CBL colour balance lens review Review

Roses are red and violets are blue. At least they should be and that's where the CBL comes in. Gary Wolstenholme takes a balanced look.

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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 CBL Colour Balance Lens: Specification

  • 85mm diameter
  • Double-sided
  • Waterproof
  • 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.

CBL colour balance lens
Auto white-balance has produced a noticeably cool cast.
CBL colour balance lens
Same shot with white balance set to daylight.
CBL colour balance lens
The cloudy setting has a pleasant warm cast, but is less warm than that of the white card.
CBL colour balance lens
The whitecard I picked up from the stationers has produced a warm cast in the image.
CBL colour balance lens
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.

CBL colour balance lens
Again, AWB has left the image cold.
CBL colour balance lens
The cool shade is uncorrected by the daylight preset.
CBL colour balance lens
The cloudy setting has produced a result virtually indistinguishable from the CBL result.
CBL colour balance lens
The white card has over-corrected the cool cast of the shade leaving a noticeable warm tone in the final image.
CBL colour balance lens
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.

CBL colour balance lens
It almost seems like the AWB on my D200 gave up attempting to correct the colour cast.
CBL colour balance lens
The uncorrected result using daylight white balance isn't all that different from that produced by the AWB setting.
CBL colour balance lens
The tungsten setting has left a strong green cast.
CBL colour balance lens
The result from the white card is virtually indistinguishable from that of the CBL in this instance.
CBL colour balance lens
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.

Plus points
Very accurate in a range of different conditions.
Consistent and reliable.
Saves time editing, and in choosing the correct WB setting.
Good build quality

Minus points
£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.


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Leif 14 777
I wonder how this compares to using a grey card rather than the randomly chosen white paper with unknown tonal qualities?

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The back of the device is grey.

Would that not be like comparing a grey card to a grey card?

I used a piece of white card, as that is a solution many photographers on a budget will choose. Would you not be disappointed if you'd shelled out 80 for a device that doesn't outperform a 99p piece of cardboard?
Leif 14 777
Thanks for the reply. I don't know what most photographers use. Given that white balance and/or grey cards cost less than 10, and apparently provide a professional solution, it would be interesting to know how they compare, and if the extra 70 is worth it.
ianrobinson 10 1.2k 8 United Kingdom
Not sure this devise is worth it's Money, i have a fold away grey and white card which i can just take out of a small bag that fits nicely in to my photography bag, when you take it out it springs open and leaves no wrinkles and is perfect for the grey card solution it cost 20.00 and i thought that was quite dear, but actually for what it is it is not dear.
by the look of this devise it does what a grey or white card does but for a lot more money, i can see some people may buy it for the novelty factor and have more money than sense.
It's one thing to spend good Money on good equipment such as the best lens money can buy or the best camera money can buy but i don't see where this is in that league of photographic equipment that i must have.
The problem with a piece of white paper is that it may contain whiteners the reflect in the UV and throw off a camera's white balance. It also may simply not be photographically "white".

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