Super-bright, lightweight torches

Carlton Boyce / 26 January 2017

What’s better – candlepower or lumens? If it’s all Latin to you, Carlton Boyce is here to shed some light on the subject of torches…



I’ve always been a sucker for a powerful torch; show me a bright yellow, petrol-station-special that offers a million candlepower for only £9.99 (subject to a minimum fuel spend of £20, obviously) and I’m in.

Yet even with two big six-volt batteries – the old-fashioned ones with the springs on the top – providing the electrical supply, battery life was appalling. And that’s without even mentioning the weight; a price tag of less than a tenner might have made them the budget option, but it certainly didn’t make them the pocket-sized one.

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Pocket-sized power

Which is where the modern LED torch comes in. While the standard lantern-style torch might weigh as much as three kilograms with batteries, more modern designs can weigh as little as 200g in a pen-sized case thanks to the wonders of LED technology that manage to turn miniscule amounts of electricity into retina-destroying beams of light using nothing more complicated than wizardry.

Candlepower v. Lumens

In comparison to the 1 million candlepower lanterns of my youth, the Peli 7600 tactical torch’s 944 lumens doesn’t sound very much, does it?

But it is. This is because candlepower refers to the amount of light produced by the bulb in one direction, but a lumen is the amount of light that falls on the object you want to illuminate. For example, a shaft of sunlight coming through a crack in the curtains might have a very high candlepower rating but it wouldn’t be terribly useful if you wanted to read a book in the dark. A domestic light bulb, on the other hand, might have a relatively low lumen output but it is capable of lighting up an entire room with ease.

So while we can say that one lumen is the same as 12.57 candlepower - and so my one million candlepower lantern produces roughly 80,000 lumens - the comparison isn’t a direct one.

It’s safer to stick to lumens rather than candlepower when comparing the power of different torches; the latter might give a more impressive number but the former is a more reliable way of showing how powerful the torch will be in the real world. (The real world is not a place I like to spend too much time but needs must, on occasion…)

The Real World

I started out with an MTE 1,000-lumen torch and was blown away by how powerful it was. Powered by two CR123A batteries (which are expensive if you buy them in the shops but very cheap when bought online) it sends out a concentrated beam of light that can illuminate sheep and the odd nighttime trespasser at 200m or more.

It also has a strobe setting, which is designed to disorientate the aforementioned burglar, plus medium and low power settings and it remains my bedside torch for investigating things-that-go-bump-in-the-night.

My new Peli 7600 tactical torch (the one with the less-than-impressive-on-paper power output) is my everyday torch for walking the dog, feeding the pigs, locking up the hens, and evening runs along the canal. One charge lasts me a couple of weeks and it feels robust and unbreakable in a way that the MTE doesn’t.

It also boasts a high-medium-low setting plus the strobe effect but it also has a red and green setting too, which can be handy for preserving night vision when you are just ambling around the place and don’t feel the need to illuminate the neighbour’s front windows.

With a 944 lumen output, it isn’t quite as bright as the MTE but the beam is more diffused, which suits its intended use much better; if the MTE is all about boasting and showing off, the Peli is more about rounded utilitarianism and versatility.

Planet Boyce

Despite the Peli’s versatility and the MTE’s sheer power, I still want more. I’m currently lusting after an Olight SR95S UT Intimidator. With 1,250 lumens and a beam reach of up to 2/3 of a mile, it is considerably more powerful than either of my existing torches and should provide all the light I could ever need.

Unless, that is, I’m prepared to take a gamble on the relatively cheap Niteye T6 for £150. With a claimed 4,350 lumens courtesy of four (yep, you read that right, four!) battery packs, I can’t imagine ever needing more power (Until something more powerful comes along, of course)

Warning

By the way, I wasn’t joking earlier when I mentioned the retina-burning power of modern torches. Please don’t shine them in your own, or anyone else’s, eyes because the risk of causing permanent damage is just too great.

Modifying

Of course, men being men, there are a number of forums for guys (women are, in my experience, far too intelligent to get sucked into this kind of thing) who want to modify their torches for even more power.

I have resisted the urge so far, mainly because I’m far more dangerous with a soldering iron than any adult man has a right to be but it’s probably only a matter of time.

Tips for buying your torch

More power generally means more money but as with everything in life, quality costs too. So while eBay is stuffed full of 2,000 lumen torches for £20, you could pay £200 for something with half the rated power that is actually twice as bright when you actually come to use it.

I prefer a torch that uses a rechargeable battery pack that can be removed and replaced with good, old CR123As, which is another point in the Peli’s favour. While the mini-USB plug is almost universal these days, I appreciate the reassurance of knowing that I can pop a couple of alkaline batteries in if I drain the battery and either don’t have the time or opportunity to recharge it.

If you suspect that a super-bright torch might be right for you then the Peli 7600 is a good place to begin, if for no other reason than I suspect you’re more mature than me and will find it’s more than bright enough for anything you would reasonably want to use a handheld torch for.

The trouble starts when a friend (or son, in my case) buys an even brighter one and you have a Torch Off. Losing a Torch Off sucks, and when revenge is only £200 and the click of a mouse away it’s hard not to get sucked in.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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