Leading Light


Words and pictures by Grant Spolander.

Product shootout: LED versus fluorescent camp lights.

Technophobia is the term used to describe a fear of advanced technology. Although I’m often described as a technophobe, it’s more a resentment issue for me – I don’t like the assumption that we’re better off with something, just because it’s new. Smartphones are a great example; apparently they make life easier, but I’m not convinced.

I’ve been similarly suspicious of LEDs: they’re bright, efficient and last forever, but they’re hard on the eyes and their colour is cold and harsh. Every time I turn on an LED I feel like I’m sacrificing light quality for efficiency. It’s kinda like wearing canvas underwear: ‘Boy, these undies are itchy, but they’ll last forever and I don’t have to wash them!’

I’ve always been a fluorescent-light fan; it’s an efficient light source that’s easy on the eyes, nicely diffused, and you can opt for a warm yellow globe. In fact, fluorescent-versus-LED is a topic on which I’ve argued with people for many years.

These days, few retail stores still stock 12 V fluorescent camping lights, as they’ve been almost completely replaced by LED technology. However, one South African company, National Luna, the pioneers of 12 V fluorescent lights, are still manufacturing fluorescent units despite the downward trend.

Over the years, National Luna’s fluorescent sales have plummeted, but the fact that they’re manufacturing these units leads me believe that some folk still appreciate the light quality of a fluorescent, rather than a LED.

Then the inevitable happened: National Luna recently launched their very own LED range. Like all National Luna’s products, their LED strip lights are made to the highest possible standard and the performance of these lights is outstanding.

The launch of National Luna’s new LED lights gave us the perfect opportunity to compare LEDs with fluorescents, looking at products made by the same company, to the same standard.

We chose National Luna’s top-of-therange 27-LED, and pitted it against their very popular Little Luna fluorescent camping light. Although the Little Luna is marketed as an 8 Watt light, its actual power output is 9.41 Watts. This translates into a total light output of 440 Lumens, at 47 Lumens per Watt and 784 milliamps per hour.

In comparison, the 27-LED light features 6.25 Watts, at 616 Lumens, 99 Lumens per Watt and just 521 milliamps per hour. However, the light also boasts a dimmer switch, and it then produces 0.89 Watts, 105 Lumens, 118 Lumens per Watt and a mere 74 milliamps per hour.

Looking at the above specifications, it’s obvious that the 27-LED light is twice as efficient as the fluorescent, sporting 99 Lumens per Watt versus the fluorescent’s 47 Lumens per Watt.

However, as mentioned before, LED lights are far more intrusive than any other light source – they cast a cold beam that’s hard on the eye when mounted at eye level. So, in our test, we mounted both units at a height of approximately 3 metres. This gave each light the best possible chance to cast a wide beam with minimal glare.

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