Lumens On A Flashlight.. What Are They? How Many Do You Need?

What Are Lumens on a Flashlight? How Many Do I Need?

There are many things one needs to consider when looking for a flashlight. Lots of people go straight to the lumens on a flashlight to see if it is right for them. Lumens have become the main marketing number on flashlights and people always want more.

But there are other really important things like durability, run time, different light levels, the batteries used, is it rechargeable, does it have a good switch, does it have other modes like a strobe. Most decent brands have torches that are super bright and really you do not need a huge amount of lumens.

Nonetheless, if you are looking for a torch with excellent performance, you need to know how many lumens a particular flashlight has so you can tell whether it will serve your needs. You might just want to try to copy the sun for fun in the day and in that case check out our guide of the lights with the most lumens.

So, what is a lumen? This article will detail everything you need to know about lumens on a flashlight.

Flashlight Lumens Explained

Traditional bulbs, also known as incandescent lights, use watts as their rating indicator. Watts are a measure of the amount of energy that you need to produce light.

Lumens, on the other hand, are a measure of the produced light.

As such, lumens tell you how bright the light is from a particular source. Therefore, the more lumens there are, the brighter the light will be depending on if the light is focused or not.

Lumens are total output from the source not light intensity at a certain spot like on a light meter. Candela would be the measurement of light intensity in a direction we cover that more in our article about converting candlepower to lumens. Lux would be the amount of light that hits a target.

Translating watts into lumens, however, is not that straightforward. For example, while a 100-watt bulb produces 1,600 lumens of light, a 60-watt bulb produces about 800 lumens. As you can see, the relationship between watts and lumens is not linear and, therefore, you cannot assume the lumens that a bulb can produce by looking at its wattage.

Whereas up to 90 percent of the energy that an incandescent bulb uses to produce wastes away as heat, nearly 100 percent of the power that an LED bulb uses goes towards producing light.

How Accurate are the stated Lumens on Flashlights?

This is a good question because what you see is not always what you get. As mentioned, in marketing it has become the more the lumens, the better. Therefore, manufacturers know that by overstating a flashlight’s capacity, they will be more likely to make sales. Unfortunately, some manufacturers do lie about the number of lumens that their flashlights have.

In addition to lying, others use cheap tactics to manipulate consumers into thinking that their flashlights have a high number of lumens. For example, a flashlight can have the model number – JTF1000, which suggests that it has 1000 lumens of light while it does not. You, therefore, need to be aware of these backhanded tactics.

So, how can one avoid getting duped? You could always learn to measure lumens, we have a couple DIY setups laid out in that article.

A while back, stereo amplifiers used to be sold based on watts. The implication was that the more wattage an amplifier had, the more powerful it was. Based on that concept, it would mean that a 1000-watt amp should at least be two times as powerful as a 500-watt amp. However, that is not the case. 

The same goes for lumens. It is not uncommon for individuals to notice that their 1000 lumen flashlights are not as bright as somebody else’s 300-lumen flashlight. One of the biggest contributors to this difference is the influx of cheap lumen flashlights from China. For example, you can get a 1000-lumen flashlight for only $12. However, you can be sure that that flashlight does not have as many lumens as it claims it does. Moreover, due to being cheaply made, such lights have a very short lifespan.

The best means of avoiding false claims is by ensuring that you only purchase your flashlight from a well-known and reputable brand. Some reputable brands are SureFire, Streamlight, Jetbeam, Olight, Fenix, Nitecore, RovyVon, Klarus, Pelican, there are lots more good brands. If you cannot find a manufacturer’s detailed presence and information on Google, do not buy from them.

Reflectors and The Lens

Reflector cones to manage and focus the light from the LED.

If a flashlight has a deep reflector then it will better point all of the light in a single direction. We call this throw. When a flashlight has a shallow or very little of a cone the light will spread out in a wide-angle from the light and we call this flood. If you are interested in illuminating the light around you but not worried about seeing far you want more flood.

When it comes to reflector types there is also a couple of different “finishes” some are just like a mirror and some are like an “orange peel” this finish will not change the way the light reacts much aside from smoothing out the beam so there are not rings and as much of a hotspot.

Lenses in most cases are just clear and flat and are more a part of the overall durability of the light than the light output. There is a type of lens called an aspherical lens that does a similar job as a big reflector and changes the direction of the light coming out of the flashlight. A light with an aspherical lens will have the ability to focus the light into a thin beam and go a long distance outdoors

How Many Lumens do I need?

The number of lumens that firefighters look for in a flashlight will be different from what you are looking for in a tactical flashlight.

Need is an important word here, in most cases, you will not need much more than 100 lumens. Especially if you are in an area with street lights.

We really like small compact EDC lights that have well-spaced light output modes good battery life and a moonlight or firefly mode. This guide will help you find the range that is most appropriate for you:

1 Lumen

One lumen is about ten times as bright as the moonlight.

However, this brightness will be dependent upon the width of the flashlight’s beam. The wider the beam is, the dimmer the light will be. Even though one lumen may not seem like much, it can be quite useful in pitch-black darkness and would be enough for reading.

In reality moonlight or firefly modes that are 1 lumen and less are our most used modes. There are so many times that I just need to get around in the dark in my home or at night while camping and we don’t need more output that would mess with our vision.

10-100 Lumens

The brightness from this number of lumens is equivalent to that of a candle.

Before you dismiss a flashlight with this number of lumens, however, you have to remember that a candle’s light disperses in all directions, while light from a flashlight is a focused beam.

If you were able to focus light from a candle, it would be much brighter. A flashlight whose light’s brightness lies within this range should serve all your everyday needs.

100-500 Lumens

The illumination from 300 lumens is enough to illuminate an object that is up to 150 feet away.

It can also comfortably light up a small room. This is enough to temporarily blind somebody at close range if you got it directly in their eyes so it is the beginning of a “tactical flashlight”.

Nowadays you can find small everyday carry lights in this range.

Over 1000 Lumens

There are not many cases where you will actually need over 1000 lumens but most people just want as much as they can get.

Some places where this range of lumens would be appropriate are

  • law enforcement
  • firefighters
  • security guard
  • search and rescue
  • hunting
  • hiking
  • emergency services activities

A flashlight within this category can light up large spaces and, therefore, is mainly used in warehouses, construction sites, and shipyards. The brightest lights can put out over 100,000 lumens and can shine light over a huge distance.

Final Thoughts

Lumens are the measurement of a light’s total brightness. The amount of brightness you require should determine the flashlight that you choose. Additionally, you must make sure that you purchase your flashlight from a reputable manufacturer.

Thank you for visiting our site, if you want to learn more about flashlight head over to our homepage and poke around. If you are currently looking for a flashlight we recommend you head over to our buyers guide hub where you can see all of the different light buyers guides and decide which one fits what you are looking for. We have them separated by battery type, work and activities, and some other things.