This is a product review for the Vello Universal White Balance Handheld Disc. White balance is something that I constantly tweak in Photoshop. I typically use the auto white balance function on my Canon 5D Mark III. I find that the auto function gets my white balance close, but in post production I typically adjust the white balance sliders a little to get my final edit.
I was curious and eager to know if a white balance tool would help me get it closer in camera.
1) Product Specifications
This disc is fairly compact, yet still works with lenses up to 95mm in diameter. It comes with a limited 1 year warranty. Also, the package include instructions for use, although you may need to consult your camera manual for the specific menu screen on your particular camera.
I took the Vello disc out for a morning of casual shooting in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. The disc was easy to carry around with me and has a handle that makes a breeze to hold and use. It is designed to be light and mobile.
The instructions are simple. Set the lens to manual focus and choose the correct exposure for the scene. Hold the filter direction in front of the lens and snap a photo. This photo will be a tone of white and quite blurry. Then, set the white balance in camera to custom and select the blurry image you just photographed as the reference. You must reshoot the reference white balance image each time you change lighting conditions.
The following images are straight out of camera shot on a Canon 5D Mark III and a Canon 50 1.2 lens. The image on the left is with the camera’s auto white balance set. The image on the right uses the Vello Universal White Balance Handheld Disc to set the white balance. They were all shot from 9-10 AM in the middle of the summer on a mostly sunny day. No editing has been done in Photoshop to any of the images.
Above Photo #1: This shot I prefer the image to the right, which is the image with the Vello Disc setting the white balance. This image was back lit and quite sunny and I think the Vello disc did a good job setting the white balance. This was my first shot with the disc and I thought I would really like this tool. But, upon further experimentation, I wasn’t so sure.
Above Photo #2: As I often shoot back lit, I did another back lit shot of some flowers. I think I actually prefer the photo to the left– the image to the right feels too orange too me. The image on the left I would still make some Photoshop adjustments, but it’s closer to what I would want the final edit to be.
Above Photo #3: The Vello Disc did a good job on this one again for me. The colors in the image to the right look richer to me and that frame is closer to the final edit I would make. This lighting was mixed tungsten and natural light. I shoot in these conditions quite often at weddings.
Above Photo #4: Here I prefer my camera’s auto white balance. Although there are some widows near the ceiling, this is mostly tungsten lighting. I prefer richer warm colors, and while the Vello disc turns all my outdoor images much warmer, here it cooled down the tungsten image. However, for this particular tungsten photo, I prefer the richer color to the left.
Above Photo #5: I prefer the Vello Disc image (image on the right), but it’s such a minimal change. Not really a big difference to me.
Above Photo #6: This series of images stumped me. The left is obviously the auto white balance image, and the right is oddly the Vello disc image. I tried this scene about 6 different times and I always ended up with an unnaturally green photo. I even walked away and returned again 30 minutes later with the same result. For some reason the Vello disc could not read this scene. It is wider shot than the others (but still on the Canon 50 1.2) and the sun is to camera right. I thought I must have done something wrong, I rechecked my settings and no matter what, a green photo was the end result.
While the Vello Universal White Balance Handheld Disc usually captures the frame in a way that I consider better than my camera’s auto white balance function, it’s not always accurate. After rereading the instructions and watching a You Tube tutorial, Photo #6 from my test series would not work. Try after try, it still ended up with an odd green cast.
The difference between white balance straight out of camera and the Vello disc custom white balance is minimal. Even though it takes only about 1 minute to set the white balance using the disc, I never seemed to have the time to do it on a paid job. Weddings are too hectic and it always seemed like a hassle to bring it out of the bag for a portrait shoot. The only time it made sense to use was when I was shooting leisurely for fun while traveling across Colorado. Each scene I recalculated the white balance and this would get tedious after a while, especially when the different is not incredibly drastic.
I do not imagine that I would use this disc in the future. Even though I prefer to get my shot as good as I can in camera and not to rely on Photoshop, I would still prefer to save the time messing with the disc on location. I would prefer to just make a few minor tweaks in Lightroom during post production.
6) Pricing and Where to Buy
The Vello Universal White Balance Handheld Disc is regularly priced at $49.95 and is available at B&H Photo Video.