We get this question all the time and we’ve never published any official numbers.
It’s a pity that ‘lumens’ is such a popular measurement for comparing lights. Lumens gives you a number for the total amount of light energy but it tells you nothing about chromaticity, smoothness, angle, and intensity. It is especially painful that most manufacturers don’t give honest numbers anyway.
So before we tell you how many lumens you’ll get out of a Spikelight, we’ll look at some pictures and have a short lesson in light beams.
Click on any of the pictures to view them. Play the slideshow or scroll through to compare the different modes.
All photos here show the standard model with ‘sensible’ flood power level and ‘wide’ spot. For the camera nerds: ISO-100, Exposure-6 seconds, Aperture-F4.0, Focus-Manual, White Balance-Daylight.
In the above photos you can see how beautifully the flood beam picks up the colours of the orange gravel and the green trees. Notice how the spot beam doesn’t pick up the colours so well? In fact the spot beam doesn’t even see half the trees! There are things going on here that have nothing to do with lumens. We’re talking about chromaticity, smoothness, angle, and intensity.
Making a perfect FLOOD beam
Chromaticity is all about the exact tint of our ‘white’ light. There is a huge difference between the warm glow of the white light in a photographer’s studio and the harsh, slightly blue/green version of white light you might find in a car park or public toilet. Both put out lots of lumens but the warm, natural coloured light makes you feel happy and everything looks nicer.
Our eyes like natural sunlight so we try to match this in our Spikelights. The result is a nice glow that doesn’t hurt your eyes. Natural light actually puts you in a better state of mind too. It’s the best we can do to keep you happy at 3am when your fingers are frozen and you are a long way from home. This sets us apart from most manufacturers who use cheaper LEDs which always have that harsh blue/green tinge.
You’ll also notice that our flood beams are very smooth. We work hard to avoid any little bright and dark spots which can be really annoying, distracting, and headache-inducing.
Finally our flood beams have a really wide angle. We don’t want to see a patch of light on the ground in front of us. We want light everywhere in our field of vision so that we forget that it is night and we are wearing a headlight.
Making a perfect SPOT beam
Now the spot beam is an entirely different beast. This is a searchlight and a searchlight only. We want to see as far as possible and we don’t care if the colours aren’t quite so natural. In terms of chromaticity, we want a white light with a higher colour temperature – more in the blue/green range.
The most important thing about a searchlight is beam intensity. Intensity is measured in candela – not lumens. Our narrowest spot beam has an intensity of around 90,000 candela and this is the number we can really brag about. We’d love to hear about any other headlight with more than 15,000 candela.
The Spikelight’s Overall Performance
We have two really different beams: The flood is smooth and natural – perfect for walking, running, reading, or admiring anything beautiful you might find in the dark. The spot is concentrated – perfect for finding something to admire in the dark.
The other thing to remember is that the light you get from a Spikelight stays the same all night long. We pay a lot of attention to keeping the LEDs at the optimal temperature and regulating the power supply so that the light output doesn’t drop during use.
On the other hand, many manufacturers advertise a big lumen number which is only valid for the first few minutes of use. After that the battery voltage drops or the LED warms up and suddenly there aren’t so many lumens.
Lumens … If you still want to know
The standard (sensible) Spikelight flood goes up to about 500 lumens and the high power version is about 700 lumens. We can push it up to about 800 lumens by special request or we can use an ugly white light and get it over 1000 lumens, but you won’t like it as much. 2016 Edit: All V4s now run at 700 lumens
Those are the maximums but in practice most walkers find they only use the standard 15% mode. The standard 45% mode can be nice when running fast over uneven terrain but the 15% is often plenty. The 100% modes are mostly used for showing off, though mountain bikers and paddlers may have a legitimate use.
The spot is only about 250 lumens in the main beam plus a bit that is scattered around. Nobody believes us that it puts out less light than the flood, but it’s true. The spot is just an awful lot more intense.
Here is a long-exposure shot which shows just how narrow and concentrated our spot beam is.
So next time you are comparing different lights, don’t just look at lumens, look at the whole package.