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Light bulb color comparison examples, photos; LED & Halogen colors & brightness: this article describes the variations in perceived color and color temperature of different indoor-use bulb types compared with sunlight. We illustrate both interior lighting bulbs (incandescent, three types of fluorescent bulbs, halogen lamps, and LED bulbs) comparing both color temperature (color rendition) and brightness. We illustrate what different object colors look like under different types of lamps (bulbs) including incandescent, all types of compact fluorescent bulbs, halogen lighting, and LED lighting. We include comparisons of types of LED bulb brightness using flashlights for an example.
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At Color Temperature and CRI for Indoor Lights we introduced and defined color temperature and CRI.
Here we provide additional details and photo examples of variations in perceived color and color temperature of different bulb types compared with sunlight. We illustrate both interior lighting bulbs (incandescent, three types of fluorescent bulbs, halogen lamps, and LED bulbs) comparing both color temperature (color rendition) and brightness.
Skin tones look best under lamps rated from 2700K (standard A-bulb) to 3500K and with a CRI over 80. Residential lamps range as high as 7500K for continuous spectrum fluorescents, such as GE’s Chroma 50 or 75. These simulate daylight and are good for detailed work where color accuracy is critical, but they give skin an unflattering greenish tone.
Comparing the Appearance of Color Temperatures of Different Bulb Types
At Color Temperature and CRI for Indoor Lights we include a table comparing the color temperatures of the most common types of lamps used indoors.
The display below, available at many Home Depot stores, compares lighting among four bulb color types, from left to right
The four lamps (bulbs) described above are shown inside the display, below. We kept the camera on the same "automatic" white balance setting for all four bulb color photographs. These colors are not exactly what your eye will see, nor do they consider the effects of the colors of surroundings, but you can see the color temperature differences among these light bulbs.
The display, which includes a spot for you to insert your hand to observe what each light does to the perceived color of your skin, also describes the applications for these bulb color temperatures (corresponding to left-to-right above) as:
Watch out: if you didn't notice, the compact fluorescent bulbs such as the models shown above include a warning printed on the bulb base indicating that these bulbs are intended for dry locations, and are not for use in luminaires controlled by a dimmer or totally enclosed recessed lighting fixtures. Check the specifications on lamps you are buying if you have other needs than those that fit these restrictions.
Colors of Objects in Indirect Sunlight
Recognizing that the human eye does not see light and color exactly the same as any camera, film or digital, we set our camera to a white-balance setting based on white typing paper in indirect sunlight to begin the light color temperature comparison photographs shown here.
Each photograph was taken with a glass soap dish placed on plain white typing paper. The white balance of the camera was set to normal for the white typing paper alone, in sunlight.
We take the first soap dish color photograph as our reference standard, as this image was taken in outdoor sunlight.
At below left a string of eight (4 shown) mini globe incandescent bulbs give the glass soap dish a pink hue that is very close to the color we found in sunlight.
You can see that the soap dish as a very light pink-purple color in the reference photo. Actually outdoors, to the human eye, we saw this dish as more "pink" than did our camera.
Comparing Colors of Objects in Incandescent & Fluorescent Light Indoors
We set our camera white balance to the same white paper under incandescent lighting indoors (below left) and then for compact fluorescent bulbs in an overhead light fixture (below right). You will observe that the indoor incandescent shifts the original image towards red/pink hues while the compact fluorescent lighting shifts the image towards blue-green.
At below right we illustrate what these same objects look like under a standard (long tube) fluorescent lamp. Compare that photo (below right) with the compact fluorescent lamp lighting photo (above right) and you can see a shift towards green.
At below left we illustrate our darkroom test set-up for light source comparisons, in this case with a "blacklight" or UV ultraviolet light bulb (Woods lamp) installed in our test fixture using a 13W bulb produced by Feit Electric. (280-410nm usually narrowed to 368-371 nm wavelength light). Some septic system and building inspectors use UV lamps to detect the presence of septic test dye that contains fluroscein, or to screen for animal urine stains.
See UV LIGHT BLACK LIGHT USES for definitions of fluoresence, UV light, black light, and the use of UV lights in buildings to track down different substances including animal urine or even blood. Also see BLOOD in ART WORKS, TESTING FOR.
As explained at explained at Color Temperature and CRI for Indoor Lights, the color rendering index (CRI) of light bulbs provides a scale of 1 to 100 where a bulb rated at 100 closely matches a reference light source.
Colors of Objects under a Halogen Lamp
Halogen lamps such as the bulb we show at below left operate at around 3000K and give off a whiter light than incandescents and most fluorescents. At below right we include an example photograph of our color references used above, but here, illuminated by a halogen lamp. Comparing this result (below left) with our example from daylight (above) you will see that the halogen image is rendered rather close in color temperature to daylight.
At Lumens, Definition, comparisons we defined Lumens as
Here we offer a more subjective comparison of the brightness of light emitted by LED bulbs, using flashlights as an example. Take a look at the rated light output in lumens when you can find that information. It is both useful and very interesting. For example when purchasing LED-designed flashlights, you will usually observe that the very inexpensive units may look exactly like others that cost five to ten times as much.
But the light output of the low-priced units is often 1/10th the light output of the costly versions. Brighter LED's cost more. And if the flashlight marketing information on the package does not tell you the light output of the device... well that tells you something, right?
And our digital camera "sees" light differently than the human eye - a fact that can add difficulties when photographing some subjects, as our three comparison photographs of light beams from two LED flashlights illustrate above. All three photos are of the same two LED flash light units. But depending on external variables our eye and the camera see different brightness.
From left, with no flash the right-hand LED flashlight looks brighter shining on blue ceramic tile. With a flash to eliminate dark background, the bulbs look about equal. With no flash and shining the two LED flashlights onto a darkened wall, the left-hand LED flashlight looks brighter (and less diffuse, which confuses the matter). [Click any image to see a larger version.]
Color Temperatures of Various Artificial & Natural Light Sources
As Bliss points out in Color Temperature and CRI for Indoor Lights, the comparison standards for color temperatures of lights produced by different types of lamps are not uniform. Quoting:
Sorting out Definitions of Color Temperature of light, Light Brightness, Watts & the Wavelength of Light: What's the Difference?
Do not confuse color temperature (in degrees Kelvin) with brightness. The table below describes color temperature (or you could say "hue", not the brightness of the light source.
Table of Color Temperatures of Various Artificial & Natural Light Source
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about lamp or light bulb color temperature or brightness, applications, & uses
Question: What are ANSI-coded light bulbs (lamps) & where can I find a table of the ANSI bulb codes?
I have heard of ANSI coded bulbs but do I need to worry about these codes? Where can I find what the ANSI bulb codes mean? - Anon. 5/14/12
ANSI (American National Standards Institute) codes for light bulbs permit a standard definition for bulb shape, design, electrical connections, light output, and other parameters. ANSI has defined approximately 100 bulb codes, typically 3-letter designations such as
Many bulb (lamp) producers and distributors provide an extensive index to lamps by ANSI bulb codes and bulb types or applications. Perhaps because ANSI standards are sold you won't find it easy to obtain the details of most ANSI standards at ANSI's own website. A website that does an excellent job of illustrating the various ANSI bulb codes, bulbstock.com explains:
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