What flashlights do you use for spotlighting?
A lot of mammals are only spotted at night, usually by spotlighting. In places like Africa where one is often going in a safari vehicle, they typically have handheld spotlights that are powered by the vehicle through a cigarette lighter port, or other connection. In Sabah, they often run wires directly to the car battery terminal. Most of the dedicated spotlights that I have seen my guides use are bright, but have a very poor quality beam for photography – uneven light across the beam, and tungsten color temperature. I either make do with them, or use flash for the actual photo.
I have been using LEP (laser excited phosphor) flashlights which are quite small handheld units, but which have an incredibly narrow beam. The Fenix HT30R is a small (5.5 inches long) handheld unit that can throw a beam 1600 meters (1 mile). They are much brighter and have a much cleaner beam than the usual guide spotlights. This is good for lighting a shot of a mammal that you know is present, assuming you are using a very long lens, but by the same token it is way too narrow for actually finding the mammal in the first place.
I want to get a wider beam LED flashlight, with a wide enough beam for searching.
If I am in Africa, the purpose will be to hand my guide if his or her spotlight is bad. In the US where I generally have no guide, it is for me to use.
There is a bewildering array of LED flashlights on the market, and a huge list of flashlight enthusiast sites that review them. Unfortunately, a lot of the reviews emphasize raw light power, which is not actually that important for finding mammals – sure, you need some brightness, but you also need it to last a couple hours at least, and there is such a thing as too bright a light. Another factor is how wide a beam you use – I am frankly not sure what the optimal beam width is for spotlighting. Too narrow is clearly bad, and you want some width. Yet at the same time you don’t need to light up areas larger that you can’t see clearly.
I am curious as to whether anybody on the list has a favorite.