Is one LED better than a bunch of LEDs?

notoobright

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It seems good quality flashlight tend to have one high power LED while cheap ones tend to have many low power LEDs.

Is one high power LED more efficient than many low power LEDs?
 

greenpondmike

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I've had both kinds in different formats and I personally prefer a single LED over multiple ones especially since I prefer lights with middle hotspots over floodlights (multiple leds tend to be more floody). There are some expensive quality lights out there that have 3 leds and the same with the single one's. I think the single one's can be more efficient though for the most part. The best ones I've ever had were single, but I'm unenlightened concerning the higher quality multiple led flashlights and drop in's.
 

Katherine Alicia

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the Efficiency is better with multiple leds, more lumens for less heat, the D4V2 (hardly cheap!) uses 4 main emitters, the Lumintop FW21 Pro uses 3 emitters (10,000 lumens!).
you can`t go on LED count as a function of quality, that would be like saying all red cars are fast ;)
 

idleprocess

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It seems good quality flashlight tend to have one high power LED while cheap ones tend to have many low power LEDs.

Is one high power LED more efficient than many low power LEDs?

Short answer: Yes - at least in terms of lumens per watt.

Way back in the mists of antiquity circa 2000 when "LED flashlight" was a novelty, one's choice in LED packages were generally limited to 3mm/5mm/10mm discrete through-hole mounted LEDs. If you wanted more light you needed more LEDs. Of course this was a vague floody affair since the optics on those 3/5/10mm packages were not particularly refined. Thus the showerhead genre of flashlight came into being. These are still being made today (think the infamous free Harbor Freight flashlight), although absurdities like 112 LED models aren't.

Then sometime 2003-ish the power LED was invented and suddenly you could get tens of lumens from a single package and use a conventional reflector to focus it like an incandescent flashlight. Some inventive souls determined that one could get into the triple-digit lumens by running additional power LEDs at the expense of throw.

Flash forward to today LEDs are brighter and more efficient to the point that >10k lumens in a device the size of a 2D maglite that might have achieved 50 lumens is possible. Of course, short of using a high-power COB LED, you're probably not going to exceed the 1000 lumens mark with a single LED.

I've had both kinds in different formats and I personally prefer a single LED over multiple ones especially since I prefer lights with middle hotspots over floodlights (multiple leds tend to be more floody). There are some expensive quality lights out there that have 3 leds and the same with the single one's. I think the single one's can be more efficient though for the most part. The best ones I've ever had were single, but I'm unenlightened concerning the higher quality multiple led flashlights and drop in's.

There's no inherent quality difference between a multi-LED flashlight vs a single-LED flashlight. Physics dictates that you're never going to get as much throw from a triple or quad as you will from a single with a comparable head diameter which I would characterize as a performance difference that may or may not matter for your use case.

At just about any level of output beyond the lowest of lows, a multi-LED setup putting out X lumens will use fewer watts than a single-LED setup putting out X lumens translating to more runtime (see next response). The more lumens you demand, the greater the spread in watts consumed. And with most triples and quads you've simply got 3-4x as many potential lumens available and can be practically idling along at a point where a single-LED light is tapped out. The triple setup is quite common with a number of high-end custom lights, likely for this very reason - the ability to burst incredibly high but otherwise enjoy good runtime at the lower levels of output the host can sustain.

the Efficiency is better with multiple leds, more lumens for less heat, the D4V2 (hardly cheap!) uses 4 main emitters, the Lumintop FW21 Pro uses 3 emitters (10,000 lumens!).
you can`t go on LED count as a function of quality, that would be like saying all red cars are fast ;)

Correct. Running more LEDs at lower drive currents is more efficient than running a single LED at higher currents to produce the same number of lumens. There are two factors at play here: the forward voltage of a LED increases as current increases and the output drops as current increases - net result more heat and less light is produced per watt at higher currents. Push a LED hard enough and you'll theoretically reach a point where light output drops as current increases.
 

Chicken Drumstick

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It seems good quality flashlight tend to have one high power LED while cheap ones tend to have many low power LEDs.

Is one high power LED more efficient than many low power LEDs?
Sorry, but this is completely wrong. It depends on the light in question on a case by case basis. And also depends on what the light is intended to be used for.
 

Chicken Drumstick

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Flash forward to today LEDs are brighter and more efficient. Of course, short of using a high-power COB LED, you're probably not going to exceed the 1000 lumens mark with a single LED.
Surely many LEDs offer over 1000 lumens. Even to ANSI FL1 standard, not just at the LED.

A well driven Cree XP-L or XM-L2 will do this. Plus more modern offerings like the XHP35, 50 and 70. Or even the large MT-G2. The Luminus SST-40 and SBT90.2 will also easily exceed 1000 lumens. In fact I think the SBT90.2 is more like 5000+ lumens if driven hard enough.
 

Kestrel

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It seems good quality flashlight tend to have one high power LED while cheap ones tend to have many low power LEDs.

Is one high power LED more efficient than many low power LEDs?
Wow - first post; :welcome:
Personally I prefer an array of high-performance emitters rather than one central one; flood is really my thing & I have less use for throw.
 

idleprocess

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Surely many LEDs offer over 1000 lumens. Even to ANSI FL1 standard, not just at the LED.

A well driven Cree XP-L or XM-L2 will do this. Plus more modern offerings like the XHP35, 50 and 70. Or even the large MT-G2. The Luminus SST-40 and SBT90.2 will also easily exceed 1000 lumens. In fact I think the SBT90.2 is more like 5000+ lumens if driven hard enough.

True, I misspoke and numerous single packages exist that can be collimated with reasonably small optics and/or reflectors can exceed 1000 lumens. However those tend to require large hosts and/or active thermal management to manage said output and can still struggle to sustain it.

Flashlights the size of a 2D maglite may have been standard 20 years ago but those are positively enormous now.

Myself I own some D4's and a D4S both capable of >4000 lumens on burst. The D4's manage burst for perhaps 10s while the D4S can manage for perhaps 30s. I consider both to be sub-1k lumen lights for sustained operation with burst reserved for what was that usage. The D4 is handy and pocketable in a pants pocket; the D4S is chunkier and satisfying to hold in the hand but a bit too much for EDC outside of a sheath or pouch.

Personally I prefer an array of high-performance emitters rather than one central one; flood is really my thing & I have less use for throw.

This has also become my preference. While throw has real-world uses, it feels like obsessing over 0-60 times when picking a daily driver that's going to spend the overwhelming percentage of its driving time at the mercy of rush hour traffic. I take the throwers out to the folks' house in the country but they otherwise sit on the shelf while the floodier lights go everywhere.
 

richbuff

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This is CPF. [emoji16]
Thanks, I need to not post right after waking up, so as to allow some time for my slow, lumbering, earthy fleshy mind to catch up to my nimble non-earthly spirit.

It's hard to tell the difference between here and there, because they are both about flashlights and both are not about Poli---- and also both are not about Reli----. There are some subtle differences between them, though. I guess I will have to pay attention to details before I welcome someone. :)





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If I post about flashlights in an Off-Topic thread in a flashlight forum, is that Off-Off-Topic?
 

Hooked on Fenix

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It depends. You need to take into account efficiency of each l.e.d. at different drive currents, the circuitry running the l.e.d.s, and losses from reflectors, optics, and lenses. Does one light have an electronic switch with a parasitic circuit and another doesn't? All these things will factor into the equation. I suggest getting a light based on whether you need flood or throw more and which light gives you the longest runtime on the brightness settings you use the most. Efficiency doesn't mean squat if the light doesn't reach where you need it to (far enough or a wide enough beam).
 

idleprocess

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It depends. You need to take into account efficiency of each l.e.d. at different drive currents, the circuitry running the l.e.d.s, and losses from reflectors, optics, and lenses. Does one light have an electronic switch with a parasitic circuit and another doesn't? All these things will factor into the equation.

Ceteris paribus, the generality that multiple LEDs in parallel consumer fewer watts producing X lumens than a single LED producing X lumens holds true. However...

I suggest getting a light based on whether you need flood or throw more and which light gives you the longest runtime on the brightness settings you use the most. Efficiency doesn't mean squat if the light doesn't reach where you need it to (far enough or a wide enough beam).
Indeed - thus 'the brightest' or 'longest throwing' or 'longest runtime' should not be the only considerations when shopping since there tend to be a multitude of factors such as size, price, fuel source, formfactor, etc.
 

nitebrite

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These are not the junk showerheads. They have their purpose. Like them or not. There are currently multiple offerings with 30+ XHP-70 GEN-2 emitters that are putting out several hundred thousand lumens for up to 10 minutes. If it it is "your" cup of tea(I am speaking to anyone) is "your" business. Other people will both purchase and relish them. That is just the facts. How anyone feels about it is up to them exclusively. These are not "junk" lights, as they can cost up to several thousand dollars US. Most of them are in the $600 to $800 range however. So I am just trying to set things straight here. On the one hand you have peoples feelings and assumptions and the other you have what currently exists in the market. Like it or not. Someone purchases them. I am not meaning to take the tone of a jerk. I am just telling the truth. I absolutely by no means have the intent to insult anyone whatsoever! I am simply pointing out some key points. I have no intent of malice. I am just stating this because I understand someone could take this post as such. Not at all! I got nothing but love!
 

Chicken Drumstick

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I know the op has not posted again. But I thought I'd conduct an experiment to further the discussion.

Obviously there are 1000's of lights out there. But I only own so many.


Here are two lights which I think match the requirements of the op.


Both lights are 1 x 26650 powered. And not so dissimilar sized.


Torch 1 is a Shadow JM35. It is a few years old, but uses the really large Cree MT-G2 LED as a single emitter. I know a modern XHP50 or XHP70 could make more lumens, but I don't have anything in this format/size with them. The Shadow is also designed more as a flooder than a thrower too. Which I feel is more appropriate.

LCbHzzYm.jpg


Torch 2 is a recent purchase of a few weeks back. It is an Astrolux MF01 Mini. And it uses 7 x SST20 LEDs. Each LED uses a small TIR optic.

OSlEMOqm.jpg


So we have multi-LED vs single LED :D
WwEwMMhm.jpg


The Shadow JM35 is rated at about 1800-1900 lumens. It has no turbo mode, just 3 outputs.

The MF01 Mini on the other hand is rated at a max of 5500 lumens on Turbo. However it does have a non-turbo high. I'm unsure on the rated output for this mode. But I've seen claims that it is 1/3rd the amp draw. It certainly makes way less heat. I'd estimate it to be maybe half the output of Turbo. Which means the two lights perhaps aren't so different in their output when compared High to High.


0aLtQ7Cm.jpg



The MF01 Mini is the slightly smaller torch. Slightly shorter and the head/reflector area is quite a bit narrower. Although both lights would fit in a coat pocket with ease. They also feel similar weights, the MF01 Mini must have a huge heatsink in the head, it is very nose heavy.



Some beamshots. These were taken on an iPhone 11. Therefore they are not 100% accurate in representation. But they should give an indication to the differences.


The large tree is about 420 feet away.


Shadow JM35:
JvAqBvzl.jpg


MF01 Mini (High):
wCOypmUl.jpg


Pretty close. The JM35 has a wider spill beam and the tree on the left of the image up close is illuminated much better. The tree at 420 feet away are pretty close. On the camera the MF01 Mini looks the better, but there really wasn't much in it. The beam from the Mini was bigger and light up more of the tree. But the JM35 probably just had a slight edge if I had to call it. But it was super close. Note however how the bigger beam of the Mini lights up the sigh in the path way better than the JM35 does.


The real difference was when you kicked the Mini up to Turbo:
6Gg6d19l.jpg


The Mini then lit up a much bigger area at distance and much brighter than the JM35. The MT-G2 of the Shadow could probably be driven harder for a short burst too. But as the JM35 doesn't support this I'm unable to test this today.


Of course a smaller higher output LED like an XHP50 would throw further, but in a reflector of the size/depth of the JM35 I'm not sure you'd retain the same spill beam. Latter JM35's did use this emitter, but I've not used one.



Up close. The JM35 has a hotspot, it is a big hotspot, but a hotspot non the less. However the spill is wide and nice and bright.
riI4xEYl.jpg



While the Mini has no defined hotspot at all, just one large even beam. However as you get towards the edge, it tails off quite quickly. And you can see here the width being illuminated is less. To the eye the difference wasn't this big, but it is noticeable.

Mini on High
Cg9XcTOl.jpg



Turbo (brighter, but note the extra distance past the sign)
6dOmHZNl.jpg






Conclusion:

Both hugely capable. But ultimately the Mini with its multi emitter setup does out perform the single emitter JM35 in this comparison. And the Mini is quite a bit smaller. Small enough to probably fit in a Jeans pocket, although chunky & heavy it is.

The Mini does get hotter, especially on Turbo mode. But the JM35 is bigger to shed its heat. The JM35 also has way nicer tint. But that is less relevant to the topic under discussion. :)

Not sure which is the more efficient. I think the Mini has the higher amp draw, even on High and massively so on Turbo. But ramped down I would bet they are pretty close again.
 
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