Monday, July 4, 2011

Light Bulbs - Test and Review

So recently I had to take some pictures for a contest over at ThroneofSkulls.com of a WIP Angron model that I have been working on. Now taking good pictures is something that I always find difficult, and have never really mastered. Taking that into account, and the fact that I don't/didn't have a tripod, light box, or sunlight (At the time) the pictures came out pretty badly.

Fast forward a couple of days to when I was walking around in shopko while waiting for my car to get some new tires and I spy some GE Sunlight, and GE Daylight CFL light bulbs. For those of you that do not know, CFL (or Compact Fluorescent Lights) are those weird spirally looking light bulbs that use a ton less electricity than your normal incandescent bulbs. I had previously noted that a 26 Watt (100 watt equivalent) CFL bulb gave out a tone more like that the incandescent bulbs of approx. the same size, and extremely more than an average 60 watt. The CFL light is also much more white rather than yellow, which I thought might help my pictures since they tend to turn out rather yellow tinged.

That brings me to today, when I decided to test out 4 different types of light bulbs and see how they took pictures. In order to do this I set up my Demon Prince model in front of and on top of a regular piece of paper, set up two lights, and set my camera to its no flash, super macro, ISO 64 settings.  I then proceeded to take a picture of the miniature from approximately the same angle, and distance using 4 different light bulbs.

I took pictures until my camera's motion detected said that there was no motion blur. So what light bulbs did I use?

60 Watt Incandescent - Probably what most people use, it fits in normal light fixtures and lamps, and are relatively common.
26 Watt CFL - This is a 100 W equivalent bulb. In terms of lumens it gives probably about 3x as much light as the 60W incandescent.
26 Watt Daylight CFL - Pretty much the same as regular 26 Watt, but wanted to see what the light quality difference would be as it is a "Daylight" bulb
26 Watt Sunlight CFL - Again, I wanted to see the difference in the quality of the light from the bulb, and specifically how it differed from the Daylight bulb.

Now onto the results:

60 Watt Incandescent
This was my control, it is the light most commonly used, and has a very yellow glow. Here is the picture that it took:

As you can see the picture has quite a yellow/orange tinge. The red is washed out, the bronze looks more brown, and the colors are extremely different than if you see the miniature in person. Just to give you an idea, the background should be white, not off white. This picture would in my opinion require a bit of color tinting in GIMP to really show what the miniature looks like.

26 Watt CFL
This is the bulb that I took the pictures of Angron with, It should be a lot brighter, and from seeing the differences in light, should also be a bit whiter and have truer color.
Well there it is, it does look a little bit better, but still quite yellow. The Background should be white, but once again has taken on a yellowish tinge and washed out the colors. The brighter light did seem to help a little bit, but it still suffers from the same problems as the incandescent.



26 Watt Sunlight Bulb
One of the two bulbs that I picked up the other day to test out. Wasn't sure how it was going to work, but since sunlight is amazing to paint by, I had to give it a try. Here are the results:
So as you can see the difference is pretty extreme. The background actually looks white, the colors are much truer to light. Some of the red still got a little washed out, and the camera cord got in the way on the left hand side, but the picture is still light years ahead of the other two.

26 Watt Daylight CFL
So here comes the daylight bulb, again, I was not sure what I was expecting. I know that there are some really expensive daylight lamps that look very good, but considering the price of the bulb was under $10, I wasn't expecting much.
The picture is again much better than the incandescent or regular CFL. The Background is actually a little bit blue, but the colors look pretty good and close to real life, but i think that they are a little bit more blue than they should be.

OVERALL

Considering that all I change was my light bulbs, not fancy editing, no light boxes or diffusion screens, and using only two lights and a pretty basic camera, It think that light bulb definitely matters. I am never going to take pictures with incandescent again, event the extra brightness of the CFL wasn't as big of a change as I thought it would be. I would say that the winner in this test was probably the Sunlight bulb, because of the fact that if really gave a good white background where it was supposed to. The daylight bulb is a close second, and I am going to have to do some more tests to see which one I like and works better.

What do you guys think of the pictures, the bulbs were the only things changed, I even edited them all the same. What experiences have you guys had with different bulbs?

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