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Darklight Gantom IQ Micro Image Projector

Issue 78 April / May 2014

David Morgan comes across Darklight’s Gantom IQ Micro Image Projector, the smallest gobo projector on the market today, and finds it packs a much bigger punch than its small size suggests.

In the words of the early 20th century Austrian economist Leopold Kohr small is beautiful.

The founders of the American based lighting company, Darklight, have followed this simple idea - at least in part - by creating a range that includes the smallest LED gobo projectors that I have seen so far. However, whilst they are small, but not exactly beautiful, they are certainly attractive.

Darklight was founded by three business partners Quan Gan, his wife Charlie Xu, and Jun Dong in spring of 2010 when they operated the first Hallowe’en attraction in mainland China.

Apparently they could not find any suitable luminaires for the occasion and decided to quickly develop and launch their own using their diverse skills. Quan Gan holds multiple engineering degrees from UC Berkeley and Stanford University with a focus in robotics, Xu has an art and design background from Shanghai Tongji University, while Dong has extensive manufacturing experience as a former employee of Cree and Tokistar.

Since then, the company has developed a limited range of compact LED luminaires including mini projectors, DMX controlled colour changing projectors and gobo projectors, whose primary markets are amusement parks and museums.

Ceiling rings are also included in the range to allow the luminaires to be recessed.

The most interesting product in the range is the Gantom IQ Micro Image Projector. This mini gobo projector is only 90mm long with a 30mm diameter tubular body.

The perceived quality of this mini luminaire is good, with a simple satin black machined finish and neatly knurled angle adjustment screws.

Even with a very cool white single 2.7 watt Cree XPG LED source the light output is quite limited but at close range it can provide quite dynamic effects under the right ambient lighting conditions. The body and lens holder seem to provide sufficient heat sinking surface area so the body does not get more than warm although I did not investigate how effectively the LED is thermally bonded to the body.

At a distance of three metres and with the zoom set at 25 degrees the light level in the centre beam is 35 lux.

The zoom lens adjusts from 25 to 40 degrees and is lockable with a couple of small screws. The focusing adjustment is made in the same way with two lockable screws.

The quality of the lenses is not the highest but perfectly adequate for the scale and type of projects where this projector is used.

The 19mm diameter gobo is a custom size but the usual gobo suppliers will produce to this scale. As with all LED based gobo projectors the user is now able to make their own slides using ink jet printers as there is so little heat in the beam compared to halogen projectors. In this case the resolution of the slide would need to be high as the image is so tiny. Changing the gobo is easy and involves unscrewing the lens holder and removing a cover.

An integral constant current DC to DC driver keeps the LED running at a safe level of 225mA. The DMX version has three channels to control light intensity, strobe, candle flicker and other pattern effects and thirdly speed of pattern change.

Although Darklight claims an IP65 rating and UL wet location listing for the luminaire, the lens holder itself is not sealed so there is nothing to prevent water and dust from entering this area and settling on the lens which over time will affect the light output.  The 12 VDC power input and DMX signal connection are supplied with a simple non IP rated power jack which also makes the IP 65 rating somewhat questionable.

The Gantom IQ Micro Image Projector is an attractive luminaire for use in niche applications where the miniature size will enable it to be used where larger luminaires might be too visible or out of scale.

Although giving the impression of being almost toy-like, it actually creates bright, well-defined images and effects for professional applications making this a successful addition to the Darklight range.

David Morgan runs David Morgan Associates, a London-based international design consultancy specialising in luminaire design and development.


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