I started looking for the best pocketable flashlight that throws its beam a long way. This article documents the rabbit hole I ended up in. If you don’t want to read to the end, just buy the EagTac D3Cvn.
You can see further with lights when you maximise their intensity. Increasing brightness (luminous flux, measured in lumens) helps, but these lumens need to be focused. To make a throwy flashlight, you need:
- Lots of light
- High power cells (batteries) and efficient electronics
- New, efficient LEDs
- Good focusing
- A smaller die on the LED (where the light comes from)
- Larger reflector (to reflect more of the light forwards)
Some good LEDs for throw are the CREE XP-L HI and Osram W1 and Osram W2. Some lights can be modded to have more throw by doing an emitter swap, from a less throwy LED to something like an Osram W1.
Throw vs flood
Note: I’m using throw in metres here, rather than candela, as it’s easier to visualise. Actual usable throw is about half the rated throw. You can convert between throw in meters and candela with some maths.
A light can put out lots of lumens but not throw them very far. The best example of this is the Acebeam X80GT (£250 on Amazon), which puts out over 30,000 lumens. An old fashioned 60W bub is a bit under 1000 lumens, so this is like 30 of them.
The X80GT has loads of high power LEDs but not much to focus them, meaning the light reaches less than 400m. This is useful in some situations but not if you need to see a long way away.
The opposite end of the spectrum is lights only have 1 LED but it’s focused really well. One example of this is the Noctigon / Emisar K1. This puts out 900lm but the massive reflector throws these lumens 1600m. This is great for seeing a long way away but isn’t useful for lighting up a room or the ground in front of you.
Big throwers vs pocket throwers
Needing a larger reflector generally means that the best throwers are big lights, like the K1 above or the even bigger Lumintop BLF GT. This isn’t useful for every day use, so I’ve been on a quest to find the best compromise of throw and size: a light that fits in a pocket that can throw light a long way.
With new LEDs like the Osram W1 and W2, as well as higher drain li-ion cells, you can now get pocket flashlights that throw a reasonable distance.
I’ve measured “pocket throwyness” in ANSI-FL1 meters throw per volume (m/cm³) and here are the top 5 lights I’ve found that throw the best for their size, with their pocket throwyness.
- EagTac D3Cvn – 16.1 m/cm³
- Lumintop TOOLvn AA – 10.6 m/cm³
- Acebeam TK16 – 9.7 m/cm³
- Emisar KR1 shorty – 8.6 m/cm³
- Acebeam W10 – 8.3 m/cm³
Please let me know if there’s others that might be in the top 5, as I’m sure I’ve missed some.
Here’s more info on the top 5.
This is an EagTac D3C that’s been modded by Vinh at SkyLumen. The EagTac D3C normally has a CREE XP-L HI emitter that throws 157m. That’s not much for a dedicated thrower but isn’t bad considering its tiny size. The D3Cvn model switches the LED for an Osram W1. That makes the tiny light throw 374m (35kcd).
The EagTac is only 74mm with a 20mm head and weighs 41g, without the 16340 cell. The stock light gets a respectable throwyness of 6.7 m/cm³ but Vinh’s model ($150) gets a massive 16.1 m/cm³.
Lumintop TOOLvn AA
Another modded light from SkyLumen. The Lumintop TOOL is an AA battery sized light that takes either AA or 14500 li-ion cells. Li-ion cells can push out more current, so are needed for maximum throw.
The TOOL AA has a 19mm head and is 89mm, with a volume of 25cm³, just slightly larger than the D3C. The stock XP-L HI LED throws 195m but Vinh’s modded TOOLvn has an Osram W2 and throws 268m, giving a throwyness of 10.6m/cm³. The TOOL AA is light too, at only 23g without the cell.
This is the most pocket throwy light I’ve found that isn’t modded is about £45 on Amazon. It takes a 16340 cell, so is about the same size as the EagTac D3C (slightly shorter and stubbier, at 23mm ⌀ by 66mm long). The TK16 has 3 LEDs that are behind a TIR (total internal reflection) optic, instead of reflector. There’s 3 different LED options with the TK16. The throwyest version uses Osram LEDs that throw 265m.
That results in a pocket throwyness of 9.7m/cm³.
It’d be interesting if Acebeam made a similarly sized light, with just one Osram LED instead of 3. In theory that’d throw even further.
Emisar KR1 shorty
The KR1 is Emisar’s follow up to the D1. In the same was as the D1 was the pocket thrower version of the D4, the KR1 is the pocket thrower version of the KR4. The light normally takes 18650 cells but Emisar sell a shorter tube that means it can take 18350 cells. The 65 in 18650 cells means they’re about 65mm long and 18350 cells are then 35mm. That makes this version 30mm shorter, without compromising output.
The Osram W1 version of the KR1 throws a massive 663m. That’s significantly more than a typical C8 sized thrower, which is much bigger.
The KR1 is slightly less pocketable though, with a head size of 34mm and length of 80mm. That results in a throwyness of 8.6m/cm³. (I’ve assumed the KR1 is a cylinder here, to make the maths easier and because lights with big heads are less pocketable.) The short version of the KR1 weight about 100g.
The W10 is special as it uses a LEP (laser excited phosphor) instead of an LED (light emitting diode). This is a fairly new technology, where lasers shine on a layer of phosphor, which then produces the light. LEPs have very focused beams but are still usable as flashlights (unlike actual lasers).
The W10 throws 1000m. That’s further than the KR1, even though it has a slightly smaller head diameter of 32mm. The Acebeam is much longer and heavier at 150mm and 128g. This gives a throwyness of 8.3m/cm³.
The W10 is discontinued at the moment but hopefully Acebeam will be releasing an upgraded version soon. As the technology improves in the future and without the need for focusing reflectors, LEP flashlights could become smaller and be the best pocket thrower. Maybe some day we’ll get an LEP light the size of the Lumintop TOOL AA.
Some of the interesting pocket throwers that didn’t quite make the top 5:
- Lumintop FW1A – a sensible pocket thrower, with a usable beam. If the XP-L HI was replaced with an Osram W1 or W2 then I bet this would throw around 500m. Has anyone modded one of these?
- Eye of Sekhmet – a flashlight the size of a thick phone, with the light coming out the large face, rather than an end. This is fairly big but would easily fit in a pocket
- Acebeam E10 – a very short and fat light with a TIR
- Thrunite TH10 – a headlamp using a XHP35 HI (£65 on Amazon)
- Led Lenser M3R – this was the furthest throwing light I could find with an AAA-sized 10440 cell
The full list
As mentioned earlier, I’m assuming they’re all cylinders when working out the volume. This favours more pocket-friendly straight-bodied lights, instead of ones awkwardly shaped ones with big heads like the Manker MC12.
|Light||Throw (m)||Pocket throwyness (m/cm³)|
|Lumintop TOOLvn AA||268||10.63|
|Emisar KR1 shorty||663||8.62|
|Lumintop TOOL AA||195||7.73|
|Lumintop GTvn Micro||693||6.49|
|Eye of Sekhmet||1,000||5.95|
|Emisar D1 shorty||400||5.55|
|Lumintop GT Micro||447||4.19|
|Led Lenser P5R.2||240||3.33|
|Led Lenser M3R||120||3.18|
|Lumintop GT Mini||750||2.90|
If you know of any other flashlights that throw well for their pocket size then get in touch. Thanks for reading this far. If you got to the end and found this interesting then leave a comment.