Photosynthetic light-use efficiency (LUE) has gained wide interest as an input to modeling forest gross primary productivity (GPP). The photochemical reflectance index (PRI) has been identified as a principle means to inform LUE-based models, using airborne and satellite-based observations of canopy reflectance. More recently, low-cost electronics have become available with the potential to provide for dense in situ time-series measurements of PRI. A recent design makes use of interference filters to record light transmission within narrow wavebands. Uncertainty remains as to the dynamic range of these sensors and performance under low light conditions, the placement of the reference band, and methodology for reflectance calibration. This paper presents a low-cost sensor design and is tested in a laboratory set-up, as well in the field. The results demonstrate an excellent performance against a calibration standard (R2 = 0.9999) and at low light conditions. Radiance measurements over vegetation demonstrate a reversible reduction in green reflectance that was, however, seen in both the reference and signal wavebands. Time-series field measurements of PRI in a Douglas-fir canopy showed a weak correlation with eddy-covariance-derived LUE and a significant decline in PRI over the season. Effects of light quality, bidirectional scattering effects, and possible sensor artifacts on PRI are discussed.