Flashlight Wars: Krypton vs. LED

I’ve owned both the MagLite Mini, worked with the full size MagLite and have recently tried the Brinkmann pocket LED light, largely because the MagLite bulb died after only about 20 hours use and it cost me $4 to buy two new replacements!

First, don’t look directly at the LED light source. It’s a distant cousin of the laser LED, like they used in store cash registers and it can hurt the eyes if you look too long.

It’s a very long wave (UV area) light source. One things I noticed is that looking at the light spot on the ground even caused my head to throb a bit. This could be an unfortunate side effect and some of you may not be able to use this type of light on an on-going basis.

Next, never point it at another person so it hits their eyes. It’s a really nasty light. You’ve probably seen LED based car headlights. They have a purple tinge and it’s really harsh looking at those lights!

The MagLite and other “krypton” light bulb based flash lights generate a standard yellow tinged (medium wave or half way between Ultra Violet and Infra Red) light just like any incandescent bulb. Just like ordinary flash light bulbs (which cost about $1 to replace) they burn out, but supposedly not as fast, however I use my light for only about 45 minutes, 5 days a week and after about two months use my original bulb died without notice. Those “Krypton” bulbs cost about $2.25 each and are sold in two packs.

LED (Light Emitting Diodes) are found in many electronic items. Usually those little red or green ligths on stereos, VCRs and microwave ovens.

Brightness of an LED depends on the voltage, power usage, size and how it gets focuses (with lenses).

This is where a MagLite shines (if you’ll excuse the pun)! You can adjust the reflector to change the “focus” area of the Krypton light from a small spot to a diffused glow, although there is often a “dead spot” in the center caused by the bulb blocking the reflector. You can’t do this with an LED because it’s not enclosed in a glass tube exposed on all sides. The top of the LED is all that glows and it’s usually behind a clear plastic or acrylic material. Some polyurethane type clear stuff. Who knows for sure...! Who cares...! But it’s not a bulb, it’s only a top surface or an electronic device.

To get a diffused “flood” with LED requires a cluster of LEDs with little focusing lenses so a wide filed of mini spots illuminate a vast area. To get a spot of light requires one big LED and a pre-focused lens that aims this out a foot or so. You can’t twist the top like I did with the MagLite to change focus.

The LED also isn’t as brilliant a glow, yet it actually illuminates some things far better than the yellow MagLite or common flashlights. Shallow pools of water, blacktop, grass and especially legitimate roadway signs light up terrifically under this LED glow, especially iridescent whites and yellows. There is this white side railing over a bridge I pass and the LED light showed this from over 200 feet away! It would also light up the top of telephone poles and trees. Plus when I shinned it out into the wooded area it light up trees with a very faint tinge over 200 feet away! Street signs light up at better than 70 feet.

The actual “spot” throw, however, is not more than 15 feet. You can light up the curb of a side street from across the street and that’s about it.

The closer the spot is to you the smaller it is, however the Brinkmann light I got has special reflectors so some side glow is seen, however the spot right before my path is no larger that the width of my two feet. With the MagLite I could focus this to get a spread of about six feet in diameter. That is not possible with the LED light. If I direct the light further ahead it widens, but not up close.

As a rule the LED flashlights were bigger and bulkier than the ordinary flashlights and my unit also seems to be quite warm where the batteries are in the tube. These lights are also not made was well nor in the U.S. where some flashlights, such as the MagLite, are made. The MagLite is crafted from aluminum with some or all models made in the United States. The Brinkmann light I got was made from plastic with a rubberized gripper, made in China.

LED lights are said to last longer with batteries than are conventional or “Krypton” flashlights (I get close to a month from one set of rechargeable AA batteries, which only ran the MagLite for a week). Also the bulb never dies. What you do lose is intensity of light (luminance) especially if you are looking for a heavy duty spotlight or police type flashlight (2 or more D cell batteries powering the unit).

If you’re looking for a low maintenance, low upkeep flashlight that sheds just enough illumination to see your path, find your door lock, guide you through a small cave or tunnel (although I’d bring a back up MagLite for those last two places), then the LED lights might be just the right tool. If you need to focus the beam or get a long, brighter throw then you really need a large D cell MagLite!

Brinkmann Pocket LED

MagLite Mini


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