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  1. #1
    Erik Petersson's Avatar
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    low energy light bulbs

    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. #2

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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. #3
    ath
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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.
    Last edited by ath; 08-27-2011 at 03:40 PM. Click to view previous post history.
    Regards,
    Andreas

  4. #4

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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 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. #5
    Erik Petersson's Avatar
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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.

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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

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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...
    Last edited by Matt Quinn; 08-27-2011 at 04:58 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  8. #8
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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. #9

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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. #10

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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.
    A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.

    ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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