David Allen at LRI continues to refine and update the Photon MicroLights we all know and love. This year, the Photon Freedom Micro was given a facelift and is now offered in a choice of four attractive patterns, as well as in basic black. (And Doug Ritter signature yellow Freedom Micros are available through Aeromedix.com.)
LRI also introduced a budget version of the MicroLight, the X-Light. Its guts and features are nearly identical to the more-expensive Freedom Micro. The savings come from the less-robust casing, a glow-in-the-dark opaque plastic through which you can vaguely see the light's inner workings. It's obviously high-quality plastic, but it in no way approaches the near indestructibility of the Freedom's glass-filled polyurethane casing. Because the casing is opaque and the LED is bright, the X-Light produces some glare for the user to deal with.
X-Light's switch is an oversized rubbery oval centered over a clicky nub. Because it is easily activated, there's a "crush" feature which -- eventually -- turns the light off when the button is held down long enough. But the full functionality of the switch means that it must be crushed for nearly a minute before that happens. Still, a practical solution to the light switching on inadvertantly in your pocket or pack problem common to such switches.
As with the Freedom, X-Light has a lot of features. Click the on/off button once, and the light comes on at full brightness. Clicking the button repeatedly puts the light into momentary/signal mode, wherein the light will only stay on as long as the button is held down. From momentary mode, hold the button down for five seconds to put it back into standard mode. From standard mode, press and hold the button down, and the light slowly dials up from barely-there through 20 brightness levels, so you can choose the one you need. Continue to hold the switch down, and the light begins to blink, first in an SOS pattern, then a slow blink, a mid-speed blink, and finally a strobe-fast blink. Continue to hold the switch, and the light cycles back through all the blink options a second, third, and fourth time before it finally shuts off and stays off until the button is pressed and released again. With the light on at full brightness, press and hold the switch and the light slowly dials back down through dimmer settings.
The X-Light is slightly larger than the Freeom, and is shield-shaped rather than a pointed oval. The weight difference is truly negligible, .28 oz compared to .24 oz. We're talking pocket lint weight differences here. X-Light is still plenty small enough to hang on a keychain, and its size might be preferred by some users because it is somewhat easier to hold and operate.
X-Light comes with a well-made clip, but without other accessories.
David Allen was also showing off his Photon Proton. We reviewed the Proton in its prototype phase last year. The light has morphed somewhat since then, and is now sporting five, 5mm white LEDs in place of the single superbright white LED discussed last year. Proton also features two red LEDs which can slowly be dialed up from barely-there to full bright, or set to emergency blink. It is powered by a single AA battery. Current dimensions are 3.5"/90mm long, .7"/17mm body diameter, and .8"/20mm bezel diameter. Priced at $70, it is scheduled for release in May 2006.
See text below.
Mag Instruments, which has resisted getting into the LED market for several years, finally announced its long-awaited series of LED flashlights. Mag's long delay getting into the field gave lots of room for competitors to come out with LED MagLite look-alikes and LED bulb replacements. The delay also sparked both controversy and speculation amongst flashlight aficionados, which was partially fueled by Mag's aggressive protection of the company's eventual spot in the LED marketplace which kept more than a few lawyers busy.
Company executives were playing it close the vest even while announcing the new products. These guys are acutely aware of how often MagLite designs have been copied by others, and wanted to delay the inevitable copycats as long as possible.
So what about the flashlights? There's not a lot to say about the basic design and appearance, because nearly everyone in America has seen a Mag flashlight at one time or another. Aluminum-bodied with mild knurling, they come in a range of colors and sizes. A twist of the head turns the light on, while twisting it further changes the beam pattern from diffuse to highly focused. Incandescent lights so treated usually have spots and swirls, but this is one area where MAG's LEDs really shine. The beam pattern appears quite smooth when dialed from one focus to another, and gives a good range of focal options.
MagLEDs will be moderately priced and widely available. Despite the moderate pricing, MagLites tend to hold up pretty well to everyday life, and the prototypes at SHOT Show feel as solid as any other MagLite in the hand.
MagLED lights will be available in a range of sizes, though for now the company has only announced 2- and 3-cell AA flashlights and 2-, 3-, and 4-cell D lights. All the products announced so far use 3-watt LEDs, and all are powered by alkaline batteries. Luminosity and runtime were not formally announced, so that spot is blank in our data tables.
Mag is also offering LED adaptation modules for existing MagLite incandescent flashlights. So far, only C- or D-cell modules are available. The modules all contain 3-watt LEDs and are specific not just for battery size but also for the number of batteries.
PrimeLite A and PrimeLite AR are manufactured by Primus and distributed in the US solely by North American Gear. Though not entirely new, this was their first showing at SHOT Show and so they get a mention here.
The two lights are otherwise identical, but the PrimeLite AR comes with a remote unit. The remote unit, worn as a wristband connect by wire to a velcro ring, weighs 1.3oz/36g, and may be of special interest to mountain bikers. With just a tap, the user can toggle between red, 4 low power white LEDs, 4 high power white LEDs, and finally illuminate the bright center Z-Power LED. This allows you to cycle up, from dimmest to brightest, using only as much light as you need and saving your both your night vision and your battery life. There is no way, however, to cycle back down again except to complete the sequence upwards. The final function on the switch is a blink using the 4 white LEDs. The light cannot be turned off entirely with the remote; rather it must be turned off with the power switch on the headlamp unit.
Both PrimeLite A and PrimeLite AR can be cycled up through the same sequence using the left button on top of the lamp assembly; the right button is the on/off switch. Again, the light cannot be stepped down once a higher setting is reached, but if the light is flicked off you can start the sequence again at the bottom, saving your night vision.
Equipped with a neck strap, the battery pack can easily be removed from the headband and instead worn around your neck, which at least gets its weight off your head. The removable battery pack can also be tucked into an inner jacket pocket to save battery life in extremely cold weather. Of course, the down side to this is the wire that needs to be routed carfully so as not to cause problems.
When battery power is 90% depleted, PrimeLite automatically warns the user by flicking into flashing red light mode. Pressing the on/off button resets the headlamp to work as usual.
Effective ranges are calculated based upon the distance to which .25-.30 lux can be measured. The ranges are:2 Red LED -- 5m; 4 white LED @ 25% -- 5m; 4 white LED @ 100% -- 12m; 1 Z-Power LED -- 75m. Run times, given in the product info table above, indicate the time the lamp is still practically useable, which Primus defines as .25-.30 lux at a distance of 2 meters.
Both headlamps are waterproof to 1 meter, or IPX-8 on the EN 60529 standard.
A modest little headlamp with decent light output and a fairly long runtime, the PrimeLite D uses five white LEDs powered by three AAA alkaline batteries. The weight isn't too bad for a three-battery light, coming in at 1.7oz/49g, and there's no annoying separate battery box or overhead strap. But despite the name, and in common with nearly all alkaline-powered headlamps, the bulk is still a bit more than most folks will want to carry every single day.
PrimeLite D is water-resistant, but not waterproof. Function is a simple on/off, controlled by a single button. Although the manufacturer doesn't provide lumen output for this model, the company is claiming an effective light range of 15 meters (see entry above for a fuller explanation of what that means and how Primus calculates it).
Nearly identical to the PrimeLite D in overall dimensions and appearance, PrimeLite DP features four white LEDs and one red LED. Two large blue buttons on the top of the headlamp assembly control the LEDs -- one on/off switch, and one which controls the multiple functions. In order, the function switch cycles up to illuminate 1 red LED, 4 white LEDs at 25% power, 4 white LEDs at 50% power, 4 white LEDs at 100% power, and 4 white LEDs flashing. There is no way to cycle backwards, but flicking the light off starts the sequence over again at the dimmest setting.
As with the PrimeLite D, PrimeLite DP is water-resistant but not waterproof. Again, Primus doesn't provide lumen output for these models, but does provide an effective range for each setting (see the entries above for an explanation of what that means). The claimed effective range distances are: 1 red LED -- 5 meters; 4 white LEDs @ 25% -- 6 meters; 4 white LEDs @ 50% -- 9 meters; 4 white LEDs @ 100% -- 15 meters.
OMBU / LedWave lights, which we reviewed last year as being distributed by Glowbug, are now distributed in the U.S. by Camillus. However, neither Camillus nor OMBU has a particularly useful web site as of this writing, so interested readers may want to use a search engine to find a local dealer.
Pelican's L4 1830 Penlight features a heavy-duty pocket clip. Like all of Pelican's products, it appears to be durably constructed and can be expected to hold up well under the outrages of daily life. The light source, a single 5mm LED, has no lens covering it but is well protected from abuse, being somewhat set back within the pen body itself.
The long, thin body houses three AAAA batteries within it, and at 6 1/4 inches is a trifle longer than most pens. The projected runtime of 50 hours of continuous use means it'll go just about forever between battery changes. That's probably a good thing: when was the last time anyone spotted quadruple-A batteries in a grocery store?
L4 comes in three color choices: basic black, screaming yellow, and "Hey, has anyone seen my light anywhere?" camoflage.
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Contributing Editor: Kathy Jackson
Email: Kathy Jackson
Publisher and Editor: Doug Ritter
Email: Doug Ritter
First Published: February 26, 2006
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