JTL’s Mobilight DC-600; Have Light, Will Travel

The kind of photography I do can take me almost anywhere. Today I could be photographing in my studio, tomorrow on the streets. I can often "get away" with available light or a Speedlite mounted on a flash bracket--and sometimes I do just that. But getting away with something is not always the best way to get the results my clients need.

On location assignments I invariably take one or two monolights and Avenger C-stands with me. If I am able to access a wall socket I most often choose to use them over the often more expedient flash-on-bracket. But even with extension cords I have found that this is not always feasible or possible. An example that immediately comes to mind is bathing suit photographs on location, something I was often called on to do when I had a studio in Hollywood, California. There aren't a lot of wall sockets in the sand on Malibu Beach--and if there are I never found them.

JTL's Mobilight DC-600 with Lithium Battery Pack and a DRR on an Avenger C-stand.

Well, I'm not in Hollywood anymore; I'm in the mini-megalopolis of Salem, Oregon. Many of my assignments take me on location around the city. Renting a generator for these outdoor locations is not an option--the budget for the local wine merchant who needs a promo piece isn't the same as it is for advertising agencies in Los Angeles.

So, what do you do when you find yourself outside without a generator? I was recently approached to test a new studio light made by JTL. I was told it was entirely digitalized and ran off a portable battery pack. This interested me for two reasons. First, I did not have a clue what a digitalized light was and, second, with as much location work as I have been doing in Salem the idea of a studio-quality light that didn't need an extension cord was appealing.

It turns out that by "digitalized" JTL means the light is entirely controlled by an internal computer with three distinct programs for the various functions. The lights I am accustomed to using, and probably you are, too, are controlled by mechanical means, potentiometers and slider switches to increase or decrease light output, and so on. By digitizing the controls they are 100 percent accurate and repeatable. In other words, if you set a power output on the LCD screen to say, a level of 398, it will always produce exactly the same amount of light at that setting. Contrast this to a slider. You move it to the 1/2 stop position, but the next time will you be able to move it to precisely the same position? I have had that problem with the lights I use. Although the variation may be minor, when I'm attempting to adjust the lighting ratio, especially for close-up tabletop work, I like to be able to get back to my last output level as closely as possible. That kind of precision may be a small matter, but it is nice to know that it is available.

An outdoor photo assignment using the Mobilight DC-600, a Photoflex umbrella, and an Avenger C-stand.
All Photos © 2007, Steve Anchell, All Rights Reserved

Another feature of the DC-600 is the Digital Remote Receiver (DRR) and Digital Remote Controller (DRC). By mounting a DRR on the back of each light and pointing the rotating face toward the camera position it is possible to use the DRC to change the power output on individual lights to control the ratio, pre-flash the light, and other functions. Due to the large LCD, the information displayed on the DRR (power output and the channel the unit is on, 1-9) can be seen from yards away even in bright sunlight. One DRR comes bundled with each lamp head. The DRC, which increases the DRR's functionality, is available as an optional accessory though only one is required to control up to nine lamp heads.