Review: OttLite 15 Watt Bulb

Update 11-15-2013

I have just posted a review of a 900 Lumens version of the OttLite 15 watt lightbulb. The OttLite bulb reviewed here was only 875 Lumens and possibly defective. Please read the updated review.

Updated 11-05-2013

OttLite 15 watt lightbulbI purchased the OttLite CFL bulb out of necessity. I’ve known about OttLite Technologies since my days receiving the old Dick Blick catalogue. It’d be cool to have, but I could never justify the cost. I’ve been perfectly fine with standard light bulbs. I thought I was pretty smart using GE Reveal bulbs. I bought in to GE’s hype that they’re relatively inexpensive bulbs could filter out the usual overbearing yellow cast and allow for cleaner colors. In all honesty, as compared to most incandescent lightbulbs, the Reveal bulbs do filter out most yellow light, but not enough to avoid color casts that effect your color work. It’s like comparing cheap a point-and-shoot digital camera to a little more expensive pro-sumer camera that’s noticeably more advance but not enough to use professionally.

If you’ve read about my train-wreck of a submission, you’ll already know about the nasty surprise I received after busting my ass just to finish my painting on time. At the time I was using a GE Reveal bulb to view the colors in my painting. There was a dramatic shift in color (in the blues) between the GE bulb and the bulb my Epson scanner uses. I racked my brain trying to figure out why this phenomenon was occurring. (My initial reaction was that this was a software issue or an issue with my color profiles.) After purchasing the OttLite bulb from a local Michaels, I placed the painting underneath and got a major shock. The colors I was viewing under the OttLite bulb were a dead match to what my scanner was picking up. My conclusion was that the GE bulb, despite its special glass didn’t remove enough yellow light to allow me to see colors accurately.

a scan of my painting withe the background colors shifted.
What I was seeing under my GE Reveal lightbulb contrasted with what my Epson scanner was viewing with its light source. (Click to enlarge.)

My Initial Reactions to the OttLite

I wish OttLite they still made the old-school incandescent version. But incandescent lightbulbs are being phased out and eventually banned by the United States government. This has triggered a major push for more expensive CFL lightbulbs. In my mind, the curly or CFL bulb is a symbol of the evil Progressive Environmental movement. You know, the people who brought us scares like global cooling/global warming/climate change since the dawn of the Industrial Age, vanishing rain forests turning into rock-hard wastelands, and polar bears falling out of the sky because your mommy drives a SUV. Despite the curly-bulb’s warm, fuzzy, earth-friendly benefits, they use mercury to light up. Mercury is supposed to be a toxic substance, and if you happen to break one of these miracle bulbs, your home will be considered a biohazard. That means you can’t just sweep it up. You can’t suck up the pieces with a vacuum. And you sure as hell can toss your broke bulb into the trash. To prevent endangering yourself and your children, you must call your local authorities and request a hazmat team to clean the mess. Never fear my dear reader! During my career at the local red bullseye, my old store had busted a number of mercury-filled bulbs and I’ve yet to hear of anyone suffering any major health issues due to any of the busted bulbs. I’ve even touched pieces with my bare hands. I haven’t lost them yet.

(If you do happen to bust a CFL bulb, the following are the EPA’s recommendations when cleaning up a busted CFL. You don’t need a hazmat team, but it’s still a big deal.)

As compared to my GE Reveal bulb, the OttLite is noticeably dimmer. This was almost a deal breaker for me. I need lots of light while I work. Despite this reality, the packaging claims that it’s 15 watt bulb equals the power of a 60 watt incandescent bulb. (I was pretty pissed by this BTW. I’ve emailed the company asking if it’s safe to use a higher-watt bulb with my 60 watt lamp. They said it’s not.) I honestly found that hard to believe. The packaging also states in small print, that the bulb requires a “short” warm-up period. This is common with most CFL bulbs. It usually takes a few minutes for the OttLite to reach its full brightness. It definitely took me some time to get used to the lack of light. I guess this limited amount of light is why OttLite can claim that their bulbs prevent eyestrain. After about two to three months of use, I haven’t had that issue without first losing a significant amount of sleep.

As compared to my Reveal bulb, the OttLite produces a lot less heat. Which is great for me since I have computer equipment right next to my drafting table. This is also good for South Texas summers, which can be pretty awful, especially when the high humidity kicks in.

As mentioned previously, OttLite does a better job when it comes to color. My old GE Reveal bulb gives off a noticeable yellow cast in comparison. The OttLite uses a glass that gives cleaner, truer colors. That’s why I’m currently using it while painting. I want my colors to be consistent from drafting table to computer.

Samples under my 15 watt OttLite.
Samples under my 15 watt OttLite. (Click to enlarge.)

Samples under my 60 watt GE Reveal bulb.
Samples under my 60 watt GE Reveal bulb. (Click to enlarge.)


My Recommendation

I’m sorry if this review has an overall negative vibe, but this is just one of those circumstances where, “it’s a step up, but…” If you’re doing pencil, ink, or any other type of black and white work, I believe you can get away with using a standard incandescent bulb. For color work, OttLite earns its keep. I’ll see if there’s an improvement in brightness with a higher watt bulb. I just need to confirm that it’ll be safe to do so. I’ll update this post if I receive a response from the company. (I plan receive a replacement soon. See update notes below.)

You can purchase the OttLite lightbulb today at Amazon or any good art store.

Update 11-05-2013

I have received a response from one of the friendly people at OttLite Technologies. She believes I have a bad bulb. She also confirmed my concern about using a higher watt bulb in my 60 watt lamp. Basically the 15 watt bulb was designed for 60 watt lamps. If I decide to use a higher watt bulb, I’d be abusing my lamp and possibly risking a fire. Since I’m still under their year warranty, my contact has offered to send me a replacement bulb. Once I receive the replacement, I will test it and post the results on this page.

Update 11-15-2013

I have just completed a review of my replacement bulb. You can read all about my replacement OttLite bulb and how it compares with both the original and GE Reveal bulb.

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