The long-awaited Spotlight Zoom Mini is now released. Aputure has been working on it for some time now. They decided to redesign the Spotlight Mini Zoom, and that took more time than expected. Add on supply and manufacturing delays due to the pandemic; it just made it worse.
Back in the tungsten days, I had an ARRI 150 watt fresnel with an LTM Projection Attachment. It was a great setup for adding interesting patterns on the wall for interviews and to spice up product b-roll for the investigative stories I produced. The setup was small and light, making it easy to carry and use. This was over 20 years ago, and I still have the gobos I used.
The ARRI 150 wasn’t a punchy light and was reserved for accents and hair. Today, the LED COB fixtures are brighter without heat, making them great for a projection attachment. With the LS 60d, you get about the equivalent of a 300-watt tungsten fixture.
Spotlight Zoom Mini features
- 2X Optical Projection Lens
- Adjustable 15 to 30° Beam Angle
- Built-In Shutters
- Drop-In Iris
- Accepts M-Size Gobos
- Includes 15 Gobos
The kit comes with a padded case similar to the other Aputure lights that have recently been released. Precut slots are available for the iris and Gobos.
Spotlight Mini Zoom Design
The 15 to 30° 2X zoom lens is a nice feature as swapping out for different degree lenses makes a system larger. With a simple push/pull, you can set up fast. The same goes with the focus. Inside is an Aspherical Optical Lens Element with a Convex front lens. From approximately 16.4′ distance, you get a 4.6 to 9.2′ diameter illumination circle.
The overall build quality is good. It’s mostly metal with a bit of heft to it. The Spotlight Mini Zoom is designed to be used with the LS 60d and 60x fixtures.
It mounts to the front of the light and secures with the same retainer clips used for accessories such as Barndoors and Bowens mount adapter.
To mount the Spotlight Mini Zoom on a stand, you use the Spotlight yoke, not the LS 60’s. As you can see, it does get long. With the LS 60d attached. The length is approximately 26″ or 66 cm. It’s long but definitely shorter than its big brother Spotlight and an LS 300 attached.
With the ballast attached to the fixture, it will make the LS 60 shift with the weight of the ballast. This isn’t an issue but does make the settings sideways in the light. You can’t take the ballast off of the fixture due to the short cable. If you purchased an extension cable with the proper ends, the ballast could be placed on the floor. Another option is to get a V-lock mount on a clamp and mount the ballast on the light stand. The cable is just long enough to pull this off.
Yoke and Bracket Lock
Aputure has moved to these ratching-type lockdowns on the yoke. I don’t like them very much. Yes, when tightened, they are very secure with little to no chance of sliding out of position, but the rosette type grooves when tightening down make the light pop into them, and if you want it a touch up or down, it won’t do it as it always pops into a grove. I can live with it on the fixture, but with a Projection Attachment, you want to be able to precisely place the logo or window pattern right where you want them. You can do it, but it requires not fully tightening the knob, and it will hold in place but can easily be bumped, and it will tilt. I hope in the future Aputure moves away from these types of locking systems as I prefer the disk type.
Focus and Zoom Function
The Spotlight Mini Zoom has a Focal Length Adjustment Drum; it changes the focus when moved back and forth. Adjusting with precision isn’t fast and a little fumblie. The front-heavy barrel covers the inner housing; it isn’t fluid when pushing/pulling to zoom. This is due to the front being heavy and tilts the housing down when the knob is loosened.
I found slightly lifting the barrel a touch and pushing back and forth to focus works well. You have to find a technique that works for you as it’s a little sticky. Once you have the focus the way, you want it locks in place with a single knob.
If I tighten the knob firmly, the focus shifts a little. This isn’t a big deal if you are setting the gobo pattern out of focus, but it might be an issue if you use a logo or blinds pattern and are a touch OCD. I think over time, with more use, the focusing will be easier. It’s not a deal-breaker, only an observation.
Gobos come in several sizes, and the Spotlight Mini Zoom uses Standard M Size. It’s great that Aputure includes a set of fifteen Size M Gobos with the Spotlight Mini Zoom, as well as the Gobo Holder.
If this is your first Projection Attachment, you now have a lot to play with. It’s a good assortment of patterns, trees, and windows. You can have Custom Gobos created by many companies, including Rosco, with logos, branding, or your own design. Prices range from $50 up, depending on the design and size.
Built-in Shutters & Included Iris Accessory
The built-in shutters work as they should. They are fully adjustable to cut and create different straight line patterns. They are not made of heavy aluminum, so care should be taken when pulling the Spotlight from the case and transporting it. The shutters stay put once set.
The kit also includes an Iris that slides into the dedicated slot on the top back of the Spotlight Mini Zoom. It’s made of metal and has a quality feel to it. The spot cut is nice and clean.
Using Colored Gels
On the front are retainer clips for what I believe is for a gel frame. The Spotlight Mini Zoom doesn’t ship with a gel holder, and the size is not standard, so off-the-shelf holders will not fit, or at least the ones I have don’t.
Aputure stated they didn’t include a gel holder since it can be easily inserted into the same slot as the gobo. It indeed fits. You will have to cut the gel approximately 3″ wide and 4.5″ long to fit inside the slot. The extra length will make it easy to pull the gel out.
Lighting has been booming for a couple of years, and the affordable offerings keep growing. With spotlights, you generally have to use a matched pair from the same manufacturer. It might work when mixing brands, but I don’t recommend doing so.
The Nanlite Forza 60/60B is a smaller spotlight similar to the Aputure. It appears you have to choose either a 36° or 19° lens as they don’t look be swappable or zoomable. The Nanlite Projector Mount ($299. plus accessories) is designed to be used with the Forza 60 fixture ($319.)
I like projection attachments. Having out-of-focus patterns adds interest, and it can be controlled easily with focus and zoom. It cuts very well with minimal chromatic aberrations on the edges. The size, while still being long, is not a dealbreaker. In fact, it’s a dealmaker. If you don’t need the output of an LS 120 or LS 300, the smaller but bright LS 60 makes for a nice kit.
Another great use for the Spotlight Mini Zoom is bouncing the light. Whether with white or using specialty bounce products such as Light Bridge CRLS
The Spotlight Mini Zoom has some quirks, like the ratcheting lock on the yoke. No filter holder is included; however, Aputure states the filter holder isn’t needed as dropping the gels inside the Gobo slot works without issue, and they are right about that. It does make it a bit confusing in the design to have the filter holder.
If you need a smaller setup, the LS 60d or 60x is an all-rounder with output similar to a 300-watt tungsten fixture and can be powered with batteries. Adding the Spotlight Mini Zoom makes the fixture even more versatile. The Spotlight Mini Zoom retails for $499, and the LS 60 Soft Box for $59.