Wolf-Eyes Dragon-II

Dragon-II from Wolf-Eyes is a sturdy aluminum-bodied light that combines a bright 10 watt miniature metal-halide HID lamp with four low-power 5mm LEDs, offering a powerful and fairly long throwing high beam and a useful low power long running light for close range use. Powered by four CR123 type lithium batteries, it runs the main lamp for up to an hour and the LEDs for 30+. An innovative design combines the low power LEDs with the battery carrier to enable it to be used outside of the main light in emergencies either momentarilly for signalling or constantly for hands free use. The main beam is adjustable and the whole thing is splash-proof and finished in smooth black anodise.

Wolf-Eyes Dragon-II

Specifications.
Size- 230mm long (~9 in) x 77mm head diameter (~3 in) x 47mm body diameter (1.85 in).
No. of light sources- 5 (1 + 5).
Type of light sources- 10 watt metal-halide lamp and four 5mm LEDs.
Switch modes- Independent switches for main lamp and LEDs.
Body colours/finishes- Black type-2 anodize.
Batteries- 4x CR123 type 3 volt Lithium.
Switch type- Twist body for main beam/twist tail cap for LEDs.
Waterproof?- Splash-proof.
Approximate beam half-angle- HID- quoted 6 – 16 degrees adjustable.
Approximate beam half-angle- LED- ~22 degrees.
Peak Beam Intensity- Not yet measured.

Batteries.
You`ll have to find four CR123 type 3 volt lithium cells before your Dragon-II will work, as they are not supplied. Install them by first unscrewing the tail cap – be careful however as it is in two pieces. You need to grab the larger section, not the very end piece with the round window in. Unscrew and remove to gain access to the battery carrier inside. Cells go in with the negative ends contacting the springs and the positive ends contacting the flat pads. I found that the spaces for the cells were larger than necessary making for a somewhat sloppy fit, but once in, they stay put thanks to the spring tension. You will notice while installing the batteries that there are four LEDs and two switches (one momentary, one latching) as part of the battery carrier, I`ll explain how this works later on, it`s quite a clever idea.
Battery life is quoted by the manufacturer as being 60 minutes from the main lamp. The tail-cap LEDs have a rating of up to 30 hours, and apparently that is after the main lamp has run its hour-long duration. The main lamp duration sounds reasonable to me but I`m not sure of the LED claim. The LEDs will run *significantly* longer than the main lamp but I have no idea how much power would be left to run them after the main lamp has drained the batteries to the point where its ballast will no longer cope. Some more testing is in order to see just exactly how long it does run.

Bulbs

This is not any everyday light, look into the head and you won`t see the usual filament lamp. Rather it utilises a miniature 10-watt metal halide lamp, commonly referred to as a HID (High Intensity Discharge) lamp, the same sort of thing used in streetlighting and high-end car headlights. This miniaturised version was developed by specialist lamp manufacturer Welch Allyn several years ago and made its debut appearence in commercial torches courtesy of the Underwater Kinetics Light-Cannon. The lamp in the Dragon-II is essentially identical to that of the LC100 with some slight constructional differences between my units, probably due to manufacturing advances since the older lamp was produced. To the right is a close-up of the arc tube, the space between the two electrodes in the middle where all the light is generated is less than two millimeters in length, really tiny. This gives the potential for a tight, long throwing beam to be produced, although the Dragon-II`s reflector is partly faceted smoothing out the beam and slightly widening it in the process.
Metal-halide HID lamps cannot run directly from batteries, they need a device called a ballast to drive them. The ballast takes the relatively low voltage of the four CR123 batteries and boosts it initially to a very high voltage to strike the arc, then drops down to a lower, but still high voltage to keep it running. The lamp needs time to warm up when first switched on too, taking something like 20 seconds to reach full brightness. They also cannot be rapidly switched on and off, you have to wait several seconds for the lamp to cool before it will light again following being exinguished. Given the fact that this light is being sold as a “Tactical” flashlight, which are often required to respond instantly and repeatedly during special operations, the choice of a HID lamp with its inherant limitations may seem strange. Certainly does to me, but more on that later.

dragon2_6
Lamp life for the main bulb has been quoted at 300 hours which is a lot more than the few tens of hours that the normal halogen or Xenon tactical-flashlight lamps have. On the downside, the cost of a replacement lamp is several times that of some “normal” flashlight bulbs so it`s good that it does last so long. To replace it, first unscrew and remove the head. Next you need to find a small screwdriver and loosen the two screws on either side of the lamp-holder that keep the lamp held solidly in place. That done, pull out the old lamp and insert the new one, paying special attention to the polarity indicated on the lamp base and inside the head of the light. It will only work one way around, and I do not know if reverse connection would cause damage to anything, so take care. Once fitted, tighten the securing screws again and re-fit the head. Done. I would recommend that the batteries be removed before attempting to replace the lamp as the ballast inside can produce some very high voltages which might hurt like crazy if it was inadvertantly turned on during the replacement process.

Operation.
When I first unpacked my Dragon-II, I tried to operate it without reading the instruction sheet to see how easy or hard it was, as I often do with new lights. For the life of me I couldn`t figure out how it worked. It has two light sources, one at either end, and is operated by twist-action switches, but you need to pay attention to which bits you`re turning. In total there are four threaded sections, two of which form switches but not necessarilly the two you`re expecting.
To turn the LEDs in the tail cap on, you need to tighten down the very end section of the tail cap – the bit with the round window in. This presses down on the momentary switch built in to the battery carrier module and turns the LEDs on. To turn off again, loosen the LED cap section. I found this could not easilly be done with just one hand, though it is not impossible. With the battery carrier/LED module completely removed from the light, you can still use the LEDs, a clever idea which gives some built-in redundancy if the main part of the light fails or is damaged. Press on the taller black switch to light momentarily, for example to signal messages. Indeed, it is marked “morse” on the board. For continuous operation push in the shorter blue latching switch, press again to turn off. Don`t forget to turn this off before installing the module back into the light or else you won`t be able to turn the LEDs off without removing the tail cap again first.
To turn the main lamp on, grasp the front and back halves of the body section and, wait, the body is in two halves? This is the bit that confused me most – from new it appeared to me that the body was in one piece. It seems the grease lubricating the o-ring sealing the two halves had stuck it together making it feel solid. It turns smoothly now but you may find it needs to be “broken in” first

dragon2_7

Performance.
The 10-watt miniature metal-halide lamp used in this light has a claimed colour-temperature of 5000K, which is close to that of daylight. I have no way of measuring this for myself but for some reason the lamp in my Dragon-II takes on a more orangey look. It`s actually quite a strange colour, there are orange parts and blue parts that mix together in different parts of the beam to make patches that look almost white and other patches with distinct colour tints. At the narrowest focus, the beam has a sharp bright hotspot that is pretty bright, immediately surrounded by an orangey colour and around that, a blueish-white corona. The orange colour flares up and down as the light warms up and also fluctuates and flickers greatly as it is moved around while illuminated. It also appears quite unstable when stood on its tail shining at the celing. This I believe to be due to deposits of the halide salts in the arc-tube becoming re-vaporised and subsequently depositing on other, colder parts of the lamp. Accounts from others with experience using these lamps say it can vary from one lamp to the next, and I believe over time as the lamp ages, the salts are used up and the fluctuation reduces. You may find that these lamps need “breaking in” by running a few sets of batteries through them, so I will have to keep an eye on how it does as time goes on. I hope I didn`t get a bad one.
Wolf-Eyes claim a 500 lumen rating for the Dragon-II`s main lamp, which is close to the 450 lumen rating given by Underwater Kinetics for its Light Cannon using the same type 10 watt halide lamp. To my eyes the LC100 has never appeared to be 450 lumens and indeed this one seems at first glance to fall short also. Below are two comparisons made between the Dragon-II and a SureFire M4, another light utilising 4 CR123 cells. This test uses the low-power lamp option for the M4, putting out only 225 lumens as claimed by the manufacturer

Wolf-Eyes Dragon-II beam

With the Dragon`s beam opened out to a width approximating that of the M4, the two appear to me to put out similar amounts of light (even if distributed differently), with the Dragon maybe coming out on top but not by the amount the specifications would lead you to believe. The difference in colour of the light doesn`t help the comparison, but a doubling in intensity between one and the next would surely be more noticeable. Set to the narrow beam, the Dragon beats the M4 in point-intensity but of course now illuminates a smaller area. In order to measure total lumen output of light sources, some very expensive and specialised laboratory equipment is required, which I do not have access to, but my informal tests seem to show the Dragon-II falling well short of its 500 lumen claim, to my eyes at least.
That said, this light is no slouch when it comes to putting out light. After its initial warm-up period it is very bright and illuminates a fairly large space. Focussed properly it has a good throw too, probably reaching out over 300 feet. Problem is, you first have to wait for it to warm up, and in a “tactical” scenario, that is highly undesirable. In all honesty I do not believe this light would be suitable for applications where the operator is placed in high-pressure life and death situations, normally demanding a light that can be activated single-handed and without the operator having to think first “will it warm up in time?”. The lack of instant full-power light and the fact that you have to use two hands to switch it on are both big stumbling blocks. To the “non-tactical” user such as myself though, these limitations pose much less of a problem and many people I expect wouldn`t mind the wait while it brightens. It is certainly different, quite fun to watch it grow in intensity accompanied by the decreasing whine of the ballast as it warms up.
I must not forget to mention the LEDs, since they are the reason this light comes under the “combination” category after all. Compared to some 5mm LEDs currently avaliable, they are pretty dim. Indeed, there are some single-LED lights that wash out the Dragon-II`s LED beam. It is of course not intended to be a bright source of light. Rather, its intention is for low level use such as searching through a gear bag, as well as providing a very long run-time that could come in extremely handy in an emergency. The fact that they will work with the battery carrier removed from the light completely is extremely useful and even allows you to keep a spare battery carrier on hand for quick changeover that doubles as a low level navigation light. The beam produced is quite smooth if not perfectly round due to the inevitable slight misalignment of the individual LEDs, and the colour is a nice moonlight-white with no objectionable tints unlike the main beam.

Durability.
Going purely by feel alone, this seems like a tough light. It has been machined completely from aluminum with thick walls and sturdy threads, and while the anodising doesn`t appear to be “type 3” or “hard anodise” as used on the toughest lights out there, it still should protect from general scratches and wear. That said, it is rather big, and you know what they say about being big. Dropped accidentally, or subjected to more deliberate abuse, I reckon this one would sustain more damage than a smaller or simpler light with a similar performance. I have no way to easilly get to the electronic innards to see how well they are protected, but the added complexity inherantly brings a higher chance of failure. Don`t forget the fact that the fancy metal-halide lamp will cost you several times more than the usual Xenon/halogen “tactical flashlight” lamp (although not as expensive as I first thought), and will break just as easilly. Perhaps easier, the arc-tube inside is very small and looks rather delicate. One crack following a large physical shock and it goes out immediately, whereas a deformed tungsten filament has a chance of keeping on glowing.
That said, and despite its unsuitability as such, this has been designed as a “tactical” light, presumably with suitable protection for the more delicate components that will make it stand up to rough use in adverse conditions. Chances are, the ballast assembly is either encapsulated or protected with shock-absorbing material of some kind. The sturdy body will keep its contents relatively safe, the lenses covering the main lamp and LEDs are glass which will resist scratching, and o-rings seal out moisture from bad weather or accidental exposure to water, keeping it dry inside. The clever design of the combined battery carrier/LEDs also means that if the electronics or main lamp did fail or were otherwise damaged, you wouldn`t be left completely in the dark.
I bought this light myself and it wasn`t cheap so I`ll hold my hands up and say categorically that I won`t be torture-testing it to see if it does hold up to abuse. As always of course, accidents will happen. Some days it seems I can`t touch anything without everything around it falling to the floor. This one with its wide head may be less likely to topple over, but if it does, of course I`ll report back and say how it fared.

 

Princeton-Tec Scout

The Scout is possibly the smallest headlamp offered by Princeton-Tec at the present time. The diminutive pocket sized light powers its two bright white LEDs from four CR2032 lithium coin cells, and controls them with a proprietary electronic circuit. The single button offers easy access to six operating modes including dimming and blinking. It is adjustable to point straight in front of you or down at an angle depending on the task, the headstrap can be quickly released to allow the light to be clipped to a strap, belt, etc, and an integrated switch guard protects it against unwanted operation during transport.

Princeton-Tec Scout

Specifications.

Size- 52mm wide (2 inch) x ~34mm high (1-3/8 inch) x ~28mm thick (1-1/8 inch) including mounting clip/bracket.
No of LEDs- 2.
LED colours avaliable- White.
Body colours/finishes- Back half and headstrap black, front half various, including black, blue and OD green with camo headstrap.
Batteries- 4x CR2032 lithium coin cell.
Switch type- Electronic controlled pushbutton.
Waterproof?- Water-resistant.
Approximate beam half-angle- ~10 degrees.
Peak Beam Intensity- Not yet measured.
Model tested- Blue body.

Packaging.
The Scout comes in an unusually shaped plastic retail clamshell pack as pictured. The seams have not been glued, but the two halves fit together very tightly as if they had. You`ll probably need something like a knife to pry them apart enough to get your fingers in and free the little lamp. The headstrap is already fitted, as are the batteries, so it`s ready to use straight away. The card inside the pack gives details of the warranty and battery changing instructions.
ptscout
Batteries.
A total of four CR2032 3 volt lithium cells power the Scout. These are the same sort of coin-cells as usually found in keychain squeeze-lights, but are bigger with more capacity, meaning the light should last a lot longer before they need replacing. They appear to be arranged so one pair powers one LED and the other pair powers the second LED independently, yet both LEDs are controlled together by the electronic switching. In an emergency if batteries were in short supply, it would be possible to fit just two cells into the light to power one LED, still giving useful illumination. It also safeguards against a faulty cell causing the light to give out completely ahead of time.

ptscoutbeam

When they do finally give out, you will need to find a small Philips-head screwdriver before you can get inside. Open out the head away from the mounting plate and you`ll find one screw in the back. It is quite easy to unscrew and not one of those tiny fiddly ones either. Once out, the battery-change instructions say the two halves will need to be gently pryed apart to release them. But don`t worry about having to find a second screwdriver to perform this, as there is a tool built in. One side of one of the buckles on the head-strap is narrowed down and fits the slot on the bottom edge of the case – nice touch! I actually find the halves can be seperated just by pulling them once the screw is out, and think that a more useful design would be to have the light held together by firm clips. It is nice that a prying tool is built in, but you still need to find a screwdriver first so it almost defeats the object. If the light were clipped together, all you would need is that handy built-in tool to gain entry to your light. As it is, you need a screwdriver, but once the case is open it`s easy to pop the four cells out from under their retaining straps and slide the new ones in. They all go with their positive/flat sides facing upwards as indicated by embossing on the metal straps. Make sure they are in straight, and then you can drop the top section back on (make sure it is the right way up or it won`t fit) and re-fit the screw. Done!
Battery life is given as 24 hours on full power, 36 hours on medium power and 48 hours on low power. I do not yet know if this is accurate or not. Generally I find that run-times for coin cell lights are given to the point where the light is barely usable, and experience dictates the time from peak to half-power of a single-LED squeeze light using CR2016 cells is half an hour at best. The bigger 2032s have a lot more capacity – they will not drop so fast, and each pair in the Scout is only powering one LED, so in theory the run-time to half power could be a couple of hours. It isn`t going to be 24 though. On lower power settings the run-time will certainly be longer, and it could be possible that after nearly 2 days on low power, *some* light will still be emitted, but don`t expect it to be a whole lot. A battery life test will be conducted sometime in the future to see just how long it does run.

scout_bezel

Bulbs
Two white 5mm LEDs provide the light. As with many other LED lights, they are permanently soldered in place and are not designed to be replaced. Not to worry though, as the life of a typical 5mm LED is in the order of 100000 hours at full power. This would be some 11 years of constant use, which you`re never going to get near with a battery powered light. Therefore it`s safe to say that the Scout`s LEDs should last a lifetime – and indeed it does carry a manufacturere`s lifetime warranty against defects. The colour of the light in this particular unit is quite blueish at the center of the beam, turning more pink/purple tinted towards the edge. The blueish center is an unfortunate but normal characteristic of the type of LEDs used, and is not a fault of the manufacturer`s. While the blueish light looks strange in the day, at night I find I get used to it and don`t notice the tint nearly so much.

Performance.
Though small, the little headlamp is still pretty bright. The two LEDs are of a good quality (possibly Nichia types) and despite being very blueish, are also bright – they appear quite overdriven when on full-power with fresh batteries. I have never been camping, but imagine the light emitted by the Scout would be more than adequate for most tasks encountered. It`s very useful here indoors, whether just using the computer late at night (as a nerd I find I do a lot of typing in the dark), rooting through a cupboard for something, or carrying out repairs to a blown fuse or burnt-out light bulb. The beam is soft-edged and quite wide, but on the high setting it`s plenty bright enough to navigate a path. My only complaint about the beam would be the fact that at a distance it appears to have two distinct blue-tinted hotspots. This is probably just due to the fact that the LEDs in this particular unit are not perfectly aligned. It is also not hard to correct if yours suffers a similar problem – with the front open (as if changing the batteries) the LEDs are exposed and can be gently straightened out. Take care not to exert too much pressure up or down though, which could damage the connection between LED and circuit board.
The light is not regulated, it starts out bright but dims quite a bit over the first 10-15 minutes – a common characteristic of coin-cell powered lights. This one doesn`t sag nearly as much, or as fast as the common keychain squeeze-lights though, because of the much bigger batteries. To me the initial dimming isn`t too noticeable, other than the fact that the blue/pink tint that is evident when first turned on, becomes a lot less. This could be my eyes adjusting to the colour, but it could also be due to the LEDs becoming less overdriven as the batteries lose that initial peak charge.
The reduced-power modes are achieved using PWM – that is, the electronic circuitry rapidly switches the LEDs on and off giving the overall effect of dimming. It is a simple and common way to dim lights, and since the switching is done so quickly, to the human eye it still appears as constant light. In these dimmer settings, the power drain on the batteries is a lot less. The result is longer run-times and less fading during the initial minutes. Even in low power mode it emits enough light to read, or find your way around familiar surroundings with. If the manufacturer`s battery life claims are to be believed, in low power it should give enough run-time for around a week of fairly heavy use every night. Another bonus for ultra-light backpackers who won`t need to carry spare batteries!

battery

Durability.
The Scout is small and also very tough. Princeton-Tec say it has been “engineered to last a lifetime” and I would be inclined to agree. The construction is all plastic and feels very sturdy and solid – it doesn`t mind being dropped and probably can withstand being squashed up in a pack with loads of other gear and bashed around for days on end (hiking, climbing, etc). I mentioned before about preferring the halves to be clipped together for ease of access to the batteries, but having got this far I think the screw it has to secure it is a good idea. Clips have a nasty habit of becoming seperated when subjected to big drops, and usually spill the insides all over the place at the same time. This doesn`t happen with the Scout, it remains secure. The two LEDs are tough, and made more so by being recessed and protected behind a clear cover, as you can see in the photo at the top of the page. Additionally, the lithium batteries are extremely resistant to cold weather as well as hot – it will survive being used anywhere you will!
Its hinged mount to the headstrap/clip plate is firm and stays at the angle it`s set to without wanting to droop forwards. It can be adjusted to make it looser or tighter too as desired, by simply loosening or tightening the screw holding it together. As mentioned before, the elasticated headstap is also easilly adjusted to suit just about anyone. Even if set quite loose for comfort, it doesn`t want to drop down in your face because it is so small and lightweight. The inbuilt clip holds quite firmly to straps and belts too, when used without the headstrap. My only slight concern about the mount is with those split slots that hold the headstrap in place, yet allow it to be quickly removed. Because they are not solid bars, but rather four seperate plastic tabs, there is a chance that one or more could break off if subjected to enough force. However they seem pretty tough to me, and so long as you don`t just yank hard at it to remove the strap, it should be fine.
The light is supposed to be water resistant so should not be bothered by being out in the rain. It doesn`t appear to be depth-rated so don`t take it diving and be careful around deep water, but don`t be too afraid of dropping it in puddles. Should it leak and start acting a little crazy, just open it up, remove the batteries and leave it someplace warm until it dries out. I havn`t tested it for water resistance yet, I don`t want to risk damaging it before I get the opportunity to perform at least one run-time test, but I see no reason why it shouldn`t mind being rained on at least – there is an o-ring seal protecting the seam between the two body halves.

Nightsearcher PFB.

The Portable Fluorescent Beacon from UK rechargeable light specialists Nightsearcher is a large and powerful fluorescent area light intended for industrial and professional users. Entirely self contained, the tough hazard-yellow body contains a sealed lead acid battery and electronic inverter ballast, while the clear “turret” on top protects an extremely bright 26 watt Philips PL-C compact fluorescent tube. Emitting the sort of light levels usually only seen in mains powered work lighting, and running for many hours on a single charge, the PFB makes a perfect portable site light for buildings with no mains power or remote locations away from reliable electricity supplies and generators.

portable_fluorescent_beacon

Manufacturer`s Web site- nightsearcher.co.uk.
Buy yours from- the Manufacturer`s site.
Cost- GB£164.75.

Specifications.
Size- 360mm high (14-1/4 inch) excluding carry handle x 155mm square (6-1/8 inch) at the widest point.
Tube type- 26 watt Philips PL-C (as supplied. Other PL-C tubes will work).
Tube dimentions- 130mm high x 25mm square, excluding plastic base.
Approximate colour-temperature- Cool white, ~4000K.
Body colours/finishes- Bright yellow.
Batteries- Internal 12 volt 12Ah sealed lead acid cell.
Switch type- Toggle.
Waterproof?- Nope.
Approximate illumination angle- 360 degrees.
Peak Beam Intensity- not yet measured.

Notes- In the overhead “light dispersion” photo below, the green colour of the top of the light in the center was a filter applied to stop the bright light shining upwards from causing excessive glare.

My Nightsearcher Portable Fluorescent Beacon arrived in a plain cardboard shipping box, packed in styrofoam peanuts. It is aimed at the profesisonal/industrial market and isn`t the sort of thing to be sold in retail stores, hence the lack of snazzy packaging. The battery was supplied fully charged, but it could do with a top-up before use, and to do so is easy. The seperate charger has two cords – one terminating in a 1/4 inch jack-plug and one terminating in a 3 pin UK mains plug. Insert the jack plug into the charging socket on the front of the PFB`s body (an internal interlock prevents the tube from being turned on while this plug is in) and connect the mains plug to a nearby 240 volt outlet. The two-colour LED on the front of the PFB will light red to indicate the unit is charging. A full charge takes about eight hours, topups will be significantly shorter, after which the LED will turn green to indicate it has finished. It uses a “gel cell” sealed lead acid battery, and these do not need to be discharged completely before recharging. Indeed they benefit from periodic top-up charges after every use, or after 3 months or so if left unused, up to a total of around 1000 charges. Ensure it is never left fully discharged for any length of time since this will cause irreversible damage and require replacement of the battery. Run-time from a single charge is quoted as being 8 hours, and although I have not tested this completely, it does seem a little too long. I measured the current drain on the battery at around 2.25 amps, so given that its capacity is 12Ah, a simple calculation reveals an approximate run time of just over 5 hours before it goes out completely and needs recharging. Perhaps used intermittantly it would be longer, but I don`t think it would add up to 8 hours. Still, 5 hours is a decent run-time, plenty for many jobs. And it can be topped up at any time to keep it ready so all in all it isn`t bad at all.

Nightsearcher PFB.

Operating the light is simple. It is controlled by a toggle switch on top of the body. Push towards the lamp to turn on, push the other way to turn off, as indicated by the adjacent label. A red power-on LED next to the switch acts as a check in case the unit does not function. The light output of the PFB is extremely impressive to say the least. Its 26 watt PL compact fluorescent tube puts out a similar amount of light to a 150 watt incandescent bulb and spreads it out over the full 360 degrees making it a great area floodlight. The colour of the light is a cool white of around 4000K – slightly pink/yellow compared to daylight but a lot whiter than ordinary tungsten work lights, which does seem to make it appear that little bit brighter still. Operated in cold weather it starts out rather dim but quickly brightens up and once warm, remains steady with no noticeable flickering. The clear “turret” around the lamp protects the tube from damage and helps keep it warm too, out of the cold air. The lid of this clear portion unscrews to gain access to the tube when replacement is required. Tube life figures are quoted as up to 10000 hours so it will be a while before you need to change it.
Ergonomically speaking, the unit is a big heavy yellow lump, and is far from compact. The SLA battery provides most of the unit`s weight and size, and if it used other types it could be made a bit smaller and lighter. SLA cells are cheap, reliable and robust though, making an ideal choice for a simple work light. The size shouldn`t be much of an issue anyways, and could even be a benefit – the heavy base makes it more stable and less likely to get knocked over. It also sports a dual purpose handle – first and foremost it provides an easy way to transport the light, but secondly it can be used to suspend it off the ground in an upright or inverted position thanks to the elongated slots on either side of the body in to which the handle is fixed. A groove in the black hand-grip allows it to be hung more securely from a hook without sliding side to side, which is a good thing as you wouldn`t want this thing to fall down on top of you! If it did fall down, personal injury aside, I do not think the light would survive. Its internal construction is very crude – the battery and ballast are just placed loosely in the body, and the little PCB that controls the charging indicator has no fixings of its own, relying on the input socket for mechanical support. There is a metal guide fixed to the top portion to help secure the battery and stop it rattling around too much, but it still sounds like things are a little loose inside when shaken. The body construction itsself doesn`t look overly durable either. A photo of the PFB on Nightsearcher`s site shows it to have a power-tool-transformer-style one piece moulded fiberglass body, but my unit is a newer version with a custom made body. It has been fabricated from heat-folded sheet plastic with the side pieces glued to the main section. It is the glued seams which concern me – I do not know how tough these will be, but anything with seams and joins will inherantly be weaker than one-piece designs. Considering how much it costs, I`m not going to deliberately do anything to it that might cause damage, but accidents do and will happen in everyday life so if it does get dropped or knocked to the floor in the future I`ll be sure to report back as to how it fared.

fluorescent

Overall the Nightsearcher Portable Fluorescent Beacon is a great mobile floodlight for use anywhere a bright area light is required, and a mains supply or generator is not avaliable. It emits a powerful cool-white light that is just as bright as mains powered work lamps, and runs for a decent length of time on each charge. Though large and heavy, it is quite easy to transport and can be suspended to keep it up out of the way if necessary thanks to its versatile handle. Only the construction lets it down. It is not waterproof, it would probably drown if used outside in heavy rain for any length of time, and the body might not survive being dropped or knocked over accidentally. I also had a problem with the charger but chalked that one up to a mistake during manufacture, nothing that wasn`t hard to repair. Handled with care and kept away from significant moisture, the PFB should provide years of trouble free service.

Orb “Raw”

Raw is the latest production from Rob Cheetham, creator of many high quality, innovative and unique lights based in the UK. The tiny nano-light may look innocent enough but switch it on and be prepared to be thoroughly baffled. Specifically, just how on earth can something so tiny put out so much light? The design goal seems to have been simply “the brightest and smallest that is possible”. Pushing the limits of current technology, it is brighter than many “full size” torches thanks to the use of a Luxeon-III LED, yet smaller than some novelty keychain lights thanks to the use of a rechargeable LiIon CR2 battery. Perfect to keep with you for emergencies, or just to wow your friends.

orbraw

Manufacturer`s Web site- theorb.co.uk
Buy yours from- the manufacturer`s site.
Cost- GB£35 plus £3 postage (international £6) including one battery and plug-in charger. Extra battery £3 each. Blue or green tritium insert £6 extra.

Specifications.
Size- 47mm long (1.85 inch) x 20mm diameter (0.8 inch).
No of LEDs- 1x Luxeon-III.
LED colours avaliable- White, standard. Others avaiable to order.
Body colours/finishes- Raw machined aluminum. Also limited runs in sterling silver and titanium.
Batteries- 1x “RCR2” rechargeable lithium-ion. Regular CR2 lithium cell will work too.
Switch type- Twist head.
Waterproof?- No.
Approximate beam half-angle- ~10 degrees.
Peak Beam Intensity- not yet measured.Packaging.
The Raw arrives in the post contained within Orb`s trademark space-age silver shipping tube. Within, you will find the light with pre-installed RCR2 battery, plug-in “nano charger”, a small packet containing two powerful donut shaped magnets (see later)…….and a torrent of tiny balls! So many balls. Originally intended quite innocently as protective cushioning, they appear as ordinary polystyrene packing filler but are in fact a genetically engineered life form created during the 1980s by government scientists working in a secret underground facility somewhere in the south-west of England. Intended to infiltrate and destroy enemy military installations, they rapidly multiply, spread out and consume everything in their path once released from whatever they happen to be contained in. Although there were a great many produced, they were never actually deployed and their creators thought they had safely neutralised them once the Cold War ended. Following Government cutbacks that led to the closure of that secret research bunker, they were recently sold to local packaging supply companies given the resemblance to polystyrene filler. Which is probably how the folks at Orb innocently got hold of them. Unfortunately, the intense concentrated energy within the Raw seems to partially re-awaken them during transport, turning them into something quite uncontrollable. Take *extreme* care not to let them out, else once free of the protective containment tube, they will spread everywhere around you uncontrollably, almost impossible to catch and re-contain. The miniscule polystyrene orbs will try and take over the world, or at least your home, so beware! Don`t ask me how I know….
Anyways, assuming you do manage to free the contents without being consumed by those evil spheres, you will find the light itsself snugly contained within a clever two-piece tube which can be used to protect and transport the light when not in use. This is a little version of the one used by the original Orb and has mouldings on each half forming a thread – rotate the halves anticlockwise from each other to gain access. It sits very snugly and mine didn`t want to come out without some encouragement. Perhaps the balls scared it?

orbrawbeam

Batteries.
Recently there has been a lot of development in rechargeable lithium ion battery technology, resulting in a selection of tiny and powerful cells that are just perfect for powering torches. I will admit I do not know too much about these so please bear with me if I get things wrong. Raw owes its diminutive size to the use of a RCR2 or “15266” cell, just over an inch long and a little more than a half inch in diameter, but rated at 3 volts, 300mAh. This is an “unprotected” cell – lithium ion cells need to be treated carefully and can be damaged, or even under some conditions overheat and explode if abused. Some LiIon batteries contain integral electronic protection circuits to look after the cell and ensure nothing untoward happens during charging and discharging, but the RCR2 for the Raw lacks this internal protection. By itsself this is not dangerous, but it does mean you have to treat the little blue cell with some care. Don`t try charging it with anything other than a charger specifically designed for this type of cell, and I wouldn`t recommend using it in anything other than the light it came with, not unless you know a whole lot more about these batteries than I do and can tell what`s safe and what isn`t. Also, take care not to over-discharge it. I would reccommend that when the light begins to dim noticeably, turn off and recharge the cell when you can. Deeply discharging LiIon cells is not good for them, and if left to run right down you might find that it will not charge again at all.

Charging comes courtesy of a positively minute “nano-charger” although alongside the microscopic Raw, it looks quite big. It appears to have been made for the US market and as such has US style flat plug prongs (which fold out from the rear to allow pocket carrying), but thanks to universal voltage switched-mode circuitry inside, it can be used almost worldwide on supplies from 100 – 240 volts at 50 or 60Hz with only an appropriate travel adapter selected to fit. In the UK, a standard electric shaver adapter plug usually works. The miniature charger has a regulated output and keeps the charge rate down to a safe level, but even so, it is still pretty fast. I don`t have the exact figures on hand but reckon it takes only an hour or so at most. Status is indicated by a two colour LED – lights green when powered on with no battery, red to indicate fast charging and goes back to green to tell you charging is complete. There is, however, one small problem. Small though it is, it isn`t small enough as it`s actually made for rechargeable CR123 sized cells. The little blue battery doesn`t come close to making contact with the terminals in the holder. Remember I mentioned some strong little donut shaped magnets being supplied in the package? Here`s what they`re used for – just stick one on each end of the battery and it`ll fit fairly securely between the contacts where it`ll charge nicely. They are *very* strong, so much so that they don`t like to let go easilly so there`s no worry of one falling off during handling. Be careful of course not to let them get near magnetic storage media, spring-wound watches or CRT screens else damage could occur. If you don`t like the idea of tiny magnets then I`m sure there are other things you can use to pack out the space, but they seem like a good idea to me.
Battery life….ahem….well….you have to bear in mind just how incredibly tiny the Raw is, and how disproportionately bright it is….12 minutes! Yes, that`s all. It wasn`t ever meant to be king of run-time, just tiny and powerful. So it`s 12 minutes of screaming bright white that you don`t see coming out of something so small anywhere else, and because it`s rechargeable over and over again, what`s not to like? Well, it`s not regulated and indeed drives the LED directly with not so much as a resistor, but the discharge curve of a LiIon cell is pretty flat so it won`t dim out noticeably till the very end. Need extra run-time, just carry a couple of extra batteries. I`ll probably not conduct a graphed run test as you may have gathered by now from previous reviews (despite endless promises!), but will conduct a few timed tests and report back when I can as to just how long it does run.

Bulbs
The Raw manages to produce so much light by utilising a Luxeon-III emitter that is directly driven. Meaning no electronics to take up space, no resistors to dial down the current, just battery and LED coupled together. It relies on the internal resistance and relatively flat discharge curve of the cell to prevent the LED from frying and keep it bright for most of the short run-time. A limited first run of Raws had U-bin LEDs which are currently quite hard to get hold of and are brighter than the T-bins used in subsequent lights, while taking the same power. Not to say the “normal” ones aren`t more than bright enough as they are. Mine is nice and white too with just a slight pink tint that is only evident when used in the daytime, nothing to worry about. Well, who uses their torch in the daytime anyway….?! Focussing the light is a mildly textured reflector that does a marvelous job of delivering a smooth and very useful beam, not too tight, not too wide but still with plenty of useful spill and decent throw too. A tough high quality mineral glass lens keeps dirt and dust out, but note that there is no o-ring (presumably omitted to further reduce the size) so it won`t keep moisture out.

As you might expect from Orb, the LED, reflector and lens are easilly removable to replace and/or modify as you see fit, it all comes apart very easilly as you can see. Other LED colours and bare boards can be obtained and when the next generation of uber-bright Lux-IIIs become avaliable, it is not difficult to upgrade and help keep your Raw the brightest little thing there is. You do have to watch that the innards of the head do not fall out when getting to the battery, but so long as you`re careful, it isn`t going to happen very often.

orbrawparts

Operation.
Not having much room in there for anything fancy in the way of switches, the old tried and tested twist-head operation has been employed. Simple but effective – tighten to turn on, loosen to turn off. A spring in the bottom of the battery space keeps pressure on the cell to stop it rattling, with a useful by-product. There is just enough play in the threads so if you tighten it until it is *almost* switched on, pressing the tail and head in together will cause it to light momentarily until released, useful for signalling for example. Given the diminutive proportions and smooth raw aluminum finish, it can be quite slippery. Polished to make it shine, even more so. But nevertheless I don`t find it hard to operate, aided by the lack of any o-ring between the halves that would otherwise increase turning friction.

Ergonomics.
Did I mention that the Raw is small? Very small. *Extremely* small. Just completely tiny. Well, OK, not as tiny as some of those popular coin cell keychain lights, but those aren`t as impossibly bright as the Raw either. For most people I expect it would dissapear in pockets and get lost in the bottom of bags, ready for action whenever you need a bright light that your 5mm LED keychain can`t deliver. Raw is not a keychain light though, not having any obvious attachment points. That groove cut around the rear of the battery compartment half is there for a reason however – it allows a Lanyard to be tied if you`re worried the diminutive torch may get lost.
As the name may suggest, Raw is finished in….raw aluminum. Just a smooth machined finish with a very mild ridged texture giving a bit of grip. While smooth, I find it is not hard to operate – there is no o-ring sealing the two halves so it turns rather easilly. Being untreated it will inevitably pick up scratches and lose its shiny finish, but being untreated also means it can be polished up to bring it back better than new. If you`re adventurous (and have the right contacts) you could also get it anodised or plated if necessary. The choice is yours.

Performance

In a word, incredible. In more words: Raw fulfills its apparent design goal of “as small and bright as possible” almost perfectly. When you turn this tiny little thing on for the first time, it`s hard to comprehend just how it can be so bright. The disproportionately powerful beam makes the output of a very popular brand of 3-D-cell aluminum torch (which is an order of magnitude bigger) look truely pathetic, and mine`s even brighter than the original Orb with 3-watt LED module too. Its mildly textured reflector also does a marvellous job of concentrating and smoothing that huge amount of light into a beam I have trouble finding fault with, just the right balance of hotspot and side-spill. Of course with so much power packed in such a small size, it`s bound to get warm. Very warm – the LuxIII LED gives out a fair amount of heat that is conducted through to the body, and subsequently your hand. Set it down burning away on its own and it can be very hot indeed when you go to pick it up again so be careful. It shouldn`t be hot enough to damage the LED or burn your hand but it could take you by surprise if you`re not expecting it.
There has to be a catch to this impressive performance, and of course it is the run-time – it is just not possible to have a long run-time and bright beam in something so small, well not until miniature plutonium fuel cells become more readilly avaliable. That might not be for a little while yet, but at least the RCR2 cell is rechargeable over and over again, and small enough that you could keep one or two on hand for extended periods of use if you so desire.
Talking of things radioactive, Raw has the option of being supplied with a Tritium glow tube installed into a groove in the side of the body. You get a choice of green or blue and while neither are teriffically bright, it`s enough of a glow to help locate your little light in the dark. Plus, it looks great and unlike the main beam, will burn continuously for well over a decade. Note that the photo to the right is a long exposure enhancing the glow (with green Traser Glowrings providing the accent light), it does not appear this bright in reality.

Durability.
Machined from solid aluminum, Raw`s battery holder body should survive most accidents and a whole lot of abuse. There is no reason why its head section wouldn`t also live to tell the tale following being dropped or thrown in anger at something fairly solid. However given its tiny size (did I mention that already?!) there isn`t a whole lot of cushioning and protection for its insides. No o-ring is present in front of the mineral glass lens cushioning impacts so a blow to the edge of the head could cause that lens to crack. The LED should survive much better however, being set within an aluminum donut that serves as spacer and heatsink, and behind a machined aluminum reflector that`s pretty solid too. Given the fact that it`s an LED, which are inherently tough, I reckon it`ll go on shining even if the lens did crack. And if that happened, it`s very easy to replace by just dropping in a new one – you can purchase replacements from Orb. The same is true of all Raw`s parts – nothing would be difficult to replace in the event of damage occuring.
As mentioned, Raw has a bare (raw?) finish with no anodise or plating protecting the surface. In all honesty, apart from cosmetic purposes, it isn`t really necessary either. The natural layer of oxide that all bare aluminum products have (formed almost instantly on exposure to the air during manufacture) is enough to keep it safe from corrosion unless reguarly exposed to salt water or some cleaning products. If during normal usage it begins to get worn and scratched looking, never fear for it isn`t hard to polish back to looking good as new. Either the old fashioned way with some Brasso and elbow-grease, or use a Dremel with the appropriate tool fitted for quicker results.
The only thing that lets Raw down is the lack of water resistance. Normally that wouldn`t be much of a problem, but Raw lends itsself so easilly to regular everyday carry where it could get exposed to the wet, whether caught in a downpour or you find yourself swimming in a nearby pond while drunk. Its innards, particuarly the LiIon battery, would not thank you for getting them wet, yet the quest for miniaturisation has led to o-rings being omitted. I don`t think it would make it *too* much bigger if they were included, but it would have to grow slightly nonetheless. All is not completely lost though, for you can put to good use the clever little screw-together plastic pod it comes packaged in if you`re worried about getting your light wet. That translucent tube isn`t really waterproof either, but it does offer an extra layer of protection against the wind and rain. Stay out of ponds and it`ll be just fine.

Princeton-Tec Surge

The Surge from Princeton-Tec is a compact and uncommonly bright light. Smaller than a 2-D-cell torch, but with the sort of output power usually associated with specialist lithium cell lights. Yet the Surge runs from commonly avaliable AA alkalines – all 8 for a full run time of several hours or just four to reduce weight at the expense of run-time. Originally intended as an underwater light for casual diving or as a back-up, the Surge is equally at home on dry land as an economical alternative to Lithium-cell-powered units

Princeton

Manufacturer`s Web site- princetontec.com.
Buy yours from- many places including Outdoor Supplies in the UK, and Texas Tactical Supply in the US.
Cost- Varies. GB£20 from Outdoor Supplies. US$20.99 from TTS

Specifications.
Size- 165mm long (6-1/2 inch) x 52mm head diameter (2-1/16 inch).
Bulb type- Xenon bi-pin.
Reflector type- Stochastic (orange-peel texture).
Focussable?- Yes
Body colours/finishes- Black, blue, red, dayglo-green and dayglo-yellow.
Batteries- 8x AA 1.5 volt.
Switch type- Side-to-side toggle.
Waterproof?- Yes, claimed to 500 feet/meters.
Approximate beam half-angle- 4 to 60 degrees.
Peak Beam Intensity- Not yet measured.

Notes- The test-unit is an earlier verison of the Surge. As far as I`m aware there have been some slight changes to its internal design since my unit was purchased, however the performance and exterior design have not altered significantly. If you have details of the differences between my unit and the latest generation, please let me know!

The Surge comes supplied in a tube in a similar way to some other small dive-lights. Gain access by removing the top. A wrist Lanyard and the batteries are supplied pre-installed so it`s ready to use right from the moment you tip it out of its package. Switch on by pushing the black switch lever to the right (when held with the switch at the top), and off by pushing to the left. It is easy to operate single handed and because it sticks out, it is easy to locate even when wearing gloves. Moulded nobbles lock the lever in place so make sure it`s pushed all the way over to keep it on or off. Inbetween the nobbles the switch moves quite freely and can still be used to toggle it on and off, useful for signalling with brief bursts of light for example. Battery life is quoted as being between 3 and 5 hours, and that seems about right based on my experience. Different types of batteries will give different results, with alkalines reccomended for the best performance.

Princeton-Tec Surge

Whatever you use, do not be tempted to use lithium AA cells in the Surge, their slightly higher voltage is too much for the bulb to handle. When the batteries need replacing, do so by first removing the head. Next you will need to squeeze the two black tabs inwards towards the bulb, while at the same time pulling up/out. This is tricky as the tabs are very smooth offering minimal grip – I find it to be a lot easier holding the light head-down and using the weight of the batteries to help push the insides out.

The batteries are relatively easy to get out from this carrier thanks to cutouts in the side. Insert the new ones as guided by the + and – symbols. Unlike many other battery holders, the spring contacts are all in the middle so it is not possible to determine which way round the cells go by feel alone. The Surge can be powered from just four cells as they are arranged in two paralell sets, not all 8 in series. Inserting the four cells on just one side of the carrier will still allow the light to work, saving weight. This comes at the expense of run-time, it will be less than half the duration with all eight batteries. I also find the light output is a little dimmer and yellower. Still, useful to know if replacement batteries are hard to find or you need to save as much weight as possible. However many you chose to install, when they`re in place, the battery carrier can be re-inserted into the body making sure it`s the right way round. Align the little microswitch on the back of the bulb-end with the black toggle lever on the body and slide the carrier all the way in. Push down until the two tabs click back in to their slots, taking care not to touch the Xenon bulb in the process. The head can then be re-fitted and you`re good to go. As far as battery changing goes, this isn`t the easiest there is, but thankfully due to the good run-time it shouldn`t normally need to be accomplished all that often.

Tec Surge

For such a compact light, the Surge`s light output is extremely impressive. Its bi-pin Xenon bulb puts out a very bright, white light that is nicely focussed by the textured reflector. At its narrowest setting (which isn`t too narrow) the spot it produces is quite smooth, though it does get more wobbly and irregular when opened out to wider settings as can be seen in the beamshots above. It has been designed first and foremost as an underwater scuba light for casual dives or as a backup to your main lamp. Having no diving experience I could not say how effective the Surge would be underwater, but expect it would be more than adequate to light dark rock crevices and ship-wrecks. On dry land it performs admirably- it can illuminate a fairly large area and at its tightest focus it will throw pretty far, a couple of hundred feet or more. The colour of the light with all 8 batteries fitted is a bright white and stays that way for much of its run-time, though as mentioned previously it does look a little yellower running from four cells. One point of concern comes from the mounting method of the bulb. It is a simple bi-pin type that plugs in to two pin-sockets mounted on a board inside. Recently there have been reports that the heat generated from the bulb during use was enough to melt the solder holding those sockets in place, causing the bub to fall out when bumped or even just hung head-down. I have not experienced this myself and apparently the problem has now been resolved – it was due to the wrong type of solder being used by mistake so all new units sold should be just fine.

In conclusion, the Princeton-Tec Surge is a tremendous all-round-use light. It is compact, bright and runs a very long time from commonly avaliable, low cost batteries. Though designed primarilly around scuba-diving use, it can still be used effectively indoors or out, as well as several hundred feet underwater of course. Its all-plastic construction is very tough and shatter resistant, surviving most everyday accidents. The only serious weak-point I can see is the bulb holder. It is common for bi-pin bulbs to become dislodged or misaligned, especially following a bump. But thanks to the textured reflector and adjustable head, the spot produced by the Surge is not adversely affected by accidents, and should just carry on shining. As a welcome alternative to expensive and specialised xenon-bulb, lithium-cell “tactical” lights, the Surge is highly reccomended.