Profile of a Profile

by Craig Rutherford
 Chauvet E-260WW
Chauvet E-260WW

A Gear Review of the Chauvet E-260WW

At LDI2016, I saw the term “theatrical” a lot. Manufacturers continue to refine and develop their technology, getting increasingly improved and consistent dimming, color stability, and color rendition, all attributes we look for in the demanding world of theatrical production. The last time I wrote about an LED profile, I wondered at how the perception of how even some professionals, failed to track the continual improvements made to LED technology over the years; LEDs no longer mean a cold and industrial color temperature. And while there are theoretical limits, we’ve achieved practical equivalence in terms of the brightness of conventional and LED profiles. Today, we’re going examine the latest generation of LED profiles from Chauvet Professional, the E-260WW, the warm white version.

Construction

The unit is shaped roughly like a traditional ellipsoidal, with a slightly larger rear section to accommodate the LED electronics, thermal management systems, and power supply. The front half is almost identical to a standard profile light, with a metal barrel that accepts both Chauvet’s lenses and ETC Source Four® lenses, a feature that will no doubt be appreciated by rental houses. Construction is mostly metal and, like all the units in this range, very sturdy and solid. Two hardened aluminum handles loosen to allow the user to adjust the yoke. All the usual controls are here, including four shutters for beam shaping, a slot for a drop-in iris or other accessory, and a standard B-size gobo slot.

Output and Color

This source for this light is, as you might expect, an array of warm white LEDs that functions as a single source, with a large non-removable primary lens over the array. I measured 3,200 lux at five meters (with a 36˚ lens tube) after allowing the unit to reach thermal equilibrium for 20-minutes, which is easily competitive with a 750-watt incandescent instrument. The dimmer curve is extremely smooth and resembles a somewhat deepened square law curve. What the successive “Dimmer Curve” settings in the menu system do is to “smooth” fades to black and blackouts, to match the thermal lag a real tungsten source has. There was no visible stepping anywhere throughout the range, even at the last few values before blackout. You can run the fixture as a single channel (only 8-bit dimming) up to six DMX channels—for 16-bit dimming, preset programs, strobe, and dimmer modes.

Chauvet rates the color temperature of this light at 3,150K, and the light quality displays excellent color rendering and skin tones, and matched the incandescent sources very well. Chauvet includes an adjustable PWM frequency to help reduce on-camera flickering. The unit also has a strobe channel that provides steady flashes up to an almost disorienting film-style flicker. Another feature I particularly appreciate is the “focus” mode: hold the ENTER key on the menu for three seconds and the light turns on to full, and you can exit easily. This is a very convenient way to bring the light to full to focus it without using the manual settings in the menu.

Optics

Field evenness was excellent, with only a slight center-to-edge brightness difference. This is in sharp contrast to traditional ERS units with their, at times impossible-to-eliminate hot or dark spots in the field. Focus on gobos was also very good, with acceptably low levels of chromatic aberration visible. The single-source nature of this unit means that you can defocus the lens barrel without seeing individual sources, something you can’t do with some other LED profiles.

Conclusions

The unit weighs 15.4lbs. Power auto-ranges from 100VAC to 240VAC, and input is via Neutrik powerCON in and pass-throughs on the rear of the unit. Data input is via 5 or 3-pin DMX ins and pass-throughs on the rear of the fixture, right below the unit’s menu display and buttons.

Is the E-260WW right for your production, be it theatrical, touring, or something else entirely? Whether it is or not, it represents a welcome step forward in the march toward LED dominance in our field. Falling costs, improved brightness and color rendering: these are the concrete advantages of solid-state lighting. With them, we approach—in my opinion—aesthetic parity, between LED and incandescent. With the efficiency edge of LED being clear, there are fewer reasons to prefer a tungsten source, and Chauvet has demonstrated with the E-260WW that incandescent’s perceived superiority in the theatrical world may be as fragile as the delicate glass bulbs of yesteryear.