Spotlights, which are actually flashlights now

Hi all, I’ve been looking into new lights recently and thought I’d pass along what I’ve learned.

LED emitters and batteries have evolved a lot since the last thread on the blog. A lithium-ion rechargeable battery called 18650 has the most energy density, it’s a little wider and longer than an AA battery. In the past you needed a separate battery charger, which is a nuisance. They now have 18650 powered lights with micro USB ports, you can charge them from any computer or USB hub. The batteries and the lights have protective circuits that make them totally safe; ignore old stories about 18650 batteries exploding, LOL.

The light output from some USB type18650 lights is almost 1000 lumens, I tried one that totally lit up a huge tree with a broad, white light; it would certainly have lit the Bushy-tailed Possum at the Napa Wildlife Center on one of my trips.

Most all lights have 3-5 light levels which is useful in forests, depending on the situation. Most have memories so the light comes on at the same level you turned it off, not on high every time.

Fenix UC35 is high quality example.

I found a couple red LED headlamps with 100-150 lumens in adjustable steps, haven’t used either but I think the light output would be better than a red filter.

Fenix HP40H LED

H502r Red AA Flood Headlamp

Single 18650s won’t be much use for grasslands or deserts, but there are some 2X, 3X, 4X 18650s that are insanely bright.




  • Al Stewart

    Thanks for the update, John.

    While LED lights have gotten much brighter, do you or others think the small size of the light and reflector have an effect on eyeshine? I have a feeling that a small reflector will throw back only a narrow zone where eyeshine will be visible. I haven’t tested this but also haven’t seen an LED spotlight with a large dish reflector to compare.


  • John Fox

    Al, I don’t think it will make any difference for eyeshine.

    It’s actually the opposite, it takes a large/deep reflector to focus the light (bulb or LED) into a narrow beam that might limit the angle at which you get eyeshine. That’s why spotlights of yesteryear were so big; incandescent bulbs just didn’t put out much light and if you wanted to see past 50 feet you needed the big reflector.

    It seems to me that if adequate light hits the animal it will reflect OK. I know that spider eyeshine is good with a wide, floody beam.

    I just got a Nightcore SRT7 single 18650 that has continuously variable output (rather than 3-5 levels). I went out and lit up the same tree and it was even better than the first, by far the best light I have ever seen.

    My idea with the SRT7 is that I can find a mammal using a red headlamp and if it doesn’t flee I can slowly ramp up the white light, and hopefully get better photos/video.

    But the SRT7 is not a USB light, I had to buy a battery charger.


  • Maurice Tijm

    I have been using different Lumapower MRV Sidekick flashlights over the last five years (

    The light is bright and sure fine for any environment except grassland/dessert. I opted for this light on the basis of:
    1. the long range of the beam together with a good spill (rest light around the focused beam)
    2. the high battery life (2 hours with light level 2). 18650 batteries usually provide a more steady performance than conventional batteries: a steady output during the battery life instead of a sharp decline in output already after half an hour (charateristic for Maglites).
    3. the 5 light levels (most of these torches only burn half a hour on full power/light level 1). It is nice to use a lower output while searching for animals and to be able to turn the light level up once you have something in view that is a little bit further out and needs more light to have a good view.

    I checked a number of beamshot comparisons etc before buying. Anyone should compare beamshot comparisons before buying a spotlight: beams and battery life differ a lot. Check this example:

    I think it is a great torch and easy to handle, but there should be more on the market. I hope to hear about if you find some. I do like the warmer light of a classic spotlight though (the light could compete with the lights used on the Kinabatangan and Way Kambas but could’t keep up at all with the spotlight used by Marrick Safari on the open grasslands).

    Maurice Tijm

  • John Fox

    I agree about finding beam shots of the lights, it does give you an idea of what they will be like.

    is the site of a guy who has done dozens of reviews (including Lumapower MRV) which include lots of photos of the lights and many comparative beam shots.

    He posts to and the search function there can find answers to almost anything.

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