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Old September 22nd, 2004, 06:12 PM   #1
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Lowel vs. Britek

I'm considering either the Lowel DV Pro 55 kit or a set of Britek lights in roughly the same configuration. The Lowel kit will be about $1600 and the Britek kit will be about $800-900 (after I buy a case and some gels.) The Lowel kit comes with a case, gels, scrims, etc.

I need to know from people with experience who have used this stuff whether it is worth paying twice as much for the Lowel gear.

I'm mostly going to be shooting interviews, training video, birthday parties, and other small-ish events. I'm not pro yet but am striving to be some day.

I don't mind spending the money for good equipment as long as there is a good reason (beyond brand-name recognition) for doing so. What does the word of experience say?

Thanks!
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Old September 22nd, 2004, 06:43 PM   #2
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Can you provide a link to the specific Britek kit you're considering? It's hard for anyone to make a worthwhile comparison without seeing both choices.
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Old September 22nd, 2004, 06:51 PM   #3
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Well, I sort of had to piece it together on Rostronics' web site. The point is that I would pick a set of Britek lights that is similar to the DV Pro 55 kit from Lowel. I'm looking for advise on the wisdom of saving $700-800 for the cheaper Briteks. For reference, the Britek kit I priced out included:

1 32" x 32" soft box with 1000W broadlight
2 650W broadlights w/barn doors
1 200W spotlight w/barn doors
1 300W spotlight w/barn doors
Stands and bulbs

Thanks.
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Old September 22nd, 2004, 07:47 PM   #4
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The main advantage to Lowel gear is its size. Lowel stuff is frequently tiny, as compared to other lighting instruments.

If you're a one-person band hauling all your gear on your shoulder, that might make sense. Britek gear is sized about the same as professional fresnels (like Arri or Mole). Lowel lights are much smaller.

For functionality and professionalism, I think you'll be way better off with the Briteks. The only thing the Lowels really have going for them is their small size. If you need a tiny kit, the Lowel is the way to go, but if you're not too concerned about size, give the Briteks a look -- they're an amazing value for the money.
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Old September 22nd, 2004, 07:52 PM   #5
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One thing I was add to look out for, and this doesn't exclude you going for Briteks in addition, is that the Rifa lite is a quick setup light. Much faster to setup apparently that a regular softbox. This might be something you need to consider. If i had the money I would have gone with a Rifa.

Also it's been stated many times that the Lowel kit stands tend to be a bit flimsy. I don't know this myself, but many many people have said this, so you might want to buy piecemeal.

Also, my understanding is that the Britek softboxes have no inner bevel for eggcrates etc. And even then I don't know if they have any accessories for them

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Old September 22nd, 2004, 08:09 PM   #6
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Barry, Aaron,

Thanks. These are points that I have not seen mentioned anywhere else.

I'm guessing that the smaller Lowel gear is also lighter? That would be a consideration. I am a one-man band and I do have to travel to all gigs. If the briteks are anything like the size/weight of my PhotoFlex starlite 3200, then they would be great for studio / but too much to shlep around.

I assumed that the Britek softboxes would setup like the Rifa lights -- bad assumption I guess. I've seen the Rifa lights being setup and they truly do open almost like an umbrella. For comparison my Photoflex medium softbox has to be put together one rod at a time. Pain in the @ss. But $800 worth of pain? Hmmm.

Barry, when you say that the small size is the only thing that the Lowel lights have over the Briteks -- are you saying that you feel that the Britek lights are superior in construction, light quality, flexibility, etc. or are you saying that the two makes are roughly 'on par' except for the size?

My PhotoFlex has a grid that I can attach to the front to make the light more directional. Does an "eggcrate" perform the same function?

Thanks!!
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Old September 22nd, 2004, 08:13 PM   #7
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<<<-- Originally posted by Cameron O'Rourke :
My PhotoFlex has a grid that I can attach to the front to make the light more directional. Does an "eggcrate" perform the same function?
Thanks!! -->>>

That's an eggcrate.. :)

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Old September 22nd, 2004, 09:15 PM   #8
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Quote:
I'm guessing that the smaller Lowel gear is also lighter?
No, not really. Lowel is small and dense, Briteks are bigger but "airy". That "airiness" comes in quite handy in that the Briteks stay basically cool to the touch, whereas Lowel stuff will melt the flesh off your hand. Obviously the front of the Briteks gets just as hot, but the main body stays cool because of the materials they used and the way they designed it.

Quote:
I assumed that the Britek softboxes would setup like the Rifa lights -- bad assumption I guess. I've seen the Rifa lights being setup and they truly do open almost like an umbrella. For comparison my Photoflex medium softbox has to be put together one rod at a time. Pain in the @ss. But $800 worth of pain? Hmmm.
Britek softboxes are put together like Chimeras: there are rods in the sleeves, and you have to wedge the rods into a speed ring which you then attach to the light in its scrim frame.

Quote:
Barry, when you say that the small size is the only thing that the Lowel lights have over the Briteks -- are you saying that you feel that the Britek lights are superior in construction, light quality, flexibility, etc.
I have no real love for Lowel gear, I have a few Lowel lights and the only one I even use anymore is the little Pro Light. I think the Briteks are better designed, half the price, and overall more useful. They do have a funky stand mount that takes a little getting used to, but other than that, yeah, I like the Briteks better than the Lowel stuff.

Now, keep in mind that neither Britek nor Lowel stuff should be classified as "professional" gear. This is cheap low-end prosumer stuff, not in the same class as Chimera and Arri, etc. Especially the stands -- both Britek and Lowel stands are fairly awful, in my opinion. But when choosing between those two brands, I'd reach for the Britek instead of the Lowel a good 9 times out of 10.

The Rifa may be an exception though. If you really like the Rifa design, you could always just get a Rifa instead of the Britek 1K with Softbox...
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Old September 22nd, 2004, 10:57 PM   #9
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I'm not crazy about the Rifa. It is a softlight and nothing more. I prefer more flexibility with the lights I carry. If you have a Lowel Omni or a Britek G-650, you have a medium power, focusable light source that can be used in a softbox or on backgrounds or bounced off walls or reflected off foamcore...Get much more bang for your lighting dollar.

While we are at it, who says you need a soft box. I have often used 3X4 pieces of white foamcore lit with an Omni as a great soft main light. To prevent spill on the background, use a piece of black foamcore on a stand to block light on the background. You need more light stands for this, but it may be cheaper, lighter, and offer more flexibility than a softbox. You can even get black and white foamcore at WalMart for about $2 a sheet (3x4).

I also used a Photoflex Silverdome - Medium. I like their double baffle design. At times, I take it a step further by adding another baffle (3' x 4') about 18" in front of the softbox. This creates a very soft source. I don't find spending 3 minutes setting up the box much of a burden.

When putting together your kit always think flexibility. As much as possible, items in your kit should serve more than one purpose.

I don't know if this is appropriate, but I'm selling some Lowel Omni's and Cool Lux lights in the classified section. Perhaps they would suit your needs.
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Old September 22nd, 2004, 11:50 PM   #10
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Cameron,
As I think you're seeing, and will continue to see, is that there are many roads to the same destination. Photons are photons. A key point that Patrick's post illustrates is that an understanding of a few basic concepts will enable you to use lighting instruments in a variety of ways. Soft light, for example, is not created in a special box. Light becomes soft when it's distributed over a large area (i.e. the larger the physical size of the light source, the diffuse its light will be). Consequently you can reflect a light off of a flat surface (ex: foam core, collapsible reflector, et.al.) to create light that's just as soft as from a box (although a bit harder to control).

My real point harkens back to Barry's remarks. You should consider how much gear will be practical for you to transport and set-up especially if you generally have no assistance. It might not be reasonable to assume that you can transport 75-100 lbs of gear and 4' reflector panels. You also must consider the locations in which you expect to be using the lights. Are you going to face power issues? How about set-up time issues? How about cool-down time issues? (Tungsten instruments are darn hot and can take quite a while to cool before they can be packed-up.) Maybe one fluorescent instrument (much lighter, much cooler and much lower-power) plus one small tungsten might be best for you.

Once you get the hang of some basic lighting principals and techniques you can accomplish an enormous variety of effects with a very small kit that will be easy to schlep. Give a smart lighting pro two small instruments and a reflector and most can make an interview look like $1 million.

My own recommendation (having a wide variety of instruments myself, including Lowel Totas/Omnis/Rifa/Caselights, Arri's, and Kino Flo's) is to consider passing on packaged kits. Instead, consider selecting your instruments individually (as well as their supports) one at a time. Start with just one or two instruments (and stands) with a few modifiers (gels, reflector) and just work with that for a while. Experience will tell you what you need.

One last note, fwiw. If you're relatively new to lighting, I can almost guarantee that first thing you'll do with a shiny new lighting kit is to over-light your scenes. You'll feel compelled to use everything, whether or not you need it.

Have fun!
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Old September 23rd, 2004, 05:14 AM   #11
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Thanks all for the excellent insights and advice -- as usual!

Here's what I've learned as a recap:

1. Whether we are talking Lowel or Britek, they are both 'prosumer' grade lights. For really rigourous professional use, I'll probably want to eventually invest in some sturdy Arri Frenels, Chimera soft boxes and some Kino-Flos.

2. If I learn to light, I'll be able to get good looking results with just about anything. The better gear just gives you better reliability, consistency, a more professional presence, and shorter setup times.

3. The 'stay-cool' design of the britek lights is a real finger-saver. For ultimate protection against frying either yourself or your talent, it sounds like Kino-Flos are the way to go.

4. Think 'flexibility' when choosing lights. The Britek 650W broadlight can be used in a variety of ways, including inside of a softbox.

5. Buy lights one at a time. Go slow and learn to light and learn to use what you have to best advantage. Be wary of power requirements.

6. Don't neglect existing equipment -- for example, I have a bunch of PhotoFlex gold/silver reflectors and translucent panels that I use for outdoor photography that will work just dandy for video lighting for bounce-fill and softening key lights.

7. Foam core is your friend. (As is blackwrap I've found. Add C41's and an assortment of gel material and you can feel the love.)

8. I should stop obsessing over lighting choices and get out there and shoot!!


Thanks!!
Cameron
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Old September 23rd, 2004, 08:15 AM   #12
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Your good to go, Cameron. I would modify #4. A focusable source is much more useful than a broadlight.

Good lighting equipment is by far the best investment you can make. What other production gear will last through out your career, is easy to fix, and is relatively low priced compared to other gear.

If you haven't seen this site, www.film-and-video.com, then click articles, its well worth a read. Practical advice about interview lighting.

Be careful when uing tungsten with your reflectors and translucents. They will work great, but don't get the light to close or they can melt or burn.

Safety is a big consideration in your list...tape down your cables if people are walking over them and make sure lamps have protective barriers in case they shatter.
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Old October 9th, 2004, 03:49 PM   #13
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I recently purchased a Lowel DV Pro 55 kit and I have to say that I'm very happy with it. But I can certainly see outgrowing it. I purchased this kit for a few reasons, which my not apply to you...

First, I had no experience in lighting and am just doing a lot of reading and experimenting. This kit gave me the ability to have everything I wanted to experiment with in one go and I liked that. Second, since much of my education would be taking place in my relatively small one-bedroom apartment, I wanted a kit that was relatively small and would store easily. For moving to locations (such as a friends house, or my office on weekends, I liked that it all fit into one manageable case.

From here if I were to expand on this kit (although I think it will be quite a while until I outgrow it) I would purchase professional lights and accessories on an as needed basis, eventually replacing the original kit. That said, given my current resources and requirements, I think the Lowels will last me a long time.

Matt
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Old October 10th, 2004, 11:58 AM   #14
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To followup, I purchased 3 Britek lights from Rostronics. A 650W focusable omni-type light with a softbox, and 300W and 200W focusable pro-type lights. All came with barndoors and bulbs. I also ordered some lightweight stands, 2 umbrellas (silver/gold) and extra bulbs. Total price: $450.

Compared to the lowel lights, these seem very sturdy as they have a plastic body that keeps the whole thing rigid. It also stays cool which is a big plus. The barn doors are well made and the larger ones come with gel clips.

I opted for the lighter duty stands because I wanted to keep the weight down. I also tried the heaver duty stands but sent them back. In general the stands are so-so, I think that I'd go for photoflex, or even Smith-Victor stands first.

The one thing about the soft box is that it goes together like a regular chimera -- it does not unfold like an umbrella the way the lowel rifa light does.

All and all I extremely pleased with the briteks and would order them again over the lowell's due to the extremely low price.
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