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Photo Method for Showing Color Bias and Light Transmission (1 Viewer)

henry link

Well-known member
This method was already under discussion in this thread:


I would suggest reading that first for the many excellent comments. Ed (elkcub) and Ron (Surveyor) in particular have produced elaborations on the test that go beyond anything I’m equipped to do.

My original idea here was to produce a simple “picture” of color bias and light transmission that gives the viewer an experience similar to comparing paint sample chips at a paint store. It’s very difficult to judge exact color hues and light values in isolation but when two very similar colors are placed next to each other the differences become obvious.

The technique is illustrated in the sequence of photos below beginning at the left.

1) A white piece of paper (backside of a piece of Canon Photo Paper) is photographed in sunlight with a Nikon D40.

2) A binocular (old Swarovski 8x30 Porro with early “Transmax” multicoating) is positioned between the camera and the paper with the objective end pointing toward the camera and a second photo is made using the same exposure.

3) A crop is made of the circle of light that has passed through the binocular optics and that crop is superimposed on the original photo of the paper in PowerPoint and saved as a jpeg. Hopefully the central square in the PowerPoint slide looks yellower and darker than the surrounding original color on everyone’s monitor. If not, this isn’t working.

As was shown on the earlier thread, a number of binoculars can be tested together and images juxtaposed in various combinations for comparison. My hope is to continue adding test results of different binoculars to this thread, starting with a high end test to include Zeiss FL, Nikon SE, Swarovski EL and Leica Ultravid. That may take another week or so, but I’ll be happy if someone else beats me to it. Anyone is welcome to post results using this test here.


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Henry, some very quick, rough numbers for your sample pictures. The color shift looks similar, a little less, to the Nikon E's. The transmission appears way to high to me. This may be as simple as having to keep the camera and binocular objectives close together to keep light from outside the bino field over exposing the desired light chip segment. You may comment on your recollection of the spacing or field of view.

Ed may come up with better RGB values than I can, I do not have Photoshop and am sampling with a Icon maker program that probably is not as good.



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I'm pretty confident about the color bias accuracy of this method, but I wonder about completely accurate light transmission. It probably will be difficult to get consistent exposure on different days and small differences in the angle of light bouncing from the paper and the axis of the binocular optics may throw things off. I think the binocular was farther from the paper today and, possibly I used a different lens on the camera, something I wouldn't have done if I had been paying enough attention. I think of this as a work in progress.

The slide below was made by combining the samples of Zeiss FL, Nikon SE and Nikon E from the earlier test photo (in the same arrangement as before) with the background color and sample of the Swarovski (upper left) from the test photo I made today. Perhaps you or Ed can determine how consistent the light levels are.



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Good point Henry, I keep overlooking how bad directionality messes up level readings until I make a few, then it comes back to me in a big hurry. No way to stick a cosine diffuser on a camera that I know of.

My slow computer is in the process of imaging the drive so I just made some hand calcs. and included the RGB values so Ed, or someone, could check them. I used the RGB as D65, gamma 2.2 to convert to CIE 1931 xy and CIE L value, also shown, the approximate CCT.

I will try to plot the coordinates on the CIE chart in the morning, I have that at work.

Have a good night.


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Oh, I posted on the other thread a few minutes ago, so I'll just copy it here. At least for RGB values, Microsoft and Adobe software produce the same screen results. The Art Director's Toolkit can be obtained here for Mac, but Windows is also available:

Very promising, Ed! I hoped somebody who actually knows what he's doing with cameras and computers would run with this.

I wonder if your software could be used to correct the overall blue bias in the test by dropping the blue channels in the image by 6? (Is channels what you call them?)

Today it's car repair. I hope to make some comments this afternoon or maybe I'll just let everyone else continue to do all the work for me. :)



It's difficult to simply subtract 6 units on the blue channel because the pixels vary within each area. However, using M/S Word (of all things) I constructed a "table" with cells given RGB color values corresponding to my earlier post. From there it was an easy matter to construct a second table in which each of the B-values was dropped by 6 points. Visual differences are quite subtle. (See attached .pdf and .jpg files. The former is easier to read.)

I'm not completely sold that this manipulation is correct, because it assumes that the joint effect of the binoculars and camera is strictly additive. If you are able to take color balance readings of the white card at different times of day, as Ron suggests, it might be possible to predict the RGB values seen through the binoculars if the assumption is correct.

Like Ron, I've also found very high consistency in the RGB readings across application programs. There is a wonderful little tool called the "Art Director's Toolkit" that I would recommend for making instant color evaluation of the screen display, and also providing various conversions including CIE values, etc.


PS. Correction: the B-value in the original background should read 227 not 226. :(
... and I've added the corrected Word file.


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In post #1 the background RGB is (225, 224, 228) -- slightly blue
the center of the inner box is (217, 212, 198) -- red-green

In post #4 the values are:
Background (220, 219, 223) -- slightly blue, and 220.7/225.7 = 98% of the background in Post #1.
Upper left (216, 213, 197) => 94.8% transmission (relative to 220.7)
Lower left (170, 168, 153) => 74.2%
Upper right (212, 214, 213) => 96.5%
Lower right (214, 214, 214) => 96.9%

(Assuming I made no transcription errors.) The two measures of the Swaro (or anything else from the photo) may differ because pixel color values vary within the area. I suspect this originates from vignetting, since it is typically lighter in the center and darker at the edges.

All of these single pixel measures were made directly with ADT. The only added value of Photoshop, which I used yesterday, might be to obtain averages and variances over a screen area. But it's complicated and not worth the investment just for that purpose. ADT costs $39 and has other uses as well, like making dimensional measurements on screen.

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Thanks very much, Ed and Ron for all your efforts. Looks like some refinements are in order. In hopes of getting a more evenly lit background I'm going to try a different paper with a softer duller finish and perhaps switch to diffused northern sky light instead of direct sunlight. Then I'll keep everything parallel as best I can and try to match the crop of the background seen through the binoculars to exactly the same area on the paper. As always, the devil is in the details.

I think the old Swarovski 2 layer Transmax coating actually does have very high light transmission at yellow wavelengths (the claim was 99.5% per glass surface) but obviously it's not so good toward blue. For my eyes the the overall appearance of that square is yellowish but also darker than the broader band modern coatings on the Zeiss FL and Nikon SE. I also see the Zeiss as slightly green and the Nikon as slightly red on my computer monitor and also when I look through the binoculars. I think it's likely that the peak transmission in the SE is in red, but at a shorter wavelength than the R channel and that's why it's visible to the eye in the photos, but doesn't show up in the numbers.

Thanks again for your input.

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Last night, I took a little time to take some pictures to get a better idea of the problems involved.

The test 1 set is a group of 8x20 optics, some of which I have either professional or self-made transmission data for.

The light source is a commercial, regulated lab quality halogen light with a CCT specified as 3423K. Of those binoculars tested for transmission and color, the average CCT was around 5100K.

These shots were made with the camera on auto white balance and auto exposure. Clearly useless.

Test 2 photos were made with the camera white balance set to incandescent, manual exposure of 1/10 second at f:/2.8, otherwise, the same as Test 1 series. Neither of the cameras used would allow me to completely disable the white balance.

It appears to me that I am going to have to find a camera that I can completely disable the white balance. It seems clear to me that the camera software is adjusting whatever it deems as correct exposure to 6500K (D65) so even minor intensity changes alter the output color.

I have thought of two other procedural changes I am going to try this weekend if I can find a camera that I can disable the white balance on. Of all the cameras I have, I am not sure I have one that can go completely manual and disable the white balance. One is instead of a target sheet, I am going to change to a 6x6” ground glass target for a more diffuse light source. Next, I want to try using a very collimated monochromatic light source, a 532nm and 640 nm laser.



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Good point Henry, I keep overlooking how bad directionality messes up level readings until I make a few, then it comes back to me in a big hurry. No way to stick a cosine diffuser on a camera that I know of.

My slow computer is in the process of imaging the drive so I just made some hand calcs. and included the RGB values so Ed, or someone, could check them. I used the RGB as D65, gamma 2.2 to convert to CIE 1931 xy and CIE L value, also shown, the approximate CCT.

I will try to plot the coordinates on the CIE chart in the morning, I have that at work.

Have a good night.


Looks like we get about the same RGB readings, -- see my post #5. What is your motivation for converting to CIE values?

After taking a spot reading from a screen area (or an area average), it seems to me that then creating a uniform color swatch with these values is about the best one can do to model, document or compare the colors side by side. This will always be an approximation, however, because a screen image is decoupled, and, as you suggested in earlier posts, will be affected by the screen properties.

I don't think one can read too much in to the RGB values, per se, because the individual's unique retinal sensitivity function conditions the perceived color of the swatch when seen on a screen. Still, I continue to think the method may be worthwhile for making general comparisons.

Hi Ed;

CIE, like a lot of bins, is just a personal preference for me. I find it easier to visualize 2d coordinates than 3d. I also need CIE to do the color temperature conversion, and again, find it easy to visualize a one-dimension value over a 2d. A lot of this is left over from my old days as a radio-TV station engineer and some other factors, which are:
  • CIE is the standard for “absolute” color chromaticity values, or at least the industry standard. They stand alone, any xy pair should be the same as another same pairing. In contrast, RGB is a device specific standard so manufacturers can bring there devices to show the same colors. The CIE tristmulus XYZ are constant for a given integration of a transmission curves component powers and others systems are modified to display that color. If the device dependent displays are set to a different system or color space than the originating system, the viewed color will be a little off and, even though the RGB values are the same on both monitors, if the color temp or, more specifically the gamma, is different, the color viewed will be different. The monitor I am using at the moment, an old Sony Trinitron, only has two presets, 9300K and 5000K, gamma 1.8, so the chances are that I will see different colors than you if your monitor is set at 6500K gamma 2.2 even though the picked RGB are identical. This is easily demonstrated if you are using a monitor with a front panel menu system. With a color screen displayed (RGB’s set by the software) change the color temp setting and watch the colors turn dimmer, yellow with lower settings and whiter/bluer with higher settings. The RGB values will not change though. You can then see how people viewing a posting with monitors at various settings, a lot just set to what the individual likes to see, will be seeing different colors than you. Example, if my monitor were set to 5000K, I might call a swatch yellowish and someone with the monitor set to 9300K or 11000K might see the same swatch as blue-green.
  • All of my test equipment, spectroscopes, calibrated light sources, monochromators, luminance meters, spectrometers, etc. are calibrated in CIE values. The only time I deal with RGB is with device settings to match components like printers, scanners, monitors, cameras etc. Then I usually only match the color temp settings. Example a camera may be set for incandescent light in (3500K) and sRGB D65 output so I would need to make sure my photo processing software (or other graphics software) was using these settings to get the proper color prints. If the devices could faithfully process CIE coordinates, that would never be an issue, but since you have to tell a device what a color is, you need some way to communicate that information.
  • All of the test data I have available, including curves from binos already tested are in CIE transmission and color format. It is just easier for me to compare the new data with the old when the formats match.
All that said, I have no problem using RGB as long as the reference color space is known. That is why I have been using the defacto windows standard of D65 gamma 2.2 since a better definition was not supplied. But you still have a problem with CIE plots, the coordinates are correct but, as someone called it, the color schmoo may be off when displayed or printed.

Forgot, the eye receptor sensitivity curves found are based on CIE.

Anyway, like I stated, this is personal preference. I am not advocating using it as a forum standard or anything like that. Color is such an abstract for most of us, it seems to be more of a matter of what you get used to.

Clear as mud, right. :smoke::eek!:

Have a good night.

This is my latest effort for the photo method. I tried a couple of various things, the photos shown in Test 5 are the most consistent to visual observations so far but still do not conform to previous tests by myself or a professional measuring lab doing NIST traceable work. An example for the Ultravid is attached and my tests were about 100K CCT higher, a good correlation since I used a different reference illuminant, D65, and the transmission curves were very similar. I have attached my color measurements for the Ultravid, I do not have the professionals results, only that shown in the transmission report, so I do not know how tightly the CRI’s matched.

Ed (Elkcub), I thought these two files would be of particular interest to you. Seem right up your alley.

This series of photos were taken with a lens between the light source and objective in an effort to better control the directional properties, but well short of trying to get a small collimated beam as you would for more serious testing. I also used a cosine diffuser between the exit pupil and camera lens, the reason for reversing the direction from Henry’s proposed positioning. The Test 4 results used the same setup but normal exposure, which resulted in everything being 255,255,255 so Test 5 was deliberately underexposed.

While these results “look” acceptable they will not match any ordering of the more formal test results and I made a conscious decision to search for the RGB value further from the Reference position although moving the “pick” point could locate almost any desired color between the two. Anyway, this appears not to be the approach needed for this to work. Further tweeks are necessary.

Back to other projects for a little while.

Best to all.

Forgot to mention, the manual white balance was set to the Reference frame for Test 4&5.


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I'm satisfied that RBG values remain unchanged (numerically) when I modify my computer's screen profile. Although the PowerBook G4 that I use can be changed from its default "Color LCD" setting to "CIE RGB" or "sRGB" (and many other profiles), the visual impression of subtle color differences in Henry's pictures remains largely unchanged (to me). So, for whatever reasons, I think his technique has the potential to capture valid color properties that can be shared over the Internet, at least within the range (or gamut) of the typical display. Personally, I think the effort should be to create a uniform color swatch in each case, based on central RGB pixel values, or an area average. The patch is readily made with Word or similar software. Yes, I realize this is not quite kosher colorimetry, but formal specification of the colors would be rather expensive.

Ron, you might be interested in comparing this professional evaluation of the FMC Swift 804ED done a year or so ago with your 8x20 Ultravid's. This is Renze de Vries c. 1995 specimen sent to Germany at the time. The second file is for an older 804, possibly an MC HR/5 from c. 1990.



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Thanks for the files, I will add them to my collection. On cursory examination, it appears they used a 16 mm collimated beam, illuminant E with a 3300K light source and 5 nm steps. That should be enough to compare formats. Always good to see this kind of data. Any idea what they charged Renze for this service?

My LCD screens use the same ICC and ICM profiles you mention, but I really have no idea what parameters they are setting the monitor to, there is probably a listing somewhere. The color temps and gamma's I was comparing were on CRT's that had front panel controls for those settings.

On the topic at hand, I believe you are correct about having to get to a "uniform" swatch before anything else. I found an online calculator and just made a couple of trial runs. I have not looked closely at the output yet, hope you have a chance to. I could not find a price or way to download the software but will check further on that.

The bottom line of the attached screen shots gives the RGB Average, Median, Min and Max for the swatch. I used about the middle quarter of Henry's attachment.

Note the Hue plot of the hsv section. That may end up being a better visual indicator than the RGB value.



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My impression was that a 3mm beam was used. But, I speak no German, so it's all Greek to me.

What and where is the on-line calculator?

The Mac has quite an extensive ColorSync Utility, which provides all the tristimulus values and rotation matrices. I agree, that hue, saturation and intensity value (HSV) is a good reference model, particularly for human color matching. Does the on-line tool allow for this? To be useful, everyone needs such a tool.

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My impression was that a 3mm beam was used. But, I speak no German, so it's all Greek to me.

What and where is the on-line calculator?

The Mac has quite an extensive ColorSync Utility, which provides all the tristimulus values and rotation matrices. I agree, that hue, saturation and intensity value (HSV) is a good reference, particularly for human color matching. Does the on-line tool allow for this? To be useful, everyone needs such a tool.


Ed, I am going to have to go to the Google translator at home to figure it out the information needed.

Sorry, forgot the link. http://mkweb.bcgsc.ca/color_summarizer/?home
Just go to the analyze page and browse your swatch. I only played with it for a few minutes and did not try to download the results yet.


PS. I got in touch with the link owner. This is just available online (a script file) and not available as a stand alone app.
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A few more tests have led to more promising results.

Test 5, the swatchs were made from a 100x100 pixel sample from the center of the image (1024x768 display mode) or about the center 1.5% of the image. Using the link above to average the area, the saturation value was low (the S part of HSV and was <5) as a result of the underexposure. These did not fit well with other data. The white balance for this test was set to the reference frame.

I went back to the Test 2 images and cropped out 200x200 pixels of the 1024x768 display (5%). These images had an average S value around 15 but the reference images were a little overexposed. The white balance for the series was set to ‘incandescent’. These ordered well compared to other data, see table.

I have attached the sampling data from the Ultravid, one sampled as described, the other sampled from the full frame to a 200x200 pixel area (0.8%).

The results of this single test indicate that the test may well be valid, but the parameters still need some experimentation for the best repeatability.

It appears to me at present that we need to sample at least 5% of the central area and keep the S value as high as practical without overexposing. I am not at all sure yet which white balance setting to use.



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Since you have the 8x20 Swaro, Ultravid, and LX L, — which do you like best? In particular, I'm interested in the Ultravid vs. LX L.

I've tried to take photos of various bins on a light table with 5000K bulbs, but so far nothing comes out as well as Henry's. Basically, I just get gray, similar to yours. ;)

Since you have the 8x20 Swaro, Ultravid, and LX L, — which do you like best? In particular, I'm interested in the Ultravid vs. LX L.

My needs differ from most, I need true pocketability. From that perspective the Nikon LXL falls towards the bottom I the list of what I carry most of the time. As far as pocket bins go, the Ultravids and Zeiss 6x20 are my most carried with the Swaro and Trinovids next (I prefer the ergonomics of the Trinovids but the Swaros are a little better bino, I just don't like the pinky focus on it or the LXL) then the LXL and the Victory least of all.

If size is not the primary concern, the LXL's are optically as good as the Leica's, just a shade more red bias.

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