Test Bench:Photoflex Medium Starlite Kit
$680

Photoflex Inc.

97 Hangar Way

Watsonville, CA 95076

(800) 486-2674

www.photoflex.com

As you advance from a beginner to an advanced videographer, you can probably chart your progress by the accessories you own. A tripod and external mike are likely the first accessories you picked up. At some point on the continuum between casual hobbyist and professional, you are going to need lights. For many of us, cheap workshop halogens from the local hardware megastore are fine, but if you are serious about producing high quality video, you’ll need a professional kit.

The Photoflex Medium Starlite Kit is not inexpensive, but it is a good value and it should last for your entire career. Think of it as an investment in your business. And you never have to worry about the equipment going out of date and becoming obsolete: lighting fundamentals are not likely to change anytime soon. Indeed, this light was almost identical in appearance and function to a six-year old Photoflex Starlite and softbox that we already have and use in our own Videomaker studio.

The Hardware

The Medium Starlite Kit includes one Starlite 3200 light with a 500-watt lamp, a light stand and a softbox kit. Considering the comprehensive nature of the kit, the entire package was compact and lightweight. Setup was about as easy as setting up a camcorder on a tripod, with the exception of the wheels (casters), which came with no assembly instructions. We deployed the softbox from its collapsed state in just a few seconds. The kit also came with a nicely produced and useful CD-ROM that detailed setup and operation of the kit. It wasn’t necessary for setup, but the lighting fundamentals it covered were excellent.

The included lightweight aluminum stand extended to a height of 12 feet and was quite stable at that height. At its full height, the casters enabled us to nimbly move the kit around.

The Function

As mentioned, the light and softbox combination was identical to one we already had in the studio. Our staff videographer uses the light regularly for product shots, portraits and interviews and is very pleased with the quality. The size of the light box is not large enough for anything beyond single-subject illumination and is not as precise about controlling spill as a focusable light with barn doors.

The Medium SilverDome NXT softbox is certainly the highlight of this product. The softbox mounts on a connector ring that can smoothly rotate 360 degrees. The softbox itself has an inner diffuser that mounts about halfway into the softbox and a simple Velcro ring at the edge to attach another diffuser. This gives you two very convenient levels of light softening. Included circle and rectangular masks fasten onto the softbox with Velcro and allow you to reduce the intensity and define the shape of the light. Even more useful, you can also fasten, via Velcro, a nylon grid and plastic louvers to control spill.

For the Pros

This was a great single-light kit that impressed our staff videographer with its soft, even light quality. We found the softbox and accessories to be especially convenient and useful.

With retail prices significantly lower than the MSRP of $680, a three-light kit would run over $1,500, which is still less than many DV camcorders. Perhaps the ideal solution is to get one very nice softlight to use as your key light for interviews, use a reflector as fill and a less expensive light as a hair light. We’d recommend the less expensive camera and the light every time. Lighting is just that important.

TECH SPECS

Kit Includes

Starlite 3200 instrument

Medium SilverDome NXT softbox

Starlite Connector

500-watt lamp

#2218 Litestand

22mm Casters (wheels)

Dome Accessory Kit: circlemask, stripmask, louvers, grid

Training Video (7 lessons on CD-ROM)

STRENGTHS

  • Complete and professional
  • Portable and easy to set up
  • Soft, even light quality

    WEAKNESSES

  • It’s expensive

    SUMMARY

    An excellent equipment choice for anyone lighting interviews.

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