It happens far too often that I walk into a store, pick up a hand-held spotlight and look at the specs – only to find that one says lumens, another says lux and the last reads something about candle power or candela. What are the key differences and what should I look out for when shopping for suitable lighting solutions for my set-up? – JOHAN BRUWER.
We approached Kurt Brunner, owner of the new and proudly South African aftermarket offroad 4×4 accessories company, Ultimate Bush Adventurer. Here’s what he had to say:
The world of lighting has undergone many changes in the last century. The upside of this is that we now have some of the brightest, longest lasting, and most efficient lighting options the world has ever seen. The downside is that these technological advances have led to an abundance of terminology that many find confusing.
Most people get it wrong when purchasing spotlights and torches. With this, I refer to spots and handheld torches specifically. While I fully agree that looks are important and the shape and size of the spotlight you choose needs to compliment your vehicle, its functionality must measure up too. The same applies for torches (or any lighting solutions used around camp) – it needs to perform certain functions and applications. For example, if space is limited in your cubby hole or on your belt, then a small slim body is in order – however, a certain amount of light and beam distance is still required.
So how does one make the correct choice? For many years we have been presented with misleading information and specifications regarding lighting. You see – light can be measured using a few different methods and each one matters. But there is one that matters the most. Years ago, candle power (today referred to as candela) was the go-to number on the box… 1 000 000 candle power was awesome, making you the big man around camp.
It was a big deal to have that much light, but is it really that much? The simple answer is no, since candle power is the measurement of the brightest part of the beam, not how far it shines. These days, lumen is the catchphrase everyone chases after. However, it too is misleading. So, let me explain the key difference between the two.
Lumen is the measurement of the total amount of light put out by the torch or spotlight versus (as said earlier) the measurement of the brightest part (candela). Another way to explain this is: a laser beam has an incredibly high candlepower because the light is focused into a single point, but at the same time has a very low lumen reading. There is a very low amount of light being given off – as such, you wouldn’t use a laser pointer to go walking around in the dark!
The reading that really matters is lux and it is mainly ignored, thanks to years of clever marketing which has led people to believe that first candle power and then lumens was the way to go. Lux is the measurement of light on a flat surface away from the source. There are formulas that allow us to measure lux (i.e., 1 lux is equal to 1 lumen per square metre, one metre away from the source), but what it boils down to is how far the beam shines or how far can you see at night. Try and find a light that has a 1 lux reading that is as far from the source as possible. This distance will determine just how far the light actually shines. Rule of thumb is that the naked eye can read a newspaper with 1 lux. So, if 1 lux is at 1km then you should be able to read the print.
• Watt: a measure of the total power output of a light source
• Lumen: a measure of the total visible light output of a light source
• Candlepower: an obsolete term that has been replaced by candela
• Candela: a measure of the intensity of a light source in a particular direction
• Lux: the amount of visible light falling on a surface
*Check out Ultimate Bush Adventurer for all your outdoor needs: www.ubadventurer.com