CENTER VALLEY, PA.
K5600’s literature says, “The Joker
1600—Not just another HMI.” And
this is not just another HMI. Where
else will you have the punch of a 1,600-
watt HMI (roughly equivalent to a 6K in
quartz light output) with the ability to be
plugged into a 15 amp circuit? The Joker
1600 is a focusable and dimmable, daylight-balanced
HMI with versatility for all situations.
Packaged in a 60-pound case, K5600’s
Joker 1600 is available in three configurations:
Bug-Lite, Beamer and the variation
being reviewed here—the Zoom Beamer.
This lenseless light has a focusable
1,600-watt lamp offering an even output
throughout its range. The 700-hour lamp
moves with the reflector to spot or flood
the light. A slide lever on the light allows
you to change between these two settings.
The unit is powered by a relatively small
ballast with an illuminated green circuit
breaker. A control on the ballast also enables
the Joker 1600 to be dimmed—something
not seen on many HMIs. As mentioned,
the lamp draws less than 15 amps,
allowing it to be used just about anywhere.
Its 15-pound black aluminum head easily
mounts on a C-stand and the unit comes
up to full brilliance in a short time.
The joy of an HMI is that it’s daylight-balanced.
High-wattage tungsten lamps
pull too much power to be really practical
when used on remote shoots where
daylight-balanced illumination is needed
to compete with the sun.
I tried the Joker 1600 Zoom Beamer on
four separate shoots, with it serving as the
key light source in each. In one of these, we
wanted cool moonlight to stream through
a venetian blind onto one of the actors. A
tungsten source wouldn’t really work as
we needed a moonlight effect.
We placed the Joker HMI about 15 feet
from the window and mounted a half CTB
(color temperature blue) balancing gel on
a C-stand two feet in from the light. I also
had students place a cardboard venetian
blind “cookie” in front of the CTB gel.
In the house, I half-closed the blinds so
the HMI’s light passed through the gel, two
sets of venetian blinds and the century-old
window glass. The overall effect was quite
strong and was what we were aiming for.
Our 200 and 800 Watt HMIs just didn’t
have the punch to create moon beams that
strong—score one for the Joker 1600.
Using the Joker 1600 as a key source
outdoors, we had our “angel” character
standing on a roof 25 feet off the ground.
The Joker 1600 was her key illumination.
Knowing HMIs make whites pop, this extra
illumination on the rooftop figure helped
separate her from an overcast background.
The instrument added an extra half-stop
of illumination to her face and was sorely
missed when it was turned off.
The third shoot took place at night and
involved using the Joker 1600 as the key
lighting source. We needed to illuminate
a 1955 Ford Fairlane and this could only
be accomplished with an extremely bright
With the Joker HMI trained on it, the car
stood out nicely in what was otherwise total
Our last shoot provided the only indoor
use for the Joker 1600. We needed a heavily
diffused source of sunlight and the fixture
provided us with the warm, glowing rays
of the sun—an effect that could not have
been easily accomplished otherwise.
The Joker 1600 is one bright light source. It can easily compete with
the sun to fill in shadows, or it
can be diffused, flooded or even
dimmed down to suit the situation.
I also really appreciate the fact that
the light does not need its own generator
and is light enough to easily
|A scene from the movie showing the moonlight/venetian blind
effect achieved with the K5600.
There are a few minor issues with
the Joker 1600 that keep it from being
the perfect light for every garage.
Although the unit is not that expensive
for all it does, a replacement
lamp is very expensive at more than
$600. With a 700-hour maximum life,
this makes it a somewhat costly (and
fragile) instrument to operate.
Also, when used indoors the unit
takes quite awhile to cool. Needing
to vacate one of our shooting locations
(an Italian restaurant) so that
paying patrons could occupy its
tables, the Joker 1600 was the last
item to be removed from the set as
it was too hot to touch otherwise.
Outdoors it did keep us warm in
the 14-degree wind chill factor environment
in which we were working.
However, it is nice to know that our
electric bill wouldn’t be overly inflated
because of this lighting instrument.
The Joker 1600 Zoom Beamer is the
perfect light for almost all situations. It
has enough power to serve as the sun,
moon or just about any other concentrated
source of light. Its ability to be focused
and dimmed makes it even more
Once you get past the expense of the
lamp, and its extended cool-down period,
I defy any other light unit to do what this
one does at its price point.
Chuck Gloman is an associate professor
and chair of the TV/film department
at DeSales University. He may be contacted
Wherever a daylight-balanced,
dimmable light source that delivers
a strong output is needed.
Ability to focus, dim and
operate on standard household
power rolled in a package that
will compete with the sun in
just about any location.