Tuesday, January 10, 2012

TorchLAB Moddoolar Pocket Review

Its been a while since I did a flashlight review, but boy do I have a good one for you to start off 2012 (I figure since this is the year the world ends, may as well have a good flashlight on you to see you through The End Times, right?).

I can only imagine what it was like, as a flashlight fan, to see the original Surefire 6P (then called Laser Products).  It must have seemed like a revelation.  And then the hits just kept on coming.  The lights got smaller and brighter, the parts were interchangeable.  It had to feel like the beginning of new era (because it was).  Having carried the Oveready Moddoolar for two weeks makes me feel like I was handling the first 6P.  It is clear in my mind--there is a new standard for flashlights and it is the Moddoolar.   It is not just that the light is bright (it is); its not just that the light is highly, as the name implies, modular (it is); its not just that the light is incredibly rugged (it is); and that the light as the fit and finish of a custom light, which it is.  It is that it is all of these things together.  There is really no other light that operates in this space.  You have custom lights, but they are usually closer to shelf queen than street sweeper.  You have modular lights, like the Surefire E series, but they are neither as bright or as beautifully finished.  You have lights like the HDS, which get close on some of the these fronts, but fail the brightness test.  Bright, modular, rugged, and beautifully finished--only the Moddoolar has all of these things.

Moddoolar is a collaboration between Oveready and Torch Lab.  The owner of Oveready met the engineer behind Torch Lab on CPF and after a few small batch custom ventures they set up the Oveready store, which if you have not been, click on the link and peruse.  I'll wait.  Okay your back.  The venture started with boring out Surefires for higher capacity batteries and swapping out emitters.  Eventually, Dan (Oveready) and Tom (Torch Lab) decided to make an entirely custom light and the Moddoolar is the result.  I sent Dan an email and a few days later, I had one for testing.  He sent me a three mode head, a single cell body tube (700 lumen Hi CRI or 800 lumens on neutral), a two cell body tube (1000/11000 lumens), a Triad tailcap, and two 18350 batteries (which charge in the Nano charger many people already have).  The two cell tube also fits a standard 18650 rechargeable battery.    

Here is the Moddoolar product page.  I am happy to say that for the second time, I am the first to review a light, as there are no other reviews of the Moddoolar on the web.  I covered this light way back, here.  There is no Amazon page, obviously, and there is absolute price uniformity as there is only one source.  The options are staggering--single cell or multi cell lights, three different emitters (cool, neutral and Hi CRI), single mode or multi mode heads, gray or silver bezels, black or natural hard anodizing, multiple clips, different clickies, and one hell of a tailcap.  The head, body, and tailcap options are all compatible with at least one Surefire model (check each part's individual page for full compatibility) so you can even do CROSS brand flashlight lego-ing.  

Here is the Moddoolar (with the single cell body tube) I was sent for testing:

IMG_0011

I was also sent the two cell body tube.  Here is the light in that configuration:

IMG_0020

Because this is a full custom light sold from only one store, it may be hard for folks to do size comparisons.  Before I get to the numbers, here are two size comparison (one with the single cell tube and the other with the two cell tube):

IMG_0018

and:

IMG_0021

The first shot is a McGizmo Haiku, the single cell Moddoolar, and a Lumapower Incendio (which is THE smallest or one of the smallest single cell clickies on the market).  The second shot is the double cell Moddoolar and the Surefire G2X Pro


Design: 2

If you don't like rechargeable batteries, this is probably not the light for you.  It can still run on regular CR123a batteries, but not as well.  Oveready does not recommend running them when using the light on high, but they can work well for low and medium.  Additionally because of its hard use purpose, the light is not small.  As you can see above, the single cell body tube is pretty long.  Both body tubes are thick.  But all of this is part of the design philosophy--cutting edge performance.  In that sense, the Moddoolar design is impeccable.  The tailcap is easily the best I have ever seen, the body has that perfect length to diameter ratio that many lights miss (especially in the single cell tube set up).  The heat sinks are effective because even on high, it takes a while for the light to heat up.  There are even small reflectors or optics around the trio of XPG emitters to help capture even more light.  The threads are stoutly cut V threads (so stoutly cut I thought they were acme threads) and the tubes have dual o-rings.  Every single feature has been thought out and if you can accept the requirements of a hard use light, namely the rechargeable batteries and stocky frame, then there is nothing to complain about. 


Fit and Finish: 2

Like the grind on a blade, the threads of a flashlight's body tube are a great place to check the fit and finish.  Look for slop or play when the parts are connected.  Also look for misthreadings or difficult to thread parts.  Here, like all of the parts on the Moddoolar, the threading is impressive.  They synch together with almost magnetic ease.  This light is in the same class, in terms of fit and finish, as a McGizmo.  It is not QUITE perfect, like Don's lights are, but it is pretty darn close.  Stunning for a first effort and great all around. 


Grip: 2

Here is a picture of the clicky end of the light (in single cell mode):

IMG_0014

and here is a picture of the light in use:


IMG_0013


Note how my thumb works through the gap in the tailcap.  Also note, though you may not be able to see it, how my finger rests in the bend in the pocket clip.  These two things make the light perfect to control in the hand.  This grip is the key to the magical feel of the Moddoolar in the hand.  It makes the light feel so natural, like an extension of your arm.   It also gives you precise control of where you are throwing light.  No light, including my McGizmo, has felt as natural and as comfortable in my hand as the Moddoolar.  And because the tailcap remains the same with the two cell body tube, the superb grip is the same as well.  Awesome design, incredible forethought.

Carry: 2

The single cell design is fine for pocket carry.  Its diameter makes jeans pocket carry a little difficult, but the clip is great and the size is fine for riding on the edge of your regular pocket.  The two cell design is a little bit more of a challenge.  I'd give the two cell design a 1 because like the MC-18 B I reviewed last year, it is just a little too big to ride in the pocket comfortably.  If you carry your light in a bag, then both are perfectly fine.  


Output: 2

We get to the BIG ISSUE: output.  Nothing runs even close to the Moddoolar's output in this form factor.  No custom light (though Mac's stuff comes within 200 lumens) and no production light.  This is a light that is the size of a large single cell CR123a light and can put out roughly 700 lumens (or 800 if your not a tint snob and require a Hi CRI emitter).  What does that mean?  Let's take a look at the comparison shots.

First, the control (which is the bulkhead door of my workshop) with overhead lighting:

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Second of the control with no light:

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Then the Surefire G2X Pro on Low:

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Then the Surefire G2X Pro on High:

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The Moddoolar on Low:

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Moddoolar on Medium:

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Moddoolar on High:

IMG_0008

The Moddoolar does not produce the same wall of light that the MC-18 B does.  Instead you get a very, very bright hot spot.  The difference between the G2X Pro and the Moddoolar was close to night and day.  Imagine the G2X Pro's tight hotspot three times larger and three times brighter.  That is the Moddoolar.  The pictures aren't lying.  This is a dazzling bright light.  On High with a ceiling bounce, the light comes close to replicating a fixed ceiling lamp in terms of brightness.  The tint is noticeably better.  Also, and this is a point of contention with a lot of flashaholics, the low on the Moddoolar is a real moonlight/firefly low.  It is barely enough for the camera to pick up and certainly low enough to save your night vision.  The medium is a little bright for a close up work light, but it is still within the acceptable range.  This much firepower in this small a package is stunning, both literally and figuratively. 


Runtime: 2

Using the unusual 18350 battery (which the same length as a CR123 but larger in diameter) you can get ridiculous runtimes, even on high with 800 lumens (18 minutes).  On low you get two days.  Two days of useful light is pretty impressive in any package, but in a package that can also light up the side of a mountain like a car headlight, well that is an amazing bit of tech.  


Beam Type: 2

This beam is very clearly trying to play it both ways.  There is very little spill, as you can see above, but the hotspot is so big, thanks to the three XPG emitters, that you can use it like the spill on a regular light.  I like the compromise that Dan and Tom made here, and that is what beam type always is on an EDC light.  Sometimes you need a thrower and sometimes you don't.  The very best lights do both very well, and the Moddoolar, following in the steps of the Haiku, is right in that space.  


Beam Quality: 2

The neutral tint option was excellent, enough for my non-flashlight loving family members to comment on how nice the light was.  There are artifacts because of the three emitter array configuration, but only at very, very close range, something like less than two inches.  That is not really a drawback at all.  Great tint and smooth beam.  


UI: 2

Okay you can choose from from three UIs: single mode, low-medium-high, and another variation that puts high first.  It is a click and then another click that sends the light into the next mode.  All great.  Simple, easy to use, great.  The light gets a 2.  But, and this is one small bit of criticism I could levy against the Moddoolar, why bother with this? Why not, instead, just add mode memory like the Haiku and that allows you to pick the order.  If you want the light to come on in medium, just turn it off in medium.  Then there is no arguing about output order or anything like that.  


Hands Free: 2

If I could give the light a 3 I would.  It tailstands with the stability of a pyramid.  It won't roll and operates beautifully in a ceiling bounce.  Great, great, great.  


Overall Score: 20out of 20

This is a light without equal in the marketplace today.  There is no light this rugged, this bright, this small, and this finely designed and made.  There are lights that are any one of those things, or even any two or three of those things, but not all of them.  I don't need a light this rugged, but if my son or daughter were a LEO or in the military, they would go out into danger with one these lights.

I still think that the McGizmo Haiku is the perfect EDC light, mainly for the slimmer size and mode memory, but if you wanted a light that would take a beating and be fine, maybe the Haiku is not for you.  In that case, the Moddoolar is.  I could be convinced, pretty easily, that the package with the two body tubes and the three mode output is the best light available today, regardless of price.   Let me say that again because it is a bold statement and I mean it:  there is an argument, and a good one, that this is the best light available today, regardless of price.  I have owned or used well over two thousand dollars in flashlights in the past four years and this light is right at the top of the list in terms of performance.  For the price, around $330, you save money over a McGizmo and get a light that is its equal and in some ways better. 

That's great, but here is the big deal with this light--unlike many of the other customs out there this light is READILY available.  Want one?  Go buy one on Oveready.  Their service was superb, by the way.  If they don't have one, sign up for a notice and you can go buy one when they come in.  No pay up front, no agonizing wait, no missing the order window.  You can just go buy it.  And you should.  Dan and Tom through down the gauntlet.

Maybe Dark Sucks will make a single cell (or smaller light) and return the favor.  We are living in a flashlight golden age, enjoy it.  I know I am. 

19 comments:

  1. sweet :) As always, great review, well written and articulated. You should've been a lawyer (j/k i know you already are). Please keep the excellent content coming...!! and Happy New Year!! Gerald

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  2. I think you got too excited and missed a couple of typos. :-)

    Your enthusiasm sure is infectious! -MSS

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  3. A review of a product you plan to sell? Really?

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  4. I don't sell anything. Never have, never will. I am not sure how you even got that misimpression

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    1. I'm seriously so embarrassed right now... Sorry.

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    2. No problem. I just wanted to make it clear: I don't sell stuff. I don't profit in any way from these reviews. This is not a profitable site for me. This is a service (hopefully).

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  5. Correction of a few technical things thanks to Dan at Oveready:

    1. The emitters are XPGs. I had them listed as XMLs. That is my fault. I had both written down in the original review and when I went back to correct the tech stuff I just switched them over to the XML, probably assuming, incorrectly, that XPGs couldn't be this bright.

    2. It is Tom not Tim at TorchLAB.

    3. The light uses V threads and not acme threads. I make a note of checking this on each and every light. I could have SWORN these were acme threads, but Dan says no and he is the guy who would know that stuff (him and Tom). Either way they are SERIOUSLY beefy V threads.

    I also added in the lumen counts for the different emitters and body types, specified that the anodizing was hard anodizing, though I think at this point, the "hard" specification is unnecessary as really only MAG still uses level II anodizing.

    Finally, and most importantly, I correctly gave Tom at TorchLAB top billing calling the light the TorchLAB Moddoolar not the Oveready Moddoolar.

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  6. Cool and informative review, but too much $$ by at least $100. My opinion, save over >$100 and get a Tri-EDC or an Alpha MC18-B. They are true flamethrowers(more than you will ever need or probably use) and use world class components. I actually use these in work applications, so am a good judge of use and quality. They are also great looking and come from 2 of the more respected light makers in the good ole USA. $330 is just too much in comparison in my opinion. If you go that route, save an extra $100 and buy from the best builder in the world, McGizmo, in which the light will always be worth a good chunk of change...

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  7. I like the Tri EDC a lot and it is bright, but I am not sure, absent cerakoting, it is not as durable. Also it has no modularity, which for flashlight folks, is a nice plus, allowing you to upgrade without replacing.

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  8. What do you mean when you say it will fit comfortably not in a Jean pocket, but in a "regular pocket" ?

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  9. Jeans pocket=coin pocket often found in non designer blue jeans, usually on the right side. Love it for EDC stuff. Wish they made jeans with two coin pockets, one on each side.

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  10. Thanks for the review. I agree almost completely, but my experience with forward clicky switches and mode memory is that the button can be bumped randomly during carry, not enough to click on, but enough to change the startup level. Also, I don't always know which level I'll need next time, or remember which level I used last. For EDC, this UI (L-M-H) lets you know for sure the startup level to expect, and a quick double or triple press gets you more light, if necessary, without having to evaluate or think. Accidental 800 lumens close-up with dark-adapted eyes sucks even more than dark itself. Also, the two cell version (or 18650) is 3/4" shorter than the Alpha, so it's slightly more convenient for pocket carry. It's sure not as elegant, though. Tough call, but the CPF solution (get both!) worked for me. :-)

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  11. The older Tri-EDC and TorchLAB use the same driver / LED's, same battery, and same optic so how is the Mac within 200 lumens? The difference is Mac lists real measured lumens and some others list LED Lumens. Also the new version of the Tri-EDC not using the LuxRC board actually outputs 10% more lumens.

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  12. I've had mine underwater in salywater and it never missed a beat. These are increible quality being made in small batches and built individually by hand. I love mine and the customer service rocks as well.

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  13. I'd love to get an update on this review since its been 6 months. I plan on acquiring the Moodular, Aeon (if EC special is made) or the Dark Sucks Alpha. The Alpha now comes with a future proof promise of sorts but it's performance is lower with a single LED.

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  14. Hi You have a lot to answer for. I have just purchased a McGizmo Haiku and a Moddoolar slim 2 cell. I hope you are proud of yourself!!!!!

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  15. Awesome review.

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  16. I just ordered a Moddoolar Pocket Stubby Brass to add to my Oveready collection. Over the past 25+ years, I've collected a bunch of Surefires and about 9 McGizmo and 5 Oveready flashlights and they are all great lights. I can't tell you how many times during my law enforcement career that a flashlight helped me during tactical situations (you'd be surprised how often a light is needed during the day).

    Thanks again for the great review!!

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