- Stephen Knight
Best Flashlights for Light Painting Photography 2022
Updated: Feb 10
The 2023 edition has now been published >> click here.
This is the 2022 edition of the flashlight/torch buying guide for light painting and night photographers. Now in its 6th year, this buying guide is the most trusted source of information on flashlights for light painters, and the only buying guide that covers a wide range of light painting systems. Other light sources such as LED panel lights, tube lights, and pixel lights are also now included. Ratings are based on feedback from light painters, flashlight enthusiast reviews, and my own testing. This buying guide is updated when suitable new lights are released and reviewed, so bookmark or check back at any time during the year if you are interested in purchasing new lights.
Each light’s description includes the maximum brightness in lumens (lm) or lux, battery type, and typical retail price in US$ (excluding tax and and shipping). Lumens for multi-colour/colour fading lights have not been quoted as colour lumen ratings are not directly comparable to white light lumens. Please be aware that most flashlights step-down (dim) from their maximum brightness after a few minutes, or in some cases, in 30 seconds or less! Generally, the higher the brightness, the shorter the light will operate at maximum brightness before step-down.
This article contains some affiliate (marked as such) and non-affiliate product links. Commission made through purchases via affiliate links allows me to test more flashlights for the benefit of the light painting community. Affiliate links have no influence on product ratings. I do not make any commission through non-affiliate links.
1. Best Flashlights for Creating Light Trails
This section is mainly for flashlights/torches that are compatible with various light painting systems to create light trails and light drawings. Each light is described in one of four categories, followed by a matrix showing which featured lights are compatible with each of the following light painting systems:
Light Painting Brushes (Universal Connector).
Light Painting Paradise.
Light Painting Tubes.
Light Painting King.
T8 Tubes (generic North American sized).
I've also added flashlight head diameter information to the matrix for light painters who like to make their own tools or connectors, or for any other light painting systems I'm not aware of. Light Pens, and Calligraphy Lights are also out of scope of this article. Pixel LED Lights and Tube Lights now have their own categories.
Lights in this section have one or more of the following functions suitable for light painters.
Accessible on/off switches (when in light painting connectors).
Constant frequency strobe - some lights even have adjustable strobe frequency and brightness.
Last mode memory - so that the light turns on in the last used mode.
Momentary switch - more fine control of on/off.
Well spaced brightness levels.
See each flashlight description for more detail.
There are two flashlights that lead the field for light painting photography. These are the Light Painting Paradise LightPainter - Ryu's Lightworks which is excellent for strobe effects, and the Ants On A Melon RGB Critter 2.0 which is excellent for colour effects.
Best Flashlight for Strobes:
Light Painting Paradise LightPainter – Ryu’s Lightworks (1,200lm, 18650, $125) - This versatile light was designed specifically for light painters, with very positive feedback from users, and is my personal favourite flashlight for strobes. Tail switch for on/off/momentary. Side switch for changing and saving settings. Four strobe modes - Strobe with 50% on/off (adjustable 4.5Hz-50Hz), Flash with "motion freezing" 5ms on time (adjustable 9-66Hz), Ribbon Flash (adjustable 6Hz-66Hz), and Trigger Mode with one 5ms flashlight per side switch press. Adjustable strobe brightness from 50lm to 1200lm, mode memory, momentary switch, and no brightness step-down. Battery and charger included. A 3rd party remote pressure switch is available from lightpainting.me and a native remote pressure switch is coming soon. Light Painting Paradise (affiliate) - 10% off with code "Stephen Knight".
Best RGB Colour Changing Flashlight:
Ants On A Melon RGB Critter 2.0 (18650, $125) – The first consumer grade, colour changing light with an impressive selection of 39 colours, 93 preset colour effect modes, plus adjustable effect speeds, strobe frequency, and brightness. Controlled by 3 on-board buttons. Can save custom settings. Native tool attachments available (including the Sol Saber, Lumi Saber, BitWhip, Jupiter Rope, Fiber Optic Dusters, and Plexiglass Blades). Conditional compatibility with other light painting systems - see review. 18650 battery included, with micro USB charging, which can also allow for firmware updates. The new firmware/UI and raised buttons in the the Critter 2.0 are a massive improvement over the original. Ants On A Melon (affiliate) - 5% off with code "KNIGHT"
The Runners Up
Whilst I would generally recommend the aforementioned flashlights, these lights are also useful for creating light trails, with one of more features including adjustable strobe frequency, optional remote pressure switch, light painting system compatibility, budget prices, or just easy to use.
Adjustable strobe frequency/speed:
Noctigon KR1 (2,200lm, 18650, $50) - The SST-40 or SFT-40 6500k versions are excellent for getting lots of light into light painting tools, outclassing the Klarus XT11GT and XT2CR. Tail switch light with the complex Anduril user interface. Multiple effects modes include the super bright (1,900lm) tactical strobe with 33% on-time (adjustable 2.3Hz-80Hz), and not so bright "motion freezing" party strobe with 1.3ms on time (adjustable 3.5Hz-90Hz). There is no mode memory for strobes, but you can adjust strobe settings, enter momentary mode, and then hold the switch down when you need to use strobe. Slight unscrew/re-screw of the tail cap is required to exit momentary mode. Can produce very bright "fairy dust" on slowest party mode setting. Excellent heat handling. Too large for T8 tubes. Best used with a high current unprotected 18650 battery. Intl Outdoor.
Lumintop (TLF/BLF) FW1A (1,200lm, 18650, $60) – The XP-L HI 6500k version is the most optimal of Lumintop's extensive FW series of flashlights for light painting due to having a tail switch, single emitter, and fits most light painting systems. Tail switch with the complex Anduril user interface. Multiple effects modes include the bright tactical strobe (750lm) with 33% on-time (adjustable 2.5Hz-110Hz), and not so bright "motion freezing" party strobe with 1.3ms on time (adjustable 3.5Hz-90Hz) which I use to create "fairy dust" effects. There is no mode memory for strobes, but you can adjust strobe settings, enter momentary mode, and then hold the switch down when you need to use strobe. Full unscrew/re-screw of the head is required to exit momentary mode. Heat handling is poor, so it steps down after just 25 seconds on Turbo. Best used with an unprotected 3500mAh 18650 battery. Nealsgadgets (affiliate). 15% off with code: STEPHEN KNIGHT.
Other lights with Anduril UI for adjustable strobe frequency, that have a tail switch, and fit various light painting systems (check head diameter) include the single LED Lumintop FW1A Pro, and multiple LED Noctigon KR4 and Lumintop/TLF/BLF FW3A.
Lightpainting.me Strobelight PRO (1,200lm, 18650, $135) - Interesting light with a flashlight (25mm head diameter default, or 23.5mm option) connected to a handheld remote by cable. Strobe frequency adjustable between 5 and 57Hz using rotary switches. Strobe (50% on/off), Flash (5ms on), and Ribbon modes. Momentary functionality. Brightness is switchable between 1200lm, or 800lm. Lightpainting.me.
RGB Colour Changing Lights:
Ignis Shop Color LED Torch (internal, $149) - Colour fade, pulse, and flash modes controlled by an RF remote. Simple on/off switch and no momentary. Internal battery and charging.
Threeworlds Concentrate C5 (AAA, $30) - Tiny, single AAA light source with fantastic programmable effects modes. Unfortunately it is not very bright, and has a tricky single button user interface. Needs DIY padding to fit in light painting connectors, though can be purchased with a compatible Fusion glow staff. Threeworlds.
Consumer grade flashlights:
Nitecore P10v2 (1,100lm, 18650, $55) - This is my favourite "consumer grade" light for light painting. This dual tail switch light that makes it easy to switch between turbo and 19Hz strobe modes on the fly in "Tactical" mode. "Daily" mode has last mode memory and momentary functionality for all 3 brightness settings. Can be used with the Nitecore RSW2 remote pressure switch. 3 minutes until brightness step-down. Noticeable Pulse Width Modulation (PWM). Requires button top protected 18650 batteries if not included, and no internal charging. Nitecore Store USA (affiliate).
Klarus XT11S (1,100lm, 18650, $70) / XT11GT (2,000lm, 18650, $85) / XT11GT Pro (2,200lm, 18650, $95) / XT11GT Pro V2 (3,300lm, 18650, $90) – I generally only recommend these if you plan to use the Liteblades KYO system, as there are better options for other systems. There are now four iterations of the Klarus XT11 series. Each generation gets more maximum lumens, but shorter time until the brightness falls of a cliff. I prefer the older XT11S and XT11GT models, and least prefer the Pro V2 version. Dual tail switches for instant access to Turbo or Strobe. No side switches on the Pro versions. Optional Klarus TRC1 remote pressure switch. Strobes are alternating frequency unless the strobe switch is held down, and there is no direct access to Mid or High Modes from the tail switch. Battery included. USB charging.
Klarus XT2CR Pro (2,200lm, 18650, $75) – One of the best flashlights for (briefly) getting lots of light into a light painting tool. It is basically the XT11GT Pro (above) with a smaller head. Battery included. USB-C charging.
Olight Warrior 3 (2,300lm, 21700, $120) - Two stage tail switch allows for momentary control of turbo and 10Hz strobe, or turbo and medium modes. There is a side switch too. Optional remote pressure switch. 60 seconds until brightness step-down to 800lm. Uses an Olight proprietary 18650 battery. Magnetic charging. Avoid the newer 3S version, as Olight have brought back the annoying proximity sensor! Olight USA (affiliate).
Ledlenser P6R Signature (1,400lm, 18650, $170) - Contrary to light painting folklore, zoom lights are far from essential. However, if you really need a zoom light, this is the best option available. 20Hz strobe. Very expensive, but with a 7 year warranty. Battery included. Magnetic charging.
Nextorch P80 (1,300lm, 18650, $49) - Recommended for the Lumenman system. Dual side switch with instant access to either momentary high, medium, or constant frequency strobe. No mode memory. Battery should be included. USB charging.
Fenix PD36R (1,600lm, 21700, $100) - Good consumer grade flashlight for continuous (non-strobe) light trails. Five well spaced brightness levels, mode memory and momentary. Unfortunately the strobe is alternating frequency and not memorised. Battery included and USB-C charging. However, there are similar budget lights that are nearly as good...
Sofirn SP31 V2.0 XP-L HI (1,200lm, 18650, $25) – This budget light is fantastic for creating continuous (non-strobe) light trails, and is also directly compatible with the "All In One" adapter designed for the LightPainter - Ryu's Lightworks flashlight. Five well spaced brightness levels, mode memory and momentary on all continuous modes. Unfortunately the strobe is alternating frequency and not memorised. Battery and charger are optional, or use an unprotected 3500mAh 18650 battery. Sofirn.
Convoy S2+ XP-L HI/CSLNM1 (700-1,000lm, 18650, $13-$20) – Very popular budget light, with a confusing range of options - which is why I've provided lots of links to Convoy's Aliexpress product pages. The Clear S2+ XP-L HI (V2 1A, 8*7135) includes a side clip for T8 tubes, has a 10Hz strobe, but the last mode memory will only memorise the setting if the light is on for more than 3 seconds. The CSLNM1 emitter options, with 12 Group user interface are a great choice for lightsaber like tools, have last mode memory, but the strobe is alternating frequency. These are available with White, Red, Green, Blue, and Orange-Yellow emitters, optionally with battery. Tends to accidentally change modes if shaken a lot! Best used with unprotected 3500mAh 18650 batteries. No internal charging.
Folomov 18650S (900lm, 18650, $28) – Quirky budget light that includes a micro USB rechargeable battery, and can move between 7Hz strobe and continuous "on the fly", or momentary operation using the tail switch.
Convoy T4 SST-20 (420lm with 2xAA, $21) - The best budget AA/AAA flashlight I've tested. 420lm with no step-down with SST-20 6500k emitter option. Default mode has 4 brightness levels with mode memory. 12 other mode options, but strobe is alternating frequency. Side clip expected to be available in the future. Aliexpress.
Light Painting System Compatibility Matrix
The next two categories are for light sources that are not compatible with light painting systems, but can be used to create light trails.
Best LED Pixel Light:
Fotorgear Magilight (800lm, 2x26350, $309) - Best addressable LED pixel light (by default as the Pixelstick is out of stock) which allows saved images to be drawn in mid-air. 144 LEDs along the 100cm length, dimmable, and with adjustable strobe frequency. Included charger and 2x26350 batteries. Fotorgear also make the RGB colour fading Lithub which connects to a small range of light blades and fiber optic brushes.
Best Tube Light:
Nanlite Pavotube T8-7X (350lux/0.5m, internal, $95) - A budget LED light wand aimed at creators, and already popular with light painters. Not the brightest LED wand for illumination, but great for creating color fading light trails. Onboard, wired, or Bluetooth wireless control.
2. Best Light Sources for Illumination
This section recommends the best light sources for illuminating scenes instead of creating light trails. This is also relevant to urbex, long exposure night landscapes, astrophotography, and low level landscape lighting genres of photography. These "best in class" lights have one or more useful features including:
Different colour temperature options e.g. cool 6500k, neutral 4500k, or warm white 2700k (Correlated Colour Temperature = CCT).
High colour rendering (>95CRI/R9080) white LED emitters - better colour rendering of illuminated objects (no more "washed out" night photos).
Colour LED emitter options.
Compatible diffusers - turns flashlights into an omni-directional "lantern" light source
Tripod mounting options.
Decent sustained brightness - tested brightness after 10 to 15 minutes of continuous use.
Included/optional batteries and/or internal USB charging.
When buying lights for illumination you also need to consider the beam profile for what you are illuminating. Unless specified otherwise flashlights in this section have a floody beam, useful for near to medium distance illumination. Pencil beams or throwy beams are better for illuminating distant objects, or more fine control of light. Diffusers can turn flashlights into omni-directional light sources.
Don't be fooled by maximum lumens - many (non-featured) flashlights have an impressive maximum brightness, but the brightness is rapidly falls after just 30 seconds to unimpressive brightness levels. There are also many (non-featured) flashlights advertised with highly exaggerated lumens.
Flashlights have been categorized by sustained brightness (after 10 to 15mins of continuous use), or specialist use case:
Best Flashlights for Illumination >500 Lumens Sustained:
Convoy S21E 519A (1,150lm max, 21700, $25) - Floody beam. 95CRI Nichia 519A LED options in 7 CCTs from 2700k to 5700k. Stepped or ramped brightness levels. Compatible diffuser, and fits U-shaped tripod mounts. USB-C charging, optional 21700 battery. Aliexpress (no battery) (with battery). Nealsgadgets (affiliate) 15% off with code: STEPHEN KNIGHT".
Emisar D4K (2,000lm max, 21700, $49-$81) - Floody beam, fantastic range of LED and CCT options (I recommend the 95CRI Nichia 519A with Boost driver, very warm E17A 1850k, and E17A Azure). Complex Anduril 2 UI. No on-board charging, requires unprotected 21700 batteries. Intl Outdoor.
Best Flashlights for Illumination >800 Lumens Sustained:
Convoy S21D 8A 519A (2,100lm max, 21700, $29-$34) - Excellent budget flashlight for illumination and for use with backlight scanners. Choice of 60, 30, or 10 degree hotspot optics. 95CRI Nichia 519A LED options in 7 CCTs from 2700k to 5700k. Optional 21700 battery. No internal charging, so you will need a dedicated Li-ion charger. Compatible with U-shaped tripod mounts, and Kaidomain D37 diffuser. A new version with side switch and USB-C charging is coming soon! Aliexpress (no battery) (with battery).
Acebeam E70-AL (4,600lm max, 21700, $75) - Best consumer grade flashlight in this category. The 70CRI (XHP70.2) options have a choice of 5000k and 6500k CCT, with 4,600lm max/1,200 sustained. The 95CRI (GT-FC40) 4500k emitter version with 2700lm max/900lm sustained is also worth considering. Compatible with U-shaped tripod mounts. Best purchased with the optional Acebeam battery with USB-C charging input. Compatible with U-shaped tripod mounts. E70-AL at Acebeam (affiliate).
Olight Seeker 3 Pro (4,000lm max, 21700, $139) - Popular consumer flashlight. 70CRI 6500k. Can sustain 1,200 lumens. Included 21700 battery, and magnetic charging. Olight USA (affiliate). Olight AU (affiliate).
Best Flashlight for Illumination >1,400 Lumens Sustained:
Convoy M3-C (4,400lm max, 26650, $46-$52) - Convoy make many excellent flashlight models for illumination, of which the chunky M3-C is the best option in the medium sized category. The powerful 70CRI XHP70.2 emitter is available in 4 CCTs from 3000k to 6500k and can manage max output for 90secs before gradually decreasing to sustained 1,440lm lumens. The 95CRI GT-FC40 versions are also available in 4 CCTs from 1800k to 5500k, with approx. 2,100lm max/1,000lm sustained. Stepped or ramped brightness levels. Compatible diffuser. Requires a clamp (such as a SmallRig Super Clamp) for tripod mounting. USB-C charging. Aliexpress (with battery). High-CRI version at Aliexpress (with battery).
Sofirn SP33S (5,000lm max, 26650, $49) - Good budget 26650 flashlight, 80CRI 5000k or 70CRI 6500k options. Can sustain 1,700lm/2,000lm respectively for the first 15mins on high mode. Requires a clamp for tripod mounting. Compatible diffuser. Battery optional. USB-C charging.
Best Flashlight for Illumination >2,200 Lumens Sustained
Olight Marauder Mini (7,000lm max, 32650, $199) - Feature packed flood/throw flashlight, with 7,000lm floody beam, 600m spotlight, as well as Red, Green, and Blue (RGB) LEDs (though no last mode memory for RGB). Awesome sustained output - can sustain 6,000lm for the first 4mins on L7 mode, or 2,700lm for the first 23mins on L6 mode! 70 CRI. Requires a clamp for tripod mounting. Battery included, magnetic charging. Olight USA (affiliate). Olight AU (affiliate).
Fenix LR40R (12,000lm max, 4x18650 battery pack, $270) - Popular flood/throw flashlight with 11,000lm floody beam, and 640m spotlight. Simple user interface with 2 switches. Can sustain >5,500 lumen for the first 30 minutes on High II and Turbo modes. 70 CRI. No tripod mount. Battery included, USB-C charging, and USB-A powerbank functionality.
Acebeam X50 2.0 (45,000lm max, internal battery, $379) - This is the highest quality flashlight in the >30,000lm category. The X50 2.0 70CRI version (choice of 5000k or 6500k CCTs) can sustain an amazing 5,600lm in Mid2 mode. The X50 2.0 High CRI (GT-FC40) 4500k version is 21,000lm max/2,200lm sustained. Both can be used as a PD 60W powerbank. Includes a tripod mount hole, and carrying handle! Internal battery pack and USB-C charging. Acebeam (affiliate). High-CRI version at Acebeam (affiliate).
Best Flashlights for Coloured Illumination:
Ants On A Melon RGB Critter 2.0 (18650, $125) – The first consumer grade, colour changing light with an impressive selection of 39 colours and last mode memory. AOAM Orb Tool, DIY Connector, and Illuminator tools can be used to manipulate the light output. Ants On A Melon (affiliate) - 5% off with code "KNIGHT"
Protomachines LED8 (2×18650, $559) – Very expensive professional colour mixing RGB light with advanced features including exposure timers. Used by Troy Paiva for his amazing junkyard photos. Batteries not included, and no internal charging.
Convoy S2+ CSLNM1 (18650, $15-$20) - Throwy beam CSLNM1 red, green, blue, and orange-yellow flashlights are useful for coloured illumination, optionally with battery. Compatible 24.5mm diffuser, and fits U-shaped tripod mounts. There are over 200 other Convoy S2+ configurations including Ultraviolet and Infrared. Best used with an unprotected 3500mAh 18650 battery. No internal charging, so you will need a dedicated Li-ion charger. All Convoy S series options incl. with batteries.
Best Cube Light:
LumeCube 2.0 (650lm max/sustained, internal battery, $90) - A compact 95CRI 5600k, very floody light, great for drone attachment (or attaching to pretty much anything), waterproof, can be remotely controlled via Bluetooth, and lots of low brightness modes for astro photography. Large range of accessories. Advertised lumens is over-exaggerated (I tested 650lm), but can sustain max brightness until the battery runs out. Internal battery and USB-C charging. If you don't need the mounting options or waterproofing, you might be better off with a RGB LED Panel Light.
Best Portable RGB LED Panel Light:
Weeylite RB9 (1,200lux/0.5m, internal battery, $85) - RGB LED Panel lights are amazingly flexible for very floody, low to medium brightness illumination. There is a lot of good competition between brands. The RB9, made by Viltrox, is one of the brightest portable panels at 1000lm max/sustained (x3 brighter than the Aputure MC), and excellent value for money. Note that the lowest 1% output level may be verging on too bright for some astro-photography/low level landscape lighting scenes. >95CRI. Adjustable CCT between 2500k and 8500k (which can result in a slight magenta tint), RGB colour mixing, brightness and saturation adjustment, lots of effects modes (including rainbow colour fade), on-board or app control. Includes a diffuser, mini-tripod, and cold-shoe mount. No magnets. Internal battery and USB-C charging. The smaller, cheaper, and 50% less bright Weeylite S05 is also worth a look.
Best Pen Light for Miniature Scenes:
Wuben E19 (200lm max, 2xAAA, $25) - Pen lights are useful for illuminating miniature scenes - flowers, fruit bowls, etc. The Wuben E19 uses a 4000k high-CRI 219C emitter, and has 4 brightness levels with last mode memory. Requires 2xAAA batteries.
Best "Throwy" Flashlight for Long Distance Illumination:
Sofirn IF22A (2,100lm max, 21700, $35-$39) - Excellent budget throwy flashlight with dim spill beam, which can illuminate up to nearly 700m. USB-C charging, included 21700 battery.
NlightD L1 (1940Kcd, 21700, $299) - Best value for money high end Laser Excited Phosphor (LEP) flashlight, with a pencil beam of light for long distance illumination up to 2.8km! Based on the Acebeam K30. 21700 battery with USB-C charging included. Nealsgadgets (affiliate). 15% off with code: "STEPHEN KNIGHT".
3. Best Headlamps
I would advise using headlamps/head torches with at least 200 lumens for finding your way in the dark, and for camera focusing - many headlamps will fit that requirement. These headlamps have the edge for light painting, with high brightness, last mode memory, and relatively bright red output.
Best Headlamp for Red Light:
Olight Array 2 Pro (1,500lm max, internal, $89) - Centrally located spot and flood white emitters (1500lm), plus a super bright red (200lm) emitter. Last mode memory. No moonlight mode is only major omission. You might need to cover the battery charge indicator with black tape though. Internal battery and USB-C charging. Olight USA (affiliate). Olight AU (affiliate).
Olight Array 2S (1,000lm max, internal, $79) is the previous version of the Array 2 Pro, also with 200lm Red emitter, and is also worth considering. Olight USA (affiliate). Olight AU (affiliate).
Best Budget Headlamp:
Sofirn D25LR (500lm max, 18650, $25) - Excellent value for money budget headlamp with 90CRI neutral white 500lm LED, and super bright 150lm SST-20 660nm Deep Red LED. Moonlight modes, last mode memory for both Red and White, and easy user interface. Can get very hot on the highest modes. This is currently my most used headlamp! Optional battery and micro USB charging.
Best Ultra-light Headlamp:
Nitecore NU33 (700lm max, internal, $50) - Fantastic lightweight headlamp with 700lm max primary LED, 60lm high-CRI auxiliary light, and 13lm red light. The red light isn't as bright as the other featured headlamps in this category, but is still more than twice as bright as the red light on most headlamps. Internal battery with USB-C charging. Nitecore Store (USA) (Affiliate).
This article has listed many flashlights or torches that will make light painting much easier. Your light painting techniques will determine which lights are most suitable, and I would advise building up a collection of lights that meet your requirements. I often use 3 to 4 different flashlights per light painting photo!
If you need more information about batteries and chargers, please have a look at my Battery and Charger Buying Guide.
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