Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Review - UCO Original Candle Lantern

For this post, let's step back into an era before the modern LED emitter. Actually, let's go back to a time before the incandescent light bulb was invented, before batteries became commonplace and even before flashlights were mass-produced. During this time, people relied on candles and lanterns for light after the sun went down. They weren't as nifty as the modern conveniences that we currently have, but they worked. Since the dawn of mankind, fire was the main source of illumination for thousands of years.

Fast forward to today. Electricity is commonplace, and unless you're out in the middle of nowhere, chances are that the vast majority of your light is provided by incandescent bulbs, fluorescent bulbs, or LEDs. Does out-dated technology such as candles and lanterns have a place in the modern world?

The UCO Original Candle Lantern comes in a variety of colors.
The answer may surprised you. I would argue that yes they do, which is why I am reviewing the Original Candle Lantern from UCO.

The UCO Original Candle Lantern has one thing going for it: It is an extremely simple device. There isn't much that can go wrong with it. You light it, and it works until it burns out. Modern flashlights are great, don't get me wrong, but they are much more complex, and with complexity comes the chance that they may break during the time that you need them most. (Murphy's Law anyone?)

If you are ever in a situation where having a light source may be critical to your survival, you need backups. Having another flashlight is a good idea, but I would argue that it's even a better idea to have a backup that is dead-simple, one that will work no matter what. When facing an emergency, it's good to follow the principle of "3 is 2, 2 is 1 and 1 is none", meaning that for critical applications, you need backups to your backups because Murphy likes to visit during times when it's least convenient.

For those who don't understand what I mean, let me explain. During critical situations, things tend to break. If you only have one light source and it breaks, you now have none. You are much better off having a backup, just in case.

The Candle Lantern is great for up-close light in a tent.
While a candle doesn't have as much of a light output as your 900+ Lumen Pocket Powerhouse Flashlight, you'd be surprised how little light you need to function in up-close lighting situations. The 20 lumens provided by the Original Candle Lantern can be more than adequate for reading a book, or working in a tent. Having a candle in a tent also heats up your tent and limits condensation, both things that your LED light will not do.

Did I mention firestarting? As long as you have a lit candle, you do not have to worry about starting a fire, since you have a fire contained within the lantern whenever it is in use. This can be great in a survival situation, where a fire provides not only light, but needed warmth and the ability to cook food.

The Original Candle Lantern is meant to house the UCO 9-Hour Candles. These candles are 3.5" long and burn for 9 hours, hence the name. You can use these candles by themselves, but without some sort of housing to contain the candle, you have the risk of something catching fire.

The Candle Lantern houses a 3.5" candle,
for 9 hours of continuous light.
The Candle Lantern is constructed out of lightweight aluminum and only weighs 6.4 ounces with a candle. It also comes in a variety of colors, with either a painted or an anodized finish. It is compact when closed; at 4.24", it is only a bit larger than the candle. When opened up for use, it is 6.5" tall. Opening the Candle Lantern reveals a window through which you can see the candle flame. A spring pushes up on the bottom of the candle, making sure that it is always up near the top where the flame can be seen.

For use, the Candle Lantern has a flat base which can be placed on a table or any flat surface. There is also a carry handle with a hanging bail which allows you to easily hang the lantern, should you choose to use it in such a way.

While it is larger than your standard LED light, and may be a bit heavier, having a backup light source like a UCO Original Candle Lantern is definitely a good idea. Who knows, you may even enjoy using it more than your flashlight, if only for the cool-factor of having soothing candlelight in your tent at night.

Have any of you used the UCO Original Candle Lantern? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

FOURSEVENS Burst Mode Review

The Maelstrom MM-X has a maximum brightness
of 900 lumens with Burst Mode!
FOURSEVENS has always been an innovative flashlight company. In their latest quest for innovation, they have incoporated select models of their flashlights with a "Burst Mode", something that they hope to do with all of their lithium-celled, multi-mode flashlights.

Burst Mode is a really exciting new feature, replacing the standard Maximum Brightness setting. When turning the flashlight to Burst, the first 60 seconds of illumimation are 60-80% brighter (depending on model) than the standard maximum setting. Over the course the next 30 seconds, the flashlight ramps down to 50% of the initial brightness.

The brightness increase in Burst Mode pushes the LED to a very high level, and in order to keep it from overheating, it is only temporary (requiring the light to ramp down after 60 seconds). However, with this fairly drastic increase in brightness, similar runtimes are still achieved.

The popular Quark QB2L-X also has Burst Mode,
with a maximum brightness of 870 lumens.
Only flashlight models that use CR123 batteries or other high-voltage lithium ion batteries are able to have the Burst Mode feature.

The following flashlight models now come with Burst Mode (although more will in the future):
Maelstrom MM-X - Burst mode at 900 lumens
Quark QB2L-X - Burst mode at 870 lumens
Quark QP2L-X - Burst mode at 780 lumens
Quark QT2L-X - Burst mode at 780 lumens

If you're a FOURSEVENS fan, then you'll definitely want to check out these Burst Mode Flashlights. If you're been considering getting a high quality LED Flashlight, but have been holding out, getting a FOURSEVENS Flashlight with Burst Mode would be a great choice.

Have any of you had any experience with these new flashlights with Burst Mode? If so, let me know if the comments below.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Review - FOURSEVENS Maelstrom MMU-HD

The Maelstrom MMU-HD is one powerhouse of a flashlight.
Upon thinking about what I should write my next blog post about, I realized that I had never actually reviewed the FOURSEVENS Maelstrom MMU-HD (aka Maelstrom S18). This bright powerhouse of a flashlight isn't something that you'd be carrying every day. However, it would be a great light to keep around to show off to friends, or in case you ever had to light something up that was really far away.

The MMU-HD has a smooth reflector for throwing light far.
Using 6 CR123 batteries, the MMU-HD outputs a whopping 1200 lumens on high, 400 lumens on medium and 80 lumens on low. It has three brightness modes (Low, Medium, High) and two special modes (Strobe, SOS). The beam on the MMU-HD is narrow, which means that it's designed for throwing the light far. From my experience, the brightness of the MMU-HD is comparable to that of a car headlight.

The mode selection for the MMU-HD is very unique when it comes to FOURSEVENS flashlights. The modes are selected by rotating a tactile ring near the tailcap. The ring makes an audible "click" when you select a new mode. It's very easy to remember which mode is which, to allow for easy mode manipulation, even in the dark.

The case on the MMU-HD is very attractive;
fitting for such a nice flashlight.
Well, enough about the modes... how big and heavy is this thing? Yeah, I know, everything comes with a cost. The exchange for having such an insanely bright flashlight is that it weights about 28 oz with batteries. That's 1 3/4 lbs! It's also 9.2" long and 2.5" wide at the head (1.8" wide flashlight body). It's quite a hefty light. If you're a security guard or police officer, it may be a light that you would like to carry, because in a pinch, you can use it as an impact weapon, similar to those D Cell Maglites that you often see officers carry.

If you wanted to carry the MMU-HD, it does come with a carry pouch/holster. It also comes in a very stylish aluminum case, which is great for transport.

Needless to say, I'm pretty impressed by the Maelstrom MMU-HD. In my opinion, it's a homerun if you can afford the $215 price tag. It may be just the flashlight that you are looking for.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Guide to Basic LED Flashlight Repair

I've been troubleshooting modern LED flashlights for several years now, and in my experience, when your light is no longer working, it can usually be fixed very easily. In this blog post, I will guide you through some basic troubleshooting steps that may, hopefully, help your light shine again!

It is possible that these simple solutions may not fix your problem. If it it an issue with the circuit board of the flashlight, then it would be best to have your light repaired under warranty.

Starting Off - How Flashlights Work

To start, it is good to be mentally prepared to tackle your problem with the flashlight. Flashlights are simple circuits, and it's good to have a basic understanding of how they work.

In a basic, modern LED flashlight, the batteries provide the power. The electrical current flows from the batteries, through the tailcap switch (which can be turned off and on), through the outside of the flashlight body into the circuitry in the head of the light (part that emits light), and then goes back into the batteries.

Having an image of how a flashlight works can be very helpful in understanding what possible solutions may fix the problem with your light.

Problem: Your Flashlight Is Shining Dimly

Solution:
The first thing that you should do if your light is giving you
problems is to check your batteries.
- Check your batteries - When you're diagnosing a problem with anything, it's always a good idea to start with the simplest possible solution. If your light is shining dimly, the issue is probably weak batteries. Replace your batteries with a fresh set and you should be good to go!

Problem: Your Flashlight Is Flickering

Make sure that all dirt or grime is cleaned off of
your flashlight contacts.
Solution:
- Dirt or grime on contacts - A common solution to flashlight flickering can be dirt or grime on the internal contacts of the light. Unscrew the head and tailcap (if your flashlight has a tailcap) off of the light and clean the contacts where the body touches the head or tailcap. To do this, you can use a damp paper towel. Wipe off any dirt and grime, and then assemble the flashilght again.

If this does not help, then there may be an issue with the circuitry of your flashlight, which should fall under a warranty repair. Most reputable manufacturers will either repair or replace your flashlight at this point.

Problem: Your Flashlight Is Not Turning On

Solution:
- Check your batteries (see above)

- Dirt or grime on contacts (see above)

If your flashlight is giving you problems,
make sure that your flashlight is assembled correctly.
- Improperly assembled flashlight - Have you disassembled your flashlight and then found that it does not work upon reassembly? It is possible that you disassembled it improperly.

Disassemble your flashlight again. This time, upon reassembly, make sure that all o-rings are properly aligned and any pockets clips or accessories are correctly installed. The head and tailcap of the flashlight should fit snugly. If the head or tailcap are not tightening down all the way, make sure that any o-rings or other possible obstructions are not keeping you from tighetning them down.

- Leaked Battery - It is also possible that a battery might have leaked battery acid in your flashlight. If your flashlight takes alkaline batteries, this is definitely a possibility.

Disassemble your flashlight and remove your batteries. If there is any sign of corrosion, dispose of those batteries and no longer use them. Look into the body of the light and look for white or rust-colored discoloration. If you see some, use a wire brush and a slightly acidic solvent to try and scrape any corrosion away. A firearm cleaner such as Ballistol should work well.

It may also be necessary to take a file and remove any corroded metal at the base or head of the flashlight body (the area where the head and tailcap make contact with the body). There needs to be bare metal visible on both sides of the body for the flashlight to complete an electrical circuit to work properly.

After cleaning and removing the corrosion from the light, assemble the flashlight and test for functionality. If this does not help, you may try contacting the manufacturer. Although not guaranteed, your flashlight manufacturer may be willing to either replace or fix the flashlight under warranty.

Conclusion

I hope these simple solutions can help in your flashlight troubleshooting. Although not guaranteed to fix your light, I always start with these steps as I begin my flashlight troubleshooting.

If you liked these remedies, or if you have any other quick-fixes for flashlight problems, let me know in the comments below!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Review - FOURSEVENS Preon PenLight


The Preon PenLight is very stylish
and comes in 4 great colors.

It seems like forever since FOURSEVENS has offered a new flashlight. Actually, it's only been about a year since they released their last original design with the Preon P0. The P0 has been a great everyday carry flashlight, by the way. I carry one on my keys daily.

Going along with the theme of a compact, everyday carry flashlight, the newest flashlight, the Preon PenLight is a new spin on the Preon series of lights. Coming in at 5.4" long and 1.6 oz (with batteries), it is very close in size and weight to the Preon P2, but has some key features that distinguish it from the Preon P2, which up until now was the reference standard penlight.

The Preon PenLight primarily goes after the same look, form and even overall controls as a standard pen. I mean that, at first glance, this flashlight looks like a classy business-style pen. From the clicky tailcap, to the stainless pocket clip, to even the stylish milling on the body, it looks like a pen. That is, until you click the tailcap and realize that it's emitting a blazing 180 lumens out of its CREE XP-G2 LED.

The modes on the PenLight are also much simpler than on the Preon P2. FOURSEVENS chose only the most basic modes: Low (5 Lumens), Medium (50 Lumens) and High (180 Lumens). To top it off, the PenLight also has mode-memory. This means that if you have the flashlight on a mode for at least 2 seconds and turn the light off, the last mode you were in will be the mode that the flashlight turns on to. This is a feature that I particularly like and think makes this light a true winner.

I should also mention the brilliant colors that these lights come in. As with all of the Preon series of lights (excluding the P0), FOURSEVENS does not disappoint with the colors that they offer. The PenLight comes in the standard Stealth Black, but also comes in a  Midnight Blue, Burnt Orange and an attractive Brown that they call Exquisite Mocha. I wonder if they'll be offering new colors in the Preon P2 series as well? *hint* FOURSEVENS if you're reading this, we would like some new colors *hint*

As with all of FOURSEVENS flashlights, the PenLight comes with a 10 Year Warranty, which will make sure that the light will last you for years to come.

If you're in the market for a sleek everyday carry flashlight, then the FOURSEVENS Preon PenLight may be a great choice for you. Heck, if you're a flashlight collector, you'll want to pick up a few of these as well. I'm sure that that these lights are a sign of more great lights to come!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

FOURSEVENS GEN2 LEDs

FOURSEVENS has recently undergone some pretty big improvements to their flashlights.

The Mini M2A (formerly the Mini AA²)
is still as functional as ever,
but with the upgraded XP-G2 LED.
For those who don't remember, FOURSEVENS, used to be 4Sevens until they underwent a name change about a year ago. They are a manufacturer of high quality, but fairly inexpensive flashlights. Their claim to fame is an unmatched 10 year warranty on all of their lights, along with the vast majority of their flashlights being waterproof to about 10 meters. I can attest to their waterproof-ness, because I have swam with their lights on multiple occasions and have never experienced a failure of any kind with one.

Anyways, since the logo change, FOURSEVENS has changed the name designation of all of their flashlights, along with an upgrade to nearly every LED emitter that they use. Their staple LED emitter used to be the CREE XP-G R5, which was a very solid LED that provided a very bright light with a great runtime.

XP-G2

Their upgrade to the XP-G R5 is the XP-G2 aka the Gen2. The Gen2 offers the same great runtimes as the R5, but with a 20% brighter output. The same form factor is available for all of their lights, just with an upgrade to the part that matters most, the LED. Think of it processor upgrade to a computer, or an engine upgrade to a car.


For those wanting a bit more power,
the Maelstrom MM-X gives you
a screaming 576 lumens with the
XM-L Gen 2 LED.
XM-L Gen2

Going along with their upgrade to the XP-G R5 line of LEDs, FOURSEVENS has also upgraded their XM-L LEDs. The XM-L LEDs are like the R5 LEDs on steroids. They have a significantly brighter output, but now with their upgrade to the XM-L Gen2, it's even brighter than before. As with the XP-G2, the XM-L Gen2 is 20% brighter than the 1st Generation, while maintaining the same runtimes. In fact, according to FOURSEVENS, the XM-L Gen2 is the highest performing, commercially available, single-die LED on the market today! Now that's something to get excited about.

With that said, now that the Gen2s LEDs are out, it's very easy to find some great deals on overstocks of the Gen1 lights, which as still as useful as they ever were.

Look to this blog for further updates to the FOURSEVENS line of flashlights.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Review - FOURSEVENS Preon P0

After putting this light through its paces, I think that I'm finally ready to give you guys a honest review for the FOURSEVENS Preon P0.
 
The Preon P0 is a small but
functional little flashlight.
The Preon P0 came out last year (2012) and I've been carrying the flashlight daily. What makes the flashlight so handy is the fact that you can easily carry it on a keychain, which is exactly the way that I carry mine and the way that I recommend carrying the flashlight.

The P0, coming in at 2.2" long, is only slightly longer than a AAA battery, which is the battery that it uses. The weight without the battery is 0.4 oz and with the battery is 0.8 oz. You'll forget that you have it on your keys, which is what often happens to me, until it comes in handy.

On the rare occasion that I am not carrying my Quark Turbo QB2L, I've got my P0 as a backup.

The P0 is constructed out of stainless steel, which makes it very resistant to scratching. I've had mine on my keys for almost a year, and it still looks very good, with only a few small nicks in the body.

The operation on the P0 is also very simple. There are only two modes, low and high and they are accessed by tightening the head of the light. Loosening the head turns the flashlight off. Upon turning the flashlight on, the first mode is low. Then, turning the flashlight off and on turns it to high.

The LED Emitter on the PO has a very wide, diffuse beam pattern.
Low mode gives you a very useful .24 lumens, which is enough for up-close work. The great thing is that you get 120 hours of runtime on low mode. The high mode gives you a 25 lumen beam and 1.5 hours of runtime.

Another unique thing about the P0 is the diffuse beam pattern. The beam emmitted by the P0 has practically no hot-spot. This means that the entire beam, which is very wide, is nearly all usable light. This is the perfect beam pattern for a light such as the P0. The P0 is primarily a backup light, one that you would use for up-close tasks and you want a wide, functional beam for such jobs.

As if the P0 wasn't useful enough, there is a strong magnet at the back end of the light. Removing the flashlight from your keys allows you to stick the flashlight onto any steel surface, which is a great hands-free feature.

A strong magnet on the P0 allows it to stick to any steel surface.
Did I mention that the P0 is also waterproof? To test this, I put one in my pocket when I went to do laps in the local swimming pool. Needless to say, it fell out and took a few minutes of searching to find it at the bottom of the pool. I took the flashlight out of the water and it worked perfectly. The o-ring seal around the head of the light kept all moisture out of the flashlight. Not that you'll ever be diving with the light, but if you had to, it would still work.

The Preon P0 is leaps and bounds better than the tiny keychain LED lights that you normally find people carrying. Put one on your keys and I'm pretty sure you'll be as pleased with it as I am.