John Robb

Melbourne, Australia

John Robb is a photographer from Melbourne who likes to look an the other direction with a camera and find new and interesting...

A Product Review - Let There Be Light

Ohhh you’re thinking, Yippee a product review! What really cool piece of camera kit will JR pull out of the bag and tell us all about – perhaps a really drop dead sexy camera lens? Nup it’s this….

…..a desk lamp.

I know you’re thinking – he really is scraping for review material even on his first attempt – but this is no ordinary light. It’s an Ott-lite and it’s white – really white.


All “white” light, made out of a broard spectrum of colours, has to some greater or lesser degree a colour cast. For example the shadows under a blue sky in the middle of the day will be slightly blue in colour, the light near sunset will be golden yellow, fluorescent tubes will show a green cast and incandescent light will be an orange yellow.
In today’s digital age we tend not to notice all the variations of colour in these light sources – most cameras are set to automatically balance the light to make it white when shooting JPG images. Our eyes also tend to compensate for shifts in colour as well – our mind comparing colour rather than noticing an absolute difference.
One of the problems you can get is that, at night or in a poorly lit house, the relatively stable colour of daylight is replaced by a wild variety of light sources. What you need is a nice little portable bit of daylight to have around in case you need to check the accuracy of colour in a print or other artwork.


As you’ve probably gathered the Ott-lite’s advantage is to produce white light that is just the same as daylight – with all the nuances that such light produces. What follows are three sample photographs (shot with a Canon 1D mk3 -@ F/4, 1/100sec, ISO800) with white balance fixed to daylight.

The Ott-lite:

A halogen desk lamp:

A “warm-white” compact fluorescent lamp:

As you can see one is white the other are well….. not. (as a check a test shot was also done with flash white balance with the same results as daylight)

The desktop version comes as a light that folds out from a vertical stand. Raising the lamp switches the special florescent tube on and it, and the reflector, do a great job in bathing the average desk in a soft “natural” light with the minimum of glare.

In design terms the lamp itself is quite well built – but not quite up to the classic design level of something akin to the ipod. The plastic construction is of good quality and the unit when folded stands around 25cm tall. The unit has a little carry handle but it really isn’t needed in day to day use since the weight is about one kilogram. One small criticism would have to be the less than flexible power cord.

The light itself is rated at 13 watts and is very bright compared to other florescent tubes out there. I’d say it’s usefulness is in colour checking artwork rather than as a day to day desk lamp – the one limitation for desk use is the low height when folded out.

All this white goodness does come at a price. The smaller version of the Ott-lite retails for around $70 here in Australia which tends to put it in the upper range of desk lamps – that being said it is vastly more energy energy efficient than halogen lights. They’re a little hard to find in stores but you should be able to find them at sewing stores – needle workers enjoy the benefits of accurate colour as well.

There are other models in the range. A web search and a visit to the Ott-lite website will give you an idea of the range – the more elaborate models will inevitably cost more. A quick search turned up a more “desk worthy” version at the Lincraft website here in Australia.

If you’ve spent dollars in calibrating your screen and you do some of your print production at home then you may want to consider throwing a little light on your subject.

Thanks for reading.
Note: The author would like to thank his mother for providing the test sample of the Ott-light and the handspun wool for the test shots. For Melbourne readers I’ll soon post details of where she purchased her’s.

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