Sometimes when I mention to people that I’m "into" flashlights, they ask me to explain. Here’s what i tell them:
The Every Day Carry (EDC) LED Flashlight is the most important type of flashlight because of its utility. By being carried with you, it will always be available in times of emergency and could possibly save your life.
In order to fit in this class, the flashlight must be easy to carry which requires certain size limits.
They can be attached to a key chain, worn as a neckless or placed loose in the pocket. The largest ones are approximately 3" long and 1" in diameter (weight under 3 oz inc battery). It must be easy to carry, access and operate because a flashlight that requires too much thought or effort to bring along with you does not fit in this class, nor will you have it with you when you need it the most.
A flashlight is worthless if the bulb burns out or the batteries quickly die. Modern LED emitters are far tougher and more efficient than older filament bulbs and have a life of 100,000 hours (almost indefinitely). There are an endless number of LED key-chain lights that claim to run for hundreds of hours. These claims are for the most part false, unless you consider a very dull glow to be enough light to perform any chores at all. On the other hand, there are very high quality flashlights that do have very long run times yet still put out an amazing amount of light. There are high tech LED lights have a brightness equal to the three foot long police baton flashlights, yet are no bigger than one’s thumb. Even these little marvels can have run times that extend into hours.
The least expensive LED 'lights sell for only a buck or two. You get what you pay for in terms of quality, runtimes, brightness and dependablity.
The next step up are the mass produced models using better quality Japanese 5mm white LEDs in plastic bodies. These often sell for $5-20.
Increasing the cost to between $20-40 we find basic electronic regulation, along with tighter quality-control and nicely designed waterproof aluminum bodies.
Next are the mid-sized American companies using high-end U.S-made LEDs. These LEDs, made by a partnership of silicone valley giants, cost many times more than Japanese LEDs. The emitter (the actual LED) is then attached to solid state circuit boards which convert and control the brightness & run times. They control how quickly the battery supplies energy to the LED, thus increasing brightness, limiting how rapidly the unit dims and determining how fast the battery is used up. Flashlights in this group can sell for $30-250.
The next class are the boutique manufacturers who have small companies employing a handful of people that produce only a few hundred very high quality units at a time. Most of the flashlights in this group are very bright and are very small in size. Prices range from $100-$250
The most unique group are the “flashaholics”. True flashlight fanatics, these folks make their own flashlights. There appear to be less than a dozen small-production makers in this group and probably only a couple of hundred buyers. Makers may contract out to a machinist to produce the aluminum bodies, the LED “sandwiches” (the electronic components) to an electronic speciality “sandwich” maker, the lenses to an optic grinder, and then completes the construction personally at their kitchen table. These hand-made jewels are of amazing quality and design. Because of the time and expense in producing them, total production run may be no more than two or three hundred units, but sometimes as little as a half dozen. Profit is rarely the motive, they do it for the joy. Anything is possible with these models. Best of all, you may be able to order a light with exactly the components you prefer, so you have a true one-of-a-kind item. Prices for them run from $50-500, but auctions for very special models have reached into the thousands of dollars. In this class you could expect a very tiny unit only 2" long by .5" in diameter, weighing under an ounces, but a flashlight so powerful you can light up the opposite end of a football field.