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.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- Can you recommend a flashlight for me?
- What do all the terms in your reviews mean?
- Why don't you review more lights from brand X?
- Why don't you do more "budget" light reviews?
- Why don't you do more outdoor beamshots?
- How can I make sense of beam tints?
- How do you meansure flashlight output (lumens)?
- Any tips for effective flashlight use?
Can you recommend a flashlight for me?I probably get asked this question more than any other. I typically try to avoid making specific recommendations of individual models, as the design and performance can change over time. Also, I may not fully understand your needs, so it's best that you come to your own conclusions based on the data I present.
But I realize that all the choices - especially with all the different types of batteries - makes this a potentially confusing space to sort out. So to help, I have recently created a new section of this website to help you get started in narrowing down your choices.
Please see my Flashlights Recommendations page for some suggestions - broken down by battery type - and further links for more info. I've also provided some general perspective on why the specific types (and numbers) of batteries are used, for different purposes.
What do all the terms in your reviews mean?The best way to answer this would be to suggest you take a look at the various sections of my Testing Methods page, to see if that answers your specific question.
I have prepared a series of introductory overviews/primers on various aspects of flashlight form and function, available on .
To start, here is an introduction as to why and how I do flashlight reviews:
Next, the individual primers are presented below. These are a series of videos, each one corresponding to a key aspect of what I look at in my individual reviews.
Please note that these are not intended as comprehensive examinations of the various topics, but rather as starting points to help you understand what I am referring to in my various reviews. They were recorded generally unrehearsed and unscripted, so please bear with me if I seem to ramble a little sometimes.
To see a discussion of these videos, please see check out my Selfbuilt's introductory flashlight video primers thread on candlepowerforums.com. Or visit my channel.
Why don't you review more lights from brand X?Like many enthusiasts, I began by reviewing lights that I personally bought. These were mainly "brand name" lights, although I also looked at some higher-quality "budget" lights.
Eventually, manufacturers start sending me lights to review, so that I could compare their performance to other lights that I had done. As you can imagine given my current status, I now receive far more requests to review than I can handle. As a result, I currently only do invited reviews where the manufacturer/dealer agrees to my standard review terms and conditions. Even at that, I typically turn down most of the requests that I receive, largely due to lack of time.
As a corollary to the above, I generally do not "ask" manufacturers to send me lights for review. In my view, it should be up the the manufacturers to decide on their own whether or not they want their lights reviewed. This helps reduce my bias in selecting lights (i.e., I typically leave it up to the manufacturers to propose specific lights, and I respond based on my availability and interest). As a general rule, if you don't see models from a major manufacturer in my review list, that's most likely because they have not asked me to review (see the exception for budget lights below).
So how do I choose among what is offered? There are a number of variables that I consider, including general interest in the user community, perceived build quality, history and reputation of the manufacturer/dealer, etc. I also try to balance different size and class lights, including various beam patterns and battery formats. I also try to balance established makers and new potential entrants. But as a reviewer, I am always particularly interested in testing something novel - that is, something with new features, or a distinctive user interface or build. Often, these are not necessarily the most high-profile or high-volume lights.
My goal here is never to advance the particular agenda of a given group. I provide a consistently fair and impartial assessment of all lights that I choose to review (see my About the Author page for more info). But the selection of those lights is bound to remain somewhat idiosyncratic, given that I choose from what is offered, and only agree to review lights that interest me for some reason. In the end, we all only keep doing things as long as we enjoy doing them.
Why don't you do more "budget" light reviews?So-called "budget" lights (i.e., lights that are less expensive than those from the established brand name makers) can often offer good value for the money.
The problem as a reviewer is that I quickly discovered that budget lights could be incredibly inconsistent from batch to batch. The reason for this seems to be that many of the budget "brands" are actually often only a loose set of model standards manufactured by more than one plant. Copying and counterfeiting is also rampant, especially for perceived "popular" budget models. Although this is opaque to most end users, budget light dealers tend to buy in batches from multiple distributors (who in turn may be collecting samples from other distributors, multiple sources, etc.). So no two batches can be guaranteed to be same - they are often slightly (or significantly) different from previous batches, even from those sold by the same distributor/dealer previously.
I had this experience early on in my reviewing - I gave a positive review to a certain budget light, only to find other users quickly complaining of poorer build quality and performance. I bought a new sample from the same dealer, and discovered a completely different light (with a different body thickness, screw threads, switch - and most importantly, circuit). In every measurable way, the newer version was inferior to the previous one I had tested. The only similarity was the make and model number (and event at that, the labeling was poorer quality).
As a reviewer, I can't justify reviewing a light where there is no reasonable assurance of consistent quality of manufacture. I run the considerable risk of misleading people in their flashlight purchasing, which goes against the whole reason why I do reviews.
There are ways you can try to protect yourseful in budget light purchasing. The first is to review the various flashlight forums for ALL comments on a specific model (i.e., don't fall into the trap of only looking for what you want to see). Second, try to find a reputable dealer for the model (i.e., not one of the "deal sites" or eBay vendors, where high volume is often a key factor in their business model). A good dealer will value customer satisfaction, and will try to only work with distributors who provide a consistent quality product. You may pay a few more dollars, but it can make all the difference in whether or not you receive what you expect.
I do occasionally still review budget-style lights, but only if I have reasonable assurances from a reputable dealer or manufacturer. Given my limited time (discussed above for the various brands I review), I feel it is important to focus on lights where there is a reasonable expectation of consistency.
Why don't you do more outdoor beamshots?I know everyone loves to see outdoor beamshots of flashlights. But these are actually very difficult to do well, in a meaningful way. As I've explained on my About page and my Testing Methods page, my main goal here is appropriate comparative testing of flashlight performance.
This raises a major issue in terms of beamshots. If I were to use automatic camera settings - to best show off the individual beams - then any comparative value between lights would be lost. If I were to lock the camera to some common setting of exposure and aperture, then many lights would look over-exposed while others would look under-exposed.
The key point here is that a single beamshot (with single camera settings) cannot possible reproduce what you see in real life. Your brain and eye are remarkably adaptative, and so your relative perceptions will be very different from a single objective camera reference point. Not to mention the huge variability in how beamshots will appear from one graphics card/monitor combination to another. This is all part of why I generally stick with indoor "white wall" beamshots (under controlled conditions), at a series of camera exposure settings (to facilitate direct comparisons).
My one exception to this is for my high-output "throwy" lights, where you can't easily compare at close distances. For these, I do standardized outdoor beamshots at 100-yards (or as best as I can standardize, at any rate). To learn more about how I do these, with a summary of my recent outdoor shots for the current year, please see:
Selfbuilt's 100-Yard Outdoor Beamshot Compendium
How can I make sense of beam tints?In an ideal world, all LED flashlights would have perfectly consistent white beam tints.
But what exactly is "white"? In your every day life, I'm sure you can attest to seeing different color tints between different light sources (i.e., daylight, incadescent light bulbs, halogens, fluorescent bulbs, etc.). These are all "white", but they represent different ranges in the color spectrum (particularly in reference to color temperature), with varying levels of specific color rendition ability.
Now, I realize that may already sound confusing. To help, the flashlightwiki website has a very good ANSI White page that is particularly useful in explaining these terms. Information on this site could chage, but for now it also has good links to more detailed resources, including and full chromaticity charts.
To put it simply, LED lights come in three general white color temperatures - identified as "cool white", "neutral white" and "warm white". Most commercial LEDs are "cool white", as these are the most efficient. As a bit of a side-bar, most white LEDs are based on a blue LED core, covered with yellow phosphor. To make a "warmer" color temperature, extra phosphor needs to be applied - which reduces the amount of light transmitted for the same core run at the same current/voltage settings. But some people like a "warmer" tint, so there is a market for all these LEDs.
Of course, manufacturers would love to make only the agreed-upon "whitest" version of each of these color temperatures. But that isn't possible in any manufacturing process, where there is bound to be some variability. Instead, manufacturers can "bin" the production output of their LEDs across defined areas of the chromaticity spectrum (just like they can bin for output, and for forward voltage, etc.). Some makers will buy specific "premium white" tint bins (and advertise them as such). But for the most part, it is hard to predict what you will get in exact tint for any give temperature class, as it varies depending on the production run.
To help you make sense of some the general princples - and see some actual camera beam tint comparisons - please see the following comparison threads that I posted on CPF:
Color Rendition and Tint Comparison: Cree, Rebel, GDP, Nichia
4Sevens Mini Tint Comparison - Warm, Neutral, Cool White
4Sevens Neutral White tints - Comparison to Cool White
Any tips for effective flashlight use?I plan to develop some additional content on this here in the near future. In the meantime, you can follow a thread I started on CPF that has some incredibly useful ideas shared by the members on how to maximize your flashlight use:
Tips for effective flashlight use?
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.
Thanks for your contribution!