The best flashlight for tube light-painting - 2019 edition

Back in the days, life was simple. I was using a simple pair of Eagletac D25LC2 flashlights. So why do I have 6 flashlights on the table today?

  1. Eagletac changed this model and it’s not usable anymore (they removed the constant-strobe mode).

  2. I totally switched from T12 to T8 size tubes (smaller, more universal size for flashlights, more fun to play with, brighter with less lumens).

  3. The tube light-painting technique has evolved so much and we require more precision.

I’m presenting you 6 flashlights in this review. The first 4 ones are the top alternative for blue-hour light-painting (bright flashlights). You’ll normally want a pair of those (if you wish to be able to create stripes). The two others are mostly “specialized” ones that I always carry with me.

All listed flashlights are waterproof (and tested!) and they all fit in a T8 size tube.

Let’s start!

1- Folomov 18650s - cool white edition

This is a new model and it’s currently the smallest 18650 battery type light on the market. It’s included in some of the tube kits from my store. It’s currently one of the top low-budget options.

Specs: 960 lumens, 3.9” long, Nichia 219D Led
Amazon rating: 4.3/5
Buy now: LightpaintingTubes.com - Amazon.com

Pros

  • Constant strobe (double click on the back button)

  • Five brightness levels

  • Extremely small

  • Very affordable

  • Single button design (back button)

  • Comes with a battery that can be recharged directly (micro-usb port on the battery itself!)

  • Comes for free with some of the light-painting tube kits

Cons

  • Not as bright as my other 1000 lumens flashlight. It doesn’t necessarily means that the LED itself is not bright enough, but it can have to do with the reflector and beam angle.

  • Not a true cool-white temperature (a bit of a yellow tint) - some people might prefer this!

Folomov 18650s - cool white edition

Folomov 18650s - cool white edition

2- Wowtac BSS v3

This one is a big surprise. For only 40$, you get pretty much everything! It’s as bright as you need and has the minimum requirements for tube light-painting at the blue hour.

Specs: 1050 lumens, 5.5” long
Amazon rating: 3.5/5
Buy now: Amazon.com

Pros

  • Extremely bright, especially at the tip of the tube when used with a bouncing cap (due to its beam angle)

  • 10% brighter when used in strobe mode (1150 lumens)

  • Larger body means better alignment in the tube (compared to the Olight M1X Striker)

  • Side button near the end: this is such a huge bonus. First, you’ll never hit the button by accident while holding the tube. Second, you can access it while you keep the light inside the tube. I like this design a lot! Good move Wowtac :)

  • Constant strobe

  • Momentary on - constant (rear button)

  • Momentary on - strobe (side button)

  • Very affordable

  • Comes with a battery that can be recharged directly (micro-usb port on the battery itself!)

Cons

  • Only 3 brightness levels

  • No memory mode (always turns on at max brightness)

  • Average rating on Amazon (many complains)

wowtac BSS v3
Wowtac BSS v3

Wowtac BSS v3

3- Olight M1X Striker

I can’t recommend this one enough! This is my current main flashlight for tube light-painting at the blue hour. It is bright, highly reliable, with every feature I need to start up the night! The only thing I wish would be to have a non-striker version (no scary bezel). Oh, and Olight, if you could add a dimmer-ring on this one, I think you would make everyone extremely happy :)

Specs: 1000 lumens, 5.35” long
Amazon rating: 4.3/5
Buy now: Amazon.com

Pros

  • Stellar build. Extremely solid and reliable

  • One of the best flashlights currently available for tube light-painting

  • Constant strobe mode (direct access with triple-half-press on the back button or long press on the side button)

  • Low profile side button (never accidentally gets hit when used inside a tube)

  • Direct access to high-power mode (double half press)

  • Direct access to memory mode (simple full press)

  • Five brightness levels

  • Pressure switch available as an accessory

Cons

  • The bezel can be considered a weapon, meaning you have to consider this when travelling with it or when you work in certain places. Unfortunately, it can’t be removed.

Olight M1X Striker

Olight M1X Striker

Olight M1X Striker bezel close up

Olight M1X Striker bezel close up

2x Olight M1x Striker (one of the 2 units on strobe mode) inside two  MilkyWhite tubes  + birthday sparklers on top.

2x Olight M1x Striker (one of the 2 units on strobe mode) inside two MilkyWhite tubes + birthday sparklers on top.

4- Klarus XT2CR

We’re talking about 1600 lumens here! Yikes! This is extremely bright. However, that correlates to 20% increase in brightness in the tube compared to a 1000 lumens flashlight (yes, I measure these things all the times!). But the main highlight is the fact that the light is much more even (better distributed) when using this model. The main reason is the fact that it has a larger body, making it fit better inside the tube. You won’t get a burned spot at the base of the tube with this one. In fact, the reading is lower than my other lights. But this is a big advantage when you’re looking for a softer look. I need to experiment more and I’ll give you feedback about my experiments at some point.

Specs: 1600 lumens, 5.47” long, XHP35 HD E4 LED, micro-usb rechargeable (on the flashlight), 4 brightness levels
Amazon rating: 3.8/5 (not enough comments to give a real idea)
Buy now: Amazon.com

Pros

  • High reputation brand (Klarus)

  • Very solid

  • The brightest flashlight you can insert in a T8 tube

  • Excellent pressure switch available as an option

  • Momentary on - constant (rear button)

  • Momentary on - strobe (pedal switch)

  • Battery level indicator

Cons

  • Harder to get (in Canada at least)

  • No constant strobe (can be hacked but it’s not efficient)

  • Requires a bigger budget

Klarus XT2CR

5- Nitecore MT22C

This is not part of the review as it is not used for the same purpose. I already talked a lot about this flashlight in the video below. This is the flashlight I use all the times for tube light-painting + astro-photography.

Nitecore MT22c

Nitecore MT22c

Close up on the dimmer of the Nitecore MT22C

Close up on the dimmer of the Nitecore MT22C

Light-painting with Kim Henry using the Olight MT22C at about 50 lumens. Tube:  frosted  (night tube)

Light-painting with Kim Henry using the Olight MT22C at about 50 lumens. Tube: frosted (night tube)

6- Outline flashlight

I don’t even know the real name of this one. You’ll find a few different names on amazon if you look for “COB flashlight”. However, you can’t be sure of what you’re going to receive. My first ones had a super loose side clip (not usable). Then my second batch (no name this time!) has a very good one. These are cheaply made and I can’t really recommend them for serious work, but these are the only options for that kind of light-painting. I use it on top of the flashlight to create an outline. It’s important to also keep one of the bigger flashlight at the base so you can have a solid grip on the tube. Don’t do this when it’s windy and never move too fast otherwise you’re going to bend your tube.

Buy now on lightpaintingTubes.com

Outline flashlight

Outline flashlight

Kim Henry in Mont-Tremblant, Québec. Outline flashlight + dimmer on top of a frosted tube

Kim Henry in Mont-Tremblant, Québec. Outline flashlight + dimmer on top of a frosted tube

Family picture!

From left to right: Folomov 18650s, Wowtac BSS v3, Olight M1x striker, Klarus XT2CR, Nitecore MT22c, Outline flashlight

From left to right: Folomov 18650s, Wowtac BSS v3, Olight M1x striker, Klarus XT2CR, Nitecore MT22c, Outline flashlight

Conclusion

My current travel kit is a pair of Olight M1X Striker + one Nitecore MT22c + one Outline flashlight. Let me know what’s yours :)

I have a few more details on my gear pages (+ other flashlights that can still be considered as good options): https://lightpaintingtubes.com/gear

Oh… and this is my setup for the images :) 6x Jupiter tubes (holographic kit-b).

Behind-the-scenes: best flashlight for tube light-painting 2019

Behind-the-scenes: best flashlight for tube light-painting 2019