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Last post Author Topic: Cheap LED torches/flashlights - any good?  (Read 8958 times)

rjbull

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Cheap LED torches/flashlights - any good?
« on: April 02, 2013, 04:11:17 PM »
A few years ago, I got mildly interested in modern LED torches (flashlights, to those of you west of the Atlantic).  I settled on a Fenix L1D, a model I think they no longer make, and was very impressed with the light output from a small torch with a single high-quality LED and a single AA battery.  Indeed, sometimes it's too bright.

There are still plenty of premium models around from the likes of Fenix themselves, LED Lenser, Maglite, Ansmann and others, but lately I see every outlet rife with dirt-cheap multi-LED torches that may not be of such quality, but still deliver a lot of light at low cost.

If you aren't an emergency services professional, or the like, and just want a torch for around the house and garden, or for carrying in your car, is there really any point now in buying an expensive top-brand model?

tomos

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Re: Cheap LED torches/flashlights - any good?
« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2013, 04:38:28 PM »
LED's 'fade' with time, so I guess a big question is, whether the more expensive versions avoid that. I've seen the 'fade' happen with a cheap one I bought. A friend of mine had an expensive one, but it's gotten a lot less use so I cant really compare.

They are very bright - sometimes when driving I get blinded by cyclists cause their beam is too high. Usually I'm trying to figure out wtf is this light and then it's too late to 'flash' them (do Americans say 'flash' - or is that dodgy... or is it only dodgy in English English :tellme:)

So, no answers here I'm afraid, only more questions ;)
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40hz

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Re: Cheap LED torches/flashlights - any good?
« Reply #2 on: April 02, 2013, 06:16:30 PM »
I own several LED torches made by Brinkmann. They're rugged and inexpensive compared to many I've seen. But they still throw some serious white light. I've been through a tropical storm, a hurricane and a few blizzards with these guys. And I keep a couple in my tech kit and travel bag. No complaints. And at less than $15 each I'm not too upset when I occasionally "lose" one. Beats my old 'go to' flashlight - the classic krypton bulb Maglite - hands down. The Maglite LED "tactical' models may be better. But I'm not about to drop $60-$80 just to find out. And I really don't need anything that bright (310 lumens!) to begin with.

YMMV. :Thmbsup:

Tinman57

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Re: Cheap LED torches/flashlights - any good?
« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2013, 07:35:38 PM »
  The cheaper torches will throw out good light, but they're built from inferior quality parts. Just dropping one from a few feet will normally put an end to their use.  The higher end (MagLite, etc) can be ran over by cars as in their commercials and still work.  I own several Maglites and a few other high quality torches, have had them for years and years now and still work like new.

  Just remember the old (but true) adage "You get what you pay for" and "If it's too good to be true, it probably isn't".

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Re: Cheap LED torches/flashlights - any good?
« Reply #4 on: April 02, 2013, 07:48:04 PM »
I bought a 3-pack of LED flashlights at Costco last fall.  They are very bright (which is welcome for walking, and cleaning up after, three big dogs in the dark).  I keep one in my coat pocket, one in the leash bucket, and one near the door.  The switch is a button on the end which goes from off to very bright to VERY BRIGHT to flashing.

Within two weeks the switch on first light I had pulled out had already started to get flaky, and two weeks after that it was useless enough that I tossed it.

That said, the other lights have been very reliable and have lasted through the winter without a hitch (and in fact I picked up another 3-pack before they were all gone).

FWIW I also have an LED Lenser which I keep at my bedside table.  Don't use it often but it has always been perfectly reliable.  It cost more than that 3-pack did, but I expect there is better consistency in the units, and heavier duty cycle switches.  Especially in the cheap LED lights you see ($3.99 at the Office Depot checkout line) the switches are the weakest link.
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Renegade

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Re: Cheap LED torches/flashlights - any good?
« Reply #5 on: April 02, 2013, 09:49:05 PM »
I have a small "fits in the palm of your hand" crank LED flashlight, so it doesn't need batteries. It's good for things like peering into a computer case and the like. Seems pretty decent to me. Better than regular bulb ones anyways.
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Re: Cheap LED torches/flashlights - any good?
« Reply #6 on: April 03, 2013, 12:55:34 AM »
I have an additional requirement for LED flashlights and would not consider buying one that wasn't the crank style dynamo type. Nothing worse than having a flashlight but no working batteries, when you really need it. That's pretty much like not having a flashlight at all. Also, the cost of batteries over time, can really add up.

Now, in the dynamo type, there are plenty of brands available and not all of them are good or priced within reason. After buying a pair of them to get me through an extended power outage, when I basically had to take what I could get and didn't have the chance to research or shop around, I have learned a lot.

That first set didn't have a very long life. They stopped being able to hold a charge rather quickly. And on one of them, the crank broke off, making it completely unusable.

Before the other one had a chance to completely die on me, I did my homework and found what I believed was the best combination of battery life, durability, and price.

This is the one I settled on (I bought 2): Garrity Power Lite 3 LED Crank Light

I couldn't be happier with my choice. I have had them for a number of years now and they are just as good as the day I bought them. They still hold a charge well and the cranks haven't broken off. And living in a dimly lit environment, I use these flashlights a lot. (if you drop something on my living room floor, you'll never find it again, without a flashlight, even with both table lamps turned on.)

Despite being so happy with my crank style LED flashlights, I still miss and long for a replacement to my little Energizer fluorescent tube flashlight, even though they eat batteries like crazy. There was nothing better for lighting up an entire room during a power failure. Tried to replace it with a similar type of battery operated fluorescent tube closet light, but it didn't even come close to being as good. You might like using an LED to light the inside of your PC case, but I LOVED this flashlight for that purpose, more than an LED. Just set it down in the bottom of the case and you could see every inch of the inside. And it's the only flashlight I have come across that you could turn on and hang from the light fixture in the bathroom and have enough light to take a shower. Or set on the kitchen table and have enough light to cook on the other side of the room while your kid did her homework at the table.

I did just find something that looks a lot like my old one and I might just try it. Would be great if it turned out to be just as good.

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Re: Cheap LED torches/flashlights - any good?
« Reply #7 on: April 03, 2013, 06:46:26 AM »
I had a really cheap one from pound-land and it was extremely bright but the on and off button broke within half a week and it wouldn't turn off, so I would stay awake from dirt-cheap multi-LED torches, there not worth the hassle.
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pilgrim

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Re: Cheap LED torches/flashlights - any good?
« Reply #8 on: April 04, 2013, 09:26:31 AM »
Cheap LED torches are like everything else, some are good some are bad.

I bought half a dozen some time ago for the princely sum of 20p each, that included 2 x AA batteries with each.
They only have a single LED but they are bright enough to read by if it should be necessary.
I keep one in each room ready for the inevitable power cuts we get from time to time.

If you wanted one to use outdoors on a regular basis I expect the expensive ones are a better bet, if not the cheap ones are usually adequate.

I used to use fairly large quantities of LED's some years ago but back then High Powered LED's were very expensive compared to others, blue LED's were only just appearing on the market and only low powered ones were available, and trying to find any that emitted a 'white' light (the sort found in most LED torches) was impossible.

It's like the capacity of small rechargeable batteries the technology has improved considerably in recent years.
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skwire

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Re: Cheap LED torches/flashlights - any good?
« Reply #9 on: April 04, 2013, 10:22:12 AM »
I'm sure I can't be the only one that doesn't like the type of light that LED's put out.  How do I explain this?  I mean...I don't like the glowy, overall subdued light that most LED flashlights give off.  I much prefer the type of light that a traditional incandescent flashlight produces.  I feel that they illuminate much better than LEDs.  More detail, IMO.  Maybe I'm alone here?

rjbull

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Re: Cheap LED torches/flashlights - any good?
« Reply #10 on: April 04, 2013, 11:42:24 AM »
Thanks, folks...  I'd decided the common claim of "aircraft grade" aluminium given for low-end torches was (usually) specious, but didn't know about "LED fade," nor thought about switch quality.  I realise you get what you pay for, but as you can often buy 10 cheapies for the cost of one high-end torch, it becomes harder to decide what's the better deal.

I hadn't thought about hand-cranked torches either, but having one around would clearly be a good idea.  They're widely available in the UK, but look very low-end.  I checked both Brinkmann and Garrity on Amazon UK; the former look the same price as other top brands, and Amazon don't offer Garrity hand-cranked models.

To light up a room, I have a fluorescent camping lantern that takes 4*D batteries, but it only really gives enough light to see your way around, not enough to actually do anything.  Fluorescent tube lanterns have also been superseded by LED lanterns, but look quite large.  I've seen a recommendation for the pen-sized RIL50 8 LED Mini Inspection Light.  It doesn't really look big enough to light a whole room, but good for working in small areas, like vehicle engine compartments.

An expensive recommendation I saw recently, and that appealed to me, was for the LED Lenser V2 Aviator Torch because it has a ring of white LEDs surrounding a single separately-switchable red LED.  The idea is to use the latter for things where you don't want to affect your night vision, like map-reading, but to have full illumination readily available as well. 

LED torches are making my old incandescent Petzl head torch look decidedly dim, so maybe I'll start looking at head torches again.  Sigh...

I think skwire's right about LED light quality.  It may be something to do with the output not being full-spectrum, just a narrow band of frequencies.  I've even seen that stated as a reason why they can't be used for hunting at night, the lack of full-colour vision also spoiling one's depth/distance perception.

40hz

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Re: Cheap LED torches/flashlights - any good?
« Reply #11 on: April 04, 2013, 02:35:08 PM »
I'm sure I can't be the only one that doesn't like the type of light that LED's put out.  How do I explain this?  I mean...I don't like the glowy, overall subdued light that most LED flashlights give off.  I much prefer the type of light that a traditional incandescent flashlight produces.  I feel that they illuminate much better than LEDs.  More detail, IMO.  Maybe I'm alone here?

Nope. I agree. LEDs are just little too bright and white to suit me. Seem more like a lightning flash than the sunlight quality you get from incandescent bulbs. And they do kill your night vision and screw up depth perception as others have already noted.  But I guess thats the trade-off for higher lumens, longer run times, no heat, and overall better shock resistance.

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Re: Cheap LED torches/flashlights - any good?
« Reply #12 on: April 04, 2013, 04:45:27 PM »
I've seen a recommendation for the pen-sized RIL50 8 LED Mini Inspection Light.  It doesn't really look big enough to light a whole room, but good for working in small areas, like vehicle engine compartments.

I feel that pen lights are the most useful when they don't have anything like clips or magnets that could prevent you from holding them between your teeth, for hands free usage.  ;)

Tinman57

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Re: Cheap LED torches/flashlights - any good?
« Reply #13 on: April 04, 2013, 06:36:27 PM »
I'm sure I can't be the only one that doesn't like the type of light that LED's put out.  How do I explain this?  I mean...I don't like the glowy, overall subdued light that most LED flashlights give off.  I much prefer the type of light that a traditional incandescent flashlight produces.  I feel that they illuminate much better than LEDs.  More detail, IMO.  Maybe I'm alone here?

  You'll note that all military and police-grade flashlights (torches) are the bright white LED's.  The ones I have are adjustable from narrow to wide beam.  The narrow beam is most excellent to light up a subject, has that "reach out and touch someone" power, and is what I use with my 12 gauge at night.  The wide beam though, to me, seems to throw out that glow that gets reflected by moisture or pollution in the air.

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Re: Cheap LED torches/flashlights - any good?
« Reply #14 on: April 04, 2013, 07:14:47 PM »
...has that "reach out and touch someone" power, and is what I use with my 12 gauge at night....

WTF? here's hoping I never actually meet you at night :o

Tinman57

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Re: Cheap LED torches/flashlights - any good?
« Reply #15 on: April 04, 2013, 08:03:56 PM »
...has that "reach out and touch someone" power, and is what I use with my 12 gauge at night....

WTF? here's hoping I never actually meet you at night :o 

  LOL!  I live out in the middle of the forest on my ranch.  There are critters around here that like munching on horses and outside pets, so I need something super bright at night to spot these evil critters.  My 30-30 has a night-vision scope on it so I can really reach out there and touch something.   ;)  And yes, if it's a human being sneaking about at night around my house, obviously they're up to no good and will be dealth with appropriately...   ;D

crabby3

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Re: Cheap LED torches/flashlights - any good?
« Reply #16 on: April 06, 2013, 03:11:32 PM »
A few years ago, I got mildly interested in modern LED torches (flashlights, to those of you west of the Atlantic).  I settled on a Fenix L1D, a model I think they no longer make, and was very impressed with the light output from a small torch with a single high-quality LED and a single AA battery.  Indeed, sometimes it's too bright.

There are still plenty of premium models around from the likes of Fenix themselves, LED Lenser, Maglite, Ansmann and others, but lately I see every outlet rife with dirt-cheap multi-LED torches that may not be of such quality, but still deliver a lot of light at low cost.

If you aren't an emergency services professional, or the like, and just want a torch for around the house and garden, or for carrying in your car, is there really any point now in buying an expensive top-brand model?

FWIW  I have one of these little guys and it's bright enough to see where you are stepping in total darkness.  I like it because it uses only 1 AAA.  You can twist it to keep it on or hold the button on the end.

It has similar looks and feel of a Maglite.  I've dropped it a few times but I haven't run over it with a vehicle.

Mine was a premium (free) but they're only 4 bucks USD + shipping (which may be more than 4 bucks; you know ... across the pond and all).   ;D

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Re: Cheap LED torches/flashlights - any good?
« Reply #17 on: April 06, 2013, 09:51:06 PM »
In general, I prefer the LED type with the Maglites.
Dependable and long lasting, if you get the ones that use D batteries.
For me, D batteries have always lasted much longer then any other size.
The crank type flashlight is good to have as a backup.

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Re: Cheap LED torches/flashlights - any good?
« Reply #18 on: April 07, 2013, 10:27:33 AM »
Personnally, I rely on Photonlight products.  They are small, easy to use, well built and not that expensive.  They run promotion regularly.  And they have models where the LED is partially shielded so that the user doesn't get any part of the beam in his/her own eyes. Just my 2 cents...
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IsmaelHansen

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Re: Cheap LED torches/flashlights - any good?
« Reply #19 on: July 22, 2013, 12:22:03 PM »
A few years ago, I got mildly interested in modern LED torches (flashlights, to those of you west of the Atlantic).  I settled on a Fenix L1D, a model I think they no longer make, and was very impressed with the light output from a small torch with a single high-quality LED and a single AA battery.  Indeed, sometimes it's too bright.

There are still plenty of premium models around from the likes of Fenix themselves, led lights Lenser, Maglite, Ansmann and others, but lately I see every outlet rife with dirt-cheap multi-LED torches that may not be of such quality, but still deliver a lot of light at low cost.

If you aren't an emergency services professional, or the like, and just want a torch for around the house and garden, or for carrying in your car, is there really any point now in buying an expensive top-brand model?


it depends on luck some lights last for years and many not even for some days.. I am lucky my cheap lights are working well for last two years
« Last Edit: July 23, 2013, 10:43:24 AM by IsmaelHansen »

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Re: Cheap LED torches/flashlights - any good?
« Reply #20 on: July 22, 2013, 01:10:38 PM »
I'm sure I can't be the only one that doesn't like the type of light that LED's put out.  How do I explain this?  I mean...I don't like the glowy, overall subdued light that most LED flashlights give off.  I much prefer the type of light that a traditional incandescent flashlight produces.  I feel that they illuminate much better than LEDs.  More detail, IMO.  Maybe I'm alone here?

Nope. I agree. LEDs are just little too bright and white to suit me. Seem more like a lightning flash than the sunlight quality you get from incandescent bulbs. And they do kill your night vision and screw up depth perception as others have already noted.  But I guess thats the trade-off for higher lumens, longer run times, no heat, and overall better shock resistance.

I'm not a real fan of the Ultra white LED light either. I just don't trust that I'm really seeing everything that I could.

However, after having many genuine Maglite brand flashlights break or get stolen ... I am slowly becoming a fan of the cheap stuff. There is a tool store chain called Harbor Freight that has a coupon in the Sunday paper for a free flashlight/volt meter/etc. every week. I've been carrying one of their ~ 3" x 1" round flashlights in my pocket for a few years and it does just fine. Hell it's even half assed water proof as I've dropped it in the water a few times doing various projects and it's still doing great.

They usually come 2 in a pack for $3, have a metal case, and are more impact resistant than any other flashlight I've ever had.

Website has them on sale now for $1

rjbull

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Re: Cheap LED torches/flashlights - any good?
« Reply #21 on: July 22, 2013, 02:49:42 PM »
I'm not a real fan of the Ultra white LED light either. I just don't trust that I'm really seeing everything that I could.
I don't think you are.  I'm sure I read (somewhere on the Web, so it must be true...) something to the effect that you can't really use LEDs for hunting at night, because their limited spectrum messes up the human eye's depth perception.

There is a tool store chain called Harbor Freight [...] I've been carrying one of their ~ 3" x 1" round flashlights in my pocket [...]They usually come 2 in a pack for $3, have a metal case, and are more impact resistant than any other flashlight I've ever had.
Website has them on sale now for $1
That looks identical to the ones that started me asking the original question!  There appear to be several variations on the case; with/without binocular-style rubber armour, or a plastic case.  Mine has a photoluminescent green plastic case that glows in the dark like a ghost train.

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Re: Cheap LED torches/flashlights - any good?
« Reply #22 on: July 22, 2013, 03:29:00 PM »
I'm not a real fan of the Ultra white LED light either. I just don't trust that I'm really seeing everything that I could.
I don't think you are.  I'm sure I read (somewhere on the Web, so it must be true...) something to the effect that you can't really use LEDs for hunting at night, because their limited spectrum messes up the human eye's depth perception.

Well no issues their then, as I've never been much on hunting. That and I'm of the mind that if one finds themselves in the woods you can generally see more area but less detail without a flashlight.


There is a tool store chain called Harbor Freight [...] I've been carrying one of their ~ 3" x 1" round flashlights in my pocket [...]They usually come 2 in a pack for $3, have a metal case, and are more impact resistant than any other flashlight I've ever had.
Website has them on sale now for $1
That looks identical to the ones that started me asking the original question!  There appear to be several variations on the case; with/without binocular-style rubber armour, or a plastic case.  Mine has a photoluminescent green plastic case that glows in the dark like a ghost train.[/quote]

I like the plain metal case, it slides in/out of my pocket easily when I need in and doesn't take up a lot of room. Rubber will just make it bounce when dropped and the damn thing is already round ...(so the tendency to roll away is bad enough)... Christ I don't want to have to try and chase a jackrabbit under a desk...I'd probably never find it.

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Re: Cheap LED torches/flashlights - any good?
« Reply #23 on: November 21, 2013, 01:09:55 AM »
Just received two Ultrafire CREE Q5 300LM, (they were on special for <$4).

Torch.jpgCheap LED torches/flashlights - any good?

Run on either one AA battery or a 14500 LiIon, (which is what I use), zoom from flood to spot.  Almost twice the light output as my old LED torch, (which uses a 18650 LiIon), at 2/3 the size.

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Re: Cheap LED torches/flashlights - any good?
« Reply #24 on: November 21, 2013, 01:01:57 PM »
I bought a cheap wind-up LED light around 5 years ago. It has 3 LEDs for output and can operate in 1 or 3 LED mode.

Winding it up for a bit lets it run several minutes without needing to be wound up again.

Gotta see if I can find a make and model on it for you guys, because in 5 years of industrial service with regular use it is still going rather well for a cheap lamp.