I know that there are a number of rabid Olight fans out there who are going to get their panties in a bunch over this
There are few products in the firearms industry that are so hotly debated over than weapon mounted and flashlights. And if you have ever found yourself stuck in the middle of one of these debates, you have surely seen an Olight rearing its mediocre head.
Now I know this must come as a shock to some who hears nothing but good things about Olight and sees Olight ads everywhere on the internet. But this is what Olight relies on. They rely on market ad saturation and word of mouth from low information people who are justifying their purchase. Which is how mediocre products often gain popularity.
Let’s start with YouTube reviews. Most can not be trusted. Especially when we know that Olight pays for good reviews. Also, often times, YouTubers tend to give good reviews for free products from companies, which is one of the tactics of Olight. Olight is one of the few bigger companies that regularly sends free products to small YouTube channels. They know that the small channel is more likely to give a good review because the free stuff makes them feel like their channel is going places and they want more free stuff to review. Olight also knows that many people are distrusting of many big channels, and rightfully so. Many of them are for sale and will push anything from a company that makes them money. So Olight knows that the smaller channels also praising their products will make people more comfortable buying their lights.
As someone who has been sent three products from Olight and was asked to say certain positive things about their lights, I do have experience with this.
Let’s move on to the company and customer service. The lack of customer service is legendary at this point. Messages not being replied to, mailboxes full, and warranties not being honored. This information is all easily attainable with simple Google searches.
Okay, so people’s opinions of Olight’s customer service is subjective. Even though there’s entire forums dedicated to it. Also, speculation about their business practices are just that, speculation. But one can’t help but notice that true operators, trainers, and combat veterans that you may see on YouTube don’t run Olight on their EDC firearms or regular rifles. However, facts are facts and let’s get into the facts about the products called “mediocre and overpriced” by Trustpilot.
Let’s look at the performance of Olight and two of their closest price competitors, Streamlight and Nightcore. We will start with handheld lights in the 500, and 1000 lumen ranges, and will go bigger if needed. I will not be posting prices due to sales and continual price changes with time, but the price differences will be negligible.
We are starting with 500 lumens because people believe that lumens are everything, so the lower 200 lumen small EDC lights could be the topic of another article.
The Olight S1 Baton is a popular EDC and “tactical” light. It of course comes in at 500 lumens and a 110m beam distance. It is roughly 1 inch in diameter and 2.5 inches long. It also uses a single CR123a battery. And it comes with a programmable light timer? I’ve honestly never heard of anyone so lazy that pressing the off button was just too much for them, so they needed a timer.
The Streamlight Protac series of lights are ultra-popular for many reasons. The Protac 2L-X is no exception. This too is a 500 lumen light with a beam distance of 165m. It is roughly the same diameter, but twice as long as the Olight at 5 inches. It uses two CR123a batteries or the Streamlight SL-B26 rechargeable battery pack. The 2L-X is also programmable but in a useful way. It uses Streamlight’s popular Ten-Tap programming that enables the user to program the standard beam, intensity, or pattern.
Without even getting into the next competitor, one can easily see where Olight is failing.
While Nitecore does not offer a 500 lumen handheld flashlight that I could find, they do offer the 460 lumen MT20C. While at the top of the price range between the three lights, but still comparable, it also gives you the most of pretty much everything. The MT20C is a 460 lumen light with a massive 180m beam distance. The body is also a 1 inch diameter but 4 inches long. Just between the Olight and Streamlight. You can use a single 18650 or two CR123a batteries to power this light. The user can also select the brightness and the light remembers that setting for the next time the user turns it on. While I know a “light timer” is all the rage these days (sarcasm), the MT20C, like the Streamlight, has actual usefulness. Two of the programs in this light are a red beacon and an S.O.S. flasher.
All three use common batteries and Olight gets easily beat by both options. I did not compare run time due to differing battery sizes and most people don’t let their lights fully die anyway. Additionally, Streamlight’s customer service is known as some of the best in the business, and Streamlight products are common to see on the weapons and in the pockets of serious operators.
Let’s move on to 1000 lumens.
The arena is packed with countless lights at or near 1000 lumens, so I will do my best to pick a few of the highest customer rated and popular lights to compare. In fairness of course.
Can the Olight S1R II pull Olight ahead in the race at 1000 lumens? Let’s find out.
The popular Olight S1R II is of course a 1000 lumen light with a beam distance of 145m. Wait? 145 meters? That’s not even as far as the Streamlight or Nitecore 500 lumen lights. At this point, it seems like a waste, but we will continue. The body of the light is a pretty standard 1 inch diameter and 2.5 inches long. The S1R II uses the uncommon IMR16340 battery and the unique magnetic charging port that Olight is known for. It also has 5 brightness settings. The obvious issues here will be addressed later.
The Streamlight Pro Tac HL-X is one of the most popular pocket and weapon-mounted lights on the market, and for good reason. It is of course 1000 lumens and has a beam distance of a whopping 330m. More than twice that of the nearest Olight competition. The Streamlight’s body is a 1 inch tube with a 1 3/8 inch head and uses two CR123a batteries or a single rechargeable 18650. The HL-X also utilizes Streamlight’s popular Ten-Tap programming.
Going against my own rule, I am picking one of Nightcore’s lowest performing 1000 lumen handheld lights just to make a point.
Nightcore has a number of 1000 lumen lights in various price ranges. But today we will be looking at the NM01. The NM01 is 1000 lumens with a beam distance of 178m, although they do make a 1000 lumen light rated at 452m, within a reasonably comparable price range. The body of the NM01 is 1 inch diameter and little over 4.5 inches long. While there isn’t a removable battery, the charging port is the ultra-common micro-USB. Which, in my opinion, the non-removable battery is a downfall of the NM01.
In the end, the Olight embarrassingly loses the fight at 1000 lumens. Not only do they fall short again on performance, but the unique charging cord and uncommon battery are massively negative issues. If your battery malfunctions or charging cord breaks, which isn’t uncommon for anything, you’re pretty well screwed.
These sort of failures and shortcomings can be seen throughout Olight’s handheld light options. We will quickly skip ahead to 2000 lumens to drive the point home.
The 2000 lumen fight is just about the only place that Olight beats anyone in any category, yet still falls short for the most part.
The Olight Warrior X is 2000 lumens with a beam distance of apparently 560m. Yes, I sound skeptical of the beam distance because apparently Olight couldn’t figure out candela (beam distance) for any other light they’ve ever made, but they suddenly figured it out with one single light? But let’s go with the advertised beam distance. The main part of the body is 1 inch at a length of 5.5 inches and a head diameter of about 1 5/8 inches, so it is the largest light we’ve looked at from Olight. It runs on a single 18650 battery, but unfortunately still uses the unique magnetic charger. For the most part, this all looks pretty good for Olight.
This is one of the very few times that Streamlight falls behind in any category. The Streamlight Pro Tac HL-4 is 2,200 lumen and has a beam distance of 346m. The body is a 1 1/4 inch diameter and a long 8 5/8 inches, running on two 18650 batteries or four CR123a. However, it does still utilize the popular Ten-Tap programming that Streamlight is well known for.
Nitecore is another one where an exact 2000 lumen light wasn’t available, but we will go with the 1800 lumen P20i. As stated, the P20i is 1800 lumen with a beam distance of 342m. The body is 1 1/4 inch with a length of nearly 5 5/8 inches, and is powered Nitecore’s 21700 rechargeable battery with the popular type-c usb connection. However it can also be powered by CR123a batteries as well. The Nitecore has three brightness setting and a strobe.
Did Olight finally win? Well…sort of…..but not really
While the Warrior X is said to have a 560m beam distance, that is all it really has. It’s bright. It doesn’t have any special programming or features, and it’s the highest cost of the three. In fact, the Nightcore can be found at nearly half the price of the Olight depending on the website. The Streamlight and Nightcore use common charging cords as well. Add all of this into Olight’s infamous heat issues prematurely dimming their lights, and I would say that Olight only wins if you’re specifically looking to find something beyond 400m. However, both Streamlight and Nitcore make products that reach longer distances, but not in the 2000 lumen range.
We can now quickly touch on weapon mounted lights.
I am going to stick with the 500 and 1000 lumen ranges and only pistol lights. I am doing this because neither Olight or Nitecore are known for their rifle lights, and what they do have for rifle lights don’t have nearly enough time on the market to compete with the Streamlight HL-X rifle light yet. No matter what they claim to have or do. I am also going to get a bit more detailed in current prices because many lights have lasers that effect the prices.
****Personal note**** Lasers are animal toys, not for guns (unless using IR/NVG)
The Olight PL-Mini is actually a 600 lumen light with a beam distance of 100m. It has a compact design that does not protrude beyond the muzzle of a G19 and has an internal-only battery and uses Olight’s proprietary magnetic charger. Current Amazon price is +/-$90.00
The Olight Baldr-mini is also 600 lumens with a beam distance of 130m. The Baldr-mini also adds a green <5mW laser. It too is compact and does not protrude beyond the muzzle of a G19. It too has a non removable battery and uses Olight’s magnetic charger. Current Amazon price is +/- $130.00.
The Streamlight TLR-7 has an output of 500 lumens with a beam distance of 140m and is powered by a single removable CR123a battery. It also has a compact body that does not protrude past the muzzle of a G19. The current Amazon price of the TLR-7 is +/- $125.00.
The Streamlight TLR-8 is also 500 lumens with a beam distance of 130m and has an optional red or green laser (R – 650nm G – 520nm), powered by a single CR123a battery. It shares the same body as the TLR-7 and the current price of this WML is from $190.00 to $260.00, depending on options and laser color.
Nightcore has one offering and one offering only for pistol lights right now, and that is the NPL20. The Nitecore NPL20 is a 460 lumen light with a beam distance of 75m. It has a smaller styling than Streamlight, but slightly larger than Olight, while still being shorter than the muzzle of a G19. And while it is the lowest output of all of the lights, it is also currently coming in at an Amazon price of +/- $70.00.
In the end, while Sttreamlight is certainly the most expensive, if you take away the lasers, it’s comparably priced to the Olight with a far better reputation and performance. And the Nitecore, while nearly being the same output as Olight, is the least expensive.
We will now compare the last two lights and let this beating end.
The Olight PL-Pro Valkyrie has one of the highest lumen ratings for pistol lights on the market with a remarkable 1500 lumens. Yet to no one’s surprise they fall short with just a beam distance of 280m. It is slightly longer than the muzzle of a G19. It is powered by an internal battery and charged with Olight’s proprietary magnetic charger. It currently comes in at an Amazon cost of +/- $130.00.
Compare this to Sttreamlight’s popular TLR-1 HL pistol light. The TLR-1 HL is 1000 lumens, yet is able to produce a beam distance of 283m. It is powered by two removable CR123a batteries. It too is slightly longer than the muzzle of a G19 and comes in at an Amazon price of +/- $137.00.
Nitecore does not have a pistol light to offer in this category.
In the end, while Olight came out swinging with 1500 lumens, they just weren’t able to make the same power as Streamlight. Additionally, nearly all of Olight’s offerings involve a non-removable battery and a proprietary charging system. So if the internal battery has an issue or you fray your cord, you are without a light…period. With Streamlight, you just carry a spare set of batteries like most people have for years and you’re back up and running.
This has been a long and painful article and comparison, but in the end, what are we left with?
Olight, while good at marketing, seems to drop the ball in comparison to popular lights within the same price range. Combine this with stories of impropriety and bad business practices, it should be obvious at this point that Olight is never the answer, and could in fact be argued, is a cancer to the industry.