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Old Oct 24, 2006, 10:17 PM   #1
saturndude's Avatar
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Hi all,

I was going to post this in the Canon digicam forum, but this is a problem that affects all digicam owners from time to time.

If you don't have or wish to use automatic white balance, you may have other choices. My Canon S3 can be manually set for "tungsten", "fluorescent", and "fluorescent H" settings.

1. Tungsten is regular incandescent "bulb" lighting, easy to understand -- it is what Kodak's 35mm ISO 320 was made for (except that digicams let me have multiple ISOs in the same body).

2. Fluorescent is (according to the advanced user guide) "for recording under warm-white, cool-white or warmwhite (3-wavelength) fluorescent lighting".

3. Fluorescent-H is (again, from the manual): "for recording under daylight flourescent, or daylight-fluorescent type 3-wavelength lighting".

Can anybody (no pun intended) shed some light on this situation? I am familiar with the classic fluorescent light fixtures/bulbs in businesses and basement workshops of homes across the USA. I think the bulbs even say "cool white" on them. I assume "regular" fluorescent is the setting I should choose for this (if I didn't have or want to use auto white balance).

I have also seen special fluorescent lights that put out more UV for indoor plant growth. (These might be on the decline though). If I did not have or want to use auto white balance, which setting should I use for this?

What lamps are used for fish tanks? Which setting (other than automatic) would be appropriate here?

Has anybody found a reason for photographing under those 1000-watt "grow" lamps? They are found in a surprising number of illegal indoor marijuana operations, but they do have legitimate uses, you know. What setting there?

And what about the compact flourescent lights that are coming on strong in US home-improvement stores right now? Almost the same light as a 60-watt bulb for something like 17 watts, long life, and an incandescent (screw-in) base. I have read that cameras can be confused by "mixed" lighting (more than one type of bulb in the room). I think this also includes lighting with a color temperature that my camera's electronics haven't been programmed to know about.

What lights are intended for what settings, and vice versa? If you have something other than Canon, what are the terms your digicams and manuals use? Owners of Pentax, Nikon, HP, Kodak, and other brands too numerous to mention, lets hear from you!

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Old Oct 25, 2006, 8:09 PM   #2
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Location: Eastern Ontario Canada
Posts: 823

There are no easy answers to these questions.

At best the preset white balance settings are bad guesses as to the colour of light you will encounter. There is too much variation with any lighting source, including the sun, to be accurate! Fluorescent Lighting is even worse as it doesn't produce a continuous spectrum like the sun or incandescent lights.

Why not experiment with the lighting sources you encounter? Take a series of identical shots at various white balance settings, compare them on a computer monitor and note which comes out best. The LCD monitor on the camera is not very good for this purpose as a rule.

A more accurate method, if your camera is so equipped, is to use the custom white balance feature. It will take a reading off a white surface and tune the camera white balance to that light source. An alternative is to shoot raw and set the white balance in post processing.
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