Radical New Trilite Incandescent Cold Light

Seen from the rear, the Trilite light is similar to conventional models with a tilting light stand adapter and the included Chimera light box ring. The only control is a simple on/off switch.

Like the Monty Python bunch used to say, "And now for something completely different!" That's the only way to describe this new piece of lighting equipment. This incandescent light has three spiral screw-in fluorescent lamp tubes that produce a daylight balance output. What sets it apart from regular "hot lights" is its low wattage and the fact that it does not get too hot. Unlike most studio lights this model can be used up close without making the subject uncomfortable or melting the product. Since you leave it on constantly, you always see exactly what the camera does. There has been resurgence in incandescent light units in recent years and this model stands out from the growing crowd.

This model is primarily intended for use with digital cameras, but can be used by traditional film photographers (with a 20cc magenta filter for color balance correction). The light produced has extra green content which is normally lacking in electronic chip sensitivity. With the addition of a correction filter it can also be used with conventional daylight-balanced color slide or print films.

The "per watt" efficiency of the Trilite is about three times that of conventional "hot" incandescent lights. This cold light can be positioned very close to the subject for stronger, bold illumination instead of having to be placed well away from the subject to minimize the undesirable heat effect produced by normal "hot" lights. Every time you halve the light's working distance, you gain four times the usable light.

Seen from the front (with a translucent white diffusion disk removed for better visibility) the three unique spiral fluorescent tubes are visible. Although rated at a mere 25w each, they pack much more output (equivalent to 125w in standard incandescent bulbs) and since there is no radiated heat, the light can be used very close to any type of subject when even more intensity is required.

The light is easily assembled. Simply screw in the three spiral fluorescent lamps, attach a translucent diffusion disk in front to even out the disbursed light, attach the grounded cord and you are ready to go. A tilting light stand adapter and light box ring are included.

It required minimal time to get accustomed to the new light, although I only had one sample to work with. Naturally the light is constant, so you can keep a close watch of your subject throughout the shooting session. At first, it seems unusual to place the light so close to the subject or product, but you quickly learn to use the light exactly where you need it.

The Trilite offers similar "daylight" RGB components to optimized daylight (5200-6500K) which is what the makers of video and digital still capture imaging devices specify. This extra blue balance coupled with the Trilite's 63 lumen per watt results in five to six times more usable light per watt against tungsten's 17 lumen per watt.

During my brief test with Agfa-chrome XRS 50 and Fujichrome 50, I exposed a MacBeth color checker along with a standard gray card and white background paper. Other tests included Caucasian flesh tones both with and without a filter which resulted in very pleasing results when the filter was used. Of course, for black and white film of any type, no filtration would be needed.

Key features include:

Lamps--6500K (extra blue) daylight lamps have five to six times more usable light per watt than traditional incandescent (tungsten, quartz halogen, etc.) models. For instance, the shipping carton for each of the 25w spiral lamps indicates they have the equivalent light output of 125w produced by a standard incandescent lamp. They are said to use 80 percent of the energy required by conventional incandescent lamps and will last 10 times longer. So, in addition to very little heat, they should last a long time. This would be a decided asset for lights used in an enclosed softbox or similar diffusion device, which makes access tedious.

Ballasts (Flicker Free) --The manufacturer confirms 23,000-25,000 cycles per sec (25KHz). Well in excess of any flicker free concerns for digital scanning or motion picture making--1KHz is acceptable.

Reflector--The included white reflector is said to be as efficient as a conventional silver reflector, with much smoother distribution. A translucent white diffuser screws into a post protruding between the three lamps to distribute evenly the light output across a plain flat surface.

Softbox Ring--Included is a Chimera ring, but Photoflex, Wafer, Redwing, and Westcott rings are readily available--at no extra cost.

Voltage (110/220 vac Compatible)--Not really, but you only need to change lamps, if you need to travel to Mexico or Europe.

In summary, the Trilite offers exactly the right color balance for use with electronic imaging devices, or can be easily used with conventional color slide or negative films when a 20cc correction filter is used. It can be placed exceptionally close to the subject for more efficient use of the light. The Trilite can be used raw or with any type of diffusion device, but the light is so soft normally, I doubt that much diffusion would be needed.

The Trilite has a suggested list price of $500. For further information contact: Calumet Photographic Products, 890 Supreme Dr., Bensenville, IL 60106; (800) 225-8638, (630) 860-7447; fax: (800) 577-3686; www.calumetphoto.com.