The color rendering index (CRI) has been shown to have deficiencies when applied to white light-emitting-diode-based sources. Furthermore, evidence suggests that the restricted scope of the CRI unnecessarily penalizes some light sources with desirable color qualities. To solve the problems of the CRI and include other dimensions of color quality, the color quality scale (CQS) has been developed. Although the CQS uses many of elements of the CRI, there are a number of fundamental differences. Like the CRI, the CQS is a test-samples method that compares the appearance of a set of reflective samples when illuminated by the test lamp to their appearance under a reference illuminant. The CQS uses a larger set of reflective samples, all of high chroma, and combines the color differences of the samples with a root mean square. Additionally, the CQS does not penalize light sources for causing increases in the chroma of object colors but does penalize sources with smaller rendered color gamut areas. The scale of the CQS is converted to span 0-100, and the uniform object color space and chromatic adaptation transform used in the calculations are updated. Supplementary scales have also been developed for expert users.
The successful commercialization of solid-state lighting for general illumination will require an effective method to characterize the color quality of these sources. The distinctive spectral characteristics of solid-state lighting sources present both unique challenges and opportunities with regards to color quality. Color quality is difficult to define, much less measure. Several aspects of color quality, including color fidelity (rendering), chromatic discrimination, and general population preferences must be considered. In some instances, these factors are contradictory. For example, observers tend to prefer lamps that increase object color chroma (vividness), though such chroma increases are deviations from color fidelity. In addition to devising a way to balance the influence of these different dimensions of color quality, consideration must be given to ways of communicating color quality in a simple way, which permits comparison between products. At NIST we're approaching this problem by developing a computational method that takes inspiration from the Color Rendering Index (CRI), but incorporates other aspects of color quality. The output of this Color Quality Scale (CQS) is a composite score incorporating a lamp's ability to accurately render object colors, permit precise discrimination between different colors, and display object colors in a way that is visually pleasing to typical consumers. Visual experimentation will be vital to improve and validate this method, which was initially developed with colorimetric simulations. Preliminary experimentation has begun, focusing on the issues most relevant to the development of commercial standards for color quality.
Several aspects of the Color Rendering Index (CRI) are flawed, limiting its usefulness in assessing the color rendering capabilities of LEDs for general illumination. At NIST, we are developing recommendations to modify the CRI that would overcome these problems. The current CRI is based on only eight reflective samples, all of which are low to medium chromatic saturation. These colors do not adequately span the range of normal object colors. Some lights that are able to accurately render colors of low saturation perform poorly with highly saturated colors. This is particularly prominent with light sources with peaked spectral distributions as realized by solid-state lighting. We have assembled 15 Munsell samples that overcome these problems and have performed analysis to show the improvement. Additionally, the CRI penalizes lamps for showing increases in object chromatic saturation compared to reference lights, which is actually desirable for most applications. We suggest a new computation scheme for determining the color rendering score that differentiates between hue and saturation shifts and takes their directions into account. The uniform color space used in the CRI is outdated and a replacement will be recommended. The CRI matches the CCT of the reference to that of the test light. This can be problematic when lights are substantially bluish or reddish. Lights of extreme CCTs are frequently poor color renderers, though they can score very high on the current CRI. An improved chromatic adaptation correction calculation would eliminate the need to match CCT and an updated correction is being considered.