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0209-22 Quick Tip - Lumens vs Candela_Thumb

Quick Tip: Lumens vs. Candela

Author Caleb Savant
one year ago
Here's a question just about anybody who's ever bought a gun light or high-quality handheld light has asked: What's the difference between lumens and candela? Caleb is joined by special guest Andrew Wright from SureFire, who's going to answer that question for us. LUMENS is a measure of the overall light output. CANDELA is a measure of peak beam intensity, which as a practical matter means how far the beam of light will reach. They work kind of like a garden hose. A larger-diameter hose will allow more water to flow (lumens). If you put a nozzle on it, the nozzle will restrict the flow but enable the stream of water to go farther (candela).
Lumens and candela are not tied together. If you increase one, you won't necessarily increase the other. Lights can have high lumen outputs but low candela - for example, a broad floodlight beam that doesn't reach very far. The size of the LED emitter's output and the type of lens on the light have a big effect on the light output profile.
Andrew pulls out his Stiletto..... No, that's not a knife or a shoe! It's a 650-lumen SureFire handheld light that puts out a 1,500-candela beam, which broadly illuminates a large area close by. By contrast, the Scout Turbo gun light also puts out 650 lumens but 71,000 candela, so its beam has a tight "hot spot" that reaches very far. Two VERY different beam patterns for very different applications.
When choosing a light, going for maximum output specs may not be your best route. If you have light-colored walls and furniture in your house, a really high lumen / candela light may produce too much reflected light in a home-defense scenario. When your eyes have adapted to nighttime light conditions, suddenly flipping on a very bright light will be blinding. Choose your light based on what you're more likely to use it for. For a lot of folks, SureFire's Hybrid beam pattern may provide the best general-purpose combination of reach, close area illumination, and peripheral illumination.