Product Reviews

New Ott Light For Photography
by Al Campbell


A couple of years ago I did a product review on a lamp called an Ott Lite. At the time, I mentioned that the light I tested was great for tying flies and reading, but not all that great for photography. I also mentioned that I was waiting for the photography version of their lamp that they were developing, and wanted to try it out. Well, I have now tried it and have some good news to report.

The light they sent me was the small, flip open, desktop model. It costs a lot less than the big model, and it is a more convenient size to use on a fly tying bench. I was skeptical about the idea that anyone could create a light that produced exact colors on film or digital media. I took 117 photos under natural light and the Ott Lite to compare and determine if there was any color shift. Fortunately for you, I narrowed the field of photos down to three for you to compare with me.

I took my digital camera and set the white balance feature to natural sunlight then took pictures of a Conranch cape in natural sunlight and under the light of the new Ott Lite. That's the best way I have to test the light for the color shift toward green that's common with fluorescent lighting. I noticed that the light from the Ott Lite has a little more contrast than natural sunlight, but the colors are pretty close to natural sunlight. Next, I did a white balance under the Ott Lite so my camera would adjust the picture to make all the colors true to color (at least that's how it's supposed to work).

I really like the colors of this particular Conranch cape because it is a natural golden badger color with a slight tinge of rusty dun. I have never seen another cape with that particular color, so I chose it for this test. As you can see, the three pictures aren't the same and there seems to be a difference in color. I thought the difference was more likely due to the higher contrast of the Ott Lite rather than a color shift, but I do think there is a very slight shift toward green under the Ott Lite with the camera set for sunlight. And, that subtle dun hue had shifted slightly toward a ginger color under the artificial light of the Ott Lite. Somewhere between the two is the photo with the white balance.

What happened next surprised me a little. I compared my photos to the actual cape in natural light and noticed that the cape looks more like the picture taken under the Ott Lite after I white balanced my camera. Now what? Well, I think the difference could be due to the color of the sky. The sky is blue, and the photo taken in sunlight has a slight shift toward blue in its color. This photography stuff can present challenges once in a while.

My conclusion? I know one thing for sure. If you're using a digital camera and use the white balance feature, your photos under the new Ott Lite will be as true to the natural color of your subject as you can get. If you don't do a white balance or if you're using print or slide film, your photos will be closer to natural under the Ott Lite than they will be under any other artificial light I have used, including those expensive and hot photo bulbs. And, if you're using natural sunlight, your photos might not be as close to the natural color of your subject as they could be under the Ott Lite, especially if you white balance your digital camera before using it.

Is the Ott Light worth the price? Yep, and it works for more than photography. It's the best artificial light I've found for fly tying or any other craft that requires true color detection. As you grow older, you'll appreciate how gentle this light is on your eyes when reading or working with small objects. If you want to do some photography but can't always rely on the sun to help you out, this is your ticket to photographic freedom.

You'll find information on the Ott Lite and all of their models in the Sponsor's section. If you decide to order one, and if you plan on using it for photography, make sure they know that is what you want it for. I don't think all of their models were designed for photography, so you'll want to ask for the right model for that purpose. The model number for the one I am using is Model L13338.

Environmental Lighting Concepts, Inc.
1214 West Cass Street
Tampa, FL 33606
Ph: 800-842-8848 or 813-621-0058
Fax: 813-626-8790

Or visit their web site at: www.ott-lite.com ~Al Campbell



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