For many of us, lighting isn’t really just about light itself, it’s more about how we can shape, bend, cut and control the light. If you’ve ever worked in live theater/stage, you’re likely familiar with the light that has become known in lighting circles as a Leko. What’s a Leko? A Lekolite (often abbreviated to Leko) is a brand of ellipsoidal reflector spotlight (ERS) used in stage lighting that refers to the half-ellipsoidal dome reflector within which the instrument’s lamp is housed.
Introduced in 1933, it was developed by Joseph Levy and Edward Kook, founders of Century Lighting, which eventually became a part of the Strand Lighting Corporation. The instrument was widely used in theatre and entertainment venues into the 1990s, particularly in the United States. Keep in mind that with the era the Leko was most popular in—the 1990s through the early 2000s—was well before LED lighting made the huge inroads into the market that they have over the past decade or so. A classic Leko is a big, heavy, long instrument that was typically a Tungsten light with all of the attendant limitations about heat generation and power consumption. So, while still in use, Leko lights on video and film sets have become rarer than they were 10 or 20 years ago.
What’s The Big Deal About An Ellipsoidal Spotlight?
Since the most common lighting instruments used in video and film production today are LED, and more often than not, daylight color-balanced LED, most of the finer control over the direction of the lighting is derived through external accessories like softboxes, barn doors, snoots and flags. While all of these devices work well, they take up space and are extra things you have to haul onto your set. The big deal about an Ellipsoidal spotlight is that all of its control is built in. This type of light allows you very fine control also—much finer and precise control than you can gain from say, a Fresnel light and a set of barn doors.
Enter The Aputure Spotlight Mount
I’ve been wanting to own the Aputure Spotlight Mount ($499) since it was introduced a couple of years ago, but it always seemed like a bit of a luxury to me. Just a few weeks ago, a project came up where I could easily justify spending the money on the Spotlight Mount, so I fired up my credit card and ordered one. More on how I used the Spotlight in a minute. The Aputure Spotlight Mount arrived in a large cardboard shipping box. Upon opening it, I found a very nice hardshell case containing the Spotlight Mount. Why does Aputure call it the Spotlight Mount? Simple—this modifier was designed to fit onto popular Aputure COB lights like the 120D MKI and MKII and the 300D MK1 and MKII via a Bowens mount. Since I don’t own the 120D or the 300D, but I do own a competing light that also features the Bowens Mounting system, the Aputure Spotlight Mount worked just fine on my non-Aputure COB lights, both the 150-watt and the 300-watt versions.
Removing the Spotlight Mount from its case, one is immediately struck by its relatively hefty weight (11.3 pounds) and how well-crafted and precisely made it is. The unit features both a front and rear optic that’s used to shape the beam output of your COB light. The housing is all aluminum and the tie-down knobs for both the movable lens element and the yolk seem robust and well made. The Aputure Spotlight Mount comes with a nice amount of accessories including an air bulb and cleaning cloth for the lenses, a set of Gobos to get you started, the hardshell case and a clear and well-written owner’s manual.
What Can It Do?
An Ellipsoidal Spotlight allows you to shape and control your light to an almost surgical level. The Spotlight Mount has four internal cutters that allow you to trim, shape and modify the output of your light into almost any shape. You can make a sharp-edged circle of light, a soft-edged circle of light, a square, rectangle, slash, line and any variation of these that you can think of. Need a pie-shaped wedge of hard light to fill a corner? It’s very simple for the Aputure Spotlight Mount. You can sharpen or defocus (blur) the light pattern by merely moving the front lens focusing element. If you’ve never used an Ellipsoidal Spotlight, you’ll truly be amazed at some of the great lighting effects and tricks the Spotlight Mount allows you to do.
Aputure Spotlight Mount Downsides
Of course, no piece of gear is perfect. The Spotlight Mount costs you an additional $500 above the cost of your lighting instrument. It’s relatively large, long and heavy. You’ll need a beefier light stand to steadily hold the Spotlight Mount and a 300 watt COB LED. You also lose output. Like most light modifiers, shining your light’s output through a series of lenses does sacrifice some of the output. The lenses are very good but not perfect; you can detect some small amounts of chromatic aberrations where you’ll see colored fringing around the edges of a pattern in some situations. The Spotlight Mount is available with a 19-degree, 26-degree or 36-degree lens. The smaller the lens output pattern, the stronger the output beam, but the smaller area covered and the distances will be more limited as far as the location of the light to the object you’re lighting. You can purchase the other two lenses that your Spotlight Mount didn’t come with for a mere $259 each if you want to own all three beam outputs.
My Spotlight Tip
I bought the 36-degree Spotlight Mount, which means that it throws the largest image circle of the three lenses available. Instead of shelling out an additional $518 to acquire the 26-degree and 19-degree lenses, I purchase the Aputure Spotlight Mount Iris for $99. This allows me to simply crop the largest 36-degree beam output to whatever size I need if I need a smaller pattern than the 36-degree lens can provide. The internal cutters on the Spotlight Mount provide you with a considerable degree of flexibility and control that until you’ve experienced it, you can’t imagine how precise it lets you be with controlling your light.
We recently produced a high-end live stream with a speaker standing at a matte-black podium. The client wanted us to place a strong slash of light across the face of the podium. As you know, lighting up a matte-black surface with a nice bright slash of light can be challenging, but with the Spotlight Mount, we had no issues with generating a precisely cut, bright slash of white light across the podium. This simply wouldn’t have been possible with only a Fresnel and a set of barn doors. I know because we’ve tried, and we just couldn’t achieve the look the client was envisioning with the Fresnel and barn doors. We were able to precisely dial in exactly what the client wanted in less than 10 minutes utilizing the output of our 300 watt COB LED with no bleeding off the edge of the vertical podium surface into the green screen behind the talent.
The Aputure Spotlight Mount exceeded my expectations for an Ellipsoidal Spotlight lens for my existing COB LED lights. It’s very well made, comes with a generous amount of accessories and has a Gobo holder and slot that can accommodate any of the thousands of Gobos available to throw almost any light pattern you can think of onto any surface. The Spotlight Mount may not be needed on every shoot, but when you want to up your game with the precision and control that it allows you, there isn’t a competing product I’ve found that can do what it’s capable of at any price. The Spotlight Mount updates a Tungsten classic lighting instrument for the modern COB LED era with style. If you need this level of control, it’s hard to beat.