The exciting thing about a custom flashlight is the ability to choose your emitter...they're a lot of choices. If you already know what you want/like, you're lucky. If you don't know, where to start? The best way is to actually see the different tints (you may know a flashaholic who has several tints already -and yes, they love to show off their lights. The next best thing is to read the forums to get an idea of what other people like. I can describe a few of the most popular tints. If you look at the ANSI White chart, you will see that starting at the lower left, the tint is very cool (blueish) and as you move to the upper right, the tint becomes very warm and orange....the 1A is an attempt to match sunlight and the 7A3 is a fairly close match to the color of an incandescent bulb. Moving from lower left to upper right only changes the color temperature, starting with cool white (similar to sunlight) and ending with warm white (similar to an incandescent bulb). The area in the middle, from 5000K to 3700K is considered 'neutral'. As you move away from this center diagonal cool/warm line, the color will shift toward green or magenta (pink). It's possible to have a 'neutral white' that has a green tint or a magenta tint. I only stock tints that are close to the center line, so they will not appear green or pink, so you can choose you tint based on how cool (blueish) or warm (yellowish) you want. While there are over 100 tints shown on the ANSI white chart, only a few are actually available. With most ready made flashlights, there is no choice of tint...a few may give you a choice of 'cool white' or 'warm white'...PFlexPRO lights are usually available with 15 tint options. The tint options for each PFlexPRO flashlight are based on what is most appropriate for that light. With a P60 system, all of the tints are available with various power levels.
1A: This tint is the most popular tint found in off-the-shelf flashlights. It has a very cool, slightly blueish tint...very sterile looking. The 1A tint usually delivers the most light per watt, but recently, some of the warmer, more neutral tints have caught up in overall output. You have probably unknowingly seen this tint. It has the typical 'LED look' -very cool, clean, bright white.
2A, 2D, 3A: These tints are typically available in the XML2 or the XPL -it is considered cool white, but it has less of the blue tint found in the very popular 1A. These tints are a very good for all around use.
3D, 5A2, 5A3: These emitter tints are considered neutral white and some are rated as 'high CRI'. To the novice, some may appear somewhat yellow. Neutral tint means it is between cool and warm...there can still be variations from green to magenta in neutral tints.
6A1, 7A3: If you want color that is close to an incandescent flashlight with a krypton bulb...these tints are a fairly close match. Compared to the higher (cool white) tints, these are much warmer.
Nichia 219: Nichia does not use ANSI power and tint binning, but you will find some of the best neutral tints with the Nichia emitters. Because Nichia has a smaller die size similar to that of the XPG2 emitters, they will not deliver as much light as the XML2 and XPL HD / XPL HI emitters. You may give up some output with Nichia, but you will gain better tint. The Nichia neutral white High CRI emitters typically have less yellow than a comparable Cree neutral tint. Nichia also has High CRI emitters in the 5000K range which you will not find in the Cree emitters.
Next, lets dissect the emitter nomenclature, we will use the XML2 U3-1A:
'XML2' is the package size (5x5x3.02mm). This is the physical size of the slug the emitter is mounted on. The XML2 is a newer, more efficient version of the XML emitter.
'XPL' has the same die size as the XML2 emitters, but it is mounted on a smaller, XPG sized slug. While the emitter die will fit on this smaller slug, the clear dome will not, so Cree solved this problem by squaring off the sides of the dome.
'XPL HI' is a 'factory dedomed' emitter. It is the same as the XPL but instead of a clear dome on top, it has a flat top. Since the XPL HI has no dome to magnify the emitter, the reflector will reflect a smaller, more intense hotspot which increases the throw dramatically.
'XPL2' is a variant of the XPL that has phosphor mixed into the dome material. This additional phosphor increases the light output, but it also makes the emitter look larger and therefore reduces the throw. The XPL2 is a great choice if you want a really nice looking, high output neutral white and the throw isn't as important.
When looking at the power bins listed below, there's one thing to keep in mind: The XML2 and the XPL series are ranked differently on the 'power bin' scale. The output from a XML2 with a U4 power bin will be very similar to a XPL with a V6 power bin.
'U3' is the power bin. This is an efficiency rating of the emitter that represents efficiency or how much light will be produced per watt. This is an important factor when selecting an emitter. If a given amount of power enters the LED, it will become one of two things: light or heat. At a given power level, the emitter that produces more light will also produce less heat, so the emitter will be more efficient. The higher the letter, then the number, the more efficient the emitter is. An example of the power bin steps -U2, U3, U4, U5, U6, V2. V3...each step represents about 7% more lumens. If you're comparing power bins, they're a little different between different packages. The XML2 U3 is much brighter than an XPL U3...the XML2 U3 is close to an XPL V5.
'1A' is the tint of the emitter...it tells us, as described above, what color the light will be. Color is probably the wrong word to use, because these emitters are not different colors like blue, red or any other 'color'...all of these emitters are considered 'white'. Tint means there is a small variation of color. You will notice, the different tints on the 'ANSI White' chart have different letter designations such as, 1A, 3C, 7A3...these can become very confusing. The thing you should remember: 1 and 2 are cool white - 3,4 and 5 are neutral - 6 and 7 are warm white. Also, A&D are on the 'pink' side of the center diagonal line and B&C are on the green side of the center diagonal line. If someone tells you, they have a '4C', you will know that '4' is neutral and 'C' tends to be a little more green (or a little less pink). Within any block on the ANSI white chart, there may be some tint variations within that tint. This means, it's possible to get a '1A' tint that looks identical to a '1D' tint since they border each other on the tint chart. From one tint to another (if the tints are side by side on the chart). there is only a small variation of color and you would probably have to do a side by side comparison to see any difference and sometimes, it's hard to tell the difference side by side. To go from 'sunlight' tint to 'incandescent bulb' tint, there are about 14 steps. As far as the slight 'green to pink' variation, you should stay close to the center diagonal line.
My recommendation: I think different tints work better for
different applications. For indoor or close up use, I like the neutral
tints. For a mid-range flashlight, I like the high end of neutral or
the low end of cool white (3A or 3D). For throwers, the higher cool
whites look better (1A, 2A). With that said, there's nothing wrong with
putting a neutral white in a thrower or a cool white in a floody
flashlight...it all comes down to what you like.
What if you order a PFlexPRO and don't like the tint? No problem, the PFlexPRO lights are built so the emitter can be changed -just return the light for an emitter swap. This is also beneficial when the emitter manufacturers come out with the 'next great thing'...you can have your flashlight upgraded.