Review: Balder BD-4 (pics heavy!!)

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coolperl
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Review: Balder BD-4 (pics heavy!!)

Balder is a new name on flashlight market. The company was founded in 2009, yet the first flashlights have been announced only a couple of weeks ago. In this review, I'll test the biggest of their offerings, the BD-4 model.


Here are the most important manufacturer specifications:

-CREE XM-L U2 LED
-Power source: 2* 18650:
    Maximum output of 900 lumens for 1.5 hours
    Minimum output of 20 lumens for 180 hours
-Simple operation. High-Medium-Low.  No SOS and strobe modes**
-Anti-reverse protection and low voltage protection circuit.
-Material: Aircraft Aluminum Alloy T6061
-Weight: 410g (without battery),500g(with battery)
-Mil-Spec Type III Hard Anodized finish
-Water proof to IPX-8 standard
-Dimension:  Head diameter 60mm, Tail diameter 30mm, length 252mm
-Textured (OP) reflector
-Accessories: O-rings, user’s manual, lanyard

**-There are SOS and strobe modes, but hidden.

I received the flashlight directly from manufacturer for review purposes. The accesories and retail box haven't been included, so I cannot say anything about them.


Apperance, build quality, etc.

Balder BD-4 is a big flashlight, even in its size class. Measuring a 252mm in lenght, it's even longer than Thrunite Catapult. The body have a very agressive looking with lots of fins and crenelations. Instead of traditional knurling, battery tube has horizontal slits.



As you can see, the head is unproportionally big to the rest of the flashlight. This makes is a little top-heavy, so to keep the balance, one have to hold it near to lower head flutes.



The finish in terms of anodizing and workmanship is excellent. The surface quality is on par with Fenix flashlights, so is the machining. The threads are very smooth, although they came dry.



The reflector is light orange peel (LOP) and the LED is very nice centered. It's clean, no dust underneath glass lens. It's a pity, because on the manufacturer site it's stated, that this light uses SMO reflector. In my opinion smooth reflector would be better in terms of throw and overall output. This light is not designed as EDC or indoor light, so extra creamy-smooth beam is not so important, as a sheer power and throw.



The lettering is very sharp and clean. There are some warnings printed on the head and as far, as I know, the type of LED in retail version (mine didn't have it printed).



The silver ring with "Balder" printed on it, is made of aluminium. Personally, I would like the stainless steel (or brass) better. It's also removable, in case someone don't like it.



Balder BD-4 is able to tailstand. Due to very heavy head and lenght, it's not very stable, but on hard, flat surface it's standing with no issues. Until, you install the lanyard. There's only one hole in the tailcap, so the lanyard's knot will protrude, thus there will be no tailstanding feature.


As I said before, the threads are excellent. They are trapezoidal cut (something between square and conical cut). They're not anodized, so tailcap lockout is not possible. On every connection, there is an o-ring. Pretty standard. The light has IPX8 rating, so it can be submerged in water.


Balder BD-4 is very modder-friendly. It's not glued, so user has an access to every part, including the LED. This is good. There are spring on both sides (clicky switch and the head), so the flashlight is recoil-proof and can be used on the weapon.



Overall, it's very good looking and well finished light. The factory did excellent job on CNC machines. Although from design point of view it's not perfect. A little too heavy in front and after knotting the lanyard, not able to tailstand.

And some size comparision (from left: Fenix TA30, Fenix TK45, Thrunite Catapult V2, Balder BD-4, Shadow TC6, Jetbeam M1X V2, Nitecore Defender Infinity, Fenix LD01, Samsung 18650 cell).



User interface, modes etc.


Balder BD-4 uses reverse clicky and very simple UI. Light tap on switch when the light is on and the mode will be changed. Just like in the old times. If you are familiar with Fenix LD10 or Jetbeam Jet-I Pro UI, this is exactly the same. There are three general modes, low, medium and high. The manufacturer states the low at 20lm and high at 900lumens (I guess, these are emitter lumens, not ANSI). Medium isn't clearly specified, but it's well spaced. I'd say, something around 250lm.

The flashlight has hidden blinky modes. How to enable them? When you set the low mode, it will blink once after a few seconds. After this blink turn it immediately off. When you turn it on again, it will work in 5-mode configuration. Apart from lo-med-hi, you'll have also SOS (a proper one) and the strobe. To return to three mode configuration do the same procedure again. Go to low mode and turn the light off, when it blinks. That's all. Pretty simple UI. Anyway in this kind of flashlight, I personally prefer forward clicky with momentary-on feature and mode changing with separate button or by twisting the head. The clicky itself has rather short travel and it's on the firm side.

Circuit, brightness, runtimes

Balder BD-4 uses step-down cicuit with PWM to gain lower modes. The PWM is not visible, it has to be above 5kHz (this frequency I can detect by eyes).

The power draw from fresh cells is following:
High: 1.60A
Medium: 0.30A
Low: 0.04A

Below is the runtime graph for high mode:




Balder BD-4 maintains perfect regulation, until the battery is nearly depleted. In my case it was 75 minutes (I used 2 years old, gently used AW 2200 mAh cells). Then the light starts to decrease its output to 30% of maximum value. After it set on this level, we have another 7 minutes of low/medium output. After that the light enters into signaling mode which is ramping up and down in loop from ~0% to 30% with a couple of seconds time interval. Can't miss it. After that, I stopped the test. Batteries measured 2.9V.  Kudos to Balder engineers for making a very good and well set voltage protection! Thus, one can use unprotected cells. Of course the cells have to be matched to have the same voltage/capacity. The circuit cannot tell if only one cell is depleted. The threshold is set on 5.8V (according to information provided by Balder).

I did also runtime test in medium mode. No graph this time, as it's completely flat regulation. In medium it ran for 6h:35min.

I made also lux measurements for throw and ceiling bounce. Here are results.

                   [Throw     /     Ceiling bounce]

Balder BD-4: 34600 lux/1m    /    56.1 lux

Thrunite Catapult: 45500 lux/1m    /    62.6 lux

Fenix TK45: 9400 lux/1m    /    57.1 lux

Jetbeam M1X V2: 22600 lux/1m    /    39.0 lux

Shadow TC6 Warm white: 15790 lux/1m    /    39.5 lux


Please note, that the Catapult (originally equipped with SST-50) is modded with XM-L T6 LED on pure copper MCPCB, driven at 3.5A, that sits on Arctic Silver 5 thermal compound. The measurements were taken after ~60 seconds from turn on. The throw measurements were taken from 7.86m distance, then calculated to 1m values. Also my Fenix TK45 is a testing sample unit equipped with XP-G R4 LEDs (retail version have XP-G R5 LEDs).


Beam characteristic, beamshots


Due to using OP reflector the beam is smooth and flawless. The hotspot is very tight but has a nice and broad transition to spill. Below is the comparision to Thrunite Catapult V2 modded with XM-L T6.



As for the tint, it's not specified, but it's exactly the same as the LED in my Catapult which has 1C tint. If you have allergy to green, it's not the best tint for you, because it has a very slightly, faint green hue. I do not like green either, but I'm OK with this particular tint.

I took Balder BD-4 with other similiar big flashlights for some outdoor beamshots. All shots you'll see below were taken with following parameters:
t=3.2s
f=4.5
iso=200
WB=daylight

First scene. An unfinished building in the fields. Distance approx. 180m / 200 yards.



Second scene. Down the road. Distance not specified, since there were no target.

Third scene. Switching station. This was close. Only 80m / 90 yards.



Fourth scene. Treetop. This time distance was approx. 100m / 110 yards. No control shot, because that tree is near the switching station from third scene, it was the same location.



As you see, Balder BD-4 is a very good performer in terms of throw. It's only a slightly behind overdriven Catapult and it has completely destroyed Jetbeam M1X, one of my favorite throwers (I know it's over 2 years old, but I still like it). I'd really like to see, how it performs with smooth reflector and UCL glass.

That's all from one week usage. I have to say, that BD-4 is a good, hefty, well made piece of gear. I really like it, especially well designed circuit with voltage protection and excellent finish. Modes are very well spaced too. Is it perfect? ...No, it's not. A little too front-heavy. I'd also better like smooth reflector and forward clicky with momentary-on function. The cherry on the top would be UCL glass and a fabric holster to carry this monster. But as it is now, it's still a very good flashlight.

Oh... and some bonus pics Smile

In case, some of the pics don't show up, or show incomplete, please refresh this site a couple of times. Images were uploaded on Imageshack which could develop a hiccup, when suddenly near 50 pics start do download.

Edited by: sb56637 on 08/26/2014 - 17:22
Chicago X
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What a great review !

Excellent photography, to boot.

Thanks very much for sharing.

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mizjif
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Amazing review with fantastic photography and you cover all of the bases! Thankyou very much!

 

It seems as though there are a large number of Balder reviews/topics going on lately. 

cd520
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Nicely done review! Thanks!

SashiX
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I second that, amazing review and wow, you're a professional photographer, those pics are very nicely made: background, illumination, perspective... Congrats.

As for the light: nice light Silly I like that regulation graph, 95% almost all the time. Would be great to know if other Balders maintain the same efficiency. 

jacktheclipper
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Thanks !

2100
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The 54mm UCL does not fit the light, it could go in but the threads block it.   I ordered three 54mm UCL, then later broke the Balder BD-4 glass. LOL!   But no problem.....if you change it out you'll get at least 36k, maybe slightly more.

Need to get the 52.1mm version.  Best would be 53mm.

old4570
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Nice review - even nicer pictures !   

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coolperl
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Thanks for the nice comments Wink ...But I'm not a photographer and these shots were taken using ~6 years old Canon dSLR Silly

Nice to know that 54mm won't fit... as I have UCL glass with 52.1mm diameter laying somewhere around Smile If I install it, I'll take some more lux readings.

Hikelite
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I really like a heavy pic review, But what I love is large photos, sharp and well lit. Superb! Watching quality photos like this is better than reading text for me ,I can see the how the threads are cut, for eg.
It doesn't matter that you have a Canon 350D, it's the lighting and the angles that makes it look so good. (well that dslr sure has no noise as my compact camera).

Bravo, coolperl

rizky_p
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wow nice lightning and color. I could use that for a brochure.  Can you give us a picture of your setup?

nice review Smile

coolperl
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rizky_p, I just sent you a pm regarding photo setup Smile

Hikelite
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Hi coolperl, can you send one to me too?

sb56637
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Hi there Coolperl, wow! Nice photography. You really outdid yourself on this one. We greatly appreciate the details. Frontpage'd and Sticky'd.

Pretty handsome flashlight. And an interesting UI. I'd like a 3x XM-L version of this one... Wink

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devman
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hmm.  If you attached the lanyard with a small splitring, would it be able to tailstand?

coolperl
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devman wrote:

hmm.  If you attached the lanyard with a small splitring, would it be able to tailstand?

Yes, it could be possible with proper size of split ring.