Selfbuilt's Flashlight Reviews
Extensive comparative analyses of modern LED flashlights
My goal is to provide objective testing results, in a readable form, to let you decide what flashlight best fits your needs. My reviews are posted on candlepowerforums, to facilitate ongoing discussions with the user community.
My flashlights are expensive to feed with all the runtime tests I perform, so I gratefully accept donations to my Paypal battery fund.
Flashlight Resources See my Testing Methods for further resources
Video overviews of each of my flashlights, plus additional background primers.
Overview of the ANSI/NEMA standard for flashlight testing (FL-1).
My lightbox design, and how I have calibrated it for estimated lumens.
Overview of all my recent outdoor 100-yard beamshots.
ANSI/NEMA FL-1 Standard
Revised Selfbuilt beam intensity measures: new NIST-calibrated Extech EA31 lux-meter
Effective March 2012, I have revised the summary tables in my reviews to fully match the ANSI/NEMA FL-1 standard for flashlight testing.
Back in November 2010, I revised all the summary tables in my reviews to match the (relatively new at that time) ANSI/NEMA FL-1 2009 standard for flashlight testing. This standard was finally starting to be used by many flashlight makers, as it provides a standardized way to compare characteristics across lights. I suggest you check out the Flashlight Wiki entry on ANSI/NEMA FL-1 for more info on the standard.
As the ANSI/NEMA FL-1 Standards are a copyrighted and protected document, I was initially relying on published public reports by various manufacturers on the standards' specifics. It turns out these weren't quite entirely accurate for max output. I have since purchased a copy of the FL-1 standards, and can confirm that all output/throw testing does takes place within 30-120 secs after activation. As you might imagine, manufacturers will typically pick the time that best suits them (likely 30 secs for output/throw measures). Although I always did throw/beam distance measures this way, I was originally reporting the max output column in those tables at between 2.5 mins to 3 mins post-activation. Effective March 2012, I am now reporting max output at 30 secs post-activation, as I believe this is more representational to what manufacturers actually claim.
The main result of this change is that the Max output ANSI FL-1 measures will increase slightly on some lights in my tables, compared to older review (mainly those lights that are heavily-driven and not fully regulated/stabilized over the first few minutes of runtime). None of the other values are affected. To make this change easier to see, I am updating the color of my summary tables from light gray to light blue, effective March 2012. The light blue tables will all report Max output at the 30 secs mark (as explained in the table legends).
My method for estimating Lumen values hasn't changed. I do not have a calibrated integrating sphere, but have developed a method to estimate lumen output from my crude home-made lightbox. Please see my Lumen Estimates page for information on how I calculate this value.
The ANSI/NEMA FL-1 Standards require the manufacturers to average multiple samples (typically 3 for the output/beam measures, and 5 for the impact/water resistance tests). I rarely get sent more than one sample of a given light to test, so my numbers are not meant to be used as "typical."
The key point here is that I am not attempting to replace proper manufacturer testing according to the ANSI/NEMA FL-1 Standard with my home-made setup. My goal is simply to present my results in a way that is consistent with the standard.
A quick definition of the key terms: (you can also see Flashlight Wiki entry on ANSI/NEMA FL-1 for more info)
Max Ceiling Bounce: Estimate of overall output on the highest setting. This output measure is determined by placing the flashlight on the floor of a small closet, pointing toward the ceiling. On the floor next to the light is a lux lightmeter sensor, also pointed toward the ceiling. The reported value is thus the reflected level of light in the closet (in lux). All readings taken after 30 secs runtime. This measure is useful for comparing relative output levels between lights, nothing more. Note that my pre-2010 measures were from a much larger room, so those numbers can't be compared to later ones.
ANSI FL1 Min Output (Lumens): Estimate of overall output on the lowest setting. This output measure is determined by placing the flashlight in my home-made lightbox, and converting the output measures to Lumens as explained here. All readings taken after 30 secs runtime.
ANSI FL1 Max Output (Lumens): Estimate of overall output on the highest setting. This output measure is determined by placing the flashlight in my home-made lightbox, and converting the output measures to Lumens as explained here. All readings taken after 30 secs runtime.
ANSI FL1 Peak Throw (cd, or lux@1m): Measured value of peak center beam intensity, in candela (which is equivalent to lux at 1 meter). A lux reading in the brightest portion of the beam is taken at 10m (to allow the beam to fully converge), and then computed back to give you the lux/candela value at 1 m. All readings taken after 30 secs runtime. Note that the ANSI FL1 standard requires measures be taken at 2m, 10m, or 30m from surface of the lens, as appropriate for the size of the flashlight head and output width. My pre-2010 readings were all taken immediately upon activation, at the absolute center of the beam (which may not have been peak output), at either 1m or 5m. Note that throw measures at a specific distance are only one piece of information - Beam Distance (see below) is a much better measure for comparing relative throw at all distances.
ANSI FL1 Beam Distance (to 0.25lux): Computed value of the distance (in meters) at which the flashlight would produce a light intensity of 0.25 lux at its brightest point. This is about the level of light produced by a full moon. This is similar in concept to my previous pre-2010 "Throw" values, which were the squareroot of lux at 1 m (i.e., effectively, the distance in meters to a light intensity of 1 lux). Beam Distance is much better way to compare flashlight beams than peak throw at 1m - this number allows you to directly compare how "throwy" one light is relative to another across its entire beam length.
Although not reported in the tables, the ANSI/NEMA FL-1 standard for Max Runtime is calculated by the time to 10% output, based on the initial output 30 secs into the run. I have not bothered to calculate this number, as I believe the actual runtime curves presented in the review provide far more useful information than a single time point.
ANSI/NEMA FL-1 Standards also provide info on water resistance and impact resistance, but I do not measure these on my testing samples. Water resistance measures is an area of particular confusion, as ANSI FL-1 standards are basically a more detailed and stringent set of "Ingress Protection" ratings, also known as IPX levels. In simple terms, ANSI FL-1 "water resistant" is based on IPX-4, "water proof" on IPX-7, and "submersible" on IPX-8.
However, by strict definition, the general IPX-8 allows water entry, but "only in such a manner that it produces no harmful effects" for a light tested at >1m depth (duration and depth set by the manufacturer). ANSI FL-1 "submersible" takes IPX-8 a step further, and specifies 4 hour duration (again at depth set by manufacturer, but >1m), and allows "no ingress of water in any functional area that contains unprotected electrical components or light sources". By the ANSI FL-1 "water proof" or "submersible" pass levels, many so-called "IPX-8" lights would likely fail (as they are based on the looser general IPX-8 standard, which is somewhat ambiguous - i.e., depends on how you interpret "no harmful effects" of water ingress).
To make matters worse, most manufacturers claim "IPX-8" ratings without giving the actual depth and duration measures that the rating requires them to specify (which thus renders the value of the rating claim meaningless, in my view). They also do not clarify if they are using the more stringent ANSI FL-1 "submersible" IPX-8 standard with no water ingress, or the looser general IPX-8 of "no harmful effect" of water ingress. This is all part of the reason why I don't typically do water resistance tests.
What this all means for end users is that I would recommend you discount any "IPX-8 water proof" claim that does not specify the ANSI FL-1 standard for "water proof" or "submersible" (i.e., don't go swimming with lights that don't have that ANSI FL-1-verified rating). But most lights should be fine to resist the occassional dunk or splash in water, as long as they have intact o-rings at all possible water entry points.
I have recently prepared a a series of introductory overviews/primers on various aspects of flashlight form and function, available on . The final primer in the series provides an overview of ANSI/NEMA FL-1:
The full list of availale primers is presented on my Selfbuilt Flashlight Review Methodology page here at flashlightreviews.ca, as well as on my channel.
To see a discussion of these videos, please see check out my Selfbuilt's introductory flashlight video primers thread on candlepowerforums.com.
Unfortunately, my flashlights are expensive to feed with all the runtime tests I perform. I don't accept any payment for any of my flashlight reviews, but I will gratefully accept donations to my Paypal battery fund. Your contributions will go toward helping defray the costs of creating all my detailed reviews.
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