When we talk about color rendering, traditionally that conversation has been filled with CRIs and Ra-indexes. These traditional ways of telling how well certain light source represents sunlight have been criticised because they may not tell the whole truth.
In recent years, LED manufacturers have been trying to answer this criticism by creating different products. Terms like “premium white”, “crispy white”, “pearl white” and “vivid white” have come to LED markets.
Despite the different terms, they are all meant for the same purpose: To represent certain colors and make the lighting look better. I will be using term “Vivid” as it is the term Citizen Electronics uses. And to be honest, it describes the purpose of these LEDs quite well.
Color rendering means simply how well a white light source can show, or render, the true colors of different physical objects compared to sunlight. You know the effect when you buy a jacket in the clothes shop and it looks completely different in sunlight.
Colors are divided into 15 indexes (R1-R15). A general color rendering index (CRI or Ra-index) is defined as an average of the sum of first eight indexes (R1..R8). However, these first 8 indexes are rather less saturated colors, while indexes R9-R12 represent highly saturated colors (red, yellow, green, blue).
CRI 100 = Sunlight
For example, in grocery stores, a shopkeeper may want to highlight red color of meat or colors of vegetables. This means that the general color rendering index doesn’t really tell anything about the rendering capabilites of the light. In this case, high rendering index of some of R9-R12 indexes is necessary. It doesn’t matter how high the CRI is, R9-R12 can be anything.
The above image shows the index values of R1-R15. The CRI is 83, but look at the R9 value. Not very good.
So basically, the LED itself can have the CRI of 97 and you still have no idea how does it render red or green for example.
Vivid via Spectrum tuning
Vivid LEDs are made using spectrum tuning. In short, this means that the phosphorus of the LED has been modified. How it is modified, depends on the LED and the intended application. Note that spectrum tuning can be made also by using RGB-LEDs.
For example, Vivid White LED’s spectrum has been tuned so that it represents white and bright colors as well as possible. The colors are more saturated than under typical normal LED light.
These LEDs work very well for example, in clothing stores, where you have a lot of different colors that need to look good.
Here are two good principals when choosing LED:
- Think about your application, what colors do you want to highlight?
- Don’t stare at the CRI (unless you get a full report), it might not tell everything
Traditional way of thinking color rendering solely through the CRI should be updated. More importantly, you should know what you want to highlight and ask for a LED suited for your application.