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K5600’s Joker 1600 Zoom Beamer

The crew sets up the K5600 Joker 1600 Zoom Beamer to achieve the “cool moonlight streaming through a venetian blind onto the actor’s face effect” described in the review.

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 light source.

With the Joker HMI trained on it, the car stood out nicely in what was otherwise total darkness.

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 be mobile.

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 versatile.

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.


K5600 Lighting