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Flashlight Buying Guide 2020

Flashlight Buying Guide 2020

Last Updated – 1st November 2020

This is the Q4 2020 update to the Flashlight Buying Guide for Light Painting Photographers. Ratings are based on useful flashlight/torch features for light painting including:
– Evenly spaced brightness levels
– User Interface – accessible switches, momentary switches, and mode memory
– Constant frequency strobe – even better if the frequency and brightness can be adjusted
– Build quality / reliability / warranty
– Internal charging
– Price
– Other features useful to light painters

Each light’s description includes the maximum initial brightness in lumens, battery type, and an asterix (*) if the light has internal charging capabilities (or is supplied with a charger). Lumens for multi-colour/colour fading lights have not been quoted as lumen ratings are not directly comparable to white light lumens. It should be noted that most flashlights step-down from their maximum brightness after a few minutes, or in some cases a few seconds! Many lights are advertised with exaggerated lumens – all figures quoted in this article should be accurate.

Strobe Monsters

The Lumintop FW1A, Light Painting Paradise Lightpainter, and Light Excursion Deluxe 1200 all have adjustable strobe speed/frequency

Colour Changing Torches

If you want colour, consider the multi-colour LED Lenser P7QC, KDLITKER E6, or colour-changing/fading Concentrate C5, Ignis Color LED Torch, and Light Excursion Deluxe RGB

Best Flashlights for Light Painting Brushes and Light Painting Paradise Systems

The Light Painting Brushes Universal Connector (25-38mm head diameter), and Light Painting Paradise Adapters (20-38.5mm head diameter) accept a similar selection of flashlights. The Lace Backlight Scanner can also be made to fit lights with similar dimensions. Whilst there are hundreds of lights that will fit these systems (including lights that only cost a few $ from hardware stores), these lights make it easier to create impressive light paintings.

White light
– Light Painting Paradise Lightpainter – Ryu’s Lightworks (1,200lm, 18650*) – designed by Ryu’s Lightworks specifically for light painters. Adjustable strobe frequency up to 66Hz, adjustable strobe brightness, mode memory, momentary switch, and trigger mode. Amazing flashlight and easy to use!
– Light Excursion Deluxe 1200/ Topgun 1200M (1,200lm, 18650*) – Light Excursion makes popular handmade lights with 10 strobe/effect modes controlled by RF remote. On-board dimmer and momentary switch. Excellent heat handling. Internal charging optional. The Topgun M also has an auxiliary jack.
– Nitecore P10GT (900lm, 18650) / Nitecore P10v2 (1,100lm, 18650) – easy to switch between turbo and 10Hz strobe modes on the fly, and can use the momentary switch on all brightness settings. Can be used with a remote pressure switch. Noticeable PWM.
– Nitecore MT22C (1,000lm, 18650) – momentary switch with adjustable brightness wheel (which needs care when inserting into the connector/adaptor), plus 19Hz strobe. Can be used with remote pressure switch.
– Lumintop FW1A (1,200lm, 18650) – cheapest tail switch light with adjustable strobe frequency (up to 112Hz), but fixed strobe brightness at 750lm, “love it or hate it” Anduril user interface, and reports of QC issues. Lots of emitter options (I would pick XP-L HI 6500k). Similar to other FW series lights including the FW21, FW3A, and FW1A Pro which can all briefly output more lumens.
– Olight Warrior Mini (1,500lm, 18650*) –  momentary for turbo and strobe, or turbo and medium modes. Can run for 90secs on max output. Optional remote pressure switch. Good for light painting in high ambient brightness. Only uses Olight proprietary 18650s.
Other lights with mode memory and momentary switch, but no direct access to strobe modes include the Wowtac A1S (1,150lm, 18650*), Thrunite TC12v4 (1,100lm, 18650), Nitecore P26 (1,000lm, 18650), Soonfire DS31 (1,050lm, 18650*). With alternating frequency strobes also consider the Sofirn SP31v2 (1,200lm, 18650), Fenix PD35TAC (1000lm, 18650) and PD36R (1,800lm, 21700). The Nextorch TA30 V2.0 (1,300lm, 18650), Nextorch TA15 (600lm, 14500), Olight M2R Pro (1,800lm, 21700*), and Olight M2R (1,500lm, 18650*) have tail switch access to turbo and strobe. The Folomov 18650S (900lm, 18650*) and Convoy S2+ Clear (1,000lm, 18650) are good budget options.

Yet to be tested are the throwy Noctigon KR1 (1,300lm, 18650) and floody Noctigon KR4 (4,200lm, 18650).

Multi-colour
– KDLITKER E6 w/Triple Cree XP-E2 (18650) – cheap P60 based light where you can choose 3 emitter options from Red, Blue, Royal Blue, Green, Amber, Warm White, Neutral White, or Cool White. 3 second mode memory timer can be annoying. 50% brighter than, and 1/4 the price of the RGBW Ledlenser P7QC!
– Light Excursion Sport RGB (18650) – 7 colours (4 mixed) Red, Green, Blue, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, White, plus 10 strobe modes controlled by RF remote. Pretty beam pattern with LE lens option.

Colour-changing/fading
– Antsonamelon RGB Critter (18650*) – Colour changing light with large selection of colours, fades, strobes, and brightness levels controlled by 3 on-board buttons. Can save custom settings. Native tool attachments available, firmware updates, and reasonable price. Expected delivery in Q1 2021.
– Light Excursion Deluxe RGB (18650)- Colour changing light with excellent controls, with colour fade, pulse, and flash modes controlled by RF remote. Momentary switch, and recently updated with 3 rotary dimmers for RGB channels. Light Excursion also makes lots of other impressive RGB lights including the Godzilla, Double Dragon, and Light Spray.

Other colour changing light options include the Ignis Shop Color LED Torch (internal*), Threeworlds Concentrate C5 (AAA, needs padding in connectors), and light units from the Fiberflies Pixelwhip Rev 4 (18650*) and GloFX Space Whip Remix (18650*) light sources.

The Light Painting Paradise Light Painter has adjustable strobe frequency and brightness

The Light Painting Paradise LightPainter flashlight has adjustable strobe frequency and strobe brightness

 

Colour fading

Colour fading light trails with a Light Excursion Deluxe RGB

Best Flashlights for Liteblades KYO

This connector screws into the head of some Klarus lights, which allows for a solid connection for impressive fast snappy movements, and easy access to side switches. They all have an alternating frequency strobe unless the strobe switch is held down. It is however possible to move between turbo and strobe modes on the fly, and all lights can be controlled by a remote pressure switch. Recommended options include the:
– Klarus XT11GT (2,000lm, 18650*) – brightest option, has PWM on low and mid modes.
– Klarus XT11S (1,100lm, 18650*) – PWM free.
– Klarus XT12S – (1,600lm, 18650*) – throwier beam than the XT11 range.

The Klarus RS11 was popular with light painters due to the accessible side switches, but is now discontinued. It is also possible to connect the KYO to the Light Painting Brushes Universal Connector, opening up most of the previously mentioned lights in this article, as well as the Light Excursion lights with LE connector. However the connection is not as solid.

Best Flashlights for Light Painting Tubes

These have no connector as the light sits inside the tube, attached by a side clip. Recommended lights include the:
– Nitecore MT22C (1,000lm, 18650) – momentary switch with adjustable brightness wheel, plus fixed brightness 19Hz strobe. Can be used with remote pressure switch.
– Nitecore P10GT (900lm, 18650) / Nitecore P10v2 (1,100lm, 18650) – easy to switch between turbo and 10Hz strobe modes on the fly, and can use the momentary switch on all brightness settings. Can be used with remote pressure switch. Noticeable PWM.
– Light Painting Paradise Lightpainter – Ryu’s Lightworks (1,200lm, 18650*) – designed by Ryu’s Lightworks specifically for light painters. Adjustable strobe frequency up to 66Hz, adjustable strobe brightness, mode memory, momentary switch, and trigger mode. Amazing flashlight and easy to use!
– Olight Warrior Mini (1,500lm, 18650*) –  momentary for turbo and strobe, or turbo and medium modes. Can run for 90secs on max output. Optional remote pressure switch. Good for light painting in high ambient brightness. Only uses Olight proprietary 18650s.
– Lumintop FW21 (2,800lm, 21700) / FW1A (1,200lm, 18650) – cheapest tail switch light with adjustable strobe frequency (up to 112Hz), but fixed strobe brightness at 750lm, “love it or hate it” Anduril user interface, and reports of QC issues. Similar to other FW series lights including the FW3A, and FW1A Pro. Max brightness drops very quickly.
– Olight M2R Pro (1,800lm, 21700*) or Olight M2R (1,500lm, 18650*) – expensive, but well built lights with two stage tail switches for strobe (13Hz/9Hz) and turbo.
– Folomov 18650S (900lm, 18650*) – quirky budget light that includes a USB rechargeable battery, and can move between 7Hz strobe and continuous on the fly.

Also consider the Wowtac A1S (1,150lm, 18650*), and Thrunite TC12v4 (1,100lm, 18650).

Best Flashlight for Liquid Light

The Ledlenser D14.2 (400lm, 4xAA) is a diving light that is compatible with Denis Smith’s Liquid Light Painting tools. He sells a black painted version, instead of the stock fluoro version.

Apologies if I’ve missed any other light painting systems!

Best non-Zoom Flashlights for Illumination

Most lights can be used to illuminate a scene, but all of these have useful additional features such as compatible diffusers, tripod mounting options, or high-CRI emitter options.
– Convoy S2+ (400-1,100lm, 18650) – very cheap, lots of LED options from warm to cool white, high-CRI, and even UV. Compatible diffuser. Also consider the larger Convoy S11, S12, M3, and 4x18A for handheld illumination.
– BLF/Sofirn Q8 (5,000-6,000lm, 4×18650) – soda can sized light that includes a tripod thread, and is compatible with the Fenix AOD-L diffuser. BLF Q8 is neutral white, Sofirn Q8 is cool white. Can sustain 1,500-2,000lm. The even brighter Sofirn Q8 Pro is coming soon. Sofirn SP36/SP36S is a slightly smaller 3×18650 version with USB charging, but no tripod mount.
– Fireflies ROT66 Gen II (7,000-10,000lm, 3×18650) – soda can sized light includes a tripod thread, big choice of emitters from warm to cool white. Anduril user interface. Max brightness drops quickly, and can sustain 900lm with XP-L HI (step 6/7).
– Noctigon KR4 E21A (1,200lm, 18650) – Excellent compact light for very warm (2000k) to neutral white (5000k) at very high CRI with Nichia E21A LEDs. Anduril user interface. Can sustain 400lm (step 5/7). Also consider the brighter (4,300lm max, 600lm sustained) XP-L HI version, or side switch Emisar D4v2 (4,300lm, 26650).
– LumeCube 2.0 (estimated 650lm, internal*) – compact high-CRI floody light, great for drone attachment, and can be remotely controlled via Bluetooth. LitraTorch 2.0 and Joby Beamo are alternatives with different attachment options, but lack Bluetooth.
– Protomachines LED8 (2×18650) – expensive professional colour mixing light with advanced features including exposure timers. There is also a less expensive LED2 model.
– Yongnuo YN360iii (2,700lm, NP-F750) – excellent budget video light wand with RGB colour mixing and variable colour temperature options. Popular for cliched instagram urban shots.

Illumination Lights

The Yongnuo YN360iii, Convoy S2+, and BLF/Thorfire/Sofirn Q8 are all fantastic for illumination

Thorfire Q8

The BLF/Sofirn Q8 has a tripod mount for easy backlighting

The LumeCube 2.0 evenly illuminates night landscapes

The high-CRI LumeCube 2.0 evenly illuminates night landscapes with good colour rendering

Best Zoom Flashlights for Illumination

I generally don’t recommend zoom lights for use with light painting tools, as there are plenty of non-zoom lights that do the job better. However, for illumination purposes, zoom lights can be useful for more controlled lighting.
– Ledlenser P18R Signature (4,500lm, internal*) – popular but expensive zoom light. Successor to the MT18. Light Painting Paradise make a colour filter holder and filters for this light. Unknown sustained brightness.
– Ledlenser P7R Work (1,200lm, 21700*) and P6R Work (850lm 18650*) – the only high CRI zoom lights that I’m aware of. Not cheap, but well built and a 7 year warranty!
– Convoy Z1 (2,200lm, 21700) – best budget zoom light. Choice of cool or neutral white LEDs. Can sustain nearly 1,000lm.

Best Headlamps

Headlamps are an underrated piece of equipment for when out at night. Most are fit for purpose, but always be aware of run times on each brightness level so that you are not left in the dark in the middle of nowhere.
– Nitecore NU25 (360lm, internal*) – best lightweight headlamp. Compact and rechargeable. Excellent for short outings and running (8h at 38lm). Red and high CRI auxiliary lights.
– Armytek Wizard WR (1,000lm, 18650*) – bright white and red light headlamp. Armytek make many other headlamps including high-CRI versions.
– Acebeam H60 (1,250lm, 18650) – first headlamp with a 97+ CRI SunLike TRI-R light source.
– Nitecore HC65* (1,000lm, 18650*) – excellent all-rounder. Bright, or long runtime (16h at 80lm). Red and high CRI auxiliary lights.
– Olight Perun* (2,000lm, 18650*) – very efficient headlamp, with high brightness (2,000lm max) or long runtime (47h at 30lm). It’s H2R (2,300lm, 18650*) predecessor had better reviews though!

Light Writing

Whilst not technically flashlights, the following lights are useful for light writing and calligraphy:
– Light Painting Paradise Freehand Pencil (A23) – light pen, RF remote control with 20 colours, adjustable brightness, and colour fades.
– Dariustwin Night-Writer (internal*) – light writing pen with 8 colour tips.
– Light Excursion Calligraphy Light (internal*) – seriously impressive light calligraphy tool. A swiss army knife of lighting!

Conclusion

This article has listed many flashlights or torches that will make light painting easier. Your light painting techniques will determine which lights are most suitable, and I would advise building up a collection of lights that meet your requirements.

I usually state which flashlights are used for Light Painting photos on my Instagram account, so check that out if you are interested to know which light was used to create a specific effect.

Some flashlight shopping links

Light Painting Paradise (LightPainter – Ryu’s Lightworks) – website

Light Excursion (Deluxe, Sport, Topgun, etc) – website and instagram

Antsonamelon (RGB Critter) – website

Neals Gadgets (Affiliate Link) –  Lumintop FW1A Pro, Lumintop FW1A, Fireflies ROT66 GenII, Convoy Z1

 

About The Author

Stephen Knight

Photographer from Brisbane, Australia. I have been into light painting photography since 2014, and have a keen interest in the equipment side of light art (flashlights, light painting tools, and software).

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