General question about long-term reliability

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rickw12
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General question about long-term reliability

I’m one of those people who knew nothing about flashlights beyond what you can get a big box stores until I found my way here by accident. Having found out there’s more available than Coast and Husky and Ray-o-Vac, I plunged in and bought a Wowtac and a Thorfire and a Sofirn and a few others. This process has reminded me of two things I already knew from life’s experience: the more complex and sophisticated, the more opportunities there are for failure; and, you get what you pay for. All the flashlights I’ve bought have gone back except the Thorfire, and that one’s still iffy. The moonlight on the Sofirn was so dim it wasn’t useful for anything. The slide focus on the Wowtac A3S was too tight (a problem that was supposed to be fixed, but wasn’t in mine). The switch on the Thorfire is temperamental.

Bottom line: I don’t care so much now about the bells and whistles of new lights. I’m not interested in having the latest thing or of modifying what I have. What I want to know from people with long experience in this is what brands keep their promises (regarding what the flashlights are supposed to do) and are reliable for the long term? I want to end up with an 18650 (or 2 x AA) light for general use around the house, a somewhat smaller one for my bag (under 4”), and a good keychain light. I’d love to have the Wowtac in good working order for the first of those three, but I don’t know that I want to try it again. I have an Olight on my keychain, but it’s got only one mode.

The second thing I’m reminded of has to be considered. I know that you get what you pay for, but I’m a budget buyer, and I don’t want to spend more than $30 each (or not much more) for any light. That should be doable, shouldn’t it?

So, what will serve me well and last a long time?

Rick

WalkIntoTheLight
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Here’s my take:

Lights under $5 are disposable. They may work for a little while, but they’re going to break. Usually the switch starts to give problems. They’re also inefficient, and have a horrible cheap LED (angry blue tint).

Lights from $5-$20 give you progressively better quality, and can be very good light. But they’re probably simple lights, and likely not very efficient or bright.

Lights in the $20-$30 range is the budget sweet spot. You can get a decent quality light, with a bright, efficient, and nicely tinted LED. You’ll get multiple modes, and a good user interface.

Above $30, you’re paying for extreme output, or improvements in efficiency, or better quality. The improvements are marginal, but significant if you’re willing to pay for it. Every flashaholic will eventually move into higher priced lights, but probably still buy the majority of their lights in the budget bracket (even if it doesn’t account for most of the $$$ spent).

For the budget lights, you probably won’t go wrong if you buy anything that has “BLF” as part of the name. Look at sites such as Banggood and Gearbest for those kinds of lights. Convoy is another great budget brand. I like most Astrolux lights too, which are often very similar to BLF lights.

My favorite more expensive brand is Zebralight. Perfect EDC lights; great user interface, leading-edge in efficiency.

rickw12
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Thanks for the recommendations. I haven’t looked at BLFs yet. I’ll see what they have.

Rick

rickw12
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I know this is pushing beyond my tightwad budget, but are Fenix flashlights as good as their price? I occasionally see reviews of much less expensive, no-name lights where the reviewer says such lights beat Fenix and all those big-name ones. Is a Fenix a reliable, quality product?

(I’m asking this after seeing the Fenix UC30 2017. Comments on that specific one are welcome, too.)

Rick

rickw12
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I know this is pushing beyond my tightwad budget, but are Fenix flashlights as good as their price? I occasionally see reviews of much less expensive no-name lights where the reviewer says such lights beat Fenix and all those big-name ones.

Rick

rickw12
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Apart from the price, what about them makes them over-rated?

Rick

Lightbringer
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Wellp, if you’re trying to have one light be a do-everything light, you’re going to be repeatedly disappointed. Just the same way you wouldn’t attempt to get by with just an adjustable wrench, you’d need to buy crescent wrenches, box wrenches, sockets, deep sockets, etc., and use the right tool for the job. Hell, just flood vs throw means having at least 2 distinctly different lights.

The closest I’ve come to a do-everything light is the Sofirn SF32W, warm-white, everything from moonlight to turbo, and in wonderfully-spaced steps.

And my EDC is a 1-mode ’502.

So resign yourself to getting at least whatever lights would fill your needs, then get more to fill in the gaps.

Flood vs throw, capacity of an 18650 vs portability of AA/AAA, brightness, UI, etc.

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rickw12
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Yeah, I know I need to wind up with three lights of different sizes.

Rick

FlashKat
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You are in Budget Light Forums where you get what you pay for.
There are other forums that talk about the higher end flashlights.
I use to buy cheap flashlights until I got tired of them not working when I depended on them for different uses.

cera@1967
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 Again Lighbringer made his point .., only one light is not enough for most of the situations..! You can not run with a TK75 in your hands , you can not hike with an AA light.. and so on...An EDC , a good thrower and a strong flooder should be a must...

As for reliability , I already stated my point of view when is coming to mode a light near or beyond their limits ! I "lost" some good light trying to push them hard , I was close to die in the mountains cause my beloved hard modded light gave up on me in the middle of a river crossing.., so , for myself , the modding now consists in a better led , thicker wires , good springs and switches , quality "O" rings...those small things that give me confidence in my light companion !

Let be clear , I'm not against modding , by contrary , but if this is done only for "show off " purposes , I'm out...

Fenix lights have a good reputation , I have only one ,  a TK75 from  the first batch , dedomed leds and mildly modded driver , but this one worked flawlessly for so many years , even if , after modding it , I carried a back up light , just in case...

But , as you know , even the better companies has their fails  , seems to be a luck game...

Adrian

southland
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The premium lights such as Fenix, Olight, Jetbeam, and others are more reliable lights than the economy brands but they also cost more and most of the better ones are more than $30. The premium brands are build to be tamper proof meaning their drivers are not held in place by retaining rings that can work themselves loose and cause failure. R&D on premium lights is better, they will work with protected or non protected batteries, short or long. Switches are more reliable, drivers more reliable, fit and finish better.

The Convoy is a popular economy brand here but drivers and switches are held in place by retaining rings and much more prone to failure.

There are exceptions to everything.

rickw12
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Thanks for the informative comments. I’m a 62-year-old homeowner who isn’t running anywhere, and likely won’t be hiking at night anytime soon, especially in our part of north Texas where woods are at a premium! The information about premium lights is very helpful. Since I won’t be modding anything, it doesn’t matter to me if parts are permanently fixed in place.

Rick

pennzy
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Aside from the zoom problem , what other problems have you been having?

ValuseekeR
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Great topic.

I bought a few Fenix lights 5+ years ago when I first started looking for “better” lights. While I’m not crazy about the emitters or that my older twisty LD02 can basically only be operated with two hands, they all still work, which can’t be said of a couple other lights I bought in the $20-$30 range…

rickw12
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Do you mean with the A3S? If so, I had no problems other than that. I liked it otherwise.

Rick

pennzy
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rickw12 wrote:
Do you mean with the A3S? If so, I had no problems other than that. I liked it otherwise.

No, I mean what problems have you had with your other lights?
Zulumoose
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Quote:
I want to end up with an 18650 (or 2 x AA) light for general use around the house, a somewhat smaller one for my bag (under 4”), and a good keychain light.

Best value for money and solid reliability I would recommend:-

1× 18650 – buy a Convoy S2+, available from $7 to $15 usually, in your preferred colour and tint. Can’t go wrong here.
For extra credit, buy a C8 as well for some throw, Convoy is good, Astrolux is getting a lot of good reviews as well.

smaller one for my bag (under 4”), not sure what to recommend here, preferably a tail clicky to avoid unintended switch-on. I would buy a BLF A6 so you have two 18650 lights, and then decide which to have at home and in the bag.

a good keychain light – Nitecore Tip SS or CRI, fantastic USB rechargeable light.

So the above needs only one battery type, and a 1 or 2 cell charger will be enough.

Beam me up!

WalkIntoTheLight
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rickw12 wrote:
I know this is pushing beyond my tightwad budget, but are Fenix flashlights as good as their price? I occasionally see reviews of much less expensive no-name lights where the reviewer says such lights beat Fenix and all those big-name ones.

Expensive brands will usually be made with better quality standards. They’re designed to work reliably, and last a long time. (Not all expensive brands have great quality standards, so I’m generalizing.)

Expensive brands generally do not try to put out the most lumens. Over-driving the LED can lead to premature failure of the driver, and reduced life-span of the LED.

A lot of lights in the budget category over-drive the LED. In that way, they “beat” expensive brands. But, they might not last as long, or be as reliable.

I would suggest you start with budget lights. They’re usually pretty good, and do offer the best “bang for the buck”. Even if they only last a couple of years, you will get your money’s worth out of them. After you get to know what you like and don’t like, you can look into buying a more expensive light with the features you really want.

rickw12
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Keep in mind that I’m not an aficionado like most people here. I’m a fixer, but I’m not interested in having flashlights I have to fix.

My first venture was with little a J5 tactical. That one was uncomfortable to hold; I think they tried to get as many sharp edges on the little light as possible. It wasn’t a pleasure to use. The Wowtac A1S has a tail switch that’s impossible for me to use with my thumb. I think I took on too much of the blame for that in an earlier post (the thing about the arthritis in the base of my thumb that makes the joint a little loose); I’ve had no problems with tail switches on the J5s or the Coast and Ozark Trail lights I bought. I’ve tried quite a few lights in stores that were packaged to allow that, and I’ve had no problems with them. The A1S is just too stiff and too recessed. Then there was the Sofirn with the annoyingly dim moonlight, surely not the 2 lumens it advertizes. The .5 lumen moonlight on my Thorfire TK15 is brighter and is actually usable. I kept leaving the Sofirn on because I wasn’t aware it had cycled to moonlight (I’ve been told I could aim it at my hand to check, but that would be a nuisance). And finally there’s the finicky side switch on the TK15. It’s supposed to take a double-click to turn on the strobe, but it happens sometimes with a long press intended to turn it off. One time, it wouldn’t come on until I’d tapped it 4 or 5 times. Banggood said I should take a video of it. Since it doesn’t happen but maybe 30% of the time, I’ll have to aim my phone camera at it every time I use it to capture it fouling up. Fat chance. A good reason to confine my purchases to Amazon or other US company. So I think that’s just something I’ll learn to live with.

In the meantime, I’m looking for a _reliable _3”-4” affordable light for my bag. The Thorfire TK05, Lumintop EDC05, Lumintop Tool AA, Manker E11, and UltraTac K18 Mini are possibilities (the regular K18 is not available in flat top now because of a design flaw except in brass, but I would have to buy that directly from UltraTac).

I’m tempted to try the A3S again for my around-the homestead light, but Wowtac is giving me mixed signals about the zoom. First they said they are just like the A3’s in that regard. When I suggested that the A3S’s people here have that have a smooth zoom are anomolies, I was told, “It is not anomalies.There might be slightly different between A3 and A3s. some customers like it more smooth, some like it more tight.” So I could order one, but it would be a crap shoot whether it works well or not.

And the beat goes on.

Rick

pennzy
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Maybe the zoom thing just needs breaking in? Can the o rings be lubed? Grab a Convoy S2+ on sale when you see one . For around $10, you will like it .

atbglenn
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I have the LD15, LD20, TK35, TK50, and a second gen TK75 Fenix flashlight. None of them have given me any problems. That said, my TK75 is still one of my favorite flashlights out of the 50 or so I have. Very high quality flashlights IMO.

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Which Sofirn do you have? I am loving my C8F but you have to hold the switch down to get to moonlight. With a quick click you go to a perfectly usable low and you can have a really bright light on turbo if you want it. Perhaps you just have to change modes, if you can, on your Sofirn so you don’t get the moonlight mode?

rickw12
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I haven’t seen one that cheap, but they’re close. When I first started the hunt, that one was at the top of my list. I like that you can choose 3 or 5 mode, and that, if you buy from Aliexpress or Banggood, you can choose the brightness and number of chips. At 4 1/2” it’s a bit bigger than I want for my bag, but it would do. However, it has a tail switch, and the one on Amazon has the brightest LED (U2-1a) and no mention of the number of chips. I’m wary of buying from Banggood now. Aliexpress gives options for number of 7135s and for brightness; I’ll have to see what their return policy is.

Here’s another beginner’s question. I’ve heard that you should be careful in handling li-ion batteries. In the list of cautions on my 14500s it says, “Do not knock the battery.” There’s a good chance that a flashlight in a front pocket of my old Fossil may get “knocked.” How fragile are they?

Rick

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Wellp, just some generalisations as far as reliability…

Lights that I get to be reliable are as simple as possible. As I mentioned a few brazillion times, my still-to-this-day EDC is a holstered 1-mode ’502. Nothing fancy, 5000K XP-L, simple driver consisting of just a few 7135s, not even a µC to get in the way (and no, no UVLO, ‘though the 7135s stop working if the voltage is too low), OP reflector, simple on/off. Does like 99% of what I’d need a light for “in the field”. Something falls under the car seat, it works great. Critter making noise in an alley, lights ‘im right up. Take a reading from the gas/electric meters, it’s perfect for the job. Etc. Nothing to go wrong. Only 1.5A draw, so it’s pretty bright and has assloads of runtime (can’t even recall when was the last time I had to charge the cell, ‘though I usually just top it off every few months anyway).

Simple, stoopit, works.

All my other lights are “specialty” lights. Jet-II in my bag just in case, SP10B in my pocket or bag also just in case. Glaree E03 AAA light as a zipper-pull. SF32W warm-white for nighttime. C8F/C8A for lighting up the backyard. Q8 when I want to scare the $#!+ out of someone. Etc.

My L2 is at this point just a shelf-queen, or box-queen, actually, as I keep it in its box. Haven’t “needed” it in a… well, ever. (And of course, like an idiot I go and get another one when it’s on sale. Sick ).

Point is, all of those with the fancy modes, e-switches, etc., are just that much more crap that can break. Something I haven’t yet gotten around to doing is to slap together an S2+ with wider-angle TIR lens, and again, a simple 1.4A or 2.1A 1-mode driver, regular come-with tube or maybe a shorty tube for an 18350, as another simple stoopit It Just Works™ light. Solder the damned thing in, so there’s no retaining ring to come loose.

If you’re interested in throwing together your own light, you can make your own bespoke light to your spex, vs trying to find The Light™ which does what you want. Any light that takes P60/P90/D26 drop-ins is hella easy to make, then you just screw the parts together and you’re done. You pick the CT/tint of the emitter, the driver you want, OP or SMO reflector, and just go. Ain’t rocket surgery, just need a soldering iron and 10min of your time.

Something to consider…

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Lightbringer
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rickw12 wrote:
I like that you can choose 3 or 5 mode, …

Oh, trust me, you don’t want that.

I always keep multimode lights set to their lowest setting to keep from getting blinded at night, and I retired my S2+ because of the damned blink-on-low idiocy.

It sounds kewl, even useful, but in practice, it’s so grating after a while that it’ll make you despise the light just by association.

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pennzy
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The pre Christmas sales seem to have been more generous than the post. I got a XPL HI ,8×7135 ,sand color , 3/5 mode for $10 . A pretty good thrower for a tube light . For that kind of money , hold the light with one hand and press the switch with your index finger of the other hand. Might not be the most “tactical” but I’m not a Ninja . Big Smile

rickw12
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Thanks. Might be fun. But I don’t even know what P60/P90/D26 are. I’ll keep looking for an off-the-shelf model.

Rick

rickw12
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I think I’d rather have one I can use with one hand. I’m trying to remember what I read about having more chips on the driver. Doesn’t the 8 get really hot?

Rick

Lightbringer
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rickw12 wrote:
Thanks. Might be fun. But I don’t even know what P60/P90/D26 are. I’ll keep looking for an off-the-shelf model.

Like one of these

https://www.gearbest.com/diy-parts-and-tools/pp_172621.html

a drop-in module.

The reflector unscrews, on the brass pill the LED’s on one side and the driver’s on the other.

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pennzy
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Lightbringer wrote:
rickw12 wrote:
I like that you can choose 3 or 5 mode, …

Oh, trust me, you don’t want that.

I always keep multimode lights set to their lowest setting to keep from getting blinded at night, and I retired my S2+ because of the damned blink-on-low idiocy.

It sounds kewl, even useful, but in practice, it’s so grating after a while that it’ll make you despise the light just by association.


I’ve got a Sofirn C8T that you have to triple click the side switch at just the precise rate to change groups. Now that annoys me . The flash on low probably pisses off the turn on at lowest setting crew more than the turn on at high crew.(me)
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i almost think that even if you spend big money, they are not necessarily reliable

switches seem to be almost random in quality, and the method of use in the light.

side switches are the least reliable.
then twisties.
reverse clicky tail buttons seem to be most reliable.

I’ve ‘fixed’ a couple failed switches by shorting the bad switch – making it always on- then using twisty action to do the actual switching
(which i hate too, but less than throwing a light away..)

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