Saturday, December 25, 2010

Difference Between R5 and S2 LED Emitter

The LED emitter is clearly seen on this Maelstrom MMS.
As many of you may know, the flashlight company FOURSEVENS, has recently undergone a fairly significant change to their flashlight lineup. While most of the flashlights have the same name, their LED emitters have changed from the XP-G R5 LED to the XP-G S2 emitter.

What the heck does that mean?

Well, I'm hear to help you understand. Let's start with the basics. If you haven't already, please read our post on "How Does a LED Work?" It should give you a fairly brief explanation of the basics behind LED technology and how it is different from incandescent bulbs.

This Quark AA² Tactical is only
now available in the S2 version.
What has changed with the S2 version is the LED emitter. You know, that little thing in the flashlight that makes it so bright. The emitter is what changes electrical energy into visible light. According to FOURSEVENS, the XP-G S2 emitter is about 7% brighter than the R5 emitter, which sounds great.

To make matters a bit more confusing, though, FOURSEVENS also decided to change their flashlight rating system. Previously, FOURSEVENS used manufacturer-based ratings for their flashlights. Since manufacturers often inflate their ratings and don't account for things such as internal reflection within the flashlight head, manufacturer-based ratings are often lower than the actual output values seen by the flashlight. In fact, they are often 30% lower.

FOURSEVENS decided to switch over to ANSI (American National Standards Institute) ratings, which are industry standard ratings, for their S2 LED's. Their new flashlights were tested and the relevant brightnesses and runtimes were listed. Since these ANSI ratings are the actual ratings of the flashlights, they seem to be lower than the older ratings. However, these new S2 LED's are still brighter than the R5 LED's, despite the lower rating.

Comparison between the R5 (left) and the S2 (right) LED's
I actually did a side-by-side comparison between the two LED's and did not notice an increase in brightness between the R5 and the S2 LED. In fact, it seems like the S2 may even be dimmer than the R5. You can clearly see that the S2 LED has a more yellow hue than the R5, which may be why the S2 seems slightly dimmer.

So, what's my personal opinion about the whole thing? Well, since I am not able tell that the S2 is actually brighter, I would make use of the lower price and buy an R5 while I still could. The R5 emitter actually seems better than the S2 from what I can tell, if not solely for the reason that the light looks more white, which is what I prefer.

Oh, and by the way, I hope that all of you have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Flashlights for a Snowstorm

So as many of you know, the Midwest recently experienced a very severe snowstorm. From news sources, at least 11 people have been killed throughout the United States and more than 70 motorists have been trapped on the roads in Indiana.

Emergency kits aside (good idea to have in a car/house), lets talk about how a flashlight could help in a situation where you are stranded on the road or at home, with no electricity or heating.
Snow can be beautiful, but not when you're stuck in it.

In a snowstorm, if you're stuck in a car, you should probably stay with your vehicle. Your car is a shelter, which may not be the warmest, but it will keep you dry and away from the wind. While your car battery is still good, you have light and signaling. However, a flashlight is always a great thing to keep handy. It would make a great signaling device, since you can point it in any direction. If your car battery were to die, having a flashlight as a signaling device could mean the difference between life and death.

In the home, a flashlight would be very useful if the power were to go out, which it often does in snowstorms. The benefits are pretty self-explanatory. At night, you need light to see and there's nothing better than a good flashlight to help you in that situation. Candles just don't cut it. Also, make sure that the flashlight is in an easy-to-find location.

Having spare batteries is important, especially if your
flashlight uses more exotic batteries such as these CR123A's.
You'd be surprised how many people have decent flashlights without having spare batteries. In all situations, make sure that you have plenty of spare batteries to go with your flashlight, and also keep them in an easy to find location.

So, I know that much of this post may have been common sense, but don't let it be so simple that you disregard the information. Don't be left in the dark when an emergency comes your way. Have a flashlight with spare batteries both in your vehicle and in your home.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Review - FOURSEVENS Quark Mini Series

One of the most popular series of flashlights that FOURSEVENS puts out is the Quark Mini series, and for good reason, too. These flashlights are some of the most compact and bright lights on the market today. If you're on to lookout for a super-bright, but compact flashlight, then you're going to enjoy this post.

The Quark Mini ML comes in a Titanium-bodied version.
The Quark Mini series currently has 4 flashlights: the Mini ML (formerly the MiNi 123), the Mini MA (formerly the MiNi AA), the Mini M2A (formerly the MiNi AA²), and the Mini MLR2 (formerly the MiNi CR2). Although made of aluminum, each version, except for the Mini M2A, has a titanium-bodied model as well.

All of the Mini's have a similar appearance, varying mainly with the types of batteries that they use. There are Mini's that use standard AA batteries. There are also Mini's that use more exotic batteries, such as the CR123A and the CR2, both high-output lithium batteries.

The Mini's are made out of aircraft-grade aluminum (except for the Titanium versions) and have ample knurling on the body for grip. They are turned on by twisting the head, and have a flat back, allowing them to be stood up vertically on a surface, which is great for illuminating a room. Being the largest of the Quark Mini series, the Mini M2A is the only one that comes with a removable pocket clip. All other ones are meant to be carried in a pocket/pouch or attached to a lanyard/keychain.

Now, to keep this review brief, I will list each flashlight's specifications below. These flashlights have been updated by FOURSEVENS to the new Gen2 CREE XP-G2 LED.

Mini MA:
Weight with Batteries 1.5 oz
Weight without Batteries 0.6 oz
Length 3.1 in
Diameter 0.69 in
Bulb/Emmiter CREE XP-G2 LED
Operating Voltage Range 0.9V - 1.5V
Battery AA
Battery Amount 1
Max/Min Output 108 lumens/4 lumens
Max/Min Runtime 60 hours (Low)/1.3 hours (High)

Mini M2A:
Weight with Batteries 2.7 oz
Weight without Batteries 1.0 oz
Length 5.1 in
Diameter 0.69 in
Bulb/Emmiter CREE XP-G2 LED
Operating Voltage Range 0.9V - 3.0V
Battery AA
Battery Amount 2
Max/Min Output 216 lumens/3.0 lumens
Max/Min Runtime 3.4 days (Low)/1.7 hours (High)

Mini MLR2:
Weight with Batteries 1.6 oz
Weight without Batteries 0.6 oz
Length 2.0 in
Diameter 0.75 in
Bulb/Emmiter CREE XP-G2 LED
Operating Voltage Range 0.9V - 3.0V
Battery CR2
Battery Amount 1
Max/Min Output 216 lumens/3.0 lumens
Max/Min Runtime 1.2 days (Low)/40 min. (High)

Mini ML:
Weight with Batteries 1.2 oz
Weight without Batteries 0.7 oz
Length 2.4 in
Diameter 0.80 in
Bulb/Emmiter CREE XP-G2 LED
Operating Voltage Range 0.9V - 3.0V
Battery CR123A
Battery Amount 1
Max/Min Output 216 lumens/8 lumens
Max/Min Runtime 150 hours (Low)/1.2 hours (High)

All of the Mini flashlights have the same lighting modes. These modes consist of regular modes and special modes. The regular modes are: Low, Medium and High. The special modes are: Strobe, Beacon (High), Beacon (Low) and S.O.S.

Listed below are the brightness and runtimes for each mode, for each model. Hopefully, it will help you compare the different models if you are able to see them all side by side.

Mini MA:
Low (2.7 lumens, 60 hours)
Medium (25 lumens, 8 hours)
High (108 lumens, 1.3 hours)
Strobe (4 hours)
Beacon (High) (20 hours)
Beacon (Low) (100 hours)
S.O.S. (12 hours)

Mini M2A:
Low (3.0 lumens, 3.4 days)
Medium (36 lumens, 8.8 hours)
High (216 lumens, 1.7 hours)
Strobe (3.3 hours)
Beacon (High) (17 hours)
Beacon (Low) (88 hours)
S.O.S. (10 hours)

Mini MLR2:
Low (3 lumens, 1.2 days)
Medium (40 lumens, 4.4 hours)
High (216 lumens, 40 min.)
Strobe (1.4 hours)
Beacon (High) (7.2 hours)
Beacon (Low) (36 hours)
S.O.S. (4.3 hours)

Mini ML:
Low (3 lumens, 150 hours)
Medium (40 lumens, 8 hours)
High (216 lumens, 1.2 hours)
Strobe (2.4 hours)
Beacon (High) (12 hours)
Beacon (Low) (60 hours)
S.O.S. (7.2 hours)

Accessing the modes on all of the flashlights is done by first twisting the flashlight head to turn it on. Turning the flashlight on puts you in Low mode. To cycle through the regular modes, just turn the flashlight on and off. Doing this will put you in Medium mode. Doing it again will put you in High mode.

To access the special modes, you have to cycle through the regular modes twice quickly. Upon cycling through the modes twice, you get into Strobe mode, which is a mode in which the emitter flashes on and off rapidly. Twisting the head on and off, you get into S.O.S. mode, which is a sequence of flashes that stands for S.O.S. Again, twisting the head on and off puts you in Beacon (High), which is a bright flash every 10 seconds. Turning it on and off again puts you in Beacon (Low), which is also a flash every 10 seconds, although not as bright. Cycling through all of the special modes puts you in Low mode to start the whole sequence again.

Personal experiences

Mini MA
The Mini MA uses the commonly available AA battery.
The Mini MA uses the good old AA battery. The same one that has been around for decades and can be found nearly everywhere. This is the flashlights main selling point. It is not the smallest Mini and it is not the brightest, but it uses the AA battery, which is as good enough of a reason as any to have one. It would make a great keychain light or an emergency light. It is definitely small enough to fit anywhere and bright enough for most tasks.

Mini M2A
The Mini M2A is the largest of the Mini's
and comes with a removable pocket clip.
For those looking for a great every day carry flashlight that uses standard batteries, the Mini M2A may be the best choice. Its size makes it ideal to hold in the hand, since the smaller Mini's may be difficult to hold at times. It is the only Mini with an removable pocket clip, making it easier to carry than the other flashlights, especially if you are used to carrying a pocket knife on a clip. Its brightness is also nothing to scoff at, being as bright as any of the Mini flashlights. When combined with the super easy to find AA battery that it uses, the Mini M2A may be the flashlight for you.

Mini MLR2
The Mini MLR2 is the smallest and one of the brightest Mini's!
While I have not had much experience with the Mini MLR2, from what I have seen, it offers the highest brightness in the smallest package. It is the smallest of the Mini series, but it offers the same brightness as the largest one, the Mini M2A. The only downside that I can think of this flashlight is that it uses the CR2 battery, which may be hard to find. If you can find a steady source of CR2's then the Mini MLR2 may very well be the best choice for someone looking for a super-compact powerhouse of a flashlight.

Mini ML
The Mini ML uses the popular CR123A battery to produce
a HUGE amount of light.
The Mini ML, which uses the more popular CR123A batteries, is real bright little light. It is slightly taller and fatter than the Mini MLR2 due to its choice of battery, but it has much longer runtimes. It would also be a great choice for someone looking for a small emergency or every day carry flashlight, especially for a person that already has a supply of CR123A batteries.

So, I hope that shed some light (pun) on the Mini series of flashlights. They are an excellent group of lights that should not be overlooked. For those looking for an inexpensive, compact and bright flashlight try out one or more of the Mini's and you won't be disappointed.