Browsing through flashlights, you'll quickly notice that there are a variety of filters that let you choose the characteristics of the LED, either by type or by Color Rendering Index (CRI).  

For anyone that has ever purchased a light on our site, you’ve probably noticed the long list of filters that let you choose the characteristics of the LED by type or by the Color Rendering Index (CRI). With the selection that we carry in store, it can become quite cumbersome to keep track with the specific functions and characteristics of each LED and it’s output; which is why this guide has been designed to inform those on all of the modern and most popular light emitting diodes on the market, and some recommendations for lights that use the specific LED or CRI.

Things To Keep In Mind:

Not All Lumen Ratings Are Equal: Check to make sure which lumen rating system the box is using. ANSI tends to be the truest rating, since it measures the light’s beam at three meters out for three minutes. Some companies try to use the OTF (Out The Front) and LED ratings to make them more appealing, but it only hurts you if you don’t check for the ratings first.

Find The Right Use: Finding the proper LED for the specific tasks is crucial. Make sure to take into account what you will be using the light for mostly. Larger LED’s have better flood, and smaller LED’s tend to have better throw. Also, if you only need a light with a high and low mode, then it is not important for you to get the brightest light with the most modes.

Check The Kelvin Rating: The Kelvin rating is measuring the color temperature of the LED, ranging from cool white to High CRI. Keep in mind that the warmer the tint, the weaker the beam will be for the light. If you don’t have a preference in beam color, and want the brightest output, stick with cool white. Photographers tend to choose neutral white or high CRI for its color balance, and makes a great tool to manipulate foreground and background lighting.

Read The Instructions/Maintain The Batteries: This is possibly the most important step of the flashlight process. Read ALL of the provided instructions and information to make sure your light has all the modes that you require, and can run specific battery types. The most common issue with this is the use of RCR123 batteries in lights that cannot run rechargeables. If a light that cannot use rechargeable lithium-ion batteries is being powered by said batteries, it is most likely that the light will overheat, and can ruin the light. If you are using AA Alkaline batteries, make sure they are not left in the light for an elongated period of time, or the batteries will corrode inside the light, and make it inoperable. Flashlight companies will not cover these issues under their warranty services.

Higher Bins Can Be Brighter:  The U2 in CREE XM-L2 U2 denotes the bin of the LED.  It does not specify color temperature or actual output, but it does give you an idea of potential lumens.  Bins are generally 7% brighter than the previous bin.  For instance, a U3 bin will have a 7% potential higher output compared to a U2 bin, assuming the same color temperature.  The flashlight manufacturer may or may not take advantage of the full potential of the LED.


Note:  This is not a comprehensive list, but represents some of the major LEDs and bin releases.

CREE MC-E: A multi-chip LED that provdes color consistency and high lumen output, all whithin a small-footprint package (7mm x 9mm). The MC-E is available in White, Easy White, Dynamic White, and Color (RGBW). Maximum drive current is 0.7A per LED die, and maximum power is 9.5W. The MC-E LED renders a light output of up to 751 lm at 9.5W.

CREE MK-R: This particular LED delievers up to 200 lumes-per-watt and are available in Easy White color temperatures. MK-R LED's allow individuals to use fewer LEDs while still mainting light output- lowering system costs. 7mm x 7mm footprint, and a product option between 6V and 12V.  Maximum power for this particular LED is 15W, and the light ouput is up to 1769 lm at 15W. 

CREE MT-G2: Designed for high-output, directional lighting applications, the MT-G2 gives up to 1987 lumens in cool white and 1735 lumens in warm white.  Ideal replacements for those inefficient, halogen lamps.

Size (mm x mm) 8.9 x 8.9
Product options 6 V, 9 V, 36 V
Maximum drive current (A) 3 (6 V), 2 (9 V), 0.5 (36 V)
Maximum power (W) 18.5W @ 85°C
Light output Up to 1987.5 lm @ 18.5 W, 85°C
Viewing angle (degrees) 115
Binning 85°C, 2- and 4-Step EasyWhite®
Thermal resistance (°C/W) 1.5
Reflow-solderable Yes – JEDEC J-STD-020C-compatible
RoHS and REACH-compliant Yes
UL-recognized component  Yes - Level 4 Enclosure Consideration 

CREE XM-L: Very high efficacy at very high drive currents.  This LED delivers up to 1000 lumens iwth 100 lumens-per-whatt efficacy. Designed for high lumen applications, like indoor commercial or roadway lighting.  The XM-L can reduce total system cost by reducing the number of LEDs and optics.

Size (mm x mm) 5 x 5
Maximum drive current (A) 3
Maximum power (W) 10
Light output Up to 1040 lm @ 10 W
Typical forward voltage (V) 3.1
Viewing angle (degrees) 125
Binning ANSI
Thermal resistance (°C/W) 2.5
Reflow-solderable Yes – JEDEC J-STD-020C-compatible
RoHS and REACH-compliant Yes
UL-recognized-component Yes - Level 4 Enclosure Consideration

CREE XM-L2:  New generation of the XM-L LED, with 20% higher output compared to the XM-L.

CREE XP-G R5: One of three XP-G LED modules that are manufactured by CREE, Inc., the XP-G is a small diameter diode that is used mostly in everyday carry (EDC) lights, or for long distance illumination. On an EDC light, the R5′s size allows the beam of the light to have a better throw with a smaller amount of flood. On lights that have a large, deep reflector, the beam is incredibly focused with a well-defined hot spot and can illuminate long distance targets even better than an EDC light. This LED has a lifespan around 50,000 hours and (on some lights) has a maximum output of 650 lumens.
(Examples: Nitecore EA1/EA2/EC1/EC2)

CREE XP-G S2: The sequel to the R5, the XP-G S2 LED has the same properties and characteristics of the R5, but it  is slightly brighter and more efficient with battery consumption than its counterpart. This diode is manufactured by the CREE corporation as well, and can be found in a few special edition lights, and Fenix recently converted most of their EDC line to the S2 LED from the R5.
(Examples: Fenix LD and PD series, Niteye TS20, Armytek Predator, Armytek Viking S)

CREE XP-G2: The latest and greatest XP-G diode from CREE, the G2 LED has been a huge success for small torches by being able to increase the lumen output by 20% while keeping the battery consumption consistent. By doing so, the smaller lights (especially those that are only powered with one battery cell) can produce even more light, which makes them that much more appealing. Foursevens was the first company that we carry to use the new G2, and thus far EagleTac has used it in their D series lights. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the flashlight market was using this diode by the end of 2013.
(Examples: Foursevens Quark Pro and Tactical Series, EagleTac D series, Olight M20s-G2)

CREE XM-L T6: One of the brightest LED’s that can be found in most weapon lights and heavy-duty lights, the XM-L T6 can produce an incredible amount of lumens, and is even more impressive when they are used in a cluster. The XM-L LED is a perfect choice for those that are looking for a fair amount of flood, as the size of the LED produces a larger hotspot which is better for illuminating a larger area (flood). There have been some complaints regarding the tint of the beam having a greenish hue, but it does vary from light to light and will not affect the performance in any way.
(Examples: Sunwayman V20A, Blackshadow Queen, Blackshadow Rook)

CREE XM-L U2: The newer and brighter version of the T6, CREE’s XM-L U2 is a more efficient LED by allowing a longer runtime and 7% lumen output increase. For those that found the T6 LED’s to be a bit cumbersome with the greenish tint, the U2′s tend to be much closer to the cool white, and rarely have any green coloring in the beam.
(Examples: EagleTac T20C2 XM-L U2, EagleTac G25C2, Sunwayman V11R, Fenix TK35, NiteCore EC25)

Luminus SST-90: Meant for larger lights, the Luminus SST-90 is an incredibly large LED that boasts an incredulous amount of power. This diode has been designed specifically for professionals that require a lot of light for a long amount of time. The max output for these LED’s can reach lumen ratings of 2,100, but they come at a price.
(Examples: Olight SR90/SR95, 4Sevens Maelstrom s18, Foursevens MMU-HD)

Luminus SBT-90: Besides the spelling, the Luminus SBT-90 has a completely different purpose for its use. Instead of focusing on raw power and flood, the SBT-90 is typically 45-50% weaker in lumen output, but makes up for it in throw. By removing the dome from the LED, the SBT-90 is able to focus the beam into one solid point with very little spill, which has been known to have a range of up to 820 meters (2690 feet). This makes it a great candidate for those that own a large amount of property, and need to be able to light up crops/stock/etc. from long distances. However, while the reduction in output makes this LED weaker compared to the SST-90, the price tends to be higher for lights that use this new LED due to the substantially increased throw of the light. If you wish to have more power, and aren’t really looking for the throw capabilities, it’s best to stay with the SST-90.
(Examples: Olight SR95 UT)

Luminus SBT-70: The latest and greatest in ultra-throw technology, the SBT-70 takes the same approach as its predecessor, but has a boost in output and throw. As seen in the new SR95S UT (notice that the Intimidator series adds another letter for every new addition. Pretty snazzy, right?). 
(Examples: Olight SR95S UT, Nitecore TM36)
We will keep this document live, so that any new LED’s that are added to the market can be added onto here. There are plenty of other LED’s out there, but these tend to be the most common among flashlight companies. As always, let us know if you have any questions, comments, or concerns about our posts.