THE SKINNY ON CRI
Widely used by lighting
manufacturers, the Color
Rendering Index was devised
by the CIE (Commission
internationale de l’éclairage)
during the 1960s to assess and
quantify color fidelity. It evaluates
how a light source renders eight
standard color swatches, in
comparison to a perfect illuminant
with the same color temperature.
How well the light renders each
color swatch is rated on a scale
from 0 to 100, and then the
average is calculated to produce
the CRI number. Look at most
lights sold to photographers and
you’ll find a CRI number in the
90s, which in principle indicates
excellent color rendition.
But the devil is in the details.
To begin with, producing an
average number can mask
important differences in the
individual colors. “Consider two
hypothetical lights,” says Fiilex
optics engineer Sean Inaba.
“One scores 0 on the first four
samples and 100 on the second
four. The second light scores four
100s followed by four 0s. These
The light looked fine during the event, and you even
checked its Color Rendering Index (CRI) rating when
you bought it to make sure it would capture colors
accurately. So what gives?
It turns out that CRI numbers don’t tell the whole
story about color rendition when it comes to LEDs. Even
your eyes can be fooled. To get the details on what CRI
ratings can (and can’t) tell you about an LED, and how
to choose a light that will let you capture portraits with
vibrant, natural skin tones, we talked to engineers at
LED manufacturers Cineo and Fiilex.
It seems simple, but even LED lights with the same Color Rendering Index scores can
be vastly different. Here’s how to discover the one that works best for you.
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