Searching for a high-CRI flood

I am in search of a new underground photography light and was hoping to get some advice from this forum.

For the past few years I have been using a fenix FD65, but the treads that hold the tailcap on are about stripped to nothing and I need a replacement. Over the last few months I’ve been shopping around and still can’t find a light that has an even flood, high CRI, ability to use 18650 batteries, and have a sustained 1000+ lumen brightness. I recently got a sofirn SP36 BLF thinking it wouldn’t be as focused as it is. It is a great light but the bright spot just won’t go away even with 5 layers of diffuser tape.

The Fireflies NOV-MU looks pretty great, but it has been sold out for quite a while and doesn’t seem to be coming back anytime soon based on the lack of updates.

Does anyone have any recommendations on what could be this “ideal light”? Thank you

You could check with Hank for a KR4 E21A mule - If it isn’t listed, you would need to email him. Jackson has some KR4 mules at his eBay store in HI - JLHawaii808 | eBay Stores
For more money, the Wuben TO50R is a fabulous high CRI light with a very even but powerful flood - “REVIEW”: Wuben TO50R = 21700 battery / 2800 lumens / 4 x LH351D / High CRI / Powerbank function [Pic Heavy] A very efficient driver too: 1300lm for 70 minutes per Wuben TO50R HC Flashlight Review - ZeroAir Reviews

If you want a floody high-CRI beam with no hotspot, then you are better off looking at a photography light such as LED Panel Light (Weeylite RB9 is around 1,000lm sustained) or a Lume Cube (650 lumens sustained). Or you can add a diffuser to a flashlight.
If you are OK with a hotspot, then there are plenty of excellent high-CRI lights, or which the Acebeam E70 CRI is a good compromise between size and sustained output. The X50 CRI is a E70 on steroids!

This is a link to my buying guide for light painting/night photographers. It is fairly up to date, with the 2022 guide coming out in a few weeks:

Also, if you are on instagram, I always list the lights that I used for my long exposure photos:

Biggest question: are you photographing someone in a certain environment? Or the environment itself.

If you’re photographing a person in the environment, you should get lights with highest CRI, absolutely no throw / hotspot, and its emitting surface should be as large as possible. There’s a reason why “portable photo lights” are made as panels - to maximize the emitting surface area.
When you use them, you should put them as close to your subject as possible. The farther your small light is to your subject, the more it acts like a spot light source, which means harsh shadows.

However, if you’re photographing the environment itself, you will need a little bit of throw. Otherwise there will be a major difference in the exposure of the foreground and background. Which is why I never recommend optic-less mule lights for urban exploration or similar stuff. Also, the only emitters I’d recommend for photo use are Nichia 219b, 519a and e21a. Other emitters are either insufficient in CRI, or has terrible tint at sustained brightness, or are too uncommon you can’t find any lights with them.

Emisar D18 w/ 219B 4500k is a promising option, given you get the optional frosted floody optics, and further smooth out the beam with D-C-Fix or stuff. However one massive complaint / drawback of that light is the lack of standard 1/4” mounting point. D18 is probably the only quality soda can light that I know of that lacks this feature, which is frustrating.

If you only need 1000-1500 lumens, I’d recommend Emisar DT8 219B 4500k, w/ frosted floody optics and D-C-Fix, thermals tweaked to step down at 65C, and use at step 6/7 for max sustained brightness. It also does not have a 1/4” hole, but DT8 is small enough that you can get rubber 1/4” flashlight mounting “claws” for pennies.

Thank you everyone for the suggestions.

That Wuben light looks pretty great, although I kind of wonder about the bright spot on it over a distance.

Are there any of those light panels that run on 18650s? I’ve accumulated a lot of them and would love to not have to replace them. Avoiding any sort of spot is mainly what I’m going for.

I’m mainly going after specific objects in the environment. I find individual items underground like pieces of equipment that I can’t get far enough from to use anything with a bright spot. I looked at the D18 but it appears that the sustained brightness on it isn’t too great for such a large light. I may be completely wrong on this though.

Goggle “aspheric lens” in the diameter of the ’36. Slap it right on the front of the light and see if you can live with the beam from that. It should be a wide blanket of even light in a circle, albeit with a sharp cutoff.

Ie, turn it into a zoomie but stuck in wide-flood mode.

From what I know, quality light panels tend to use those universal camera batteries like NP-F970. Which is essentially 6 × 18650s in a shell with a chip. But still.

Sustained brightness of soda cans can vary greatly.

1, If you use super high CRI like 219B you will not get very high peak or sustained brightness. Better color rendition always means worse efficiency. You’d normally get ~50% of something CRI70.

2, From my personal experience, if all you want is high and stable sustained brightness, dial the temp config to 65C, then start at ramp 5/7 (or 6/7, if your single session is less than 5 or 10 mins, depending on the specific light you use).
Yes it will be difficult to hold with barehand after 1 – 2 mins, but it hands down beats a 50C light starting from 7/7 or Turbo in terms of sustained brightness.

It’s an 18-emitter soda can after all. It should perform much better than any single 18650 or 21700 small light in terms of everything.

I'd get rid of the reflector or tirs and run a mule with good diffuser film on it .

you'll end up with zero throw and all flood

I know a guy :P

Kaidomain sell U shaped tripod mounts that allow most 1x18650 or 1x21700 lights to be mounted to a tripod.

Yes. I got a couple of them. Works like a charm.

Too small for D18 though.

That’s why the D18 doesn’t get a mention in my buying guide for photographers. Same goes for the Convoy 4x18, 3x21 range. Tripod mount should be essential in soda can lights.

LMGTFY: light panels that run on 18650s? - Google Search

Most portable panel lights have internal (?lipo) batteries and USB charging. No need for 18650s.

Thanks! That looks like a great fix. I wonder if an old fisheye lens for a camera would work. I bet that wouldn’t be hard to find used.

The ability to replace batteries easily on-site is kind of important for this. I’m usually away from a good power source for a few days at a time.

Ok, panel lights with battery packs (usually Sony type ones) would be required. Or use a powerbank to charge portable panels with internal batteries.

For photography, you need a mule. Even super floody lights using optics or reflectors will have uneven lighting. Unfortunately the only really powerful and highly efficient high CRI flashlight is the FF NOV-MU, which is sold out. From what I understand, the super efficient LUME driver used in the FF flashlights need a component from Texas Instrument. But they are having trouble getting it from TI either due to chip shortage or the trade-war.

I also have the D4 and KR4 E21A mule but they just don’t work as well as the NOV-MU due to the placement of the emitters being so close to the bezel.

You might also contact Clemence at Eurekatronix to see if he can custom make you a photography mule using E21A or Optisolis.

I agree with you . A mule and diffusion would be the way to go .

Lightbringers idea of an Aspheric and a diffuser would work too although I'm not sure what losses on an aspheric in pure flood mode is .

I have a Cometa with a round disc of diffuser film held onto the front of the light by the protective cover of a roll of Teflon tape. it fits it like it was made for it and I'm sure I'm in a small majority of flashaholics who would add Diffusion to a flood to throw flashlight ...but it works flawlessly and is easy as pie .

Depends on the type of photography. I manage quite well without a mule for night photography, though often use S2+ and diffusers! Personally, I think LED Panel lights are much better options than mule flashlights as decent ones (such as the Weeylite RB9) can sustain 1000 lumens @5000k, have variable CCT, RGB colour mixing, and saturation adjustment.

I use the FF NOV-MU for taking indoor pictures on my job sites all the time. This flashlight can sustain at least 1.5k lumens with the 95+ CRI E21A and best thing of all is how compact and easy to hold compared to a LED panel so I guess it depends on how you use it and if portability is important

I’ve tried using DC-Fix diffusers but it is still no comparison with a mule in terms of floodiness and evenness. Though the very thick lamp type diffusers that Fireflies and Lumintop sell for some of their lights does well for even dispersion but it will also direct some light backwards towards the camera.

Btw, I just remembered Vinh and Skylumen has a special 12x 3535 board for his custom mule flashlights. You can mix and match emitters and CCT with this board but his custom flashlights are not cheap.