Those of us that grew up associating the word "flashlight" with a plastic Ray-o-Vac cylinder (or a metal Maglight for those with relatives in law enforcement) can't help but be surprised at the breadth of body styles now available. In terms of variety, a good company to look at is Pennsylvania-based Streamlight, who've seemingly designed a flashlight for doing everything (not) under the sun. Using a focused light to cut through darkness sounds like a simple task, but their product line-up demonstrates that the context of usage, and attendant form factors, can vary greatly.
Flashlight design starts with the basic limitations of whether you can use your hands or not, and then it spins off into a multitude of options: How big and powerful does it need to be? Does it need to be strapped to you, and if so, where? Does it need to quickly detach? Does it need to be hung from something in the environment? Are you fixing a leaky gas pipe? Firing a weapon? Breaking down the door of a burning building? Peering into a service panel? Working underneath a car?
With such a wide range of needs and models, you have to wonder how one company designs for so many different options. The answer is field research.
Streamlight is a "hands-on" company. We learn by doing, so we understand what our customers need because we're out there doing what they do, using the same lighting tools in the same ways. We go through firefighters' training. We take courses in low-light shooting. We're hunters, fishermen, outdoor and sports enthusiasts.... We believe it's our hands-on, real-world experience that leads to new ideas and innovations that set Streamlight apart....
We make it a point to get out in the field and talk to our customers. We hold focus groups to hear what they like about our products; but we're more interested in what they don't like, what needs to be improved, and what lighting problems have yet to be solved. Customer feedback helps us continually improve existing products and create new and better ones. Since the most extreme hazardous conditions are often in dark places, Streamlight created a complete line of safety-rated lights. For the industrial market, we've developed lighting tools that are safe to use even around explosive gases and in other potentially explosive atmospheres.
You've gotta love the company's tagline: "We Listen. We Learn. We Get It."
Hit the jump to see more of their stuff, or check out their full line-up here.