Monday, March 21, 2011

Two flashlight brands that get NO BUZZ

In my long, wandering trip through the land of flashlights, a la Kung Fu, I took a tour through some obscure, but worthwhile flashlight brands and designs. In particular, I really liked my LiteFlux LF3XT. Really nice size, very bright, well-made, but the hidden UI was daunting once it was engaged, which happened three times by accident (someone else was using the light) and all three times I thought they had broken the light. If you can handle the custom UI, then this light is a total steal.

But there are two other brands that I just cannot figure out why they do not get more acclaim. I am going say this up front, I have never used one of these lights. I am merely speculating based on the technical specifications. But the specs alone on these two brands of lights are very interesting.

First is the LensLight brand. They developed their lights based on work in the movie industry and they have three different designs. All of their lights feature advanced optics and are focusable. The smallest of the three designs, a single cell CR123a light comes in a pimped out Ti version, seen here:

It has a Delrin clip, is made, designed and developed in the US, uses a two-stage McClicky tail switch, has a high of 270 lumens and a low of 20 lumens (1.5 hrs/20 hrs runtime respectively). The interior of the light is Chem-koted. It can't tailstand, which is a shame, but has a fully potted head. The Ti version is more than a bit of change--$325 but for that price you have a virtually unique, high performance, CR123a light. The Aluminum version is $159, which is not too bad.

The big drawback on all of the LensLight models is their size compared to the competition. They are all a bit longer than normal, having to accommodate the focusing mechanism as well as the aspheric lenses. The LenLight Mini and Mini Ti appear to be about the same size as a Ra/HDS flashlight.

The other brand of lights that gets very little mention is Leupold. Like LensLight, they have an unusual background starting as an optics company (sights, scopes, and remote viewing devices like binoculars). I have handled a few Leupold lights at the Kittery Trading Post and I can tell you that they are very, very robust builds. The big thing with the Leupold designs is that they are fully modular--heads and tailcaps can be swapped around to create the light you want. Additionally, Leupold offers custom features that aren't found on any other lights, that I know of (though I am sure Surefire could do the same if asked by the right wealthy buyer), such as full dive light waterproofing.

The MX-321 seems to be a good representative of the line. Here is a picture:

It has some good specs--175 lumens for 2 hours on high and 10 lumens for 46 hours on low. It has a magnetic selector ring around the head of the light for output selection. It has a sapphire window (which is more scratch resistant than a normal glass or plastic window). It too is a pretty penny, $220 at Amazon. The only two bad parts, other than the price, is the fact that it can't tailstand and that no Leupold lights run on one CR123a battery. CORRECTION: Leupold DOES make a single cell CR123a light. It is not worth a darn though. 30 lumens...seriously.

When thinking about what flashlight to buy next, take a few minutes and research some less "mainstream" lights. There are a ton of interesting lights out there that few people talk about. Some, like the two I mentioned here, may be pricey, but others like the LiteFlux aren't too bad at all.


  1. The obsession over lumens is highly overrated, as is cr123a batteries. Sure, you can buy duracell/energizer/panasonic/surefire branded cr123s online for a reasonable price. Yet, what happens when you take your light on a trip, forget to pack extra batteries and find yourself lightless. AA form factor is much more convenient. You can pop into any variety/general store and grab some in a pinch. For regular use, NiMh [Eneloops] are useable from -20 celcius to ~ +50 celcius. Or if you're really concerned about cold winters or even hotter climates, L91 lithium energizer ultimates [e2's] can withstand -40 celcius to ~ +60 celcius. You can easily find these on amazon for very good prices, including shipping.
    Yes, cr123s have 3v compared to 1.2v / 1.5v of NiMh/Alkalines, but most modern lights are putting out impressive performance on even 1AA light [i.e. zebralight sc51].
    You simply won't be able to tell the difference of 50 or even 80 OTF lumens in real world usage, unless you do side/side comparisons and even then, the usable difference is minuscule.
    Now, if you're the type of guy that never leaves home without extra cr123s and never lends his light to friends, then by all means go that route for a small pocketable flashlight with lots of punch. Yet keep in mind, xp-g's and/or xml lights on AA form factor [even 1AA] are providing incredible light output if that's needed.
    If you live out in the boonies and need a reliable high output light and can't be bothered to recharge NiMh, then cr123's is a valid option.

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