Friday, February 26, 2016

FourSevens Paladin Review

Remember that Star Trek The Next Generation episode when Picard and Worf, on an away mission, have crash landed their shuttle craft on a planet while the Enterprise is fighting space pirates in orbit?  In the episode, their Federation issued "palm beacons" go out and Picard and Worf have to rely on Klingon flashlights.  Worf pulls out his warrior's light and hands it to Picard.  It looks like this:


Okay, that never happened.  First, if you are a real ST:TNG nerd you'd know that Riker NEVER let the captain go on away missions (per Star Fleet regs...that Kirk, what a rebel).  Second, their palm beacons NEVER died, though they did, mysteriously, all run on incandescent bulbs...which is surprising given how far in the future they are.  Maybe incans make a come back.  The point is--this is one ugly, crenellated, knurled, mess.  The Paladin is just a hideous light.  It also has some serious design flaws.  In short, it is a sorry entry into the product catalog of FourSevens.  If you were waiting for them to release a new and innovative light, keep waiting.  This thing stinks.  Stinks like skunk road kill.  In the middle of summer.  During a heat wave.  

Here is the product page. The Paladin costs $150.  There are a host of accessories, including different colored strike bezels (which, to me, look like skirts...we have a year in which a flashlight toupee and a flashlight skirt are weird).  There is also a less blingy version of this light called the Knight--same features, just all black aluminum instead of colored titanium for $80.  There are no written or video reviews.  

Here is my review sample:


Twitter Review Summary: The flashlight equivalent of spinners--lots of bling and lots of stupid design choices. 

Design: 0

There are two things I really like about the Paladin, unfortunately neither of them actually make the light better.  First, I love the fact that Paul Kim is working with a major company again.  For those of you that don't know, Paul Kim aka PK, is probably the most important flashlight engineer ever.  No I am not giving a shred of credit to the Maglight guy--he is a mean, sue-happy crazy person.  PK worked for Surefire for years.  Many of the most important design features on modern lights sprang from PK's brain.  A few years ago PK and Surefire parted ways and he went out on his own.  He released a few lights under his own brand (which, unsurprisingly, look a lot like the Paladin), but none had any major market impact.  David Chow decided to team up with PK and the Paladin (and it's less blingy brother, the Knight) are the result.  So, yeah, one good thing--PK is back at it.

And there is another good thing about the Paladin: it's user configurable. There are four pieces that can be moved around and swapped in and out to create a myriad of different lights.  There is a screw down retention ring, a strike bezel (which is truly the dumbest feature on a light), a pocket clip, and the light itself.

Here are a few different configurations:

As shipped:


and "naked":


and "Worf Mode":


and, "Sane Person Pocket" mode:


and Clip on the Head:


As you can see, there are a lot of different ways to set up your Paladin.  Unfortunately for the user, none are all that good.  I prefer the clipless set up with retaining ring attached as a bezel.  Even that version, though, is pretty sucky.

First, the tailcap is horrible.   Without a shroud or even a lip to protect the switch, the Paladin comes on at all sorts of inopportune times.  It is virtually impossible to not accidentally activate the light.  I am not a tactical person so I am not worried about the light giving my position away, but I am worried about running down the batteries, overheating the light, and a serious case of hot pocket.  Sure there is a lock out feature, but in my experience, it was more hassle than it was worth, locking down too tight on a number of occasions.  The easy solution is to just change the tailcap or change the UI.  As it is, the Paladin is busted. 

Second, the light is very pokey.  The head is pokey, the strike bezel is pokey, and the clip is insanely pokey.  The strike bezel is not actually the most offensive part (when it is stowed).  Its actually the spikes on the side of the pocket clip.  Why someone thought that a pocket clip needed spikes and why that design choice, as obviously stupid as it is, made in to the final design is pretty stupefying.  Maybe PK had a blank check from David Chow, like Terrence Malick typically does when he makes films (one awesome Malickian stip: he does not have to do promotional work like interviews AND the film company cannot use his likeness in promoting the movie--talk about anti-celebrity).  I get that and PK does deserve this treatment, but even Malick has to have someone around him to say things like "Terrence, we have waited 93 days for the sunset to be perfect for this shot...perhaps we can move on..."  He says no and does what he wants anyway, but a little push back, even against genius, is not ALWAYS an act of folly from a lesser mind.  Here, the spiked pocket clip is just a bridge too far for me.  Maybe I am like one of the critics that hated Tree of Life (note to critics--you are morons and Terrence Malick is smarter than you...oh wait I am a critic of sorts), but this thing is just terrible is so many ways, right there at the blueprint page.

Other offensive design quirks--the weird look, the difficult to use lock out feature, the not completely protected lens (which David Chow notes as particularly weird in his video previewing the Paladin, found here), the proliferation of threads on the main body all begging to be dinged and rendered inoperable.  The list goes on and on.  Each of these is probably worth a half point, putting the Paladin at something like a -4 to start out with, but that would break the scale and really when its this bad its like winter in Siberia--what practical difference is there between -40 and -60?  Its all just really fucking bad.

The performance ratios are weak because of the poorly chosen outputs.  Lumens:weight is (450/2.16): 208.  While we are on this point, flashlight companies, do not give us the specs of your light with the light empty.  It doesn't work empty so those specs are representative of nothing.  It would be like a car's curb weight not including an engine.  I know batteries have different weights, but its not that big a variance.  The total lumens output is found on high (450 lumens x 120 minutes).  This is unusual and a sign that the lower outputs are not terribly efficient.  

Fit and Finish: 2

No question about it, this thing is a gleaming jewel.  It is very, very nicely finished.  The entire light has a polish that I have never seen before on a flashlight--custom or production.  And the machining greatness is more than skin deep.  The threads are marvelously clean, especially important given the UI, more on that below.  The clicky offers some great feedback and everything just slips together with a degree of tightness and precision that is hard to find an equal to in the production world.  Its just a shame that it was all wasted on a light this terrible.  And yes, this light is terrible.  

Grip: 0

Nope, not good.  Not remotely good.  If you have the pocket clip on this thing is as comfortable on your hands as a pair of thumbscrews.  PK--no spikes on pocket clips, okay?  None.  Especially not FOUR.  Without the pocket clip things get a bit better but the tailcap clicky is so big and hard to miss that even normal use is likely to cause accidental activation.  


This is just not a good light to hold or use or own.  Its good to look at, if you like the Worf aesthetic, but beyond that...ugh. 

Carry: 0

This is easily, without question, and by a large margin, the worse pocket clip ever.  I love the double clip, S design (which I believe is a PK original), but adding spikes to it and making it not actually come in contact with the light were really poor ideas.  This is more a pocket hook than a pocket clip.  


That would be bad, but not epicly terrible if it weren't for the tailcap.  Without a shroud or a protector, you have two choices--leave it on or lock it out.  The lock out is really tough because even a small amount of force makes the tailcap impossible to activate quickly.  If you leave it in the "go" position, just toss a microwave pizza in your pocket and let it cook because I have never experienced as much hot pocket with a light as I did with the Paladin.  The clicky is just too big.  It is very hard to carry this light without locking it out and NOT activate the light.  And forget about dropping it in your jeans coin pocket--it ALWAYS comes on.  Instead, why not light match and drop in down your pants?  The effect is the same.  I never thought it would come to this but I think the design, given the output on high, is actually dangerous.  The light can get hot enough to singe you.  I am not saying the light should be recalled, but it is a pretty crummy thing to have in your pocket because your choices are burning or completely gummed with nothing in the middle.  Again, I'd go for negatives, but that doesn't seem necessary.  You get the point--this thing sucks worse than a black hole.  

Output: 0

David Chow, et. al. flashoholics adore you for one main reason--you listened.  When we needed a night vision preserving output mode you made them standard.  When we complained about disco ball tints, you gave us choices.  When we clamored for special editions, you obliged.  As I said in the overview--FourSevens is a flashlight company run by flashoholics for flashoholics.

And then you released this light--with two modes and high and a medium.  25 lumens is just too bright for a light's main "low" setting.  Essentially there is no low and there is certainly no moonlight low.  Its nothing close to something that is useful or preserving of night vision.  


Its just sad to see, like saving up all year to go to a baseball game and seeing Mike Trout go 0-5 and injure himself in the outfield (side note: has Mike Trout ever gone 0-5?  Baseball Reference Play Index people, let me know in the comments).   You wanted this light to succeed.  I wanted it to succeed.  I bought it pre-release I was so excited.  It was the next generation of FourSevens, one of my favorites, and then we all get this.  Simply put there is no excuse in this day and age to have two outputs as poorly chosen as these two are, especially for a company as progressive as FourSevens.  No excuse. 

You might be tempted by the hidden modes, but they are siren's call.  There is nothing remotely useful hidden away, junky SOS/beacon modes and, ready for the this, a medium mode of 100 lumens.  No thank you.  Oh and there is the always useless strobe (well, I guess some SWAT guys need it and you know how SWAT guys love blingy flashlights).  

Runtime: 0

With shitty outputs comes shitty runtimes.  The high is fine 450 lumens for 2 hours is decent, but the real problem is that the "low" has a runtime of 30 hours.  Nowadays you can get an EDC light, like the S1 Baton, that can run for WEEKS in low.  The S1's moonlight can go for 600 hours.  Its only .5 lumens that is enough to get real work done outdoors at night.  600 hours equals 25 days...compared to 30 hours.  This is just not competitive with other lights on the market.  You have to go back three or five years to find a light that has such a bad low and such long runtimes.

Beam Type: 1

You get a ton of flood out the Paladin and that's fine with me.  I like the fact that they don't try to make the light something its not.  Its decent in that respect.  That said I think I'd prefer either a smaller body like the TIR-based S1 or a different pattern like on the Surefires (with their very distinct hotspot and very broad spill).  Its about average, not bad but not a standout.  

Beam Quality: 1

The actual hotspot and spill are smooth, but the weird bezel (in any configuration) creates distortions at the edge of the beam pattern.  These distortions can impact the field of illumination and, in some instances, make things look different than they would in full light.  Its not a big deal, but it is noticeable and in the modern era its something of an oddity.  Perfect beams are still rare, but very good beams aren't.  This is average given all of the silky smooth patterns out there.

UI: 0

The UI on the Paladin would be OKAY, not great, but passable if the tailcap wasn't such a problem.  Think of it as a light with two mode momentary on and a normal twisty interface.  It, like the amount of knurling and machine, is well done but totally unnecessary.  When you take this different system, pair it with the awful tailcap and add in two poorly chosen output modes, the whole thing is a mess.  AWFUL.

Hands Free: 2

It doesn't roll and it can tailstand.  Yipee.

Overall Score: 6 out of 20 NOT RECOMMENDED

The tailcap is enough to cause the light to be a failure.  The pocket clip is as well.  Together, this is an easy "Not Recommended".

This was an excruciating product to review.  Normally reviews this bad are fun to write, an exercise in creating mean zingers, which, if we are all honest with are ourselves are both fun to read and fun to write.  Not so here.  I have so much respect for David Chow and Paul Kim that this review felt like a betrayal to write, as if I were stabbing the gear community itself in the back.  There have been few things that I anticipated this highly and even fewer that turned out this bad.  The Cryo was a disappointment, but still a good knife.  This is just an awful flashlight.  Its so bad I am not going to give it away in the WWP giveaway.  A disappointing product is one thing.A product this bad from a company with such a sterling reputation is another. 

David Chow literally changed the flashlight industry when he launched FourSevens.  So much of what makes a modern light a modern light came from the engineering genius that is Paul Kim.  Together these two guys have taken lights from giant night stick sized wastes to small, pocketable flamethrowers.  Without both, we still have lights that don't justify daily carry.  So, it is a truly sad thing to hate a product these two guys made.  I really do feel like I am betraying two Gear Head Brother.  Its like breaking Reagan's Primary Politics Rule--I am speaking ill of one of our own.

Unfortunately there is no way around it--the Paladin and the Knight (by extension) are terrible lights with antiquated features, a tailcap that is a liability (maybe even a products liability issue), and a hideous overwrought look.  The fit and finish is spectacular, teasing us about FourSevens' capabilities, but in the end, nothing can save it--the Paladin is the Devil's Spawn of Flashlights.  Its not just bad, its broken.    


  1. I did a review on /r/flashlight back in December which searching "FourSevens Paladin Review" brings my review as the 3rd option. Besides that though, I did have similar results as you did and unfortunately wouldn't recommend this light either. One thing I'd like to mention is that I had poorly machined threads in the head and in the tailcap. It was rough to take apart and it was also rough to tighten & loosen the tailcap. I can say that I didn't experience the poor machining on the Knight though. Still, considering this is my first experience with FourSevens after hearing such great things about their lights, I was a bit disappointed in this design. I do hope they learn from this and not do anything similar.

    Great write up btw and I really loved your pictures.

  2. There is actually already a review of this light on the web- two months ago.

    See it here

    That same author went on to do a giveaway of the same light, here

    That review includes actual data about the light including runtime info, emitter info, etc.

    In any case Tony, thanks for the unbiased review here. It's good to see something get a low # occasionally - that helps us know you're keeping it real.

  3. With you 100%. If you didn't stick with your guns and praised it against your data, that would paradoxically mean that it ceased to be about good products and instead about blind brand loyalty which would be the true staining of PK's and Four Seven's good name.

  4. Wow, outstanding work. [ascending then descending whistle] I was thinking this thing might come in around 10-11 pts. Now I understand the rueful tone of the earlier post.

    PS: One of the dumb things about the TNG movies was Picard constantly going off on dangerous away missions.