Lux vs. Lumens and Explaining Other Lighting Gear Terms as You Shop (2024)


Planning your lighting for a photograph or video shoot may be sophisticated, and the terminology used to measure gentle in lighting gear could make issues much more complicated. When procuring on-line, most lights listing “lumens” or “lux” amongst their technical specs, although typically “lumens” is written as “luminous flux.” You would possibly even get tripped up on luminance versus illuminance. It’s lots. So let’s break all of it down.

One factor to notice: You’ve in all probability seen gentle bulbs with output measured in watts; LED bulbs usually say one thing like “60W equal.” However, watts are a measure of how a lot energy a lightweight bulb makes use of, not how a lot gentle it places out. This metric is a holdover from when incandescent lights have been commonplace and used considerably extra vitality than right now’s LEDs. However, as extra energy-efficient lights have grown in recognition, it’s now not helpful to make use of watts as a shorthand for a way a lot gentle a bulb places out (it wasn’t tremendous helpful to start with). This is why you’ll see phrases like lumens or lux on skilled lighting gear.

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What Is Lumens?

The first time period it is best to get to know is lumens. The quantity of seen gentle {that a} supply places out is known as luminous flux and the lumen is a unit of measurement for that uncooked output. You can consider this as how “distance” refers to how far aside two locations are, whereas “kilometers” is the unit used to measure that distance. Lumens within the kilometers in that analogy.

This generally is a little complicated as a result of firms will listing “luminous flux” with out naming the unit of measurement. For instance, certainly one of our favourite lights for taking pictures skilled movies, the Godox SL-60W, lists its luminous flux as 4,500 in its description. Using our metaphor above, that is like saying “Distance: 4,500” with out itemizing what unit that quantity refers to.

That stated, whereas they’re not interchangeable, should you see “luminous flux” listed on a product spec sheet, it’s in all probability referring to lumens. However, this does make it essential to double-check that you simply’re evaluating comparable numbers when purchasing for lights from totally different producers.

You may also see this metric as “luminance,” which is one other, much less frequent method to discuss with a lightweight supply’s output. And, like “luminous flux,” it is a basic time period for the idea, not a unit of measurement. However, that is distinct from illuminance, which refers to mirrored gentle, not the sunshine coming instantly from a supply. And sure, it’s complicated.

What Is Lux?

How a lot gentle a supply places out is just a part of the story. After all, the solar places out sufficient vitality to soften … principally every thing. Fortunately, the solar has an excellent sense of private area and stays far sufficient away from the Earth to not destroy us all. For related, much less catastrophic causes, factoring in how distant your gentle supply sits impacts the form of gentle you’ll want.

Lux is outlined as one lumen per sq. meter, although the maths can get tough as a result of we’re coping with floor areas in three dimensions. Don’t fear, you don’t must sweat it an excessive amount of. Most skilled lighting will merely listing their output in lux (in addition to lumens), and specify a distance. For instance, the Aputure Amaran P60X is rated for five,070 lux at 1 meter.

This means a topic 1 meter from the sunshine supply will successfully understand just a little greater than 5,000 lumens of sunshine on them. If they’re farther away, much less of the sunshine from the supply will hit them, and thus the topic will seem dimmer. This is useful when purchasing for a lightweight since you may not want the brightest lights on the earth. You solely want to make sure the topic is the suitable distance away from the sunshine supply.

The Inverse Square Law (and Other Math)

Figuring out the suitable distance for a lightweight supply isn’t precisely intuitive, due to two main components: The first is the inverse sq. regulation, a kind of bizarre quirks of the universe that we now have to cope with. Put very merely (mathematicians, please don’t yell at me), each time you double the gap between the topic and the sunshine supply, you quadruple how a lot gentle is required to gentle them the identical means.

In different phrases, it implies that each time you progress twice as distant from a lightweight supply, solely one-fourth of the sunshine from that supply will hit your topic. So, utilizing the Amaran P60X above for instance, if it’s rated for five,070 lux at 1 meter, then the topic will expertise round 1,267 lux at 2 meters. Some lights will specify their lux at shorter distances, like 0.5 meters, which makes it essential to be sure to’re evaluating equal specs when taking a look at lights from totally different producers.



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