamps should you need it.


Light Control

The louvers included in the kit allow you to effectively limit the angle of the light so that it doesn’t spill into your scene where you don’t want it. The kit shipped to us included 45-, 60- and 90-degree louvers. These thin, honeycomb shaped louvers do a great job of cutting light. It was quite impressive to throw in the 45-degree louver and see that our light provided a much more narrow beam. This would be ideal for many low-light ambiance shots or simply providing a little bit of light to a subject without illuminating the entire scene. The louvers slip easily into the front of the fixtures via a built-in slot, so that you won’t be adding any depth to the fixture. In our tests we did notice that the higher degree of direction, i.e. the 45-degree louver, the more output you lose as the honeycomb design blocks some light. But, that’s to be expected.

Lamps in Color

The Quad Lamps have four lengths of fluorescent tubing per lamp, which gives you a compact lamp size with an impressive output. The BarFly kits work with True Match KF55 (5500K) daylight, True Match KF29 (2900K) and True Match KF32 (3200K) tungsten balance versions. With these options you should be able to match most common environments with either indoor or outdoor light. We really enjoyed the compact size of these lamps which make it easy to pack up spares and various lighting temperatures without compromising too much space in the kit.

Ideal 2-Point Lighting for Low-Light Ambiance

With both kits working together we were able to do quite a lot with these lights. Our tests showed great color balance, especially the daylight bulbs. The fixtures do a great job throwing an even light that spreads fairly far from the source. With the louvers, you can get a much more controlled beam angle that falls off very nicely at the edges. Overall, we think the light quality is outstanding.

The BarFly 400 can throw a good amount of light on high output with all four lamps on, but it’s certainly not as powerful as a fresnel of course. With four individual lamps, the BarFly 400 is the most versatile of the fixtures as far as output goes. The BarFly 200 is a smaller fixture that can give you just the right amount of throw to lighten up dark areas in your scene. Overall, these lights are good for filling in close areas or creating a low-light ambiance. If you find yourself shooting in tight quarters the BarFly is the ideal solution. There’s even a BarFly 100 fixture with a single lamp that would work well to use for car interiors.

For those shooting video on HDSLRs, with the improved low-light performance, these lights are a great match. Their slim profile, lightweight fixtures and flexible distance from the ballast make them incredibly versatile on-location. And, their clever design make them a snap to setup and tweak right out of the box. Small crews that need a quick lighting solution will find the BarFly indispensable.

Tech Specs – BarFly 400 Kit

(1) BarFly 400 Fixture

(1) BarFly 400 Ballast

(1) Mount

(1) BarFly Louver 90º

(1) BarFly Louver 60º

(1) BarFly Louver/Gel Bag

(1) Lamp Case

(1) Ship Case

Dimensions: 31.5″ x 10.5″ x 19″

Weight: 39.5 lbs

Tech Specs – BarFly 200 Kit

(1) BarFly 200 Fixture

(1) BarFly 200 Ballast

(1) Mount

(1) BarFly Louver 90º

(1) BarFly Louver 60º

(1) BarFly Louver/Gel Bag

(1) Soft Case

Dimensions: 20.5″ x 9.5″ x 13.5″

Weight: 16.6 lbs

Strengths

  • Very thin depth makes them easy to hide
  • Louver controls light nicely
  • Easy to set up and break down

Weaknesses

  • None to speak of

Summary

The Kino Flo BarFly fixtures are built strong, cleverly designed and easily controlled. This is a superb light for many shooting environments.

Kino Flo Lighting Systems

2840 North Hollywood Way

Burbank, California 91505

www.kinoflo.com

BarFly 400 System: $2,250

BarFly 200 System: $1,285

Contributing columnist Mark Montgomery is a web content specialist and produces instructional videos for a leading web application developer.

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