Candlepower vs. Lumens: Differences and How to Convert

theater spot light with smoke against grunge wall

Candlepower vs. Lumens: Differences and How to Convert

Key Points

  • Candlepower and lumens are units of measurement for light intensity and total light output, respectively.
  • Candlepower measures the intensity of light in a single direction, while lumens measure non-directional light.
  • Many flashlight and spotlight manufacturers now use lumens as the primary measurement for light output.
  • Converting between candlepower and lumens is necessary to accurately compare different light sources.
  • When comparing candlepower versus lumens, it’s important to consider factors like peak beam intensity, beam distance, and run time.

Humans have used burning candles for several thousand years. Candles are a tried and true method to illuminate our living spaces.

In 1879, the electric light bulb was invented after 30 years of development. Somewhere between then and now, we’ve lost track of the meaning of candlepower versus Lumens.

The term candlepower was initially used to describe the light-emitting properties of the lightbulbs. We knew how many candles we needed in each room to have the correct amount of light, but how many light bulbs did we need to have the same illumination level?

Today, the term candlepower is used sparingly. Today, it’s all about lumens. You won’t find too many specification sheets referring to candlepower!

Let’s look at candlepower versus lumens and the difference between them. We’ll also examine how to convert between the two units. Follow along with us!

Candlepower vs. Lumens: Side-by-Side Comparison

UnitsMeasured in candela (cp) unitsLumens (lm) are a unit of luminous flux
MeasurementDefines the intensity of the light source at its brightest locationDefines the total amount of light that the light source emits
Common ApplicationsUsed in the performance specification of spotlights, headlamps, and flashlightsApplicable for overhead lights, lightbulbs, wall lighting, and other illumination applications that require an “all-around” light

What’s the Difference?

A candlepower is a unit of measurement representing the total amount of light directed in a single direction. Candlepower is a measurement from the brightest part of the light source.

A lumen is a unit of measurement of non-directional light. 1 candlepower and 1 lumen are unequal, even if flashlight manufacturing companies want us to think otherwise.

Many flashlight and spotlight manufacturing companies only use lumens to measure the intensity of the light output. Candlepower is an antiquated term, but it’s becoming increasingly rare to find illumination specifications listed with its units in candlepower. Even if candlepower is an older phrase, it’s still critical to understand how to convert back and forth between the two units of measurement.

How to Convert Candlepower to Lumens

If you’re comparing two similar spotlights, but one spotlight’s intensity is in lumens and the other in candlepower, you’ll need to convert one unit to the other to ensure you’re comparing accurately.

To convert lumen to candlepower, divide the lumen value by 12.57. (cp = lm/12.57)

To convert candlepower to lumens, multiply the candlepower by 12.57. (lm = cp*12.57)


The Coleman One Mantle Kerosene Lantern has 700 lumens.  

The UCO Candlelier Deluxe Candle Lantern has a candlepower of 3.

Let’s calculate the brighter light source:

Converting the UCO Candle Lantern from candlepower to lumens: 3 * 12.57 = 37.71 lm

Converting the Coleman Kerosene Lantern from lumens to candlepower: 700 / 12.57 = 55.68 cp

The Coleman Kerosene Lantern is significantly brighter than the UCO Candle Lantern (500 lm versus 37.71 lm.)

Great Illumination
Coleman One Mantle Kerosene Lantern
  • Durable kerosene lantern for camping and outdoor use
  • Adjustable control knob to dial in the perfect level of brightness
  • Bail handle makes carrying and hanging the lantern easy
  • Porcelain-coated ventilator helps resist rust and corrosion
  • Lasts up to 8. 5 hours on 2 pints of kerosene (sold separately)
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02/03/2024 02:57 am GMT
Warm, Ambient Light
UCO Candlelier Candle Lantern
  • A must-have piece of camping gear, perfect for outdoor adventures like backpacking and hiking or emergencies
  • Accommodates 3 9-hour emergency candles
  • Made of lightweight yet durable aluminum
  • Hanging candle holder and lantern provides ample light, warms its surroundings, and helps remove condensation
  • Place your mug or cooking pot on the heat shield to heat small amounts of water or food while still enjoying light
  • Features 3 spring-loaded tubes complete with viewing slots
  • The glass chimney creates a windproof environment for safely burning wax candles
  • Includes a twist-lock base, convenient carrying handle, and can burn 1,2, or all 3 candles depending on your lighting needs
  • Green
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02/03/2024 02:57 am GMT
Converting between candlepower and lumens is quick.
It’s easy to convert between lumens and candlepower.

Candlepower vs. Lumens: 7 Must-Know Facts

  • 1 lumen doesn’t equal 1 candlepower.
  • 1 unit of candlepower equals 12.57 lumens.
  • 12.57 lumens equals 1 candlepower.
  • Candlepower refers to the intensity of the brightest portion of a light source, like a candle or kerosene lantern wick.
  • Lumens define the total amount of light a light source emits, like a light bulb, LED lantern, or a headlight.
  • The higher the lumen count, the greater the amount of light released from the source.
  • The correct lumens for a garage shop are different from the best lumens for a kitchen or bedroom. Please find the best light for a specific room using an online application to help you determine how many lumens you need based on the room size.
Group of shining and dimmed light bulbs with fibers in a shape of Fake and Fact concept words isolated on black background. Candlepower and lumens are not the same unit of measurement.
Fact: 1 candlepower is not equal to 1 lumen.

Candlepower vs. Lumens: Which One is Better?

Candlepower and lumens provide different pieces of information, so one isn’t necessarily better than the other. Lumens is the primary performance specification, so you’ll generally look at a product with lumens specifications, not candlepower.

It’s essential to keep your task in mind when lumen shopping. More lumens means more light, but not necessarily more light where you want it. We recommend paying attention to the peak beam intensity, beam distance, and run time when comparing candlepower versus lumens.

Frequently Asked Questions

How bright is one candlepower?

One candle power is equal to 12.57 lumens.

Are 20,000-lumen headlights legal?

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) stipulates that automotive headlight lumens should fall between 500 and 3,000 lumens. It’s easy to find headlights with higher lumen values, but you may risk blinding oncoming drivers. Police officers can issue tickets for headlights that are too bright. Different states have different maximum brightness regulations.

What's the difference between lumens and candlepower?

Lumens is a measurement of the total amount of light emitted from a light source, like a light bulb. Candlepower is the intensity of a light source at its brightest location, as in, the most brilliant location on a spotlight.

What's brighter, one candlepower or one lumen?

1 candlepower is brighter than 1 lumen.

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