Changing LED Tint With Filters

Derek Dean

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EDIT 3-11-21 Just a quick note of interest, it's come to my attention that the regular LEE filters fade VERY quickly when used in front of LEDs. It is now HIGHLY recommended that you purchase and use only LEE ZIRCON filters, which are specifically designed to be used with LEDs. Zircon material is twice as thick and highly resistant to fading.

I found the Lee Zircon filter # 802, which is approx. equivalent to minus 1/4 green, to be nearly perfect for filtering ALL my Zebralights.
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Ok, I'll admit it, I've become a tint snob, and I used to agonize while waiting for a new light as to what tint the LED would be, but no more.

I've now found the joy of customizing the tint on all of my lights to EXACTLY the tint I want thanks to the Lee Filter Swatch Book, which can be found here:
http://www.shop.leefiltersusa.com/Designer-Swatch-Book-SWB.htm

And this is the European Contact page:
http://www.leefilters.com/lighting/contact/

And here is a link to the Rosco site, they have different versions available:
http://www.rosco.com/us/products/lighting.cfm

These little books contains hundreds of different colored filters, from light magenta to dark magenta, or light blue to dark blue, or light yellow to dark yellow, etc. Some even contains diffusing filters!

Each plastic filter is about 1 1/2" x 2 1/2". It can take a little time to find the right filter because there are so many colors to choose from, but it's honestly a lot of fun and not all that hard.

If your light has a greenish tint, then you'll probably want one of the pink (magenta) filters, while I found the XP-G R5 LED in my new NiteCore IFE2 (which seem to be more of a cyan, or green-blue tint) needed a light orange filter.

Each filter has a number. All you do is just hold each filter in front of the light and write down the numbers of the filters that seem to work well, and then after narrowing it down to 3 or 4, you finally pick the one that gives you the perfect tint.

What's the perfect tint? Well, not only did I use a white wall, but I would aim the light at a bookcase with lots of colorful books, and I went into the kitchen and aimed it at soup cans, etc. Then I went outside and looked at plants. I couldn't believe how much better colors looked when rendered with the correct filter in front of the light. AMAZING.

When you finally select the right filter, you'll want to cut out a small square of that filter about the size of the front glass cover. If you can get the bezel off of your light, you can simply remove it and place the glass on the plastic filter and trace around it with a pen and cut to size, then place the filter inside the glass front cover and reassemble (filter, glass, bezel)

On lights that I can't remove the bezel, I simply place the light, bezel down, on the filter and trace around it and cut it out, then taking my time, I'll begin trimming it until it fits down into the bezel area on top of the glass cover. Then I'll attach it using a reversible glue stick, and have found that it stays in place great. On my Jetbeam Bk-135A I didn't even have to use the glue stick, when I got it cut to size, I placed it down on the glass and it slid into place in a small groove. Neat!

The difference it makes in the quality of the light is dramatic, and usually with only a very small loss in light output, which is more than made up by having such a beautiful tint.

I can't recommend this enough. Now, every time I use one of my lights I really enjoy the quality of the light as much as the physical aspects of the light itself.

So, rather than complaining about green or blue tints, customize every light you own with this simple, inexpensive, and easily reversible solution.
 
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the.Mtn.Man

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Re: I'm an LED tint snob!

I don't know if I'm a tint snob, but I was genuinely surprised when my wife said that she preferred cool white over warm high CRI because the former looked brighter. She didn't care a whit about accurate color rendering.
 

Derek Dean

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Re: I'm an LED tint snob!

It may be more important to me because I was a professional color printer for many years and became very sensitive to even minor tint variations.

I was very lucky with the first lights I purchased back in 2006, which had SSC P4 LEDs and seemed to have very neutral tints. However, I've noticed many of my recent light purchases,which were only available with Cree cool white LEDs, have had cyanish tints, my least favorite tint since it can cause things to look flat and lifeless.

Luckily, by using filters I've been able fix that on all of those lights, and because all of them are more than bright enough for my needs, the slight loss in brightness is inconsequential.

I know this has been posted before, but I've been seeing more and more CPF members expressing dissatisfaction with their tints and felt this information was worth repeating.
 

qwertyydude

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Re: I'm an LED tint snob!

I don't know if I'm a tint snob, but I was genuinely surprised when my wife said that she preferred cool white over warm high CRI because the former looked brighter. She didn't care a whit about accurate color rendering.

Accurate color rendering is relative. A 100 cri at a color temperature of 3000k would be crap compared to a cool or neutral white led at 75 CRI. One thing to keep in mind is that the moveie and photography industry use HMI lighting and it's only about 85 CRI but is the exact tint of noonday sunlight and I guarantee you when they turn that on the colors are just as accurate as sunlight to any but the most trained eyes.
 

GaAslamp

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Re: I'm an LED tint snob!

I've now found the joy of customizing the tint on all of my lights to EXACTLY the tint I want thanks to the Lee Filter Swatch Book, which can be found here:
http://www.shop.leefiltersusa.com/Sw...2.qscstrfrnt02

I guess I'm a tint snob, too, and since I work with telescope filters, the thought of using filters on flashlights has crossed my mind, although I'm not exactly thrilled with losing even more output, and for me what's important is not only the appearance of the tint but the resulting spectrum. However, what I didn't realize until now (due to previous experience) was that the spectrum of each filter is available online, which means that I can find the best match if it exists. :cool: I may not end up using filters on a regular basis, but thanks to your post I'm intrigued enough to experiment with them.

I was very lucky with the first lights I purchased back in 2006, which had SSC P4 LEDs and seemed to have very neutral tints. However, I've noticed many of my recent light purchases,which were only available with Cree cool white LEDs, have had cyanish tints, my least favorite tint since it can cause things to look flat and lifeless.

Yeah, there is often too much blue and green, and not enough red. Ironically spectral cyan is rather lacking, as is the case with most white LEDs. The starting point for my initial experiments will be a high-CRI 4000K LED that generally has excellent color balance but a bit too much yellow and orange. If I can tone down those areas of its spectrum without affecting the overall balance between the other color ranges (while raising its color temperature to somewhere between 5000K and 6500K), then the result could potentially be the most accurate LED flashlight spectrum--with respect to sunlight--that I've seen to date. Some of the light blue and lavender filters look promising, but I still have a bunch of filter spectra to scrutinize.

Accurate color rendering is relative. A 100 cri at a color temperature of 3000k would be crap compared to a cool or neutral white led at 75 CRI.

Exactly, 3000K doesn't cut it for accuracy if sunlight is your ideal reference, for example--color balance is more important overall than how well an LED's spectrum matches that of an ideal incandescent source at the same color temperature (i.e. CRI).

That said, even when using filters to correct the tint, it is generally better to start with a high-CRI emitter because there will be less that is missing, as filters can only subtract ranges of color, not add them. Many low-CRI warm white LEDs are too lacking in blue to fully save, and the same goes for low-CRI cool white LEDs with regard to their general lack of red. Well, you could correct these deficiencies with darker filters, but then the light loss would be tremendous.

One thing to keep in mind is that the moveie and photography industry use HMI lighting and it's only about 85 CRI but is the exact tint of noonday sunlight and I guarantee you when they turn that on the colors are just as accurate as sunlight to any but the most trained eyes.

My 85 CRI flashlight comes pretty close as it is, but now I'm going to find out how much closer it can get to virtually perfect color rendering. :thumbsup:
 

Cheapskate

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Re: I'm an LED tint snob!

Accurate color rendering is relative. A 100 cri at a color temperature of 3000k would be crap compared to a cool or neutral white led at 75 CRI. One thing to keep in mind is that the moveie and photography industry use HMI lighting and it's only about 85 CRI but is the exact tint of noonday sunlight and I guarantee you when they turn that on the colors are just as accurate as sunlight to any but the most trained eyes.

I salute you! You get it.

I now cringe everytime I see someone launch into tint pontification mode in a thread. I am old enough to have spent a good bit of time taking photographs on film. Sometimes those photos have unavoidably been taken indoors with only an incandescent light source. The results, of course, are a horrible orange cast to everything with very poor colour rendition of cooler colours.

High CRI with spectral imbalance is worse than lower CRI with better spectral balance.

A lot of people deride cool white LEDs declaring them to be unfit for anything because of their complete inability to render warm colours. I spotted this in the recent thread about the girlfriend wanting a powerful flash light for her walk-in closet

One potential issue might be the tint, as the current version is a little on the cool side which might make identifying certain colors of clothes or shoes more difficult, but there is supposed to be a neutral version coming very soon...many people are waiting, it seems.
When these sort of statements pop up on CPF I just mentally cringe. It is taken as fact that a cool white LED can not render warm colours or allow subtle differences to be differentiated. I took photos of paint charts lit with a cool white LED source to prove this, such as this one:

NDIvDaylight.jpg


Ooops, looks like I failed! :sssh: The top pic was lit with an NDI while the bottom was lit with sunlight. The camera white balance was set to daylight for both shots.

I have taken several other photos of paint colour charts and there is no problem differentiating between subtle warm shades.

I also played around with filters a bit and took photos, but my only digital camera at the time was a 2.5mp phone and it's low light performance was not very good, but here are a couple of photos that might be of interest:

FIlters.jpg


Those filters when put to use - except for the skylight which is too subtle.

Filtereffects.jpg


The teflon was there because I have a large roll of transparent teflon tape which has a silicone adhesive backing and thought it might be more practical than carving up a perfectly good Hoya 81A as it could be cut to shape and just stuck on the lens and could be removed easily if required. I never bothered because my experiments left me perfectly happy with cool tints.

The photos do demonstrated that there is a cost in output with using filters.
One%20potential%20issue%20might%20be%20the%20tint,%20as%20the%20current%20version%20is%20a%20little%20on%20the%20cool%20side%20which%20might%20make%20identifying%20certain%20colors%20of%20clothes%20or%20shoes%20more%20difficult,%20but%20there%20is%20supposed%20to%20be%20a%20neutral%20version%20coming%20very%20soon...many%20people%20are%20waiting,%20it%20seems.
 
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samuraishot

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Thanks for the interesting post and link, DD. I just placed an order and can't wait to try it out!
 

qwertyydude

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Cheapskate I salute you for getting it too, wish you had a warm led to take comparison shots of a paint sample set. Warm, Cool, and Sunlight. The warm thing is as much psychology as it is actual color rendering. If it was truly color rendering you're after I'd go with neutral white leds never warm.

Both my P7 led flashlight and my one luck of the tint lottery XR-E neutral white led has a hotspot very near noonday sunlight with only the slightest bit of green for the XR-E and pretty much spot on with the P7. I can actually use it to calibrate my computer monitor pretty close to sunlight when comparing the monitor to a photo printout from my color calibrated printer. I would never be able to so with a warm white led, in fact I have to turn of my warm CFL room light just to do the monitor calibration because it messes up the color rendering on the photo.
 

the.Mtn.Man

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Re: I'm an LED tint snob!

Accurate color rendering is relative. A 100 cri at a color temperature of 3000k would be crap compared to a cool or neutral white led at 75 CRI. One thing to keep in mind is that the moveie and photography industry use HMI lighting and it's only about 85 CRI but is the exact tint of noonday sunlight and I guarantee you when they turn that on the colors are just as accurate as sunlight to any but the most trained eyes.

It's a matter of preference. I find cool tints to be too glaring and not particularly pleasing, especially at lower levels. My current EDC is an Ra Clicky at around 3000k and a CRI of 93, to my eyes it's the best flashlight beam I've ever used.

But hey, I'd love it if we started seeing 85 CRI cool whites on the market. Then maybe we'd have half a chance of things looking their proper color instead of overly blue.

As for the movie industry, they use HMI when they're trying to match sunlight or when trying to make a studio set look like it's outdoors (the other option is to take an incandescent source and put a daylight blue gel over it). Otherwise they tend to use 3200K incans or the LED or fluorescent equivalent.
 
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the.Mtn.Man

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Re: I'm an LED tint snob!

I am old enough to have spent a good bit of time taking photographs on film. Sometimes those photos have unavoidably been taken indoors with only an incandescent light source. The results, of course, are a horrible orange cast to everything with very poor colour rendition of cooler colours.

That's because you were using daylight balanced film, bro. You get the same effect with a digital camera if you white balance in sunlight and try taking pictures under 3200K conditions. The opposite effect is also interesting: if you white balance indoors and then take pictures outdoors, everything will be varying shades of sickly blue.
 
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Derek Dean

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Thanks for the interesting post and link, DD. I just placed an order and can't wait to try it out!
I think you'll find it very worth the time and small investment. I hope you'll post your results.

I found the key to using these filters is to not be in a hurry when selecting the right one for each light. I would play with them for a while with the light, narrow it down to 3 or 4, and then go do something else for a while. This would give my eyes a chance to readjust to regular viewing conditions.

Often I will pick my favorite and then go to bed and wait for the next night to see if it was still my favorite, and some times I would change my mind and go with my secondary choice.

For me the idea was to get a tint that was just a tiny bit warm, with just a teeny tiny hint of red. That's MY preference, which is what's so cool about this. It let's each one of us fine tune our lights to what is best for own individual eyes and preferences.

The great thing about this is that you get INSTANT feedback. You just aim your light at something with lots of different colors (yes, a Macbeth Color Checker would be ideal, but soup cans work REALLY well too :)) and move the filters in and out of the light path. When you get the right filter all of a sudden the colors pop and look "right". The greens are green, the reds are red, the yellows are yellow, and hopefully the whites looks white.

My NovaTac 120P needed only a very light magenta filter, while my Nitecore IFE2 needed a fairly heavy orange filter, but now the tints of both lights are more or less identical and both render colors much better now.

I've found the biggest plus for doing this is when using my lights outside. The difference when walking outside at night is huge. Not only are the colors of the plants and the ground more accurate, but because the colors are now distinct (without that cyanish haze over everything) there is much more contrast, which makes for a much more pleasant and safe experience, at least for me.

In any case, I'm enjoying the discussion. It's nice that we've come far enough along in the progression of LED technology to move beyond how bright or efficient an LED is, and begin talking about where we want it go in terms of color rendering and tint.
 

Cataract

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Thanks for the info... I was looking for something just like this :thumbsup:

How much heat can these filters take??
 

Derek Dean

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How much heat can these filters take??
You could always contact Lee Filters for an exact answer, but they're designed for use with high intensity professional lighting, so I imagine they can survive most LED flashlight use.

As far as filtering a powerful incandescent light with them, I would be a bit concerned with trying to place one inside the glass cover with no way to cool off, but it might still be worth a try.
 

Walterk

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Besides tints, could you please inform us how these Lee filters work for diffusion ?
I know it works for the Maxabeam, so suppose it works for any light (except Mag-lite maybe ;) ).
 

qwertyydude

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Now I see with the warm, on the right side the greens and browns are more difficult to distinguish although reds are slightly better rendered. But I'd still say the neutral looking Jetbeam Jet I Pro gets closest.
 

Cheapskate

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That's my thinking also. I really like the Jet I pro tint and I dislike the tint of the Ti. I really should mod it.
 

shao.fu.tzer

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I asked for one of those swatch books and they sent it to me for free, albeit about two months later. It's full of film of every color and texture... tinted film, diffuser film.. everything. It's huge... Definitely going to need to experiment more with it.

Shao
 
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