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Information - - Torch Buying Guide & FAQ - 2020 (Updated) | Kit / Clothing / Equipment | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Information - Torch Buying Guide & FAQ - 2020 (Updated)


Grom

Camera Drowner
Regular User
Torch Buying Guide & FAQ - 2020

Now that 2020 is upon us it seemed time to update my guide on torch buying. I do hope people found the 2019 one useful for explaining some of the jargon that comes with joy of #torchchat (I love this stuff okay, please don't judge :thumb).
I'm going to re-write it with some more detail that I didn't have time to include last time too!


Torch Basics & Jargon


-------------------------------------------------------- Batteries --------------------------------------------------------

AA / AAA

The most widely available type of battery, can be bought almost anywhere. They are limited compared to modern lithium batteries as they don't have anywhere close to the the power density. Great choice for a backup torch. Zinc batteries are rubbish and Alkaline are just average. Rechargeable Ni-MH are the best type to use nowadays. Eneloop are probably the best brand of rechargeable AAA/AA. LADDA batteries sold in Ikea are basically repackaged Eneloops and are a bargain. Other than that check out Amazon Basic NI-MH batteries as they are good value too.


18650 Lithium
The 18650s has been a round for a few years now and its starting to be used everywhere for everything. It's a bit bigger than an AA battery (18mm x 65mm - Hence the name) and is very energy dense. A single 18650 holds the same amount of power as 5 x AA batteries. They are rechargeable, run at 3.7v and can be bought from around £4 - £10 each. Pretty much all decent torches now run off these (or a similar Lithium sized battery).

As a general buying guide its worth knowing that the capacity of a 18650 battery is around 2000mAh - 3500mAh. If you see any for sale that are higher (Some can claim over 9000mAh) then please avoid them! Fake 18650's can be dangerous and are known to explode or catch fire. Try a trusted Vape shop for reliable source for good ones.



They come as 'Protected' or 'Non-Protected'. A protected battery has a little cap on the end that cuts the battery if too much power is drawn, protecting it from overheating. This can be useful but means you can't use these on very high drain torches as it will cut out when you turn the torch too high.

The solution is a Non-Protected battery that you can draw as much power from as it can provide, but be aware that if you draw more power than the battery can safely provide it will overheat and could catch fire. It's very rare, but just good to be aware of.

It's good practice to keep these type of batteries in a proper protective cases to stop shorting. Watch out for nicks and tears in the protective wrap, they can be re-wrapped to make them safe again. This applies for all types of lithium batteries, not just 18650s.


Good 18650s:
  • Samsung 30Q
  • LG HG2
  • Sony VCT6
  • Sony VCT5a
  • Panasonic NCR18650B



26650, 20700 & 21700 Lithium

These are similar to 18650s, except for the fact they are larger. The numbers indicate the dimensions in millimetres (e.g 26mm x 65mm).
Torches that use these sizes are less common, but still about. They offer slightly higher capacity to a 18650. so you will see greater runtimes or high outputs. All of the safety advice is the same as the 18650's, buy from a trusted supplier and don't mistreat them.


14500 Lithium - A Lithium 3.7v version of an AA battery. Some torches give you an option to use a 14500 or an AA battery for flexibility. Again these aren't too common, but good to know they exist.




-------------------------------------------------- Beam type / Optics --------------------------------------------------


Optics/Lenses explained
The optics of the torch will define the characteristics of the beam. Different types of optics favour different situations and uses.

Floody
As the name suggests, a floody beam lights up a wide area and generally doesn't throw light a long distance. This is especially useful for exploring inside of buildings as the beam will light up the entire room instead of a single very bright point on the wall. TIR or Honeycomb optics as seen on the Armytek Wizard give a very wide floody beam. This is a very good type of optic to have on a headtorch for close up work and for seeing where you are going.

Thrower/Throwy
A long throwing beam with a tight hotspot will throw light a long distance. Great for lighting down to the end of long tunnels but not especially useful for general exploring. I find for light painting throwy torches don't work especially well as you end up with a very intense hotspot that leaves streaky light if you are not careful.

Zoomable/Zoomie
As seen in the much loved Led Lenser P7.2 or the P7R, the zoomable beam allows you to adjust the beam from a wide flood to a single zoomed in long throwing beam. Wonderful on paper but has a few shortfalls. Zoomie optics can be inefficient and lose light that it cuts off on the edges. It means your 400 Lumen LED might end up being 200 or 300 when it comes out the front of the torch. They can also be a source of water ingress as it's hard to waterproof a moving head that pulls a vacuum as you move it in and out. What they are great for is light painting, allowing you to paint light in nice and wide for close ups and zoom right in for long corridor or tunnel shots without overexposing other parts of the photo.

A balance beam pattern
There is no such things as a perfect beam pattern, but rather one that works for your needs. Zoomable torches can sort of offer a bit of both, but it's not perfect as sometimes you want both flood and throw.
A good quality fixed beam torch can offer both of these. Medium throw and a good bit of light spill is ideal for most uses.








-------------------------------------------------- UI - User Interface --------------------------------------------------


User Interface then and now
Back in the day a torch was simply on or off, there was no 'User Interface' as to speak of. Now torches come with PCB controlled drivers they can have quite a wide range of modes and settings that mean that User interfaces is a factor worth knowing when buying a torch. Most torches have just one button, so getting a good UI with lots of mode that's also easy to use is not easy, however they have got very good in the past few years.

Basic UI
Your cheapy £10 torch might come with a basic 5 mode UI which you cycle through by half pressing the button, Low > Medium > High > Strobe > SOS.
Strobe and a SOS mode are almost entirely useless I've found. These type of modes are quite basic but they work well enough.

Complex and intuitive UI
Modern mid-range to high end torches have some brilliant and clever UI's now that make it easy to flick from very low to High without having to cycle through every single brightness mode in sequence. This is really the key to good UI, the ability to access the mode you want quickly and easily.

One of the best I've used is one called Anduril which is used on an increasingly large array of 'enthusiast' grade torches such as the Emisar range. It has a 'Ramping' feature that allows you to hold the button down and the brightness will gradually increase/decrease smoothly until you let go of the button when you find the output you want to stop at. It means it essentially has an infinitely variable output so you will always find the perfect brightness setting for whatever situation you may find yourself in. It's very nifty! There are of course plenty other types, the Armytek UI is very good too.

Moonlight modes
One especially useful modes is a good 'Moonlight mode'. This simply means a very low mode that's about 1 Lumen or less. This is especially useful when on particularly sneaky explores where you really don't want to attract too much attention but still need to use a torch to get around. There are still many torches where the lowest mode is still around 40 lumens (*cough* Led Lenser *cough*), which is very bright when its near pitch black and you are trying to avoid secca.

It's also useful to be able to go straight to Moonlight mode from off, rather than having to go past High mode to get to it.




------------------------------ LED Tint and C.R.I (Quality of the light produced) ------------------------------


Quality of the light

Not all LEDs are created equally and the Quality of the light produced can vary greatly.
Ideally you want light that:
  • Provides a full colour spectrum and allows you to see everything clearly without washing out colours.
  • Has a neutral white or slightly warm colour tint that is pleasing to the eye and doesn't cause eye strain.
There are two factors in this, Tint and C.R.I (Colour Rendition Index).


Tint
Tint is a measure of the Kelvin Temperature of the light, or simply put, whether its Warm orange, pure white or a cool blue.
A normal range you might expect to see from a torch LED is 2700K - 6500K.

You can see on this colour scale what each of the Kelvin ratings look like.



4000K and lower is considers Warm and is my personal preference. It's just nicer to the eye and colours seem to 'pop' more.
5000K is a pure or neutral white. This is a nice all rounder.
6000K upwards is a cool white/blueish. This is generally seen on cheaper torches and is generally less desirable. I find this washes out colours more and things look more flat.



C.R.I - Colour Rendition Index
This describes how full the spectrum of the light is, the higher the spectrum the more colours will look accurate and correct. Notice how things look clearer when out in natural sunlight? This is because the sun produces a full spectrum of the visible light wavelengths.

LED torches do not produce a full spectrum of light, this means that certain colours won't show up as well as others. Normally Red is is the colour tends to drop off and will stand out less than the other colours. This is why some cheaper torches tend to wash everything out in a blueish haze, because the red and orange wavelengths aren't as bright as the blues or greens.

This is where the CRI Index comes in. CRI is a measure of how accurate the colour produced by a light and scores it.
The CRI range is a number value from 0 > 100.

LEDs now come in 'High CRI' varieties that produce much high quality light.
  • CRI 70 is about average, and anything much lower than that is worth avoiding.
  • CRI 80 is decent, colours will start to look a little more natural.
  • CRI 90+ is very good.
  • CRI 99 is the ceiling of the current LED technology.
  • CRI 100 is the highest you can get and is the rating of old Incandescent lights or natural sunlight.






--------------------------------------- Specs (Lumens, Candela & Throw) ---------------------------------------


Lumens
This is a measure of the amount of light that comes out the front of the torch. How these lumens are spread out or focused is entirely down to the optics. Whether is spread out wide in a soft floody beam or focused into a very tight and bright long throwing beam.

Torches have naturally got brighter and brighter as technology has improved. Where 200 lumens may have seemed bright 10 years ago, it is seen as underpowered nowadays with the 1000 lumens torches being the norm now. However don't get too suckered into the Lumen race as you won't find much use for anything past 2000 lumens for general exploring. Also for just walking around somewhere dark or underground you only really need 150-400lumens to see well enough. You will find that despite the fact that your torch might be good for say 2000lumens, 80% of the time you use it on a medium mode.

I've got a few 5000+ Lumen lights which are brilliant, but only useful in certain situations. They generate a lot of heat very quickly, munch through batteries and will very quickly draw attention to yourself if you are exploring somewhere a that's a bit bait. That said if you are underground and you want want a portable handheld sun to light up large open area, then they are brilliant.

Be aware of companies that claim silly lumen numbers. A single 18650 torch with a claimed 900,000 Lumens output (as can be found on Ebay) is certainly not even a fraction of that.


Candela (cd)
This is more specific measure of the intensity of the beam at 1m away. A torch with a high Candela rating will be one that's very throwy and has a very tight and bright hotspot. This means that all the light is focused into a very small but bright area. A soft floody light of the same lumen output will have a much lower Candela measure as the light is being spread out over a larger area so the intensity at a single point is lower. You may find this is specification that's less used by torch manufacturers, but it's useful to know what it means.


Throw & the standards (ANSI/NEMA FL-1)
Sometimes on the spec of a torch you might see '200m ANSI throw' or something similar. ANSI FL1 is a standard that is used to test the distance of how far a torch can light up. It's done using a calculation based on the Lumen & Candela figures. Some of the larger torches are pushing the 2000m boundaries.





------------------------------------------------- LED Emitters -------------------------------------------------


'Emitters' are the actual LED's that produce the light. New ones come out often and It's good to know what's good and what's outdated.








This is an LED Emitter mounted onto a MCPCB. A MCPCB is just a bit of copper with Positive and Negative connections to solder onto. They come in all different sizes and can have multiple LED's on one board.

If you want to change the LED on your torch you can often just buy a new LED already attached to the MCPCB (in the correct size) and just solder the two power cables onto the connections.





Good LED's

EmitterDescription
Cree XP-L HIBright outputs combined with good throw make this a good light for raw output. CRI is okay.
Cree XHP35 / XHP50 / XHP70Physically larger LED's but with very high outputs. The XHP70 is good for 4000lumen per emitter.
Luminus SST-20Very High CRI and good output. One of the best LED's at the moment.
Luminus SST-40Lower CRI than the SST-20 but with higher output.
Nichia 219CVery nice tint and good CRI but generates a fair bit of Heat and not the brightest. A little bit dated too.
Nichia 219bAn older LED emitter but one with a lovely warm tint and very accurate colours (High CRI). Lower output.
Samsung LH351DNice range of High CRI tints and good output.


Bad and outdated LED's

EmitterDescription
Cree XML-T6A very dated LED that's only used on the cheapest of the cheap torches now.
Cree XP-G2/G3Fairly effecient but with bad tint, Low CRI. It's not terrible, but you can do better.
Cree XML-U2This ones pretty dated too like the T6 but can be found on lots of Amazon sold torches.
 
Last edited:

Grom

Camera Drowner
Regular User
------------------------------------------------------ Torches ------------------------------------------------------

Types of torches, brands and what to buy




------------------------------------------------- Types of Torches -------------------------------------------------


Styles of torches

Torches come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. What you are doing will totally depend on what you want and need.


Handheld torch
This is your average torch, don't really need to explain anything here. It's a general use torch, it fits in your pocket, It's not too heavy and it's reasonably powerful. This is your all rounder.
The differences tends to be with button placement, either on the side or at the end and the battery type.

My go-to ultra budget torch - The Convoy S2+


High powered large torch

For those who want a bit more power for that hard to light place, a large high power torch will be what you need. Technology is getting better so High power doesn't always mean it has to be big. Just bare in mind that a large 'Thermal mass' helps keep the torch cool by dissipating heat while maintaining high outputs. You can get small torches that put out 4000 lumens, but will only last a minute or so because it generates too much heat for the smaller mass to dissipate.

e.g BLF Q8.



Head torch

Very useful for underground exploring, but can be useful for all sorts of things. I'd recommend a Right Angle headtorch over a traditional headtorch as they are far more versatile. They can be removed from the headstrap and used as a handheld torch.

Armytek Wizard - Great headlamp.



Floodlight / Video Light

Useful for backlighting shots or video work. They will provide a large flood of light that's useful for lighting up a whole room. There are a few types of these. One is a LED array that clips onto the hotshoe of your camera or tripod known as Video Lights. These can be had for fairly cheap and are quite effective.
The another type is a 'builders' type COB worklight with the little stand and a carry handle. They can be a bit bulky and aren't really designed to lug around but they work okay.

The CN160 Video light - Cheap and effective.



Keyring torches/small backups.

Small keyring torches are useful regardless of what you do. They serve as an emergency backup to get you out of trouble if your torch dies on you etc
This is my Rovyvon Aurora A5, its absolutely tiny and lives on my keyring. It's actually good for around 500 lumens (for short bursts at least), which is useful in a pinch.



Enthusiast / Custom torches.

An enthusiast grade torch is one that would either be on the cutting edge with features, firmware and LED emitters. Normally made by small companies that are not mainstream names.

Something like an Emisar D4S is seen as an Enthusiast grade torch. The firmware is written by a single person who is well known in the torch world (Toykeeper) and when you order it you can choose your LED, TINT, Colour of torch, whether it has a magnet in the end....etc etc. These are actually quite well priced, and sometimes cheaper than off the shelf torches, but require a little bit of background knowledge before ordering so you can get what you want. If you want the absolute highest bang for your buck then this is where you need to be looking.


A Custom torch is a different ball game and not really useful for exploring lights, but I'll explain anyway for context, and because they look fun.
A custom made torch are normally made from Titanium or an exotic metal and custom made to your own design by a machine shop/maker.

These are for people who see torches as more than just a way to see in the dark, and more so a form of functional jewellery. It's the same train of thought that leads to people buying expensive Swiss made watches. You can buy a Casio watch for £10 that will tell you the time just fine, but instead you need a £8k Rolex, just because you can. There seems to be a thing with having skulls on the clips as well as tritium inserts to make it glow in the dark.

These two here made by Hanko, a well known maker. They are rare, take a long time to make and is something that might go well with ones expensive knife EDC collection. One of these might set you back over £2k.


Obviously no-ones actually mad enough to buy or use of of these for Urbex, but they look pretty cool right?!




------------------------------------------------- Types of Torches -------------------------------------------------



'Premium' Brands
These well known high quality brands makes tend to command a higher cost, but are mostly very good.


Led Lenser:

Well known German make and produce good quality lights that are available on the high street as well as online. The Led Lenser P7.2 has long been a forum favourite and has long been a good all rounder. However they are not the most cost effective and a little behind on the latest LED and Battery technology. The P7R, one of their newer torches produces 1000 lumens using an 18650 battery. It's not cheap but it's probably the best torch they produce right now, it's certainly a step up on their previous products. I would not recommend their high end lights such as X21R.2 that can cost in excess of £200, they offer very poor value.

Olight
Produce a wide range of very good quality torches with some very modern features such as inbuilt recharging. They often have sales over Christmas and black Friday, so it's worth waiting for them if you really want one at a good price. They aren't super cheap, but they are very well made. They even do a copper bodied versions if you want something a bit fancy. The only negative is they tend to favour cooler tints, so if you want a warm tint you might struggle to find one to your liking,

Fenix
Another high quality manufacturer of torches who do a good range of zoomable and fixed lens torches. They don't really push the boat out too much, but they are good quality all rounders.

Nitecore
Nitecore can produce good stuff, but have been noted to have slightly above average failure rates on some torches. They can make some pretty weird and wacky stuff too with some nice features. The Nitecore EC22 has a little wheel on the top that adjusts the brightness which is pretty cool.

Zebralight
Arguably one of the highest quality manufacturer of torches. They really care about good tints and great run-times. The boost drivers in Zebralights allow for some of the longest run-times of any well known make. They aren't the cheapest but they are worth it if you can afford it.

Armytek
Canadian company who make one of the best headtorches on the market, the Armytek Wizard Pro. Their customer service is sadly not as well regarded and can be hit and miss.

Acebeam
Acebeam have been around for a while now and make some super high output lights. They also are making some of the first types of torches with LEP emitters. These are basically White lasers that can throw light well past 2000m. It's new technology but very interesting.

Imalent
Imalent make mental high output lights with their latest creation making a genuine 100,000 Lumens and requires active cooling fans to keep it from overheating. Insanity. Also expensive.

Maglite
I feel like maglite is the Kodak of the torch world. They were the best torch maker 20 years ago, and yet somehow they just gave up trying and stopped innovating. Not a single one of their products interests me now. You can't knock their quality as all of their stuff is built to last, and they can be modified to be much much brighter if you still fancy one.



Better Value Brands
These aren't cheap and nasty, these are good quality torches at sensible prices. There is a bit of a sea of Chinese copies out there that makes identifying quality brands and cheap knock-offs hard.

Skilhunt

Known for making possibly the best value for money headtorch you can buy, the Skilhunt H03 and more recently the H04. They make a few handheld torches too that are meant to be decent.

Thorfire
Very cheap and good quality. A good place to look if you haven't got a huge amount to spend but want something decent.

Wowtac
Wowtac have a growing and well thought out range of affordable torches and head torches. I believe they are a sub-brand of ThruNite. The Wowtac A2s is a brilliant no thrills headtorch by them.

ThruNite
Very good value for money with a nice range of different styles. The TN12 and TC12 are often recommended as a good all-rounder.

Convoy
Convoy have been around for a while producing some of the best value for money torches you can buy. Most notably for the Convoy S2+ and the Convoy C8. These can be bought as bare hosts that you can install your own LED emitter(s) and Driver of choice. An enthusiast favourite for bargain prices.

Emisar
Emisar appeared a few years ago and started selling the D4 which was a 4000 lumen monster that could easily fit at the bottom of your jeans pocket. They made a few other very high powered torches including the bigger D4s and a massive floody 14000lumen floody monster of a light called the D18. Can be ordered from Intl-Outdoors.

BLF
Short for Budget Light Forum, they design torches by committee and decide on features by voting. This means that the forum members can vote on designing their 'perfect' torch. This is lead the way for some amazing and well thought out lights such as the BLF Q8 and the BLF A6.






------------------------------------------------- Recommendations -------------------------------------------------


General exploring handheld Torch
Small handheld torches that will fit in most jeans pockets. Mostly 18650 powered.


Convoy S2+ £10-£20

The S2/S2+ has been a favourite for a few years and there's a reason for it. It offers around 900 - 1800 Lumens and a decent UI for around £10. Available in a range of tints and emitters, the newest being the SST-40 emitters that are good for 1800lumens. There is even a High-CRI version available now. If you have the skills you can also buy an empty host body and drop in your own choice of LED Emitter and Driver. Some people build triple Emitter builds that can produce over 3000 Lumens. It has a fairly balanced beam that is on the floody side but has plenty of power to throw a reasonable distance if needed. Available from Gearbest, Banggood & Aliexpress.

Convoy C8/C8+ £15-£30
This ones been around for a while but is known as the the ultimate 'budget thrower', perhaps not ideal for indoor and close quarter explores but can throw up to 500m and has around 1000lumens. Can also come under different brand names with slightly varied outputs and tints. I've got an old battered one that I bought years ago and it still performs great.
The C8+ is the newest incarnation with improved performance and a cool looking sandy colour.

Wowtac A6 £30
A fairly new compact EDC sized light from Wowtac that is good for 1400lumens. It comes included with an 18650 and has micro USB charging. Good if you don't have a 18650 charger and looking to avoid buying one to keep costs down.

Led Lenser P7.2 (and other similar versions such as the M7 or T7.2) £25 - £45
These are a long time forum favourite and offer fairly decent performance out of the AAA battery source. They are also very well made and will take years of abuse. The older model put out 320 Lumens but has recently been upped to 400-450 lumens. They can sell for up to £40 but amazon often discounts them and so they can be had for under £25 if you grab one while on offer. Here's the problem though, they are actually pretty basic and lack a lot of features. The low mode only goes down to 40 Lumens and 400 lumens max is pretty low by 2020 standards, however as its only powered by AAA's it can be forgiven as you won't get much more power out of 4x AAA's anyway.
Personally I would recommend leaning towards a 18650 powered torch with a better range of Low and Moonlight modes, higher max output, longer run-times and better tints. However It's not fair to ignore the fact the P7.2 has proven it self again and again to be perfectly good. For someone who doesn't want to dive into the torch rabbit hole, this is the best choice (or maybe the P7R).

Convoy M3 £30 - £40
Powered by a 26650 battery and with a good output of over 3000lumens. Lots of flood and lots of throw for not a huge amount of money. Just don't forget to budget in a good 26650 battery.

Emisar D4 V2 £40
Good for 3000-4300 Lumen using quad LEDs depending on emitter choice. I've been carrying round the V1 version of this since October 2018 and I absolutely love the thing. It just ticks all the boxes of a compact and versatile torch. This one is the Version 2 of the D4 and comes with better firmware UI and multicolour Auxiliary lights. It requires a High Drain unprotected 18650 and special care should be taken to ensure it can't turn it self on in your pocket as it can burn things. The beam is quite floody, so not good for long distance work, but good for indoor exploring. It can be bought direct from the maker at Intl-Outdoors.com.

ThruNite TC15 £45
Powerful, tough and USB rechargeable. ThruNite make great Mid-range torch and this ones a great all rounder. 2300lumens max and a 1 Lumen moonlight mode. It comes with a battery too and is on Amazon UK Prime.

Emisar D4S V2 £45-£55
My favourite torch of the last year. Uses a 26650 battery to produce up to 5200lumens. It's the big brother of the Emisar D4 and has a larger thermal mass and can maintain higher outputs for longer. The output to size ration is impressive and the very clever Anduril UI. It can be bought direct from the maker at Intl-Outdoors.com.

Olight S2R II £50-£65
Olight's compact sized light is well made and outputs 1150lumens. You pay a bit of a premium for the Olight name, but you do get a well made torch with a really good magnetic charger dock. It's looks good too, I really like the blue bevel designs.

Led Lenser P7R £70-£80
Probably the best torch Led Lenser make at the moment. 1000 lumens through great quality zooming optics. Uses a Led Lenser branded 18650 battery. Having finally got a chance to play with one of these recently I can see why its popular. It's solidly made and has a nice feel to it and throws nicely. However It is a bit on the larger size and 1000lumens isn't overly impressive for a light of this price. You can get more for the money for sure, however If you just want a decent widely available off the shelf torch that will stand the test of time and you willing to part with a bit of money for it, then this thing may be the answer.



High powered torches
High performance torches that are a big large to fit in you pocket, but ideal for lighting up large spaces or far away things.


BLF Q8 £30-£50

The BLF Q8 uses 4 x 18650 and is almost identical in size to a beer can. It's powerful at over 5000lumens, has large thermal mass that can maintain a bright output for while. It uses the great Ramping UI which is very easy to use. Because it uses 4 x 18650 the battery life is very good if you don't go too mad with it. Will fit in a large jacket pocket comfortable. It looks a little like those 'Skyray' Torches for sale on Ebay and amazon, except the output is a honest 5000+ lumens.

Wowtac A4 V2 £50
Pocketable thrower that's good for 600m's of throw. 26650 powered and good for about 1900 lumens.

ThruNite TC20 £75
A compact floody torch with 3800 Lumens. 26650 powered and pretty compact.

Emisar D18 £75
This one is a bit like Camelot, tis a bit silly. 18 LEDs, 3 x 18650 batteries and 14,000 lumens or 10,000lumens. It's also the same size a Coke can, and comes with a choice of colour, LED and optics, It's a super floody torch, not intended for long distance throw. I actually think for £75 its a bit of a steal. Can be bought from Intl-Outdoors.


Headlights
Mostly right angled headlights that are very versatile and useful. You can use it as a headlamp or remove it from the headstrap and handhold it.


Wowtac A2s £30

A corker of a headlight for the price. About 1000lumens, good range of modes and comes with a 18650. The beam has a good all-round profile with a bit of throw and a good flood.
The only real downside is that it's on slightly heavier end for a right angle light, although that means it should be well built.

Skillhunt H03 / H04 £25-£40
A very floody headlamp on a budget. I've used mine for a couple years now and it's been really good. It's very light, good for about 1000 lumens and the TIR honeycomb optics mean its lights up a very wide area, meaning it's great for wandering around underground. The H03 model has been a round for a little while, and more recently the H04 has come out.

Armytek Elf C2 XP-L £50
A budget version of the Armytek Wizard Pro. I recommended this last time, and I will again. It's a quality made headtorch for a good price. 900 Lumens, USB Charging and a good drop test ratings, this should last you a long time. That said If you can afford a bit more I'd hold on a go for the Wizard Pro as it's worth the extra for sure.

ThruNite TH30 £60
With output of 3300Lumens, this headtorch is probably the most powerful of this choice. It's uses a normal reflector so has a slightly throwy beam pattern. The 3300Lumen mode won't last very long. infact it will only last about a minute and a half before stepping down. It does come with a battery, and has USB charging.

Olight H2R Nova £70-£80
Quite Similar to the Wizard Pro with a slightly lower price tag. 2300 Lumens max and 1 Lumen low modes. Built in recharging and comes with a headstrap and a battery. Has Neutral white and Cool White tint options. Sold on Amazon.

Armytek Wizard Pro V3 £80
Rock solid and packed full of features this is more headtorch than anyone would ever need. 1700Lumens max output and again comes in Warm and Cool tint options (get the warm). Comes with a magnet charging dock and has a great headstrap that you can easily remove and re-attached.

Zebralight H600w Mk IV £90
Zebralight have always made great headlamps with very long run times due to a good boost driver. They are very well machined and have a good UI. The Moonlight low modes are extremely low and it has a max output of 1400 Lumens. It's not cheap and you don't want to be losing this, but its a gorgeous light.



Video Lights & Floodlights
Useful for creating a wall of light, either for photography backlighting, or videos.


CN160 Video Light £20

160 Led video light that comes with a hot shoe mount fitting so it can go on the top of you camera as well as attaching to a tripod. Powered by either 6 x AA or one NP F550 Sony Camera battery (Recommend these over AA's). Normally comes with different coloured filters. This has been around for a little while now and is a little bit dated now due to it's bulky size compared to slightly newer video lights. This light is still good, I still have two that I used occasionally, but it loses points on efficiency (as the battery life isn't brilliant) and the fact that it takes up quite a bit of room in a camera bag.

RALENO 3200-5600k Panel Light £30

There are few of these types of light available, but they essentially have the same set of features. They have a flat array of LED's that have adjustable Tint and brightness. They are a little more compact than the CN160 style too.

Generic COB worklight £15-£50
This is not one specific product, rather a style of lights. These are more intended as a work light, but can provide a wide floodlight.



Misc Lights.
Anything else that's worth mentioning


Olight i3e - £5-£10

A cheap but quality AAA Keyring light that's about 100lumens. Olight often give these away for 'Free' around black Friday.

LED Lenser P7QC - £50
A multi-colour changing Led Lenser, brilliant if you want to get more creative with your light painting. It's only a couple hundred Lumens but very fun!

Olight i3T £20
A great little AA powered lights. 180 lumens and compact. It's more of a backup or spare, but a good option if you don't want to use lithium batteries.

LUMINTOP Tool AA £20
A very nice little AA light that also accepts 14500 lithium batteries. It's good for 650 lumens with 14500s, and 270 lumens on regular AA batteries. Compact and powerful.


Lights to avoid
Here's a few to steer clear of...

The generic 'CREE 18650 torch' £5-£30


You've likely seen these for sale on Amazon or Ebay. Often marketed to greatly exaggerated lumen output and come in all different makes and designs. Sometimes they come in a kit including batteries and a charger. These were pretty much where the term 'Chinese Lumens' was coined, because lots of those claimed lumens seem to mysteriously disappear when it finally arrives on your doorstep.

These are cheaply made in masses and based off an Ultrafire 878. Most these types of lights are copies or loosely based on a similar design and you should not pay any more than £10 for one.

Several companies such as ShadowHawk market these as 'Military grade' lights under the names like the ShadowHark X800 or the G700 and try and charge £50 upwards for one. It's a scam, don't bother.

The reality is that these cheap generic torches are not 'bad' lights if you want something inexpensive that you can chuck in your camera bag as a spare. Compared to old incandescent lights they will seem brilliant. However the real output will be something close to 200 - 300 Lumens depending how lucky you get, and they normally pick the cheapest bluest CREE XML-T6 emitters they can get and the Zooming optics are normally horribly inefficient. The UI is bad and I personally would not trust one enough to rely on it completely as a main torch.

Watch out for kits that come with a case, battery and charger. They often come with dangerous fake 18650 batteries which are liable to explode when charging. Also the supplied chargers often have dodgy circuits and no fuse and are not safe. Always buy a battery separately. They also make AAA versions, but expect no more than 200 lumens.


LED Lenser X21R £300
Now I'm not saying that this is a bad light, its a great light. The new model has 5000 lumens output and is rechargeable. The quality of it looks stunning too. The issue is with the fact that it's £300, is enormous in size and has the less output than the BLF Q8. It also uses it's own propriety battery pack, so the batteries can't be changed in the field. Basically it offers very poor value in 2020. This also applies to other high end products from large torch manufactures like Maglite etc.
Buy a BLF Q8 for £50 (or something similar) and spend the rest of your £250~ budget on alcohol or drugs (or both?). Easy.


Anything that claims to be Military Grade or Tactical
This isn't any single torch, just a broad brush bit of advice. You sometimes see buzzwords like 'Tactical', 'Military Grade', ‘surplus military stock’ etc to describe torches.
It's all just nonsense, don't believe it. It's normally a bit of a ploy to get people to pay over the odds for a cheap torch.




------------------------------------------- References and information -------------------------------------------


Parametrek:
If you are looking for something very specific there is a site here that filters by various spec out of over 2000 torches.
http://flashlights.parametrek.com/index.html

r/Flashlight on Reddit -
The subreddit for all things flashlights and torches. I spent more time on here than I care to admit. Good resource though with a good community.
https://www.reddit.com/r/flashlight/

Wikilight:
A german site that does real comparison shots comparing beam and output. Useful if you want to compare potential purchases against each other.

The BLF forum:
Another good resource and forum.
http://budgetlightforum.com/



Jargon terms

  • EDC - Every Day Carry - Normally refering to a torch that you could carry with you everyday.
  • CW - Cool White - Cool tint normally around 6000K
  • NW - Neutral White - Neutral tint 4000K-5000K
  • CRI - Colour Rendition Index - How well the light produces accurate colours
  • MCPCB - Metal Core Printed Circuit Boad - The part the actual LED emitter is soldered onto
  • Zoomie - A torch with a focusable beam
  • Driver - The circuit board that controls the torch and manages the amount of power going to the LED.






If you've made it this far thanks for reading!
 
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