PMA 08; Studio And Mobile Lighting

It appears someone hit the dimmer switch when it came to lighting this year: the number of entries was sporadic, at best. But the good news is that there were a few shining lights. In strobe lighting the focus was entirely on self-contained monopacs, notably in lighting designed with digital control, smaller and easier-to-use lights, and one super-lightweight battery pack/monolight combo. There were even a few digital lights--namely flicker-free, daylight fluorescents. What's more, there was a really "cool" consumer-friendly metal halide studio light. Someone also came into the picture with a fashion ringlight in the form of a continuous light source, which is where we'll begin.

APV FL-Circles

When it comes to fashion, photographers have long recognized the value of a ringlight. It creates a flattering light, without the harsh contrasts associated with even the best softboxes, and affords greater control than the ubiquitous umbrella. No, I'm not talking about those small units dedicated to macro photography. These are nearly as large as (or a bit larger than) a children's flotation donut. APV (Tristar overseas), known for many clever lighting solutions, came up with their own version of digital ringlights: FL-Circles. Available in two versions, each is large enough to comfortably surround the camera behind it, but more importantly, to fully wrap the face in virtually shadowless light.

Interfit EX150

Each weighs 3 lbs and uses a 5000K daylight-balanced fluorescent tube, consumes 75w, and runs on 120/220v AC, with a detachable electronic ballast for easy storage. The handheld version, model FL-CircleB, comes with a VH flip bracket to ease switching between horizontal and vertical, without altering the shooting axis. The tripod-mounted version, model FL-CircleT, also comes with a quick-release shoe. Another new digital light is the FL-Stripe, a fluorescent strip light. You can stack these modular lights or create a wide bank to cover substantial territory on a large set. Each basic unit comes with a magnetic strip to hold it in place and a translucent diffuser, and measures 47x4.5x2" and weighs 6 lbs. Output is 55w at 5000K. Optional accessories include barn doors and polarized film.

Interfit Stellar XD

Interfit Photographic continues to bring us new and innovative products, beginning with a fully revamped EX150 Mark II with variable flash output (150 ws max), proportional modeling (100w), rubberized exterior, sensor control, and test button. While the new packaging may not impress the novice, the new instructional DVD should be a big help. The two-head kit ($299 MSRP) includes stands, umbrella, softbox, DVD; the three-head kit ($399) adds a third head, background stand, carrying bag, and background support with muslin backdrop. We should also note that the original Stellar series has been replaced by the Stellar X, which now shares with all new Stellar products an improved accessory fitting and auto power dumping.

Interfit Super Cool-lite 9

Also new is the Stellar XD, with full digital control and a back panel that is possibly the most user-friendly of any monolight I've seen to date. Another new and impressive product is the AC-DC Stellar Extreme (more on this in my "Best of Show" report). Moving away from strobe, we come to a new Super Cool-lite 9. This digital light uses nine flicker-free, daylight fluorescent bulbs (total output: 900w equivalent), and in contrast to previous models, employs a plastic reflector for added strength. Finally, we come to the new collapsible reflector kit, which features a 5-in-1 panel kit available in medium and large sizes (rectangular shaped), and includes a large C-stand and boom arm. Available colors: silver, white, sunlight, black, half-stop translucent. Case included ($160).

JTL Versalight E

Never standing still, JTL has once again upped the ante in studio monolights with the redesigned Versalight E series. It offers continuously variable flash output with tracking 150w modeling light (250w option), plus pre-flash override. One of the distinctive features that any studio photographer will readily appreciate is the soft-touch buttons. Another novel feature is the modular bracket, designed to make the entire unit more compact when packing for a location shoot. And it accepts the JTL eight-channel radio remote. Available in 250 ws, 350 ws, 500 ws, 650 ws, and 800 ws versions; sold individually (prices starting at under $250) or in kits. JTL also introduced a new digital (flicker-free daylight fluorescent) studio light. It uses an 85w bulb delivering 5000K output, with a working life of 20,000 hours. Available in either 110v or 220v versions, individually or in kits.

Kaiser Studio-out-of-the-Box Lighting Set