Amber vs Clear
The off-road lighting age-old question: amber vs. clear lights. What is the difference, and can one color of light actually be better than the other? Let’s dive into the science behind off-road light color offerings, and figure out which is best for an off-road application.
What is Color Temperature?
First, we need to understand how the unit of measurement of the Kelvin Scale describes the color output of light. The Kelvin scale ranges from 1000 to 12,000; the lower the Kelvin, the warmer the color temperature of the light and will typically represent yellow, orange, and red. The higher the Kelvin number, the cooler it will be and will be blue, indigo, or violet. Baja Designs lights emit 5000k, which is recognized the closest color to natural daylight. Our amber lights, or more accurately selective yellow lights, are specifically designed for off-road driving in inclement conditions and are about 3000K. We use “amber” as a generic trade term to describe the alternative to our clear offerings. Through years of racing heritage and engineering, we have found selective yellow to be superior to a more orange hued amber color, mainly because of the greater effective lumen output.
The visible light spectrum is the section of the electromagnetic radiation spectrum that is visible to the human eye. Without taking several college courses on what that means, essentially, that equates to colors the human eye can see. Each color has a different wavelength that affects how light refracts through airborne gasses; the warmer the color, the longer the wavelength, and the cooler the color, the shorter the wavelength. Each color also effects how that portion of light is perceived. Many blue light blocking products exist in optical and display systems because the human eye has difficulty registering the blue to violet hues, which can lead to fatigue. The greater perceived resolution and definition while using Amber light is main mechanism benefiting to the observer.
Amber color can be achieved in several ways, with the most common being a lens or light cover that white light passes through, giving the Baja Designs signature selective yellow color. The other way is starting with an amber-colored LED, such as the LEDs that can be found in our RTL. Overall, amber LEDs and bulbs do not match the lumen output of the clear emitters. The most important concept to keep in mind is that regardless of clear or amber, if the intensity is too great in the environment, oversaturation will occur, and the driver will experience a reflective glare.
Amber does have one drawback.; Due to the color temperature of the lens, the effective lumen value of light output are reduced by a small percentage (~15%).
Because of the decreased optical workload needed by the observer, objects in the foreground will appear sharper and more distinguishable. Subjectively speaking, many professional drivers have reported the benefits of amber hued lights for both high and low beam applications. Now amber does have one drawback.; Due to the color temperature of the lens, the effective lumen value of light output are reduced by a small percentage (~15%). The white light is going to be marginally brighter than the amber when directly compared.
Human eyes have evolved into seeing best at noon on a sunny day, which translates to a color temperature of 5000° Kelvin, the same as our ClearView optical system. A color temperature of 5000K greatly reduces driver fatigue and increases terrain recognition when compared to a great number of our competitors’ offerings, which range from 6000-6500K. Baja Design exclusively uses 5000K LEDs on all our LED lights.
With a clear lens, the light will project further than with an Amber lens due to its 5000k color temperature allowing more colors of light to escape. But due to the blue, Indigo, and violet rays passing through the optics there is a greater chance that the observer will experience glare, due to the reduced ability to register those colors.
When designing the most optimal lighting package, application is the main consideration to consider. If you are aiming for high-speed open desert driving, clear and intense lights are your best option. If you are driving through inclement environments such as dust, snow, or fog, then we recommend running amber lights with dimming, or high/low capability. We don’t believe that a perfect all-around light package runs solely off of just amber or clear, but in fact, a mix of both. Thankful due to our uService you are able to swap out lenses yourself and see which is best for you.
What Is Your Lighting Zone?
The needs of every off-roader are different, so we’ve created a Lighting Zone system to help you mix and match the right products, with the right lenses, in the right places to achieve the absolute best results. We believe it’s not just about having the brightest lights, but using the right lights in the right way and all that ties into the right color temperature. A high quality and strategic lighting package will make you safer and give you that competitive edge, but it is important to understand the proper placement, power and pattern for each zone. Whether you love rock crawling and overlanding, or racing 100mph in the desert, we have lights that will perfectly illuminate each and every zone.