Browsing the used section on B & H one day I saw a light described with the term ‘short throw’. That term immediately got my attention.
The Altman 65Q is described by the manufacturer as ‘A lightweight, short throw, all purpose lighting device, it produces a soft edged beam which varies in diameter from 4.2-21 feet at a throw distance of 15 feet.’ This is is a remarkable description, the only one I’ve ever seen that specifies a throw distance, suggesting that 15 feet is optimal for the light. In any event, it’s considerably less than the apparent optimum distances for most fresnels (20-25 feet).
The light does have some problems as shipped. The build is lightweight sheet metal, sturdy enough but just barely. The flood/spot adjustment is nothing more than a sliding plate secured with a wingnut – again, adequate but just barely. The wiring is pretty cheesy and the (extra) barndoor/snoot attachment – which I strongly recommend – has no safety latch and constantly falls off. I rewired the light, found places for 1 / 4″-20 bolts and wingnuts to secure the barn doors and wouldn’t let it go now for less than replacement value +$100. It’s a great light which I use all the time. It retails for $134 at B&H (the barndoor/snoot is another $52).
Figures 1 &2 show the bolts securing the snoot/barn doors.
Unlike a standard Fresnel fixture, you can use the 65Q directly aimed at a subject or scene in a small space (15 feet or less). The lens produces crisp shadows and allows easy focal control over cookies – slight adjustments towards or away from the light make distinct changes. The snoot with attached barndoors works well enough (I don’t ever take it off) that you can make a clean slash on a wall just a couple of yards away.
Try doing that with a standard Fresnel light using only the barn doors.
I have tested the 65Q extensively against other Fresnel lights for shadow sharpness and focal control in small spaces and frankly it kicks the ass of any other light I’ve worked with. Why does this light perform so differently than other Fresnels? As it turns out, this is a puddle that turns into a sinkhole the minute you step in it. I’m certain the lens design has something to do with it but much more important (I think) is the design of the aspherical reflector behind the globe. The Altman doesn’t throw double shadows at any distance (see The Venetian Blind Problem), and it seems very likely that the reflector must be differently designed.
I have even contacted Altman directly trying to get some answers about it – I didn’t get much. This light has been in their line a very long time and is now their cheapest and least sophisticated. I got the impression they don’t give it much thought.