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  • Stephen Knight

Best Flashlights for Light Painting Photography 2024

Updated: Feb 10

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 2.0

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 2.0 (18650, $130) - The AOAM RGB Critter is the best flashlight for light painting photography (creating light trails) for the 3rd year running. This RGB colour changing light has 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 Modular Sol Saber, Modular Lumi Saber, BitWhip, Fiber Optic Dusters, and Light Painting Blades. Compatibility with most other light painting systems via adapters - see review. 18650 battery included, with micro USB input, which can also allow for firmware updates. Ants On A Melon (affiliate) - 5% off with code: KNIGHT

  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.

The Ants On A Melon RGB Critter 2.0 is the best RGB colour flashlight for light painting photography.

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) have either single click or momentary access to strobe modes.

  1. Ants On A Melon RGB Critter 2.0 (18650, $130) – Whilst it isn't quite as bright as the white light flashlights in this category, many of the Critter's 93 preset modes contain colourful strobes, with 10 speed settings. Each preset and colour mode can also have a strobe overlaid on top, with 10 speed settings, and 10 brightness settings. Ants On A Melon (affiliate) - 5% off with code: KNIGHT

  2. Noctigon KR1 (2,200lm, 18650, $50) - The SST-40 6500k version is 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. Olight Warrior Nano (1,200lm, 18350, $75) - After changing configuration (figure 15 in the manual), the two stage tail switch can work as momentary medium/strobe, or momentary medium/turbo. 13Hz Strobe mode. Beam profile is not great for use with tubes. Battery included. USB-A to magnetic charging. Olight USA (affiliate). - 10% off with code: OLIGHTSTORE10 Olight Australia (affiliate). - 10% off with code: LUMEN10

  11. Olight Warrior Mini 3 (1,750lm, 18650, $90) - Due to the annoying proximity sensor, this light is only useable for light painting on the 1,750lm 13Hz Strobe mode, or 120lm Medium mode using the two stage momentary tail switch. Battery included. USB-A to magnetic charging input. Olight USA (affiliate). - 10% off with code: OLIGHTSTORE10 Olight Australia (affiliate). - 10% off with code: LUMEN10

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

Gone, but not forgotten...

  • The previous winner of this category, the now legendary Light Painting Paradise LightPainter – Ryu’s Lightworks (1,200lm, 18650) was discontinued in early 2023. If you can pick one up second hand, it is an amazing light with 4 strobe modes, adjustable strobe frequency, adjustable strobe brightness, and compatible with most light painting systems.

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 (undesirable) alternating/two frequency strobes, or no strobes.

  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. 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.

  3. Convoy S15 (1,500lm, 18650, $16-20) - Cheap, basic, and bright flashlight with 4 brightness levels and last mode memory. Side clip included. Optional battery. No internal USB charging. Convoy (no battery) (with battery).

  4. 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, mode memory and momentary. Sustains Turbo mode longer than most flashlights. Battery and charger are optional.

  5. Convoy S2+ CSLNM1 (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. Optional side clip. No internal charging.

  6. 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 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. 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 colour temperature (CCT) options e.g. 2700k warm white, 4500k neutral white, or 6500k cool white.

  • 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.

Unless specified otherwise, flashlights in this section have a floody general purpose beam, useful for near field/short to medium distance illumination. Diffusers can turn flashlights into omni-directional light sources. LED panel and cube lights have very floody beams for near field illumination. "Throwy" flashlights are better for medium to long distance illumination, for more fine control of light.

Best Flashlight 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. 

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

Best RGB (Non-Colour Mixing) Flashlight for Night Photography

  • 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).

Best RGB Colour Mixing Flashlight for Night Photography

  • Ants On A Melon RGB Critter 2.0 (18650, $130) – The only consumer grade, colour changing RGB flashlight. With an impressive selection of 39 colours and 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. Ants On A Melon (affiliate) - 5% off with code: KNIGHT

With 39 colour options, the Ants On A Melon RGB Critter is the best RGB colour mixing flashlight for night photography. Model: @belle_m_clare.

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 a pocket LED Panel Light (see below).

Best Pocket RGB LED Panel Lights for Night Photography

  • Viltrox Retro 12X (1,350lux/0.5m, integrated battery, $90) - The market is saturated with LED panel lights, but this evolution of the Weeylite RB9 hits the sweet spot in terms of performance to price. Adjustable CCT between 2500k and 8500k, Hue, Saturation, Intensity colour mixing, 26 effects modes, on-board or app control. No tint control. Includes a diffuser and hot shoe base. No magnets. Internal battery with 2 hour battery life on max, and USB-C charging. If you want maximum output from a pocket RGB LED panel, consider the Zhiyun M20C. If you want a pocket RGB LED panel suitable for wet weather, consider the Aputure MC Pro.

Special Mentions to...

  • 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.

  • 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

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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