Luminance is a photometric measure of the luminous intensity per unit area of light travelling 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 luminance is candela per square metre (cd/m2). A non-SI term for the same unit is the "nit". The CGS unit of luminance is the stilb, which is equal to one candela per square centimetre or 10 kcd/m2.
Luminance is often used to characterize emission or reflection from flat, diffuse surfaces. The luminance indicates how much luminous power will be detected 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. A typical computer display emits between 50 and 300 cd/m2. The sun has luminance of about 1.6×109 cd/m2 at noon.
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.
- is the luminance (cd/m2),
- is the luminous flux or luminous power (lm),
- is the angle between the surface normal and the specified direction,
- is the area of the surface (m2), and
- is the solid angle (sr).
The expression is written using Leibniz's notation.
A variety of units have been used for luminance, besides the candela per square metre.
One candela per square metre is equal to:
See also 
- Diffuse reflection
- Exposure value
- Lambertian reflectance
- Lightness, property of a color
- Luma, the representation of luminance in a video monitor
- Lumen (unit)
- Radiance, radiometric quantity analogous to luminance
- Brightness, the subjective impression of luminance
- Luminance meter
- "Luminance". Lighting Design Glossary. Retrieved Apr. 13, 2009.
- Chaves, Julio (2008). "Introduction to Nonimaging Optics". Optical Science and Engineering 134. CRC Press. p. 449. ISBN 9781420054293.
- A Kodak guide to Estimating Luminance and Illuminance using a camera's exposure meter. Also available in PDF form and Google Docs online version
|Luminous energy||Qv [nb 2]||lumen second||lm⋅s||T⋅J [nb 3]||units are sometimes called talbots|
|Luminous flux||Φv [nb 2]||lumen (= cd⋅sr)||lm||J [nb 3]||also called luminous power|
|Luminous intensity||Iv||candela (= lm/sr)||cd||J [nb 3]||an SI base unit, luminous flux per unit solid angle|
|Luminance||Lv||candela per square metre||cd/m2||L−2⋅J||units are sometimes called nits|
|Illuminance||Ev||lux (= lm/m2)||lx||L−2⋅J||used for light incident on a surface|
|Luminous emittance||Mv||lux (= lm/m2)||lx||L−2⋅J||used for light emitted from a surface|
|Luminous exposure||Hv||lux second||lx⋅s||L−2⋅T⋅J|
|Luminous energy density||ωv||lumen second per metre3||lm⋅s⋅m−3||L−3⋅T⋅J|
|Luminous efficacy||η [nb 2]||lumen per watt||lm/W||M−1⋅L−2⋅T3⋅J||ratio of luminous flux to radiant flux|
|Luminous efficiency||V||1||also called luminous coefficient|
|See also: SI · Photometry · Radiometry|
- Standards organizations recommend that photometric quantities be denoted with a suffix "v" (for "visual") to avoid confusion with radiometric or photon quantities.
- Alternative symbols sometimes seen: W for luminous energy, P or F for luminous flux, and ρ or K for luminous efficacy.
- "J" here is the symbol for the dimension of luminous intensity, not the symbol for the unit joules.