Complete Buying Guide for Choosing a Spotlight
Spotlights are powerful and portable light sources that are excellent for their light output and range, but which spotlight should you go for?
Different spotlights have different specifications and specializations, and there’s enough variety in the market to confuse most of us. Choosing the right product can serve our needs perfectly and provide a remarkable experience, while making the wrong decision can lead you to frustration and potentially risky situations.
This is a comprehensive buying guide for spotlights. Here, we will talk about different aspects of spotlights, break down specifications, and discuss what to look for and what to avoid when buying a new spotlight. Our goal is to make everything clear and easy to understand so you can go out there and choose the right light on your own.
What is a spotlight?
I’m pretty sure all of you know what spotlights are, but to clear any remaining confusion,
Spotlights are handheld long-range electric lights, with emphasis on long-range. Definitively, any handheld electric lights capable of lighting up an area over a long distance away are considered a spotlight.
But there are thousands of spotlight models available with hundreds of different specifications. So, it is a daunting task to choose the best spotlight without proper knowledge and understanding of the device.
That’s what we aim to achieve in this article. We will discuss different aspects of spotlights, break down the specifications, explain what other numbers and variations mean, and provide a proper understanding of the light so you can make your choice confidently.
Eight things to pay attention to
These are the eight essential things you should pay attention to before committing to a spotlight.
Lumen vs. Candlepower:
When you search for a spotlight, you will often come across two units for measuring light, Lumen, and Candlepower. Some products will describe lumen; some others will show candlepower. Of course, some will have both, but that’s rare. So, what are these?
Lumen: Lumen is a unit that describes how bright a 1-meter x 1-meter area will be precisely 1 meter away from a light source. Lumen is the modern measuring unit, and the majority of the spotlights are measured in lumen nowadays.
Candlepower: Candlepower is the unit that represents the total amount of light produced by a light source. As the name suggests, it indicates the number of candles needed to achieve equal brightness as the light in question.
So, yeah. Candlepower is a unit of the past. But some companies still follow them as a tradition. It’s easier and, honestly, better to stick to lumen reading.
1. Under grip lights:
On this type of light, the handle is placed on top of the light chassis and goes parallel to the light with one or both ends connected to the light. The idea is you will hold the light as you hold your shopping bags.
- Best for long time usage
- Relatively slower and inaccurate aiming
- Portable, lightweight, and limited power
- Best for hiking, mountain climbing, walking, etc.
2. Pistol Grip Handle:
The handle of this type of spotlight is similar to that of a pistol. And the power button is also conveniently placed in the place of the trigger. Holding and handling the spotlight in this manner allows for faster movement and aiming.
- Best for short but frequent usage
- Almost instinctual movement and aiming
- Portable, lightweight, and limited power
Best for Hunting, fishing, construction, household use, etc.
Usually, heavy and bulky spotlights come with this type of handle, but many portable and handheld spotlights also have tripod/stand support. A stationary light can be powered with an external power source allowing for more power output and longer runtime.
- Best for heavy lights and stationary usage
- Typically not meant to be moved
- Can be plugged into an external source for more power
- Best for a campsite, construction site, indoor use with floodlight, etc.
Think about the power output that you need. Usually, a higher power rating is better. But it may not always be the case.
Higher light output requires higher power consumption and will inevitably drain the battery significantly faster. Getting a higher battery can be a solution, but that will raise the budget significantly and almost unnecessarily that you could avoid.
- For hiking, night walking, running, or general outdoor tasks, stay below 1000 lumens. Because you won’t need to light up very far from you, and neither will you need to light immensely brightly.
- For hunting, fishing, Jobsite, construction site, camping, boating, trekking, or exploring mountainous areas, carry 1000 to 4000 lumen-range spotlight. You will need the extra light, especially in emergencies. Don’t hesitate to step into the 5000 or 6000 range if you feel necessary. It probably will.
- For Off-shore boating, fishing, definitely carry at least 5000 lumens spotlight, and of course with at least IPX7 or higher. Also, pay attention to the runtime. Make sure it has the capability of lasting 10+ hours. It is a good practice to carry an extra light or backup battery set if possible.
There are three main bulb types, LED, fluorescent, and incandescent. But you always go for an LED bulb. The other two are not worth it, and they are pretty much extinct by now. Some models are still available, but it’s not worth it, as I mentioned.
Incandescent bulb consumes multiple times more power to produce the same amount of light as LED. Fluorescent and CFL have less service life than LED, needing more frequent replacements. They also have heating issues, orientation issues, and many more.
It would be best if you always went for LED bulb type.
IP rating, or Ingress Protection rating, is the international rating system for electronic devices that determines how resistant the device is against foreign bodies such as dust, dirt, moisture, water, etc.
The standard IP rating format is IPXX, where numbers will replace the “X”s. The first number indicates protection from foreign dry bodies like dust, dirt, etc. The last number indicates protection from water or moisture.
For your everyday usage, aim for at least an IPX4 rating. Spotlights with this rating will not be completely water-resistant. They will be damaged if submerged underwater, but they will be safe from short exposure to rain and such.
If you are looking for a spotlight for fishing, boating, and such activities, the least you should go for is IPX7. With IPX7, IPX8, or IPX9, your flashlight will survive without damage, even if it accidentally falls in the water.
Range and SOS mode:
The range of the spotlight is another factor to keep in mind. While in normal conditions, the range is not a crucial factor and most spotlights cover the visible range more than well enough, it will make a difference in some situations.
In winter or rainy seasons, the fog or the rain will shrink visibility significantly. A spotlight with excellent range will still be helpful even with the obstacle. And with the SOS mode, it can get you out of tricky situations.
If the spotlight has a lower range to begin with, it might not be as useful. But if you think you are not going to be in those situations, you can invest in a spotlight with 1000-2000 feet range.
So, keep this in mind before buying.
Battery type and runtime:
Runtime is a vital metric to look at when shopping for a spotlight. It’s never fun to be stuck with a light that ran out of juice midway.
Runtime is the duration a product will work for from full charge until the battery drains out completely. Runtime depends significantly on the capacity and type of battery.
Typically, disposable batteries will have significantly higher runtime than rechargeable batteries for the same price range. That said, batteries aren’t compared for their price. They are compared for capacity. A disposable battery will cost a lot less than rechargeable batteries of the same capacity.
Even though rechargeable batteries cost higher, it is a long-term investment and will provide more value in the long run. It is also friendlier for the environment as you will not need to change the battery as frequently.
Although, disposable batteries do have the upper hand in one situation. Disposable batteries have a longer shelf life. The idle power drain of disposable batteries is negligible. That makes it more preferable for emergency kits compared to rechargeable batteries. You can leave them packed and ignored for a long time, and they will work like new.
When buying a new gadget, you should always go for the better-built product over the better warranty.
Having a decent warranty is always assuring and feels good, but you will only get the value when your device is broken. Having your spotlight broken is not good, especially when you are away from home and need the light to work.
On the other hand, if the product is well built, you will get the value every time you use the product. Therefore, it is the better option, even if it doesn’t have a warranty.
For building material, try to go for aluminum or metal body if possible. Otherwise, you can go for Polycarbonate. Polycarbonate can be scratched, but it is strong and impact-resistant. ABS is scratch-resistant but not super sturdy. It’s not bad either, though. For other material, it is a good idea to do some research on the material before investing.
For lenses and filters, glass is the most preferable, but it is prone to breaking. So, a polycarbonate lens is pretty much the best option.
Buying a new product is a lot more personal than reading a guide online. Guides and lists present only facts and popular opinions. Therefore, they might not be the best for your situation. Ultimately, you will have to make your choice and decide the product that you think will serve you the best.
There’s a saying, “If there’s smoke, there has to be fire”. Therefore, popular items become popular because they usually have qualities to deserve the list. If you want our opinion on some of the high-quality spotlights, we have a few lists of products that we think are excellent for their quality and worth checking out.
|1. Light beam is focused||1. Light beam is spreaded|
|2. Has a higher range||2. Has lower range|
|3. Generates more power||3. Generates less power|