Wednesday, May 21, 2014

High CRI Does Not Mean "Better" LED Light

CNET just did a video article on the newest Cree and GE high CRI bulbs in comparison to the incandescent.  We were told that a high CRI means it's a "better" light.

But that is not necessarily the case at all.  As a photographer who did commercial and industrial work in the old film days I can tell you that indeed daylight balanced film does want a high CRI and daylight color temp.  That is what it is optimized for.  You can purchase a true "daylight" fluorescent bulbs at 5600K with a 92 CRI designed for photography, and the results would be very good.

BUT it looks hideous in your house!  Way too cool.  Skin looks bluish.  Not at all like it's in direct sunlight.  In fact, it is the light a skylight produces when the sun is not shining directly into it, or the light of a north facing window with blue sky and no clouds.  In fact, it is called "north light" sometimes.  It's almost ghostly.

5600K is actually the color of sunlight at noon, on a cloudless blue sky day. And as they used to tell us in photography class, "only made dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun" as Rudyard Kipling put it.  Noon light an unflattering time to shoot subjects.  Wait for the sun to get lower and warmer.  Why?  Because all that blue from the water vapor in the sky hits your subject, making skin tones look too cool.  But wait until 4pm or later and the color temperature goes way down. And 30 minutes before sunset it's amazingly warm, and flattering.

And that brings us back to the CNET article.  The reporter said several times that the bulbs were "better" because they filtered out all that "yellow."  Really?  Better?  Only from the analytical viewpoint of a spectrometer.   If you were proofing colors for a magazine, great!  If you are on a date, not so much! 

We love the warm glow of a candle flame, or an incandescent spot that has been turned down low inside our homes. Go with warmth of the 2700K soft white for that look.


  1. You can purchase 2700k tungstem high cri led lights.
    these look much better than the daylight light in house interiors.


    1. High CRI is a important factor of quality light, but we need pay more attention to R9 and R12, that's why some lights with high CRI doesn't do the excellent performance.