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Luminance (also called luminosity) is a photometric measure of the density of luminous intensity in a given direction. It describes the amount of light that passes through or is emitted from a particular area, and falls within a given solid angle. The SI unit for luminosity is candela per square metre (cd/m2).

Luminance is often used to characterize emission or reflection from flat, diffuse surfaces. The luminance indicates how much luminous power will be perceived by an eye looking at the surface from a particular angle of view. Luminance is thus an indicator of how bright the surface will appear. In this case, the solid angle of interest is the solid angle subtended by the eye's pupil. Luminance is used in the video industry to characterize the brightness of displays. In this industry, one candela per square metre is commonly called a "nit". A typical computer display emits between 50 and 300 nits.

Luminance is ]invariant] in geometric optics. This means that for an ideal optical system, the luminance at the output is the same as the input luminance. For real, passive, optical systems, the output luminance is at most equal to the input. As an example, if you form a demagnified image with a lens, the luminous power is concentrated into a smaller area, meaning that the illuminance is higher at the image. The light at the image plane, however, fills a larger solid angle so the luminance comes out to be the same assuming there is no loss at the lens. The image can never be "brighter" than the source.

Definition

Luminance is defined by

L = \frac{d^2 F}{dA\,d{\Omega} \cos \theta}

where

L is the luminance (cd/m2),
F is the luminous flux or luminous power (lm),
θ is the angle between the surface normal and the specified direction,
A is the area of the source (m2), and
{\Omega} is the solid angle (sr).

See also

SI photometry units

[edit]

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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