Frequently Asked Questions
I do not mean that my light will "beat" any other light in every possibly category that you might use to compare flashlights. I mean: in terms of balanced design, engineering, features, performance, ease of repair, and sustainability; you won't find another light in this class.
Many products are designed in a way that makes it difficult, if not impossible, to separate an object into it's component parts for repair, recycling, or reuse. The Alpha is designed based on the principle of "design for disassembly." This means it's easy to take apart so that it can be repaired, upgraded, or eventually recycled. This flashlight should never need to be thrown away because it can be fixed if something breaks and upgraded when technology changes.
The great thing is, you don't need to be an expert to repair or upgrade the Alpha. It's designed with the gadget hacker in mind. The entire alpha can be assembled and disassembled with basic tools.
A lumen is the SI unit of luminous flux and is related to the way the human eye perceives light. It is a measure of the total "amount" of light emitted from a source.
Many lights claim output in Watts of power. This doesn't really make sense for LED lights and is a hold-over from incandescent light bulbs. Power is not a measure of brightness, but it's a way to make relative comparisons between light sources. You CANNOT compare the Watts of an incandescent bulb with an LED emitter...apples and oranges.
My lights are tested in an integrating sphere designed to measure OTF lumens. This means you know exactly what you are getting. I test every light for OTF lumens before I send it out and include the report when I mail the flashlight. OTF lumens are typically 25%-35% lower than rated "emitter lumens" for any flashlight of any kind.
First, these lights are (typically) mass produced. That makes them less expensive regardless of the quality. I make every light by hand, in my own shop. If you want to spend the least amount of money, buy one of those. If you want to own a unique piece of craftsmanship, made by someone who cares, that makes it especially for you, buy one of mine.
Second, the manufacturing quality of many mass-produced lights is actually quite excellent. However, the least expensive lights compromise on less expensive components (specifically LEDs) and they are often sub-standard. The cheapest LEDs, which also have the highest lumen output, produce a light that is very blue/purple. Think of the old fluorescent lights and the nasty "cold" color they produce. A high quality LEDs have a very natural color output.
Third, many manufacturers inflate or lie about their lumen ratings. I'm not a conspiracy theorist, it's true. I recently saw an MCE based light claiming 1000 lumens. It's just not possible. Cree, the company that manufactures the MCE, claims the maximum output for the LED at 750 lumens. This is under ideal laboratory conditions AND represents the "emitter lumens." No flashlight in the world is actually going to produce that number "out the front" of the light because there are losses in electrical efficiency, heat efficiency, and optical efficiency.
> I hear a lot about color temperature but I don't know what it is or why I should care.
Color temperature is a measure of visible light that relates to how "warm" or "cold" the light appears. In the past, fluorescent lights were less desirable because they were too "cold." In contrast, incandescent lights (typical light bulbs) are typically "warm" and have a more natural appearance. Here is a link to a wikipeida article on color temperature.
For me, good color rendition is incredibly important and one thing that sets my lights apart from many other name brand flashlights and virtually all off-brand lights.
Typically "daylight" is considered to be 6500K (Kelvin). The daylight-balanced photographic film standard is 5500K. The MCE and XML LEDs I use are 5700K. This means if you take a photo with your camera's white balance set to "daylight" the light will look normal, not too cold and not too warm. It also looks quite natural to your eye.
The slightly longer answer: because it represents an idea. I think, as a society, we benefit from being more in touch with where our goods come from, how they are made, and who makes them. I'm selling a perspective on life as much as a product. If you are only concerned with the price and features, this light is probably not for you. If you want to spend your hard earned dollars on a product that is meant to last a lifetime, that represents the way you look at the world, and made by a person and not a faceless corporation, then check out my buy now page :)
I recently had an interesting conversation where someone told me (I'm paraphrasing) that a $200 flashlight was a display of excessive consumerism and that a $5 big-box special was a more responsible purchasing decision. In my opinion, the situation is exactly the opposite.
Headlamps are great for a lot of special use cases. I have several and I like them a lot. However, a headlamp is is not a replacement for a flashlight and vice versa. If you want massive power, wearing it on your head is not a very good option (blinding others). If you want hands-free, a flashlight is not a very good option (it requires a hand).
One reason I really like flashlights is because I think it's the best form factor for use cases that are unexpected. I use my headlamp when I know what I'll be using it for. I carry a flashlight because I don't know when I'll need it or what I'll need it for. It hangs out in my pocket until I drop my keys in the dark, or when I'm trying to find someone's ear ring on the floor of a bar, or when I need to make a midnight fridge run and don't want to wake everyone else up. Headlamps are just not very good for every day carry.