Laser excited phosphor (LEP) is a technology taking the flashlight market by storm, creating new capabilities for handheld lights. Let’s look at this new technology and see what it can do in a handheld tactical flashlight as compared to a traditional LED light. But first, let’s start with…
What is LEP?
Laser excited phosphor (LEP) is the process of emitting a blue laser through a focused lens onto a phosphor element backed by a metal substrate. The laser is then reflected (bounced) off the phosphor and converted to broad-spectrum light. In a flashlight, the resulting white light is directed out the end via a series of lenses.
This technology was developed by Tsinghua University, which has a research department devoted to photonics and electronics. The result of this process is an exceptionally tight spotlight with a very long throw (distance of beam), far more than you can get with a comparable LED flashlight.
Are LEP Flashlights Dangerous?
This question gets asked a lot, and it comes from the worry that the actual laser is going to cause damage to the eye. There is no danger from the laser damaging the eye by the fact that it’s a laser, but as with any very bright flashlight, you never want to look directly into it or flash it in anyone’s eyes. Unless, of course, you have to momentarily blind them for defensive purposes.
You should never point a light at any aircraft or other moving vehicle, but this is even more true with LEP lights because the throw is so much greater. A beam of LED light aimed at a vehicle in the distance will not have the same blinding effect as a focused LEP light. Likewise, don’t point it at mirrors, glass, or other reflective materials or you may find yourself temporarily blinded.
LEP Flashlight vs Tactical Flashlight
Preppers, shooters, law enforcement, etc. all might be wondering if LEP flashlights have inherent advantages over more traditional tactical flashlights that blanket the market. Let’s compare two similar lights to get an idea. I’m comparing the Olight Odin Turbo LEP light with its brother light, the Olight Odin.
Regular readers of this site know I am a fan of Olight tactical lights. You can read my many reviews of their other lights right here.
Note: If shopping at Olight, use coupon code “prepperpress” for 10% off (excludes sale items).
When it comes to prepper products, I am a fan of both high quality and reasonable pricing. These two attributes are often at odds with one another, but – in my opinion – Olight does a good job at balancing between quality and price. Olight sent me the Odin Turbo for purposes of this analysis.
Olight’s Odin Turbo LEP Flashlight
The Odin Turbo, like all Olight products, came well-packaged. Packaging may not matter to many, but if you ever want to give a tactical light as a gift, the presentation of the product is impressive.
On the face of it, you would not see any difference between this light and other tactical lights, though the slightly larger size might stand out to the astute observer.
Odin Turbo vs Odin
Speaking of size, the difference is clear when the two lights are set side by side. The picture below is of both lights charging with the included USB magnetic charging cable. Note that the green light (top) on the Turbo indicates it is fully charged where as the red light on the Odin (bottom) indicates it is still charging – a nice feature.
Any LEP flashlight is going to come with a higher price tag, there’s no way around that. This is in part because it’s newer technology that has not reached the same economy of scale as LED lights, but also because they contain more expensive parts. At the time of this writing, the Odin Turbo has an MSRP of $249 whereas the Odin has an MSRP of $159.
Comparison of Specifications
The following table puts each light’s specifications side by side. Some of the numbers have a striking distance, but wait to see how the lights perform in real world testing (further below) before coming to any conclusions.
|Specification||Odin Turbo LEP||Odin LED|
|Beam Distance (meters)||1050||300|
|Max Performance (lumens)||330||2000|
|Charge Type||Magnetic USB Cable||Magnetic USB Cable|
|Battery||Custom 5000mAh 3.6V 21700||Custom 5000mAh 3.6V 21700|
|Lumens/Run Time Minutes (Level 1)||330/30 180/150 90/30||2000/2 1000/9 760/125 300/24|
|Lumens/Run Time Hours (Level 2)||90/7.5||300/8|
Looking directly at the bezel and into the two different lenses, the difference in the two lights’ inner construction becomes more apparent.
What a light’s throw (the distance the beam can travel) is on paper and what it is in the field (figuratively and literally) are two different things, and this is where the difference between the two lights really starts to shine (no pun intended). The difference is dramatic!
The image on the left clearly displays the focused, narrow laser excited phosphor beam. You can see the laser beam in the air itself, giving the impression it’s almost like a lightsaber (if only). Now compare this to the picture on the right, the more conventional throw of the Odin tactical light.
In contrast, below are pictures I took of each light pointed at the ground from waist high.
Are LEP Flashlights Good as Weapon Lights?
“Tactical flashlights” are often synonymous with “weapon lights.” Given the striking difference in how a laser excited phosphor flashlight throws its light, the distance and shape of the beam, shooters and those interested in weapon lights for self-defense may be wondering what’s better, an LEP flashlight or an LED flashlight.
Based on the analysis, LEP flashlights are more specialized lights that, while they have their place, are not as good for firearms as the more standard LED tactical light. This comes with some caveats, however. As always, the mission at hand is what should drive the choice in tool. So, LEP flashlights will have their place, but for general use, LED flashlights are better if you are only going to have one light.
But there’s more to this than that. Let’s look at the factors specific to use of these lights when mounted on a firearm and used for shooting.
Both lights come with pressure switches and end caps, pictured below. The Odin Turbo’s size difference is notable. While it may not seem like a big difference when stashed inside a pack or held in your hand, at the end of a barrel you will notice it more.
Attached to the end of the barrel (below) the size difference really stands out.
The images below indicate the weight differences. The Turbo comes in at 1.3oz heavier, which may not sound like much, but you can feel it when it’s at the front end of a barrel.
Beam of Light
The single biggest difference between the lights, as indicated before, is in the beam of light it shines. The pictures below illustrate the difference when shone against the house. The LEP Odin Turbo (left) shines exceptionally bright on a very small spot. The LED Odin (right) lights up the entire side of the house, the area around it, and the space in-between.
Looking at these two pictures, and imagining an active shooter situation, you can ask yourself: If I had to rely on one of these lights at the end of my barrel, which would I choose?
The LED Odin is going to light up the target better for faster acquisition. Further, if blinding light is your objective, the LEP flashlight will have to be dead set on the assailant’s eyes, which will require a more precise targeting of the beam. However, the LED light is going to blind simply by pointing it in the general direction.
The upside to each of these particular lights is that they share the same weapon mount. So, if you own one of each, you can swap lights out to match the mission.
Laser excited phosphor technology is an interesting development that’s quickly expanding into the flashlight market. It throws a very unique beam that is perfect in the right situations. It lacks the broad throw of a more traditional tactical light, but it’s not intended to be a general light, it’s intended (and designed) to be specialized. The Olight Odin Turbo is, in my opinion, a great LEP flashlight. If you prefer a more traditional tactical light, the Turbo’s older sibling, the Odin, is also a great choice.
Should You Buy an LEP Flashlight?
If you are only buying one light as your primary, EDC, tactical flashlight, an LEP light is probably not for you. Its very narrow beam will limit its applications as compared to a more traditional LED light. However, if you are looking to expand an existing collection of flashlights, buying one could expand your options and give you a light throw unlike anything you’ve seen before.