Optics Matter

    The Hidden Hero of LED Luminaires  


    Few lighting professionals have ever seen the optical system housed inside an LED luminaire. But the optical system, or optics, make a big difference for interior and exterior applications. Innovative optics help meet the needs of today’s challenging applications—from more flexible cove lighting to brighter, more consistent illumination of tall buildings and iconic landmarks.


    At Color Kinetics, we’ve made a significant commitment to optimized optical systems and innovative optical design. Why? Because we know that optics matter, delivering major benefits, along with great light.


    Exceptional Performance

    Delivering consistent, high-punch illuminance.

    Impressive Results

    Helping designers achieve a wide range of effects.

    High Efficiency

    Lowering power consumption, reducing installation costs.


    Enabling simple, easy changes in the field.


    Delivering even, high-impact light, year after year.

    Optical innovation for the real world

    Ultimately, it’s not engineers and scientists who drive innovation in optics. It’s lighting designers and the clients they serve. Today’s optics have to meet the ever-escalating challenges posed by ambitious applications—the kind that demand more performance, quality, and efficiency. Can the usual optical approaches meet those needs? No. They simply deliver more of the same. As lighting expands in scope and complexity, more of the same is no longer enough.

    How do you evaluate optics? Not on the specifications of the optics alone, but on the results that they achieve. Bigger does not mean better. The perfect optical system for your application needs to deliver the characteristics that match your needs and that enable you to achieve your vision. So there is no one-size-fits-all optical solution—just a range of needs that optics can fulfill, including:




    Uniform Illuminance

    If you want to illuminate a large façade, you need to know that your luminaire can reach the highest point of the building with the same illuminance, without hot spots or fading. Optics can make that happen by delivering maximum punch/throw and uniform light across an entire surface, with extremely low variation in white or color light.


    Consistent Color

    Consistency is one of the most important criteria for judging LED light quality. Lighting professionals want consistent light, without banding, fading, or other issues. Optics play a key role in consistency by ensuring steady, uniform performance over time, without opacity or other issues. Related technologies also need to work in tandem with the optical system to help ensure consistency.


    Short Setbacks

    Large setbacks require more visible luminaires, while shorter setbacks let designers hide their luminaires more effectively—but they require specialized optics.


    Lower Costs

    Building owners and other clients want to lower their energy use wherever possible—not just for cost reasons, but to achieve sustainability and reduce environmental impact. Advanced optics use LED light more efficiently, reducing spill light and other energy-sapping issues—and getting the most out of every lumen.

    Greater Simplicity

    No one wants complicated installations. Advanced optics can let you achieve more—more performance and illuminance—with fewer luminaires. And in the long run, fewer luminaires reduce maintenance, as well as costs.



    You can't anticipate every facet of a lighting installation. Between design and implementation, a lot can change. Inflexible optics don't allow for these changes. But flexibility in the optical design, as well as in the field installation, enables designers to make adjustments without having to start over, add luminaires, or incur other expenses.



    One of the promises of LED lighting is that it lowers maintenance because of the inherently long lifespan of the LEDs. Optics can yellow and become opaque over time, reducing performance. But an advanced optical system doesn’t change over years of use. This is particularly important for high-visibility, long-term installations, such as bridges, where accessing luminaires can be challenging.

    Asking the right questions  


    When evaluating luminaires, here are some of the key questions:


    • How does the optical system maximize performance?
    • Why is this luminaire right for my specific installation?
    • Was the optical system designed for this luminaire?
    • How does the luminaire reduce spill light?
    • How does this luminaire reduce energy use for my projects?
    • How consistent are the luminaires compared to each other? Is the beam shape, color, and throw of each luminaire similar?
    • How can I be sure that I’m getting the most lumen output?
    • Does the beam shape and effective uniformity of the luminaire meet my lighting design needs and vision?

    Take a closer look at optics


    At their core, optical systems are about controlling and transmitting a beam of light. While that goal may sound simple, optics require careful research and design to ensure that they meet the needs of the marketplace. Along with the LED selected for use within a luminaire, optics are a critical element that help determine the final quality of white or color light created by the luminaire.


    Punch (or throw) is more of a function of a luminaire’s optics than its LEDs.


    Center beam candle power (CBCP) is a measurement of luminous intensity expressed in candelas. It represents the intensity of a beam of light in the brightest part of that beam, the center. CBCP is measured in footcandles, which is a more accurate measurement of delivered light than lumens.


    Optics can adjust the beam/field angle, controlling the beam and reducing spill light.


    Optics can control the beam to achieve specific beam angles and shapes.

    We take a flexible approach to optics


    Yes, OptiField is a major breakthrough, but it’s just one of our optical innovations. 


    We’re flexible, designing optics to meet the specific needs of our customers’ key lighting applications. Narrow beams of extremely bright light with remarkable punch? Even light that can be used with very short setbacks? With our optical expertise, we can deliver it all.

    We’re committed to designing advanced LED optics


    Color Kinetics takes a flexible, application-first approach to optics. We examine the real-world requirements of the specific application, then develop the right optics. It’s a very different approach than simply choosing the easiest or least expensive option available.


    For decades, Color Kinetics has made a significant commitment to investment in research and development, staffing our labs with expert optical engineers and equipment. This dedication to innovation enables us to design and manufacture industry-leading optical systems. Here are some of the reasons why our approach to optics is different—and better able to meet your needs.

    We take control

    Our in-house design capabilities enable creation of better, more innovative optics that are optimized for key applications—all driven by customer need.


    We deliver expertise

    Our dedicated team of optics designers have the skills and experience necessary to envision the best possible optical system for a specific need—then deliver it in an innovative, fully integrated luminaire.


    We help achieve your vision

    We focus on the applications and light effects our customers are trying to achieve—then work to create an optical system that meets the requirements of even the most challenging design vision.


    Better optics mean better beam quality

    Intelligent, customized optics require fewer optical losses, delivering maximum illuminance, color uniformity, and more punch.


    We strive for efficiency

    Our optics deliver light where you need it, with less waste. Efficiency reduces total costs and the amount of power required.

    We ensure consistency at all levels

    Our OptiBin technology begins the color consistency process by grouping (or binning) LEDs by flux as well as center wavelength. This proprietary binning optimization process ensures the uniformity and consistency of hue and color temperature for our luminaires. Our Chromasync advanced color consistency technology improves consistency from luminaire to luminaire. Colors are more consistent, regardless of the specific LEDs used, date of manufacture, and other variables. The result? High color precision.


    We keep it flexible

    The extensive breadth and depth of our offerings includes luminaires that have integrated optics that require no adjustment, as well as ones with field-changeable lenses. These options ensure that you get the luminaire—and beam spread—that you need to achieve your vision.


    We aim to please

    Aiming and adjusting are simple to complete in the field, without requiring accessories. Luminaire rotation and other features give you the flexibility you need.


    We can meet special requirements

    We can design specialized optics that match the requirements of site-specific, large-scale applications.


    The bottom line? Our advanced optics help you achieve your vision, installation after installation.

    Uniformity never looked this good


    A shining example of our our ongoing innovation is our breakthrough OptiField optical technology. Learn more > 

    Color Kinetics technology portfolio

    We continually explore your challenges, invest in research and development, and make the significant commitment required to develop and perfect breakthrough technologies. The result of decades of work, our unequalled portfolio of proprietary, quality-enhancing technologies helps you achieve the best possible results with our solutions. These technologies increase quality by ensuring sustainability, consistency, raising uniformity, providing precision control, and more.

    What matters in professional lighting?


    Optics are critically important. Our series of guides explores other key topics in professional lighting—Light Matters, Quality Matters, Control Matters, and more. It’s part of our commitment to passing on our deep technical knowledge and decades of expertise to help you achieve your vision.


    No matter what Color Kinetics lighting solution you choose—or how you use it—you’ll get best-in-class technology and uncompromising quality. We bring expertise in LED selection, color science, delivered light, color consistency and control, data and power delivery, networking, remote monitoring—and all areas that matter to exceptional lighting.