To achieve accurate colour balance, many photographers have relied on the good old reliable 18% grey card, or any other neutral surface, such as a piece of white paper. The CBL colour balance lens claims to take the guesswork out of gaining an accurate white balance reading in a variety of conditions while exerting the minimum of effort.
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CBL Colour Balance Lens: Specification
- 85mm diameter
- Lanyard and soft case provided
The CBL Colour Balance Lens is aimed at photographers who wish to gain accurate colour balance straight out of the camera, reducing the amount of time required getting the right results in post processing. Theoretically, this should be everyone.
CBL Colour Balance Lens: Features
The double-sided design of the CBL is unique amongst reflective white balance accessories. One side has a white grooved surface which comprises of a series of concentric rings surrounding a circular area containing a variety of different lenses and prisms placed over a mirrored surface. The grey side is apparently formulated from a secret recipe of 13 different materials. Although this may sound a little like the Colonels secret blend of spices, the claim is that this recipe leads to more consistent colour. CBL claim that this configuration will yield vastly superior white balance readings when compared to a standard 18% grey card and that better colour balance will produce images with better detail, tone and contrast.
To use the CBL, you must take a manual white-balance reading by taking a photo of one of the surfaces using your camera's manual white balance setting. Detailed instructions for the most popular SLRs from Canon, Nikon and Fujifilm are supplied and make it a breeze to start using the device.
CBL Colour Balance Lens: Build Quality
Tough ABS-like plastic is used throughout which feels very solid, and has a high-quality finish. The supplied lanyard also feels very tough. A soft velvety case is provided for storage of the CBL. The material will help prevent marking of the CBL, plus it can be useful for cleaning in the field.
CBL Colour Balance Lens: Performance
To test the CBL I took a series of images of the same subject using a reading taken from the CBL and then compared this to common white-balance presets on my Nikon D200. To see if the CBL really does perform better than a normal manual white balance reading, I also compared it to a piece of white card I picked up from the stationers for under £1.
First of all, I wanted to test how the CBL performed in broad daylight on a partially overcast day, (the most common type of day on these shores) which should be a fairly easy test for the CBL. The white peg on the washing line provides a good reference point for how well balanced the colour actually is.
Auto white-balance has produced a noticeably cool cast.
Same shot with white balance set to daylight.
The cloudy setting has a pleasant warm cast, but is less warm than that of the white card.
The whitecard I picked up from the stationers has produced a warm cast in the image.
The CBL has produced an accurate, well balanced result.
In this case the CBL lens has helped to produce a better result than the standard AWB setting and the stationer's white card, but is not all that much better than choosing the correct white balance preset on the camera.
My second test is of a brightly coloured flower in partial shade on a sunny day, which should lead to a noticeable cool cast without proper correction.
Again, AWB has left the image cold.
The cool shade is uncorrected by the daylight preset.
The cloudy setting has produced a result virtually indistinguishable from the CBL result.
The white card has over-corrected the cool cast of the shade leaving a noticeable warm tone in the final image.
A perfect result has been achieved with the CBL.
As a final test, I decided to photograph a reflective object lit by two compact fluorescent lamps. This should present more of a challenge for the CBL as the two lamps may differ slightly in colour temperature.
It almost seems like the AWB on my D200 gave up attempting to correct the colour cast.
The uncorrected result using daylight white balance isn't all that different from that produced by the AWB setting.
The tungsten setting has left a strong green cast.
The result from the white card is virtually indistinguishable from that of the CBL in this instance.
Another perfect result has been achieved with the CBL.
Again the CBL has produced a pleasing result, although almost indistinguishable from the white card setting.
CBL Colour Balance Lens: Verdict
In each scenario the CBL has produced accurate colour, although no more accurate than choosing the correct white balance setting for the conditions. I suppose where the CBL scores is in the way it takes the guess-work out of producing accurate results in a wide range of conditions.
If gaining a perfect white balance result every time is worth shelling £80 out, then this is most definitely the product for you. I can see this product being especially useful for photographers who shoot JPEG format for speed, such as news agency photographers, where the time saved could mean the difference between putting bread on the table or not.
Very accurate in a range of different conditions.
Consistent and reliable.
Saves time editing, and in choosing the correct WB setting.
Good build quality
£80 may be a little too expensive for many
Because the CBL colour balance lens produced consistently winning results, we've awarded it our sought after Highly Recommended Award.
The CBL colour balance lens costs around £80 and is available from the ePHOTOzine shop here.