Framing spotlights are those fitted with adjustable shutters or “gates” so that you can achieve a square or rectangular beam as well as a circular one (triangles and diamond shapes are also possible).
They are very commonly used in art galleries where they are used to highlight a picture precisely but not the wall behind. Theatres and film studios use them to achieve dramatic visual impact where you can achieve a high contrast with the dark background.
Like many theatre lighting techniques, framing spotlights are now being used for retail and high-end residential applications. They are ideal for drawing your eye to a particular object or area.
Framing spotlights should not be confused with “barn door” accessories which simply block the light in a particular direction.
When choosing a spotlight, the first thing to consider is how big you need the patch of light. Obviously, for a given level of illumination, a larger object requires a higher light output. This usually means a higher wattage spotlight.
The spotlights reviewed here vary from 105 mm (4”) long to 350 mm (almost 14”) long. Similarly, the power consumption is from 6.5W to 28W but this should be considered in conjunction with the beam angle. A low wattage spotlight with a narrow beam might give you a greater illumination than a more high power unit having a broader spread.
Almost all the spotlights have a variable focus so that your beam can have a hard or soft edge. Similarly, most are available for single and 3-circuit track, the latter being larger in cross-section.
This sample is from their Prolights Mini Eclipse range. A glance at the specification sheet shows its studio and theatre pedigree. The colour temperature, CCT, is either Tungsten 3,100K or Daylight 5,600K . Colour rendering is 93 Ra or 91Ra respectively.
A key feature of the Mini Eclipse is the 19 degree beam. Combined with the 23W LED, this enables you to achieve over 800 lux from 3m (10’) away. The focus slider is easily locked in position which is an important feature if the spotlight is mounted high up. There is even a loop in the body casting for attaching a safety wire.
We looked at the basic model with a rotary dimmer but there is another version which has much more sophisticated control such as 5-channel DMX, wireless receiver, different dimming curves etc.
This is physically bigger than most of the others in this review. It is 350 mm (almost 14”) long and the focusing tube is 75 mm (3”) in diameter. At 13W and 2,500 lm, there is plenty of light for most applications. As well as the four framing gates, it can also be fitted with standard 50 mm (2”) gobos. The lenses are 45mm in diameter which means very little of the light from the LED is lost in the optical system. You get a lot of light from this projector.
The standard colour rendering, CRI, is 80 and higher is available on request.
It is solidly constructed and you can easily see how all the parts of the spotlight fit together.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the ease of use of some spotlights. You need to remove the tube, via two knurled screws, for focusing and the gates do not adjust as smoothly as some others.
Concord celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and the spotlights are still the benchmark by which many others are judged. The Beacon is one of a long line of award winning projectors.
This is the latest in the range and the 26W Beacon easily provided enough illumination to highlight a picture in a brightly sunlit office. It has a colour rendering index of Ra97 with an R9 (the red component of the spectrum) of 90. Using DALI, the Beacon can be dimmed from 100% to 3% and there is also an individual rotary dimmer on the spotlight itself.
There is a non-framing version of the Beacon called the Muse, which additionally has a tunable white rotary control which varies from 2,100K – 4,300K with a CRI >90 across the whole range.
Everything works smoothly and just as you would expect. What more do you want.
This is clearly recognisable as a projector type of spotlight because the focusing lens is mounted on two long rails on the outside. You simply focus the image by sliding the lens along the rails.
Everything has a durable and solid feel to it. The optical system using 35 mm lenses is also more efficient than most in terms of delivered lm/W. You could halve your electricity bill using the Pollux compared with some spotlights.
What was less good was the Fresnel lens inside. Unless you are careful with the focusing, especially if you want a soft focus, the concentric rings of the Fresnel prisms can be seen. Other spotlights are more forgiving because they have smooth lenses.
Life can be an important factor in retail applications where the lights might be on for 4 – 5,000 hours a year. The rated life (tested to LM-80/TM-21) of the 9W LEDs used in the Pollux is 50,000 hours at L90/B10.
Palco is the name of a large family of spotlights. This 6.5W one is just 37mm (1.5”) diameter and 105mm (4”) long which makes it the smallest we have tested but it is packed full of features.
Possibly the most interesting aspect is that the framing and focusing are in a separate assembly that attach to the spotlight body via a magnetic ring. You can change the orientation of the frame by simply removing it and rotating it to the correct orientation and then clicking it back on.
The four gates and the focusing ring work smoothly and you can achieve a sharp or soft edge to the beam. This is a neat and unobtrusive spotlight but, obviously, doesn’t have the power of some of the bigger ones.
Remember that Signify is the new name for Philips Lighting. This spotlight comes from the Ilti Luce family and its main application is museum and art gallery lighting. However, its other big application is high-end fashion retail.
It is one of the more powerful projectors at 21W. The actual glass lens is 45mm (almost 2”) diameter lens. What this means is that you can achieve high levels of illumination over a wide area. The 2,700K and 3,000K versions have a CRI of 90+.
A particular feature of this projector is that the beam can be adjusted from 7 – 43 degrees. There is also the option of a screw-on “soft” lens. Another lens option allows you to have linear shaped beam. As well as DALI control, there is also an individual on-board dimmer which controls the output from 10 – 100%.
Supersystem II is the name given to a huge range of display and track lighting. The catalogue is 92 pages and I felt sorry for the sales representative carrying the 1m x 70cm (39” x 27”) sample case!
For this review, we have looked at the two framing spotlights. One is 45mm (1.77”) diameter and 8W. The other is 65mm (2.5”) diameter and 14W. Typically, these are similar to 25/35W halogen and 35/50W halogen.
As you would expect from Zumtobel, it is beautifully engineered. The gates and focusing work smoothly and have clean edges. A feature I particularly liked is that the spotlights simply slot in to the track by gently pressing two pads on the adaptor. Many people, including me, dislike the very commonly used swivel lever system.