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Thread: Color Rendition and Tint Comparison: Cree, Rebel, GDP, Nichia

  1. #1

    Default Color Rendition and Tint Comparison: Cree, Rebel, GDP, Nichia

    There is always a lot of discussion here on the relative color rendition quality of various LED emitter types (and the specific color temperature/tints within those models). I typically like sticking with objective test data that I can measure in a reliable way, but I thought I would try my hand at doing a relative subjective comparison between emitters and tints.

    It is very hard to capture subjective visual impressions with a camera, but I've come up with the following method to try and facilitate the presentation:
    • For samples, I have picked lights with what I consider representative tints and emitters. Most of these are not specific known tint bins, but are based on my relative visual impressions compared to other lights in my collection (see Addendum for my tint bin estimates).
    • I've chosen as my test objects common colorful items a flashaholic may have on hand (including various common battery types, typical office supplies, and a few other familiar items .
    • Since the lights all differ in beam profiles, I've chosen to do a ceiling bounce comparison in a closet with white walls and ceiling, with my camera mounted on flexible portable tripod.
    • I've picked lights that can operate at relatively similar outputs, and equalized the exact output as close as possible on my camera (Canon Powershot S5). Specifically, I've set the white balance to daylight, locked the aperture at f2.7, and varied the shutter speed to capture equivalent overall exposures using my camera's built-in histogram feature (I manually set the shutter speed to generate as close to a perfectly centered histogram as possible for each light, thus equalizing the overall exposure).
    • For more details on the actual lights used, and my estimate of tint bin, see the Addendum at the end of this post

    Click on the individual pics to bring up full-sized images - works best if your browser supports multiple tabs, so that you can easily switch between tabs and see the pics in a stationary way.















    Again, click on the individual pics to bring up full-sized images.

    Combination Comparisons:

    To help you compare tints at a glance, below is an animated gif showing one "representative" tint for each of the four emitter types. Note the total colors had to be reduced to 256 for the GIF format, so you will see some hatching. I also had to reduce the overall dimensions, to keep the final file size down.

    Animated GIF of the four emitter types:


    I will leave it to you to draw your own conclusions about relative CRI (color rendition index) of the various emitters in this test.

    To be perfectly honest, personally I don't find that there's a huge difference among the various emitter samples. I think a lot of it really comes down to tint differences (which are great enough to obscure subjective color impressions). To help show you what I mean, here are the 6 Cree tints shown in an animated gif.

    Animated Gif of the six Cree tint samples (from cool to warm):


    I don't know about you, but I find the reds and browns show up a bit better on the "warmer" tint Crees. The cooler tint Crees tend to look "whiter", and are better for distinguishing the blue and blacks. The differences within an emitter class thus seem greater to me than between these emitter brands.

    Bottom Line :

    Note that I am not making any claims as to the scientific validity of my testing method above - I'm just trying to find a way to easily compare lights at a common overall exposure and removing any beam pattern effects. The specific settings of your graphics card and monitor will make a huge difference in how these images appear. Also note that the "daylight" white balance setting can be highly variable from one camera to the next, which would skew the results. So there are many possible confounds here - this is just meant to be an approximate comparison.

    But at the end of the day, I don't really see a noticeable color rendition difference between any of these particular emitters. Subjectively, I am far more influenced by relative color tint and temperature differences, and I think there would have to be a pretty significant CRI difference for me to really notice it in use. Of course, I hope that will change as newer LED emitters come out with significantly improved CRIs (e.g. I haven't tested the new Seoul "natural white" 4000K yet, or the new K2s). But since all the emitters here typically have a CRI >70 (with incans being ~100 CRI), I am not really expecting huge subjective improvements. But YMMV, and I welcome any observations you might have on the pics above.

    Personally, I would just go with whatever tint and beam pattern you most prefer for a given task. For example, I personally like a premium to slightly warm "cool white" LED for general use. Outdoors, I like the slightly warm "cool white" tints for greens/browns - but don't like going as far as the "neutral white" Cree 5A tints. And my wife likes her cool tint Fenix L2T V2 Rebel - she uses it every morning to help her pick out matching black socks in her sock drawer (trust me, you can't do that with my warm-tinted lights).

    Hope you found the pics useful!

    UPDATE: In case you are curious about the terms used here, please check out the CPF Welcome Mat for general background on tint and color temperature, among a great many other things.

    ------------------

    UPDATE: although I didn't do outdoor shots for this comparison, I have previously compared the Cree neutral-white Fenix TK20 (likely 5A tint bin) to the standard Cree cool-white Fenix L2D (likely WD tint bin) here:




    ------------------

    Addendum:

    In case you are curious, here are the actual lights I used, with my estimate of the tint bin:

    Crees (from top to bottom above):
    • Zebralight H50 (cool white, cool bluish tint - I'd estimate WA/WB bin)
    • JetBeam Jet-I PRO IBS (cool white, cool purplish tint - I'd estimate WM bin)
    • Nitecore Defender Infinity (cool white, very premium white tint - I'd estimate WC bin)
    • Fenix L1D (cool white, warm yellowish tint - I'd estimate WD/WG bin)
    • Olight M20 (cool white, very warm yellow-greenish tint - confirmed WH bin)
    • Fenix TK20 (neutral white, likely 5A bin)

    Rebels:
    • Fenix L1T V2 (cool white RB080, cool bluish tint - I'd estimate Y0 bin)
    • Fenix L1D (cool white RB100, warm yellowish tint - I'd estimate VN/UN bin)

    GDP:
    • Nitecore D10 (cool white, overall yellowish tint but slight bluish corona)

    Nichia:
    • AltusLumen PAD-L (cool white 0.5W, new emitters with premium white with slightly warm yellowish tint)


    For help understanding the tint bin codes, CPF user DFiorentino has compiled graphs for many of the major emitters here.
    Last edited by selfbuilt; 03-31-2009 at 07:16 AM. Reason: added TK20 exterior shot
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  2. #2

    Default Re: Color Rendition and Tint Comparison: Cree, Rebel, GDP, Nichia

    Wow, great job putting this all together! Thanks!

  3. #3

    Default Re: Color Rendition and Tint Comparison: Cree, Rebel, GDP, Nichia

    Nice job. Like the warm tint shots.

  4. #4
    Flashaholic* Federal LG's Avatar
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    Default Re: Color Rendition and Tint Comparison: Cree, Rebel, GDP, Nichia

    Great comparison selfbuilt! Thanks for posting it.

    I prefer those Cree neutral white 5A tint. Like my Fenix TK20!

    "I LOVE THE SMELL OF LITHIUM BATTERIES IN THE MORNING..." - Kilgore

  5. #5

    Default Re: Color Rendition and Tint Comparison: Cree, Rebel, GDP, Nichia

    What a fantastic post.

    I am a newbie and reading through the forum regarding all the different tints, this post has let me seen easily what you have all been discussing regarding the tints.

    I can't decide which I prefer looking at the cool whites (cool) or the warm (WH)....??

    I think the cool wins for me

  6. #6
    Flashaholic* Haz's Avatar
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    Default Re: Color Rendition and Tint Comparison: Cree, Rebel, GDP, Nichia

    Thanks for another great post. I like this very much and will be useful in helping me decide my next purchase

  7. #7

    Default Re: Color Rendition and Tint Comparison: Cree, Rebel, GDP, Nichia

    Glad you are enjoying the comparisons.

    I've just added some additional background detail with my estimate of tint bins for each of the samples. Also included is an update with an exterior shot showing the Cree cool-white (i.e. WD) vs neutral-white (i.e. 5A) from an early thread.

    Cheers!
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  8. #8
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    Default Re: Color Rendition and Tint Comparison: Cree, Rebel, GDP, Nichia

    Nice Review as always!!

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    Flashaholic* NoFair's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Re: Color Rendition and Tint Comparison: Cree, Rebel, GDP, Nichia

    Very nice review!

    I strongly prefer the warm tints and love the Cree 5A ones. Works a lot better outdoors and just as well indoors IMHO.

    Sverre

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Color Rendition and Tint Comparison: Cree, Rebel, GDP, Nichia

    Awesome comparison
    That warm Rebel, and .5w Nichia look pretty nice.
    All of my current user LED lights(except 5mms) have 5A Cree emitters, except for one, and that one is in a box getting shipped out to have a mod that includes a Q3 5A.
    I couldn't believe how bad all my LEDs looked in actual use compared to a Malkoff M60W(arm) when I first got one, and can hardly stand to use other types now.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Color Rendition and Tint Comparison: Cree, Rebel, GDP, Nichia

    Quote Originally Posted by Owen View Post
    I couldn't believe how bad all my LEDs looked in actual use compared to a Malkoff M60W(arm) when I first got one, and can hardly stand to use other types now.
    I know what you mean. LED light always bugged me, and not until I got my first Cree 5A tint did I really feel comfortable with how LED light looks. But primarily, I think it's just a preference thing.

    I know that the neutral and warm tints are getting lot's of buzz now, but maybe it's mostly the folks like me, who have been dissatisfied with cool whites, who have mostly been propelling the buzz. I suspect that there are still plenty of CPFers out there who prefer how cool whites look to their eyes. Plus, they're still the most efficient, and for lumen junkies, cool whites are still the way to go, and visually, cool white does appear brighter.

    Once the warm/neutral tint boom settles down, I wonder what the mix of sales of Gene's cool versus warm Malkoff drop-ins becomes going forward? I wouldn't be surprised if cool whites win out over the long term.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Color Rendition and Tint Comparison: Cree, Rebel, GDP, Nichia

    Nice post! Thanks for taking the time to do the comparison I really like the tint on that AltusLumen PAD-L. A truly interesting new light!

  13. #13
    Flashaholic PsychoBunny's Avatar
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    Default Re: Color Rendition and Tint Comparison: Cree, Rebel, GDP, Nichia

    Thats excellent!!

    This should be a sticky!
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  14. #14

    Default Re: Color Rendition and Tint Comparison: Cree, Rebel, GDP, Nichia

    It's great . Thanks Selfbuilt!

  15. #15

    Default Re: Color Rendition and Tint Comparison: Cree, Rebel, GDP, Nichia

    Selfbuilt,
    Great work! I suspect in most cases and provided the CRIa of the LED is perhaps 70 or above, there is enough information available for color recognition and only in some problem colors (purples for instance) will the differences between light sources be obvious. I am not sure that high CRI itself will ever become a big criteria or significant goal in most light design parameters. It seems that color temperature and tint alone will be the deciding factors in most cases. Should you find yourself doing more analysis of color, I highly recommend you consider one of the color checker cards. They make a very informative target and one that others can compare to your images if they have a card as well.
    Build Prices .... some mods and builds (not 4 sale) "Nature can be cruel- but we don't have to be."~ Temple Grandin

  16. #16

    Default Re: Color Rendition and Tint Comparison: Cree, Rebel, GDP, Nichia

    Quote Originally Posted by clg0159 View Post
    Nice post! Thanks for taking the time to do the comparison I really like the tint on that AltusLumen PAD-L. A truly interesting new light!
    Agreed - although the PAD-L looks slightly warm to my eyes, the camera seems to capture it as one of the most neutrally-white (?) of all the "cool white" series. Of course, that could just be the bias of my camera's daylight white balance, or my own monitor/graphics card settings ... but I personally like the PAD-L's tint and floody beam profile.

    Quote Originally Posted by McGizmo View Post
    Selfbuilt,
    Great work! I suspect in most cases and provided the CRIa of the LED is perhaps 70 or above, there is enough information available for color recognition and only in some problem colors (purples for instance) will the differences between light sources be obvious. I am not sure that high CRI itself will ever become a big criteria or significant goal in most light design parameters. It seems that color temperature and tint alone will be the deciding factors in most cases. Should you find yourself doing more analysis of color, I highly recommend you consider one of the color checker cards. They make a very informative target and one that others can compare to your images if they have a card as well.
    Thanks for the comments McGizmo. I really appreciate you offering your perspective, given your extensive experience in building lights with various emitters. And I think you are bang on with your assessment.

    Good tip on the color checker card. The problem with this sort of random object analysis (aside from lacking a proper color distribution, of course) is that I'll never be able to replicate it without redoing all the lights again. I'll see if I can pick a card up at a local photographic supply store ... it will definitely come in handy for any future comparisons.

    BTW, my intent here was somewhat "proof-of-concept" - to see if the testing and presentation method has value. The ceiling bounce and camera exposure equalization seems have worked fairly well ... but I'd appreciate any and all input from users on how to improve the testing regimen.
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  17. #17
    Flashaholic Cheapskate's Avatar
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    Default Re: Color Rendition and Tint Comparison: Cree, Rebel, GDP, Nichia

    Quote Originally Posted by selfbuilt View Post
    Good tip on the color checker card. The problem with this sort of random object analysis (aside from lacking a proper color distribution, of course) is that I'll never be able to replicate it without redoing all the lights again. I'll see if I can pick a card up at a local photographic supply store ... it will definitely come in handy for any future comparisons.
    Paint brochures or catalogues are free and can provide a wide gamut of colours.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Color Rendition and Tint Comparison: Cree, Rebel, GDP, Nichia

    WOW!

    yeah.. i think that sums it up.

    Thanks for this review!

  19. #19
    Flashaholic* Sean's Avatar
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    Wink2 Re: Color Rendition and Tint Comparison: Cree, Rebel, GDP, Nichia

    Great work!

  20. #20
    Flashaholic* divine's Avatar
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    Default Re: Color Rendition and Tint Comparison: Cree, Rebel, GDP, Nichia

    Great work, Selfbuilt.

    There are some holes to fill in on that list. K2 being one. In my experience, the K2's give a pretty good rendering.
    "For every good deed, there is an equal an opposite bad deed."

  21. #21
    Flashaholic HighLumens's Avatar
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    Default Re: Color Rendition and Tint Comparison: Cree, Rebel, GDP, Nichia

    thanks for this review!!!

  22. #22
    Flashaholic frosty's Avatar
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    Default Re: Color Rendition and Tint Comparison: Cree, Rebel, GDP, Nichia

    Very informative. Thanks.

  23. #23

    Default Re: Color Rendition and Tint Comparison: Cree, Rebel, GDP, Nichia

    Very nice! I Like the White tints and don't use my warmer lights much.

  24. #24

    Default Re: Color Rendition and Tint Comparison: Cree, Rebel, GDP, Nichia

    Another great post, which needs to be made a sticky.

    The cool white tints, sometimes with hints of purple and blue, are the only things that bug me about LEDs. I'm going to pick up an INOVA T1 which I believe has a K2 emitter, which has a very warm tint and see how I like that for outdoor use (camping/hiking),

    Thanks again.
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  25. #25
    Flashaholic* chaoss's Avatar
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    Default Re: Color Rendition and Tint Comparison: Cree, Rebel, GDP, Nichia

    For a very good posting of various tints.
    Happiness is having a high rate of fire .

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Color Rendition and Tint Comparison: Cree, Rebel, GDP, Nichia

    You sure can learn alot from a few pics. Thank you for taking the time and helping a noob like me.
    Deus Vult

  27. #27

    Default Re: Color Rendition and Tint Comparison: Cree, Rebel, GDP, Nichia

    Glad you are enjoying the pics - they do seem to represent what I see subjectively by eye fairly well.

    Having played with the PAD-L (new Nichias) a bit during Earth Hour this weekend, I've come to appreciate the pics above being accurate (i.e. very "premium" cool white tint). Subjectively, the output seemed slightly warm to my eyes when examining it up close (i.e. in a small room). But when ceiling-bouncing over a wider area, I find it looks much like the pic above. I suspect there's yellow-blue tint variation across the individual emitter beams - i.e. cooler in the center, warmer in the spill (something like the reverse of GDP). This was subjectively giving me a slightly warm tint up close and a slightly cool tint off a ceiling bounce. It was just hard to tell originally due to multi-emitter setup in the PAD-L.

    And good point about the modern K2 emitters, unfortunately I don't have one to test.
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  28. #28
    Enlightened Martin SH's Avatar
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    Default Re: Color Rendition and Tint Comparison: Cree, Rebel, GDP, Nichia

    Thanks very much for the useful review. Its a subject that I am very interested in.

    After reading a lot about warm tints on the forum I purchased a Malkoff M60LW(arm). and I have to say I personally dislike the tint. I am a photographer by profession, so colour (UK) balance is something I strive to get right. When compared to my Malkoff M60 the difference is marked, yellow and drab.

    I realise that many people have been into flash lights for a long time and remember incandescents, but I have to say that I don't fully understand why overly warm tints are so popular. I may be missing something about the science but I fail to see why a warm tint should render colours better or be more piecing? I know the French used very warm headlights on their cars because it was perceived to be better in fog and mist, but this seems to be dying out now.

    Very useful thread should be sticky!

    Martin
    Malkoff MD2/M60L, SF 6P/Malkoff M60, SF G2/Malkoff M60LW, Fenix LD01, LD10, LD20, Zebralight H30.

  29. #29
    Flashaholic* kaichu dento's Avatar
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    Default Re: Color Rendition and Tint Comparison: Cree, Rebel, GDP, Nichia

    I was looking at the snow on some boulders here the other day and the sun was shining on them, giving a very warm glow. There were also areas of shade, which of course looked quite cool.

    Conversations regarding incans often bring in the idea that natural light is made by the sun, which is warmly tinted, and therefore incans will be best, but it is so easy to see for oneself that areas shaded from the sun, or under moonlight, are not warmly tinted.

    Just as natural light has a wide range of variances, so will peoples tastes in which they prefer. I had no thoughts of tint when I first came here to find one perfect light, but soon found myself wanting nothing but warm tints. Except a problem arose when I realized I had a few cool tinted lights that I really liked.

    Now it has become clear, at least for myself, that I like a good range of tints, generally within the range of what we might see in nature with it's cool and warm tints, and all the way too the 'overly' warm incan tints as well. My point? Simply that it can be frustrating trying to match natural light with one single light source, and as such, we may as well choose tints the way we choose food, friends and flashlights; to each his own.
    Marduke - Solitaire...I've seen matches which are brighter AND have a longer runtime. 光陰矢の如し

  30. #30

    Default Re: Color Rendition and Tint Comparison: Cree, Rebel, GDP, Nichia

    Quote Originally Posted by Martin SH View Post
    ...
    After reading a lot about warm tints on the forum I purchased a Malkoff M60LW(arm). and I have to say I personally dislike the tint.
    ...
    If you ever want to sell the M60LW (assuming you haven't done so already) give me shout - I'm in the UK, too!

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