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Thread: "X amount of Lumens is all you really need"

  1. #1
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    Default "X amount of Lumens is all you really need"

    Just had an experience with my mother that made me think of this common talking point we see, a point in which, in some regards, I sometimes understand and agree with. But other times I'm not so sure. Let me explain.

    A few years ago, after observing my mother fiddling with the little coin cell LED light on her keychain, I was hit with a tide of guilt. Here I am, self proclaimed Flashaholic, with tons of "expensive" and bright (not really expensive per say, you guys know how non-flashaholics are, anything other than the plastic Rayovac is "expensive") flashlights, and I'm watching my mom make due with this little keychain light.

    Me "Mom, do you like that light?" Mom "Not so much, it isn't very bright at all". Conveyed with those feelings of guilt, I purchased her a Surefire Sidekick. Now, to be fair, this is a bright little light, and it's 300 lumen rating, from what I see, seems reasonably close. "Wow, that is so bright, it's amazing, Thank you Son!, etc, etc".

    Fast forward a few years to the other day. My mom has taken on a job of taking care of an elderly man in a not so great part of town in the evenings. This venture of her's requires her to park in a parking garage that is apparently not so well lit, along with a short walk. "Son, this place I go to is pretty dark, I sometimes feel frightned, I love the light you bought me, but I really wish I had something brighter that could light up the parking garage better, I would feel a lot safer if I did".

    That's when it hit me. My mom, who has Zero interest in flashlights (on the contrary, she probably thinks we are idiots for how much we spend ), Zero interest in our hobby, Zero interest in what brand is brighter than another, No bias whatsoever, is sitting here telling me that the 300 lumens I gave her is not adequate. Instantly I think of telling her "but you only need X amount of brightness, do you really NEED those X amount of Lumens mom?" argument. But then I stop to think to myself, "How long can we continue to use this argument"?

    For example, remember when everybody use to journey to far away, and potentially dangerouos places with no cell phone? Now at the time, when cell phones were the size of 2 liter's, and wouldn't fit into duffle packs, most would have said "oh come on, you don't NEED a phone to go do those things", yet now, we are at a point where no one would leave without their phone, despite earlier cries that phone weren't needed.

    I think we may be at a similar position with flashlights. "60 lumens is all you really need". "200 lumens is all you really need". Notice a pattern here?

    Point being, when we have Keychain lights putting out more light than some manufacturer's full sized 2X18650 lights, one has to question how long this myth of "You only NEED X amount of lumens" will continue to be repeated within our hobby, and how long some manufacturer's will be able to hide behind this mythical statement.

    With that ramble out of the way, I must find my Mother a brighter light!
    Last edited by DayofReckoning; 07-17-2020 at 11:08 AM. Reason: typo

  2. #2

    Default Re: "X amount of Lumens is all you really need"

    Quote Originally Posted by DayofReckoning View Post
    Just had an experience with my mother that made me think of this common talking point we see, a point in which, in some regards, I sometimes understand and agree with. But other times I'm not so sure. Let me explain.

    A few years ago, after observing my mother fiddling with the little coin cell LED light on her keychain, I was hit with a tide of guilt. Here I am, self proclaimed Flashaholic, with tons of "expensive" and bright (not really expensive per say, you guys know how non-flashaholics are, anything other than the plastic Rayovac is "expensive") flashlights, and I'm watching my mom make due with this little keychain light.

    Me "Mom, do you like that light?" Mom "Not so much, it isn't very bright at all". Conveyed with those feelings of guilt, I purchased her a Surefire Sidekick. Now, to be fair, this is a bright little light, and it's 300 lumen rating, from what I see, seems reasonably close. "Wow, that is so bright, it's amazing, Thank you Son!, etc, etc".

    Fast forward a few years to the other day. My mom has taken on a job of taking care of an elderly man in a not so great part of town in the evenings. This venture of her's requires her to park in a parking garage that is apparently not so well lit, along with a short walk. "Son, this place I go to is pretty dark, I sometimes feel frightned, I love the light you bought me, but I really wish I had something brighter that could light up the parking garage better, I would feel a lot safer if I did".

    That's when it hit me. My mom, who has Zero interest in flashlights (on the contrary, she probably thinks we are idiots for how much we spend ), Zero interest in our hobby, Zero interest in what brand is brighter than another, No bias whatsoever, is sitting here telling me that the 300 lumens I gave her is not adequate. Instantly I think of telling her "but you only need X amount of brightness, do you really NEED those X amount of Lumens mom?" argument. But then I stop to think to myself, "How long can we continue to use this argument"?

    For example, remember when everybody use to journey to far away, and potentially dangerouos places with no cell phone? Now at the time, when cell phones were the size of 2 liter's, and wouldn't fit into duffle packs, most would have said "oh come on, you don't NEED a phone to go do those things", yet now, we are at a point where no one would leave without their phone, despite earlier cries that phone weren't needed.

    I think we may be at a similar position with flashlights. "60 lumens is all you really need". "200 lumens is all you really need". Notice a pattern here?

    Point being, when we have Keychain lights putting out more light than some manufacturer's full sized 2X18650 lights, one has to question how long this myth of "You only NEED X amount of lumens" will continue to be repeated within our hobby, and how long some manufacturer's will be able to hide behind this mythical statement.

    With that ramble out of the way, I must find my Mother a brighter light!

    I think the limit is completely related to the actual application. I would say, however, that a 100 lumen light is way more useful than a 1000 lumen light. Atleast to me. Most of the things I need a light for are indoors and up close. Even in the woods here, you can hardly reach your arm out in any direction without touching a tree or a branch, its so thick. 1000 lumens in any of those situations is way too bright for me.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: "X amount of Lumens is all you really need"

    I think sometimes it's a case of making due with a certain amount, and concluding that "it's enough", only to come to the realization that, after having more, that "enough" maybe really wasn't enough, and you were just making due. Of course, this is dependant on the situation at hand. Yes, 100 lumens can be more useful than 1000 lumens, depending. Personally, I'd rather have a light that is capable of both, than have something that can't. I can remember a time when 145hp car felt like "enough" to climb my local summit, now one can barely keep up with traffic with that.

    The slogan "X amount of lumens is all that you need" can be heavily used by some users, predominantly of a few key select brands of lights, which products utilize old, outdated technology that falls far behind what the market has available, and that this slogan used can be a cop out of sorts, to find a way to justify the totally lackluster output.

    It doesn't have to be by any brand loyalist flashaholic though, as even individuals with no stake or bias in flashlights might feel their 300 lumen output is more than adequate, only to come to the realization later on that it's not. My mother is an example of this, hence why I made this post.

  4. #4

    Default Re: "X amount of Lumens is all you really need"

    The truth is that if the person is a real flashoholic, one lumen is too many, and 100,000 is not enough.
    Think of how hostile the average surface of the earth is, and realize half of the surface of the earth is more hostile than that.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: "X amount of Lumens is all you really need"

    Quote Originally Posted by richbuff View Post
    The truth is that if the person is a real flashoholic, one lumen is too many, and 100,000 is not enough.
    Man, that's a seriously good quote, and couldn't be more true

  6. #6
    *Flashaholic* carrot's Avatar
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    Default Re: "X amount of Lumens is all you really need"

    I think this is a really interesting idea because lumens and their utility are incredibly relative.

    I spent last year refurbishing my grandparents' old place. In all of the single-lamp fixtures were just 30W incandescent bulbs. I replaced them with ~10W LED bulbs that are rated equivalent to 60W. I don't think they ever thought twice about how dim it was in there.

    Similarly, what we can do with flashlights has changed as technology has marched on. To deal with (comparatively) very little lumens we treasured the most our lights that had deep and wide reflectors because concentrating the beam made the most of the lumens, and you would have to sweep the hotspot over an area to see it all. As lights have gotten brighter, they have gotten smaller and less throwy. My D4v2 can put about as much lux downrange as the "throwy" Surefire A2 but it also puts out 4000 lumens (versus 50 lumens) and is even floodier than the "wall of light" L2/L4 we used to carry. There is no need to sweep the D4v2 to see into every dark crevice. It is of course, also half the size, or smaller with an 18350.

    I don't know many people who would be willing to carry a 1.25" (31.75mm) bezel light today, but many of us did when 65 lumens was the best you could get. Most commonly EDC'd lights now are 23mm or 25.4mm (1") at their widest, and many are smaller than that (who else carries a Rovyvon or i1R on their keys?) The "modernized" 6PX/G2X easily out-throws most common EDC lights of today, despite being 320 or 600 lumens.

    Also, there is ambient lighting. Now with LEDs (and even CCFLs) which are many more times efficient than an incandescent, there is more light pollution, at least in urban areas. There are LEDs in just about everything and they are all lit or blinking just about all the time. Stores used to turn off their lights, and with LEDs many no longer see the need. After all, they won't burn out, and they use a fraction of the power.

    More light pollution means you need more light to see into the darkness that remains. 60, no, 300 lumens no longer means what it used to in urban areas. Out in the real darkness (the woods, etc) my old Tikka with four 5mm LEDs is still plenty. But rarely is it as useful around the home.

    Finally, there is ANSI FL1 rating inflation. Just about every light claims max lumens, but fails to mention that after a few minutes they are barely half that.
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  7. #7

    Default Re: "X amount of Lumens is all you really need"

    We all perceive light differently I'm sure, just like people see tints differently. (colors if you will) and of corse the situation in which your using the light varies, if your in a low light environment for a time then yes 500 lumens is probably adequate, in my job I'm looking into dark spaces in rooms that are very well lit in the middle of the day, 10 lumens just doesn't cut it.

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  8. #8

    Default Re: "X amount of Lumens is all you really need"

    The light pollution can cause all kinds of shadows, which in turn causes one to think it is actually darker than it is yet requires more lighting to appear to light up said shadows.

    On a cloudy night I can find a dropped object in my yard without a flashlight, but standing under a tree and hearing something rustling about can be pretty scary. If it were truely dark I could probably adapt to starlight and see at least the movement of the kitty cat rustling in the leaves but because of light pollution my retinas aren't able to adjust, especially as my eyes age.

    It's same in a parking garage or alleyway. I'd say the width of the beam would also help peace of mind. Early LED lights tended to have bright centers and some spill where todays lights have tons of spill to go along with the extra forward beam. It's those times I prefer a cool beam because it squashes the colors from light pollution.

    Something simple like a 2 cell Maglite puts out a huge beam compared to an LED light from ten years ago. Be it a C or D size. Plus the substantial size creates a sense of confidence if the fear of being attacked is present. Something like a Streamlight Stinger is similar to a 3c Maglite and puts out massive amounts of light.

    For smaller, pocket sized lights a lot more lumens may be needed to make up for the smaller reflector. Perhaps an Elzetta Bones, one of the newer Malkoff lights or something along those lines that puts out a sustained amount of light instead of 1000 then settling down to 600-ish and getting all warm in the process.

    I like lights that start on low like my cars headlights. Something that is bright enough to use the majority of the time but then the press of a button puts it on high beam mode. The 320 lumen G2x Pro was amazing in that the 15-ish lumen low and the 320 lumen high put out way more light than the numbers would suggest. With all of the flashlights I own the yellow body one is my favorite for night time uses.
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    *Flashaholic* thermal guy's Avatar
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    Default Re: "X amount of Lumens is all you really need"

    What lumens a person needs depends on what is availability at the time. 10-12 years ago 60-80 lumens was basically what was available and we all had them and you know what they worked dam good for us. Now you can get 5-10 thousand lumens in the same package so we use that.I find it’s more of what is available then what we use is the case. All that sounded much better in my head. Not sure if it makes sense now that I read it😁
    If i had one day left to live i would want to be at my workplace.Because every day is like a frickin eternity.

  10. #10

    Default Re: "X amount of Lumens is all you really need"

    My keyboard has drink spray all over it now after reading that last part tg.
    Thanks for the laugh.
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  11. #11
    *Flashaholic* thermal guy's Avatar
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    Default Re: "X amount of Lumens is all you really need"

    Glad I can help in these difficult times😁
    If i had one day left to live i would want to be at my workplace.Because every day is like a frickin eternity.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: "X amount of Lumens is all you really need"

    Different calibers for different game.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: "X amount of Lumens is all you really need"

    Quote Originally Posted by Tesla View Post
    Different calibers for different game.
    True, I agree, just don't try to convince me that .22LR is adequate for everything just because you cannot/refuse to build a brighter light.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: "X amount of Lumens is all you really need"

    I followed just the opposite pattern. After realizing I couldn't sustain the use of my Maglite 2D, my first LED light was 170L. As of last year my last LED is 7L...and it's my most used light!
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    Default Re: "X amount of Lumens is all you really need"

    Quote Originally Posted by LeanBurn View Post
    I followed just the opposite pattern. After realizing I couldn't sustain the use of my Maglite 2D, my first LED light was 170L. As of last year my last LED is 7L...and it's my most used light!
    Apply Archi curve here ^^
    John 3:16

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    Default Re: "X amount of Lumens is all you really need"

    What's it called when we reach the Archi peak, then start a decline back down I'll have to think about it.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: "X amount of Lumens is all you really need"

    Adulthood? I'm not there yet and I'm running out of time.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: "X amount of Lumens is all you really need"

    The simple answer is as few lumens as possible but as many as required!

  19. #19

    Default Re: "X amount of Lumens is all you really need"

    What’s the light the lasts the longest on like 200-400 lumens?

  20. #20

    Default Re: "X amount of Lumens is all you really need"

    I've found that it is enough lumens to last long enough with more than enough for a short time in case that isn't always enough.
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  21. #21
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    Default Re: "X amount of Lumens is all you really need"

    With a little bit of lumens, we can see up close, but not far away. With too many lumens, we can still see up close AND far away. Too many lumens can do more than not enough.

  22. #22

    Default Re: "X amount of Lumens is all you really need"

    Quote Originally Posted by Nicodimas View Post
    What’s the light the lasts the longest on like 200-400 lumens?
    The one with the most fuel supply. The opposite of one cell powering three XHP 70.2 emitters. I am visualizing a single XP-L sitting on top of three or four or eight 18650 or three or four or eight 21700, ensconced in a very large head, for the most heat sinking and heat dissipation. But not for long, because I want to get back to thinking about the single SBT90 powered by single 18650 in a very small flashlight that is in the mail to me.

  23. #23
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    Default Re: "X amount of Lumens is all you really need"

    Quote Originally Posted by DayofReckoning View Post
    With a little bit of lumens, we can see up close, but not far away. With too many lumens, we can still see up close AND far away. Too many lumens can do more than not enough.
    There IS such a thing as too much light. During many of my evenings at home, the only thing lighting up the room, is a 3W warm white LED lamp. Can't be more than ~200 lumens, if that. For me that does the job. Sometimes I switch on additional light(s) if needed for some job, but that doesn't happen often. This 'nightlamp' is what I'm used to & am happy with. Something like 100x that amount of lumens would make me feel like an alien standing in multi-kW search lights. No good (or even useable) for any of my needs.

    Or imagine military applications. Some special forces on enemy terrain. They wouldn't want "all the lumens they can get". Quite the opposite: as little as possible, to still be able to navigate while avoid being seen. Of course night vision equipment comes into play there, but even that needs some light as input.

    Quote Originally Posted by thermal guy View Post
    What lumens a person needs depends on what is availability at the time. 10-12 years ago 60-80 lumens was basically what was available and we all had them and you know what they worked dam good for us. Now you can get 5-10 thousand lumens in the same package so we use that.I find it’s more of what is available then what we use is the case. All that sounded much better in my head. Not sure if it makes sense now that I read it
    You need a certain order of magnitude to do a certain class of jobs. For each type of job, there's a lower limit to what's doable, and an upper limit to what's practical or desired. But the range itself can be very wide. Compare for example how computers are used:

    You can do 'glorified calculator' with 100s of bytes of RAM. No need for much more.
    You can do simple games in anything down to a kilobyte of RAM. More will give you the space to add color, music, bigger playfields, higher resolution graphics and so on. Or be a lazy programmer and use inefficient (space wise) but easy-to-work-with data structures.
    You can do a graphical user interface in anything down to a few tens of kilobytes (perhaps less), up to hundreds of megabytes. Depending on how sophisticated or user-configurable you want to make things. Yes today's computers have GB's of RAM, that's not needed for the user interface but for RAM-hungry applications like browsers, virtual machines, or the latest games.

    In each case, the range itself is very wide. In the old days, technical limitations meant we were usually working near the lower end of the range. Or even below, find out it wasn't really working, but somehow found a way to finish the job anyway. These days where technology makes it easy, we're more likely to work in the middle or upper end of the range. What we need is NOT determined by what's available. What's available just determines where in the possible range we're working.

    Like a few others here, I tend to find the lower ranges useful more often than the upper end. Not to mention more interesting. There's something about making do with as few resources as possible. With "resources" including lumens, weight / size, watt-hours a battery can provide, time between recharging, etc. Lumens monsters can be fun but become boring more quickly than squeezing the last bit of efficiency out of a small battery, or do driver / firmware mods to add a lower-than-lowest firefly mode. Of course YMMV... I've always been more interested in the lower end of things, simplifying stuff until you can simplify no more, etc.

  24. #24
    *Flashaholic* thermal guy's Avatar
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    Default Re: "X amount of Lumens is all you really need"

    I think what I was trying to say is in the 90,s early 2000 all we had is 60 lumen lights” for the most part” and we got the job done.
    If i had one day left to live i would want to be at my workplace.Because every day is like a frickin eternity.

  25. #25

    Default Re: "X amount of Lumens is all you really need"

    Quote Originally Posted by DayofReckoning View Post
    With a little bit of lumens, we can see up close, but not far away. With too many lumens, we can still see up close AND far away. Too many lumens can do more than not enough.
    Man's got a point here……
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  26. #26

    Default Re: "X amount of Lumens is all you really need"

    Quote Originally Posted by DayofReckoning View Post
    With a little bit of lumens, we can see up close, but not far away. With too many lumens, we can still see up close AND far away. Too many lumens can do more than not enough.
    Sometimes you can't see up close with too many lumens, instead of seeing you are blinded.
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  27. #27
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    Default Re: "X amount of Lumens is all you really need"

    Quote Originally Posted by bykfixer View Post
    Man's got a point here……


    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Arc View Post
    Sometimes you can't see up close with too many lumens, instead of seeing you are blinded.
    Sure you can, just point the light away from the spot as much as you need to so the area is illuminated but you aren't blinded.

  28. #28

    Default Re: "X amount of Lumens is all you really need"

    Quote Originally Posted by DayofReckoning View Post




    Sure you can, just point the light away from the spot as much as you need to so the area is illuminated but you aren't blinded.
    Or use a lower mode, which also gives you more runtime
    Having good UI and mode selection is especially crucial on very bright lights.
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  29. #29
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    Default Re: "X amount of Lumens is all you really need"

    I find in the golden age of lumens we're in now, my true edc carry lights are mainly under 2-300lm or used at that level as a max. HDS, an XP-G modded McGizmo PD, Tool AA w/219 Nichia, even my Triples w/H17f drivers are used at these levels. Plenty to see 50-75 yards while dog walking or running out to the garage at night, in a dark closet or cabinet during the day, etc. Venturing farther out at night, Malkoff Wildcat or Hound Dog 18650 at +/- 1000lm does the job. I don't find myself wanting for more except for the "wow" factor for a few moments.
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  30. #30

    Default Re: "X amount of Lumens is all you really need"

    I agree that most of the time you don't need much light. When I go to bed at night, 0.1 lumens is fine for me. As a tool, 200 lumens or so seem pretty adequate. But, I live somewhere where there's no street lighting, so I use 1000 lumens to sweep the garden area before opening my front door. Plus, lots of light is good for those bump in the night moments. Last year I heard a woman screaming near my house and it turned out to be teenagers messing about. Lots of light gives you the ability to check these things out without getting too close. I also have a Fenix TK35 (claimed 2000 lumens) but the extra size is just too much for pocket carry. I'll stick with my single 18650 lights.

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