A Terrific "Paint Brush" For Light Painting
To some people, it may seem a little strange that a tool built for the auto industry turns out to be such a good choice for light painting foreground subjects under the starry night sky, but that's the case here. That's right, the Brinkmann Dual Xenon Spotlight (originally built for the automobile repair industry) works as an excellent light painting tool - so I thought I'd post a full review to let you know why it's such a good choice.
As a night photographer, I'm looking to capture great night nightscape images. And while I'm often shooting in the dark of the night with little to no moonlight, I find that I can add a lot of depth to my images with some subtle light painting. So over the years, I've been improving my gear and my techniques to make the process easier and the results even more subtle and natural looking.
What Makes A Good Light Paint Brush?
I've found there are several factors in deciding which light painting flashlight I like to use most: color temperature, even cast of light, adjustability, etc. In that direction, I really like the Xenon bulbs because they are a very neutral color temperature compared to the more common LED lights. I find that the LED lights are a bit too cool in temperature which needs to be adjusted in post-processing. Given the choice, I prefer to use a warmer light during the capture so I don't have to do that manipulation in post.
Beyond that, I've tested a lot of lights that have hot spots and dead spots in the light that gets emitted. This makes it challenging to get a good even distribution of light in my images so I've really tried to find lights with a more even, gentle cast - which I've found to be the case with the Brinkmann Dual Xenon Spotlight.
The image on the right, Lake Irene's Milky Way Mirror shows how impressive the light painting can be even with varied subjects and distances. In this case, the light painting and Milky Way exposure all took place in the same, single exposure (captured during a night photography workshop) - making the post-processing a breeze. It was very nice having the color temperature looking so natural straight out of the camera.
What Do You Mean It Was Made For The Auto Industry?
That's right, this light was originally named the "Swirl Finder" as it's billed as a must-have tool for automobile detailers and serious car enthusiasts. It shows swirls in much the same way the sun shows swirls only you don't need to move your car into the sun in order to see the swirls, instead you simply pull the trigger on gun-style flashlight and light up the paint while inside a garage or detail shop.
Ever since having learned about this flashlight auto enthusiasts have adopted it as a way of monitoring their progress to know when swirls are gone and the quality is high - allowing for jobs to be completed in any weather at any time of day. It's great to see it works well for the auto industry and of course, for my light painting needs.
For a little better understanding, I thought I'd provide some pictures that show the light beams from the Brinkmann Dual Xenon and a few other lights. In fairness to the Nitecore and the LED light I used to compare, I've seen a lot of changes in that market over the last year. I expect that more LEDs will appear on the market that will produce a warmer, more neutral color. Regardless, I thought it would be useful to see just how they compare.
In looking at the images, I want to clarify a couple of points first. I took these images with my Samsung Galaxy S3 where the white balance was adjusted automatically for each image. What this means is that the two images don't have the same white balance setting - because of the adjustment for the LED light in the first image. So the images do a good job of showing how the two lights compare to each other but they're not an accurate representation of each color on it's own. For the purposes of the comparison, both lights were positioned about 5 feet from the wall.
In this first image, we have a Nitecore SRT6 (LED) light on the left compared with the Brinkmann Dual Xenon Spotlight on the right. Ignoring the brighter area caused by the reflection, I find both of the lights to have a good gentle cast. In my opinion, the Brinkmann has a wider cast and has a visibly warmer color temperature. This wider cast makes me feel like I'm using a bigger brush, good for painting a house rather than a little brush for trim. Besides that, I really like the difference in color temperature. This image almost makes the light look too warm but in reality, I find the Brinkmann to produce very neutral light in appearance.
In the second image, we have a Maglite (2D, opened up to show wide) on the left compared with the Brinkmann Dual Xenon Spotlight on the right. While they both appear with a good color temperature, this image shows why it's so important to have a light with a good gentle cast. We can see the Maglite on the left produces lots of hot spots and dead spots when opened up to show wide. I've learned over time (and after wasting a few pictures thanks to poor light painting efforts) that this even distribution of the light can make a difference in my pictures.
Brightness & Distance
In using the Brinkmann Dual Xenon Spotlight, I've been pleasantly surprised by how versatile it's been. I've used it in situations where the foreground subject was as close as 10 feet. And while direct light painting would have been too strong with a subject that close (even on the low, single bulb setting), using an indirect lighting approach makes it possible. At the far end, I've been impressed as well - especially when you move the light off-camera to avoid the glare. In terms of distance, I've been able to reach 300-500 feet with ease and in dry conditions, I've been able to reach as far as about a 1/4 mile. By comparison, the Nitecore SRT6 has a further reach because its light appears brighter overall and because it's beam is more focused.
- Neutral color temperature of the Xenon bulb
- Gentle, even cast of light without any hot spots or dead spots
- Adjustability with a high (2 beams) and low (1 beam) setting makes it a versatile tool
- Battery life is excellent - I've yet to see mine get drained
- Relati vely low cost at $30 plus shipping
- I had one unit die when sand got into the trigger mechanism, so I had to replace it.
In the end, the Brinkmann Dual Xenon Spotlight is my favorite light paint brush. I use some other lights on occasion, but with the versatility of this light, I've found it to meet my needs in most every instance. Of course, it doesn't reach more than about a quarter mile so it has it's limits but it's been a very impressive and reliable tool in my night photography gear bag.
- Type of Bulb:Xenon
- Type of Battery:Ni-Cd Rechargeable
- Chargers Included:120-volt AC and 12-volt DC
- Construction:ABS Plastic with Pistol Grip Handle
- Switches:On/Off, One/Two Beams, Lock/Unlock
- Charging LED:Indicates when charging is complete
- Dimensions:7 x 7.5 x 2 inches
- Weight:1.39 lbs
- Warranty:1 year