Flux distributions from solar field collectors are typically evaluated using a beam characterization system, which consists of a digital camera with neutral density filters, flux gauge or calorimeter, and water-cooled Lambertian target panel. The pixels in camera image of the flux distribution are scaled by the flux peak value measured with the flux gauge or the total power value measured with the calorimeter. An alternative method, called PHLUX developed at Sandia National Laboratories, can serve the same purpose using a digital camera but without auxiliary instrumentation. The only additional information required besides the digital images recorded from the camera are the direct normal irradiance, an image of the sun using the same camera, and the reflectivity of the receiver or target panel surface.
The PHLUX method was evaluated using two digital cameras (Nikon D90 and D3300) at different flux levels on a target panel. The performances of the two cameras were compared to each other and to measurements from a Kendall radiometer. For consistency in comparison of the two cameras, the same focal length lenses and same number of neutral density filters were used. Other camera settings (e.g., shutter speed, f-stop, etc.) were set based on the aperture size and performance of the cameras. The Nikon D3300 has twice the number of pixels as the D90. D3300 provided higher resolution, however, due to the smaller pixel sizes the images were noisier, and the D90 with larger pixels had better response to low light levels. The noise in the D3300, if not corrected, could result in gross overestimation of the irradiance calculations. After corrections to the D3300 flux images, the PHLUX results from the two cameras showed they agreed to within 8% for a peak flux level of 1000 suns on the target, and less than 10% error in the peak flux when compared to the Kendall radiometer.