This guide written by Stephen Knight is a follow up to the 2018 guide to flashlights compatible with the Light Painting Brushes Universal Connector. Some new flashlights have been added, and a few discontinued ones removed. This article covers flashlights that fit the Universal Connector which allows for a .975″ to 1.5″ (25-38mm) head diameter range. An addition to this years guide is an asterix (*) denoting that the light has internal recharging options (i.e. you don’t need to use a seperate charger).
It should be noted that the maximum output in lumens stated by manufacturers are rarely sustained, and most flashlights reduce in brightness at anything between 30 seconds and a few minutes. Be aware that some cheap flashlights (particularly on eBay, Amazon, various Chinese electronics companies) have highly exaggerated lumen ratings.
Whilst lumens (lm) are generally used to describe output, the peak beam intensity in candela (cd) also needs to be considered. The higher the peak beam intensity per lumen (“throwy” light), then generally the better the flashlight is for illuminating longer tools such as the Light Swords,. A lower peak beam intensity per lumen (“floody” light), then generally the better the flashlight is for more even illumination of tools such as Fiber Optic Brushes and Plexiglass blades. Zoom lights allow for more flexibility, especially for controlled illumination purposes, but are far from essential. Experimentation is the key to see what works the best.
Switch location is also something that needs to be considered so that you can turn a flashlight on or off, or change modes during a light painting scene. Most (but not all) flashlights in this article either have tail switches or accessible side switches.
AA/AAA Battery Flashlights
Lights that use commonly found AA and AAA (alkaline or rechargeable NiMH) batteries are popular with many light painters, and those new to flashlights. However maximum output is less than most li-ion battery based lights. These lights are better in darker ambient light conditions. Recommended zoom lights include the Ledlenser P7-2017 (450 lm) and MT6 (600lm), Coast G32 (355lm), G50 (355lm), HP5R (185lm), Polysteel 200 (320lm), Polysteel 400 (375lm), and TX9R (300lm). Recommended non-zoom lights include the Coast G26 (120lm), Energizer Vision HD 2AA (400lm) and 3AAA (250lm), and Zanflare F2 (200lm). The Nitecore SRT3 (180lm) is discontinued but still available in a few places. Plenty of cheap AA or AAA flashlights available from hardware stores will also fit, but won’t be particularly bright.
Li-ion Battery Flashlights – approx. 1000 lumens
Lithium ion based flashlights (usually using rechargeable 18650 batteries, but increasingly 20700/21700/26500) allow for much higher brightness, but also result in more heat. They all have lower output modes for situations when less output is more desirable, such as moonlit nights. Li-ion battery flashlights are usually much better value for money than AA or AAA based lights, but usage requires knowledge of the risks of using li-ion batteries. Bright non-zoom li-ion lights that are in the 1000 lumens range (+/-250lm) include the Convoy S2+, S3, M1, and M2, Thorfire TK15S, VG10S, and VG15S, Sofirn SP31 and SF36, Atactical/Wowtac A1S*, Thrunite TC12v2*, Eagtac P25LC2, Soonfire DS31*, Klarus XT11S*, Nitecore P10GT, P12GT, MT22C, SRT5, Nextorch TA30, Folomov 18650S*, Zanflare F1*, Olight M1X and M2T, TLF/BLF FW1A. These will usually run close to maximum brightness for at least a couple of minutes before automatic or manual brightness step-down, allowing for use in longer light painting scenes. Zoom lights that can reach 1000 lumens include the Ledlenser P7R* and MT10*, Walther Pro SL66r*, Wowtac A3S*, and Klarus FX10*.
Li-ion Battery Flashlights – 1500 to 2000 lumens
These are great in high ambient brightness situations, but can step-down in brightness after around 30 seconds due to the large amount of heat produced. These lights may (briefly) provide up to a 1 stop photographic exposure advantage compared to previously mentioned 18650 flashlights. Recommended flashlights in the 1500-2000 lumens range include the Klarus XT2CR*, XT11GT*, 360X1*, Olight M2R*, Convoy S11 and S21A.
Flashlights with mode memory
Mode memory allows a flashlight to be turned on in the previously used mode. This avoids having to fumble through modes during a light painting scene. Flashlights with reliable mode memory include the Thorfire TK15S, VG10S, and VG15S, Sofirn SP31 and SF36, Atactical A1S*, Thrunite TC12v2*, Nitecore P10GT, MT22C, SRT5, and Folomov 18650S*.
Flashlights with momentary switches
Momentary switches (also known as “forward clicky”, “tactical”, or “temporary” switches) allow for more control over on and off, with a half press of the switch. These are very useful for light drawing or light writing. Lights with momentary on high mode only include the Ledlenser P7.2 and P7-2017, Olight M2R* and M2T, Klarus XT2CR*, XT11GT*, 360X1*, and FX10*.
Lights with momentary on all memorised (non-flashing) modes, allows for momentary functionality to be used in a range of different ambient lighting conditions, making the lights much more useful. Flashlights with this functionality include the Thorfire TK15S and TK18, Sofirn SP31, Atactical/Wowtac A1S*, Soonfire DS31*, Thrunite TC12v2*, Fenix PD35TAC, plus the Nitecore P10GT, P12GT, MT22C and SRT5.
For lights that additionally have momentary for single frequency strobe, keep reading…
Flashlights with Strobes
Flashing modes can add to the creativity in light painting scenes. Lights with single frequency strobes are generally preferred by light painters. Options include the Convoy S2+ (10Hz with older 3/5 mode user interface), Convoy T2 (7.5Hz), Thrunite TC12v2* (12.5Hz), Atactical/Wowtac A1S* (12.5Hz), Zanflare F1* (10Hz), Ledlenser M7RX* (20Hz), plus Walther Pro PL50, PL55r*, PL60, and SL66r* (20Hz).
A few flashlights have a bike flash mode that can create interesting pulse effects. Examples are the Convoy S2+ Desert Tan (with newer Biscotti user interface), Thorfire TK15S and TK18, and the TLF/BLF FW1A.
The combination of single frequency strobes and momentary functionality allows for fantastic creative control. Flashlights with both include the Olight M1X, M2R* (9Hz), Nitecore P10GT (10Hz with 33% on time), Nitecore MT22C (19.5Hz with 33% on time), Nitecore SRT5 (22Hz with 25% on time), Nextorch TA15 and TA30 (10Hz). The Light Excursion Deluxe RGB has momentary control for strobes in multiple colours (up to 6Hz with 25% on time). The Nitecore P10GT and MT22C can also be controlled by remote pressure switches for more creative freedom. The TLF/BLF FW1A has variable strobe frequency, choice of different strobe modes, and new models include momentary functionality, but is only suitable for advanced li-ion flashlight users.
Flashlights with Rotary or Ramping Controls
Rotary or ramping controls allow for fine adjustment of brightness. These flashlights also have momentary functionality too! Options include the Thorfire TK18 (ramping), Nitecore P26, MT22C (rotary dial), SRT3, and SRT5 (rotary head). However you need to be careful with the P26 and MT22C that the dial does not turn when pushing the light into the connector.
RGB / Colour Changing Flashlights
Many light painting tools are available with, or can be used with high quality colour gels or filters, reducing the need for flashlights with coloured LEDs. However, colour changing flashlights can add to creativity. Lights with colour changing (but not colour mixing) options include the popular Ledlenser P7QC (RGBW), Ledlenser T2QC (RGBW), and Coast TX100 (RW-Cyan). The Light Excursion Sport RGB(W) has momentary controls for individual RGB(W) channels, which can be combined for some colour mixing. Lights with single colour LEDs include Jaxman E2L Color (R,G,B,Y) and Maglite XL50 Spectrum Series (R,G,B).
Colour mixing flashlights allow for a range of colours, and various colour effect modes. The lumen (lm) ratings below have been tested using RGB all on 100% output, but buyers need to be aware that many manufacturers exaggerate the lumen ratings. The Light Excursion Deluxe RGB light (100lm) is proving very popular with light painters, as it is brighter than most other RGB colour mixing lights, has lots of effects modes, plus rotary dimmer and momentary switch. The Ignis Shop Color RGB Torch* (150lm) is a bit brighter, has the same effects modes, is rechargeable, and has a more simplistic user interface. The Concentrate by Threeworlds C5 (30lm, requires padding to fit in the Universal Connector) is not very bright, has a tricky user interface, but allows for easily programmable effect modes. The Color Shine flashlight (30lm) is cheap, dim, and unreliable. It is also re-badged by quite a few different companies. Other options that I haven’t tested, but worth considering include the Neon Saber T1000, the flashlight module from the Fiberflies Pixelwhip, or the flashlight module from the GloFX Space Whip Remix. Antsonamelon are also launching their new RGB Critter flashlight on Kickstarter in October 2019.
Neutral and Warm White Flashlights
Most flashlights are available in cool white tint (approx. 6500k CCT), which can be quite harsh. If you want a more “daylight like” beam, which is much better for illumination purposes, or warmer light trails, then look for flashlights with neutral white tint options (4000-5500k CCT). Examples are the Thorfire VG10S and TK15S, Sofirn SP31 (V1), Olight M2R*, Thrunite TC12v2*, Energizer Vision HD lights, Zanflare F1* and F2, Jaxman E2, E2L and M2 (which include high CRI options), plus the Convoy S2+, M1, M2, T2, and zoomable BD4* (choose xx-3x or xx-4x / 4000-5000k options).
Flashlights with warm white (3000k CCT) LEDs are much more rare, but are available in most lights made by Convoy (choose xx-7A / 3000k option), Sofirn SF36W, and the zoomable Maglite XL50 Spectrum Series warm white model.
There is a large number of flashlights that will fit the Light Painting Brushes Universal Connector, at all price points. Hopefully this guide will assist those looking to purchase one or more flashlights that will meet their light painting needs.