Colorright White Balance Disc Review
We have talked white balance in the past and have reviewed different products that help you get a good white balance setting. A new product has hit the streets that does the same thing, and since the Dojo is all about helping you to improve your images and doing so at a decent price, we needed to take a look at the new Colorright disc. So let’s take a quick look at why we need white balance and if the Colorright disc is worth the cost.
What is white balance?
While we have another article that goes into more detail, let’s do a quick summary refresher about what white balance is. Light actually comes in different temperatures, measured in degrees Kelvin. Daylight and flash is typically around 5200 degrees which is considered to be neutral. Late afternoon/evening light and incandescent is warmer (more orange) and is usually around 6200 degrees, Fluorescent light is on the cooler side (around 3800 degrees) and has a greenish tint. While your camera will generally do a decent job of estimating the white balance, the problem is that the camera is measuring the white balance based on the reflected light on the subject. This method works alright most of the time but it is not going to be absolutely perfect, nor will it even be close under some conditions. A very common example of this is shooting a scene in the snow, this can really throw off the sensor and you can end up getting a blue color cast on your images. If you are shooting in RAW, you can easily compensate for poor white balance but this just adds to your workflow. If you are shooting in JPEG, this poor white balance makes it much harder to recover the scene without losing image quality.
Getting a good white balance
The best way to get a good white balance is measure the light temperature from the position of the subject towards the camera, while a camera is looking at the subject and can only measure reflective light and not direct light. Other methods for measuring white balance include placing an 18% grey card where the subject is and setting the white balance against that. While this is the most common method used by experienced photographers, the theory that you are still using reflected light instead of measuring the direct light.
Using the Colorright
To get the best results from the Colorright so put yourself in the position of the subject and aim your camera towards where the camera will be when you take the shot, place the Colorright disc over the lens and take your picture. Using the custom white balance settings on your camera, select the image to use as your white balance reference. Now go back to the camera position and you are ready to shoot. This should result in a perfect white balance since your camera measured the light from the light source and not a reflected light that can be altered by the reflective property of the subject.
If you cannot put the camera in the position of the subject, you can also use it by aiming it at the subject like you would use a gray card. While this may not be ideal, it is certainly far better than not having other means of getting a good white balance.
The results are absolutely spot-on. While the design is very similar to the Expodisc, the difference with the Colorright is that is doesn’t allow light from all directions to hit the sensor, instead a smaller area ensures that the light hitting the sensor is exactly what you are looking for. The Colorright disc sells for $89, and the obvious question is “is it worth it?” Like many other things this depends on how many images you take and how much time you end up spending doing post correction. In some places you may only need to get a good white balance setting once or twice and you are good, in other places like weddings and receptions there can be several different locations that have radically different lighting and when you have to process hundreds of images from a place like that, the Colorright can pay for itself in post production time savings the first time you use it. If you shoot fewer or smaller events it may take longer for you to realize the benefit of getting your shots right in-camera versus processing the images later.