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REVIEWED
SPONSORED BY
ADJ Focus Beam LED
By Jack Wilson.
The new Focus Beam LED is the latest addition to ADJ’s popular Focus Series of LED-powered moving heads, and the first dedicated beam fixture to be added to the range. I’ve had the pleasure of playing with… I mean testing… this fixture and let me tell you, this thing is crazy! Bright, punchy and sharp beams of light, all from an incredibly efficient LED light source.

The fixture features an 80W cool white LED engine, which, if I’m honest, I thought wasn’t going to be enough… BOY WAS I WRONG! Thanks to its dedicated beam optics, the Focus Beam LED generates a dazzlingly powerful output that is almost unbelievable from such a low power light source.

With a standard beam angle of 2.5°, the Focus Beam LED creates extremely tight mid-air effects. The beam angle of course opens up to be wider when you start adding in the on-board prisms and you can also reduce the angle to create pencil thin beams of light using the reducer GOBOs, which are the first four patterns on the fixture’s GOBO wheel. I like that the first reducer GOBO on the wheel is the smallest, this creates an amazing aerial effect through haze when you quickly snap between open and the reducer GOBO.

The Focus Beam LED features two independent prisms, one 8-facet circular and one 6-facet linear. Both prisms are rotatable and indexable so you can put them into any position you like. I particularly liked the look produced by combining the linear prism with a reducer GOBO for aerial work. In the haze it gave me beautifully bright beams fanned out in the air above the dancefloor – a great effect! As well as use independently, the prisms can be overlaid on top of each other. When rotating the two prisms at different speeds, or in different directions, you can achieve great ‘animation’ effects, which look fantastic both in mid-air and projected on a surface.

I also LOVE the frost filter on the Focus Beam LED, it snaps in and out so quickly! Adding frost and taking it out creates a beautiful ‘bump’ effect which you see often on TV shows. Aside from bumping it in and out, the frost filter also creates a nice wash type effect too, which allows dual use from this single fixture. I was surprised at just how much light the unit still outputs with the frost filter in place; commonly frost filters heavily reduce the intensity of the light, but the Focus Beam LED is still very bright with the frost filter fully engaged!

Not only that, the frost filter is also fully controllable. This means that you can smoothly bring in the frost effect if you wish and it also means that the frost is variable, so you can achieve an effect where you can see the centre GOBO but with a ‘halo’ around it, which is pretty cool too!

The signature feature of the Focus Series is motorised focus, which is present and correct on this new model. It means that you can remotely focus the fixture, to keep GOBO projections sharp over any distance, or to deliberately ‘blur out’ GOBOs to achieve yet another potential effect.

The colours and GOBOs in the Focus Beam LED seem to have been carefully selected and placed. The 15 static GOBOs (+ open) all do a good job at creating a different mid-air or projected pattern, unlike some other beam fixtures I have used that include ‘breakup’ type GOBOs which are quite pointless given the beam size.

Colour wise… WOW… vibrant, rich and solid colours are what this fixture produces. The colour wheel has 13 colours + white and it also offers split colour capability. I really like the way the dichroic colour wheel has been arranged so that neighbouring colours either contrast or complement each other. This has really been thought out well, so top points to ADJ here.

Colour bumps are also seen a lot on top productions (movements aren’t all moving heads are made for after all!) and the Focus Beam LED colour wheel is very quick and easily snaps between the colours making it ideal for generating this type of effect. However, if you prefer a soft fade then it also offers smooth colour wheel rotation in both directions – you can control the speed of this too and it can go incredibly slow but also lightning fast if required.

Now you can’t have beams without a dimmer and strobe can you? The Focus Beam LED offers both of these via separate channels so you can adjust the intensity of your strobe / shutter effect. As well as a standard strobe there is a random strobe function and also a pulsating strobe, all with adjustable speed. Random strobe is a feature I particularly like, it makes your lightshow look much more dynamic than just having all of the fixtures strobing at the same rate. There are, of course, times when this effect is wanted, but random strobe seems to be less intrusive to me whilst still providing the strobe effect we all know and love.

One thing that I thought did let the fixture down slightly was the dimming. I found that I could dim the output down to a certain point (about 5%) and then it would just turn off rather than carrying out a complete fade to black. A fairly minor point, but hopefully something that can be addressed by a future firmware update.

Speaking of firmware updates, the Focus Beam LED features a USB port labelled ‘Service Port’ on the front of its base. This means that if there is a firmware update available you can easily apply it yourself using a USB memory stick, rather than having to send it back to your dealer or ADJ for an update via a special piece of equipment. It’s a very handy feature that ensures you’ll never be without your fixtures when you need them! The port does come ‘naked’, so it is a little obvious on the front. It would be nice to have a rubber bung in the port, like we have for some of our other ADJ fixtures. After all, we don’t want anyone trying to charge their phone off it if the fixtures are positioned on podiums do we?! But perhaps that’s just me being finicky!

The fixture’s movement is incredibly quick; thanks to its compact size and low weight, it can pan and tilt at an incredible rate if required. It can be slowed right down and produce very smooth movements too thanks to 16-bit motor control. It also offers a wide pan range of 630 degrees (nearly two full rotations!) as well as a respectable 270 degree tilt range, so you’ll have no problem hitting your dancefloor if you’re popping them on podiums!

The fixture itself is perfectly sized; it’s not so small that it looks like it belongs in a bedroom, but compact enough to make it easy to transport. It’s just under 50cm tall and just under 30cm wide when the lens is facing straight up, which makes it a great size for mobile use and means that if you prefer to bag your moving heads rather than flightcase them, you can!

Weight wise, it’s just over 12kg. When I first saw it in real life I actually expected it to be lighter, but when you pickup the fixture it feels reassuringly solid, rugged and built to last… it doesn’t feel cheap and nasty, in fact it feels like you have a quality product in your hands.

External hardware features of the Focus Beam LED include a pair of quick release clamps for mounting in any position, a safety cable attachment point and two robust handles – one on either side. On the back panel are power input and output powerCON connections, protected by an onboard fuse, which can be used to daisy chain together the mains supply for multiple fixtures. DMX connection is via a pair of 3-pin XLRs and, according to the specs, the unit also supports RDM (Remote Device Management), although I didn’t test this myself.

On the front you have a large, easy to navigate LED display which uses the standard button configuration of Up, Down, Left, Right and Enter along with an extra Mode button. The screen also has a lockout and keylock feature, which means that you can stop anyone changing settings on the fixture if that is a concern.

I mainly tested these fixtures using DMX, but they can also be linked together in a master/slave configuration to run in-built programs. Also, if you fancy shooting a beam across a large field onto a building over 500m way without using a DMX controller (now who would do that?!...) then you also have the on-board Manual Mode which is pretty useful. If you want to create a static look for the fixture you can do this via the LCD display very easily, which is also handy for testing purposes!

Finally, let’s talk about price. At £915 it’s not the cheapest moving head fixture around, but – for its feature set – it’s certainly one of the best value for money true beam fixtures you’ll find. Being LED, you’ll get an average of 50,000 hours out of the light source, so no need to worry about lamp replacement. Oh, and it comes with a two year warranty as well!

To conclude, the ADJ Focus Beam LED surpassed my expectations. I was initially worried about its brightness – would it be able to ‘keep up’ with our 300W LED spot moving heads? But in reality it perfectly complements these more powerful units. The bright beam, amazing internal effects and compact size combine to make this fixture one we are seriously thinking of adding to our equipment inventory at Kent Media Group. Well done ADJ on yet another great product!
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 97, Pages 58-60.
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