The Westcott Spiderlite; Portable Lighting Power

The F.J. Westcott Co. recently expanded its Spiderlite line of lighting equipment with the introduction of a power pack as well as two self-contained strobe heads. Westcott has a wide selection of Spiderlite equipment, including various-sized softboxes, several different head types, stands, and both halogen and fluorescent bulb options.

The equipment is relatively lightweight. It's always been marketed as being portable. But there was one limitation. It required AC power. That meant having to be near a 120v outlet. Westcott's new portable power pack breaks that tether. It makes it possible to use the company's gear virtually anywhere in the field. The combination of the 16x23 softbox, three-light head, and power pack is a very manageable field lighting system. The portable power pack consists of a relatively small, 14v NiCd battery, a NiCd battery charger, and a 400w DC/AC current inverter. Once the battery pack is charged, the inverter is plugged into it, and the head's power cord is plugged into one of the inverter's two 120v plugs.

The Spiderlite TD3 head is at the heart of the portable, battery-powered, Westcott lighting system. Depending upon the types of bulbs that are being used, it can be configured to work as a strobe light source or as a continuous light source.

Other recent additions are strobe heads, the 4201 Master Studio Strobe and the 4200 Studio Strobe. Even though they're small, they can certainly generate sufficient light. At 6 ft, they produce sufficient light for an f/16 exposure. Recycle time isn't particularly fast, but, at 6 seconds, it's more than acceptable for most shooting situations.

(Top Left): The Spiderlite TD3 equipped with a small softbox and a strobe bulb is a good choice for portable portraiture. (Model: Brianna Inge.)
(Top Right): With the single light source above and just slightly to the left of the camera, the single head is a simple, but effective, location setup. (Model: Khristynne Oradan.)
(Above): The portable power pack makes it possible to shoot just about anywhere there's room for a light stand. (Model: Jennifer Salter.)
All Photos © 2006, Ron Eggers, All Rights Reserved. Models courtesy Positive Image Models (

Our Tests
Various combinations of softboxes, heads, and bulbs were tested. For studio work, a two-softbox setup works very well. With the halogen lamps, each 24x30" softbox produces a soft, warm light. There are various head options that can be used with the softboxes, including a single-bulb head, a three-bulb head, and a five-bulb head. The single-bulb head only takes oversized halogen lamps. The three- and five-bulb heads can take either halogen lamps or fluorescents.

The three- and five-bulb heads were designed to make it easy to adjust light ratios. With the three-bulb head, either one, two, or all three of the lights can be on at a time. With the five-bulb head, one, three, or five bulbs can be used for shooting. Individual toggle switches on the back of the heads control which light patterns are selected.