November 4, 2016

Some of my lights

I have recently become enamored with lithium ion batteries, particularly the 18650 cell. Otherwise I use Ni-MH AA batteries. I avoid CR123 and AAA batteries like the plague.

I am not overly concerned with maximum lumens. What I am concerned about is maximum runtime at a useful brightness level. Also I prefer a warm to neutral white, even though it sacrifices some lumens compared to a more blue emitter. These are my preferences, but you should be aware of them. Here are some of my current favorite flashlights and headlamps.

BLF-A6 Flashlight (18650)

This is currently my favorite light by far. It uses a single 18650 cell. It is absolutely unbeatable for the price.
See my detailed notes:

Thrunite TN12 (18650)

This was my favorite flashlight before I learned about the BLF-A6. I have the 2016 version in "neutral white". A "cool white" is also available with 1100 lumens I tend to use the 280 lumen mode most of the time. I would rather see a 140 lumen mode with a 10 hour run time. The 20 lumen mode is adequate once your eyes are dark adapted. My requirements in selecting this light from many candidates: This light uses a Cree XM-L2 U2 emitter.

Four Sevens Quark -- two AA version

This was my favorite light (with definite reservations) until I discovered 18650 batteries. My thinking used to be that I wanted to be able to use batteries available at any drug store. I use eneloop Ni-MH rechargeables almost exclusively.

One of the nicest things about the light is that it comes up in the moonlight mode by default and then you can bump up the output as desired. (Unless you have the "tactical" version, and then the interface is different).

What I don't like about this light is that it was flakey until I removed and discarded the pocket clip and tightened the ring firmly. Also the accursed blink mode is part of the regular sequence. I would pay extra for a light without a blink feature.

Another thing I dislike about this company is that they are endlessly changing their product line with no apparent direction or actual improvement. The above specs are for some product, maybe even the one I own, but who knows. I also have a single AA version of this light, which presumably has the same brightness levels, but half the runtimes.

This light might use a Cree XM-L2 emitter.

Fenix HL22 single AA headlamp

This seems to have been replaced by the HL23 which has a different shape and yields 150 rather than 120 lumens on the brightest setting. It works just fine with NiMH rechargeable batteries (Eneloops). This is my choice of a light headlamp for a backpacking trip and around camp use. If I actually expect to be hiking at night, I want something that is brighter and with longer run times. Press and hold until it comes on, then let go immediately. It should come on at the last selected level. If you keep holding it, it goes into blink mode and you start swearing. Once it is on, you cycle levels via a short tap. Turn it off by holding until it goes off, then let go immediately.

This is a nice light, but honestly, if I had it to do over again, I might buy the Thrunite TH20 which is a single AA headlamp. The price is $30 rather than $35, and it accepts 14500 Li-ion batteries, which the HL23 does not.

Thrunite TH10 headlamp with 18650 Li-ion battery

I like my Thrunite flashlight so much, I could not resist trying this headlamp. It weighs twice what the little Fenix does, but if you actually expect to be hiking at night, it is what you want. It has a nice superlow mode and has springs on both ends of the battery compartment so it accomodates flat top batteries nicely. The user interface has one button and is ideal. If you want the "LL" firefly mode, you hold the button down until the light comes on. The usual way to turn on the light though is to tap the button. This gives you L-M-H. I find the 202 lumen setting ideal for hiking and it goes for 9 hours (i.e. all night long).

The 825 lumen "turbo" mode is available by double clicking, but this is tricky to get right. I don't really care because the 580 lumen "high" mode is ridiculously bright. There is a blink mode that is wonderfully hidden. You have to double click to turbo, then double click again to get the blink. The best user interface I have ever seen.

I reverse the battery to avoid having this get turned on in my pack. This seems to work fine.

This light uses the Cree XM-L2 U2 emitter. The same as the Thrunite TN12 flashlight, so it is curious that the brightness levels and runtimes are different (but I like the choices on the TH10 headlamp better).

Black Diamon Icon headlamp (new model)

This is a nice light, much nicer than the old Icon.

This has a "boxy" shaped lamp housing (to distinguish it from the old model). It also uses 4 AA batteries instead of 3 in a nice battery case. This is a nice lamp, and has served me well, but may not be as bright as my Princeton Tec Apex. It has a set of red leds.

A single click turns on either the central or the pair of side white LED's at 75 percent brightness. Once on, brightness is adjusted by holding down the button and it roams up and down smoothly through the range. Hold the switch down for 3 seconds and you get the red LED's. Holding down for 3 seconds gets you back to white. Three fast clicks get you the strobe.

It has a lock mode. To lock it, when in white mode, hold down the power button for 6 seconds, the battery indicator will blink blue. Hold for 6 seconds to release.

It shows battery status for 3 seconds when you power it on in white mode. Red is less than 25 percent, orange is 25-75, and green is better than 75.

They claim 320 lumens, maybe .... They also claim a runtime of 75 hours in high, 175 hours in low. Everyone knows this is total nonsense. Reported runtimes are on the order of 9.4 hours on high. You can definitely count on more than 8 hours of bright light.

Black Diamon Icon headlamp (old model)

This has a smooth lamp housing and uses 3 AA batteries in a separate case. This model came out back in 2006 and in 2016, mine is still in service. It has a bit of an odd interface (but don't they all). It has 6 modes (maybe 7, if you count flashing modes). One solid click turns it on, another turns it off. Another click turns it on again, but with different emitters. (You bounce back and forth between the 3 watt central LED and the four side LED's). Once the light is on, you can choose from 3 brightness levels by using a "half click".
Feedback? Questions? Drop me a line!

Tom's Digital Photography Info /