PAR 64 Bulbs – A Guide to PAR 64 Lamp Sizes

Last Updated: October 12, 2012 - Stage Lighting Equipment - by:

Rob is a Lighting Designer and Lighting Programmer and currently Senior Lecturer in Technical Theatre Production. He is also the Editor of On Stage Lighting and teaches stage lighting practice.

For years the PAR Can has been the great workhorse of the stage lighting industry, particularly in band/DJ lighting. The 1000w PAR 64 Can is the daddy of the PAR family and PAR 64 lamps (the bulbs that go inside the Can) are available to buy in different beam widths. On Stage Lighting takes a look at the different PAR 64 lamps available and their uses in stage lighting.

PAR Cans are transported in awful conditions
It is disgraceful in the 21st century,we are still treating our PAR cans this way!
Thanks to Alex__w for keeping the lantern welfare issue alive.

 

The PAR 64 Can is still popular because: a) It provides a good 1000w of punchy light; b) A PAR Can (the lantern body shell) and PAR 64 Lamps are still fairly cheap to buy.

PAR actually stands for Parabolic (the shape) Anodised/Aluminised (the shiny bit) Reflector (the reflector!)and you can buy PAR Lamps them in 240v or 110v supply voltages. To alter the size of your PAR Beam, unlike most other stage lighting lanterns, you need to put a different PAR bulb in. PAR lamps also do not have a very circular beam but produce a light beam that is quite oval, particularly the wider bulbs.

Guide To PAR 64 Lamps

Here is a brief rundown of PAR 64 lamps, the beam angles are approximate and are the most “useful” largest part of the ellipse due to the nature of the PAR lamp beam shape:

  • CP60 VNSP PAR 64 Lamp – Very Narrow Spot. Beam Angle 12° approx. This PAR 64 lamp is good for really tight spots, thin light beams cutting through smoke or streaking across stage set/cloths. Also used on large music stages to provide spotlights to hightlight individual band members. The CP60 PAR lamp gives a really intense “splat” of light that can be a bit striated (streaky) across flat surfaces.
  • CP61 NSP PAR 64 Lamp – Narrow Spot. Beam Angle 14° approx. The CP61 is the general spotlight of the PAR 64 family producing a tight beam of light that has more uses than the CP60. This lamp is a useful tage spotlight and makes fairly good beam structures in smoke. Could be used to for colour washes with a large throw distance ( further than 8m) although you would need a fair few CP61 PAR lamps to do this.
  • CP62 MFL PAR 64 Lamp – Medium Flood. Beam Angle 24° approx. CP62 PAR lamps are pretty much everywhere doing jobs such as colour washes onstage, uplighting bits of set as well as spotlighting people onstage. These bulbs are great for washing intense colour around a stage or lighting up columns or architecture. The beam of this PAR lamp is extremely elliptical and their orientation, like other PAR bulbs, is set by spinning the bulb inside the PAR Can.
  • EXG PAR 64 Lamp – Wide Flood. Beam Angle 50°(?) approx. A wider flood PAR that can be used to colour washing with shorter throw distances though it can lack intensity. Used with a short nosed PAR Can. This PAR lamp is not too useful.
  • CP95 WFL PAR 64 Lamp – Wide Flood. Beam Angle 70°(?) approx. This PAR lamp is pretty darn wide, meaning that is lights all over the place but lack the punch and intensity of other PAR lamps. The CP95 is only useful when you needed a good sized beam of light, lit from very close. To get full width of this PAR bulb, use a short nose PAR can.
  • Raylight Reflectors – The Devil In PAR lamps. Beam Angle – Who cares? The raylight reflector is a cheap parabolic reflector with no front lens, designed to accomodate a quartz halogen “standard” stage lighting bulb, often 500 watts. These PAR lamps produce a messy “splot” of light that is both horrible and burns out gels like anything especially in short nosed PAR cans. OK for beams in smoke (until the colour burns out, that is). Don’t buy.

 

How Do I Tell Which PAR 64 Lamps Are In My PAR Cans?

PAR Bulb Up Close
Great pic of a MFL Par Lamp. Thanks to VeldaZ

Have a look down the front of your PAR Can with the unit switched off. If the lens (glassy front bit) of the PAR bulb is completely clear, then it is a CP60. If the lens of your PAR lamp is frosted, a CP61 and if the glass separated into small squares, then it is one of the larger floods, probably a CP62. If your PAR can has a Raylight Reflector in it (a shiny dish with a small quartz bulb sticking up, and no glass) then “step away from the PAR Can , sir” and go and find something else to light your gig with. Like a cigarette lighter.

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9 Comments

  1. Rob Sayer:

    To be fair, Paul, this assumes that only you have control over what happens to your Rays. I have never owned any, just like I have never owned any other kit as a professional lampie. We just get to use the hire company stock that has been out on lord-knows-what Weekend Warrior disco truss.

    But I’m afraid the angle argument argument isn’t entirely valid. A Raylight in a PAR pointing straight down is pointing straight down, regardless of what angle the reflector is at.

  2. Paul:

    Hate to disagree with you but the argument is totally valid and there is no issue if the lamp is pointing straight down, which also frequently happens with theatre lamps.

    What users don’t understand is that the filaments run parallel to each other and the lamp needs to operate so the parallel filaments are flat towards gravity. The reason most most raylamp bulbs blow is because the reflector is rotated from that position and gravity ends up pulling the filaments towards each other. As they heat they expand and gravity does the rest. Two filaments then touch and bang the bulb blows.

    Happens again and again – well like you say did. Hard to get raylights nowadays – though I think Clay Paky has done a good impersonation with the Sharpy – they just need to match the price

  3. Neil Hunt:

    Hi Rob

    A cheeky article it may have been – but it was still innacurate.

    You did say to be used with a ‘standard’ stage lighting bulb – and they are not. They were always designed to be used with projector bulbs.

    The distincion may seem trivial – but it’s important – they don’t exhibit any of the flaws you refer to when used with the correct bulb – only when used with incorrect ones (I gave the T18 as an example as it the most common incorrect lamp used)

    you ended by saying ‘Don’t Buy’ which seems very harsh. Raylights are a specific tool that does a specific job better than other options. ‘beams in smoke’ that flash quickly being the primary one. Why deny the use of that tool just because some people don’t use it properly.

    They were never a cheap option as the A1/244 has 25% of the lamp life of a PAR64 but costs more than 25% of the price. most of the misuse is derived from people trying to use T18 to save money. If anyone still has them and wants to save money – the M50 is the right solution – although very fragile when hot.

    Paul,

    The main reason raylights blow is that the A1/244 has a silly short lamp life – but you are also right about using them in the right plane. Using them with the fillaments stacked up one above the other also means the bottom heats the one above etc. so they don’t cool evenly and then when gravity steps in – poof!

    Neil

  4. Rob Sayer:

    As stated, the A1/244 has a short lamp life. Fresnel lamps and other non-axially mounted lamps are generally not designed to be burned base up with is why the manufacturers of the time suggested that the limits of the luminaire were straight up or straight down. This left the lamp burning parallel to the deck at worse.

    A Raylight in a Can pointing straight down burns base up so there is no real use in the comparison with a theatre fresnel. Many fixtures use axial lamps now, so it’s all immaterial.

    Anyway, after 5 years of good humour among the majority of readers of this article, I continue to maintain that I don’t like Raylights and haven’t seen one for nearly 10 years. Some people do, I don’t and I wrote the article. In the interests of acting like a grown up, I think I’ve said all can be bothered to about this piffling non-subject. Thanks for your interest.

  5. Lampie The Clown:

    Filiment design aside, the base of the lamp / fixture was of poor design, and they were notorious for arcing, which pitted both the socket and the contacts of the bulb. If the pitted bulb was moved to a new fixture for some reason, it would arc in the new socket, making it pitted as well. Any socket that was pitted would arc and cause pitting on any new bulb put into it. It was like an STD for pars.

    Also, the first rays I remember had wire leads off the back, with staycons crimped on. The idea was that you would stick the staycons into the slots of the par porcelain, and tape it together. Not a great idea, but at least when you got sick of ray kit problems you could drop a real par bulb in without having to rewire.
    I have to agree though with one point. They were fast, especially with a bit of “preheat”.

  6. inferno:

    You’re a legend. Raylight reflectors suck.

  7. christian ascione:

    Hello
    I have a intresting question to ask,

    I know what par stands for, but i dont know what the lamp code CP stands for
    can you please help
    thank you
    christian

  8. Rob Sayer:

    In lighting, ‘cp’ often refers the rather obsolete measurement Candle Power.

    However, I understand that the LIF (Lighting Industry Federation) CP to stands for Colour Photography and relates to the 3200K colour temperature BUT I have yet to find a manufacturer/trade body source that states this explicitly.

  9. Sharon:

    Hi Rob, your expertise is in need please tell me what you would recommend is a salon roughly 400sf as id like narrowish spot lights in four corners of the roof space. Where could you direct me to or do have any suggestions please. I was hoping instead of chrome perhaps a golden or black finish instead?

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