Photoflex Starlite OctoDome nxt Kit Studio Lighting and Flash Review

With more digital SLRs coming equipped with video modes the desire for lighting like the Photoflex Starlite grows. We see if it's a shining light!

|  Photoflex Starlite OctoDome nxt Kit in Studio Lighting and Flash
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Photoflex Starlite OctoDome With more digital SLR cameras coming decked out with video modes the desire to create home movies is growing. And one aspect that catches people out is studio work where the user who may be used to flash, suddenly realises that their trusty studio light is less useful than it should be. Yes you can use the modelling light, but at 60-150w you'll find it not bright enough. Here's where you should consider a continuous lighting source...and one such item is Photoflex' Starlite. In this review we're looking at the Starlite QL OctoDome nxt kit.

Photoflex Starlite OctoDome Kit: Features
The Photoflex Starlite is a really compact unit, made of aluminium that's smaller than a DSLR. It's an unusual shape, looking more like a block from some vintage engine construction than a studio light. It appears to be more about functionality than style. It measuring approx 12 x 10cm and at just 925 grams with lamp it's really light weight.

Photoflex Starlite OctoDome side viewThe body has a detachable power cable with the on/off switch on the cable. It's a standard kettle plug on one end and the other end going into a heavy duty extension cable. The 500w or 1000w lamp screws into the front and protrudes a further 15cm from the chassis. These are available in 110, 220 and 240 volt for different countries.

This protrusion makes it vulnerable compared with other flash, but there are reasons for this design which we'll come to in handling and performance. When the lamp is attached it looks like something off Flash Gordon.

Photoflex Starlite OctoDome tilt handleThe Starlite QL comes with a detachable tilt head  called a Swivel Mount which attaches to any standard lighting stand and offers tilt adjustment. It slides onto the channel of the light and locks in place. You then have a tilt handle that twists to lock the head at the desired angle on the stand. 

The Starlite QL head is around £190 and a kit with OctoDome, high stand and lamp is around £528.

Photoflex Starlite OctoDome Kit: Handling
Photoflex Starlite OctoDome assembly Assembling studio lighting, especially when softboxes are included, can often make someone with a degree in Ikea construction scratch their heads. In this case it's surprisingly easy to put together. The OctoDome softbox is assembled by slotting its eight rods into the Front Connector plate which is then attached to the Starlite QL by seating the plate's three cut outs over posts on the light and then rotating so that the light's locking pin clicks into place.

You can leave the front of the box undiffused for a hard contrasty light, or add the main and secondary diffuser for a much softer light. These are Velcroed to the edge of the softbox. There's also a grid that replaces the diffuser face to give a more direct but still diffused light.

Photoflex Starlite OctoDome screwing lamp inYou then screw in the halogen lamp. This is protected inside a secondary glass chamber so you can handle the lamp unlike normal halogen where fingerprints reduce the life. It feels really robust.

There's also a rear cowling that Velcro's to the softbox to provide a full reflective surface to the rear of the softbox around the lamp. This can be removed to assist cooling.

Once assembled slip the Swivel mount on a lighting stand, plug the cable in and you're ready for action. It can be assembled in minutes and taken down just as quickly.

Photoflex Starlite OctoDome Kit: Performance
At 500W the light is quite bright and takes a few moments to get used to. I have quite sensitive eyes and it did leave an unpleasant after image for several minutes when using it without a diffuser and with the grid. But with the standard front diffuser panel in place it's fine. 500W of halogen light can get very hot but the design is such that the chassis soon cools down. You can be packing it away in minutes.

I had it running for 40min in one session and could still comfortably hold the chassis although I was starting to smell the heat. The OctoDome is made from heat resistant fabric so I wasn't overly worried. What is interesting is the heat isn't unbearable for the model, like it is with usual tungsten studio lighting. The system does a good job of preventing a blast of heat at the front.

With video you have a constant light without any flicker. You can easily set white balance so it's neutral too. I did two tests. One of a camera on a rotating base. The quality of light at 1 meter is fabulous and this would be very useful for product photography. The only thing that let the result down was the highly reflective areas of the camera, and the adjusting exposure/white balance of the camera being used to film the set. The Starlite performed like a star.

For the test of a person, yours truly, the light was two meters away and I was almost up against the light coloured wall. The shadows are soft and there's no major glare issues. A single light could easily be used for your presentation videos etc.

For stills I compared it with an Elinchrom D-Lite 4 fitted with a Portalite 53cm softbox that's around the same price for the head but with a lesser specified softbox, which is all I had to hand. It's the kit I use for home studio stuff so while not a fair like-for-like comparison it was useful to see if spending more on the OctoDome is a good investment.

I took shots using the flash's modelling light and with flash and compared those to the Starlite. The camera was set to RAW and auto white balance was set after.  The light was set at a distance of one meter for the doll photos and two meters for the perfume shot.

The thumbnails here are white balance adjusted. Click on each one to view the large unadjusted files.

Notice how the flash in each of the three scenes is quite harsh, even though a softbox has been used. There's a lot to be said from using continuous light for a more natural looking illumination. The size of the Octodome no doubt helps it but what's really interesting is the very even light that's lovely and soft. This is most noticeable on the perfume bottle. The light is very even in tone from edge to edge.

The Elinchrom Dlite 4 using modelling light as light source The Elinchrom Dlite 4 using flash as light source The Starlite OctoDome as light source
Elinchrom D-Lite 4 modelling light - 1/13sec at f/4 Elinchrom D-Lite 4 flash  - 1/60sec at f/22 Starlite OctoDome - 1/60sec at f/4
The Elinchrom Dlite 4 using modelling light as light source The Elinchrom Dlite 4 using flash as light source The Starlite OctoDome as light source
Elinchrom D-Lite 4 modelling light - 1/13sec at f/4 Elinchrom D-Lite 4 flash  - 1/60sec at f/22 Starlite OctoDome - 1/40sec at f/4
The Elinchrom Dlite 4 using modelling light as light source   The Elinchrom Dlite 4 using modelling light as light source
Elinchrom D-Lite 4 modelling light - 1/6sec at f/4   Elinchrom D-Lite 4 flash - 1/60sec at f/22
The Elinchrom Dlite 4 using modelling light as light source    
Starlite OctoDome - 1/15sec at f/4    

Photoflex Starlite OctoDome Kit: Verdict
I really like the compact size and solid feel, although I'd like an option to be able to keep the bulb attached and feel there should be some form of protector cap option. Then you could leave it set up in the studio without the risk of it being knocked and damaged.

Light output is very good, especially with the OctoDome attached, but it's versatile enough with the grid attachment and bare light to give a range of light qualities.

A useful addition to a DLSR kit if you're starting to use video. It's even a great option for stills although it's really expensive, especially if you already have some studio flash kit. 

Photoflex Starlite OctoDome Kit: Pros
Good build quality
Low heat
Great light output
Quick to set up and take down

Photoflex Starlite OctoDome Kit: Cons


For more information please visit the Cirrolite website.

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