High Wattage Bulbs for Spiderlite TD-5’s

I am a huge fan of my Westcott Spiderlite TD-5 studio lights with their nice soft output, low energy use, and cool operation. While they have always been great for product photography I never really liked using them for portraits because they just didn’t put out enough light. Westcott has released some new high wattage bulbs for the TD-5’s to address the needs of these types of situations. I just got my hands on these news bulbs to put them to the test.

The Original TD-5’s

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Spiderlite TD-5

The TD-5 Spidelites comes standard with five 27 watt fluorescent bulbs which each put out about 110 watts giving you a total of around 550 watts. For portraits this is just a tad under powered for my tastes since I need to bump my ISO in order to get a good exposure since a slower shutter speed just doesn’t always work well with some subjects. With product photography this isn’t an issue since products don’t typically move on their own so a slower shutter speed can usually be used.

The New Bulbs

TD5 Spiderlite Bulbs

TD5 Spiderlite Bulb

To say that the new bulbs are bigger than the previous bulbs is a monster of an understatement. The new high wattage bulbs simply dwarf the original bulbs in raw size and thickness of the elements. In fact, the bulbs are so big that you can no longer put five of them into the TD-5 light head.

As the saying goes, “size matters” and these huge bulbs can really shine (ok, bad joke, I know).  Being rated at 50watts gives them about 200 watts of output each and then an additional 20watt bulb that fits into the middle position pushes the total output to close to 900 watts.  With around 1.8x the original power output you gain just shy of a full stop of light.

The Results

High Wattage Spiderlite TD-5 Bulbs

High Wattage Spiderlite TD-5 Bulbs

As much as I liked my Spiderlite TD-5’s before, now I love them! The extra light output was exactly what I needed to use them for more situations that I would have had to switch to strobes for. Not only can I use them for more photo situations but they work great as video lights as well.

These new bulbs are not cheap, the five bulb pack will set you back almost $180. I know that this seems like an awful lot of money for bulbs but keep in mind that a typical 500 watt bulb will have a life expectancy of about 60 hours while at 60 hours these fluorescent bulbs are just getting broken in and can be expected to last a total of about 8,000 hours. Think about that for a second. A typical 500 watt tungsten bulb will last just about 2.5 days of continuous use while these fluorescents will last over 333 days! That can be a huge cost savings over time.

Example Image

Example Image

The bulbs do work as expected as with the old bulbs in on a simple lighting setup I was shooting at 1/25th at f/5.6 and the same setup with the new bulbs gave the same exposure at 1/50th at f/5.6 which is right what you should get by increasing the light output by a stop.

If you like using constant lights like I do but don’t like the extreme heat of tungsten bulbs, not to mention the danger of using such hot lights, than SpiderLite TD-5’s outfitted with the high wattage bulbs may be just the setup you are looking for. Let’s also not forget to mention that these bulbs are daylight balanced so they are real easy to work with without having to mess with custom white balances.

The SpiderLite TD-5’s are not your bargain basement quality lights, they are high quality studio lights that will last you for many years so yes, they are a little costly but they are seriously worth it if you are serious about your lighting.

For more information check out Westcott’s website at http://fjwestcott.com


Kerry Garrison lives in Castle Rock, Colorado with his wife and two dogs. With 10 years of experience shooting products and 5 years of experience in the wedding industry, Kerry brings a good deal of technical know-how and can explain topics in easy-to-understand terms.

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6 Responses

  1. Alan B says:

    Good update. 1/50th at f/5.6 was at what ISO? For a typical studio portrait shoot…what would be your camera settings? 1/50th still seems pretty slow.

  2. kgarrison says:

    That was at ISO 400, taken at night in my living room with only 1 TD5 setup. Normally I would use two lights and be able to bump my speed and lower my ISO. I like shooting portraits at 1/60th or faster at ISO 200 although ISO 400 is perfectly acceptable on almost any DSLR.

  3. tony says:

    I have to be honest I have tried this and the light is close but not quite the same IMO.

  4. kgarrison says:

    Not quite the same as what?

  5. tony says:

    I have to be honest I have tried this and the light is close but not quite the same IMO.

  6. kgarrison says:

    Not quite the same as what?

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