Table of Contents
I mention a few things below I should probably define here in case you're not a flashlight nerd.
- Generally the output level or type. I mostly refer to the output levels in lumens. I don't use or note much about things like strobe, SOS, or other such modes some flashlights have.
- EDC - Everyday Carry
- Literally a light you keep in your pocket/purse/whatever and have with you 24/7/365.
- Light Types
- Flood - No hotspot at all, wide smooth output, lights up a wide path but not at a distance.
- Floody - Good peripheral lighting but also a distinct hotspot for a mix of close-up lighting with some ability to see at a distance.
- I'm not quite sure what to call this, but I always want to call it "floody", like it's a thrower but has some flood.
- Ideal for an EDC light in my opinion.
- Thrower - Incidental peripheral lighting, but primarily a tight hot spot mostly intended for lighting up things at a distance.
When I was a kid I experimented with all kinds of silly stuff, swapping bulbs to get longer runtime, higher output, sometimes for very very short periods (POP!), also experimented with replacing bulbs with LEDs, as seen below.
Yes, it was terrible. But was fun to play around with.
The picture above has most of the lights I fairly typically used around 2004. From left to right is a Surefire E1E with a custom LED Turbo Head, a 2xAA, and a 4xAA submersible light that I can't recall the name of, a Dorcy LED that didn't really output much but had tremendous runtime off 4xAA, a Mag 2xAA with a UV bulb in it, an Arc AAA is almost lost it's so small beside the final two (junk) lights, a random Brinkman and a Rayovac I used to clip onto things.
My earliest custom/high-end light was a Surefire E1e that had a custom Turbo head on it with a custom driver and LED. I don't recall the exact specifications of the LED but at the time (around 2003 or 2004) it was quite a lot of output, I think in the 100 lumen region and is a single-mode and uses a single 123 battery. I used the flashlight for quite a few years until I retired it for slimmer lights with more modes. But here it is in its original glory before lots of wear in my pockets.
And here it is after several years of use. Still 100% functional, but not quite as pretty. I think the light may have held up better than the stove!
Following the E1e I purchased a number of lights, none particularly expensive or flashy and all for practical use. As I mentioned before I have no shelf queens; all of my flashlights have been purchased to be used. In rough chronological order:
- Arc AAA
- 2003, 5 lumens, 1xAAA, very floody. Not in any real use today.
- Maglight 4D w/ TerraLUX drop-in LED
- 2003, the light was actually made on 11/12/1999 (thanks to Maglight for actually knowing the exact date a Maglight was made!)
- 4xD, only useful as a tight beam at about 150 lumens but is a great thrower. Not in any real use today.
- Fenix L0D
- 2006, 1xAAA, specced at 5 to 70 lumens but can accept a 10440 battery and will output a measured 150 lumens on high in a 1xAAA sized light. It lives on my keyring and will live on my keyring until it fails, which I hope it never does.
- Fenix P2D
- 2007, 1x123, was my EDC light for a few years replacing the E1e but it was itself replaced by the Nitecore Defender Infinity. Does 12, 55, 107, or 180 lumens.
- Currently is my primary desk flashlight to find stuff I dropped on the floor.
- Fenix TK10
- 2008, 2x123, purchased as a thrower to keep on me, primarily in the car and still lives in my older car. Does 60 or 225 lumens.
- Nitecore Defender Infinity
- 2008, 1xAA or 14500, was my EDC light from 2008 until 2021.
- It's a nearly perfect EDC light but I often want a bit more light output from it. Does 5 to 130 lumens in a smooth ramp.
- Currently not sure where I'm going to use it, almost feel sad "losing" it as an EDC light. I might make a page just on this light someday.
- Quark 123
- 2009, 1x123, was purchased as an upgrade from the Nitecore Defender Infinity but it wasn't a replacement. Good light, especially its Moon mode with .2 lumen output, but it just wasn't a replacement. Does .2, 4, 22, 85, or 170 lumens.
- I also have a 1xAA body for the Quark and thought I had a 2x123 body but can't seem to locate it. Of course the Quark with the AA body works great with a 14500 battery making this a very flexible flashlight.
- Lives on my bed headboard to stumble to the bathroom with or find something I dropped under the bed
- Surefire 6P w/ cheapy drop-in LED
- 2009, 2x123, unknown lumens but I estimate 300-400. Has some peripheral light but is a great thrower and has a great hot spot. Was my Dad's primary around-the-house light, even though it's only a single mode light.
- I don't really use this light a lot but if I need to hit something from afar this is one light I'll grab. Mostly lives in my desk drawer.
- Fenix TK21
- 2011, 2x123 or 1x18650, was purchased as an upgrade to the TK10 as it has more output and can take an 18650 battery. Is quite a thrower and is a great light to keep in the car and it lives in my primary car. Does 5, 58, 180, or 468 lumens.
- Side note; this light seems to only run Turbo (468 lumens) for 1-5s, depending on the quality and state of a battery, which is a bummer. However with a quality 18650 it will run quite some time on Turbo.
- ThorFire TG06S
- 2018, 1xAA or 1x14500, was purchased to go in a bag that lives in my car and has been there the whole time I've owned it. Is a pretty decent light and seems pretty good overall for being less than $10.
- Does 1, 50, 200, or 500 lumens on a 14500 battery and has a pretty solid flood with some throw to it. .5, 20, 80, and 150 lumens on a AA.
- OLight Baton 3
- 2021, 1xRC123, this is my latest EDC light and is a serious pocket rocket at .5 lumens to 1200 lumens. I've written up a full page on it if you want to check out my OLight Baton 3 'review'.
Photon King 1
I had the rare opportunity to handle a very rare, very obscure, and very cool flashlight in 2004. A friend of mine named Kakster was receiving a special light designed by Paul Kim at Surefire himself. Using a (not sure now!) body and a custom head, custom driver and best LED available at the time he created a light monster that created a laser beam of pure, creamy white light. He couldn't ship directly, so the light was shipped to me and I shipped it off to its final destination but that meant I was the lucky one to get his mitts on it first. I was so afraid of dropping it I barely got any good pictures of it, which is sad because Kakster passed away some years ago and I sometimes wonder what happened to his massive collection of flashlights. But here are a few pictures of Photon King 1.
What light would I grab for various situations, and why..
This is an easy one, already said above.. OLight Baton 3. The Nitecore Defender Infinity is still a great EDC light for its flexibility (5 to 130 lumens ramp, can use a AA battery in a pinch, etc) but the Baton 3 just is so much smaller, lighter, and has higher output. I can flip flop on which one has better output, as the Baton 3 is pretty floody and the NDI has a brighter spot and sometimes you need one or the other. The Baton 3's light output is also very green which doesn't matter in real life but it's noticeable even in normal use.
If I need a light that is going to light up a tree a few hundred feet away, it's a fairly close match between the Fenix TK21 and the Surefire 6P w/LED. The Fenix TK21 is somewhat picky about batteries and if it doesn't like it, or it's not full, it won't stay on Turbo very long. On Turbo, the TK21 puts out a lot more light than the 6P, but on High when it drops down from Turbo the 6P outshines it. The beam from the TK21 is however a better/tighter spot than the 6P but that could be my particular LED drop-in, I am getting another one for giggles to try out. Both are pretty sturdy lights, the 6P will only take 123's and the TK21 will take 18650 or two 123's.
If there was a zombie apocalypse coming and I had to pick a single light, I'd get eaten by the zombies until I argued my way into bringing at least two lights. I would take the TK21 for its massive throw and light output and long battery life on low and for a second light I'd use the Nitecore Defender Infinity since it'll run off an AA and those are available all over the place.
Hand to wife/mom/daughter
If My wife, mom, daughter, etc, needed a light and I had to pick one from my collection, ignoring my want to keep a particular light or need to use it during the upcoming zombie apocalypse, it would be the Quark with the AA body. It's an utterly solid, reliable light, it runs off AA, and it's simple to use with no tricky modes or operation. It can put out a pretty good amount of light, but can also put out a very low level of light for extremely long periods which can help in a blackout type situation.
For giggles I used a Lux meter on my phone and bounced the light off the ceiling and recorded the highest highest level. These values mean almost nothing except compared to each other, I have no way to test the actual values. Sorted highest to lowest. If a light has a significant Turbo mode, I put that in the first column and High in the second one.
I'm a bit puzzled about a few of the values, such as using the TK21 and 6P comparing the 6P looks pretty close, but the readings below the 6P is half that of the TK21. Measuring from ceiling bounce has its limitations and I wasn't being 100% consistent with measurement to measurement so I will likely redo these measurements sometime in the future.
|Light||Lux Turbo/Highest||Lux High|
|OLight Baton 3||132||32|
|Quark w/ 14500||22|