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Cheap HMI lights from eBay
  • I've recently bumped into some quite cheap HMI lights on eBay like a 70W for £88 There's also a 150W, 250W and 400W options.

    Has anyone had any experience with them?

  • 33 Replies sorted by
  • Not really, but I'd be interested in knowing!

  • Yes, strange no one has about these, because it could be potentially revolutionary. One thing I saw is that it has a magnetic ballast. From what I gathered is that it will flicker if you don't use 50 or 60 for your shutter speed. From what I heard is that it is quite noisy also. So it is a bit like magnetic ballast in fluorescent tubes. So you would have to place it a bit far from the light/camera. But all in all it could be very good. Little question, is all HMI the same in trems of colour temperature and CRI ?

  • @kronstadt, do you have links to the other more powerful model.

  • @danyyyel

    I don't know anything about HMI lights. Don't even know what bulbs to buy for them. Never used them before - I've used Redheads. These ones seem to have the ballast built into the unit (hmm, potentially great for portability). I was just searching for lights (or spotlights) to use as a kicker (back-light) and wanted them to be very directional and very strong, like theater stage lights fresnels or maybe like PAR38 bulbs, when I bumped into these by accident. I've read that HMI give x4 or x5 the output, so, theoretically 70W should be a 250W-350W equivalent, and 400W should be equivalent of 1500W-2000W. Noise would be a show-stopper for me, as my shotgun mic is pretty sensitive. But still, these HMI lights could be useful if someone wants to inject more sunshine into INT. scenes or counter the sunlight in EXT. scenes or create artificial Sunlight on a gloomy British summer day, like we have these days.

    that it will flicker if you don't use 50 or 60 for your shutter speed

    That's okey. I've set my shutter speed to 50 about 2 years ago and never changed it since. If you're shooting film (24fps) 50 is recommended.

    From what I heard is that it is quite noisy

    Where did you hear this? I'd love to read some reviews.

    do you have links to the other more powerful model.

    Just search eBay for "hmi light" and sort by Lowest first. The interesting thing is that these come from Meking and the stock is in UK. I once ordered an 800W Redhead for £29.80 (free shipping) from them and it was delivered to my doorstep 4 days later. Here's the list that you asked:

    70W/220v 5600K Photographic Continuous Lighting Lamp Light £88

    150w/220v 5600K Photographic Continuous Lighting Lamp Light M-150 £118

    250w/220v 5600K £208

    400w/220v 5600K £288

  • They could be ok. They are magnetic ballast and it's supposedly built it, but I don't see how they could put that kind of ballast in the head of the light since the ballasts are usually as big as a cantaloupe.

    HMI was originally a brand name. These are really just metal halide lights. They can last from thousands of hours to 10,000+ hours, and they don't get nearly as hot as tungstens. They do get hot enough to be painful though. Biggest problem is that they give off a lot of UV so the bulb needs to have UV coating on it or you need to have UV blocking gels or else your talent will be burnt or their eyes harmed.

    The biggest problem is that the cheap bulbs usually cast a very green color, similar to cheap fluorescents. The better quartz bulbs seem to have better spectrum although I always end up putting minus green gels on all of them to match them perfectly.

    The tungsten equivalent is about 4x. So a 150W metal halide will be equal in brightness to about 600W of tungsten.

    My DIY HMI don't really make any noise. There is a slight hum if you get really close to them but it's not really audible. I wouldn't worry.

  • Are you sure that they have magnetic ballast?

    As not very costly electronic ballasts exist.

    It looks like it is made by one of major China manufacturers. I ask and tell you more delais soon.

  • @Vitaliy_Kiselev: Please do, could you also have them send some more pictures, especially of the type of lamp inside as worst case scenario, one could change it out.

  • The description from the links that were provided say: "HMI lights require a ballast, an electronic or magnetic ( This is a bulid-in magnetic one)". Pretty sure that means they have a magnetic ballast.. :)

  • @svart

    Many times this guys know exactly zero about products that they sell.

  • A little more information would be great, thanks VK.

  • From one of the pics it seems like these 4 lights have a fresnel lens in front of them. I could be wrong though.

    @svart thanks for the info. You seem to be an authority when it comes to HMI lights. I saw your DIY post, by the way, great build. I'm wondering... given the x4 conversion factor and given the prices, and also taking into account the health-hazard (UV) and difficulty of portability, is there any particular reason why I should choose to include an HMI light in my kit??? For example,150W HMI (£118) would give me the same amount of light as 650W "As ARRI" (£120), and a 2000W Blonde (£119) or 2X 800W Redheads (£60) would give me more light than HMI 400W. Yes, you save in terms of electricity bill, but are there any other specific reasons (like light quality and light properties) to use them?

    @Vitaliy_Kiselev yeah, very often I'd ask a very elaborate and specific technical question and in return I'd get one line copy/pasted from their existing description or some incomprehensive off-topic rambling from google-translate. But if you ask them to send more pictures and post pics in this thread, I think we as a community can figure out out what's what. I'd personally be interested to know which bulbs these light use and how much are the replacements, so as to estimate my running costs.

  • @Kronstadt, They don't get nearly as hot as tungsten. After hours of use, I can still put my hand on the fresnel housing. It's hot, but won't burn the skin off my hand in a nanosecond.

    The bulbs last a LOT longer but are just a little more expensive. You can also get 5500K AND 3200K HMI lamps, especially for the lower power (70-150W) lights. The UV and the green push aren't that big of a deal. You can get UV gel if you want but most of the name brand bulbs (GE, Philips, etc) have UV coating on them already and once you know how much green is in your bulbs, you can use minus green gels, balance the camera to them or just subtract green in post.

    The weight of the ballast is about the same as the head of an ARRI fresnel, so count on one of the Ebay HMI being twice as heavy as a tungsten fresnel.

    Being more efficient, means you can plug more of them in using fewer power circuits and extensions. I was on a shoot where we used nothing but tungsten and we had to rent huge/long extensions and run them to just about every circuit in the building to keep from blowing fuses and breakers. It was a total pain and probably cost us more time and money than it should have. If we had the HMI available at that time, we could have simply used the circuits local to the area. Other than that, there isn't really anything else that is different.

  • @kronstadt: The big reason to use HMI lights are the daylight temperature and more efficient power. Tungstens have a yellow light (tungsten balanced) while HMIs are daylight balanced. While you could put CTB on a tungsten to make it daylight, you will only keep a fourth of the power (a blonde would give you the output of 500W). When working with daylight (and especially exteriors) this is nothing. There you need lights that deliver a lot of power while still having a daylight color. Then HMIs are a must.

  • If they're 4X as efficient as incandescents, that's about the same as fluorescents. Since you can get lightweight flourescents with high-frequency ballasts at both 3200K and 5500K, I'm not seeing much advantage to HMI's?

  • I also echo LPowell's concerns, if you can get 93+ CRI 5500K fluorescents that are cool and totally silent, what is the advantage? High CRI bulbs really pop the colors, and I have seen good results with inexpensive CFLs.

  • A 500W HMI might be good when you need to edge something outdoors. You could alternatively carry a blonde or possibly better a 2K frezzie. (I have 1 Blonde) Fill can be done with bounce and flouros.

    A 4K HMI can be good if you need to control time of day .. stick it outside a window and then hang blacks to block the sun .. turns midnight into midday. For me this will always be a hire job.

    With todays cameras and blacks you could pull it off with blondes focussed outside the windows. Personally I wouldn't bother owning HMI.

  • HMI and fluorescents are completely different animals. If you've ever used both, then you know this. HMI is much more like tungsten in the way you work.

    HMI provides very broad spectrum light that isn't nearly as peaky as flo lights. It also throws better so it doesn't have nearly as much falloff as flo lights. Because of this, you can't have true spotlights made from flos, which you can from HMI. In the inverse, you have to severely soften HMI to be anything like the softness you get from naked flo lamps.

    Right now, I'm loving HMI keys and flo fills. Best of both worlds.

  • @LPowell: @kavadni and @svart summed it up nicely. The other big thing is that there is not really any "big" flourescents, with the biggest still being just above 500W, while with HMIs you can get up to 18KW and 1,2KW is rather standard. While our cameras can do a lot, sometimes you need BIG floodlights (that are daylight balanced) and then HMI is the way to go. Plus flourescents are soft, but for daylight you sometimes want a harder source. That 400 could be great to shine in through a window in a shot to create depth of the sun outside for example. Each kind of light is a different instrument and as such, it works in different situations.

  • I am a big fan of fluorescent light for the cost/quality point of vue, but they are not that good for throw and if you need control and harder light. The thing is that you can soften a hard light source but the contrary is not that possible.

    Looking at the review Barry Green did about a 1200 chinesse HMI, it looked that it was only the sound from the ballast was the problem. It was with the Arri like model with the separated ballast, so at worst you could put it in another room. In this model it might be a problem if the ballast is a bit loud because you won't be able to move it.

  • @danyyyel can you please post links to reviews of these?

  • The link where he discuss the Jietu one. I was not talking about this model.

  • Good thing to notice is that both guys in this topic (Cool Lights reseller and Barry) are not really very objective.

    Plus, it is good idea to notice that multiple factories make "like-Arri" lights, so this is mostly pointless note.

  • So has anyone uncovered specific reviews of the initial products mentioned in this thread?


    70W/220v 5600K Photographic Continuous Lighting Lamp Light £88

    150w/220v 5600K Photographic Continuous Lighting Lamp Light M-150 £118

    250w/220v 5600K £208

    400w/220v 5600K £288

  • I was just going to give the 70W a try and order it but the shipping is as much as the damn light!!