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We pick some of the best LED front lights to get you through the winter without breaking the bank

If you want to cycle through the winter, whether you’re commuting or training in the evenings, a good front light is essential.

Front lights come in a vast range of prices and outputs, but you don’t need to spend a fortune as the lights in this roundup demonstrate. Most front lights these days use LEDs which take very little battery power so you can expect decent runtimes, and brightness levels that were unimaginable a couple of decades ago.

If you’re cycling in a built up urban area, you want a light to be seen by rather than one that can light up the road ahead. Many are designed for commuting with a lens and reflector intended to offer a good range of visibility. Been seen from the side as well as the front is an important consideration. If you’re venturing onto poorly lit streets and dark country lanes, then you need to think about a more powerful light to help illuminate the way.

Most of the lights below fall better into the first category of lights to be seen by. At the top of the price range you can start to get powerful lights that will be good for a bit of country lane night riding.

The five LED lights here are priced at under £50, and all of them having been tested by road.cc staff. Click the heading to read the full in-depth review if you want to know more about a particular light.

Moon Meteor front light  £49.99

The Moon Meteor front light punches well above its weight and costs half as much. It's dinky wee but looks purposeful and business-like. According to Moon it will kick out 200 lumens for 1 hour and 50 minutes, which is quite impressive for such a small unit. Buy it here

Knog Blinder 1 front light   £23.99

Knog's Blinder 1 is essentially a slimmed-down single LED version of the Blinder 4, weighing in at a mere 15g and cutting a very low profile. It may be small in size, but it certainly makes a style statement, with the anodised aluminium fascia available in four colours – black, red, white, and the rather fetching blue pictured here.

Moon Comet Front light  £29.99

The Moon Comet front light resembles an office strip light that's been passed through a matter-shrinking device. The result is an extremely powerful and surprisingly tuneable light source capable of 110 lumens in overdrive setting.

Cateye Rapid 3 front light  £19.99

It's the purity of delivery that separates Cateye's Rapid 3 front light from a host of similar blinkys. Sharing identical guts with its rear sibling, there's a central 0.2watt spot flanked by two 5mm LEDs powered by two AAA cells. Their Opti cube technology features a lens and reflectors matched to optimise output and it seems genuinely effective.

Electron Micro 1W Front Light  £24.99

Electron's Micro 1W light is a commuter light with, as the name implies, a single 1W LED. This puts it at the 'being seen' rather than the 'seeing by' end of the bike light spectrum. Even so, it does provide a degree of road illumination, as our light data shows; enough for badly lit urban streets.

There are plenty more front light reviews of various prices in the review archive here. And why not check out the big road.cc lights test 2013 with the useful beam comparison, and if you want to know even more about lights, here's our buyer's guide to them. 

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

40 comments

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Cantab [102 posts] 3 years ago
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Why is the Blackburn even included here?
Road.cc's own verdict is "a disappointing light which lacks the power to make it a contender at this price range" and specifically says "the Scorch's 140 lumen don't go very far and you certainly wouldn't be able to navigate on unlit roads" entirely contradicting this article's introduction "at the top of the price range you can start to get powerful lights that will be good for a bit of country lane night riding."

The eBay Special Cree XM-L lights, on the other hand, seem to be much more highly respected by the community, and perform very very well in the 'the big road.cc lights test 2013', yet even the latest dual LED model only costs £30, slap bang in the middle of this article's price range and, unlike the Blackburn, is surely one "of the best LED front lights to get you through the winter". So why the omission?

The overall impression leaves the reader questioning the editorial independence of this article...  39

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zedbedboy [28 posts] 3 years ago
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It seems road.cc may be going the same way as Bike Radar.

Please follow the true course road.cc. I'd hate to see the same ridiculous number of critisising comments here as I see on other cycling websites.

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David Arthur @d... [728 posts] 3 years ago
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Cantab wrote:

Why is the Blackburn even included here?

Just had another look at the article and on reflection I've removed the Blackburn and replaced with the Moon, a cracking little light for 50 notes that gets a very good review.

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Goldfever4 [227 posts] 3 years ago
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The handlebar mount on my moon meteor broke after less than 100 miles on the streets of Bristol - my personal experience suggests you will find more dependable units elsewhere.

Also as an aside, is this article not a bit late in the year?

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Cantab [102 posts] 3 years ago
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David Arthur wrote:
Cantab wrote:

Why is the Blackburn even included here?

Just had another look at the article and on reflection I've removed the Blackburn and replaced with the Moon, a cracking little light for 50 notes that gets a very good review.

Thank you for being so responsive! I'm in the market for a new front light at around this sort of price point, so I was quite disappointed when I clicked through on the Blackbrun and it had such a poor review... The Moon looks pretty good! Apologies if my initial comment was a little OTT!  17

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Mpittick [14 posts] 3 years ago
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To first comment, why don't you get positive reviews for cree etc lights from eBay etc? Think about who funds this website, I don't see cree funding or advertising here. It is therefore logical that these sites review sponsors products, as this is where income is derived. The cree lights are exceptional value for money for sure but you are not going to see them reviewed on this site, bike radar or any magazine

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Mombee [84 posts] 3 years ago
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I did the first training ride last night with my son using two Cree lights - XML T-6 and a SolarStorm - with a Cateye SingleShot as a back-up for the road and in case the other's ran out of juice... and there was no comparison between the Cree's and the Cateye (which I used to think was a reasonable commuter light).
The Cree's provide an incredible spread of light, and the only real issue is that they dazzle oncoming cars (I was having to shield the SolarStorm with my hand at times)... but positioning might reduce that effect.
To put this into context... the Cree XML T-6 came from a UK supplier and the SolarStorm from China, both about £20.
Take a look at the following for a relative picture of the spread...
http://mombee.com/2013/impressions-cree-xml-trail-lights/

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ribena [180 posts] 3 years ago
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Quote:

The cree lights are exceptional value for money for sure but you are not going to see them reviewed on this site, bike radar or any magazine

They reviewed it under the "magicshine" brand
http://road.cc/content/review/73067-magicshine-mj808-e-front-light

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allez neg [497 posts] 3 years ago
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Do people 'get' the deal with chinese ebay specials? (and are they same people who criticise giants like Starbucks et al for their creative tax practices?)

Buy from ebay, bike shops close, people lose jobs, they claim benefits. Buy products from shops and get warranty and service and bike shops and cycle product distributors stay open and the "employed in bike shops" people pay tax and spend their wages in other shops.

Unlike movies, (Blockbusters closure anyone?) I don't think you can download or stream a bike over your broadband line.

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dave atkinson [6273 posts] 3 years ago
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Mpittick wrote:

To first comment, why don't you get positive reviews for cree etc lights from eBay etc? Think about who funds this website, I don't see cree funding or advertising here. It is therefore logical that these sites review sponsors products, as this is where income is derived. The cree lights are exceptional value for money for sure but you are not going to see them reviewed on this site, bike radar or any magazine

look out for our cree review coming soon  103

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dave atkinson [6273 posts] 3 years ago
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Cantab wrote:

The eBay Special Cree XM-L lights, on the other hand, seem to be much more highly respected by the community, and perform very very well in the 'the big road.cc lights test 2013', yet even the latest dual LED model only costs £30, slap bang in the middle of this article's price range and, unlike the Blackburn, is surely one "of the best LED front lights to get you through the winter". So why the omission?

because this is lights we've tested, and the cree hasn't been tested yet

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drfabulous0 [409 posts] 3 years ago
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allez neg wrote:

Do people 'get' the deal with chinese ebay specials? (and are they same people who criticise giants like Starbucks et al for their creative tax practices?)

Buy from ebay, bike shops close, people lose jobs, they claim benefits. Buy products from shops and get warranty and service and bike shops and cycle product distributors stay open and the "employed in bike shops" people pay tax and spend their wages in other shops.

Unlike movies, (Blockbusters closure anyone?) I don't think you can download or stream a bike over your broadband line.

Do you 'get' the deal with the LBS? It's just crazy expensive and a lot of us are skint. It's not the fault of the bike shop though, think of a £500 bottom of the range LBS road bike: you go in, talk to the salesman and and try a few bikes, you choose one but don't want the one that's in stock because it's been on display and been ridden (by yourself) so they order one in for you and assemble it, you then come in and want more of the staff's time to setup and fit the bike for you, then you will want a first free service after you have ragged it around a bit. By now you have probably used the time of a salesman for an hour and a half at £7 an hour and an hour of mechanic's time at £9, round that to £21 with NI. Now if the bike shop is lucky they will have 35% margin on the bike, so they will have paid £270. From the £500 sale price £83 goes straight to the taxman, £60 is taken as a fee because you bought the bike on cyclescheme, so after the above costs the bike shop is left with £66, from which it has to pay its rent, rates, bills and other overheads and still try to make a profit.
Meanwhile supplier will have its own costs and pay the manufacturer around £130.
The manufacturer often doesn't actually manufacture the bikes themselves but will place an order with a factory, where the factory gate price is likely to be around £40.

Now nobody I know has £500, so loads of people do the stupid thing and order a bike from SportsDirect.com for £100 and some people do the sensible thing and buy a nice old bike with Reynolds tubing from me, or another of the growing number of independent mechanics for £50 without any formal warranty.

So when it comes down to needing a light because you have no choice but to ride unlit roads at night and only having £20 to spend because your family needs to eat, do you buy the cree or whatever £20 gets you in the LBS and compromise your own safety for sentimental reasons and just perpetuate the bullshit that is the cycle trade?

My LBS has no end of idiots queuing up to pay them £15 to change a headset, which even if you stop for a beer halfway through can't take longer than 15 minutes, that's £60 an hour. They also have hoards of fat old blokes practically throwing money at them for the latest top end bikes and bits, if I turned up with £20 for a light they would sneer at me and probably recommend a cree.

I've been in the trade for a very long time and I know what it's like, it's bollocks, both the consumer and the LBS are being ripped off, hence the local bike shop as I remember it is almost dead already, times change, we have to change too.

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Neil753 [447 posts] 3 years ago
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drfabulous0 wrote:

My LBS has no end of idiots queuing up to pay them £15 to change a headset, which even if you stop for a beer halfway through can't take longer than 15 minutes, that's £60 an hour.

.

A bike qualified mechanic can be just as skilled as the average car mechanic, perhaps more so these days, given the the complexities of modern bikes. And there's very few garages that charge £60 an hour these days; my local one charges £90.

drfabulous0 wrote:

the local bike shop as I remember it is almost dead already, times change, we have to change too.

It's partly because many LBS proprietors have failed to anticipate the changes. Revenue can be increased quite easily with a little imagination. Letting cyclists bring their bikes into the shop, an acknowledgement upon entering the shop, offering free coffee, free basic maintenance courses for women, an evening delivery service, proper FAQs on the shop's website, some sort of effort to actually answer emails, a range of reasonably priced parts for older and more basic bikes, a "courtesy" bike, even "after hours" pasta parties.

Bike shops have to be imaginative, and see themselves as part of their community, because regulation could affect sportives, and the cycle to work scheme may not last forever.

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allez neg [497 posts] 3 years ago
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Well, some comprehensive and coherent replies, all I know is that the owner of the bike shop that I used to work for seems to do ok in terms of money and lifestyle, has a decent customer base and manages to employ 2 staff fulltime. As such he contributes to the local community and also to ol Gideon Osborne.

One other thing - I'd not fancy trusting any of my bikes to someone who can apparently replace a headset in 15 minutes, with or without the beer break......  7

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drfabulous0 [409 posts] 3 years ago
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Neil753 wrote:
drfabulous0 wrote:

My LBS has no end of idiots queuing up to pay them £15 to change a headset, which even if you stop for a beer halfway through can't take longer than 15 minutes, that's £60 an hour.

.

A bike qualified mechanic can be just as skilled as the average car mechanic, perhaps more so these days, given the the complexities of modern bikes. And there's very few garages that charge £60 an hour these days; my local one charges £90.

Agreed, but the mechanic himself will only see a tiny fraction of that money.

Quote:
drfabulous0 wrote:

the local bike shop as I remember it is almost dead already, times change, we have to change too.

It's partly because many LBS proprietors have failed to anticipate the changes. Revenue can be increased quite easily with a little imagination. Letting cyclists bring their bikes into the shop, an acknowledgement upon entering the shop, offering free coffee, free basic maintenance courses for women, an evening delivery service, proper FAQs on the shop's website, some sort of effort to actually answer emails, a range of reasonably priced parts for older and more basic bikes, a "courtesy" bike, even "after hours" pasta parties.

This is exactly what bike shops need to be doing and those that do will do well for themselves, but it's not how bike shops used to be.

@Allez neg, I was joking about the beer, but how long do you think it takes a professional mechanic with the correct tools to change a headset? Seriously man, the only excuse for these prices is the cost of the tools.

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KiwiMike [1246 posts] 3 years ago
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*Rolls up sleeves and wades in*

The Cree eBay ('CreeBay'?) light market over the last few years has been nothing short of a revolution - there is simply no other word for it.

I cannot recall a technology being so rapidly and thoroughly democratised. Only a few years ago the performance delivered by Cree lights was only delivered by lightsets costing many hundreds of quid.

Now top-class lighting can be had for £20-30, which is within the reach of everyone. In the last few months the bog standard Cree X-ML T6 single LED with 4 cells has dropped well below £20, and can now be had for £15-16 including postage.

This has been largely driven by the manufacturing power of China's Shenzhen district, coupled with UK-based resellers cutting out distributors and retailers. The no-quibble Paypal guarantee helps a lot too. There is, of course, nothing stopping a local bikeshop from ordering a few hundred of these lights on Alibaba and selling them with a markup. They could even offer a walk-in warranty replacement, which would remove the last vestiges of fear from purchasers concerned over buying on eBay from overseas.

As a True Story, the Test Valley CC has over the last year been riding at night, 2hrs on a Thursday on pitch-black lanes. This has only been enabled by Cree lights - we are all people with families, and no way would an Exposure or whatever at £200 be justified. But as a result of this increased nocturnal activity the LBS has profited from the sale of new gilets, jackets, reflective overshoes, clear-lensed glasses and of course general bike stuff that comes with increased mileage. So loosing a sale they never would have had has netted them income.

Time for people to stop bemoaning others making purchasing decisions and start suggesting ways their LBS could offer newer, more innovative services. Times change, needs change. If your LBS can't or won't change they are doomed.

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Peowpeowpeowlasers [451 posts] 3 years ago
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...and every single one of these lights will dazzle oncoming pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. Road.cc should be advocating the use of lights that conform to the German STVZO standard.

Furthermore, lumens is not an accurate identifier of light output, it should be abandoned in favour of lux.

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Big Softy [24 posts] 3 years ago
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Although Moon make a cracking little light, I had the same issue with my Shield rear light. A righteous hack with a couple of bits from a wooden coffee stirrer blagged from Costa and a dab of EvoStik gave it the same integrity as the US version of this product, the Serfas. Though now I never disconnect the light from the mounting, undoing the silicon strap each time.

Anybody got any reviews on the Niterider Lumina Micro 220?

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gthornton101 [137 posts] 3 years ago
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on the contrary, lumens *is* an accurate measure of light output.

Lux is the amount of light falling onto a surface which varies with the light fixture mounting position  26

At the risk of sounding a bit too geeky, what should be clarified as more and more lights use LED is the difference between the lumens from the LED chip itself versus actual the 'luminaire lumens'. Mounting the same Cree chip inside a different housing (with different reflector or spacing from the lens etc) will give a different output and so manufacturers should give us Luminaire Lumen values for an accurate view of the light output.

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Peowpeowpeowlasers [451 posts] 3 years ago
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When you're cycling, your light is invariably illuminating the ground in front of you. I see no point in buying a 1,000 lumen light which spends 50% of it's time illuminating the sky, when you need 100% of it on the road.

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sidesaddle [91 posts] 3 years ago
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As a halfway house between Creebay(!) and ye olde LBS I use a torch from Maplin (A76JX since you ask) and a handlebar clamp I bought off of um.. ebay. £30, 3W, 2 chargers, a spare 18650 and even a little black condommy thing to put it in. Rainproof and faultless.

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HLaB [77 posts] 3 years ago
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Id add the Cateye Volt 300 to that list selected after the Road.cc big light review and it hasn't disappointed on the brightness front. http://road.cc/content/news/97193-big-roadcc-lights-test-2013
Its RRP is £49.99 but it can be got for around £40

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KiwiMike [1246 posts] 3 years ago
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Peowpeowpeowlasers wrote:

When you're cycling, your light is invariably illuminating the ground in front of you. I see no point in buying a 1,000 lumen light which spends 50% of it's time illuminating the sky, when you need 100% of it on the road.

The Standard CreeBay light can have an aftermarket 'wide angle' lense added that directs the light into a horizontal band, greatly enhancing the brightness where you need it. £5: http://item.mobileweb.ebay.co.uk/viewitem?itemId=261339511889

Must-do upgrade IMHO.

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Bigpikle [94 posts] 3 years ago
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Moon XP300 is widely available for <£40 right now but listed at £100+. I'd suggest it spanks any of the lights here if you;re interested in lighting your way, and is well within the sub £50 category in reality.

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Mombee [84 posts] 3 years ago
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Just to respond to some of the points raised. There are some truly great lights being made by UK manufacturers, Hope is the highest profile and 4Fourth another, but they're desperately expensive… especially if you're unsure whether night-training is going to work for you. We ordered a Cree SolarStorm from China at the start of October, it was £20 and if it proved the theory that getting home and then heading out on a bike was practical, then it meant we could consider an upgrade to the Hope-or-similar lights. Unfortunately the SolarStorm didn't arrive as expected, so we bought the T-6 from a UK supplier, only for the SolarStorm to arrive a few days later… so we have an unexpected comparison.
Between our Cree lights and the Hope-standard (apologies for using them as the benchmark), there are a growing band of UK businesses offering Cree-type lights at intermediate prices… this is throwing the entire market into confusion… I absolutely don't advocate the 'cheap option' (and no longer use Amazon for anything), but equally I feel that the UK has lost it's ability to manufacture, so why should I pay a surcharge to a UK company to import something manufactured in China, when I can arrange that import myself?
I have no doubt that we will upgrade to UK lights next season and put our money where the proverbial mouth is, but at the moment these Cree lights are proving stunning.

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daviddb [134 posts] 3 years ago
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drfabulous0 wrote:

snipping.....They also have hoards of fat old blokes practically throwing money at them for the latest top end bikes and bits, if I turned up with £20 for a light they would sneer at me and probably recommend a cree......snipped.

Hey you! We can't help getting old and fat - it just kinda happens.

 39

Apart from that - good post!

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Cookie91 [21 posts] 3 years ago
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I'm pretty sure there run by the same group of people.
Both based in bath, review the same products virtually a few weeks apart from one s d another.
I think these are useful guides for those not in the know still.

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mpt68 [99 posts] 3 years ago
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Bigpikle wrote:

Moon XP300 is widely available for <£40 right now but listed at £100+. I'd suggest it spanks any of the lights here if you;re interested in lighting your way, and is well within the sub £50 category in reality.

Agree with that. i have one on my helmet and one on my bars, both got from wiggle in the sale.
super light

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rogie40 [31 posts] 3 years ago
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Unfortunately, the original comparisons of watts against Lumens was about as useful as comparing chalk with cheese. I just wish that they would all use the same system, then after a while we could relate it to what we have.

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gthornton101 [137 posts] 3 years ago
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agreed. Watts is irrelevant tool for comparison of light output as it is the power consumption. Although it could give you an estimate on older lights, it is largely irrelevant when it comes to LED for judging output.

Lux can be used, but a benchmark should be established of where the lux level is measured and in relation to the mounting position of the light.
e.g. output gives 100lx on the ground, 3m in front of the light fixture when mounted at 1m height (or something along those lines).

Until then Lumens, or for more accuracy use Luminaire Lumens, is the only real comparable unit of light output for these.

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