Decent flashlights / torches with strobes useful for light painting photography are getting few and far between. Many manufacturers have moved to using alternating frequency strobes and/or hidden strobe modes that are not memorised or accessible from off.
By far the best flashlight for strobes was the Light Painting Paradise LightPainter - Ryu's Lightworks. Unfortunately, that light is now discontinued. The lightpainting.me Strobelight Pro has adjustable strobe frequency at two brightness. The Antsonamelon RGB Critter also has adjustable strobe speed with a huge frequency range, and lots of colourful effects modes. Whilst these lights are highly recommended, they aren't cheap, and for secondary lights you might want to consider a flashlight with Anduril user interface (UI).
Some reasonably priced (US$50-85), single LED, tail switch flashlights use Anduril UI - notably the Lumintop FW1A (XP-L HI 6500k), FW1A Pro (XHP50.2 6500k), and Noctigon KR1 (SST-40 and SFT-40 6500k). Other Anduril flashlights used by light painters include the triple emitter BLF/TLF FW3A (XP-L HI 6500k), quad emitter Noctigon KR4 (W2/Boost), and discontinued Lumintop FW21 which was sold by Eric Pare.
Anduril UI is designed for flashlight enthusiasts, and has adjustable strobe frequency at a fixed brightness level. Anduril is very complex to use, but mastering how to use it pays dividends. These lights generally don't have internal charging, so you may need to find your own high drain 18650 batteries and Li-ion charger, which may add to cost (unless you have them already).
Anduril 1 or 2?
Firstly, you need to determine if you are using Anduril 1 or 2, and if you are using Anduril 2, getting from Simple UI to Advanced UI. This isn't always as simple as it sounds as Simple UI functionality varies between flashlights, and Anduril 2 lights may arrive in either Simple or Advanced UI. Most Anduril flashlights being sold in 2023 will be Anduril 2, though some retailers may have old stock.
If you are unsure of whether the light is running Anduril 2, click 4 times (4C), then click 4 times again (4C). If the the light is now off, you are in Anduril 1. If the light is on, you are in Anduril 2.
If you can't access strobe with click, click, 0.5sec hold (3H), then you are either not clicking correctly, or you are in Anduril 2 Simple UI. To access Anduril 2 Advanced UI, click 9 times, and hold for 0.5sec on the 10th click (10H).
Basic use involves a single click (1C) to turn on or off. A hold (1H) ramps or steps the brightness up or down between ramp min and ramp max settings (which are configurable) until you release the switch. A double click (2C) jumps to Turbo mode, and 2C again to return back. A triple click from on (3C) switches between ramped and stepped brightness, with 7 brightness steps by default. I prefer stepped brightness for consistency. There is last mode memory for the stepped/ramped modes, so when you turn the light off, it will turn back on at the same brightness setting. You can also engage momentary mode - see the momentary section for more information. Please note that there are some differences between how Anduril works with different torches, including double click functionality. Anduril is constantly evolving, so there could be some changes (usually additional functionality) since this article was written.
One of the most useful features of Anduril for light painters is the adjustable strobe frequency. The two most useful modes for light painters are:
Party Strobe - 1.3ms on-time - 3.5Hz to 90Hz (this may vary between lights).
Tactical Strobe - 33% on-time - 2.3Hz to 80Hz (this may vary between lights).
To enter strobe mode, the light must be off, and you do a click, click, 0.5s hold (3H) from off. It can take a few attempts to get this right, and it is easy to accidentally change from ramping to stepped mode (3C from on), or enter battery check (3C from off). Strobe mode should turn on to the last used strobe setting. Once you are in strobe mode, a double click (2C) advances between modes in a loop - Candle > Bike Flasher > Party Strobe >Tactical Strobe > Lightning Storm >... A hold (1H) will increase the strobe frequency by ramping until hold is released, and a click, hold (2H) will decrease the strobe frequency by ramping until hold is released. It takes approx. 8 seconds to ramp through the range of frequencies. Now you can light paint using this strobe setting. Be aware that if you turn the light off, you will need to 3H to get back to strobe mode. Thus for more fine control of strobe, you then need to enter momentary mode...
To use the strobe setting or any constant brightness setting in momentary mode in Anduril 1 or 2, the light needs to be set to your desired strobe or brightness setting. Then click once (1C) to turn off the light, pause, and then click 5 times (5C). The light will flash once to acknowledge that you are in momentary mode. Now, when you hold down the switch, the light will be on in that memorised setting only when you fully hold down the switch. This is really useful for light drawing, light plants/flowers, and light calligraphy. Note: Some of the earlier Anduril 1 flashlights do not have momentary for strobe - this was added based on my feedback after the BLF/TLF FW3A group buy.
In Anduril 2, you can either do the above, or additionally set your desired strobe or brightness setting, keep the light on, and click 5 times (5C).
Unfortunately, the only way you can exit momentary mode is to break the power between the e-switch and the LED driver. With the Lumintop FW series lights you have to completely unscrew the head, and screw it back on again. With the Noctogon KR series lights, you just have to slightly unscrew and rescrew the tail cap.
A few other things
A few other things to note with Anduril strobe modes and flashlights:
Tactical Strobe is at "ramp max" brightness setting, which is below the advertised maximum brightness. This varies between lights. The Noctigon KR1 with SST-40 LED is the winner here in strobe brightness at approx. 1800 lumens, and approx. 25kcd. The Lumintop FW1A, FW1A Pro, and Noctigon KR4 have strobe brightness between 750 to 1100 lumens.
Party Mode whilst running at "ramp max" brightness setting, appears much dimmer than Tactical Strobe due to the short on-time waveform, so you will need to adjust your exposure settings appropriately. (The very fastest Tactical Strobe speed also has the same issue).
Bike Flash is useful for unusual light trails, with triple pulses.
Lightning Mode is not useful for light painting, but fun on Halloween. It's very random, so don't stare at the LED on this mode!!!
Party Mode set to slowest setting, and then set to momentary is useful for creating "Fairy Dust" by pointing the light directly at the camera. Single LED lights have better "fairy dust".
Not all lights with Anduril have strobe modes, or may have different strobe modes (such as some lights from Fireflies). Some LED emitter and driver options don't work well with strobe modes.
The Noctigon KR1 (SST-40 or SFT-40 6500k) is my most recommended Anduril based light, but it is too large for use in T8 tubes. Lumintop FW1A (XP-L HI 6500k) or Noctigon KR (W2/Boost) are currently the best options for use with T8 tubes.
Most Anduril UI flashlights have high max lumens to thermal mass ratio, and thus brightness can reduce very rapidly due to thermal throttling if left turned on.
Anduril based lights are not for everyone, but with trial and error, and a bit of patience, they can be very useful in your light painting arsenal.
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