I have heard it a million times. Why buy a 100 dollar light when I can go on eBay, amazon, or Wal-Mart and get a 10 dollar light that does the same thing?
The quality of flashlights available vary across the board but what you really want is as high quality of product for the least possible price. As the designer of the Touch 1K I have a somewhat bias opinion of the flashlight but in designing it I leaned what the difference was that set a good light apart from a cheap waste of money.
We bought a handful of lights in designing the Touch 1K each claiming to be the best value and each looked like they were great lights in the beginning. The very first light that I took a look at was one with a zoom focus on it claiming to be so bright that it should be illegal while claiming to be a $200 light and for a limited time only get it for $50. I saw ads for it all over the place and bought two of them to check them out.
When I received the light I immediately knew the claims were bogus. The machining lines were visible the LED was an XM-l rather than an XM-l2. XM-L LEDs to be driven to 1,000 lumens would destroy the LED in little time. The real lack of quality shined when after using it for about 30 minutes the LED became so hot that it de-soldered from the board. The other light worked at half brightness after the first charge of the battery. The best that I can guess was that the heat ruined the driver PCB.
There are a few other flashlights that we bought, one being double the price and the other being about $10. The $10 light appeared to be higher quality than the two previous lights and proved to be worth the $10 spent on it. The $100 light showed up and the quality was definitely better than all the other lights previously purchased. The first thing that stood out was the machining quality and the anodizing.
The 100$ light today still works as good as it did the day we bought it over 2 years ago. It had been put through some pretty demanding use and held up. I kept it in my backpack for many hikes and heavy use for over a year. The quality wasn’t as high as high as a $200 dollar surefire or stream light brand but it held up to all its claims and more.
Some of the things that give clues to the quality of the light before purchasing.
As we purchased lights for testing and development we found a few telling factors in predicting the quality of the light.
Any light claiming to be of 700lm or higher and not using either a XP-l or XM-l2 LED was overstating the performance. When a lights performance was overstated it was a good indicator of it being a bad purchase.
The price point is the other best telling factor of the quality of the light. Anytime a light with the use of an 18650 battery being less than $50 was likely a cheap light. On the other hand the two $50 lights we bought were at that price point but when we searched around we found the same lights that we paid $50 dollars for only $6.50 if bought in quantities of 100 or more. Those lights were heavily overstated when calling itself a $200 light that was only $50.
Conclusion: If the flashlight is being sold like an infomercial and feels overstated then it most likely is. Secondly if the light appears to be correctly represented, compare to other lights in its category for a price comparison. As earlier stated, any flashlight that is represented truthfully and using an 18650 type battery, $50 or more is a likely lowest price to expect for a quality light. You can get a good deal on a flashlight and depending on the features that it is offering pay a relative amount but if you are looking for a SureFire light quality on a budget you are likely to buy junk.
Comments are welcome for added discussion on this topic!