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Advice on buying budget HMI's

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I currently work with a bunch of tungstens that have been getting the job done. I would like to buy an HMI but they are just so expensive. I would like to spend 1000-1500 for one so I have to choose between buying used or buying one of the cheap ones from China new.


My main motivation behind buying an hmi is to be able to light people during the daytime while the sun is out.


My two options are:


A. to buy this new chinese 1200w hmi for $1240 here There's a video review of a guy who tested it out (embedded in the site) and says that it's worth the money and risk of buying off-brand compared to the more expensive arri brand.


B. buy this used Luxarc 1200w mini hmi from craigslist for $1200. (picture attached) The guy claims this light/brand is the workhorse for alot of production houses. I'm not sure if he's telling the truth or not so I wanted to check with you guys


So my questions are:

1. Is Luxarc really a trusted more reliable brand? Would you buy a used Luxarc and the risks that come along with used over a new chinese brand and its risks?


2. Do you think the Luxarc would have more light output or would they both be the same?


3. My main purpose is to be able to light people during the day. Do you think 1200w hmi is enough to achieve that or would I need to get higher wattage for that?






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1200w hmi is not that bright for daylight use unless used close to the subject. something like a 4k would be more useful especially if you need to diffuse it even a bit.

a 2.5k or 4k Par or Max would be great for you, they are much much brighter than a 1.2k fresnel like the one pictured but are not as difficult to handle and get the power to than the 6k ones.

at least get a Par or Max instead of Fresnel stuff, you'll get much better efficiency.


Chinese lights have quality and safety issues quite often and HMI lights are more difficult to repair so unless it is excellent model recommended by professionals and checked for electrical safety I would advice against them

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LTM, a French company is long out of business. Where will you sent it out when the ballast needs repair? Some place in Texas or out to Galaxy in California?


An Arri M18, 1.8K is as big an HMI as you're going to find that will run on a 20A circuit in the US. It can be lamped with a 1200w Globe to run on a 15A circuit. While seemingly a big investment, I'd consider buying an M18 and when it's not in use, create a sub-rent agreement through a local rental house. Leave it there and let them sent it out when you are not using using it.. In this way it will eventually pay for itself and maintenance and insurance will be covered by the rental house. Not every rental house does this, usually the smaller ones will.

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Never get close to a knockoff HMI if you value your life. Filmgear is Chinese and OK, but the eBay no-name stuff is absolute garbage: poor materials (think insulation), amateur electronic design (think fuses, safety circuits), cheapest glass for lenses (UV protection? or 2 kilos of hot cracked glass falling from a boom or truss-mounted light onto an actor) and the list goes on. As they say it here, don't touch it, let it lie and stink.

LTM Luxarcs actually were cinema workhorses and will remain in use for years and outlive dozens of chinese lights if properly maintained. They do rust nevertheless (they're a lot of sheet steel & some cast silumin unlike Arri), so need to be repainted on times. And since they're mostly steel you can do welding repairs.

Repairing a magnetic ballast or an ignitor is not complicated if electrics/power electronics aren't than foreign to you. They're simple circuits, albeit high-voltage. I've rebuilt HMIs as an electrician, even sort of upgraded them with better insulation and heavier wiring. Many old European HMIs like ARRI Daylight, Kobold, or (less known) Cinemobil, Blossl, Schulz, Auer, use pretty much the same components i.e. May&Christe inductors, so you can swap parts.


An 1,2K fresnel is perfectly adequate for a day interior, diffused or bounced, key or whatever. You can even fire it through a window into a small room to simulate sunlight on an overcast day. If you want to balance a small int. and a sunny ext. you'll use at least a 6K fresnel through 251/250 or a par through heavy diffusion.

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The only problem with this is that the old Luxarc may be a magnetic ballast, which will create flicker problems at various frame rates.


Personally I would be confident of my own ability to predict and handle the problems of a cheap, knockoff light, but I wouldn't recommend anyone else did. At the very least, keep a frame of heat shield in front of it to prevent things falling out.

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The most important safety issue I forgot to mention is UV protection. Fresnels generally cause less trouble than open faces where safety glasses break all the time and get replaced with God knows what. Just make sure the lens is original or an adequate spare (with UV filtering) and not taken from a tungsten light.


Magnetic ballasts are really a problem only with high speed or film cameras with a fixed shutter angle. But if you can afford film or high speed, why use magnetic ballasts?

And even though I'm pretty comfortable servicing old HMIs, I personally won't touch a knockoff since I don't know what to expect from it. They fail from defects and poor design, not wear or aging - very difficult to predict what to repair or replace next.

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Chinese knockoff tungsten lights are usually possible to repair relatively easily (very simple designs) if changing cables/swapping parts/manufacturing some minor parts to replace factory messed up ones is not a problem.

Mainly the problems is if someone else is using the self repaired stuff and get hurt because of not knowing how to handle the custom modified repaired gear and just predicts that it would behave like any other light (insulations, humidity protection, 'bulb fail protection' etc.)

I personally have some Chinese fresnel lights, a 300w 650w 1000w set, but I never rent them out or let anyone borrow them just to be sure that I will know how they are handled and can intervene if there is likely to happen something they are not prepared for, like someone leaving them out in the rain without protection predicting that they would tolerate water as well as the newer Arri fresnels :blink: They have been repaired right after purchase to fix the safety issues (there were many) but they are not Arris and getting parts is also very difficult if something brokes

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with 2.5k / 4k recommendation I predicted that the main use would be outdoors to fill shadows for day exteriors in small sets and lighting interiors through windows for daylight look in controlled setups.

For indie use for daylight interiors I would just gel the windows rather than trying to bring in many K's of HMI light just to reduce contrast.


The M18 is a great choice for use in the US as JD suggested but it would be good to have two or three of them depending on how much grip gear and time you have to control the natural light. Renting is of course an option if extra light is only needed for limited days.


even if ending up using the Chinese HMI's, make sure that the bulb is great quality and the light can stand the possible bulb explosions, someone may lose an eye or two if these things explode on set :unsure:

For bouncing it is not as high of a risk because the glass would possibly fly to a safer direction.

But for low budget use couple of tungsten fresnels may be much better option than unreliable HMI, especially if using indoors and if window gelling is possible or warm light is needed. for example Firestarters and 2k tungstens are so cheap to rent that I mainly use them instead of HMI's in low budget shoots unless high power daylight balanced light is absolutely necessary

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  • 1 month later...

If you are still looking for HMI lighting. Check out this auction site link below. Link will be at the end of this posting. So, if you do not want to read the complete posting. scroll to the bottom. I bought an Arri 575W Fresnel HMI W/Ballast, and an older Caravaggio model 2310 Par HMI. From the auction. Down side to the Caravaggio, is the light/lamp is no longer made. I have been told, it can be worked on the accept another type of lamp. From Galaxy in CA. I bought a 25FT adapter cable, that worked with the Caravaggio HMI and LTM 575/1200 ballast.

Two years ago, a camera store in Chicago, name Helix closed. It had a rental department. I bought a bunch of gear from the rental department. Among the items I bought, was a LTM LuxArc 1200W mini. I also bought three ballast. Two 575/1200 electronic ballast, and one magnetic 1200 ballast. Which is why I had a ballast to use with the Caravaggio Par HMI. If truth be told. I bought the magnetic ballast, and the two electronic ballast were given to me, on the last day of the closeout sale. I am primarily a large format still photographer. Who still likes to shoot film. Had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the digital realm. My interest in HMI lighting began about 15 years ago. When I stumbled onto a Joker 400 HMI in it's case with all it's Fresnel lenses, ballast and cables, at a used photography gear show. Seller was only asking $400.00 for it. Knew I had something worthwhile, when a budding film maker cursed me up & down for buying it before he saw it. I knew about HMI lighting and magnetic ballast. Because in the mid 1090's I had been a still photographer on two movies, that used HMI lighting. K5600 Joker 400 HMI was the 1st time I had seen an electronic ballast. Over the years I have added to the Joker system. Bought a Joker-Bug 400 HMI alone from a sound studio, that lost the rest of the gear, while on location. They decided not to replace the gear, and just remain a sound studio. 18 months later, I found a Joker 400 ballast on eBay. Also found a SoftTube on eBAy. So, if you take your time. You can locate some good deals. The auction site for the HMI lights, was by far the most I have paid for my HMI lighting. Guess it is because bidding is open the all of the USA.

When bidding. Keep in mind, that there is a bidder's fee, and you will have to have the items shipped to you. It ADDS UP in a hurry! This auction house also charges for American Express credit card transaction.

Almost forgot to add. I also own two Hensel TwinStar 575 HMI lights. they are called TwinStar, because they were made to be both a HMI and flash mono block light. In other words, when used as a HMI. The ballast is built into the light. When used as a flash, it is cabled to a flash power pack. I had mine converted to work with Balcar flash power packs. It was made and discontinue in a very short time frame. It is hard to find information about the Hensel TwinStar HMI/Flash light. See the link below to an eBay auction, of a Hensel TwinStar being sold. I contacted the seller, he only used it as a HMI light. He claims he does not know about it being able to work as a flash. When cabled to a power pack. If you opt to buy it. Have the seller send you the light's measurements, before you complete transaction. It might be bigger than you think. You could try calling Hensel in the USA. When you look at the Hensel link. Read the 3rd paragraph. It states that the Twin Light is a 1200 HMI. that might have been true in Europe. the only one I know about is a 575W HMI, and 300W/S flash head. There are two different eBay links to Hensel Twin Light Scanlight and Flash Head. The 1st one is an on gong auction. the 2nd was one completed four years ago. I am the person who bought it. I made the seller an offer of $400.00 and it was accepted.

Oh, by the way. Anyone reading this, and is a digital movie maker, who lives in the Chicago area. I need help learning how to use Canon XLH1 and XLH1s camcorders. Willing to work for free, loan out my lights, and the Canon XLH1 or XLH1s camcorders.

To the person who started this forum, or others interested in finding HMI lights on the cheap. See links below. Or link below for the Joseph Finn Auction site.











While trying to find information about the Hensel Twin Light. I could only find one or two places. That mention the light indirectly.
The 22-inch
ACW Beauty Dish
aluminum reflector
comes with a cap mechanism at the center that
allows you to manipulate various lighting effects.
It’s compatible with the Mono E, Mono Max, MH
Scanlight and Twinstar series.
Edited by John Moye
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I actually have one of the knockoff Chinese 1.2k HMIs.

Did not buy it from CameTV but they use to sell one like it in their more expensive range. The one you linked is a bit lower end than the one I have but they are basically the same.


They work really well actually. I have had about 200 hours out of it so far and have had no problems.

The build quality is no to Arri standards but it is 1/15th the price it is quite good. The worm gear that controls the flood and spot could do with a bit of lube.

The ballast has also been fine. Shot 240fps on the Epic and it had zero flicker. Need to get my hands on a high speed camera to really test though.

The cable is okay, but it is just 1.5mm 3 core. It has the militarily connector on it to make it look like it would work with any other ballast or head combination but I doubt it.

If I needed a longer cable I would just try and find the connectors and make my own over spending £250 on their 7m extensions.


Used it on many shorts as well as on a feature. Rented it out too and the people using it said it worked great for them.



PS, a note about the CameTV one. It is only a 2 core connector that connects the head to the ballast. This means that the metal head is NOT earthed.

Would not recommend that unit for that reason. The one to get is the one with the more standard connector. This one is earthed.

Also, don't use the bulb they include. They are cheap and rubbish. You will want to get a OSRAM or Philips.

Edited by Jack OGara
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Does it buzz?


Some of the really bad ones are effectively always stuck on flicker-free mode, so they are indeed flicker free, but the lamp head can sing a bit.




Not at all. But I use decent bulbs. The ones that come with them will buzz.

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It's a type made by a company called Shenzhen TechOne, which was actually supplied by GAM with one of their lights. There's actually nothing wrong with it, it's just not really aimed at film and TV work so it doesn't have the sine-wave modes which may provoke flicker but reduce acoustic noise.



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I am selling a kit of two HMI heads and a ballast everything original you can see the link here


2 Arri Daylight Compact 575 Lights
1 Arri 575/1200EB Ballast
1 575W Light Bulb
1 Large Shipping Storage Case brand "Sharp"
One Light has a sticker and is named "Spare HMI Head"
I think its a Decent price
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