Photography / Hands-on Review

Lowel Rifa eXchange


Lowel’s Rifa Lites have long been popular as location video interview lights for their soft, flattering light, their renowned "60-second set-up time," and their ability to fold down, tube-like, for fast and easy transit to and from assignments.  

Most videographers use the Rifa eX in its standard tungsten configuration. Although tungsten lamps create higher levels of heat than fluorescent tubes, making them trickier for portrait photographers to use, the introduction of Rifa eX Lighting Fixtures has allowed still photographers to enjoy the benefits of the Rifa system, too.

Lowel’s Rifa eXchange Lighting System, also known as Rifa eX Lampacks, can be easily converted to utilize cool-running daylight or tungsten CRI fluorescent lamps. Their umbrella-like design makes them easy to set up and fold away; Rifa eXchange lamp heads utilize push-and-twist accessory lamps that allow you to use a selection of CRI fluorescent and tungsten lamps that will output anywhere from 105W to a maximum of 1000W of light (Rifa eX88 only) under AC power, and depending on your choice of lamps, as low as 50W under DC power.

Lowel’s Rifa eX lamp heads are available in a choice of four sizes; 16 x 16" (Lowel Rifa eX44, 250W maxiumum), 21 x 21" (Lowel Rifa eX55, 500w maximum), 25 x 25" (Lowel Rifa eX66, 750W maximum), and for larger tabletop and group portraits, 32 x 32" (Lowel Rifa eX88, 1,000W maximum). Depending on your needs and budget, all four sizes are available as individual lighting fixtures or as kits.

The sides and removable front panels of Rifa eX lamp heads are constructed of rugged, heat-resistant materials designed to withstand extreme temperatures. In addition to the standard front diffusion panel, you can also add a choice of three Soft Egg Crates (30°, 40° and 50°) that enable you to better control the degree of spill-light exiting the lamp head. Like Rifa eX lighting fixtures, each of these egg crates is lightweight and can be stored in its own travel ready carrying pouch.

An interesting aspect of Lowel Rifa eX lighting fixtures is that depending on the size of the Rifa eX you are using, the distance from the front panel to your subject and the wattage of the lamp inside the lamp head, you can achieve a great degree of control over the softness and degree of ambient spill light emitted from the light source.In the right hands, this feature can open up a great measure of creative control of the resulting image.

For those times you need additional firepower when shooting with fluorescent lamps, you can take advantage of Lowel’s FLO-X3 and FLO-X5 multi-lamp adapters, which allow you to cluster-mount three or five screw threaded Edison base daylight fluorescent lamps respectively in place of the single-lamp TH-X1000, TH-X300 and FLO-X1 lamp adapters. To allow better control of the light output, the FLO-X3 and FLO-X5 (for use with Rifa eX88 only) multi-lamp adapters both feature individual switches for each of their respective lamps.

A number of additional dedicated accessories are available for Lowel Rifa eX lighting fixtures including Rifa Daylight Gels (for tungsten lamps only), eX lamptubes for safely storing and transporting fluorescent lamps, light stands, replacement lamp packs and power cords for use almost anywhere on the planet.

If you currently own any original Lowel Rifa Lites, which are tungsten only, these units can be easily updated to utilize all of the new fluorescent lamp options by purchasing an inexpensive Rifa eX retrofit kit, (Rifa 44 to Rifa eX44, Rifa 55 to Rifa eX55, Rifa 66 to Rifa eX66and Rifa 88 to Rifa eX88).