Tools of the Trade: Humble Flashlight Exposé – Part 3

Jeff YirakBy Jeff Yirak, P.E., LEED AP BD+C, O+M

Wood Harbinger’s engineers have been blogging since 2013! This Throwback Thursday series features posts from back in the day that are just too good to stay at the back of the blog. Enjoy Part 3 of 4 from Jeff Yirak, originally published on December 18, 2013:

This post is all about the D-cell MAGlight-style flashlight.  Not only do they function well as flashlights, but they’re also handy batons and actually quite attractive.  The first flashlight to be examined is the 2 D-cell incandescent version that’s been a mainstay as long as the AA-version discussed previously.

 2 & 3 D-cell incandescent Mag-light style flashlight

Pros

Cons

Good battery life thanks to D-cell use Obviously bigger and heavier than the AA-style
Higher light output and greater beam focus-ability than the AA-style Incandescent version not as bright as the LED version

Impressions:

This is a go-to for a general duty flashlight.  The knurled body barrel is comfortable and resists slippage.  Whether at work, at home, or even camping, this is the flashlight to rely on.  I find the 2 cell units to be a little more comfortable and convenient.  We measured the light output of the 3 cell to see if the extra 1.5 volts (the batteries are in series after all) made a difference; you’ll have to wait until I post the results data to see.  Inside, real o-rings protect the electrical bits from moisture, although I can’t recall a time I’ve ever submerged one.  I did leave one in the wall of a project one time though; I was in the ceiling interstitial and dropped it, and of course it had to fall down the wall cavity rather than land on the hard lid.  Oh well.

 

Performance:

Unlike the AA-style, this style of light uses a pushbutton on and off switch that is also sealed against water intrusion.  The pushbutton allows the user to keep the adjustable reflector set for best beam dispersion.  This is handy when the user is turning the flashlight on and off, such as working in a moderately-lit room but examining something in an adjacent dark space, such as inside a box (or under a desk or dashboard).  While the light beam focus range is greater than the AA-cell (thanks to the size of the reflector), uniformity is actually pretty low.  It’s probably due to the Krypton light element itself, but the beams were consistently asymmetrical, and focusing the beam resulted in bright and dark spots and overall a low degree of useful spot lighting.

Who likes big dark spots in the middle of their beam?

Conclusion:

These flashlight are the right size for the job, but are bigger than I’d want to carry around unless I knew I was going to need it.  The AA-style LED makes a better go-anywhere unit,  but these are great when you use them.  This level of D-cell is the lowest of the three I’m examining; does one of the subsequent versions make a more compelling argument?

D-cell Xenon Mag-light style flashlight

Pros

Cons

Good battery life thanks to D-cell use Obviously bigger and heavier than the AA-style
Higher light output and greater beam focus-ability than the AA-style Incandescent version not as bright as the LED version

Impressions:

If the Krypton version is the lowest rung, Xenon is a step up.  Both are noble gasses, but Xenon must be more powerful (although less toxic to Superman).  You’ll note the Pros and Cons above didn’t change from the Krypton review; that’s because there isn’t an appreciable difference in the respects noted.  I bought the Xenon flashlight featured here this month for $20; Krypton units are $15.  Is it worth the extra money?

No.  Incidentally, Xenon is marketed as a lamp upgrade to the older Krypton elements.

Performance:

Performance should be on-par with the Krypton, and the packaging advertised a beam distance of 206 meters.  Do I believe this beam could be seen over two football fields away?  I think on a clear, dark night, a person 200 meters away could probably tell the flashlight was on, but it wouldn’t be doing anything useful aside from sending Morse code messages.  That’s not something I need a flashlight to do.  In normal use, I found this unit to be comparable to the Krypton unit in all performance aspects, so there would be no benefit for paying the premium, unless it was the only one available in the color you wanted (I like silver; purple is also available).

Conclusion:

If you’re after a cheap D-cell, I’d stick with the cheap one and spend your savings on batteries.  If you feel the need to spend a little more in search of value, then I suggest you step up to LED.

HO D-cell LED Mag-light style flashlight

 

Pros

Cons

Excellent light output Obviously bigger and heavier than the AA-style
Excellent beam uniformity Most expensive

Impressions and Performance:

Similar to the AA-style LED, take all the good things about the D cell form factor and add LED performance, and you have a winner.  Most notably, the beam uniformity was nearly perfect with this light.  Light output was the highest among those tested.  Color quality was also high, although I didn’t find color rendering to be a problem with any of the flashlights tested.  All this performance comes at a price, however.  At $30, it might add up quick if you try to outfit each of staff with one of these.  Since it uses D cells, it’s also on the larger, heavier end of the spectrum.  But if this is the type of flashlight you need, this is the flashlight you need.

Look into the light.

Conclusion:

So LED makes the flashlight a winner?  Well, when you’re starting with a MAGlight, adding LED does make the best even better.  That’s not to say there isn’t one last flashlight that deserves mention here.  Check back to see the last flashlight in our series, along with the hard data that led me to these conclusions.

 

Follow Jeff on Twitter @JYirak_WH

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