Monday, September 19, 2011

Lumapower Incendio V3+ Upgrade XM-L Review

I feel like I have been working towards this review since I started writing this blog. This light sort of embodies a lot of what I hope to promote with this blog: the triumph of good design, the willingness to listen to the customer, the importance of small details, and a good price.

The Incendio is a light with a history. The first model was released in 2008. Since then it has been upgraded six times and there was an all stainless steel special edition. Over time (three years!) the clip has been replaced, going from a wire clip to a washer style clip. The threads have been upgraded to Acme style threads, which makes cross threading much more difficult. The clicky has been upgraded and the light can now tailstand. The anodizing has been upgraded as well, from HA II to HA II+ (whatever that is) to HA III. Over all this tweaking and upgrading, the emitter has changed over and over again, bumping up the lumens count until, with the XM-L version, it now hits 550 emitter lumens using an RCR123a (neutral, 500 on warm white). Also, there are bevy of accessories now. The kit includes a power pack extender, a lanyard, and a "throw" head. The XM-L version came with a pretty standard fare holster and a nice diffuser tip. In reality, with all of these upgrades and all of these helpful accessories, the Incendio has become more of a platform for constant upgrading than a mere flashlight.

Here is the product page for the non XM-L version (there is no product page, as of yet, for the XM-L version).  Here is an excellent review (part 1 and part 2) of the non-XM-L version.  Here is a good street price.  Because of all the models and upgrades the Amazon reviews and scores are useless.  Here is my Incendio XM-L:


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Also, I had some help doing the product testing for this light, my 15 month old son LOVES this light when the diffuser is on:

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Design: 2

The constant refinement of this light has left one thing intact--the almost perfect form factor.  Somewhere between the size of a Mini Quark 123 and a full sized Quark 123, this light is probably the smallest light out there with a forward clicky.  The body tube has the magic length to diameter ratio that makes holding and using the light with one hand a breeze.  The clip is very good, the stainless steel tail is nice and the clicky is very responsive.  Nothing flashy or crazy, just very functional.  The turbo head and alternative power source are nice bonus, as is the diffuser tip which really works and looks like a baby-size lightsaber (hence the picture above). 

Fit and Finish: 1

Two things.  First, the o-rings are not most substantial, one of which has already frayed from screwing the head on and off to insert a battery.  Second, the spring that holds the battery in place is a little weak.  Dropping the light hard on the ground (thanks to my product tester above) can switch the light from one output to the next or even turn it off.  It is rare, but possible.  Ricky from Lumapower said this is normal.  I'd like beefier springs and o-rings.  But these are minor points, really.  The rest of the light's fit and finish is nice.  The HA is good.  The emitter is well centered.  The edges are chamfered, except for the tail ring, which is very smooth and flat for tailstanding. Here is a look at the head of the light:

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Grip: 2

There are some knurled portions to the body tube and they are grippy.  The tube also has to flat faces for the logo and they aid in grip, as does the clip.  But again it is the magic ratio of length to diameter that matters and the Incendio hits it right on.

Carry: 2

Not as thin as a AAA light or as small as the beloved Aeon, the Incendio is still a tiny light.  The clip is a little too proud from the body, but it is not too bad.  It can ride in the coin pocket of jeans fully submerged.  I like that carry as it keeps the pocket clip from snagging.  The clip itself is a washer style clip that simply is held down my the screw on tail ring.  It is an elegant and tool free design.  The clip has been snagged and bent and repositioned already and it did so with no real problem.  

Output: 2

Okay, bleed edge emitter, check.  High end rechargeables, check.  550 emitter lumens, check (467 OTF lumens, 550x.85).  Single cell, thumb sized light, with all of this?  AMAZING.  With normal cells, it is still a nice 200 lumens.  But with this performance, you are in the custom echelon before you find anything close in a single cell light, non-weirdo battery, light.  Mac Custom's Tri EDC can hit this, but very few other lights can without resorting to larger and/or more specialized cells.  Behold, this is the pinnacle of performance.  And given emitter technology it will remain so for about ten minutes or about the time it takes you to read this post.  Still, for now, it is the best and it will get good enough for a long, long time.  The low is a little bright, given the upper end, but it is still dim enough.  I'd love to see an industry wide moonlight low of 1 lumen on all lights, but I think that is wishful thinking.      

Runtime: 2

Runtimes are, given the bleeding edge emitter, great for all four output modes.  Again, the high is a "theoretical" continuous runtime, as you need a potholder after about five minutes at 550 lumens, but still it does seem to last a very, very long time.  In low, around 10 lumens, the runtime is just insane.  

Beam Type: 2

This is a PURE flood.  It can throw a bit because of the output, but it is clearly not designed for that purpose.  As a flood, it is very good, with a nice hotspot and useful spill.  The XM-L was designed to have a broader throw than other emitters and this coupled with the shallowest of reflectors leads to a wall of light.  

Beam Quality: 1

I chose the neutral emitter on purpose, ignoring the "dimmer" 525 lumen warm emitter.  I wanted as many lumens as I could get and was willing to sacrifice beam quality to get it.  The emitter is quite purple, terribly so, in fact, but there are no rings or shadows.  

UI: 2

Great UI.  Using a clicky you get low, medium, high, and blast.  You can click on and off to switch or you can switch using half presses.  Very nice.  It also has mode memory for the last mode.  You can lock in a mode for tactical use by selecting that mode and doing four half presses.  You can unlock it by doing another four half presses.  Not a bad idea, but unnecessary in my opinion in an EDC light.   

Hands Free: 2

One of the major renovations with the Incendio was how the tail cap looked and worked.  It has reached a stage in its evolution where it is just about perfect.  The clicky has a GITD cover.  It is responsive and at the bottom of a dished out stainless steel ring.  Here is a picture:

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The ring screws into place tightening the washer portion of the clip into place.  The clip itself is tight but not so tight it can't rotate.  That bothers some, but not me.  I'd definitely make that trade for tool free replacement.  

Overall Score: 18 out of 20

This is a watershed light.  It, in my opinion, breaks Quickbeam's Flashlight Axiom: Small Size, Runtime, Brightness: Pick Two.  You get all three here.  

After years it has been refined to the point where it belongs in nearly everyone's collection or if you are not a flashlight collector--house.  This could easily replace all of the lights a non-flashaholic has and at $60 it is a great buy.  For a collector looking for a new light, this is an absolute steal.  This much refinement plus a bleeding edge emitter means that right now this is right at the cross hairs of price and performance (i.e. value).  The V3+ Upgrade was on the Top 10 Values in Gear list, and this light has a newer, brighter emitter and yet remained the same price. 

There is a ton of competition out there in the single cell 123a market niche, but nothing is this bright, this small, and with this many good accessories (the turbo head is on my list of purchases).  If you are looking for a good light for under $100 this is it.  It is not as good as a custom light, but its performance is pretty close.  You lose out on things like perfect fit and finish, but you gain about $100 in your pocket, at a minimum.  

Never buy a light for an emitter because they will always be outdated.  And here, while you get a nice emitter, you also get a subtly refined design.  All of the touches add up to one hell of a light and a testament to what happens when a company listens to customer feedback.  

All of this jibber jabber can be summed up this way: 

Go buy it.  Get the warm.  You won't be sorry.   

12 comments:

  1. Just bought this light from IlluminationGear and a RCR123A & charger from 4Sevens (gotta throw them a bone). I was going to get a 4sevens MiniX 123 XM-L ($50) for it's size, but I'm not crazy about the twist cap. The incendio looks like a good compromise. I can't wait to get this in the mail. Thank you for your review! - MS

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  2. I just got ordered a 4sevens Quark mini 123. Cheaper than this incendio, but I bet I end up wishing I had gone for this one...

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  3. Actually scratch that - i will probably like the lower low of the Mini. We'll see, I guess.

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  4. The mini is a great light. I am sure you won't be disappointed. I love lights with a low low. My Ti Bitz has a hidden moonlight mode and It is very useful. I find that 10 lumen lows are a bit too bright. That said the Incendio is such a good combo of both size and brightness, I couldn't pass it up even for the Mini. Good luck and let me know how it works out.

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  5. Got the light and battery, and I'm really happy so far. Just like you said, it's small, light, and impressively bright. I should have sprung for a more expensive crc123a charger, though. The cheap Nano charger takes forever!

    Found your site through everyday-carry.com. I'll be checking back regularly. Thanks again - MSS

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  6. Just an update: Still love the light! Use it everyday and it's always in my pocket. - MSS

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  7. Still carrying mine and still happy, too. It is a battery sipper.

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  8. Hi Tony,
    I'm in the process of buying this light based on your recommendation, but I was wondering if you could clear up a few things for me. You said you chose the neutral emitter, rather than the "dimmer" 525 lumen emitter, but on the site it says the neutral IS the 525. My question is should I, in your opinion, get the 525 or the 550 emitter. 25 lumens isn't a lot, so I want to get the best beam I can. Also, have you actually seen a beam from whichever emitter you didn't pick?

    Thanks for any help you can pass on with this.

    Daniel

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  9. Get the warmer of the two. I wrote that I got the neutral, but I think everyone else other than Lumapower would call it cool. The warmer of the two is 525 lumens v. 550. Now remember it is not going to be hitting that on regular batteries or even normal rechargeables. Do some research and you will find higher output rechargeables that will do the trick. It is a lot of juice and most batteries just can't do that. The difference is lumens is negligible. The difference in tint is not, so get the warmer of the two emitters.

    Also, the JetBeam Raptor RRT0 also runs an XML and can hit 550 lumens, again with crazy batteries. Also, 4sevens announced Hi CRI lights if tint is an issue.

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  10. Thanks for the response. I really like the JetBeam, but this is my first really decent EDC light, so I'll save that one until next time :-) I'll definitely be getting the 525 as a decent color is more important that the few lumens.

    I already ordered some of AW's RCR-123A batteries, so I sure hope those are the really good ones! If not, I'll have to peruse CPF a little better before I order the next set.

    I was a little hesitant at first about which to pick, but you have put my mind to rest, and I'm sure I'll love this light until I read about something even more spectacular (like the JetBeam) and am forced to upgrade!

    Thank again.

    Daniel

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  11. > And given emitter technology it will remain so for about ten minutes or about the time it takes you to read this post.

    There's now a 600 lumens U2 version available...

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  12. You nailed this review. I bought an Incendio V3U after reading your praise of it here and in the $100 max light + tool recommendations. It is such a refined and high quality design. Love the clip, the clicky UI, and the overall proportions.

    One caveat to your readers: stick with the XM-L versions. Don't get the XP-G emitter versions. The "cup" in the flashlight head for the diode is cut very big so the Incendio can accommodate the honking XM-L LED. Great, but the problem is that when you drop a tiny little XP-G in there you get the dreaded DARK RING around the hotspot in the beam. It's quite annoying. Pity, because the neutral white XP-G otherwise has a nice beam quality.

    TL;DR version: I got the XP-G V3U because that was the only way I could get a neutral. Mistake. I should have got the XM-L cool b/c the XP-G beam quality is slightly messed up due to this light's head design.

    There was a neutral white XM-L limited run for Illumination Gear but it's out of stock everywhere. If you see one BUY IT!

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