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How to recognize a good torch

Are you looking for a flashlight that will never let you down? One will that will last for years to come? We’ll tell you what to look for and how you will find the ideal torch for you.

What do we mean by a good flashlight?

We have over ten years of experience with LED torches. Innovation is key in the field of flashlights, so we have come to expect more and more. We believe that it should have the following characteristics.

A good flashlight:

  • Is going to last for years
  • Delivers on its promises
  • Is safe to use
  • Is really user-friendly

The short route: a few hints what to look for

The fastest way to simplify the choice for a good flashlight is by starting with a well-known brand. Brands that have made good torches for years are FenixNitecore and Led Lenser.

These brands offer a comprehensive range and have flashlights suitable for every situation. They use the best materials and safety is paramount to them. Unknown brands can take safety regulations with a grain of salt and it will also keep you guessing about the overall quality.

Brands that have a good reputation will be open about the materials they use. They will also let you know about the performance of the torch according to accepted international standards, like the ANSI standard. This makes comparing torches by different manufacturers easier and you can choose the perfect fit for you!

Brands that have a good reputation will be open about the materials they use.

The longer route: the main technical aspects brought to light

Searching for a really good flashlight is easier when you know what to look for. We will help you to distinguish between the good and the bad. We’ll focus on the main features of flashlights: light output, LED technology, battery technology, electronics and materials. It comes down to the visible and invisible qualities of modern torches..

Light output - ANSI lumen

When you are looking for a torch you’ll notice that light capacity is expressed in lumen. Lumen is the total amount of light from a single LED. The more lumen a flashlight has, the more light it can provide.

ANSI. The internationally accepted standard for lumen is the ANSI/NEMA FL 1-2009 standard. Well-known American multinationals such as Duracell and Energizer have devised it, and it describes the procedures for ‘directional lighting’. The flashlight industry has also created an additional standard, the ANSI/PLATO FL-1 standard.

Almost all modern flashlights are made in China. That means the good ones, and the bad ones! However, brands that produce real quality flashlights use the FL1 lumen standard because they have nothing to hide. Manufacturers that don’t want to be open about the exact quality of their lights often only refer to 'lumen' so they don't have to follow the ANSI measuring procedure. They also often exaggerate the performance. Please beware when you buy a torch whether the brand uses ANSI FL1 lumen. The ANSI FL1 icon will be displayed on the packaging to make it clear for you.

Although there’s also some criticism on the practical value of the ANSI FL1, companies that do use it have to keep up to high standards. Since it is objectively measured you’ll know what the light output will be exactly.

For more information, see: Lumen light output of torches in accordance with the ANSI / NEMA FL 1 standard

Please beware when you buy a torch whether the brand uses ANSI FL1 lumen.

LED technology

Modern flashlights use LEDs. Using light bulb technology has become obsolete because LED performance is much better. The light efficiency is much higher, so you’ll have the same amount of light for a longer period of time.

Type of light Lumens per Watt Light Efficiency
Lamp 19,8 lumen per Watt 2,90%
Led 150 lumen per Watt 22%

 

 

 

The most famous led manufacturer in the world is the American company called Cree. Many modern quality flashlights have a Cree led. Cree provide openness about its products on its own website and gives the maximum number of lumens, according to the ANSI standard, which the led under ideal conditions can produce (in laboratory-style).

Led and lumens. Each led has a maximum amount of lumens it can produce under optimal conditions. For the maximum light output is an led is really pushed to its limits. Because this influences the lifespan of an led big time, torches are often not pushed to this limit. Ninety to about ninety-five percent of the capacity is about as far as it will go.

Overview of commonly used leds (28-9-2016):

Name Max amount of light Light efficiency
Cree XM-L 1040 lumen 158 lumen per Watt
Cree XM-L2 1052 lumen 170 lumen per Watt
Cree XP-E 307 lumen 122 lumen per Watt
Cree XP-E2 283 lumen 137 lumen per Watt
Cree XP-G 493 lumen 146 lumen per Watt
Cree XP-G2 586 lumen 176 lumen per Watt
Cree XP-L 1150 lumen 161 lumen per Watt
Cree XHP50 2546 lumen 149 lumen per Watt
Cree XHP70 4022 lumen 150 lumen per Watt
Cree MT-G2 1987 lumen 137 lumen per Watt

 

 

 

 

 

 

Power (Watts) and lumens. The type numbers ending in the number 2 are the second generation of a specific led. This table shows the number of lumens per Watt goes up. Leds are more powerful and more efficient, and with it of course, the torches as well. Compared to an incandescent bulb, these torches are incredibly powerful and the difference is growing and growing.

Most consumer torches have less than 1100 lumens. Brighter leds are less efficient and consume more energy without that much added value in normal use.

Torches

Battery technology

Alkaline batteries. The most limiting factor of a quality flashlight is the battery. For high performance lighting you need high performance batteries. There are still good flashlights that work on the famous alkaline 1.5 volt AA batteries, but these batteries do not have the power requirement to propel for 1000 lumen leds. In addition, alkaline batteries have an increased risk of leakage. When a battery is leaking inside the battery compartment there’s the chance that torch no longer is going to work. What a waste of money!

Rechargeable Li-Ion 18650 batteries. The modern common standard for flashlights are Li-ion 18650 batteries. These rechargeable batteries have a high capacity and high power making them provide enough power for the energy hungry leds. 18650 batteries are used for electric cars and sports cars. However, a car uses more than a thousand compared to the one inside a flashlight.

Rechargeable 18650 battery. A new development is that 18650 batteries can be charged with a micro-usb cable inside the torch themselves. The newer models can take any kind of 18650, compared to the older ones which can only work on a model-specific battery. This removes the threshold from only using it at home, since you can always carry a spare battery. Nowadays, the torches are also suitable for real heavy duty. A brand like Fenix performs a leadership role in such developments.

For more information, see: choosing a torch start with the choice for a battery!

For high performance lighting you need high performance batteries.

Electronics

A good flashlight has various electronic regulation systems for operational safety and constant performance. This is not always explicitly stated.

Regulated vs. unregulated. An unregulated flashlight will give lots of light at the beginning and is continuously less bright. When we make this visible in an image you'll see a straight diagonal line. A regulated flashlight is only very short-lived bright: if the battery is fully charged. The regulated flashlight will switch back to a less high light output and the unregulated persevere longer than this light output flashlight. Which gives you a practical amount of light longer. This also reduces the risk that you in the dark without light. The switch back to a lower setting is a clear signal that the battery charge decreases. When the output gradually decreases, it will be dark before you know it.

Materials

Aluminium. Many flashlights are made of aluminum. This is an excellent choice for flashlights because of the heat conductivity, sturdiness and low weight. Aluminium enclosures often have a type III hard anodizing. This anodizing is durable and scratch-resistant. The same coating is used for industrial applications and aluminum pans.

Head lamps made of plastic. For head lamps they often use lighter plastic instead of aluminum. With a head torch it is important that elastic band keeps it in place and that it is comfortable at all times. The lighter the torch, the more comfortable it stays in place.

Waterproof. Good flashlights are equipped with O-rings. The torches often have an IPX-6 or IPX-8 score. IPX-6 means the torch is splash-resistant, IPX-8 means the torch is watertight up to 2 meters deep for at least 30 minutes.

Good flashlights are equipped with O-rings. This makes them close off completely to water and dust. How much water they will keep out is measured via the IPX standard.

  • IPX-6 Splash-resistant
  • IPX-8 Watertight up to 2 m deep for 30 minutes

Conclusion

To find the a good torch you can start to focus on the brands that have a good reputation, like FenixNitecore and Led Lenser. If you want to broaden the search, pay attention that the light output in lumens according to the ANSI FL1 standard. Led torches are far superior over older technologies, so limit your search to these flashlights.

High performance flashlights need powerful batteries, like Li-ion 18650 batteries to provide them with the necessary energy. The torches are electronically regulated which means they’ll last much longer. Good flashlights are almost always made from aluminium with Type III hard anodizing. This scratch-resistant coating protects the flashlight. Furthermore, good flashlights have O-rings to make them resist moisture better. They will often have an IPX-6 or IPX-8 score. IPX-6 means that the flashlight is water resistant and IPX-8 score means that the flashlight is waterproof up to at least 2 meters deep for a minimum duration of 30 minutes.

When you search specifically for these standards, you’ll notice there are not that many of this quality. Combined with the range and/or preference for a connector type, there are only a few options that will last you for years to come. In the end a good and affordable torch earns itself back over the years!