Saturday, July 2, 2011

Fenix LD10 Review

This is my first review of a Fenix light. They were the upstart that really started the new wave of high quality, relatively inexpensive flashlights. Their lights now range from the cheap and decent E01 all the way up to the massive and expensive TK70, a 2200 lumen monster.

Here is my LD10 with its light&saber buddy, the excellent Spyderco Delica 4:

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I received this light in a trade. I sent one of my walking sticks to a fellow EDCFer and said "send something that you think is of equal worth back". I got the LD10 about two weeks later. Here is the LD10's product page. Here is a good review from light-reviews. It receives an average of 4.38 starts from 50 reviews on Amazon (33 were 5 star reviews).

Before I get into the review, let me say this: I hate AA batteries. I know that some people love them for their wide availability, but the reality is that CR123As are pretty widely available themselves. My local pharmacy, gas station, and small non-chain hardware store carry them. Furthermore, in an emergency, like the ice storm that hit New England a few years ago, the AAs were all gone, while the Ds and the CR123As were still in stock at the grocery store. The D cells were going, but the CR123As were fully stocked. Also, I dislike the lower lumens ceiling. Now most of the time the lumens difference between AA lights and CR123A lights is not going to make a difference because SUPER high lumens counts on EDC lights just aren't that useful. The difference between around 180 lumens (a good high for a single cell AA light) and 200 lumens (a mediocre high for a single cell CR123A light) isn't that big a deal, but why limit yourself? Most super high lumens lights, such as the Incendio, also offer a more useful medium high. Then there is the form factor. They are just not the right size. I much prefer the size of a good single cell CR123A light, especially in the pocket, to that of a longer AA cell light. I know that AA cells are more water resistant. But that one plus is drowned out by all of the minuses. Wait, you say, what about price? Well, really with the Internet you can get very good CR123As for about 90 cents a piece. Plus they can store forever--years. An AA light starts losing utility in days. Ever reach for a CR123a and find out it is dead? How about with a AA? Now I know that they make lithium AAs, but they ARE expensive, even on the internet.

Really it is not about choosing one over the other. I have a bunch of lights and they take a wide range of batteries: coin cells, button cells, CR2, CR123a, AAA, AA, and D cells. And really that is the way to go--diversity means that you will never be without light in an emergency. But if we are talking preference, then it is clearly CR123a batteries (though the Aeon makes a good case for CR2 batteries).

With that massive disclaimer out of the way, on to the review.

Design: 2

The LD series is Fenix's rugged EDC series that uses AA batteries only. The PD series is the same overall designs but uses CR123a batteries. It is not a full tactical light like the TA and TK series, but it is a little beefier than the "urban" or "office" EDC lights found in the E series.

The design is very well thought out. It demonstrates Fenix's evolution as a company--from knurled aluminum tubes, to a light with a clever anti-roll design and a nice tailstanding clicky. There is really nothing I would do to improve the design, assuming, of course, that I could not switch to a different battery.

Fit and Finish: 2

The threads are smooth. The clicky is tough. The light survived the "deep end dunk" (I threw all of my lights in the 10 foot deep end of my pool and retrieved them, the LD10 held up well). The reflector seems a little dirty, but more on that below.

Grip: 2

Good knurling and the hex ring just behind the head of the light does a great job keeping the light glued into your hand. Even the clip, which is not fixed into place, helps with grip.

Carry: 0

The clip is just held in place by friction and can move around rather easily. I have never had it pop off, but it does twist. Add to that the extra length necessitated by the AA batteries and the ridge around the clicky and this is an uncomfortable light to carry and retrieve.

Output: 2

Plenty of lumens for an EDC, about as good as you can get with an AA battery. I like the blinding high of a 200 lumen light, but 145 is not bad. The low and the medium are a little too close together, I'd prefer a moonlight low, but its not enough to dock a point.

Runtime: 2

Again, runtime is fine for an EDC light. It does not, of course, run as long as a CR123a light, but if you bought this light you have accepted that limitation.

Beam Type: 1

Fenix seemed to want to make this something of a thrower, as the light spot is tighter on my light than any other light I own. Its weird because with the reduced power of an AA battery there is hardly any chance this light gets used as a thrower.

Beam Quality: 1

The beam is nice and round, but the reflector seems to have odd spots it in making the beam surprisingly full of artifacts. Its not dust, its just holes and rings. They do not rise to the level of a Mag Light AA, but they are noticeable.

UI: 0

I have gone over the UI problems with this light in another article, found here. I do not like the need to do TWO motions to get to the true high. There is no need for a twist and a click, as the Preon's UI proves. Terrible, given that the competition has already figure this out.

Hands Free: 2

The hex ring and clip make the light stay put on its side and the ridge around the clicky helps with tailstanding. It can be used in both ways quite well.

Overall Score: 14 out of 20

Fenix started out as the cheap competition to Surefire, but now it has positioned itself as an upscale import in the flashlight world, some of a Lexus or Infiniti to Surefire's Cadillac. This is a good light. It does what lights are supposed to do, very well. If you want an AA light, consider this. If you want to reconsider your battery choice, good for you.

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