After visiting the ENTECH 2011 trade show, it became apparent to me that there is a wide range of fittings and a wide range in the quality of light that is outputted. LEDs are the big thing and you need to make sure you are getting quality. Now if you are fitting out a performance space there are a few things to thing about. The first thing is what is the real life of the LED’s and will you in a few years be able to get replacements that match in colour and output. At the moment there is no real set of standards in regards to output and colour temperature. Also a blue LED from one manufacturer could be a different colour than another companies. So you can not really mix and match brands. This is something you do not have to worry about with conventional fixtures. The white light that comes out of a conventional fitting is pretty much the same across brands.
Also when using a LED fixture how to you set the colour you want, you can not neccessarily say I need LEE 106, you just cannot dial up that colour as each brand is different, and in the lower price range are the LEDs picked to that they match each other. Even you fire up some of the cheaper LED fixtures you will notice that the LEDs do not have an even colour even in one fitting. Thisis not going to make the job of the proffesional lighting designer very easy. We are still using swatch books and they are the colours we are use to. So for the moment some of the white light LED fixtures are looking really good as we can still use our favourite colours.
So you do decide to purchase LED fixtures what hould look for? Well I suggest you get the best quality that are out there in the market. Get them from a well known company like ETC Selador or similar. The better the quality the happier everybody is going to be. When choosing a LED fixture I would looking at units that have more than 3 colours, the reason behind this that no matter how good the 3 colours are, there is still a hole in the spectrum and the white light that they produce is not what we are use to. Now some of the better quality fixtures now have a least a white LED filament and some have an Amber, which is another colour they have problems producing. some companies are putting up to 7 colours in the fixture to give you that more realistic lantern look.
We are very use to the way that a normal incandescent lantern fades and we expect the same from the new LED fixtures, now a lot of the low end units do not fade well. So again you need to spend money to get something that works well.
In the end it really is better to spend a reasonable amount money on getting a quality fixture. Also you actually need to see the device in a real world setting, it is amazing how many people are buying LED devices sight unseen. You spend money on a potential piece of rubbish from a no name brand. You get what you pay for. When buying LED fixtures you need to have it in front of you, you need to see the colours, you need to see it fade up and down. You need to connect to your control system to see how it performs. You need to have several units to test to see how the colours compare and is it repeatable. There are so many variables when purchasing LED fixtures that you need to take your time, as you are likely to be investing someone elses money and if you get it wrong someone is not going to be happy.