Other than the moon, a flashlight can be a night photographer’s best friend. While the various models of the noble Maglite provide a warm, focusable beam, a new class of compact, powerful LED lights has been emerging. My big complaints about LED flashlights are the light is too cold, and the beam is not focusable. The color temperature issue is easily solved by taping a CTO gel over the front. LED beam spread depends on the particular model. I usually prefer a narrow beam — I’ve experimented with using cinefoil snoots, but prefer a focusable light.
Surefire makes some well built, high intensity flashlights that I’ve had the pleasure of using, but many of them run on 123 lithium batteries. The 123′s are expensive at the drugstore, but cheap if you buy in bulk online. I won’t buy a light that takes 123′s because I don’t like throwing them away. Rechargeables make me feel a lot better. Then again, maybe a $279 Surefire U2 Ultra would be pretty fun to use.
A small, durable, well designed, bright, focusable flashlight that runs on rechargeable batteries or AAs is my ideal.
Recently I saw a review of the Coast Tactical Focus Beam LED flashlight, which almost seems to fit the bill. I plan to get one soon and check it out.
Right now I’m using a standard AA Maglite when I need a little bit of light and lots of control, and a Gerber LX 3.0 LED when I need more light. The Maglites work well when they work, but are cheaply made. The Gerber is $50, but extremely solid and well made — it uses 3 AA batteries and throws a lot of light. I also like to keep a small, single AA Gerber Recon around my neck. With the red lens in place it provides just enough light to see in your camera bag or wind the film in a Holga, without screwing up your night vision.
A few night photographers I know are fans of tactical police and military flashlights like the Streamlight Stinger. At $60 the Stinger doesn’t sound too expensive, but add the 2.5 hour charger and/or car charger plus shipping, and it’s more like $120. Still might be a good investment.
Well, there’s a review site on the internet for everything, I figured there must be a good one for flashlights — I’ve just started reading the reviews on http://www.flashlightreviews.com, and this site is a great resource. The best place to start is their Flashlight Buyers Guide.
If you’ve got experience with Coast flashlights, or have another favorite, I’d love to hear about it. Oh yeah, apologies to Parliament for the blog post title.