High End Systems, probably most famous for its range of Hog lighting consoles, also produces a selection of lighting fixtures too. One of their flagship products is the SolaSpot Pro 1500 which is powered by a 400w LED engine. This is beaten in brightness only by its bigger brother the SolaSpot Pro 2000 which packs in a 600w LED engine! This means that it is comparable to and even beats competing fixtures that feature discharge lamps in terms of brightness, but also destroys them in power consumption. The white LED engine has a colour temperature of 6,500k which is a little on the blue side, but the graduated CTO gives a great deal of flexibility and will take the output to 3,500k and anywhere in between.
The SolaSpot Pro 1500 has an output of 20,000 lumens which is getting close to the 1000-watt HID powered MAC Viper at 26,000 lumens and matches a Vari*Lite 3500 spot which also comes in at 20,000 lumens. Perhaps more surprisingly it destroys the LED based MAC Quantum which outputs a measly 12,700 lumens in comparison and features a technically brighter 475w LED engine. Of course if you need more then you can always step up to the SolaSpot 2000 which will give you 26,000 lumens.
The beam itself is very flat, there is no discernible “hot spot” in the centre and it has an impressive 8° – 45° zoom. Again, comparing this to the MAC Quantum which only has a 12° – 36° zoom, you can see that the SolaSpot is already throwing some heavy punches. At its widest zoom with frost, this fixture can do a respectable job as a wash light too, although at that point you’re asking a lot of the 400w LED engine!
The SolaSpot also features CMY colour mixing, a 6 frame fixed colour wheel, linear CTO, two gobo wheels (one static, one rotating), an animation effect, 3 facet prism, iris, graduated frost, focus and framing shutters. They’ve included pretty much everything except the kitchen sink.
The way the LED engine that High End Systems have used has been designed means that all dimming takes place on the light source itself. There is no shutter and this brings several advantages, first the LED engine is off when it’s not is use, so the fixture runs cooler and uses less power as a result. It also has exceptional dimming at the low-end, it’s remarkably smooth and there is absolutely no discernible colour shift. Where some cheap LED fixtures will suddenly switch off at the low-end, the SolaSpot is consistent all the way from 0% – 100%. Because there’s no shutter, dimming with gobos means the projection remains even across the full beam all the way up and down the dimming curve. You can also get extremely fast strobing because there is no mechanical element to move across the beam.
As mentioned, the fixture boasts a 4 segment full field framing system that means each shutter can cover the entire beam. This is both an advantage and a disadvantage, on the one hand it offers tremendous flexibility, each individual frame has full travel and the entire assembly can be rotated by 90°. It allows you to create all sorts of shapes that would be impossible in other framing systems. The down side to this is that because each frame has full travel across the beam, they each sit on a separate focus plane. This means it’s never possible to have all the frames with a hard edge. It’s certainly a compromise, but it’s one that you can work with for the most part and in my experience it’s been a price worth paying for the added flexibility the system offers.
High End Systems opted to go in the direction of an open white LED engine and combine that with a traditional CMY colour system rather than colour mixing the LEDs. It works just as you would expect for the most part, but I did find perhaps the biggest failing of this fixture in this area. At low saturation there is significant fringing on the edges of the beam, you can see in the image to the right that there is white light bleeding at the sides of the beam. It seemed to be more prominent with gobos in the path and it gave almost a split colour effect. This was really only a problem with a hard edge, once you softened the focus it blended a lot better. It’s not a total deal breaker, but it’s certainly something you should consider.
In addition to the CMY colour mixing you can also use the fixed colour wheel that has 6 colours plus open white. The order of colours has clearly had some thought put into it. Each of the adjacent colours works well with its neighbour so split colours look great. It also features basic effects such as spin, continuous, scan and random colours via DMX.
The SolaSpot 1500 includes a linear animation effect which allows for some basic effects to be produced but is limited by its ability to only travel up and down in one direction. This leads to a bouncing back and forth of the animation which can ruin the illusion in many circumstances. The SolaSpot Pro 2000 has a full animation wheel built in to solve this problem and it would have been nice to see it included in this model too. With that said, in the SolaSpot Pro 2000 you have to sacrifice the framing shutters to make space for the animation wheel. If I had to choose between the animation wheel or the framing shutters, I’d pick the framing shutters every single time.
The built in iris allows you to reduce your beam even tighter than 8°, although obviously you’re just limiting the light output as this point. I always equate this to digital zooms on cameras, they don’t give you any more resolution, they just cut out the stuff around it. It’s the same with the iris, you’re just cutting out the light you don’t want to make a smaller beam. But given the brightness of the unit it is still able to cut through and make a passable pencil beam if required. It’s good for aerial effects as the iris opens and closes faster than the zoom moves forwards and backwards and that’s where I found the best use for the iris. In other situations where I might have used an iris, I found the framing shutters were generally more suited to the job.
There are two gobo wheels in this unit, a static and rotating wheel. The static wheel can accommodate 7 gobos plus open and the rotating wheel takes 6 gobos plus open. The default choice gives a reasonably varied selection of break-up effects as well as aerial shapes, though I wished some of the fixed gobos had been in the rotating wheel. The full selection is shown in the gallery below, click the image for an enlarged version and keep reading for more!
The SolaSpot has a graduated frost flag which I found to be next to pointless. Essentially, with the frost out you can get a nice crisp beam, with the frost in you get a moderately heavy frost which works well. But anywhere in between just looks like a mess, here’s a picture of the frost in at 95%… unless you’re going for a moon in a cloudy sky I can’t see any point in having a gradual frost that looks like this! Personally, I rarely used the frost, instead opting to just put the beam into a soft focus which gave me preferable results.
Another thing you’ll find is the 3 facet rotatable prism which does exactly what you would expect. I really like the 5 facet linear prism found in the SolaSpot 2000, but sadly they didn’t manage to fit it into the 1500, but you can’t really complain.
With all these features, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that it requires a hefty 46 channels of DMX! What might surprise you though, is that there’s just the one personality, so if you are limited for addresses, this might not be the fixture for you. It would be nice if they could release an updated firmware that cut down and limited some of the features so you can use up fewer addresses. For example, if you stripped out all the “fine” adjustments you could remove 8 channels immediately and other savings that could be made too. I don’t think it would be too hard to get down to 32 channels, and if you didn’t mind forfeiting some features you could go even lower. Clearly it would involve a trade-off that you’d have to make, but it would be nice to have the option to make it.
The last thing of note before I move onto the construction are the Indigo highlighters, these struck me as somewhat of a gimmick and if truth be told, they probably are… it’s essentially just four indigo LEDs that surround the lens. They are quite bright though and I found myself using them as a working light for scene changes. But they can also be used for eye candy, they can be strobed and dimmed, they’re a nice bonus and quickly identify it as a SolaSpot fixture as all the units in the SolaSpot range feature these indigo highlighters. Certainly not a selling point, but neither is it an unwelcome addition.
When it comes to the construction of the SolaSpot Pro 1500 the first thing that is immediately clear is its size. This thing is a monster, and frankly it has to be to pack in all the features. If you look inside it, you’ll find there’s no wasted space. It’s only that big because it has to be! How big is that though? Well it’s 838mm in length, which compared to a MAC Quantum is nearly 200mm smaller, even the larger MAC Viper is still 107mm shorter. The next thing you’ll notice is the weight, this thing is heavy… 40kgs of heavy. You won’t want to be lifting this light on your own!
So it’s big and it’s heavy, but it’s well-built, it’s clearly been designed to tour and withstand the rigours of life on the road. This is further shown by the inclusion of a touring flight case with every unit as standard. Not only is this a clear sign of its intended market, but the case itself continues the theme of good solid and well thought out construction. Given the size of the fixture, the unit is side loaded so the need to physically lift it is minimised, the top comes off to attach standard Omega brackets and then you can attach it to the bar and roll the case away!
To aid with its manoeuvrability there are pan and tilt locks too and another very nice addition is the inclusion of folding yoke arm handles to carry the fixture as well as the handles on the base of the unit. It makes carrying it around a lot simpler and helps to disguise its true weight! Whichever way up you carry it, there are convenient handles to hold it by.
Considering its size and weight, the SolaSpot 1500 moves at a fair rate of knots through its 540° of pan and 265° of tilt. It will complete a full 360° pan in a fraction over 3 seconds and can get from one side of its tilt to the other in not much over 2 seconds. These speeds are very impressive, but one side effect of this to consider is that because the motors are moving a considerable mass, there is a lot of inertia and if it’s hanging on a bar with other lights you’ll find they get a swing. If this is a concern, you can change the pan and tilt speeds in the fixtures set-up menu to one of 4 predefined speeds.
Dive under the hood and inside you’ll discover a very compact, yet accessible set of modular units that make up the various features of the fixture starting at the front with the zoom lens assembly. Sitting behind that are the frost filter, graduated CTO and prism lens. In the middle section are the 2 gobo wheels, the colour wheel and CMY colour filters and the animation card. Each gobo wheel is accessed from opposite sides for swapping gobos in and out and it is a fairly pain-free process to replace them if you so desire. Then you have a collection of stepper motors that control the various elements and finally right at the back is the power house. A 400w LED engine with enormous heat-sink and fans surrounding it on both sides which are set-up in a push/pull configuration to optimise airflow.
All the cable looms are neatly packed in and clear from danger of snagging on the moving components, they are all cable tied down well. All the connectors are secured in place with thumb screws, so the risk of things coming loose is minimised.
The last thing to discuss is noise, and this is another area in which the SolaSpot excels. I’ll be honest and say this is quite possibly the quietest fixture I’ve heard in its field. At idle the LED engine isn’t even on so the operating noise will almost certainly be below any background noise. It’s rated at 34dB(A) at 1 meter and when it’s running at 100% it still doesn’t get much above 45dB(A) at 1 meter. Now considering you are highly unlikely to be that close at any point, these figures (as low as they are) don’t really do justice to how quiet they are. I couldn’t actually tell if they were turned on when I was stood next to them at idle!
Overall I was extremely impressed with this fixture, we keep seeing improvements to LED lighting and this is another significant step forward. We are now at a point where you start to question if you really need a discharge lamp because in terms of brightness there is very little difference. High End Systems have really gone all out with the SolaSpot Pro 1500. It has just about everything you could want, and if you can cope with the size there’s not a lot else out there that competes directly with it.
Special thanks go to AED Group for supplying this fixture for review.