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Photoflex Starlite vs Rifa

Published : 14th April 2005

I am considering buying the Photoflex Starlite or the Lowell Rifa 88? Anyone have any opinions?

I have used neither but I need something lightweight quick and easy for doc interviews.

Thanks.

Jim Sofranko
NY/DP


Jim Sofranko wrote:

>I am considering buying the Photoflex Starlite or the Lowell Rifa 88? >Anyone have any opinions?

Don't know about the Starlite, but the Rifa sure is nice. Get the 40 degree egg crate and the LC-30 balance bar.

Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614


Wade Ramsey writes:

>Don't know about the Starlite, but the Rifa sure is nice. Get the 40 >degree egg crate and the LC-30 balance bar.

Ditto. For interview/doc work the Rifa always the first light out of the kit. The balance bar helps to extend the unit and tilt beyond the limits of the stand, but far more important is the eggcrate to contain spill. Didn't have one at first and what a huge difference it makes. I only have the smaller Rifa-55 unit, which I find is fine for interview situations, but it would be nice at times to have a larger source.

Mitch Gross
NYC DP


>Don't know about the Starlite, but the Rifa sure is nice. Get the 40 >degree egg crate and the LC-30 balance bar.

Thanks Wade,

Can it be rigged off the end of a grip arm?

Jim Sofranko
NY/DP


>.... but far more important is the eggcrate to contain spill. Didn't have >one at first and what a huge difference it makes.

Thanks Mitch.

How's the output of the 55 with the eggcrate and a 500w lamp?

Jim Sofranko
NY/DP


>How's the output of the 55 with the eggcrate and a 500w lamp?

Very nice, although I haven't pulled out a meter lately to do the photometric's. I generally find that I'm shooting talking heads at a 2.8/4 split at -3db on my DV500, which I rate around 320 ISO at 0db. Last Spring I shot a doc on DigiBeta and the producer bought himself a new Arri Soft Kit for the job. The 1000w open face with a Medium Small Video Chimera (or whatever it's called -- whichever model is just a touch larger than the Rifa-55 -- gave out almost exactly the same amount of light. The 1000w was a little more directional/punchier, but I figure the similarity in strength comes from the Rifa's bulb being inside the umbrella with it's reflective interior compared to the 1000w with the bulb behind the Chimera. So I consider it a very efficient light and the 500w does a lot for me.

And yes, you can mount it easily to the end of a grip arm. The light has a post which is designed to mount atop a light stand, but it can easily be clamped securely in a grip head. It's also great as a handle since the light weighs practically nothing.

I'd suggest a visit to B&H Photo. They have them on display in different sizes and you could bring your light meter to compare.

Mitch Gross
NYC DP


I've had a Rifa 88 since before they were Lowell and still love it.

It now has holes in the reflector, closing it when it's still hot, and is generally falling apart but I still use it, it was the key in the lens tests that I uploaded last year.

With Video for interviews I find it a bit bright with the standard 1Kw and would probably change to a 500w lamp if the one in it ever blew. I'm on the fourth lamp from a pack of 5 since I first bought it!

Having said all of that I would seriously look at the Photoflex, I particularly liked it's lamp and the add-ons available for the front of the screen, the round opening particularly for good eye light effects.

Cheers

Geoff Boyle FBKS
Director of Photography
EU Based
www.cinematography.net


>I am considering buying the Photoflex Starlite or the Lowell Rifa 88? >Anyone have any opinions?

I have two photoflex heads for talking head jobs. I definitely prefer them over the Rifa lights, which I find cheaper feeling. The starlite's are more flexible because you can easily change bulbs, soft box size, etc.

That said, some cons with the starlite's :

- they get hot as hell. One actually melted the fuse door shut and had to be replaced by Photoflex. The tie downs are plastic so when they get hot, they get soft and can break.

- they are noisy. Both my heads emit a whine which can SOMETIMES goes away. Nuff said.

What would I buy? I would buy Lowell Tota lights with Photoflex starlite's. Photoflex makes speed rings for the tota's. The tota's would fill the soft boxes nicely. One can easily swap bulbs for different wattages. And you can use the tota's as broad sources, if need be. Plus you can get tota's for cheap. And the tota's are all metal.

Rick Lopez
DP NYC


I own a Photoflex Starlite and have used the Rifa. I'm not a fan of any light that doesn't have an extra piece of glass or wire mesh between the lamp and the people. That cuts out the Rifa light as far as I'm concerned. The Starlite is a little better in that the lamp is encased within another globe.

While I like how easy the Rifa is to open (nothing is faster), I've also found the umbrella support arms of the Rifa too wimpy to support even a fabric grid without drooping. The Photoflex handles the accessories fine. As others have noted, a fabric grid is an essential accessory.

The engineering on the attachment bayonet on the Photoflex is a little clunky, but it works well-enough after you get the hang of it. What I love about the Photoflex is the photometric efficiency of placing an axially mounted lamp within the apex of a reflector. This design is twice as efficient as a fresnel at full flood behind a chimera. I also find that the light is so smooth bouncing off the sides of the reflector that I don't use the second inner diffuser unless I want to reduce the intensity.

Bottom line, I prefer the Photoflex but wish that they would refine the way the "Star Lite" lamp holder attached to the diffuser segment.

Bruce Aleksander
Lighting Director
ABC/Disney - Houston


Bruce Aleksander wrote:

>...While I like how easy the Rifa is to open (nothing is faster), I've also >found the umbrella support arms of the Rifa too wimpy to support even >a fabric grid without drooping.

We have the 55 and 66 Rifa's, both with fabric grids, and have zero problems locking them in place without drooping. Don't know about the 88, maybe it's an issue there.

But Bruce speaks the truth about the efficiency of a box with an axially mounted lamp vs. one attached to a Fresnel--or open face, for that matter. We bought a Photoflex to mount on a Mighty, but I was appalled at the poor output. I rigged up another FEY 2K lamp unit (a Packaged Lighting 2K converter we'd had around for about 25 yrs.) that I could mount farther inside the opening, although not as far in as it should be. The output was doubled.

Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614


Wade mentioned a common efficiency issue with Chimera type setups:

We bought a Photoflex to mount on a Mighty, but I was appalled at the poor output. I rigged up another FEY 2K lamp unit (a Packaged Lighting 2K converter we'd had around for about 25 yrs.) that I could mount farther inside the opening, although not as far in as it should be. The output was doubled.

There is a little known, under-appreciated fixture that is still being manufactured by Bardwell &McAllister.

It is called the Slimline II and it is a very shallow reflector fixture that uses an FEY and a tilt quadrant (like a Lowell DP ) as opposed to a yoke (or bale)

I believe it was designed for even floodlighting (sort of a mini Skypan) and acts a lot like a Blonde at full flood. but with a slightly wider field - softer fall-off at the edge of the field It is not "spot-floodable" and is therefore much less versatile than the focusable 2K openface fixtures, but it is absolutely wonderful in a Chimera or similar because the field is wide and even, the fixture is so small and packable - you could carry it in the lid of lots of light kits because it is so shallow. For this sort of use, you would probably have to rig something to make it all work with a speed ring - I don't remember if there are ears that would work with an existing speed ring...but in any case, you would probably want to mount a spud on the speedring and hang the light on it, rather than try to hold up the chimera with the tilt quadrant on the fixture.

My late partner had several of these Slimline's which he had lightened considerably for ease of schlepping...and back in the day, we schlepped them everywhere

I can't seem to find Bardwell's website right now, though they do have one... and I am not, in any way affiliated with them etc etc

Mark Weingartner
LA based


Mark Weingartner writes :

> I can't seem to find Bardwell's website right now, though they do have >one... and I am not, in any way affiliated with them etc etc

Here is Bardwell &McAllister's home page

http://www.bmlighting.com

Nick Paton
Director of Photography
Brisbane, Australia
www.npdop.com


>What would I buy? I would buy Lowell Tota lights with Photoflex >starlite's.

I'm getting a little confused with the product line.

Isn't the Photoflex the soft box and the starlite the fixture made by Photoflex? Are the lamps in the starlite head a proprietary lamp design?

Thanks for all the great opinions.

Jim Sofranko
NY/DP


While we are on the subject, and talking about safety screens and even output, I would like to bring us around to Ed Bargers fixture....the Barger Baglight. I was looking at the Rifa and couldn't get passed the fact that there was no protection from molten glass if the bulb were to explode. Instead I did my research and happened across Ed's fixture. I have the GT-3 for docos, corporate and small tvc work and am very happy with its robust design (this is why I couldn't bring myself to buy the rifa) as well as the ability to flick on as much or as little light as I needed. I had a arri blondie that I have now retired (used to punch through a medium quartz chimera)...broken plastic parts and several bent jokes later. Ed's fixture gives me trouble free setup operation and no drooping of the yoke. I have got only good things to say about the personal service and emails I have received from Ed as he works hard to perfect an excellent product with the durability you need in the field.

No, I'm not on the payroll. Just a satisfied customer that purchased the fixture over the net after seeing ads in the ASC mag. Very happy I did.

Nick Paton
Director of Photography
Brisbane, Australia


Nick Paton writes :

>I was looking at the Rifa and couldn't get passed the fact that there was >no protection from molten glass if the bulb were to explode.

My Rifa 88 has a wire guard over the lamp.

As I said it's a very old one way prior to Lowell involvement.

Cheers

Geoff Boyle FBKS
Director of Photography
EU Based
www.cinematography.net


Geoff Boyle FBKS writes :

> My Rifa 88 has a wire guard over the lamp.

I didn't get this impression from the sales guy. Perhaps it doesn't come with one now. I also liked the flexibility that I had with my chimera if I needed a bigger fixture to punch through it when the GT3 proved a little small or I needed HMI. Familiarity is a good thing.

Nick Paton
Director of Photography
Brisbane, Australia


>My Rifa 88 has a wire guard over the lamp.

After the CML discussion of the Rifa and this safety issue a few months ago, I took it upon myself to make a trip to Home Depot and pick up so thin wire mesh. There is a very solid metal caging surrounding the bulb in the Rifa, so it was easy for me to attach the mesh very securely. Light output was affected only slightly, but now the lamp is very safe. Takes a bit of effort to change out the bulb, but it's not too bad and cost all of $.50.

Mitch Gross
NYC DP


Mitch Gross writes:

>There is a very solid metal caging surrounding the bulb in the Rifa, so >it was easy for me to attach the mesh very securely. Light output was >affected only slightly, but now the lamp is very safe.

I've got a 250-watt Rifa on order. What I intend to do is replace the two-pin
socket with an edison (screw) socket and use a 250W encapsulated halogen bulb, which should be very safe. This should minimize light loss, and shouldn't increase the weight more than a few ounces. Is there any reason this can't or shouldn't be done?

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA


Dan Drasin wrote :

>I've got a 250-watt Rifa on order. What I intend to do is replace the two->pin socket with an edison (screw) socket and use a 250W >encapsulated halogen bulb, which should be very safe.

I just took a look at ours and can't see any reason why that shouldn't work. The bi pin socket is set into a cylindrical housing that appears to be large enough to hold an Edison, if you can find the right size. The only concern, I think, is that it really ought to be a porcelain socket, which might be too large. Then you'd have to remove the entire original socket holder and make some sort of mount to attach the porcelain socket directly to the mounting tube.

Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614


>The only concern, I think, is that it really ought to be a porcelain socket, >which might be too large.

I would also be concerned that the bulb & socket fit inside the protective metal housing for heat issues. One nice thing about the Rifa is that you can let it cool off for two minutes and then pack it right up without worrying about burning the fabric. A larger bulb might make for an issue with this, although I guess you could just let it cool off longer.

Mitch Gross
NYC DP


My shop purchased the Rifa 55's. The Lowell engineer with whom I spoke suggested a cool-down time of 5 minutes before packing away.

Nick Mueller
Director of Photography
Washington, D.C.


Mitch Gross writes:

>I would also be concerned that the bulb & socket fit inside the protective
>metal housing for heat issues.

The encapsulated bulbs (and their heavier bases) do hold heat a lot longer. If the stock protective bulb-cage isn't large enough to keep the fabric away from the glass envelope I'll just make a slightly larger cage.

It's also possible that a protective glass tube such as the one used in the
Lowell V-light could be slipped over the existing Rifa bulb and held safely in place. The tube is made for a 500W bulb, so theoretically it should work with a 250 as long as there's enough physical clearance for it.

On the other hand, if this approach works, how come Lowell hasn't adopted it?

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA


>It's also possible that a protective glass tube such as the one used in >the Lowell V-light could be slipped over the existing Rifa bulb and held >safely in place.

It's a different shaped bulb that wouldn't fit in that tube. Also the end of that tube is open in the V-light design which means the molten glass would be rocketed straight out the front of the light--hardly an improvement. And in the V-light design the open ends of the tube (held in place by porcelain clips) allow for heat to dissipate. If one closed off the end of the tube around the bulb, how would would the heat escape? That's part of the reason inert gases or vacuums are used in glass envelopes for lights. A metal cage allows for heat to escape white keeping the glass from blowing out.

Mitch Gross
NYC DP


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