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The candela (symbol: cd) is the SI base unit of luminous intensity (that is, power emitted by a light source in a particular direction, with wavelengths weighted by the luminosity function, a standardized model of the sensitivity of the human eye).


Since the 16th General Conference on Weights and Measures in 1979, the candela has been defined as follows:

The candela is the luminous intensity, in a given direction, of a source that emits monochromatic radiation of frequency 540×1012

hertz and that has a radiant intensity in that direction of 1/683 watt per steradian.


The frequency chosen is in the visible spectrum near green, corresponding to a wavelength of about 555 nanometers. The human eye is most sensitive to this frequency, when adapted for bright conditions. At other frequencies, more radiant intensity is required to achieve the same luminous intensity, according to the frequency response of the human eye. The luminous intensity for light of a particular wavelength \lambda is given by

I_v(\lambda)= 683.002\,\overline{y}(\lambda) I(\lambda)

where I_v(\lambda) is the luminous intensity in candelas, I(\lambda) is the radiant intensity in W/sr and \overline{y}(\lambda) is the standard luminosity function. If more than one wavelength is present (as is usually the case), one must sum or integrate over the spectrum of wavelengths present to get the total luminous intensity.

A common candle emits roughly 1 cd. A 100 W incandescent lightbulb emits about 120 cd.


Prior to 1948, there existed a variety of standards for luminous intensity in use in various countries. These were typically based on the brightness of the flame from a "standard candle" of defined composition, or the brightness of an incandescent filament of specific design. One of the best-known of these standards was the candlepower.

It became clear that a better-defined unit was needed. The Commission internationale de l'éclairage (International Commission on Illumination) and the CIPM proposed a “new candle” based on the luminance of a Planck radiator (a black body) at the temperature of freezing platinum. The value of the new unit was chosen to make it similar to the earlier unit candlepower. The decision was promulgated by the CIPM in 1946:

The value of the new candle is such that the brightness of the full radiator at the temperature of solidification of platinum is 60 new candles per square centimetre.

It was then ratified in 1948 by the 9th CGPM which adopted a new name for this unit, the candela. In 1967 the 13th CGPM (Resolution 5, CR, 104 and Metrologia, 1968, 4, 43-44) removed the term "new candle" and gave an amended version of the candela definition, specifying the atmospheric pressure applied to the freezing platinum:

The candela is the luminous intensity, in the perpendicular direction, of a surface of 1/600 000 square metre of a black body at the temperature of freezing platinum under a pressure of 101 325 newtons per square metre.

In 1979, because of the difficulties in realizing a Planck radiator at high temperatures, and the new possibilities offered by radiometry, 16th CGPM (1979, Resolution 3; CR, 100 and Metrologia, 1980, 16, 56) adopted the modern definition of the candela. The arbitrary (1/683) term was chosen so that the new definition would exactly match the old definition. Although the candela is now defined partly in terms of the watt, which is a derived SI unit of power, the candela remains a base unit of the SI system, by definition.[1]

SI photometric light unitsEdit

SI photometry units


Quantity Symbol SI unit Abbr. Notes
Luminous energy Qv lumen second lm·s units are sometimes called talbots
Luminous flux F lumen (= cd·sr) lm also called luminous power
Luminous intensity Iv candela (= lm/sr) cd an SI base unit
Luminance Lv candela per square metre cd/m2 units are sometimes called nits
Illuminance Ev lux (= lm/m2) lx Used for light incident on a surface
Luminous emittance Mv lux (= lm/m2) lx Used for light emitted from a surface
Luminous efficacy   lumen per watt lm/W ratio of luminous flux to radiant flux; maximum possible is 683.002


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