low energy light bulbs

Discussion in 'Color: Film, Paper, and Chemistry' started by Erik Petersson, Aug 27, 2011.

  1. Erik Petersson

    Erik Petersson Subscriber

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    Hi,

    here in the EU ordinary light bulbs 60w and above are no longer sold. Do you know what effect low energy light bulbs have on photography? There are many brands and qualities, of course, but I understand that the spectrum has spikes, is not continuous like for tungsten light.

    The spectrum from LED-lights also seem to have its own characteristics.

    Can I still use my old tungsten films under low energy light bulbs?

    /Erik
     
  2. werra

    werra Subscriber

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    This ordinary light bulb inquisition is really miserable. I have none of those 'low energy' light bulbs in the household, just can't stand their flicker and light. Halogens are OK, tho to the eye a bit cooler than old bulbs. I would suggest proofing with digital camera, those new bulbs vary a lot.
     
  3. ath

    ath Member

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    Erik, this depends a lot on the light emitting coating that is used in the bulbs. There are cheap ones and there are good ones, more expensive. Look for a good brand and study their catalog / information leaflet. Usually they have some sort of "Biolight" or specific lights for museum / lighting artwork. These are expensive but have a very good spectrum. The key here is the Colour Rendering Index (CRI) which should be as high as possible.

    The colour temperature (tungsten film) is a different matter - you need a bulb with the correct value. Usually they come in 2700K (warm white) and 4000K (coolwhite), sometimes in 6500K (daylight). 2700 is roughly incandescent bulb light.
     
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  4. Matt Quinn

    Matt Quinn Member

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    If I may be permitted to both say 'hello' with my first post and address the O/P...

    My primary professional background is in TV; electronic imaging and continuous lighting is something I deal with on an everyday basis.

    As it happens many forms of domestic tungsten light are not really 'continuous' either in terms of their output spectra... Besides which flourescent light has been a fact of life for a very long time.

    Domestic CFL's (Compact Flourescent Light) bulbs produce a range of 'odd' spectra depending on their price/manufacture/age - Broadly I'd have to say they are somewhat unpredictable and often rather disagreable. However things are improving and the modern domestic CFL is a very different animal from that of (say) 10 years ago...

    - Shooting video with available artificial light (which is what we typically have to do) is a complex challenge; and obviously one that it is inappropriate to explore here; but from that experience I can say we live in changing/interesting times...

    I would have to take the view that CFLs as general lighting are destined to become simply part of the landscape just as gas lamps were displaced by electric light. So are something we need to work with 'warts and all'.

    Therefore if one happens to be engaged in candid photography using avaialble artificial light the 'odd effects of CFLs simply reflect the age we live in and become part of the grammar of the shot.

    If on the other hand one wishes to create a lit environment then we probably have more choices available than ever before! In this respect I'm unsure what role standard domestic light bulbs might play in anyone's stills photography - not for me to judge or criticise - but I'd imagine the bulbs that are disappearing have limited potential anyway...

    Photoflood bulbs will, as I understand it still be available as will other specialised incandescents used in film and theatre lighting... And new options are avaialble.

    For instance I have an Interfit 3200 kit (intended for Photofloods) among my everyday rig that we generally run with 5500K CFL bulbs - It is also possible to substitute the E27 Halolux 'modelling' lamps to very good effect.

    Bulbs for what I would normally class as 'film lamps' (i.e. Red Heads etc) are still available - No real problem there... These were and remain halogens. Specialised film/video/digital lighting needs are being met by developments such as the 'Kino Flo' and purpose-made LED lighting...

    Will your tungsten film still 'work'? Yes; though it won't produce the same results... But then If 100 or so years ago film had been available balanced for gaslight :D photographers then would have been challenged by the new electric light...

    I believe 'Werra' makes a good point in that some tests using a digital cam 'set' to tungsten colour might be worthwhile by way of cheap experiment.
     
  5. Erik Petersson

    Erik Petersson Subscriber

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    Thanks, such great replies. I might search for a biolight or similar for my apartment, thanks werra. And thanks Matt for giving the rest of the picture.
     
  6. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    I would not suggest using a digital camera to "proof" the lighting, as they are, to some extent, self adjusting to the light source.

    Also, I would take great care in handling these bulbs. All of the bulbs we have have failed early in their life cycles and more than half failed catastrophically. I have looked into it, and the EPA now suggests airing out the room if any fluorescent bulb breaks in that room, and that you place all fragments in a sealed plastic bag for glass pickup (some suggest double bagging and some suggest labeling with the appropriate warnings). This information was aired on NBC news about 1 month ago.

    The glass dust should not be vacuumed up but rather shaken out outdoors if on a portable carpet or piece of furniture, or picked up with a sticky or wet cloth and discarded as above.

    PE
     
  7. Matt Quinn

    Matt Quinn Member

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    As you're in Sweden Erik you should perhaps take a look at Ikea's range of domestic CFLs - I've changed the holders in many of my domestic lights (in the UK these are usually bayonets) to take Ikea (ES) bulbs. As a company they seem to have a good understanding of the issues.

    Agricultural suppliers (inadvertently) provide a range of very useful material for photography - They do bulbs with various spectral curves to simulate different parts of the growing season. And there is some very useful reflective material available from such sources!

    Be aware though that high output growlight bulbs are physically very large and VERY fragile! - OK for photographic use; not so sure I'd want one in my apartment.

    PE,

    Unfortuantely consumers in the EU are not really being given choice; personally I favour CFLs in that environment; though I resent not really having the choice; we're not here to 'do' politics however....

    Only specialist/professional use bulbs are now on general sale in incandescent form. So virtually all standard household bulbs are now CFL. Most, for the record are double-walled with the flouro part contained within a conventionally shaped outer envelope.

    - Personally we have then throughout the house I've never had one fail from anything other than extreme old age; however I also have an old friend who's one-eyed state is due to an exploding Photoflood! - ALL lighting needs treated with respect in my view.

    Certainly though the very large (comically so!) 'open' CFLs we might use for photography need to be handled with great care as they are VERY fragile! - People should be aware that the gas inside can contain mercury; and breakage is indeed something to be taken very seriously - this is waste of a somewhat hazardous nature IMHO.

    - On the use of electronic cameras as 'proofing' instruments I would suggest ensuring the camera is set to 'manual' 3200K - A video camera would function as well as a stills one in that role. If a digital camera lacks even that basic level of funtionality (and some certainly do) it's perhaps best placed in the bottom of one's fishing tackle box; right next to the big weights and scrap metal one uses for the Cod season...

    Ultimately the real test is film...
     
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  8. Photo Engineer

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    Unfortunately, we in NYS are not being given a choice of bulbs either, and that is why NBC ran the spot on CFLs. Personally, I am stocking up on tungsten bulbs from the shelves at our local store every time we shop. I don't want to divert this into a series of posts on CFLs though. Sorry.

    Ours blackened at the base and the glass cracked on at least 1/2 of the ones that blew.

    My digital still and video camera auto adjust to some extent, and then if you select "white level" it completely adjusts. My DVDs were shot under tungsten with full white level adjust. They look like they were shot in daylight.

    PE
     
  9. Matt Quinn

    Matt Quinn Member

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    Sadly I don't think we can explore these issue too deeply here - As a lighting cameraman I can tell you that auto-white balance is routinely overridden for most serious uses; but that's really one for another place...

    We need to bear in mind that flourescent lighting has been with us commercially for at least 60-odd years. In fact I believe that worldwide, since the mid-50's, more light is produced by flouros on a day to day basis than is produced by incandescents!

    CFLs are just tiny, high-efficiency, folded versions of the striplights most of us have lived and worked with all our lives... An old-fashioned 3' striplight tube probably contains anough mercury vapour to fill 30 or 40 CFLs! Personally; I'm not convinced this is anything to get too bent out of shape about.

    Like most technologies CFLs have their issues - Early ones sold over here had 'open' flouro tubes, poor coatings, were really 'odd' looking and a eyesore in most fittings... This 'early type' is still on sale and is the cheapest. Photographically they throw up the same issues as full-size, low grade flouro tubes. And, applying Maxwell's Triangle tells you that you might need to use a magenta filter to balance the green spike they produce.

    The more modern 'dual envelope' types are very different. They look very like tungsten bulbs; perhaps a little bulkier. The flouro tube is contained inside an outer envelope.

    In fact the function of the outer envelope is largely cosmetic; but with some degree of filtration and protection built in too... Hold one up to a clear north light and you might see the slight magenta cast to it. Sometimes it's not even glass but plastic! I've dropped one from 10' onto concrete! Didn't break (bounced actually!); and is still working 5 years after installation!!!

    The 'filter' envelope type seem to be the most promising as far as avaialble light photography is concerned. And certainly in a domestic setting the most satisfactory... Personally I don't feel they throw up all that many issues...
     
  10. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    Light bulbs like tungsten and CFL's do not like being turned off and on. Don't know about the new LED bulbs. Tungsten bulbs usually fail during the initial current surge when turned on. Keep them turned on and they will last a very long time. A few years ago there was a TV feature about a 25 watt light bulb in a New York City firestation that has been burning for many decades. It is a very old carbon filament bulb. The CFL outside my front door has been burning continuously for 6 years and shows no sign of failing.

    Some years ago you could buy a "button" which you placed in the socket. It contained a small resistor which limited the initial current surge for tungsten bulbs. It was claimed that it increased their life.
     
  11. lxdude

    lxdude Member

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    I don't know about NYC, but there's one in a Livermore California firehouse which is over 100 years old. That could be what you're thinking of.
     
  12. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    That must be it. I knew it was in a firehouse. The mind plays tricks.
     
  13. Matt Quinn

    Matt Quinn Member

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    Yup the 'Centennial Light' - 110 years old and still going strong apparently. And there are a few others not far behind it... There WAS one of that sort of age in NYC - A hardware store on Second Avenue?? Grassicks??? Something like that...

    In this particular house we couldn't get an incandescent to last more than 2-3 weeks thanks to local switching problems. One of the problems we have in some parts of the UK is that bulbs are made for the European standard of 230v - Many/most of the UK is still, in reality on 240v! Some parts the average hovers closer to 250v RMS..

    Incandescents generally die from 'thermal shock' at switch on. Inline dimmers are known to extend bulb life in things like 'red heads' by at least 3-5 times. The button Gerald mentions is a surge resistor and would definitely help... If only they had ever made them for bayonet fittings!

    As for CFLs? The 'starters' will fail before the actual bulb - I'm seeing 5-7 years out of the Ikea bulbs in everyday use running about 20% of the power I would on conventional bulbs... Light quality is fair-good in terms of colour rendering; no perceptable flicker on a 50Hz/240v supply...

    Out of curiosity I should probably do some experimental shots to see how these look under film...
     
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  15. Ken Nadvornick

    Ken Nadvornick Subscriber

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    Worth a look to make sure it hasn't just now burned out...


    Whew! Just checked and 29 seconds ago it was still burning. What a relief!

    From the Facts page at the above website:

    "The Second longest bulb was listed in the 1970 Guinness Book under the heading Most Durable says that 'on 21 Sept 1908 a stagehand named Barry Burke at the Byers Opera House, Fort Worth, Texas screwed in a new light bulb and that it was still burning.' The building was renamed the Palace Theatre, and the light was known as the Palace Bulb ever since. It now resides in the Stockyards Museum, and will have been burning for 100 years Sept of 2008. A website is in the works.

    "The Third, a bulb in a New York City hardware store, Gasnick Supplies, had been working since 1912, but it is unknown if it still works today.

    "The Fourth is known as "the bulb" which like ours, burns in a firehouse in the town of Mangum, Oklahoma. It has been in operation since around 1926, has no special power conversions, and is turned on and off with normal use.

    "The Fifth was a bulb in a washroom at the Martin & Newby Electrical Shop in Ipswich, England was dated from 1930 and burned out in January 2001."

    Ken
     
  16. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    Ordinary tungsten lightbulbs have deliberately been made crappy for a long time; otherwise they wouldn't be able to sell them to you over and over and over. But don't count on CFL's to have decent
    color rendition any time soon. Some of them might eventually be OK for print display purposes, but
    I'd stock up on something more reliable for studio use. LED lighting is even worse. I have yet to encounter a CFL that doesn't give me horrible eyestrain from the wacky spectrum. I wonder what the
    longterm health effects will be, especially now that kids are put right in front of computers from preschool on.
     
  17. Matt Quinn

    Matt Quinn Member

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    Seriously?? As a trained lighting cameraman with over 30 years experience I can tell you that if you were designing a new television studio today you would be investing heavily in CFL lighting for a number of reasons... Not the least being they're a well-established technology in the Film and TV world.

    Recently I did some work in STV's new-ish studios in Glasgow; the only halogens available were the ones I had in the boot of my vehicle! I took a bit of ribbing for my 'Luddite tendancies' when I dragged them upstairs as they are what I personally prefer to work with.

    Some typical spectral charts for studio CFLs are shown here...

    http://www.kinoflo.com/Kino Flo lamps/True Match/True Match.htm#Charts.

    LEDs factually are now capable of very high CRIs - Even I have long-since abandoned my halogen 'top light' complete with it's heavy 2-hour battery pack for a one-piece LED unit that runs literally for weeks off a few 'AA cells...

    And for the record the average, poorly made domestic incandescent such as might be found on the High St RARELY produces anything close to a high or even good CRI - Or for that matter a predictable or stable colour temperature over its life...

    As I mentioned earlier - for over 60 years more light has been produced by flouros than incandescents - And I know of many a printer who turns on the overhead striplights to 'judge' their output... I had a business partner who ran a graphics and print company; the paid happily the premium for special FL tubes that allowed them to make critical judgements about the colours they were producing - And that was 20 years ago...

    The spectral output of classic flouros is "wacky" by dint of the 'gaps' in the output - You can often demonstrate this for yourself by taking a CD and looking at how light splits across the surface... Daylight, Incandescent and LED lights will produce nice smooth rainbow; whereas in a room lit by Flouros that 'rainbow' will appear somewhat 'fractured' with noteable peaks in the RGB additive primaries.

    MAJOR differences exist though between the cheap 'open tube' type CFLs and those with a double envelope. I have some very old CFLs in outside storage areas and they're pretty bad; the effect is easy to see with the CD trick... But the one I have in my antique desk lamp here barely exhibits that split spectrum at all...
     
  18. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    I've found the GE Reveal CFLs have the nicest looking color (less wacky) compared to the other off-the-shelf CFL choices. One of three has failed so far though.... So it's not all cheer.
     
  19. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    I have a small hand-held spectrophotometer. I can look at a light through it and tell which is a CFL or an incandescent bulb. The CFLs are discontinuous, and give several bands in the visible spectrum. Tungsten bulbs give a nice even spectrum.

    This discontinuous spectrum can cause problems with some films.

    PE
     
  20. Matt Quinn

    Matt Quinn Member

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    It's quite interesting that folks in the U.S. seem to be experiencing such high failure rates with these things.

    As I mentioned previously; here in the UK we have the problem of incandescent 230V bulbs being sold in an area that is in reality 240v-250v - This makes for very short lifes (a standard bulb here lasts a few weeks on average)...

    The CFLs are also rated 230v; and seem to last years - Yet in the US bulbs (presumably) properly rated for the 120v supply are 'popping' like corn by the sounds of it??? Baffling...
     
  21. Matt Quinn

    Matt Quinn Member

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    Well the CD trick I mentioned will show you the spectrum IS indeed discontinuous - We know this. We also have 60+ years of technique to mitigate shooting under flourescent light...

    Essentially CFLs are just smaller/more sophisticated versions of the good ol' fashioned flouro tube.

    At the end of the day Kino Flos are an accepted reality; both for film and electronic imaging. And many domestic CFLs are heading the same direction in terms of addressing discontinuity and colour temprature isuues...
     
  22. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    Matt - first of all you referenced a tube fluorescent spectrogram, not a CFL; and I'm familiar with the
    finest of them, either European or domestic. Try designing a continuous spectrophotometer if you understand the nature of this problem so well. The problem with CFL's at the moment is that they're being rushed to market as quickly as possible, with spectral improvements being an afterthought. All of
    them are being made in China and marketed mainly on a price-point basis. Hypothetically, one could make them with the same mix of phosphors found in quality tube color-matching fluorescents, but that
    might be awhile. I've been to recent trade shows specifically discussing these things, and personally
    use a bank of different light sources in my own darkroom color station, just like the multiple booths in
    an advanced lighting store. You also seem to fail to understand the basic distinction to how color is
    concocted in these things, which has an inherent limitation. I can't speak for what might be distributed
    in Europe at the moment, but in this country anything with GE on it seems to be going downhill in quality, not uphill.
     
  23. Matt Quinn

    Matt Quinn Member

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    Oh dear... :whistling:

    Well Drew, I believe I do understand the issues very well indeed. I am, as I say an experienced professional lighting cameraman and, as it happens, also a lecturer in TV production with lighting as one of my specialities. That means my training and qualifications embrace electrical engineering disciplines as well as the more obvious areas associated with imaging. - Then there's the 30-odd years I've been actually doing this for real and making a living!

    - I also sit on SQA qualification design teams; and research and write course and assessment material at college level; bit more involved than hangin' out a trade shows chewin' the fat!

    I really have absolutely no idea why you think designing a tool to measure certain characteristics of light is either within my wont, field of expertise, or would be a remotely useful exercise?? And I can only suggest you go back and read what I wrote...

    I didn't cite just any old tube spectrogram but a Kino Flo - quite deliberately to counter your assertion...

    Kino flos are Compact Flourescent Lamps; they may be a highly specialised type, but they do exist and thus the notion that CFLs are not suited to studio is can be demonstrated and evidenced as a vacuous one.

    Had I cited the spectrogram of a standard tube flouro (of the type we've almost all been living with all our lives) it would be every bit as discontinuous as most CFLs! Often MUCH worse!!! - I FULLY understand how colour is 'concocted' as you put it; it's one of the topics I lecture in! And as any of the students who have to sit through some 15 hours of lectures on the topic will tell you; one I can get into qute a bit of depth on!

    I can assure you that relatively small CFLs ARE routinely used in professional imaging (i.e. studio) contexts. Guerilla film makers may well choose to source lamps intended for horticulatural use to good effect. However specialised CFLs for imaging that are designed to substitute Photofloods are also available... There is nothing remotely "hypothetical" about these things... And I'm utterly amazed that anyone with a serious interest in lighting for imaging should be apparently unaware of this!

    Now; on the 'domestic' issue I was under the impression this was an international forum. It may have escaped your notice; but I am writing from Scotland - NOT the U.S. (no you don't fall off the edge of the world if you keep sailing east past the big lady with the ice-cream cone) - So what is 'domestic' to one member is foreign to another. C'est la vie!

    So I'll use that term 'domestic' as meaning 'for home use'; which is my understanding of it.

    CFLs arrived here (IIRC) in the late 80's; exhibiting all the horrible effects and artefacts people are citing.

    By the early-mid 90's the authorities were giving away CFL's of the type Wikipedia (bizzarely) claim are "one of the most popular types in Europe". Again; not particularly satisfactory units. They do still sell them, very cheaply (typically under £2 or less) - And the government still give them away to pensioners and those on state benefits...

    But I don't know who they're 'popular' with! Useful for outhouses, attics and basements perhaps; but apparently even charities can't give them away! things have moved on a bit!

    "Price Point"? There are always those who'll buy cheap no matter how often they have to repeat the exercise I guess. In practice most people will happily pay a few quid for quality bulbs that suit the fittings they've invested in; particularly since these things last many years normally... Light bulbs are no longer something you include in your monthly grocery order.

    The E.U. (and remember the O/P is in Sweden) from upon their tower of Ivory issued a dictat that many domestic incandescent bulbs are to be phased out. In reality? - Only the 'standard' bulb of 60W+ seems to be disappearing at any great rate. Specialist incandescent bulbs are exempted; and all of CFL, Halogen and LED substitutes...

    So - It seems (from this thread at least) the situation here in bonnie Scotland and much of the rest of Europe is rather different from the U.S. For one our CFL's aren't going off like firecrackers. Secondly good quality CFLs are producing outputs that are quite satisfactory for most purposes; with surprisingly contiguous spectra...

    For studio use? Well I generally don't light studios with domestic light bulbs! And in that context (as I said) if it's your preference there are CFL options.

    For existing light photography? Well I'm repeating myself I know; but they're destined to become part of the landscape; we just need to deal with it - but it's not great issue...

    Bad/average CFLs are no different to bad/average flouro tubes; and we have 60+ years of experience with those to fall back on in terms of filtration techniques etc...

    As for GE??? Is that brand even sold in Europe?? (joke) Leaders in the field here seem to be Phillips. But I buy all our household bulbs from Ikea as their units seem to be the most compact and most stable in terms of rendering and colour temperature...

    With a big part of my own family hailing originally from Hong Kong I'm no racist; but I do believe there is a big problem with Chinese junk being imported and marketed solely on price. THEY can (and do) do better when the market demands it - But that's an argument for another time and another place...

    I can't say it's something I've ever actually observed in the U.S. But reading some of this stuff is like going back a dozen years... "rushed to market as quickly as possible"??? Something that's been around for 20-odd years is being "rushed" to market???

    Honestly??? You must be having me on???
     
  24. Photo Engineer

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    Matt;

    You have to remember that Drew and the rest of us are coping with household lighting whereas you are getting the cream of the crop so to speak. At Kodak, we had several sets of lighting relating to normal conditions and critical conditions. The latter required a special "Deluxe Cool White" if we were to get proper color rendition.

    The final level was exemplified by the Viewing Cabinet made IIRC by MacBeth. It had special lights and a special viewing angle to check out our prints for quality. Otherwise, the results were not accepted.

    PE
     
  25. iranzi

    iranzi Member

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    Ikea bulbs are "cream of the crop"? You should give them a try, I'm sure there is an ikea in your part of the world.

    I prefer the compact fluorescent bulbs for judging the colour prints and in general. But they are no good for the darkroom as the phosphor coating takes a while to stop glowing, so i use the incandescent bulb there. I'm in uk by the way.

    Matt, thanks so much for all the light-related info.
     
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  26. Erik Petersson

    Erik Petersson Subscriber

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    Yep, thanks for all the info. Ikea light bulbs will be convenient to buy here in Stockholm.