Flashlight photography & Videography

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This may sound like a funny concept but it is effective and costs a lot less than the normal photographic lighting used for video and Stills. Plus you see exactly what you get before taking the shot or video. This will be more attractive for videographers on a budget and  who likes having a few nice flashlights around. Even just one setup  can go a long ways plus you get a great flashlight to use when you need it.

I have used flashlights to take lots of photos and really like the lighting effects I can get with them. If you do  long exposures you can lightpaint with just one flashlight. The photo above was done by light painting while taking a long exposure with the camera on a tripod. It was a dark auto mechanics garage. Many photogs use flashlights for photography particularly when traveling, camping, hiking etc.

Fenix and Maglite both offer large D cell sized flashlights. The Fenix TK series offers diffusion caps while the Maglite  offers filter holders and longer shaped diffusers made more for traffic directing. There are many brands of higher end flashlights but not many have larger models. You  can of course get by with small ones as well they just won’t last as long on high power and the light source is smaller.

TK lights can be about 4x brighter than the maglites but also cost up to 4x more.

You can use the TK diffuser on a Maglite if you fill the gap on the cap with a spacer or some sort.

These new very bright LED flashlights have long run times at full power. The Mags go for 8-9hrs at full power. The TKs vary, about 2hrs at a much higher power level but have other power level options. If you use high quality/ capacity  rechargeable batteries you can get 2-3x more life than your typical alkaline battery.

It would be best to use the same units for most of  your lighting (I have mixed with good results though) as the LED color varies between them. Color can be corrected with color gels you cut yourself then using the filter holders or make one your self. Even the same chip seems to give slight different color from when used in different flash lights. Not that be a deal though. You can just bouce the light off anything you bring with you or an object nearby.

Fenix’s smaller lights (which put out a lot of  lumens but for a shorter time) have all the filter diffuser accessories you need. You can also get brackets to hold them on light stands if you want. Although the light source from these lights are small ( makes for hard lighting) you can put them into a softbox or bounce them off a reflector or wall to soften the light.

How bright are they?

Your typical modern D cell sized maglite flashlight with the newer Xenon gas bulb probably put out about 100 lumens of light (older versions would be under 80 lumens and cheap lights under 60).   New  Maglite LEDs flashlights with the latest versions of the chip put out about 134 lumens. The Fenix TK 40 and up models put out anywhere from 285 – to over 2000 depending on the model. Even the smaller models can do up to almost 800 lumens of light output. Maglites newer small LED XL200 and Mini Maglite do 180 & 245 lumens. If you have never seem how bright 200 or 800 lumens is just think about those big 40,000 candle power flash lights you may have had and imagine that kind of light but in a smaller ray of light. My last big light which died had a 6″ diameter head and produces a lot of heat when on but didn’t last too long. that light probably put out about 4000 lumens but was way too bright for anything indoors Bouncing off a wall outside for photos was fine.

Watch out for those cheap LED flashlights you see in the stores for $10 they might seem bright when you look at the light but when you get home and compare with your older xenon Mini Mags you will find the Mini Maglites blow them clear out of the water, no comparison. Try going out side with one of those cheapos and you will see they don’t do anything. almost worthless except at close distance inside the home. We have a few of the cheapys at home which I intend to throw out soon after I fix up a few of my old Mini Mags ( I have 3 of them). You can get parts for them or other models here. You can keep your Maglites going this way. A clear lens and reflector along with the newest Xenon bulbs helps a lot.  http://www.zbattery.com/2aaparts.html

For self-protection these little flashlights are so bright that they will blind an attacker at night and leave him without sight for a few moments while you get away. something to think about for night use. Many are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. These small tactical sized lights are often used with a small bracket on weapons. When you point it at someone they can’t see who you are due to the brightness. Military and law enforcement / security etc use these.

At any rate they make some cool flashlights.

http://www.fenixlights.com/fenix-tk.html     $85 – 129 typical prices. More pricey models as well.

http://www.maglite.com/productline.asp     $32 – 39   typical prices.

Other makes. Mostly small powerful tactical style lights. Use a lot by law enforcement. There are a lot of these companies.

http://www.nitecore.com/productList.aspx?cid=19    The Tiny Monster (2000 lumens), amazing little light. this will really blind an attacker and leave him helpless for a few moments.


Maybe you prefer a spot light style.  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001DRLIOQ/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=modesurvblog-20&linkCode=as2&camp=217145&creative=399349&creativeASIN=B001DRLIOQ

Be carefull that you don’t end up with something too  bright to use because it does not have a low enough power  setting for normal everyday uses.

If you just want to upgrade your Maglite Mini mag AA flashlight here is a 140 lumen link for $14.99. Saves you $15 over a new one. The is a good power level for a light with no power options other than on or off. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000B868MK/ref=ox_sc_act_title_2?ie=UTF8&smid=AD6RFAAQRI8WI

Below is a recent shot using two flashlights, one Mini Mag held in my free hand and another larger 6″ Celestron Power tank on a stool, batteries were a bit low which was good because  that unit is way too bright for direct light indoors. An otherwise boring photo made better with interesting light. lighting, mood, color, expression are often what makes a photo interesting. I tried to find some portraits but couldn’t be sure if I had used flash or a flashlight on some so decided to wait until I take some more.

Right now I feel Maglite is a bit behind the times and could use a few more upscale models. Mag still make good value flashlights for the masses  while the high-end brands are for enthusiasts willing to spend more. You can get knock offs made in china off Ebay & Amazon for much less but you may find that although they are bright, reliability might suffer due to cost cutting. Typical problems people run into are 18650 rechargeable batteries with protection circuits that cut off after a few seconds of high current draw from the flashlight, they then blame the light when its the cheap batteries at fault. For small high power lights that use special batteries and you decide to get rechargeable versions make sure you get some good ones. Other issues may be overheating while on high power for a few minutes. You sometimes get what you pay for. That does not mean there aren’t some good knock offs out there, for example I have one of the knock offs I got off Ebay (get one from the US not China as the delivery times are way too long from China, and if you have a problem the resolution times are too long) and it seems fine to me, as a machinist I think its worth every penny of the $13 it cost. Time will  tell if its reliable or not. It’s plenty bright. Comparing it to my friends 1000 lm Surefire light its a bit brighter. This light  absolutely blows the Maglite Mini and 3 D cell versions away in terms of brightness. Compared to my other cheap LEDs its as if they don’t have any output at all compared to the new one. LCD technology has certainly moved ahead with these new high output versions. By the way there is only one LED in this light. Here is the one I purchased as an example. Ebay has models that go all the way up to 8500 lumens (That should impress your friends). http://www.ebay.com/itm/221055934101?ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1439.l2649   I choose that one because it has a bigger reflector. It is a bit bigger then most folks would want to carry around in a purse or pocket. Here’s a smaller version http://www.ebay.com/itm/UltraFire-5-Mode-1000Lm-CREE-XM-L-T6-LED-Compact-Flashlight-Torch-WF-501B-/320883836062?pt=US_Flashlights&hash=item4ab62ac49e  The smaller one is actually better than the big one for photography as it is almost as bright but has a warmer color balance and a larger diffused light spot then the tighter spot of the bigger one. I will be getting a 2nd one of the smaller versions. Also its a better house light where as the larger one is best for longer distances due to its tighter spot. Most of these Cree type lights have the new CREE LED XM-L T6 . Here is a link to a Cree search on Ebay, try to get one that is shipped from the US not China. http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_trksid=p5197.m570.l1311&_nkw=cree+led+flashlight&_sacat=0  You can also do the same search on Amazon. I may be purchasing some more. Warning you don’t realize how bright these lights are until you point it at your eyes and see spots for quite some time. If you have a ranch or some property. One these would be a good tool to carry around at night. Once you get used to some real output you will never go back the old style 2 D cell flash lights that we all had in the old days.

By the way at 10ft my little Cree 1000 lumen light is brighter than the headlight of my car, when I shine the light into the spot the head light makes I can clearly see my flash light over powering the head light. Try that with your flash light. I can just imagine what 8500 lumens would do , I certainly don’t have any use for that much power but it’s kind of cool just like having 700 hp in your car. I can just see all the guys at work comparing flashlights now. Flashlights with multiple Cree LEDs in them may put out more lumens but the brightness and reach won’t be much difference just the amount or diameter of the beam (which  does light up a bigger area) unless the LED draws more voltage which some might just do, that will create a lot more heat and shorter battery life unless the flashlight holds more batteries (these guys put out some heat). It’s like holding 3 or more smaller units together as one light, you get the point. For search and rescue   using the larger ones make more sense. for most home owners a single LED flashlight with a reflector that meets their needs is probably best.

Update: November 2012. After have owned both  the Crees for a few months I would say I like the smaller one the best. I also just brought a set of 3 Cree XPG LED flash lights at Costco, although not quite as bright as the 1000 lumin versions they are not too far behind and at $19 for 3 including batteries ( 3 AAA for each light) its the best deal out there at this time and plenty bright enough for most folks. You don’t need a special battery for it or a charger. The light is almost as bright because the light is more focused than the bigger Cree chips. For $19 you get 3  lights to play with, can’t beat that.

Other brands here:







http://www.nitecore.com/    Look at the “Tiny Monster”




One thing you may not like about the newer flashlight controls is  the fact that some are a pain to use as you have to click thru all the differenct modes to get to what you want.  If your buying one for protection to flash at a perp your going to want a model that is always on the bright setting when you turn it on. The larger Cree I brought does this but the smaller one is always the next click when you first turn it on, in otherwards it does not remember what you used last. They are all a bit different so look closely at the details and ask questions before buying if that’s important to you. Personally I like it to be on high when I turn it on, I also would rather have a seperate control for the modes. Some have this.


One thought on “Flashlight photography & Videography

    wall gun rack|duck hunting gear said:
    April 22, 2013 at 8:20 PM

    Thanks for finally talking about >Flashlight photography & Videography | Ron’s View <Liked it!

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