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Another obsession: LED flashlights

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by TEG, Sep 22, 2008.

  1. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    #1 TEG, Sep 22, 2008
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2008
    LED flashlights

    LED bulb technology has been advancing rapidly in the past couple of years. A large community of LED flashlight fans has been forming and has been discussing all the developments, hot products, and ways to upgrade existing products. A whole slew of LED light specific terminology has emerged and there are forums abuzz.

    Here are some places to get started if you are interested:

    The Welcome Mat
    LED Flashlights - CandlePowerForums

    An example of the lengths some will go to study the new chips as they come to market:
    http://www.molalla.net/~leeper/creexre.htm

    A place for tinkerers to buys parts:
    DealExtreme: Flashlights, Guns & Lasers (hot gadgets) (Page 1)

    A shop on eBay specializing in LED products:
    eBay My World - ledwholesalers_auctions
     
  2. tonybelding

    tonybelding Active Member

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    I wouldn't say "obsession" in my case, but I've got a small collection of flashlights. The advances of LED technology have been fun to watch.

    I have a Dorcy "Metal Gear" with 3 AAA batteries that is almost my ideal flashlight.

    Dorcy Metal Gear 1 Watt LED Flashlight

    The body size and shape, the brightness, spot focus, light quality. . . all just about perfect for use around the house and yard. It has a button on the tail cap, which I like. It has a belt clip. The body has machined flats to keep it from rolling off the table. My only gripe is that I don't like AAAs. My ideal light has to be AA-powered.


    My new favorite is the Duracell Daylite, seen here: Hands-on: Duracell's new Daylite LED flashlights | Crave, the gadget blog - CNET

    It runs on 2 AA cells and it's VERY BRIGHT. However, I haven't yet tried the new MagLite that he also mentions on that page.


    And finally. . . . Something very neat that I stumbled across:

    LighterLight - LED Flashlight fits in your cigarette lighter

    Seems like a great idea. I ordered a set of them, I'll let you know how they work.
     
  3. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    Among a few others, I have an Inova T4 that I take camping...
     
  4. SByer

    SByer '08 #383

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    Flashlights? LED Bulbs!

    I bit the bullet and bought one of the earlier R38s as an experiment for the laundry room. I'm convinced. I will NEVER buy another CFL again! The light from an LED bulb is so much "happier" - a good color, a full spectrum, comes on quickly and reliably (I've had a 40% (!!!) DOA rate for the R38 CFLs).

    Yes, they're a little expensive still (my understanding is that they start to make fiscal sense at around $70 per).
     
  5. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    Yeah - I got bulbs too. My wife is very picky about color temp & brightness, and so many an LED bulb has been banished from the house to be used in the garage or for motion lights around the perimeter. Halogen is still the rule for kitchen and dining room. There are still plenty of bad LED bulbs out there with overly blue light, noisy regulators, or poor lumens.
     
  6. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    Playing with a UV LED flashlight:

    2883558577_c4df76086a_o.jpg
    2884393838_2ec831cd3e_o.jpg
     
  7. DisneylandIsHome

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    Stanley 3-in-1 Tripod LED Flashlight

    Check out the new Stanley 3-in-1 Tripod LED Flashlight. It has three independent LED flashlights that when attached to the tripod become one flashlight with three rotating heads.
     
  8. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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  9. vfx

    vfx Well-Known Member

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    Hmm, not sure how much I want to commit to here.

    I'll just say that I have bought and use hundreds of LED lights.

    Also, I'm a big fan of the crank and shake type LED flashlites. They are all over the house and in our cars.
     
  10. SByer

    SByer '08 #383

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    TEG, agreed. The quality of the LED Waves bulbs is very high. I've found that I need what everybody calls "125W equivalent" to replace the 65W miser PAR38 reflectors we use in the cans. The LED Waves lights are now that bright in that size (the "125W equivalent" CFLs in that size, do, I have to say, eventually get to that bright, but driving things that hard is probably why the DOA rate is so high - and I'm not patient enough for eventually.) I also like that the luminous efficiency of the high-end LED bulbs has crossed that of CFLs.

    I've also heard good things about the CC Crane Geobulb, but haven't tried it myself personally. But I definitely stay away from the cheap looking junk you find most places online.

    On flashlights, what's a reasonable lumens for them? I'm looking for comparisons with "stock" incandescents and high-end "goofy-name" bulbs.
     
  11. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    #11 TEG, Sep 24, 2008
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2008
    You probably want something with a recent quality LED like one of these:
    SSC P7 (500+ lumens) possibly too bright
    SSC P4 (~200 lumens) plenty bright
    Cree XR-E Q5 (~150 lumens) good enough for most applications

    Older/cheaper lights tend to use Luxeon LEDs with outputs like:
    3Watt - ~80 lumens
    1Watt - ~30 lumens

    Incandescent flashlights tend to be close to 10 lumens or less.

    The flashlights that have gobs of old style 5mm LEDs in bunches or groups are all fairly bad. You want something with one big, modern LED, not clusters of old fashioned low brightness LEDs.

    I am partial to the Inova and Coast LED Lenser brands.
    The Coast "Lenser" have some models with a superior adjustable lense that lets you adjust between flood and spot beams that makes them more versatile. Many of the LED spotlight fanatics are primarily into "maximum throw" and favor spot beam over flood. In practice when you are camping / hiking you want a lot more flood than spot.

    How about something like this?:
    Coast LED Lenser P7

    Oh, and if you really want to get lumen happy you could step up to the world of 35watt / 3500 lumen HID flashlights but they have expensive bulbs that wear out, and tend to blind everyone that you point them at! :cool:
     
  12. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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  13. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    #13 TEG, Sep 25, 2008
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2008
    Some other ballpark rules of thumb - you get approx 80 lumens per watt for a state of the art LED.

    Also, from alkaline batteries it is best not to draw more than one watt per battery. Two watts is possible, but pushing it.

    Also, flashlights with three 1.5v batteries (or one 18650 lithium) can consider "direct driving" the LED without having to do voltage change. Flashlights with one battery tend to need a "boost" circuit, and ones with 4 batteries need a "buck" circuit to normalize the voltage.

    So, with that said, if you find a light that takes only one battery (like many small single AA flashlights) it is likely to be only a watt or less and give off 80 lumens (or less).

    If you want something with 150-200 lumens then you need something with 3 (or more) alkaline batteries. For super-bright lights above 300 lumens then you want 4+ alkalines or instead rechargables (NiMH, Lead-Acid or Li-Ion)

    A 170 lumen flashlight using 3 Alkaline batteries (AAA, AA, C or D) or one 18650 Lithium is probably the "sweep spot" in terms of simplicity and cost effectiveness.

    Battery choice ends up being for size and run time considerations.

    If you want long runtimes, a Coast Lenser P17 3D battery unit is nice. Their Advanced Focus System gives you spot or flood on demand. 188 lumens... hundreds of hours runtime...
    Also available through Amazon.
     
  14. vfx

    vfx Well-Known Member

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    #14 vfx, Sep 25, 2008
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2008
    Not too happy with last year's CC Crane purchase. I bought a lot of the VIVID line of LED bulbs and all were unsuccessful.

    The "floods" were not even bright enough to see. On an outdoor dual head unit that is over our cars I ended up using one CFL flood on one side and the LED on the other. On another dual head unit I used two LEDs but we don't go out there much.

    I am admittedly a fanatic about color temp, quality and brightness so the claims had better match the performance.

    Especially since they are pretty expensive to experiment with.
     
  15. SByer

    SByer '08 #383

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    #15 SByer, Sep 26, 2008
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2008
    I'm happy with the LED Waves R38 sized bulb I got. It's light spread is a little narrow and it's slightly dimmer than I like (their current line is 30% brighter and has 60 and 120 degree spreads available, I just haven't tried one yet).

    That being said, it's the first "alternative" bulb where I've gone through the room, turning the light on and off, and only later remembering that is wasn't an incandescent bulb. That was my marker of success. In fact, I think it's a better light quality than incandescent - the color temp is somewhat cooler - I wouldn't get anything but the "warm white" or I'd find it too cool - but the light is completely stable and the spectrum seems to be "without holes" in the way that CFLs have. The light from even the best CFL always seems to be like those tiny cube speakers - yeah, there's light coming out of it, and I can step back and it kinda looks like a reasonable color, but it sure does seem like big chunks of spectrum are missing. Big band without horns.

    Of course, at $130/per, they better be that good. Yeah, a little expensive to experiment with. I wonder what percentage of their orders are little singletons like mine - people wanting to try them out, but at current prices, you don't try more than one out at once!
     
  16. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    Yeah, same here. For home LEDs, "cool white" or even "daylight white" doesn't cut it (even though they offer more lumens in those color temps). Warm white all the way. I just bought some bulbs that were 2900K and 3000K and I was afraid they would be too yellow, but they actually seem just right. 5000K or above just seems to "antisceptic", and artficially white.
     
  17. dpeilow

    dpeilow Moderator

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    Can anyone recommend a bright LED bulb in GU10 format? My apartment is full of those fittings. I've tried a CFL from Megaman but one was doa and the second seems to be taking longer and longer to reach full brightness, which has made me think twice about purchasing more.
     
  18. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    I have tried a few. The ones with 3 separate CREE emitters tend to be the better ones. I didn't like the result from ones that had one big glass lense projector. They tended to make a sort-of rainbow halo around the fringes of the light spot. There are still plenty of ones out there that are too dim for most uses. You probably want at least 3 watts, or better still 6 or 7.

    Here is one place to look:
    Line Lite International - GU10 Power LED Series

    Like this one in particular:
    http://www.linelite.com/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=shop.flypage&product_id=220&category_id=7&manufacturer_id=0&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=27
    (Much prefer the warm-white)

    Note, all the GU10 LEDs I tried have more of a spot beam than traditional halogens. If you need wide coverage you may want to stay with halogen.

    I started this whole topic about flashlights, not home bulbs, because I think the low power requirement, efficiency advantage and spot beam emphasis are big strengths in flashlights, but for home use LEDs are still only suitable for certain applications.
     
  19. tonybelding

    tonybelding Active Member

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    getting back to flashlights. . .

    I've been looking for the best 2 AA powered LED flashlight I can get. As mentioned earlier, my recent favorite was a Duracell Daylite.

    It didn't stay my favorite very long. Today I got my hands on a Streamlight Junior LED. It's excellent, as I expected of a Streamlight. Comparing these two. . .

    The Streamlight is a smidge shorter and much slimmer.

    The Streamlight has a tail-cap switch that's considerably easier to operate.

    The Streamlight comes with a cheap-and-simple nylon holster, whereas the Duracell did not come with any.

    The Streamlight has a pocket clip that probably isn't too useful as a pocket clip -- but could prevent the flashlight from rolling off a table. Unfortunately, the clip hangs up in the nylon holster and can make it hard to withdraw the flashlight from it. If I were using the holster, I'd take the clip off.

    The Streamlight lacks the zoom-focus feature of the Duracell. However, that feature was nearly useless on the Duracell, and the Streamlight projects a much brighter, more concentrated spot than the Duracell did even when fully focused.

    The Duracell has a flat base so it can stand upright and project a spot onto the ceiling, to provide ambient light in a room (especially if the ceiling is white). The Streamlight cannot stand on its base.

    The Duracell has a small hole in the base where one could attach a lanyard, if one were so inclined.

    On the balance, the Streamlight wins this comparison pretty handily. However. . .

    Both the Streamlight and the Duracell are made in China. There's nothing wrong with the quality, as far as I can see, but I was disappointed after getting the Streamlight to see "Made in China" on the package.

    To me Streamlight has always been the premium flashlight brand (though SureFire is right up with them). Most people think of Maglite, but to me Mag was always a poseur company. Mag built their success on selling ordinary people flashlights "just like cops and firemen use". Streamlight built their success on selling flashlights to cops and firemen.

    So. . . It's sad to see now that Streamlight are making their stuff in China, while Mag is still making flashlights in the USA.

    Also there is a quality question. Even though the Chinese lights look fabulous, I've noticed Chinese-made products often look fabulous when new, then after a few weeks they fall apart. We'll see how it goes.
     
  20. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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