Six powerful torches tested | Expert Review by Koen van der Jagt
With a massive advantage the Nitecore TM38 is standing on top of the most up-to-date list containing the most powerful flashlights. Some years ago the Knivesandtools crew introduced this list and ever since this overview has been a guideline to anyone looking to light up their lives. Contrary to the lists often made by manufacturers this list will definitely give you a realistic idea of what a flashlight can do and what, for instance, the beam distance is. In other words: up to what distance can a flashlight clearly light up the dark? As you might imagine this list has definitely become indispensable over the years as it is so reliable; however.. what do they really look like ‘in real life’? By means of a comparative research, substantiated by many photographs I will try to answer this question. In this test I will test three flashlights from the leading manufacturers on the market today: Fenix and Nitecore. More or less lumens, one or multiple LED lights and the differences between beams makes this research even more interesting.
The Fenix RC40-2016 is definitely an in-your-face flashlight: I cannot think of a larger LED flashlight on the market today. The head has been enhanced with six XM-L2 U2 LED lights that turn the RC40-2016 into a real search light. The large rechargeable battery pack with useful power bank function make you feel incredibly safe during a nightly search.
The Fenix TK47 is, in terms of specs, not the most impressive one of them all, but don’t be mistaken: the small LED light (in this case the Cree XHP35 HI) with relatively little lumens connected to a deep reflector will definitely surprise you in terms of intensity! Striking about the TK47 is not only the slim head but also the body that enables you to hold it or use it for quite a long period of time without your hands cramping up. Another unique detail: this light has a white/red ‘rear light’ you can also use as a beacon or reading light.
The Fenix TK75, 2018-edition is the fourth edition of this successful model. Ever since the first edition this has been an amazing flashlight: a light that fit into a (rather spacious) coat pocket with that much reach hadn’t been launched by Fenix before. While the previous updates mostly focused on more lumens or the user interface, the TK75-2018 takes it up a notch (thanks to the XHP35 HI LED lights) in terms of beam distance. Say goodbye to your battery charger: the 2018 edition can simply be charged by means of the USB port on the battery holder.
The Nitecore TM16GT is the immediate equivalent of the Fenix TK75-2018. This light has been enhanced with XP-L HI V3 LED lights that also guarantee a massive beam distance. We found at least four of these lights in the head. As is common for Nitecore the TM16GT has many options which can be turned on with only a press of a button.
The Nitecore TM28 is, by far, the shortest of all the flashlights we tested. However, it still has a substantial amount of lumens at its disposal, and, also very important, it has found its way to the top 10! Striking detail is the built-in information screen that displays the battery life, the actual voltage, the number of lumens and the temperature of the light. This battery also doesn’t have to part ways with its batteries: via the included cable you can recharge the TM28 in mere hours!
The Nitecore TM38 is the successor of the TM36 and more of an update than a completely new flashlight. For quite a long time the TM36 was the highlight of the top-10. However, with the TM38 Nitecore promises to take it up a notch! Like the TM28 the TM38 has been enhanced with a useful information screen. The TM38 has also been equipped with a battery pack. Does it get any better than this? Yes it does: Nitecore has also made the TM38-Lite: a short and practical version with the same specs, using the same 4 18650 batteries.
The flashlight test
During this test I will not discuss what the lights have to offer. After all, the Knivesandtools crew has already done that on their website! During this test I will, however, take the flashlights with me to learn more about how they work in the dark. So, let’s take that massive amount of light most cars will be jealous of, and get started!
Because for all these flashlights distance is key I found myself a beautiful spot in the countryside with a row of trees located quite far away. This setting would truly enable me to properly compare the flashlights I brought with me. Before we start I need to mention that all batteries used were equal and fully charged before we began our little experiment. Now let’s get to it! I started by attaching the flashlights to a tripod standing approximately 316 meters from the trees. Below a couple of clarifying photographs!
The results of the first flashlight test
The results: I tested the flashlights in the same order as Knivesandtools. This comparison will also enable you to clearly see the difference between the light profiles, something that is mostly determined by the combination of the LED light that is used and the depth of the reflector.
The Nitecore TM38 is a real ‘thrower’, something you can clearly see in the photograph. This light is more like a light sabre than a flashlight! With little light around you, you are basically standing in the dark. This will, however, help you see even further. ‘Hitting’ the row of trees is an absolute piece of cake for the TM38!
The Fenix TK75 2018 is also very impressive! This light also doesn’t seem to have any trouble illuminating the row of trees, but also definitely lights up the surroundings nearby. Here you can definitely see that this light, when compared to the TM38, has three times as many lumens; even though it cannot match the TM38 in terms of beam distance. Also note the colour of the light itself: it looks a lot more pleasant and less cold than most of the other lights.
For the TM16GT Nitecore promises a little more distance than it can deliver. The light clearly cannot match the TK75-2018. However, it has to be said that the TM16GT still does relatively well! This light also combines many lumens with a massive beam distance, which makes it a perfect search light.
The largest light in the test, the RC40-2016 is, in terms of beam distance, almost similar to the TM16GT. The six LED lights create a massive hot spot. It is absolutely bizarre that the RC40-2016 can reach the trees with ‘old’ XM-L2 U2 light sources, while the other lights have all been enhanced with newer, flat LED lights. At this distance the RC40-2016 definitely illuminates the largest piece of land!
You only have to look at the beam to know that this is another light that has been enhanced with a deep reflector. With a more even and less intense spill and a clearer, straight beam in the middle. In terms of output this light is the weakest of them all. However, you need to remind yourself that the TK47 functions with only two batteries; this definitely makes it an impressive light! The colour is warmer thanks to the neutral white LED light. This white LED light is better than cold-white light when you are dealing with fog. The downside, however, is that the neutral version is a little less powerful than the cold white version.
The most compact light is definitely not the weakest link in between all these hulks: a massive amount of light illuminating practically the entire distance up to the trees. It is truly amazing to see what such a compact light can do!
Let’s take it up a notch: I’m going to increase the distance up to approximately 400 meters. The interesting thing about this test is that from now on I will be aiming the light at two trees at a massive distance: this will give you a great idea of how you can illuminate an object that is very far away. I will also be holding the flashlight to make sure you can see what it looks like in real life. Below a clarifying photograph during the day and the distance to the two trees.
As expected: A piece of cake for the Nitecore TM38. The tree brightly lights up and you can also clearly see the trunk; once again I notice that the beam ‘skips’ anything nearby enabling you to see objects that are incredibly far away without blinding yourself.
The TK75-2018 is also able to reach the tree. However, it does also illuminate the tree next to it. You can see that the spot is less intense and focused than that of the Nitecore TM38; again I notice the massive force of light coming from the light illuminating the surroundings that are not that far away.
For the Nitecore TM16GT those 400 meters are also a piece of cake. The beam is less intense than the one on the TK75-2018, but it is more even. With this flashlight you can easily scour large pieces of land.
The beam on the RC40-2016 slightly ‘wavers’. As such its enormous force of light is best at average distances. However, this light is still able to ‘hit’ the trees I am pointing at, even though you might not be able to easily make a distinction between objects at that distance.
The TK47 is slightly similar to the RC40-2016, but has the advantage that the beam reaches further. Like the Nitecore TM38 this is a true ‘thrower’, which often means less lumens and more reach. However, the TK47 is also definitely a ‘light sabre’ you can easily highlight objects with.
The Nitecore TM28 is also slightly similar to the rest, but does not light up the tree as clearly. Up to approximately half of the entire distance you will enlighten practically everything with this compact light. You can also clearly see that this flashlight lights up the path close to you, which means you could be bothered by the light at short distances. To put it differently: you won’t be able to see as far because you are standing in the light yourself.
Below a couple more photographs of the best two from the top 10, the TM38 and the TK75-2018. Here you can, once again, clearly see that the beams are completely different. The TM38 has a slim and intense spot while the TK75-2018 lights up a bigger area.
One more with both lights shining up: here you can also see that the TM38 only produces a straight beam; the beam on the TK75-2018 has a clear spill and a less defined edge. With this test you can properly see the qualities of a flashlight.
Conclusion: what are the differences between these powerhouses?
At the end of the test I can say that all lights from the top 10 can easily reach up to 300, 400 meters. However, this test also clearly shows us the differences between these lights: when you are looking for a real ‘distance beast’ the Nitecore TM38 is the best choice for you. This search light, which is also available in a more compact Lite version, is, in terms of reach, a lot better than the rest because of its ridiculously deep reflector and its LED light. However, this light ‘only’ has 1800 lumens. The number one search light in this test!
If you are looking for a great mix of output combined with an impressive reach I recommend the Fenix TK75, 2018-edition. After all, this Fenix light has been a great hit for years. A beautiful colour and a massive amount of light. The Nitecore TM16GT is clearly not as good as the Fenix TK75-2018, which is also due to the fact that the latter uses newer and more intense LED lights. Still, this is a very practical light that is easy to use. The Fenix RC40-2016 has the most impressive beam; this bad boy can last a very long time in the highest mode and is the only one enhanced with a power bank function. The Fenix TK47 is the only flashlight that works with two batteries, which makes the fact that it is listed in the top 10 only that more impressive. Especially when you consider that it is a very slim light with a neutral light. This flashlight is also great when you are out camping, or can be used as a safety light thanks to the added red/white ‘rear light’. The Nitecore TM28 has a high ‘wow-effect’: you won’t often come across a light with that much output that also fits into your coat pocket and has such great beam distance.
This test clearly shows you that the test results from Knivesandtools give you a better indication of what you might expect in terms of specs than those listed by the manufacturer. I hope that the photographs I have given you will give you an idea of what the flashlights look like in ‘real-life’ and will help you make the right decision!
Ever since he could walk Koen has been interested in lights, wires and batteries. As a child he was always working with dyno torches, bike lights and electrical boxes. The krypton and halogen lights were replaced by LED lights. A couple of years ago he discovered the ‘professional’ stuff. His first brands were Led Lenser and Fenix. Photography is also one of his hobbies. In addition to nature and meteorology Koen loves to show others what a light can do and what its beam looks like at night. Koen’s reviews can often be found on forums such as candlepowerforums.com and taschenlampen-forum.de. Throughout the years Koen has collected lights in practically any category: from small and compact to enormous powerhouses.