Small Lighting Setup - Does CRI Matter? (LED vs CFL)

Fr3nzy Photography

I'm New Here
Nov 13, 2014
22
1
Hello all. I'm looking to put together a small lighting setup for some product shot-style photography as well as newborn/baby shooting. All work is personal, but will be shared so it still needs to be good (yes I know "good" is relative and grandma will always think shots of granddaughter are amazing). A friend has a few multi-lamp CFL heads with softboxes, but it's missing bulbs. I've read that CFLs typically have a CRI of 80, and I can find equivalent or better LEDs with CRI of 90/94. Thus I have a few questions.

If I'm buying bulbs anyway, should I go for the higher CRI LEDs or is 80 really "good enough"? I know lots of lighting kits are sold with CFLs, so I want to think 80 is fine, but they also sold pet rocks for years - basically being sold doesn't necessarily equate to quality.

Is a low(er) CRI something that can be corrected in Lightroom? I understand that lower CRI means gaps/spikes in the output color spectrum, but does it generally mean missing color(s) or dips that can be adjusted for?

Before everyone jumps on the "just use flash/strobe" train, I don't work in a studio environment at all and I'm much more comfortable with continuous lighting from time in film & theatre. I've played with the two flashes I own, but I'm just not at a comfort level that I trust. Plus, I'm able to borrow a buddy's setup, as mentioned above.

Thanks, in advance.
 

Zeidora

EOS 7D MK II
Feb 15, 2015
668
10
Fluorescent tubes go up to >90 CRI. Search for "full spectrum" bulbs. Those are used in transilluminators to look at slides, and also as grow lamps for plants. Sometimes, you can just swap a CFL with an LED bulb, but not always. Not sure how to determine it, but it is a question of ballasts in the fixture.
 

retroreflection

EOS 80D
May 19, 2015
124
5
CFLs generate UV light which hits phosphors to make "white" light. LEDs generate blue (or UV) light which hits phosphors....
The quality of the phosphor blend is the most important consideration. The softbox manufacturer's recommended CFL is a good choice. Many things can be corrected in post, but why waste time? You could also buy some good LED bulbs, use for the shots, then switch them out for household use. True CFLs, with standard screw bases, have the ballast built in.
 
Aug 23, 2013
2,303
26
Bahia Brazil
LED has the advantage of not making 60Hz flick, allowing the camera to use shutter 1/125 or faster, with no color variation. In addition, LED produces more light per watt.
 

Mt Spokane Photography

I post too Much on Here!!
Mar 25, 2011
15,300
564
ajfotofilmagem said:
LED has the advantage of not making 60Hz flick, allowing the camera to use shutter 1/125 or faster, with no color variation. In addition, LED produces more light per watt.
Unfortunately, only some high end LED lights do not flicker. In general they flicker badly. On the other hand, electronic ballasts with Fluorescent tubes have pretty much eliminated flicker as a problem. The chart on this page shows that LEDs are by far the worst.

http://www.davidsatz.com/aboutflicker_en.html

I have tried numerous LED light sources, but unless I'm willing to pay hundreds of dollars, they don't come close to my 98 CRI fluorescent tubes.

https://www.amazon.com/Full-Spectrum-Fluorescent-Lamps-PHILIPS-950/dp/B0009INXIO

As for CRI, I'd stick with the highest CRI bulbs possible, you cannot correct poor CRI in post production, the uneven color distribution can really make a mess of things. You can correct color temperature, but if there is not enough blue in a light source, that is very difficult to fix because a digital camera sensor is weakest in the blue region so boosting blues in post causes lots of noise. People complain frequently about noise in blue sky photos.

If you want to go with LED' prepare to pay $300 per light for low cost Chinese ones. At least decent LED sources are now available for sub $1000 prices. The best run much higher.

https://www.dpreview.com/reviews/fotodiox-led100wb-review

$8.95 for a CRI 98 tube doesn't sound so bad - eh.
 

Fr3nzy Photography

I'm New Here
Nov 13, 2014
22
1
Thanks everyone for your responses. Fluorescent tubes seem like the long-term solution, however, in the short-term the lighting setups my friend is loaning me has traditional Edison sockets - so I can either use CFLs or LED bulbs. After looking more today, it seems like I can find some CRI 90+ CFLs, but the majority run 80/82.

Thanks for the advice about flicker! I knew standard/older fluorescent tubes had flicker, but I never knew about LEDs. I have some commercial LEDs claiming CRI 85 in fixtures around the house (I can find 90 from the same manufacturer), so I'm going to do some flicker testing.

Knowing that fixing low CRI in post-production is somewhere between problematic and impossible, I'll probably pick up a single higher end CFL and LED and run some tests. Assuming there aren't glaring gaps, it sounds like I might be okay for now with 90+ as my setup isn't large or overly critical. If this becomes a larger project those 98 CRI tubes sound like a great options.
 

Mt Spokane Photography

I post too Much on Here!!
Mar 25, 2011
15,300
564
I have two setups, a light table with twelve T8 CRI 98 tubes, and in a different room, two softboxes with 4 CFL's in each. Two 85 watt and two 65 watt because thats all that will fit.

Flicker has not been a issue because the frequency of the CFL's is very high, so the phosphors do not have time to dim muuch. This is a cheap setup, but it works for my product photography. They are rated at cri 90, I'd like to have higher, but there were lots of factors to balance.