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Broad in the beam


One work light is as good as another.” That may sound like a daft assumption to some, but our campfire research tells us that this seems to be the general consensus on the subject. Perhaps it has something to do with distance.

Words by Grant Spolander. Pictures by Craig Fox and Grant Spolander.

Light performance is often measured in metres – the ability to project a beam as far as possible. But, when it comes to work lights, the required distance is so short that many of us believe that any old light will do – provided it’s fitted with a diffuser lens.

Then there’s the issue of hype. When was the last time you saw a glossy advertisement punting a state-of-theart work light? I’m guessing never. Why? Because light manufacturers would rather punt their spotlights than waste their advertising budget on unsexy work lights which are most commonly hidden away at the blunt end of a 4×4.

What’s more, it’s not an item commonly bragged about; we’re far more inclined to show off our new spotlights or high-powered LED torches. I’ve yet to hear one oke turn to another and say, “Hey bru, check out the spread on my new work light.” No, when it comes to work lights, the perception seems to be that it’s all the same stuff, regardless.

Hey, I didn’t expect much from this shootout either. But, once I got stuck into the subject, I realised that there was far more to work lights than one would think. Take power consumption, for example: presumably, most of us would want to power a work light off an auxiliary battery, rather than keep the engine running and flood the area with exhaust fumes. As you’ll see in this test, power consumption varies quite dramatically.

Then there’s the matter of light colour; a very subjective aspect. Some folks favour a brilliant white light while others prefer a bluish tinge or warmyellow glow.

Application is an equally important factor which requires consideration. Are you gonna use your work light as a camping light, or purely to illuminate the area around your 4×4? Or, in a bakkie’s case, the load bay itself? These days we’ve got tons of options in the form of strip LEDs and 12 V fluorescents; surely these purpose-made lights are better suited for camping use – where a work light would be total overkill? Not to mention the fact that a roofrack-mounted work light isn’t exactly a considerate option for people camping around you – an über-bright work light will kill the ambience of any bush campsite.

I’m no scientist. I have zero qualifications in spectrums, photons and lumens. However, I do know a bit about photography, which, in essence, is the subject of capturing light. Some of you will recall from our previous spotlight shootout, (May ’11 issue,) that when it comes to light tests, we favour a more anecdotal approach, rather than an all-out scientific one. This brings me to our bakkie scene, you’ll find numerous photographs of this setup: a Land Cruiser’s load bay, several ammo boxes and a few outdoor accessories.