Whats the difference between a budget and expensive flashlight?

Of course this is budget light forum but what does say Fenix or Surefire or other premium brands have on discount Chinese flashlights such as Sofirn, Convoy and so forth?

I'm just guessing, but...

Better build quality, usually much better warranty, and sometimes more expensive flashlight features.

Off the top of my head:

  • Nicer packaging
  • Local retailers
  • Proprietary cells (Olight :stuck_out_tongue: )

I think some of the premium brands might have better regulated and more efficient constant current drivers compared to budget brands, but that seems to be changing.

"Location: Holding the proverbial flashlight"

Is that a reference to Proverbs 13:9?

The light of the righteous rejoiceth: but the lamp of the wicked shall be put out.

The price?

Not intentionally, but why not :innocent:

Maybe because Surefire has got a big contract with the different forces and it spread from there? Regarding the light itself, I don’t know if a Surefire is mod friendly but I’m guessing what you get from the factory is what you get so its tried and tested?

More R&D costs
Higher production costs
Quality checks
More marketing costs
More costs in logistics, resellers, stock.
Better warranty

An expensive flashlight may possibly be very big, and have multiple SBT 90.2 emitters and have tons of power and throw at the same time.

A budget can not be very big, and have multiple SBT 90.2 emitters and have tons of power and throw at the same time.

I love my Sofirns, but in comparing an Olight in the same market segment (18650 tube light with charging provisions):

- Olight is made of heavier gauge metal, with flawless anodizing. In hand, it has a heft like a sturdy tool, that the other doesn’t measure up to in that respect.

- The black carrying clip is still all black, after several years of use, and doesn’t exhibit any signs of a chipped finish revealing silver underneath, like the other did, fresh out of the box.

- Its knurling is more refined, and doesn’t feel rough, nor can any of the machined edges be considered sharp.

- The lens is crystal clear, and there is no dust or other contaminants in the reflector chamber.

- It was covered by a five-year warranty, with local, U.S.-based support, and in bespoke clear packaging.

Comparing on sale prices, the discounted Olight was still about double the cost of a typical budget light. It was my gateway into the world of “real” flashlights (don’t count Maglites), and I have no regrets.

That said, it remains my only “expensive” light, while I have a few other budgets lights.

Ironically, of the five Sofirn-made lights that have made it into my hands, the one with the best build quality carries another’s brand name.

I bought a few expensive lights in my CPF days. They were wonderful. The main difference was that the builder was simply trying to build the best light that they could, and implement some new idea that they felt needed building because no one was already building it. They weren’t trying to build yet another light of features X to sell at price Y. Also, they were present on the forum and discussed the design and construction as the light progressed, like the modders do here now.

In that era (before 2015 or so maybe), flashlights had mostly transitioned from incandescent to led, but lights were usually had just one or two brightness levels and were mechanically switched. The main cost of a light went into very high quality materials and maching, and you felt it when you held the light in your hand. There were no mysteries. The hard work and creativity that went into the light was right there in front of you. And justly or not, you felt like you had been part of the process yourself, and that investment made the actual dollars less relevant. So it felt perfectly fine to spend amounts that were crazy if you only went by volts and lumens.

A little later, computerized lights started to appear, and lights started to get “secret sauce”, which was not automatically bad, but which created a great locus to attract bullshit. So from what I gather, expensive lights became shiny baubles like a poor person’s Swiss watches, instead of carrying a sense that you were advancing the state of the art by discussing and buying the things. Meanwhile, the problems that had been difficult for the 2010-era modders became easy to crank out on an industrial scale. I get the impression that those two factors are why CPF shrank so much.

The most interesting new flashlight development to me personally is Anduril, which is what brought me here to BLF. Finally some of that creative spirit is again coming from the users and not just the faraway manufacturers. Of course some of the manufacturers/builders are here in person and I’m glad of that too. But it doesn’t do much for me when there is only a rep posting sales threads, instead of having the person with the machine tools and soldering gear actually here to talk to us.

Anyway, Anduril is an area where I hope I can contribute something, so from my perspective these are good times.

Way better quality control to the top name brands. As a dealer I’ve had heaps of issue with Sofirn and Convoy models.

Convoy: dirty contacts, loose retaining rings, off center LED, buggy driver firmware (sometimes), dust in reflector

Sofirn: uneven shelf, dirty contacts, dusty reflector, scratches (hidden with a black substance), driver faults

I’ve had a heap of Sofirn models arrive with a faulty driver and or side switch. Customer service is incredible from my contact though, no questions asked replacement.

I also stock the Skilhunt H04 RC headlamp and out of 50pcs I’ve only had one faulty.

Price matters little, you got Emisar selling linear junk at high prices while still having poorly manufactured hosts. Convoy sells well machined quality linear stuff at rock bottom pricing.

But Buck and buck/boost efficiency lights are 100% guaranteed to be $80+. I guess that’s capitalism for you, predatory as ever, you pay for the name or the features even if the production costs are not a lot different, maybe 10 bucks difference in parts…

Some have better drivers with more expensive components (Zebralight). Only way to know is to measure how much energy from the cells is used for generating light.

I haven’t compared Convoy etc. but compared to what I’m used to from CPF or even e.g. Fenix, Emisar lights are relatively cheap. Their most important features to me are presence of the builder (Hank) here on BLF, and hackable code (the USB pogo pin gizmo). I just ordered one and I hope there’s no issues with the machining, but I understand it’s a fairly low quantity item without the scale economies of the bigger brands. If the price point can’t cover good QC then I’d rather just pay more. I’m past the point of wanting hundreds of lights. A new fancy light is a once in a few years thing for me so I don’t mind saving up for it a little.

Fireflies’ QC is pretty bad too unless they’ve stepped it up since being a dealer last year. First package from them contained 14 problematic lights out of 24pcs. I’m still owed 3pcs replacements, but decided to drop the brand and refund customers who run into issues.

Fireflies have some excellent lights though :slight_smile:

What I like about budget lights us the Anduril or Narsil UI. Also the fact you often have a better choice of warmer emitters. I like my Olights, great high quality products but most of the lights are 6K-6.5K and I am just sick of cold tints. I have an Imalent SBT90.2 hunting light with a proprietary battery pack which is basically 2x21700 but can’t be replaced with regular 2x21700. To be honest many of my favourite lights have been designed/influenced by clever BLF members.

I have seen on this BLF pre-owned expensive flashlights can be sold quite easily when offered a 40-50% price cut.

But pre-owned budget flashlights have seldom been offered for sale. Sometimes they are just offered as “gifts” to those buying the expensiuve flashlights.

Coming from a flower shop, I’d say $10 must make $20 in the final calculation plus a significant mark up on price due to the shrunken audience. And there’s the difference between a Sofirn and a Zebra.

Wow. Can’t really comment on the ‘poorly manufactured hosts’ except my Emisar and my Noctigon do not appear to be of poor quality. Until now, I even thought they were good value for price.

FF buck driver is not over $10 in parts, if Zebralight is buck/boost it might be a little more but pricing is still doubtful.
the usb charging ic in FF lights is under $1, doubt machining that hole costs over $1.50

If we assume an extra hour to assemble buck ver (unlikely it’s that much unless machining is bad) you basically paying China $25-30 per hour.