View Full Version : dedolights for portraits?

8-May-2008, 15:16

i'm wondering if the dlh4 dedolights are worth getting compared to something like the arri 650w or 150w lights? am i better off getting the arris and saving that money for something else?

i was thinking about getting 4 dedolights (key, fill, kicker, background) for a full kit for portraiture for doing 3/4 shots and close up head and shoulder shots. can both type of lights work in a small 2-car garage environment?

thanks for any insight!

8-May-2008, 16:24
Without knowing what format/film you are using, here's my 2cents. Dedolights are very nice units with features other units don't have but i think they are better sources for your uses. You might be better off with an arri or mole 650 and an arri or mole 1k soft lite for fill and smaller units for the rest. I've used just about every hot light out there at one point but i've never seen a dedo used as a key light. They are sometimes used for a eye light but mostly for accent lighting, at least in the motion picture world. Typically bigger sources that wrap around the subject are preferred. Either a bounced source or a larger faced unit through a large piece of diffusion (4-12 feet) or both. Your style may differ but the larger units can be scrimmed down if you've got too much light.


Peter De Smidt
8-May-2008, 16:31
You might check on APUG. If I remember correctly, there was a thread on using Dedo lights for portraiture there.

8-May-2008, 16:34
thanks for the reply. i will be shooting 4x5 and 8x10 film.

so those dedolights are not typically used for key lights? is that because they're not powerful enough to light the entire body or wrap around it and only a small portion of it? that is my concern that the dedolights are not strong enough or bright enough to be used as a key light.

i posted this thread question there too and searched both sites for info but i didn't get enough.

thanks again!

Ralph Barker
8-May-2008, 17:08
FWIW, I think you'd be disappointed in the output when used as primary lights. They're great for accent lights for product photography and such, but I don't think they are suitable for general portraiture.

The typical decision tug-of-war is between "hot" lights and studio strobes. My preference leans toward strobes, due to greater flexibility in exposure and being easier on the subject.

Henry Ambrose
9-May-2008, 04:35
whoops doubled up somehow!

Henry Ambrose
9-May-2008, 04:44
I have the little Dedos and I think they are amazingly great but they are definitely not all purpose key lights. Dedo light quality and control is first rate. They are very expensive, and very much worth it if you need what they do. I have the DLHM-4-300 models with the integrated power supply. I've also rented the standard model with power pack controls but prefer the integrated version. Light quality is the same, I find the integrated units easier to use for my purposes as I can move them farther apart than the power pack version, but either will work for you I think.

If I were you I'd buy 2-3 nice monolight strobes (I like White Lightnings) and light boxes, and a couple of Dedos (add the dichro fliters to balance to daylight with minimum light loss if you're shooting color). You'll have plenty of power and broad light from the strobes and boxes and the Dedos will fill and accent at reasonable apertures and shutter speeds. Dedo's variable power can be very good for something like a barely glowing light puddle filling someones face or a little edge or hair light you can see and control easily. But think about how you will work to see if the Dedos will be powerful enough for your purpose. If its f64 you're not going to be happy with Dedos for anything that might move (like a human).

Here is the Dedo light page: http://www.dedolight.com/100series.html
And White Lightning: http://www.white-lightning.com/x1600.html

9-May-2008, 08:51
thanks for the responses everyone. from what i've heard so far, it seems like the dedolights won't be that great as the primary key/fill lights for portraits. in that case, i will get other fresnels for these. and as for strobes, i would like to try my hand with hot lights for a while before i figure which i like better between strobes and hot lights.

thanks again!

Helen Bach
9-May-2008, 09:17
As far as the slightly larger lights go, I much prefer the Dedo 650 to the plain fresnels like the Arri Junior. The Dedo 650 is probably my favourite light because of its controllability and versatility.


9-May-2008, 10:53
I have two of the DLH4 lights and a DP1 projector.

When it comes to portraiture, I think that the DLH4 lights will work for highly stylized effects, but they are certainly not general fill lights.

However, I think that if you added the 650w, you might have a very interesting combination for portraiture. It's really a question of what conclusions you come to when you have a look at the output of the 650w in comparison to a somewhat more powerful Arri. The efficiency of the DLH4 is less pronounced with the 650w. You really need to look at the numbers. Better yet, go to a dealer and see for yourself what the Dedolights can and can't do.

If you buy these lights, think carefully about whether you want integrated or separate power supplies. Mr. Ambrose prefers the former, I prefer the latter. The integrated lights appear to be more common, especially at rental houses, but I am told that this is because it simplifies the job of the grips on a film set.

As others have pointed out, these lights are expensive. That's another consideration. They sure are nice to work with, but do you really need them/can you justify them?

Henry Ambrose
9-May-2008, 15:11
That's funny r.e.
Here the rental houses have the power pack versions. I'd have those too if I shot table top. I actually like them but its nice to be able to place a light anywhere in a room way past the cable distance.

9-May-2008, 16:18
That's funny r.e.
Here the rental houses have the power pack versions. I'd have those too if I shot table top. I actually like them but its nice to be able to place a light anywhere in a room way past the cable distance.

I'm not sure what you mean by "way past the cable distance". The power pack is connected to the cable.

I wonder if you are talking about the the option of a transformer to which one can connect four lights.

This does cause an issue about routing cables, because they all have to go to the box.

That is different from what I am talking about. One reason to go with the central box option is if one is thinking of using the lights in a country that uses different voltage, because the box, unlike the power packs for individual lights, has a voltage switch. Also, if you don't mind routing cables through a central box, and if you have a few of these lights, it is cheaper than individual power supplies. I don't recall whether the break point, economically, is two lights or three. Finally, you may want to do this if your available outlets mean that you should run the entire load through one outlet. Conversely, you may not want to go this route if you think that it might cause an overload.

It has been some time since I have looked at the Dedolight site, but if I recall, the integrated lights have functional restrictions that the individual power pack system does not. Going out on a limb, my recollection is that they are restricted to 100w, or maybe the difference had to do with dual compatibility with 12v and 24v, or maybe it is an issue with the dimming function, or maybe two or more of the foregoing. I think that there may also be an issue about running them from a car battery, but this is probably not an issue for most people.

In any event,. I do recall that there was some limitation about the integrated system, and that it wasn't minor. Maybe there have been changes since I made my purchase about three years ago.

At the time, it seemed pretty obvious that the choice was between individual power packs or a central box. There did not seem to be any reason to buy the integrated units, and there was a distinct downside pointed out to me. The reason that I have been given in New York for their existence is that they don't overly tax grips. As I understand it, their chief advantage is that they are idiot proof, not that it takes a lot of sophistication to attach a power supply between a light and a cable.

Anyway, to be clear, I am talking about a separate power supply for each light, which is maybe two to three feet from the light, suspended by a loop from the light stand, and connected to the cable that runs to the power outlet, not a central box to which the cables from all the Dedolights must be routed.

Given that Helen Bach and I have both referred to the 650w Dedolight, I should perhaps add that this discussion of power supplies has nothing to do with that product. Unless things have changed, the 650w light is plugged directly into a wall outlet and does not require a power supply.

These are wonderful lights to work with, but an awful lot of great still and motion picture photography has been done without them.


9-May-2008, 18:27
Personally, I think that $25-$50 for an out of print copy of Nestor Almendros's Man with a Camera would be a really good investment before buying into this, or any other, lighting system.

What Almendros has to say both about photography and lighting tends to leave the impression that talent may be more important than gear.

Besides, some of what he says is both inspirational and funny, such as his story of how a fairly important film called Pauline a la plage (Pauline at the beach) was made with a crew, including the director/writer, of five. There is a paragraph in that chapter, pretty pricless and also instructional, about how the dolly shots in that film were done from the trunk of a Citroen automobile.

Then there's his chapter about the film Days of Heaven, which brought some very new ideas to Hollywood cinematography.

I think that his book is among other things the finest ever written on lighting.


Helen Bach
9-May-2008, 19:05
I suspect that the old 12 V single-unit power supplies were unreliable after a few moments in the hands of the less careful grips - I have seen kits with two non-working units out of three. That was one of the main reasons that I bought my own DLH2 kit. The new 24 V units for the DLH4 appear to be more robust. The connectors have got all mixed up between 3-pin XLR and the more common (on power supplies) 4-pin XLR, however.

The standard low voltage cable for the multi-unit power supply is 8 m long (26 ft). That can also be used as an extension cable for the single-unit power supply if you have the new 3-pin XLR cables. Of course it is easy enough to get or make 2-core cables with 4-pin XLRs if you have the old Dedolights.


9-May-2008, 19:35

Not quite sure with where you are going with that, but I am fairly confident that the DLH4 lights with a separate power supply/dimmer have functional advantages over the lights with integrated power, and that this has been true for quite some time.

I may be wrong about this, but I think that these lights were conceived in the first place with a separate power pack in mind, and that the integrated units were an afterthought created because there was a demand for something marginally simpler and cheaper.

Helen Bach
10-May-2008, 04:03
The 'single-unit power supplies' that I was referring to as being unreliable when used as rental units were the separate power supply/dimmer units. I was merely offering this on-set experience with rental units as a possible reason for some rental houses to prefer the combined lights. I was also explaining that the length of the standard low voltage cable need not be a limit, because like many cables you can make them longer. As it is a low voltage (ie high current) cable it has to be comparatively heavy - and one should not be tempted to use a convenient mic cable.

The functional advantages of the separate lights that I can think of are smaller size, lower weight, all-angle use and ability to use with battery power.


Brian K
10-May-2008, 05:29
I have a dedo system utilizing the separate power packs. I went with the separate power supplies because I liked having the heads as small as possible and I like being able to tune the power up and down for each head from the power supply, not the head itself which might be in a hard to reach area. As for the reliability of the power supplies, I have 2 of them and they have never had issues. I think that when you are dealing with rental units you are looking at gear that tends to get abused.

I find that they are excellent for still life work and the projection units enable you to do many special lighting affects. However for portrait work they are too small a light source and their power out put is too small. I would lean more towards getting some arris (650w, 1000w) and some broad, diffused lights.

The dedos are also extremely expensive by the time you add up all the accessories needed to really utilize their potential. Their key accessory is the projection unit each of which is over $400.

10-May-2008, 07:44
I just had a look at the new Dedolight web site: http://dedotec.com/dedolight/default.php?la=0

These are the current differences between the separate and integrated power supplies.

Separate Power Supply Lights
light can be operated by AC or from a battery
can use 100w or 150w on AC or 100w from a battery
can be operated in any position
has colour temperature control
the dimmer is on the power supply
can be connected to the box power supply for use in a country with a different voltage
the light is smaller than the integrated light - weight 558g/1.2lbs
$765 at B&H for 120VAC

Integrated Power Supply Lights
can be operated AC but not from a battery
150w only
cannot be operated upside down
no colour temperature control
dimmer control is on the light
cannot be connected to the box power supply for use in a country with a different voltage
the light is larger than the non-integrated light - weight 1020g/2.2lbs
$680 at B&H for 120VAC

Like Brian K, I have not had any problems with the separate power supplies.