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  • Stephen Knight

Best Flashlights for Light Painting Photography 2024

Updated: May 19

This is the 2024 edition of the flashlight/torch buying guide for light painting and night photographers. Now in its 8th 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. Ratings are based on feedback from light painting and night photographers, flashlight enthusiast reviews, and my own testing. I'm expecting quite a few exciting new flashlights to be released during 2024, and this article will be updated when these lights are released - please bookmark or check back if you plan on purchasing new lights.

Each light’s description includes the maximum brightness in lumens (lm), 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 lumens are not directly comparable to white light lumens.

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. I do not make any commission through non-affiliate links. Affiliate links have no influence on product ratings.

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1. Best Flashlights for Creating Light Trails

This section is for flashlights/torches and tube lights that can be used to create light trails when connected to light painting tools. A matrix displays which featured lights are compatible with each commercial light painting system. I've also added flashlight head diameter information to the matrix for light painters who like to make their own tools or connectors.

Light pens, calligraphy lights, programmable LED pixel sticks, staffs, tubes, pois, and hula hoops are out of the scope of this article, but are mentioned in the Light Painting Tools Buying Guide. If you want more information on how to create light trails, please read the article The Art of Light Drawing.

For a flashlight/torch to be featured in this section, it needs to meet these requirements:

  • Compatibility with at least one or more commercial light painting systems.

  • On/off switches need to be accessible when used with light painting systems (usually a tail switch, with some exceptions).

  • Constant frequency strobe, accessible from off with a single click, or momentary switch* OR multiple continuous (non-strobe) brightness levels with last mode memory, accessible with a single click from off or momentary switch*.

  • Beam profile suitable for light painting.

  • Value for money, internal battery charging, a side clip (for use with T8 tubes), and additional functionality useful for light painting will help the ranking!

* a momentary switch is where the light only produces light whilst the switch/button is pressed.

Please be aware that most flashlights rapidly step-down (dim) from their maximum advertised brightness. Generally, the higher the brightness/size, the shorter the light will operate at maximum brightness before step-down. Also, there are many factors that affect how many lumens actually end up in the light painting tool. More lumens is not necessarily better.

Creating light trails with the Ants On A Melon RGB Critter 2.0
Creating light trails with the Ants On A Melon RGB Critter

Best RGB Colour Changing Flashlights for Light Painting Photography

These RGB colour chaging/mixing flashlights all have colourful effects modes, making them fantastic for creative light painting photography

  1. Ants On A Melon RGB Critter BT (18650, $159) - The latest version of the the best flashlight for light painting photography (creating light trails) for the 3rd year running. The RGB Critter BT's settings are controlled by a Bluetooth connected app (shipping expected in June, iOS app available, Android app expected in Beta in July), and on-board buttons for on/off. Native tool attachments available including the Modular Sol Saber, Modular Lumi Saber, BitWhip, Fiber Optic Dusters, and Light Painting Blades. Compatibility with most other light painting systems via adapters. USB-C charging. Review here. Ants On A Melon.

  2. Magic Light (integrated battery, $140) - RGB flashlight with colour WYSIWYG touch screen, and 24 programmable modes including colour strobe effects. also make the interesting Magic-Tube LED tube light.

  3. 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.

  4. Ignis Shop Color LED Torch (integrated battery, $149) - Colour fade, pulse, and flash modes controlled by an RF remote. Simple on/off switch and no momentary. Internal battery and charging.

Coming soon:

  • RGB LightPainter Beacon Mini - New RGB flashlight currently being beta tested. Watch this space for updates, specs, and a review.

The Ants On A Melon RGB Critter BT has Bluetooth app control.
The Ants On A Melon RGB Critter BT has Bluetooth app control.

Best Flashlights for Strobe Light Trails

All of the flashlights in this category have constant frequency strobes. The top 4 options have adjustable strobe frequency/speed. All flashlights (except the Folomovs and E75) have either single click or momentary access to strobe modes.

  1. Ants On A Melon RGB Critter BT (18650, $159) - A large number of the Critter BT's presets contain strobes, and a 0.25Hz to 75Hz strobe can also be overlaid on all presets. Users can create more effects presets using the Bluetooth connected app (shipping expected in June, iOS app available, Android app expected in Beta in July) for almost unlimited creative options. Review here.  Ants On A Melon.

  2. Noctigon KR1 (2,200lm, 18650, $50) - The SST-40 or XHP70.3 HI 6500K versions are one of the brightest flashlights I have tested for use with light painting tools. Tail switch light with the complex Anduril user interface. Super bright (1,900lm) tactical strobe with 33% on-time (adjustable 2.3Hz-80Hz). There is also a "motion freezing" party strobe with 1.3ms on time (adjustable 3.5Hz-90Hz) which I use to create "fairy dust" effects at the slowest speed. Too large for T8 tubes. No internal charging. Best used with a high current unprotected 18650 battery. Intl Outdoor.

  3. Noctigon KR4 (2,000lm, 18650, $85) - The W2/Boost driver option is the most optimal (and most expensive) configuration of the KR4 for light painting. Tail switch with the complex Anduril user interface. Multiple effects modes include the bright (1,200lm) tactical strobe with 33% on-time (adjustable 2.5Hz-90Hz). There is also a "motion freezing" party strobe with 3ms on time (adjustable 4Hz-90Hz). Squeezes into most T8 tubes. No internal charging. Best used with a high current unprotected 18650 battery. Intl Outdoor.

  4. Strobelight PRO (1,200lm, 18650, $135) - Custom built light with a flashlight connected to a handheld remote by cable. Strobe frequency adjustable between 5Hz and 57Hz using rotary switches. Strobe (50% on/off), Flash (5ms on), and Ribbon modes. Momentary functionality. Brightness is switchable between 1200lm, or 800lm.

  5. Nitecore P10v2 (1,100lm, 18650, $55) - This is my favourite consumer grade "tactical" flashlight 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).

  6. Ledlenser P6R Signature (1,400lm, 18650, $150) / P6R Core (900lm, 18650, $100) - The only zoom lights in this article. Programmable modes. Optional last mode memory, but with 3 second mode memory timer. 20Hz strobe. Expensive, but with a 7 year warranty. Battery included. Magnetic charging input.

  7. Convoy S2+ Black XML2 (800lm, 18650, $14) - An older version of the Convoy S2+ with 3/5 mode user interface. 10Hz strobe. Last mode memory, but with 3 second timer. Select U2 1A, and 7135x8 configuration. Optional side clip. Requires an unprotected 18650 battery. No internal charging. Convoy.

  8. 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 (below) with a smaller head. Battery included. USB-C charging input.

  9. Klarus XT11S (1,100lm, 18650, $70) / XT11GT (2,000lm, 18650, $85) / XT11GT Pro (2,200lm, 18650, $95) / XT11GT Pro V2 (3,300, $90) – I only recommend these if you plan to use the Liteblades KYO system, as there are better flashlights for other systems. Each generation of the XT11 has more maximum lumens, but shorter time until the brightness falls of a cliff. 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 which results in constant frequency. Battery included. USB charging.

  10. Acebeam E75 (4,500lm, 21700, $100) - A useful side switch light, with last mode memory for 4 modes (Low to High (1,500lm/1,000lm)). Double click for Turbo, and triple click for 10Hz strobe. Available with either 70CRI 6500k LEDs 4,500lm max) or 90CRI 5000k LEDs (3,000lm). Good choice for when you need a high CRI light with light painting tools. Beam profile is not great for use with tubes.. 21700 battery and USB-C charging. Acebeam (affiliate). - 10% off with code: Stephen10

  11. 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.

  12. Folomov Hero (2,300lm, 18650, $50) - This light only makes the list due to having a decent 13Hz strobe. However, the light's user interface is frustrating, and only really suitable for basic light painting techniques. The beam profile is not great for tubes. Battery included, with USB-C charging port.

Coming soon:

  • Light Painting Paradise LightPainter – Ryu’s Lightworks V2.0 (1,800lm, 18650) - the original LightPainter was the best flashlight for strobes until it was discontinued in 2023. The LightPainter - Ryu's Lightworks V2.0 will debut in 2024 with multiple enhancements.

The Wurkkos TD02 connected to a Luminosify Choob (T8 Tube).

Best Flashlights for Continuous Light Trails

These flashlights are useful for creating continuous (non-strobe) light trails during light painting photography, and have at least 4 brightness modes with last mode memory. Some have momentary switches. As with most consumer flashlights currently on the market, they all have either (undesirable) alternating/two frequency strobes, or strobes accessible by (inaccessible) side switch when used with light painting connectors.

  1. Wurkkos TD02 (1.250lm, 18650, $27-29) - Not as bright as the claimed 2,000lm, but still a decent budget light. 5 well spaced brightness levels with last mode memory, USB-C charging, optional battery, and a side clip.

  2. Sofirn SP31 V2.0 XP-L HI (1,200lm, 18650, $25) – This light is directly compatible with the "All In One" adapter designed for the discontinued LightPainter - Ryu's Lightworks flashlight. Five well spaced brightness levels, with last mode memory and momentary. Sustains Turbo mode longer than most flashlights. Battery and charger are optional.

  3. Sofirn SP31 V3.0 (2,000lm, 18650, $27) - Updated version of the SP31 V2.0, with more lumens, a larger head diameter (not compatible with LPP "All In One" adapter), and USB-C charging and included battery.

  4. Acebeam T38 (1,900lm, 18650, $65) - Five well spaced brightness levels, with last mode memory and tail momentary switch. Whilst there is a 15Hz constant frequency strobe, it is only accessible via the side switch. USB-C charging and included battery. Acebeam (affiliate) - 10% off with code: Stephen10

  5. Fenix PD36R Pro (2,800lm, 21700, $119) / Fenix PD36R (1,600lm, 21700, $100) - 5 well spaced brightness levels, last mode memory and momentary. Brightness rapidly falls off a cliff on Turbo mode. Battery included and USB-C charging.

  6. Convoy S2+ (700-1100lm, 18650, $17-20) – The CSLNM1 emitter versions, with 12 Group user interface are a great choice for light saber like tools, have last mode memory. These are available with White, Red, Green, Blue, and Orange-Yellow emitters, optionally with battery. The 519A version is high CRI. Optional side clip. No internal charging.

  7. Convoy T4 SST-20 (420lm with 2xAA, $21) - The best budget AA/AAA flashlight I've tested. Sustained 420lm with SST-20 6500K emitter option. Default mode has 4 brightness levels with last mode memory. Optional side clip. Convoy.

Light Painting System Compatibility Matrix

The compatibility matrix looks at flashlight/torch compatibility with the following light painting connector systems - Ants On A Melon, Threeworlds, Light Painting Brushes, Light Painting Paradise, Lumenman, and Liteblades (KYO). T8 Tube manufacturers include Luminosify, Light Painting Tubes, Light Painting King, LightTube Pro, and generic T8 tubes. T8 tubes were tested using Luminosify Choobs, and each manufacturer may have compatibility variations. Please double check with manufacturers for compatibility.

Matrix showing which torches / flashlights are compatible with light painting system.
Light Painting System Compatibility Matrix

Pixel LED sticks, tubes, staffs, tubes, pois, and hula hoops have been moved to the Light Painting Tools Buying Guide.

2. Best Lights for Night Photography Illumination

This section recommends the best portable light sources for illuminating scenes instead of creating light trails. This is also relevant to urbex (urban exploration), long exposure night landscapes, astrophotography, and low level landscape lighting genres of photography. Lights specifically designed for photography, videography, and filmmaking, such as LED panel lights and portable COB lights are making in-roads into this section. The article The Art of Illumination explains these techniques in more detail. Features I look out for when selecting lights for this section includes:

  • Different white light colour temperature (CCT) options e.g. 2700K warm white, 4500K neutral white, or 6500K cool white, or bi-colour/adjustable CCT capability.

  • High colour rendering (>95 CRI) LEDs.

  • Colour LED options.

  • Decent sustained brightness after 10 to 15 minutes of continuous use.

  • Compatible diffusers from companies such as Kaidomain and Convoy,

  • Ability to be tripod mounted (all featured flashlights) via clamps such as the Small Rig Super Clamp.

LED panel lights, COB video lights (open face), LED cube lights, and flashlights with diffusers or on lower brightness settings are generally better for nearfield illumination. Flashlights and COB video lights (with reflector) are generally better for medium distance illumination. "Throwy" flashlights, (and in rare cases, LEPs) are the best option for longer distance illumination.

Best Flashlights for Colour Temperature Options (eg. Warm, Neutral, and Cool White)

  • Convoy S21E 519A (1,150lm max, 21700, $26) / Convoy S21E XHP50.3 HI R70 (2,000lm max, 21700, $26) - Convoy offer a wide range of white colour temperature (CCT) options in their extensive range of flashlights including the excellent S2+, S21D, and M3-C (the latter two work well with backlight scanners). The S21E is my recommendation for night and urbex photography illumination. 95CRI Nichia 519A LED options in 7 CCTs from 2700K warm white to 5700K cool white. Can sustain 500-600lm. A floodier version with 60 degree lens is also available for near field use. The XHP50.3 HI R70 (70 CRI) version will provide double the lumens, available in 4 CCTs from 3000K to 6500K. Side switch, with stepped or ramped brightness levels. Compatible diffuser. USB-C charging input. Optional 21700 battery. S21E 519A. S21E 519A 60 degree. S21E XHP50.3 HI. 

  • Skilhunt EC200S (2,100lm max, 18650, $85-$106) - Dual channel series of flashlights, with 2,100lm XP-G4 cool white 6500K, or 1400lm 95CRI/R9080 neutral white 4500K LEDs on the primary channel, and depending on the model either 3000K warm white, Red, or UV on the secondary channel. Included 18650 battery, and USB-C charging. Skilhunt (affiliate). 

  • Ulanzi LM07 (345lm max, integrated battery, $23) - A unique zoom light with 3 CCT settings - 2000K, 5500K, and 8000K, 4 brightness level, a tripod thread, diffuser, integrated battery, and USB-C charging. Ulanzi (affiliate).

The Convoy S21E is the best flashlight for colour temperature options such as warm white.

Best RGB Colour Mixing Flashlight for Night Photography

  • Ants On A Melon RGB Critter BT (18650, $159) - Upgraded version of the only consumer grade, colour changing/mixing RGB flashlight. The RGB Critter BT's settings are controlled by a Bluetooth connected app (shipping expected in June, iOS app available, Android app expected in Beta in July), and on-board buttons for on/off and momentary, full RGB colour mixing, plus last mode memory. The Critter is excellent for near field illumination as well as creating light trails. AOAM Orb Tool, DIY Connector, and Illuminator tools can be used to manipulate the light's beam. USB-C charging. Review here.  Ants On A Melon.

Best Single Colour Flashlight for Night Photography

  • Convoy S2+ (18650, $15-$20) - Convoy offer many models with colour LEDs including versions of the T5, C8+, M21H, and zoomable Z1. My recommendation is the legendary S2+, available with Deep red, Red, Full spectrum green, Blue, and Full spectrum orange-yellow LEDs, all with battery included. There are also Ultra-violet, and even Infra Red LED options, minus 18650 battery. No internal charging. Compatible diffusers. Convoy S2+ Colour (with battery) S2+ Ultra-violet S2+ Infra-red

The Convoy S2+ with CSLNM1 colour LEDs are the best single colour flashlights for night photography.

Best High Brightness Flashlight for Night Photography

  • Olight Marauder Mini (7,000lm max, 32650, $199) - Hugely popular and feature packed flood/throw flashlight. This is my "go to" flashlight for when I need lots of lumens or for backlighting. The 7,000lm floody beam is bright enough for 99% of applications, 600m spot beam, 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. Battery included, USB-A to magnetic charging. Olight USA (affiliate). - 10% off with code: OLIGHTSTORE10 Olight Australia (affiliate). - 10% off with code: LUMEN10

The Olight Marauder Mini is bright enough for 99% of scenes, and has RGB LEDs as well.   Model (top right): @belle_m_clare.

Best Pen Flashlight for Miniature Scenes

  • Wuben E19 (200lm max, 2xAAA, $25) - Pen lights are useful for illuminating miniature scenes - flowers, fruit bowls, etc. This light is also excellent for medical use. The Wuben E19 uses a 4000K high-CRI 219C emitter, and has 4 brightness levels with last mode memory. Requires 2xAAA batteries. Wuben (affiliate). - 10% off with code: STEPHENKNIGHT

Best Cube Light for Night Photography

  • LumeCube 2.0 (140lux/0.5m or 400lm, integrated battery, $90) - A compact 90CRI, 5600K, very floody light, lots of attachment options (including drones), lots of accessories, claimed to be waterproof (but no IPX rating), can be remotely controlled via Bluetooth, and low brightness modes for astro photography. Internal battery and USB-C charging. For most floody lighting uses, you will be far better off with much brighter pocket LED Panel Lights (see below).

Best Pocket RGBWW LED Panel Lights for Night Photography

  • Aputure MC Pro.(1,585lux/0.5m, integrated battery, $199) - Professional quality, IP65 weatherproof design makes this a good choice for outdoor use in inclement weather. It has a more focussed 45 degree beam than other pocket panel lights, has magnets, multiple beam shaping accessories, effects modes, and lots of control options. USB-C charging. Aputure Store USA/CAN (affiliate).

  • Zhiyun M20C (1,950lux/0.5m, integrated battery, $140) - The brightest pocket RGBWW LED panel light, but with relatively short battery life. On-board or app control. Optional cage with magnets and barn doors. USB-C charging. If you only want a bi-colour light, the Zhiyun M40 is double the brightness. Zhiyun Store (affiliate).

  • Viltrox Retro 12X (1,350lux/0.5m, integrated battery, $90) - Best budget RGBWW LED panel light. On-board or app control. Includes a diffuser and hot shoe base. No magnets. USB-C charging.

The Aputure MC Pro is a very flexible light for night photography. Model: @tay.tay.x_

Best Portable COB Video Light for Night Photography

  • Zhiyun Molus X60 RGB (8,200lux/0.5m, optional battery pack, $329 incl. battery pack) - Currently the brightest portable (760g) RGBWW COB light with optional battery grip, and multiple beam shaping options. App control. USB-C charging. Zhiyun Store (affiliate). 10% off with code: ZY10TOCXM

  • Ulanzi L024 (RGB) (9,100lux/0.5m with reflector, integrated battery, $100) - Budget portable (490g) RGB COB video light. Not the brightest RGB COB option (noting claimed brightness is with reflector, other lights in this category are quoted without reflector) but still far brighter than any RGB flashlight. USB-C charging (65W PD preferred). Ulanzi (affiliate).

  • SmallRig RC-60B (10,680lux/0.5m, integrated battery, $149-199) - The lightest and brightest of the new generation of portable (650g) bi-colour COB video lights, with adjustable CCT, and multiple beam shaping options. USB-C charging (100W PD preferred). SmallRig (affiliate).

  • Inkee GC30 (8,116lux/0.5m, integrated battery, $199) - A weatherproof, medium flashlight sized (680g), bi-colour COB video light with adjustable CCT. USB-C charging.

Special Mentions to...

  • Acebeam E75 (4,500lm, 21700, $100) - Whilst the E75 doesn't win any of the above categories, it is a very useful compact flashlight with class leading maximum and sustained brightness for it's size. Available with either 70CRI 6500K LEDs (4,500lm max/1,500lm sustained) or 90CRI 5000K LEDs (3,000lm max/1,000lm sustained). Optional traffic wand, and compatible with Convoy M1 diffuser. 21700 battery and USB-C charging. Acebeam (affiliate). - 10% off with code: Stephen10

  • Skilhunt / ESKTE MiX-7 (2,300lm max, 18350, $71-$81) - This "5 in 1" flashlight has a choice of 2,300lm XP-G4 cool white 6500K, or 1500lm 95CRI/R9080 neutral white 4500K LEDs (sustained brightness is 680lm or 420lm respectively) as well as Red, Green, Blue, and Ultra-violet (RGB-UV) LEDs. Included 18350 battery and USB-A to magnetic charging. Skilhunt (affiliate). 

  • Emisar / Noctigon is like a sweet shop for flashlight enthusiasts, offering an amazing selection of rare LED options in a range CCTs, colours, and high CRI options in most of their flashlights. These including off-menu (email before ordering) colour LEDs including XP-E Red, Green, Yellow, Pink, Cyan, and Purple in the D4K and DT8K, plus super warm 1800K GT-FC40 in the KR1 and D1. Lights use the complex Anduril UI, and lack USB charging, so not for muggles. Intl Outdoor.

3. Best Headlamps for Night Photography

I would advise using headlamps/head torches with at least 200 lumens for finding your way in the dark, and for camera pre-focusing - many headlamps will fit that requirement. These featured headlamps have the edge for light painting and night photography uses. Both have red emitters at least x30 brighter than most headlamps.

Best Headlamps for Night Photography

  1. Olight Array 2 Pro (1,500lm max, integrated battery, $89) - Centrally located spot and flood white emitters (1500lm), plus a super bright red (200lm) emitter. Last mode memory. No moonlight mode is the only major omission. Integrated battery and USB-C charging. Olight USA (affiliate). - 10% off with code: OLIGHTSTORE10 Olight Australia (affiliate). - 10% off with code: LUMEN10

  2. 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 rather hot on the highest modes. Optional battery and micro USB charging. This is my most used headlamp when out light painting!

Headlamps with bright red LEDs are very useful for light painting.

4. Conclusion

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. If you have questions on any requirements not covered in this article, feel free to reach out to me on social media.

If you need more information about batteries and chargers, please have a look at my Battery and Charger Buying Guide.


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