Flashlights are portable hand-held electric lights that are commonly used in all industries to help us see at night, in dark rooms or in areas with poor lighting. This innovation has been helping people perform tasks and stay safe since they were first launched. Everyone needs a flashlight from time to time. These are invaluable instruments to help us perform numerous tasks or to help us stay safe at night when there are so many dangerous creatures, insects and people out there.
Modern flashlights are more flexible and diverse than ever before. These flashlights offer features such as longer battery life, waterproofing, solar or magnetic recharging, compasses, utility tools and so much more. There is a huge variety to choose from and they greatly vary in size and performance.
Where It All Began
Flashlights couldn’t be invented until the first dry cell batteries were made back in 1887 because these were the first batteries able to support electric devices since liquid batteries could easily spill or break when tilted. Portable hand-held lights were some of the first inventions to follow after the first dry-cell batteries were made. The first portable electric lights were safer and more convenient to use than torches, candles or lanterns. They were also cordless and smokeless which were huge flexibility advantages. The first-ever flashlight was invented in 1899 by David Misell and consisted of dry cell batteries in a paper tube and light bulb with reflector in the end. Mass production soon followed because of one reason; flashlights are some of the handiest products in existence to this very day.
How Do Flashlights Function?
Modern bright flashlights can be quite complex. They can include several features and accessories. A basic flashlight consists of a light source that is mounted in with a reflector. A transparent cover known as the lens protects the batteries and reflector. The flashlight also uses a protective battery case and a switch that allows you to switch the light on and off or that allows you to alter the light modes of your flashlight depending on the model you have.
The Different Types of Flashlights
Today you can find a flashlight for just about any task or occasion and you can find flashlights that are perfect for general use such as power outages, long journeys, camping trips and more. There are all kinds of flashlights available on the market today which can make it hard for you to decide on the right one. Here is a quick look at the main types you can buy right now;
Incandescent bulbs - These flashlights are the oldest or most basic in design. They are very bright but the energy consumption of these bulbs is very high and the bulbs are prone to heating with use. The bulbs and batteries of incandescent bulb flashlights don’t last too long.
LED flashlights - These flashlights are designed with a bulb that has light-emitting diodes, a type of semiconductor. These flashlights offer a longer battery life and they are also highly durable. The lower energy consumption and cooler light enhance the battery life and durability of the flashlight s durability. LED flashlights are available in several colored lights but the white light or cool white lights are the most popular. The white light does, however, seem more bluish than white - something to keep in mind when you buy. Lots of people prefer the blush hue of these lights although many prefer the older and richer yellow and orange hues.
HID flashlights - The bulbs of these flashlights force an electric current through a ball of ionized glass that offers a very bright and powerful light. These are the world’s brightest flashlights but they are much bigger and they do tend to be expensive.
Gas-filled flashlights - Some flashlights have bulbs that are filled with gasses such as xenon, halogen or krypton. The pressurized gas extends the life of the filament so it can burn brighter without taking too much energy from the battery. They do last long but are not quite as durable or bright as LED flashlights.
Rechargeable flashlights - Lots of flashlights are fitted with a series of dry cell batteries that need to be replaced when they are out of energy. You can also power these flashlights with rechargeable LED flashlights with batteries that you can remove from the flashlight for recharging. More and more flashlights are now being launched with USB rechargeable batteries built into the flashlight. This replaces the need to constantly buy new batteries since you can simply plug it into a home power source or solar power bank for recharging.
Shake flashlights - Shake flashlights are also known as Faraday flashlights after the man who discovered the electromagnetic principle. These flashlights typically are heavier because they consist of extra components. The inside of the flashlight is layered with a copper coil and has batteries that can slide through these coils when shaken. As the battery passes through the copper coil, an electromagnetic currency is created and a battery attached to the copper coil is charged. By shaking the flashlight for about a minute you will be able to enjoy several hours of light. The light isn’t very powerful but these flashlights are very handy in emergencies, especially considering that you will never have to buy a battery. The powerful magnets found inside these flashlights can, however, be damaging to electrical components such as computers, credit cards or pacemakers.
Solar flashlights - These flashlights contain a solar panel at the top that recharges the battery via UV sunlight when you put it in the sun. Some of these flashlights can also be connected to a solar base for recharging such as a power bank with solar panels. These flashlights don’t offer the brightest light but they are perfect for environmentally conscious individuals since batteries are so harmful to the environment.
Handheld flashlights - Handheld flashlights are the flashlights that you hold in your hand. It usually has a circular tube body in which components such as lens, bulb, and batteries are encased. These flashlights can greatly vary in size and can contain any type of bulb including LED, gas-filled or incandescent bulbs. The flashlights can function via two simple batteries or can contain lots of cell batteries in a row for longer light durability.
Headlamps - Headlamps are flashlights with light and flat design that is fitted to an adjustable strap that you can wear on your head. These lamps are very functional for work environments and for sportsmen that love night activities such as hiking or cycling. The headlamp is fitted to your forehead and automatically applies light wherever you turn your head to look so you can have both hands free for other tasks. Headlamps are available in a huge variety of shapes, sizes, and styles and they can also contain any of the above-mentioned bulb types. These lamps also offer various adjustment settings or angles so you can have the right light intensity at the right angle to complete your task.
Lanterns - Lanterns are preferable for lighting up an entire room or area. Unlike flashlights or headlamps, these don’t have a front positioned lens. Instead, the lantern’s batteries are fitted in the base with a circular lens around the bulb that offers light in all directions. These lights are preferable for power outages, camping trips or for creating a desirable atmosphere when dining.
Children’s flashlights - Children’s flashlights fall under two major categories. There are those affordable utility flashlights that you buy for little ones because they won’t last long anyway and it doesn’t matter too much if your child breaks it. And then there are specially designed flashlights for kids that offer a beautiful character design, is impact and water-resistant and that features an easy on and off design so little fingers can use these flashlights with ease. Typically these flashlights are also very light in weight and contain LED bulbs that reduce battery consumption since little ones tend to overuse flashlights for play as well as to see.
Keychain flashlights - These small flashlights typically are not the most durable and don’t offer the widest beam but they can be a real lifesaver in emergencies. They are small enough to fit comfortably on your key chain and should be a must-have for every vehicle owner.
Merchandise flashlights - These are the very affordable mini flashlights that are often branded by businesses and handed out on marketing events or to customers. The flashlights are very simple in design, usually, don’t last long and only remain functional for a short time.
Utility flashlights - Utility flashlights are the cheap ones you can buy in virtually any store. They are easy to use, don’t offer the brightest light thank to an incandescent bulb and they are usually made of cheap plastic including the lens. While these flashlights are not the best, they are still loved all over because you can pick them up at such a good price.
Heavy-duty flashlights - Heavy duty or industrial flashlights are manufactured from sturdy and heavier plastic and they usually contain a better lens. They usually have a better quality krypton lamp that offers more light and these flashlights are usually powered by 2 d-cell batteries. They offer a heavier and sturdier feel and usually last quite a long time.
Work flashlights - These flashlights offer better durability and performance than heavy-duty flashlights. They are designed for frequent use and are usually made of a combination of plastic and nylon composites. Most work flashlights have a rubber encasement that assists in impact absorption and grip. They are often water-resistant and usually have better quality bulbs that offer 17 - 30 lumens.
Tactical flashlights - These flashlights are usually very slim in design yet powerful. The small design makes them more portable while the improved lens and bulb offer much brighter light. These flashlights are usually impacted, shock and water-resistant and the switch is strategically positioned for left and right-handed handling. The bulbs of these flashlights are usually of high quality and can mostly be found in HID or LED for enhanced performance and better battery life. The brightest tactical flashlights are also usually rechargeable.
Laser beam flashlights - These flashlights also function with batteries, a lens and usually look a lot like a smaller version of a flashlight but they are quite different. Unlike most flashlights, laser beam flashlights or pointer flashlights don’t offer a wide beam to give you a clear view of surroundings. A special glass, crystals or gas is used to absorb energy and to intensify the light that is created by the bulb. Laser beams usually produce a very powerful ray of light that can shine very far. These lights are functional for pointing things out but they can be very damaging to human corneas if shined directly into your eyes.
Important Things to Keep In Mind When You Buy
Now that you have a good grasp of the main types of flashlights out there, it is also important for you to understand the difference in function and features. Here is a quick look at a few important aspects or design features that flashlights have that could offer you a lot more functionality;
Light output - Light output is measured in lumens, a measure of the intensity of light that is produced by the flashlight when it is set on the highest intensity level. Light output can vary from 20 lumens which are good for reading books up the highest lumen flashlights able to produce 3500 lumens that are only found in terrain-scorching HID flashlights. While lumens are good for concluding the light performance of a flashlight it still doesn’t offer information on the beam distance, with intensity or light color.
Reflector - The reflector is that thickened curved piece of plastic or glass that is fitted in front of the flashlight. Reflectors can help enhance the light clarity and intensity that passes through the flashlight and can prevent the light from being absorbed back into the flashlight design.
Beam distance - Beam distance is measured in meters and indicates how far a light shines before the light intensity fades to the same degree of full moonlight. Beam distance is often different depending on the light setting you are using during viewing.
Run time - Run time is the duration your light output takes to drop to 10% output on new batteries. The runtime of a flashlight or a set of batteries will gradually decrease over time. Run time is usually measured in hours and is used to indicate how long you will be able to enjoy powerful light.
Impact resistance - This is also measured in meters and indicates the distance a flashlight can fall before damage occurs. This test is mostly used for tactical or heavy-duty flashlights.
Water-resistance - Water resistance is rated on the IPX system. Flashlights with an IPX4 rating is splash resistant from all angles and will remain functional in rain or splashes. Flashlights with an IPX7 rating can be submerged up to 30 minutes to a depth of 1 meter. An IPX8 rating usually means the flashlight will stay intact after spending up to 4 hours underwater at a specific depth. Waterproof flashlights are usually handy for all-terrain or work use.
Bulb type - Flashlights are manufactured with various bulb types. The most common types are those with incandescent bulbs with krypton pressured gas inside. Today you can, however, find many more LED flashlights on the market at a very affordable price.
Beam types - The lens around the bulb of the flashlight affects how light is distorted. Most flashlights have the following beam options; Flood - a single beam, spot - a single beam that offers a spotlight and adjustable - a beam that is adjusted to focus. There is however some flashlight that offers additional modes such as SOS functions, flicker functions, colored light functions and much more.
Light output - Most flashlights offer a steady output until the battery levels start to dwindle during which the output will greatly reduce to help the user realize that the batteries are running low.
Battery type - Modern flashlights function with several different battery types such as the following;
Disposable - These batteries come in different sizes such as AA or AAA and need to be replaced when they run out of energy.
Rechargeable - These flashlights have a built-in lithium-ion battery that can be recharged via USB port. The flashlight is usually rechargeable by home power source, power bank, computer USB or AC or DC outlet on a solar panel.
Renewable - Renewable batteries are the type that will either recharge via solar energy or via electromagnetic current generation.
Modes - Cheap utility flashlights usually only have a few modes such as low, medium and high. Higher quality flashlights can also offer additional modes such as SOS features and more.
Controls - Flashlights are designed with different types of controls. There is some that function with push buttons while others have slide functions or rotating switches that require two hands to operate. Users prefer push or switch button flashlights for tactical approaches but many prefer rotating functions for HID flashlights that allow them to control the beam intensity to spare battery life.
Materials and shape - Flashlight bodies are made of all sorts of materials and can greatly vary in size and design. Most flashlights are made of plastic bodies that can either be cheap or hardened. Aluminum alloy flashlights are usually found in more durable high-end flashlights like tactical ones. Lots of powerful flashlights are also designed with a rubber coating to help absorb impact upon a fall and to enhance the grip you have on the flashlight. The bodies of flashlights are mostly cylindrical but some offer a straight design that won’t roll over when put down. Additionally, some headlamps and lanterns are much different in design to your ordinary handheld flashlight.
Weight - Flashlights can greatly vary in weight depending on the battery and material type. Plastic flashlights are lighter but can break easier where aluminum alloy flashlights are heavier but sturdier. Slim flashlights that contain AAA batteries are also much lighter than flashlights that use larger batteries.
Accessories - Flashlights can be designed with many accessories such as belt clips, holsters, lens filters, arm straps, diffusers, magnetic strips, and much more to enhance functionality or flexibility. Flashlights can also include various packaging solutions such as padded impact protecting container boxes or high-end luxury gift packaging.
Brand - There are lots of leading flashlight brands on the market but there is also a lot of no-name cheap types on the market. Modern technology has resulted in several cheap brands that offer flashlights that deliver quite astonishing results. But with these cheap brands, you often cannot tell what the quality of the flashlight will be like until you bought and used it. If you’re looking for super bright flashlights that will last then it is best to consider FDI approved brands that have established reputations like Mag-Lite, Streamlight, Fenix, Surefire, Nitecore, J5, Olight or others.
As you can see, flashlights are not nearly as simple as you might have once thought. There are lots of features you should keep in mind when you buy one and there are flashlights available for a variety of different purposes. If you are unsure as to which flashlights to buy then we welcome you to have a look at some of our product reviews or our buyers guide as we are sure that these will shed some more light on the situation