Review: UV light shootout, seven lights tested

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mfm
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Review: UV light shootout, seven lights tested

Review of some UV lights

Lights#1Lights#2

Overview

This is a test of seven different UV lights (two are tested both with and without UV protection glasses). 17 sides of banknotes are tested with all UV light configurations (which are ten each including normal non-UV light).

The Contestants

The lights are "coded" with an abbreviation above and in all the tests below. They are as follows:

  • 3in1 - This is a cheap 3xAAA light with 10 5mm white LEDs, 5 5mm UV LEDs and one red laser module.
  • Pen - This is a UV marker + LED that was a present from DX (Read: Wrong item received).
  • 380 TW - This is the Manfont Taiwan 380nm P60 drop-in in a Solarforce L2 host. Powered by an 18650 cell.
  • TK - This is the Tank007 TK-566 365nm 1W AA light.
  • AA-S1 - The UniqueFire AA-S1 with OSRAM GDP-emitter. Used to illuminate the subjects without UV-light.
  • T5 - This is a traditional blacklight with a BLB-T5/4W tube (BLB = Blacklight Blue, should be around 365nm). Powered by 4xAA.
  • Magn - This is a 8 LED + UV Magnifying glass, powered by 3xAAA.
  • X60 - This is a "60X Mini Microscope" powered by LR43-cells that has both UV and white LED light.

Some tests were performed with UV protection glasses (actually they are ski goggles with UV400 protection...). The 380nm P60 drop-in (380 TW) and the 3-in-1 3xAAA light is tested both without the UV glasses and with them (the glasses covering the camera), those are marked as "380 TW-G" and "3in1-G" (G for glasses).

Results

First is the 500 CZK:

CZK part1

CZK part2

Conclusion: Works good with most lights, at least when using glasses.

 

Next up is the CNY 100:

100yuan part 1

100yuan part 2

Conclusion: Good fluorescence with all tested UV sources. This is how to do it so that everyone with a $1 keychain light can use the UV test. All Chinese banknotes have this feature, down to the 1 CNY note.

 

Next up, the 20 EUR, both front and back sides:

20eur front 1

20eur front 2

Then the back:

20eur back 1

20eur back 2

Conclusion: Only the TK-566 365nm creates the right fluorescence. The T5 tube should also be 365nm but it's probably a combination of beeing too weak and emitting too much visible light that makes it fail. This is an example of how to not do it if it should be available to common people (even with the TK-566 you don't see squat in a normally lit room).

 

On to the 10 MYR,

10 myr front 1

10 myr front 2

Conclusion: Good fluorescence with most UV sources.

 

Next, the 5 USD note:

5 usd part 1

5 usd part 2

Conclusion: Good fluorescence with most UV sources (but not much to look at). Different US notes have different colors on the UV thread so you must know which note has which color to make a proper indentification (it's quite popular to bleach a 5 dollar note and print a 100 dollar note on the same paper).

 

Next, the 10 HKD polymer note:

10 HKD part 1

10 HKD part 2

Conclusion: Good fluorescence with all UV sources. This is a polymer (plastic) note.

 

Next, the 1000 SEK note:

1000 kr front part 1

1000 kr front part 2

And the back:

1000 kr back part 1

1000 kr back part 2

Conclusion: The ship on the front of the note lights up with most UV sources (except when the near-UV light gives too much glare), but the back of the note only shows in 365nm (or close to that).

 

Next, the paper version of the 10 SGD note:

10 SGD paper part 1

10 SGD paper part 2

Conclusion: (Quite) good fluorescence with all UV sources. This is a paper note.

 

And the newer 10 SGD polymer note:

10 SGD polymer part 1

10 SGD polymer part 2

Conclusion: Good fluorescence with all UV sources. This is a polymer (plastic) note.

 

On to the 50 SEK note:

50 sek part 1

50 sek part 2

Conclusion: Only the TK-566 makes the note chart glow red (the T5 tube actually does it too but it's very faint and not easily seen). The back of the note has a similar 365nm-visible "box" as the 1000 SEK note (all Swedish notes has one except the 20 SEK).

 

Next the 20 HKD note printed by HSBC:

20 HKD HSBC part 1

20 HKD HSBC part 2

Conclusion: Good fluorescence with all UV sources (notice the UV barcode).

 

On to the 20 HKD note as printed by Bank of China:

20 HKD BOC part 1

20 HKD BOC part 2

Conclusion: Good fluorescence with all UV sources (it has a UV barcode, but it's not the same as the other 20 HKD note).

 

And the third type of 20 HKD note, issued by Standard Chartered Bank:

20 HKD SCB part 1

20 HKD SCB part 2

Conclusion: Good fluorescence with all UV sources (it has a UV barcode, different from the other 20 HKD notes). The fish is looking cool...

 

Next, the 1000 JPY note:

1000 JPY part 1

1000 JPY part 2

Conclusion: Not that much fluorescence, but it can be seen with the TK-566 (and somewhat with the T5 tube). Contrary to the 20 EUR it can be checked in daylight with the TK-566, if you hold the light just by the red mark you can see it glow in yellow (just not that bright).

 

And last but not least, the 20 MOP note from Banco Nacional Ultramarino:

20 MOP part 1

20 MOP part 2

Conclusion: Very good fluorescence with all UV sources. Nice pattern and very bright, this is a winner in most fluorescence.

 

As requested, here is a comparison of the TK-566 versus the T5 light using glasses:

T5-G vs TK

Some concluding remarks

  • In the US and most of Asia any simple cheap UV light, like a $1 keychain light, is enough to check banknotes.
  • High-powered UV lights in 380nm and higher are hard to use because of all the glare from the near-UV light. Use yellow UV protection glasses or use a less intense light (giving less glare).
  • The BLB-T5 tube light is very cheap and is almost as usable as the TK-566 (but gives more visual light). Most fluorescent materials react in the same way to the 566 and the T5 with only a few exceptions.
  • The 365nm range is not ideal for everything (even though it is the best for all of the above banknotes). On some ID-cards, passports and visas some features only show up with 380nm or higher (thus not showing up with the TK-566 365nm or with the T5 tube).
  • Best fluorescence banknote winner: Banco Nacional Ultramarino 20 MOP note.
  • Best looking banknote winner: Standard Chartered Bank 20 HKD.
  • Best performance UV light: Tank007 TK-566 365nm 1W
  • Best price/performance UV light: BLB-T5/4W tube light.

Bonus pictures

Here are some more pictures of banknotes that I found interesting for some reason or just looks good.

First the UV features of the 5 USD versus the 20 USD,

5 USD vs 20 USD

The 100 CZK and the 200 CZK notes:

100 CZK 200 CZK

and the 100 SEK and 500 SEK,

100 SEK 500 SEK

 

Here are the backsides of all the current Chinese banknotes:

yuan1

yuan2

I think these are pretty cool, both the UV features and the normal printed images (the frontsides all have Mao Zedong on them exactly like the 100 yuan front in the original test. The UV features of the fronts are also the same as on the 100 yuan note). The UV feature of the 20 yuan note is a bit strange compared to the other notes, but I tried three different ones and they all look like this.

Here is another Chinese banknote, an older 1 yuan note that is still in circulation:

1 yuan older

The front is prettier than on the Mao note if you ask me... There is no UV effect on the back of the note (which depicts the Great Wall of China).

Edited by: sb56637 on 08/26/2014 - 17:02
Haggai
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Very impressive, mfm!

And a very nice banknotes collection. Smile

 

When you wore the UV glasses with the T5 - did it look nearer to the TK output? e.g. with the 50SEK or 20EUR

 

I'm starting to like my TK-566 365 again...

fishinfool
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Wow, good job mfm!    

 

If you had to choose just 1, which one would it be?


 

Don wrote:

"But as I said long ago, you are more likely to be killed by a dead fish dropped by a seagull in the Sahara Desert than by a lithium ion

Davx
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Great review... and great collection of UV drop-in/flashlight and of banknotes!

Seems that TK gives the best results.

"There are always new jobs, women, and apartments......there is only ONE BLF." - Chicago X (27/03/2012)

Match
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Oustanding Comparison, mfm!  I know that took a lot of work to do....thanks for your effort. This once again reminds me I don't own a single UV light.... I really need to fix thatWink

cessnapilot
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did you rob a bank or something?!?   thats a lot of green Smile 

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Haggai wrote:

Very impressive, mfm!

And a very nice banknotes collection. Smile

 

When you wore the UV glasses with the T5 - did it look nearer to the TK output? e.g. with the 50SEK or 20EUR

 

I'm starting to like my TK-566 365 again...

I'mk curious if your TK performs the same. Can you check yours if it is in line with the above pictures? It would piss me off if variation is substantial.

kragmutt wrote:

They're gonna send you a green redcat with a black LED.

Haggai
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You can check my results with a 20EUR bill here: http://budgetlightforum.com/node/2115

Looks very similar to mfm's.

photon1k
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Wow, I'm guessing that was a lot of work. It was quite interesting to see all of those bank notes and the different flourescent designs. Makes my national currency look boring.

mfm
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Thanks everyone! Smile

Haggai wrote:
When you wore the UV glasses with the T5 - did it look nearer to the TK output? e.g. with the 50SEK or 20EUR

Maybe a little with the 50 SEK but probably not with the 20 EUR (except for the red stars it's hard to see any fluorescence with the violet light from the near-UV spectrum). I can take some pictures later and post them if I see any detectable difference.

BTW, does your TK-566 have a plastic lens?

fishinfool wrote:

If you had to choose just 1, which one would it be?

The TK-566. Maybe the 365nm Ultrafire at KD can put out the same light for half the price, but we don't really know if it does and the smaller AA form factor of the TK is nice.

Haggai
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I don't know how to check if it is glass or plastic, but it looks glass.

I can't take the head apart for closer inspection, since it's glued to the body.

Is it glued with yours also?

Budgeteer
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Haggai wrote:

I don't know how to check if it is glass or plastic, but it looks glass.

Knock on it with something metallic, a knife perhaps. You cannot fail to assess the sound of glass vs plastic if properly knocked on it.

kragmutt wrote:

They're gonna send you a green redcat with a black LED.

Haggai
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It sounds glass, but the sound is dampened by its being fixed in the flashlight's head.

Maybe there's an o-ring there?

Anyway, it sounds midway between glass and plastic.

Budgeteer
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Then a needle test. Glass sould not let the needle stuck by pushing it on the lens. Try on the edge (to avoid having some visible damage) if you're not concerned knowing you have a 0,3mm hole in the plastic lens somewhere.

kragmutt wrote:

They're gonna send you a green redcat with a black LED.

mfm
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Haggai wrote:

Anyway, it sounds midway between glass and plastic.

First it looked like plastic because of some very small scratches, but maybe it is coated glass, I noticed that reflected light shimmers somewhat on the surface. It is specified as "Toughened ultra clear glass lens with AR coating" on the Tank007 site, but I don't trust these specifications very much. I wouldn't try with a needle...

I didn't try to open the head, but it took a lot of force to get the tailcap off the light when inserting the battery, so I would assume that the head is just tightened very hard. I don't see any glue from the inside either.

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Then it's probably glass with plastic AR coating.

kragmutt wrote:

They're gonna send you a green redcat with a black LED.

brted
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Thanks, mfm. That had to take a while to put all of that together, let alone the time it took for you to run around to all of those different countries. I didn't even realize the extent to which UV is being used in notes, but it was fun seeing all the different possibilities.

mfm
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Haggai wrote:

When you wore the UV glasses with the T5 - did it look nearer to the TK output? e.g. with the 50SEK or 20EUR

Comparison added to the first post.

I wonder if the T5 light is a bit underpowered, I run it with 4 x Eneloop AA but the voltage for the T5 tube should be 6V (the manual says to not use rechargables but that's usually crap). May have to find some alkalines just to try, don't have four of them at home.

Haggai
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Looks like the TK is better regardless of the voltage to the T5.

It's not only that the T5 is weaker, it also seems to not cause fluorescence at all in some of the places the TK does.

But maybe it really is just the input power.

mfm
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Haggai wrote:

Looks like the TK is better regardless of the voltage to the T5.

It's not only that the T5 is weaker, it also seems to not cause fluorescence at all in some of the places the TK does.

But maybe it really is just the input power.

I tried with four alkalines today and no noticable improvement, as expected.

But it seems to me that that the T5 causes fluorescence in all the same places as the TK? Just weaker and it's not that easy to see on the pictures (and the green part of the euro is very hard to see because of the violet light).

Even though this 4W version is a little hard to use because of the visible light, generally there is no doubt that fluorescent tubes are way superior to LEDs for generating 365nm (or lower) UV. Even if you buy a Nichia drop-in for 160 EUR it will be easily outdone by a fluorescent lamp costing much less (but the LED is easier to bring with you).

Haggai
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I really need to buy a fluorescent one some day.

Where did you buy yours? I remember a seller on eBay that had them but I can't find him.

There's also a comparatively cheap 254nm version: http://cgi.ebay.com/254nm-Ultraviolet-Pocket-Lamp-Shortwave-Bonus-M12_W0QQitemZ370510530344QQihZ024QQcategoryZ3226QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem#ht_3228wt_1139 

I wonder how safe it is... and how effective it is.

mfm
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Haggai wrote:

I really need to buy a fluorescent one some day.

Where did you buy yours? I remember a seller on eBay that had them but I can't find him.

There's also a comparatively cheap 254nm version: http://cgi.ebay.com/254nm-Ultraviolet-Pocket-Lamp-Shortwave-Bonus-M12_W0QQitemZ370510530344QQihZ024QQcategoryZ3226QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem#ht_3228wt_1139 

I wonder how safe it is... and how effective it is.

I bought this one, it's even cheaper now than when I bought it: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=280590817370&ssPageNa...

But you don't need it if you have the TK...

Shortwave UV is much more dangerous so I wouldn't bother with it. With high-powered shortwave UV you must have both eye and hand protection, maybe the 4W isn't that powerful but anyway. I already had enough trouble from the lights I own, briefly I looked into the 3W drop-in without thinking when I had the protection glasses on (not a great idea).

Here is how bright a banknote fluorescences under a high-powered tube light, I would guess it's a 16W or 20W tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNKkCmXBAg8&feature=related

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Looks like the TK is the only one worth bothering with. The UK mint warns that no LEDs are likely to give short enough wavelength light to check the security features

http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/banknotes/kyb_lo_res.pdf

 

The numbers from my light tests are always to be found here.

https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0ApkFM37n_QnRdDU5MDNzOURjYllmZHI...

mfm
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It seems that some of the pictures with the TK-566 were taken when the battery was low (AA powered has it's drawbacks), I have uploaded new pictures of the 500 CZK and 1000 JPY notes.

sb56637
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Thanks mfm! Wow, this is an incredible amount of effort. You really outdid yourself on this one. Nice collection, and incredible shots!

Frontpage'd and Sticky'd for sure.

Budget Light Forum ...where Frugal meets with Flashlight!

mfm
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Thanks!

I added some more shots: the 5 USD vs the 20 USD and some more Czech and Swedish banknotes.

fishinfool
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Thanks for all of your hard work mfm!  

 

Don wrote:

"But as I said long ago, you are more likely to be killed by a dead fish dropped by a seagull in the Sahara Desert than by a lithium ion

Piers
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They really are great photos, it's a little glimpse of something we normally don't get to see. Which is rather a shame as they really are very nice.

 

Random question...I know some insects can see UV, bees for instance. What would they see if they looked at these notes in day light?

It's not something I've thought about before so it's intrigued me, would they see nothing as we do or would they see non-glowing marks.

 

I assume the ink that the marks are made with is transparent to visible light, but perhaps not to UV..but really I've no clue Silly

mfm
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I added the backsides of all current Chinese banknotes, I think they are quite nice.

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I really like the performance of the TK-566 and am interested in buying one for my mom who is a bit of a geek when it comes to such things. She's familiar with the dangers of such things and would know better than to look directly into the light. Outdoors in the dark, what is the range of this light? Is it best for up-close only such as checking bank notes? Tomato worms are known to fluoresce under a blacklight and she wants something that could be used to sweep tomato plants after dark looking for them. Which UV lamp would be the best projector?


Keepin’ the “B” in BLF

Don wrote:
It sounds like the XM LEDs won’t really be suitable for flashlight use. Pity…

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I have the Tank007 PT30 3W 365nm version, which has 3 of the LEDs of the TK-566 and also a slightly larger reflector.  I also have an O-Like 405nm 400mW laser. Even taking off the focusing/collimating lenses on the O-Like (ie RAW diode output), the "UV" of this O-Like causes things to flurorescent more and has a longer throw.    The PT30 has a longer throw as compared to the T5, but when you are checking out urine stains on the latrine bowl, the PT30 does not really show this while the T5 shows it clearly (just that you have to bring it really close).  

The PT30 has a wee bit of visible dull white output in addition to the UV.  If your prescription glasses has UV filtering, no issue.  Mine is transition, and it even filters the really powerful non-focused raw output of the O-Like 405nm completely.

But for regular stuff like orange/yellow fluorescent stuff, some types of paper, toilet paper, the O-Like 405nm really causes everything to glow crazily.  Focus it correctly, it makes stuff 300m away glow as well, eg a white T-shirt. (that distance is farther than the NOHD, so no danger).

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