Lumens & Candelas

When dealing with flashlights and lanterns you will see ratings for lumens and candelas. These are measurements of the light output of the device.

  • Lumens measure total light output. This can seem a bit deceiving at first. For example, two flashlights may have the same lumen output but one will throw a beam four times farther than the other. In this case both lights output the same amount of light but one has a wider beam pattern that extends for a much shorter distance. When considering the lumen output you must also consider the spread of the beam. Do you need a light that covers a wider area or do you need the light to extend for a greater distance in a more narrow beam pattern? Do NOT judge a light by lumen output only but also consider the beam pattern and candela rating.
  • Candelas measure the light intensity at the “hotspot” or brightest area of the light. Some lights have a very bright hotspot and others will have a more even light pattern. If you want to illuminate a general area you may want lower candela power. Higher candela power means the center of the beam is more intense and the light will illuminate a greater distance.

The beam pattern defines the shape of the light beam from wide (flood pattern) to narrow (spot pattern). Some flashlights have an adjustable beam. With these lights you normally twist a ring on the front lens to adjust the beam from wider to narrower. Some lights illuminate a wide area and others generate a more focused beam.

The light distribution is how the flashlight distributes the beam. Is the light smooth and even or does it have a more intense hotspot or much brighter area within the beam pattern? Again, it is important to access your needs and choose the appropriate flashlight.


  • High Lumens, Low Candelas: This type of light produces a more even beam with less of a hotspot. Choose this type of light if you need to evenly illuminate an area and NOT project the beam for a greater distance.
  • High Lumens, High Candelas: This type of light normally has a more intense center hotspot for illuminating a greater distance. The light outside of the center will not be nearly as intense as the center hotspot of the beam.
  • Low Lumens, High Candelas: This type of light will normally generate a more focused but long distance beam. A laser would be the ultimate example with very low lumen output but high candela beam intensity. Spotlights are generally 100,000 candelas and higher.


In this case I have no recommendations because you must select the light that generates the type of light that you need for your situation. There is no “best” light just as there is no “best” vehicle. Different lights are designed for different needs and your job is to find the best device that satisfies your particular needs.

Click here for my current list of flashlight reviews.

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