~Things you need to know when you are new to flashlights~

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trooplewis
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~Things you need to know when you are new to flashlights~

Getting lots of new folks here lately, thought this might be useful.

Feel free to add-on to this thread, remembering what you needed to learn as a noobie.

1) All P60-style light hosts (bodys) have the same beam. Really. You can take the drop-in (lightbulb) out of a $10 P60 light, and drop it in a $100 P60 light and guess what? Same beam. The body is just a host and a switch, so pay what you want, its the drop-in that is important.

2) When you see the words "Strobe" or "blinky-modes"  or "S.O.S". it is usually not a positive thing to flashaholics.  A few people like them, but they are of very limited real-life use and are primarily a marketing ploy to non-flashaholics. They are annoying because a 5-mode light makes you push the clicky 3 times just to go from Low to High, which should just take one click.

3) A FORWARD clicky will give you light with a "soft press" before the light actually clicks on, and the beam stays on as long as you keep soft pressure on the switch.  You select the mode you want with soft presses, then 'click' on to stay in that mode. A REVERSE clicky makes you 'click' the light on first, then soft-presses cycle through the modes. Once you soft-press to the mode you like, taking your finger off the switch keeps the light on in that mode.

4) Before you try to figure out what flashlight to buy, you really need to know what kind of batteries you prefer. Knowing that will make buying a flashlight a much more enjoyable endeavor, so it is best to research batteries before you research flashlight bodies.

5) Once you figure out what kind of batteries you like, you need to figure out WHY and WHERE you will be shining your flashlight. Do you just need to light up a room? Your front yard? Your neighbor's front yard? The whole block? This determines how bright and how much "throw" you need.

6) And when you figure out what you want to light up, you need to figure out how long, how often and just how you plan to carry the light. Slip it into your pocket? Carry a holster? Use a strap to carry it over your shoulder? This will determine how BIG the light you need to buy should be.

7) Paying more money for an expensive flashlight does not generally mean you will get more light out of it. But more expensive lights may have warranties that lower-end budget lights do not have, and may be more reliable. That being said, people who buy expensive Surefires and Pelicans seem to complain more (on other web sites) about how many problems they have with their expensive torches. So spending more money is no guarantee that your light will be reliable or trouble-free.

8 ) There is no such thing as that one, perfect flashlight. If there was, I would gladly pay $500 for it and stop buying flashlights, but it does not exist.

9) SMO means smooth, OP means orange-peel, VLOP means Very Light Orange-Peel, they are types of reflectors, and affect whether your beam has a definitive, tight hotspot or more of a 'blend' from the hotspot to the corona to the spill.

10) As a corollary to #7 above, don't think for a second that just because you are in a Budget Light Forum, you are not going to spend a lot of money on flashlights. If you are reading this, you will drain a lot of money out of your bank account on xxx_fire lights that you never heard of before you came here. Sorry.

Rats, finally sold my 2010 509hp Mustang...now I can buy more lights!

Sold the red one too! Now guess what I drive, doing my penance for 500 hp commuters...

http://dreammustang.com/

http://i884.photobucket.com/albums/ac47/Ha

Edited by: trooplewis on 02/02/2012 - 00:50
Misfire
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Great post!  This will serve as a great resource and a general intro. for people that are new to the hobby and this forum. 

Sally
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I am learning about led flashlight,but there are so long time,I don't have any progress.I need to study hard and thanks for sharing.

tatamall:http://www . tatamall . com/

trooplewis
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11) If your flashlight gets hot, that's good. It means that your torch is putting out a LOT of light, and that the heat that said light creates is being dissipated through the body of the light. However, if only the lense is getting very hot, you may be destined for trouble. Look into better heat sinking, or at some point you will fry something in the pill.

 

12) The Pill means the internals of the light that include the emitter, the driver (electronics) and the stuff that keeps them together.

13) XR-E's, XP-G's, and XM-L's. Three generations of Cree emitters. XR-E's usually require less power, and inherently have tighter hotspots but dimmer spill. XM-L's emit more light than the others, can be driven harder than the others, but in P-60 use tend to be more floody than throwy. XP-G's are a nice compromise between the two, at least when it comes to throw vs. flood. But this is a very simplistic and general comparison. In specific hosts, there are distinct advantages to any/all of the three emitter types, and there are variations within the three groups that determine tint as well.

Rats, finally sold my 2010 509hp Mustang...now I can buy more lights!

Sold the red one too! Now guess what I drive, doing my penance for 500 hp commuters...

http://dreammustang.com/

http://i884.photobucket.com/albums/ac47/Ha

Langcjl
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#4 great advice.

Piers said " ....but who wants enough light, when you have the option for far too much "

edc
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If you pull it apart and put it in an oven it will change color.

 

http://i1193.photobucket.com/albums

Price
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Not entirely correct, beam pattern depends on the reflector design as well as the type of emitter used.

trooplewis wrote:

1) All P60-style light hosts (bodys) have the same beam. Really. You can take the drop-in (lightbulb) out of a $10 P60 light, and drop it in a $100 P60 light and guess what? Same beam. The body is just a host and a switch, so pay what you want, its the drop-in that is important.

Prisoner 6-2-7

esrevenge
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Great post Troop.

Budgeteer
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Well the spill shape is also different depending on bezel used.

kragmutt wrote:

They're gonna send you a green redcat with a black LED.

harry25175
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addtion to point #7 - there's a price, there's quality

Don
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Additional comment.

 

11) People do weird stuff to their lights. Where else will you find instructions on cooking your light?

 

The numbers from my light tests are always to be found here.

https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0ApkFM37n_QnRdDU5MDNzOURjYllmZHI...

Lothar
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Great post! This needs to be sticky'd!

 

Trooplewis, can you and other people who have knowledge of why 18650's and other batteries are dangerous posts the do's and don'ts.

Current Collection:

BLF: BLF-GT90, BLF-GT70 (CW Sliced), BLF GTmini, BLF-LT1; 

BTU: Shocker (3 x SST-40 @ 8A)

Solarforce: L2P (XM-L2 U3 @ 4A), MPP-1 (XP-L HI @ 6A), MPP-3 (3 x XM-L2 U2 @ 12A), M6 (Nichia 319A @ 6A), M8 (XHP-50.2 @ 9A), 9x (9 x XM-L2 U2 @ 2A)

Coming Soon: Lumintop: BLF-GT4; 

marcl
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Lothar you beat me to it!

 

It should be a sticky. Simple stuff, but very useful!

Nice one Troop!

 

Marc.

Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines!

old4570
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Well , not all hosts are equal ...(p60) 

Past a certain point - quality does not really improve that much , in fact you can pay more , and get less [ yes you can ] 

For a long time Surefire owners tried desperately to put down the P60 clones [ Solarforce comes to mind ] , but these days they have pretty much given up , some have even gone out and purchased the Solarforce host after resigning to the fact its a hell of a clone for the money ..  

Are all P60 clones equal = No , just depends on what is important to you ..

The largest source of issue could be the clicky , this is the Achilles heel of cheap lights [ clicky switch ] , so chose wisely ..

2011 saw a marked increase in the overall quality of budget lights , but the Ca-vet Emptor still applies [ buyer beware ] 

 

 

Lights 

Single cell lights = Thumbs up , not much to watch for here , except shorts ... [ Buy a Multimeter ] 

Multi cell lights = Match the cells - For capacity - Discharge capability - and test often for matched discharge [ batt voltage should match ]

 Batteries , 

Discharge capability is often linked to temperature ... Warmer = Higher discharge 

What to watch out for = Overcharging [ dont get excited till you go over 4.25v ]

Over discharge = try to hit the charger before going bellow 3.5v [ performance really drops off at 3.5v so why go there ? ] I aim to charge around 3.8v to 3.9v

If you discharge to 2.5v , get it in the charger as quickly as possible , maintaining very low voltage for a long time damages the battery

 

Charging :

Watch battery behaviour , and learn ... [ variable depending on individual charger ]

What to watch = Termination voltage , voltage sag after charging ..

If you have a hobby charger , discharge the cell to test capacity ...

Even cells that can hold 4.2v after charging can degrade and lose a lot of capacity ..  

 Always remember , the easiest thing in the world to do , is to expel hot air from your lungs and through some vocal chords ..
The resulting sound may , or may not be worth listening too ….

 

agedbriar
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Price wrote:

Not entirely correct, beam pattern depends on the reflector design as well as the type of emitter used.

trooplewis wrote:

1) All P60-style light hosts (bodys) have the same beam. Really. You can take the drop-in (lightbulb) out of a $10 P60 light, and drop it in a $100 P60 light and guess what? Same beam. The body is just a host and a switch, so pay what you want, its the drop-in that is important.

trooplewis is talking about the same P60 drop-in, used in different hosts.

Lothar
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old4570 wrote:

Over discharge = try to hit the charger before going bellow 3.5v [ performance really drops off at 3.5v so why go there ? ] I aim to charge around 3.8v to 3.9v

If you discharge to 2.5v , get it in the charger as quickly as possible , maintaining very low voltage for a long time damages the battery

old4570, is there a link to explaining the above. I'd love to know more and know why it damages the battery.

Is the "don't use below 3.5V" only for high mode, or medium and low modes as well. Why?

So 18650's are only useable from 4.2V to 3.5V

Current Collection:

BLF: BLF-GT90, BLF-GT70 (CW Sliced), BLF GTmini, BLF-LT1; 

BTU: Shocker (3 x SST-40 @ 8A)

Solarforce: L2P (XM-L2 U3 @ 4A), MPP-1 (XP-L HI @ 6A), MPP-3 (3 x XM-L2 U2 @ 12A), M6 (Nichia 319A @ 6A), M8 (XHP-50.2 @ 9A), 9x (9 x XM-L2 U2 @ 2A)

Coming Soon: Lumintop: BLF-GT4; 

VFMaddict
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agedbriar wrote:

Price wrote:

Not entirely correct, beam pattern depends on the reflector design as well as the type of emitter used.

trooplewis wrote:

1) All P60-style light hosts (bodys) have the same beam. Really. You can take the drop-in (lightbulb) out of a $10 P60 light, and drop it in a $100 P60 light and guess what? Same beam. The body is just a host and a switch, so pay what you want, its the drop-in that is important.

trooplewis is talking about the same P60 drop-in, used in different hosts.

Basically it is the drop-in (i.e. the combined emitter/driver/reflector module) that defines what the beam will be like.  Meaning that if you put the same P60 drop-in into any host then you'll get the same beam.

"You are making progress if each mistake you make is a new one."

Remember - Most great discoveries start with maki

wiljen
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Learn about lithium ion batteries and understand that not all batteries are created equal.   Know that with the exception of a few higher end brands, almost all 18650s over-rate their capacity just as most budget lights over-rate their lumen output.

http://batteryuniversity.com

Learn what the protection circuits do and why you want one on your batteries.

Know that overall output does not equal throw and that just because one light has a higher lumen rating does not mean it will out throw another with a lower rating.

Etendue the concept of throw

Not all emitters even within the same bin are going to be exactly alike.   A quick tutorial on Bins can be found here.  

Also keep in mind that different bins will have different color temperatures or tints and that the same lumen will appear different to the human eye depending on that tint.   Colors referred to as warm can be thought of as being mixed with yellow (2700k incandescent is an example) while tints referred to as cool can be thought of as mixed with blue (5500k cfl).   Knowing which tint you prefer will help you select the proper emitter bin and make you happier with your purchase.

 

  i.e.  At least to my eye a cold tint (T6 cool white) appears brighter than a t5 warm white when put in the same body with the same drive and same cell.

trooplewis
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Every drop-in I've purchased included the reflector. Doesn't matter which p60 host you put the dang thing in, you get exactly the same beam. Every time. AN expensive host is a joy to hold and behold, but my $85 Pelican host throws the exact same beam as my $8 Ultrafire host when I swap the drop-ins between the two. LOL, someone mentioned the bezel of the host may change the beam. That is true, it will 'scallop' the edges if it has a crenalated bezel, but the beam is actually the same, your host just cut part of it off.

14) Be aware that claims of 1000-1400 lumens from single cell 18650 flashlights are bogus!  Ebay and many Chinese web sites claim these numbers, but they are almost always off by a factor of 40-50%. The very best lights, like a TK41, can manage 800+ lumens with EIGHT AA batteries, and that thing is a hundred bucks. You are not going to get 1000 lumens out of your $25 Ebay light, but that does not mean it won't be the brightest light you ever bought. Prepared to be amazed, but not 1000 lumens worth of amazed. Remember, in comparison, your Dad's 2 x "D" cell Maglite put out about 29 lumens.

15) Many inexpensive torches have PWM. PWM stand for Pulse-width modulation, it is basically a cheap way to obtain Medium and Low modes. It isn't necessarily a bad thing, unless the PWM is very slow, in which case your eyes may detect it as "flicker" or a fast strobe. Members here detect PWM by holding a flashlight in a dark bathroom, and then waving their arms around with it in the shower. Get used to the idea, flashaholics are strange people.

Rats, finally sold my 2010 509hp Mustang...now I can buy more lights!

Sold the red one too! Now guess what I drive, doing my penance for 500 hp commuters...

http://dreammustang.com/

http://i884.photobucket.com/albums/ac47/Ha

soytnly
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Be aware that every light you order will be about half as big as it looks online. 

Dave

Stittville Ed
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Great source of information for everyone just starting out and some who have been around for awhile.

Thanks

gearjunkie
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soytnly wrote:

Be aware that every light you order will be about half as big as it looks online. 

This is exactly the experience I had when I got my first SF P60 host.  I looked huge in the picture and got me thinking for a while before ordering because I was worried about the 'large' size. Surprised

Aleister
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Great thread, it deserves to be stickied for all new flashaholics to read.

Let a flooder be my wife and a thrower be my mistress

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Great post.  I wish I would have had this when I was getting started.  I still have lots to learn.  Here is another thing that a new guy needs to know.

Double the lumens doesn't mean that your light will look twice as bright.  Generally speaking, everything else being equal, you will need 4 times the lumens to notice twice the brightness.  For instance, to notice twice the brightness of a 100 lumen light you will need somewhere around 400 lumens.

Another thing I have found.  Just because your light has the newest emitter like the XM-L, doesn't mean it is a better light.  I have found that many lights work better with XP-G or other older emitters.  Most often I have found that the smaller the reflector, the better the older emitters seem to work.  For instance.  Shiningbeam makes a S-mini light that you can buy with either an XP-G or you can buy it with the newer and more expensive XM-L.  The XP-G is listed at 360 lumens and the XM-L is listed at 400 lumens.  I own both and in real life I much prefer the less expensive and older XP-G version.  It doesn't have quite as much spill but it seems brighter and has a more useful beam IMHO.  Bryan at Shiningbeam feels the same but he makes the XM-L because people want the latest and newest technology available.   

Fenix TK41, Olight M20s, Olight M3X, Shiningbeam Blaze, Shiningbeam S-mini (x2), Xeno E03, Klarus P2A, 3xD cell Mag Light, Jetbeam BA20 (x2), Jetbeam BC40, Quark AA2 Tactical, Zebralight H51, Romisen RC-29 II, iTP C7, iTP H01(x3), iTP A3 E0S(x5), Monst

bibihang
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Great guides trooplewis, this thread will definitely shows a path for the new flashaholics! I become a flashaholics for almost a year until now. When I started collecting and looking for flashlights I learn everything one by one in CPF and of course here in BLF. I used to have so many questions in my head and then I slowly understand them by looking at these threads. So, this is the way I gain my knowledge.

To the new flashaholics: BLF is such a resourceful place to learn about flashlights!Laughing

 

 

trooplewis wrote:

 

15) Many inexpensive torches have PWM. PWM stand for Pulse-width modulation, it is basically a cheap way to obtain Medium and Low modes. It isn't necessarily a bad thing, unless the PWM is very slow, in which case your eyes may detect it as "flicker" or a fast strobe. Members here detect PWM by holding a flashlight in a dark bathroom, and then waving their arms around with it in the shower. Get used to the idea, flashaholics are strange people.

LOL +1 on that. My girlfriend still cannot accept the fact that I always purposely went out at night and keep shinning my flashlights on some distance buildings... Tongue Out

Stittville Ed
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LOL +1 on that. My girlfriend still cannot accept the fact that I always purposely went out at night and keep shinning my flashlights on some distance buildings... Tongue Out

That is the coolest part of having a good flashlight

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Great Post, Troop!

8 ) There is no such thing as that one, perfect flashlight. If there was, I would gladly pay $500 for it and stop buying flashlights, but it does not exist.

I don't believe that for a minute! Laughing

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To paraphrase the Notorious B.I.G., number 10 should have been number one to me.

Budget lights are cheap in terms of bang for the buck (ie. value), but in the long run you'll probably be spending at least as much on cheap lights and accessories as if you were buying reasonably priced brand name lights (not überrarium custom lights). The difference is you'll probably have more fun.

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I offered selling custom made lights with neutral and warmer tints as a flashaholic usually prefers. None sold. Everybody asked for the cool blue- white beam instead. Neutral is usually a rarety in flashlights. It is always a plus if a flashlight has an option for tint.
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Throw works similarly to perceived increase in overall output even thought the two aren't related.

As mentioned to perceived twice the output it actually needs to be four times brighter. With throw the lux (brightest part of the hotspot) needs to be four times greater for twice the throw.

You increase throw by increasing the surface brightness of the emitter and by increasing the diameter of the optic/reflector.

XR-E is generally the emitter you want for throw if you are looking for absolute throw. If you are really looking for decent throw with a larger beam then you may go to XM-L with a larger optic/reflector.

Finally useful spacing in brightness modes seems (to me) to be X 3 as in 10 lumens...30 lumens..90 lumens...etc.. Lumens being a measurement of the overall output of the light.

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BetweenRides wrote:

Great Post, Troop!

8 ) There is no such thing as that one, perfect flashlight. If there was, I would gladly pay $500 for it and stop buying flashlights, but it does not exist.

I don't believe that for a minute! Laughing

ROFL :bigsmile: Perfect flashlight with XM-L, perfect light with XPG, perfect P60 light with SMO... :bigsmile:

Nice post, mate Wink

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