Reviewed: Tracklights

The whole point of track lighting is so that you can move the spotlight to different positions and direct the beam to where you want to. This can be to highlight an object such as a picture or sculpture or just generally provide extra light in a particular area.

A spotlight, as opposed to a flood, is there to make the object you are illuminating stand out from its background. In simple terms, this means providing a lot more light on the object than its immediate surroundings, typically 5 times as much.

More recently, there is a trend in office lighting, especially for short term lettings and pop-up workspaces, to use track lighting fixed to the solid concrete or brick ceiling. In these locations you need a luminaire which gives much more uniform, low glare lighting.

One of your early decisions is whether to use mains or low voltage track. There are pros and cons to both. As a general rule, if you have a large space, high ceilings, and where you want a lot of illumination, choose mains voltage track. Mains voltage lights each have their own integral driver so it is easier to control the lights using, DALI, dmx, Bluetooth etc.

Low voltage spotlights and track have the great advantage of being physical smaller. You can fit them in display cases or under shelving. They are much less noticeable where there are low ceilings.

There are also track systems where the luminaire is simply, in effect, a lamp holder. Instead of a built-in LED chip, the luminaire has a GU10 base and you insert the lamp you want. This has the big advantage in that you can easily vary the beam width, intensity and colour rendering simply by swapping the lamp.

Of course, lighting design isn’t that simple. You also need to consider spill light, colour, contrast, background luminance/brightness, the viewer’s adaption level, plus the all-important “soft” issues such as aesthetics and ambience. If you need an extra special quality of light, some manufacturers make LED modules with what you might call enhanced colour.

Standard white light LEDs are fine for most applications but not all white light looks the same. Ask for a demo, the difference can be quite striking.

You always need to consider what width beam you need. Obviously, the wider the beam, the more lumens are required to produce a given illumination level on your target. A pencil thin beam needs very little power and very few lumens to achieve high levels of illumination.

Related to this is the light distribution within the beam. Some beams are quite sharp edged – like those used to follow a performer on stage. Others are deliberately made soft edged so that you do not get such a sharp cut-off against the background.
Yet again, others beams have a “hot spot” in the middle with a surrounding halo of much lower intensity. At first, I thought that this was due to poorly designed optics but more than one supplier told me that it was done specifically in order to prevent the space looking too dramatic or “contrasty”.
Again, you should always do a demo.

Most luminaires fit into the track using electrical connectors that swivel and are mechanically held by slots in the track. Other systems have a simple magnetic attachment and these are easier to move position but don’t have the features of a 3-circuit track.

 

 

Astro CAN 50

The CAN is a newly introduced range of track and surface mounted spots. This 8W spotlight is physically a lot smaller than many reviewed here being just 52 mm in diameter. There is also a CAN 75 and CAN 100 which are larger and higher powered.

It comes as standard with a 33 degree beam. The centre of the beam is smooth and with a soft edge. There is a slight variation towards the edges but this is only noticeable over short distances, say, less than 1m away or if you are downlighting close to a wall. There is the option of a honeycomb anti-glare guard which minimises any chance of you seeing the lamp.

A useful feature of the CAN is that it is fitted with a leading edge dimmer as standard so you can easily retrofit it to a “tungsten halogen/MR16 ” type installation.

The standard unit is 3000K with a CRI 80.

 

Erco Jilly downlight

We all know that Erco makes top quality spotlights which are used in galleries and museums around the world.
What is maybe less well known is this range of “office illumination” tracklights. I mentioned earlier that new workspace interiors are often left quite bare. They have exposed services such as sprinklers and h&v vents. In these situations, instead of fitting a suspended tile ceiling, lighting track is mounted directly onto the structure of the building.

The Jilly downlight with black louvres enables you to achieve the lighting levels and uniformity statutorily required in offices by BS EN 12464 whilst only using track lighting. The high optical efficiency means you can most probably achieve higher illumination for a lower wattage than many of the 600 x 600 ceiling panels available.

Interestingly, Erco also make their own LED drivers so that they can control both the quality and also the shape/dimensions they require. For example, the Jilly is only 42 mm high.

 

 

Flos Atom

This is a brand new range from Flos and I looked at the 8W Atom 120 which is just 33 mm diameter and 123 mm long. It weighs just 100 gms. The appearance is different from most spotlights in that the body narrows about halfway along which puts you in mind of a telescope or optical instrument.

The other feature, apart from its small size, which differentiates the Atom is that it is available in six colours as standard ranging from white through to chrome and deep brown.

This particular model has a 14 degree beam with a CRI 90 so it would be ideal for small scale installations where you want to pack a punch.

The Atom can be controlled using 0 – 10v, DALI or Casambi and will soon be available with an integral chip making the spotlight individually addressable.

 

 

iGuzzini Palco

This is a huge range of products that can fulfil just about any lighting need. In essence, it is a mains voltage system with fully adjustable spotlights and a wide range of optical distributions.

A particular model I liked is the 28W QG54. This has a tight 12 degree beam that produces over 1,000 lux from 4m away. It is 3000K and has a colour rendering of CRI 97. This would be ideal where you want excellent colour rendering on a painting or tapestry but have to mount the spotlight some distance away or you have a high ceiling.

I should also mention that there are both smaller and even more powerful versions available. There are others with wall wash distributions, snoots, visors and framing spot versions.

 

 

 

Stoane Lighting ZTA

Stoane Lighting is the new name for Mike Stoane Lighting. They also have a new website to reflect the change.
I always look forward to seeing their products because they are so beautifully made. The ZTA is a new range specifically designed to extend the life of the luminaires and to make them maintainable, re-manufacturable and, ultimately, recyclable. Strictly speaking, the “A” of ZTA is actually the triangular recycling symbol.

The ZTA is based around the Osram Oslon chip or various LED modules from Xicato. As such, you can have just about any light output, colour rendering or colour temperature you want.

The ZTA still has the original build quality, adjustment and lockability but now you can have an almost unlimited range of options such as paint finish, optics or fixing method so that the life of the ZTA is as long as the installation.

There are clip-in lenses for various beams from 12 to wider than 50 degrees. You can have soft or sharp elliptical beams and a wide flood. There is also a honeycomb louvre to minimise any glare of stray light.

 

 

SG Lighting  Vision

The mains voltage 30W Vision has clean lines, simple shape and a global track adaptor. The standard version Vision has a 50 degree beam and there is the option of 17 or 32 degrees. It has a specular, multi-facetted reflector housed behind a plain glass lens.

It is available in 3000K or 4000K and the colour rendering is >90. The beam, itself, is uniform across the whole diameter without any striations or hot spots and has a soft edge.

The construction and paint work are of good quality and everything works as it should.

The Vision would be ideal for a budget fit-out of a shop or exhibition display.

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SLV Structec

What sets this 35W projector apart is the zoom spot lens which produces a beam from 25 – 60 degrees wide. It is adjusted using a knurled ring around the lens. There is a 40 mm diameter convex lens over the LED chip and this produces a very soft edge beam.
Whilst the change in width is visually noticeable, it is not nearly so apparent as you might expect.

The body is a simple cylinder with multiple slots to remove the heat. The claimed rated life is 30,000 hours which is shorter than many. However, the data sheet does not give the Lxx light loss value at this number of hours so it cannot be compared with the life of other spotlights.

 

 

Thorn Tonic

This is a typical Thorn product and that is meant as a compliment. The 30W Tonic has a choice of four lenses from a 15 degree spot to a 60 degree wide flood. They can be simply changed over by unscrewing the lens at the front and they produce a nice, clean beam.

The Tonic is available in 3000K and 4000K both with a CRI of >90. Inside, the LED light engine has plenty of free air and an aluminium heatsink to keep everything cool. The body is solidly constructed. I sometimes find that inserting and locking a spotlight in the track can be difficult but this went in easily and it was simple to change from one circuit to another.

The data sheet has all the information you need. I wish other manufacturers would do the same.

The whole system is easy to assemble, reliable and performs well. What more do you want?

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Viabizzuno N55 system plus A1 track

This is a class act. You could call this track system industrial chic but that ignores its tremendous functionality and good looks.

The track is unusual in that it has illuminated strips alongside the slot. Even without spotlights, the track produces two parallel lines of light across the ceiling. It can be recessed flush so you would achieve a smooth uncluttered ceiling.

The N55 series of spotlights has been specifically designed so that you can easily replace and reuse any of the parts. There is a range of wide and narrow beam lenses and reflectors which twist on, it is similar to changing a camera lens.

The standard LED light engine a colour rendering of CRI 98 with the all-important R9 red wavelength value of 98. The chip can be changed for others with a different colour temperature, CCT. There can be no confusion because the light engine is labelled with its power, CCT, CRI etc.  You can also change the finned heatsink for a smooth one.

All in all, this is hugely versatile and easy to use track system.