Bright, brighter, LED torches - this is how the brightest torch works
How bright is the world's brightest torch? What are the limits of LED technology and for whom does the most powerful torch make any sense at all? In 2011, the Ledlenser company recorded an entry in the Guinness Book of Records with the largest torch. The replica of an X21R torch brings it to 100,000 lumens and, at about four metres long, is a little too big for the pocket.
How bright is the brightest torch?
How fast LED technology is developing is shown by a comparable torch that came onto the market about eight years later. The brightest torch, which costs over 600 dollars, weighs around 3.5 kilograms. But when do you really need the most powerful torch? And how much power must a torch guarantee for everyday use?
The brightest torch on the market shines with 100,000 lumens for a short time. By way of comparison, a stadium luminaire produces around 16,000 lumens. A look at the details quickly shows that the torch, at over 30 centimetres long and 20 centimetres wide, is more like a spotlight. It only achieves the record over a limited period of time. After about one minute at 100,000 lumens, the lens is 100 degrees Celsius hot. The cooling system runs loudly and at full speed, the light output is automatically turned down. The record torch then only has a temperature of about 70 degrees Celsius at 25,000 lumens.
What is brightness in lumens?
When buying bright torches, the luminous flux is internationally specified in lumens. The value indicates the brightness a light source emits in all directions. The measuring device for this value is the integrating sphere.
Lumen, however, does not indicate the brightness with which an object is illuminated at a certain distance. The specification of the value lumen has become accepted because of its simplicity. How bright a torch shines at 100 metres is only consistent under laboratory conditions and can be misleading.
How do LEDs work in a super bright torch?
Compared to the "old" incandescent lamp, LED light-emitting diodes are very powerful. In an incandescent lamp, there is a wire made of tungsten inside a glass envelope. This begins to glow when electricity is passed through the lamp. Only about 2 percent of the energy is converted into light. The rest radiates as heat.
The core of an LED is the semiconductor crystal, which sits in a reflector well and carries two different layers of semiconductor materials. Of these, one layer is n-doped (excess electrons) and the other is p-doped (with too many defect electrons/electron holes). If a current source is connected to the light-emitting diode, the electrons jump from the n-layer to the p-layer. The electrons and electron holes recombine. In the process, they release photons, i.e. light energy. The reflector well in which the light-emitting diode sits further intensifies the intensity. This process also generates heat in the LED, but much less. The energy requirement of an LED is about one sixth of that of a tungsten incandescent lamp.
However, the limits of LED technology also lie in heat generation. The colour in which an LED shines depends on the material in the light chip. Colour changes are possible when the current flow is directed to the different chips. Ledlenser T²QC, for example, is an LED torch that can shine in three different colours.
The brightest torch in your luggage - when does that make sense?
Many users are looking for the strongest and brightest torch. But few really need a model with more than 3,000 to 5,000 lumens. If you go for a walk in the forest and carry a four-kilo lamp with 100,000 lumens, you are limited by the weight. Your own eyes will be dazzled by reflections in the immediate surroundings and the atmosphere of the night walk will be completely lost. Even at up to 3,000 lumens, a forest path is illuminated for several hundred metres so that all details are clearly visible.
The corresponding torches are also lighter, more practical and offer a longer burn time. So only a few users can really benefit from a super-bright torch that has more power than a car headlight. Hunters, police, firefighters and security personnel take advantage in some situations to make the night shine brighter than day at the touch of a button.
What are the disadvantages of very bright LED torches?
The most powerful torch in your luggage can be a risk to your own health: very bright torches mix blue and yellow light to produce the glaring white glow. The blue light component in particular irreversibly damages the light-sensitive cells on the macula, a part of the retina. So if the light from the most powerful torch is reflected by a bright object nearby, you damage your own vision or at least blind yourself.
The brightest torch - the disadvantages in overview:
- Unhandy size
- High weight
- Develops dangerous heat, may need cooling
- Even the biggest battery does not last long
- So bright that it poses a health risk
- Advantageous in only a few situations
The brightest torch - all gimmick?
Hardly anyone needs brightness levels of over 200 lumens in everyday life. In the search for the best torch, the question arises: how bright does the brightest torch have to be?
Bright Ledlenser torch for household and indoor use
In closed rooms, light rays are reflected by bright walls. Real emergencies, such as a power failure, are now rare: In 2018, only about 8,100 cases of power failure were reported by individual consumers in the whole of Germany. Most of these occurred in connection with strong wind storms.
Small torches up to 50 lumens
The smallest models with up to 50 lumens shine as brightly as a few candles (a candle has about 10 lumens). To read in dim light, find the keyhole or the way to the bathroom, a lamp in this category is sufficient. This brightness is also sufficient to replace a ceiling lamp or fuse. Slim and reliable Ledlenser models in this category are, for example, the torches from the K series such as K1, K2 and K3.
Powerful torches up to 300 lumens
A lamp with up to 300 lumens is enough to carry out repairs and to orientate yourself well in large rooms, to read in a tent or to see small details clearly. A torch with 300 lumens is bright enough to illuminate the front garden. Strong torches from Ledlenser in this category are the P5, TT, T5.2 and P6.
Very bright torches up to 700 lumens
These torches provide a bright light suitable for walking through the dark forest. As the brightness is focused from the head of the lamp, it is difficult to compare the output with a normal 60-watt incandescent lamp. The latter also has 700 lumens, but radiates the power in all directions. In the "very bright torch" category from Ledlenser, you will find the F1, T7.2, T7M, P5R and P7.
The brightest torches from 700 to 5,000 lumens
With a torch of 700 lumens or more, distances of over 200 metres and more can be illuminated. A lamp in this category is very suitable for attracting attention outdoors and scaring off attackers or animals with the strobe function. With 1000 lumens or more, nothing is left to darkness even in adverse conditions. To make indoor use more comfortable for the eyes, a dimming function should be available. The brightest torch in this category, the Ledlenser X21R, manages 5,000 lumens at a range of 800 metres. The T14, P7R, P17R and F1R models also shine with about 1,000 lumens of luminous flux in the brightest torch category. Torches this bright are suitable for outdoor activities when a power socket or power bank is nearby.
Powerful LED torches from Ledlenser for outdoor activities
The light output must be good to very good due to the large, open areas when camping, in the forest, by water or on mountain paths. However, the battery capacity of outdoor torches plays a greater role for many users - after all, the nearest power socket is often far away. Torches for outdoor work and leisure can therefore be used for a long time even with the brightest light output.
Trekking and outdoor torches up to 1,000 lumens
Anyone who wants to illuminate forest paths and rough terrain over several hundred metres will benefit from these torches for outdoor activities such as trekking, bushcraft and night hiking thanks to their high performance, slim shape and low weight. Visibility is ensured even in fog or thick snow. The strobe function produces bright flashes of light that blind attackers or wild animals. Different light modes are suitable for reading maps or as lighting in the tent. D14 Daylight, D14.2 and MT6 are faithful companions in the bright outdoor torch category.
Brightest outdoor torches from 1,000 to 3,000 lumens
The brightest torches show a performance that can be compared to car headlights. 3,000 lumens and more are needed when large areas have to be illuminated under adverse conditions and even the smallest, well-hidden objects have to be found. 3,000 lumens bring the brightest torch to high performance levels that should almost require a gun licence. Ledlenser's brightest outdoor torch is the MT18 with 3,000 lumens. But the MT10, MT14 are also strong and reliable torches for extreme situations.
Extreme torches - lumens are not more important than quality
Some online suppliers advertise extremely bright torches for little money, which in some cases have been manufactured without much regard for product safety. If you buy a model from abroad, you should make sure that it meets the basic requirements for safe use.
Cheap products from Asia can damage batteries due to heat, catch fire or even explode. If you want to buy very bright torches, you should go for robust quality products with a long shelf life. Only if the function is guaranteed in an emergency is a bright torch a sensible investment.