Robust descriptor matching across varying lighting conditions is important for vision-based robotics. We present a novel strategy for quantifying the lighting variance of descriptors. The strategy works by utilising recovered low dimensional mappings from Isomap and our measure of the lighting variance of each of these mappings. The resultant metric allows different descriptors to be compared given a dataset and a set of keypoints. We demonstrate that the SIFT descriptor typically has lower lighting variance than other descriptors, although the result depends on semantic class and lighting conditions.