Flashlight Beam Scale

There are many factors that you should consider when selecting a flashlight. Obvious considerations include size, brightness, battery life, etc. One very important consideration is the style and pattern of the beam. Different lights have different beam patterns which have vastly different characteristics. The basic beam types are:

  • Floodlight: Relatively even beam, about 35° or wider, illuminates wider area for a shorter distance
  • Tactical Beam: 15°-30° with center hotspot to provide area light with longer distance center beam
  • Spotlight: Intense beam that is normally less than 15°

When recommending flashlights I could not find a way to accurately describe the type of beam. Lumens and candelas measure light output but these can be a bit deceiving. For example, two lights may generate 500 lumens but one generates a short distance 90° beam while the other generates a very long distance 15° beam. I decided to create a simple and slightly subjective scale to more accurately describe the beam patterns.

Tony’s Beam Scale

This measurement was designed to describe flashlight beam patterns. The flashlight is held 3′ above the floor and the diameter of the main beam and the hotspot are measured. I measure the entire circle of the beam and the most intense circle of the inner beam hotspot. This is where the measurement becomes subjective because the beams often have no clear ending point. These measurements can help you better select a flashlight that suits your particular needs. Note that these values will likely change over time as newer version of the flashlights improve.

The first value is the diameter of the total beam and the second value is the diameter of the beam hotspot. The lumen value measures the total light output and candelas measure the intensity of the hotspot of the beam (detailed article).