FW3A, a TLF/BLF EDC flashlight - SST-20 available, coupon codes public

13737 posts / 0 new
Last post
FW3A Team
FW3A Team's picture
Offline
Last seen: 2 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: 02/15/2018 - 03:28
Posts: 39
Location: This is not a real account. Contact Neal for support instead.

Updated the top post:

Warning to potential buyers (2021)

The FW3A design has been changed many times since launch, with quite a few downgrades. It is not the same light any more. The 2021 model appears to be downgraded so much that it is no longer compatible with the upstream FW3A firmware. It’s missing an entire power channel, as shown in the pic below.

Additionally, the FW1A has been downgraded in at least two major ways — the reflector no longer focuses correctly, and the driver no longer has the primary regulated power channel.

These are only a few of the many downgrades though. Almost every time a new batch was produced, people reported surprising new changes, and most were not for the better. Several vendors have dropped the entire product line because it had too many problems and they had to issue too many refunds.

So, be warned: If you buy a FW3A, FW1A, or any of its other derivatives, you probably won’t get the light described in this thread.

Left: Original FW3A driver. Right: Downgraded version from 2020-12.

FW3A thread – contact Neal on BLF or email for FW3A questions and support

ToyKeeper
ToyKeeper's picture
Offline
Last seen: 11 hours 36 min ago
Joined: 01/12/2013 - 14:40
Posts: 10809
Location: (469219) 2016 HO3
FW3A Team, in comment #13666, wrote:
Warning to potential buyers (2021)

Total coincidence, but I just noticed this update was comment #13666, a combination of two of the most famous “unlucky” numbers — 13 and 666.

cabfrank
Offline
Last seen: 2 months 1 week ago
Joined: 11/19/2010 - 17:25
Posts: 3119
Location: northern california

A great flashlight has apparently been ruined. A great flashlight that was not created by the manufacturer, who should have felt very fortunate. I find it disgusting.

JasonWW
JasonWW's picture
Offline
Last seen: 47 min 12 sec ago
Joined: 10/22/2016 - 11:41
Posts: 12891
Location: Houston Texas

Wow, I wonder what the newer driver design is. FET+1? Different MCU? Different firmware?

Texas Ace Lumen Tube and JoshK Sphere calibrated with Maukka lights

Click this to go to signature links. I'm still around, just not reading many new threads.

xevious
xevious's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 hours 23 min ago
Joined: 02/27/2013 - 21:55
Posts: 2694
Location: Hoboken, NJ USA

This is truly sad. You’d think that makers such as Lumintop would actually improve something created by a small project initiative. They took something great, watered it down, and then made it unreliable. I was wondering why we’d be seeing complaints from people when early release lights would behave just fine. Now… we know.

I had a feeling something was up when I saw significant changes going on with the BLF LT1. Notably, in the version produced by Sofirn. The LT1 v2 showed a number of board changes. If the FW3A is now neutered to the point where upstream software won’t work properly, what of the LT1?

Forsythe P. Jones
Offline
Last seen: 1 month 3 weeks ago
Joined: 08/15/2021 - 00:40
Posts: 413
Location: California

Is the original design public? I wonder if someone else can start manufacturing it. There are also tail switched Anduril alternatives like the Noctilux KR1, though it is bigger than the FW3A.

Oh well, I’m looking forward to the SP10 Pro and hope it doesn’t get messed up like this.

d_t_a
Offline
Last seen: 8 hours 12 min ago
Joined: 08/04/2017 - 23:58
Posts: 2624
Location: Manila, Philippines

FW3A Team wrote:
Updated the top post:

<b>Warning to potential buyers (2021)</b>

The FW3A design has been changed many times since launch, with quite a few downgrades. It is <i>not</i> the same light any more. The 2021 model appears to be downgraded so much that it is no longer compatible with the upstream FW3A firmware. It's missing an entire power channel, as shown in the pic below.

Additionally, the FW1A has been downgraded in at least two major ways -- the reflector no longer focuses correctly, and the driver no longer has the primary regulated power channel.

These are only a few of the many downgrades though. Almost every time a new batch was produced, people reported surprising new changes, and most were not for the better. Several vendors have dropped the entire product line because it had too many problems and they had to issue too many refunds.

So, be warned: If you buy a FW3A, FW1A, or any of its other derivatives, you probably won't get the light described in this thread.

Left: Original FW3A driver. Right: Downgraded version from 2020-12.
<a href="https://www.reddit.com/r/flashlight/comments/om5yja/hey_guys_i_just_rece..."><img src="https://i.redd.it/p590baszfsb71.jpg" style="max-width: 100%;" /></a>


Thanks for pointing this out.

I got an older FW1A (more than a year ago) and another FW1A a few months ago. Both are the SST20-4000k version.

They both have the driver as shown on the left side of your photo (not the "v1.1 2020").

Visually, the reflectors look the same, but I tried to compare beamshots, and noticed that the older reflector was more focused, while the new reflector has a bigger hotspot.

 

left side: Lumintop FW1A (SST20 4000k, older batch)

right side: Lumintop FW1A (SST20 4000k, fairly recent batch)

   both of them use the same driver (as in the left side of the image posted by FW3A Team)

 

ToyKeeper
ToyKeeper's picture
Offline
Last seen: 11 hours 36 min ago
Joined: 01/12/2013 - 14:40
Posts: 10809
Location: (469219) 2016 HO3
JasonWW wrote:
Wow, I wonder what the newer driver design is. FET+1? Different MCU? Different firmware?

If I understand correctly, the new driver is a FET+1 and I think it uses the fw3a-219 firmware. At least, that’s what I’ve heard from people who got one recently.

What that means is:

  • No more regulated power between 0.35 A and 2.8 A.
  • Ramp levels 66 to 130 are DD FET, not regulated.
  • More heat, less efficiency.
  • Ramp levels 131 to 150 are pointless, since they’re all full-power. It tries to ramp the third channel there, but that channel doesn’t exist.
  • Thermal regulation won’t begin to reduce power until the light is significantly hotter, since the first 20 steps of reduction (150 to 130) do nothing.

I’m guessing the driver was changed to reduce costs again (cha bu duo), but someone noticed turbo didn’t work without the third channel. Normally, channels 1 and 2 (regulated) are turned off at the turbo level, because a DD FET (channel 3) is brighter by itself. But after moving the FET to channel 2, no more turbo. So they switched to the 219 firmware instead, since it keeps channels 1 and 2 on at turbo. Perhaps they don’t expect anyone to notice if there’s no difference between the ramp ceiling (130) and turbo (150).

The original project got delayed for like a year because Lumintop couldn’t meet the specified quality standards… but then it went to production anyway, and there were frequent quality issues. Vendors reported a really high rate of returned items, and Illumn had to manually adjust and test each light before shipping. So it didn’t get carried for long.

Over time though, parts kept getting changed, usually to cheaper versions. Like, for a while, the Carclo optic and lens got replaced by a one-piece plastic imitation which was a huge downgrade. There was a lot of backlash from that though, so the lens was brought back and the optic was redesigned to be a bit closer to the original.

Another frequent issue was that the driver cavity frequently wasn’t big enough for the driver, so a bunch of lights were made with the driver sitting on top of where it was meant to go, instead of inside its compartment. This made the connection flaky, and made batteries not fit right, and was one of several sources of unreliability.

The springs got downgraded at some point, using a type which had some sort of coating which flaked off easily, and got flecks of metal all over the inside of the light. This caused a bunch of electrical shorts, and more unreliability.

The button got downgraded from its original ~800g pressure to only ~300g, and sometimes even less. This made it hard not to activate by accident, and people had to carry the light in lockout mode.

The entire tail end got redesigned several times, and I don’t know if it was ever fixed to be reliable. It’s famously finicky.

A bunch of spinoffs were made, and some were embarrassingly lazy. Like, the 21700 version seemed like it was simply scaled up without adjusting proportions… so the battery compartment ended up so long that it didn’t fit the cell it was meant to use. Because 18650 scaled up to 21mm width… is 21×76mm, not 21×70mm. So a common 21700 cell needed a 6mm spacer in order to make contact. The clip wasn’t adjusted either, so it was too short. The optic was simply reused, instead of scaling it up for better throw… and it had a bunch of empty space around it. Etc.

And now half the driver hardware is missing. I guess it’s more of a “FW2A” now.

Unheard
Unheard's picture
Offline
Last seen: 6 hours 21 min ago
Joined: 01/16/2019 - 11:38
Posts: 2287
Location: Germany

xevious wrote:
This is truly sad. You’d think that makers such as Lumintop would actually improve something created by a small project initiative.

The problematic tube design was never corrected. Mention it and a handful of people will instantly tell you that you’re too stupid to fix it yourself.

With so many fanboys, why should Lumintop make this light better?

Smile, you cannot kill them all.

Correllux
Correllux's picture
Online
Last seen: 6 min 17 sec ago
Joined: 04/27/2019 - 22:23
Posts: 604
Location: USA

Wow. That’s more than a change, that’s just a total nerfing of the light. What a shame. I guess I’m glad I got in on the first couple batches…mine has been perfect as has the one I gifted. I’ve wondered about all the problems and the switch issues/mods. I didn’t realize so much had changed beyond that initial optic swap fiasco.

Do you suppose this driver thing now is just cost cutting or could it be a temporary thing with chip shortages?

mortuus
mortuus's picture
Online
Last seen: 6 min 32 sec ago
Joined: 12/16/2014 - 09:33
Posts: 3127
Location: Sweden

wow thats just sad.. nerfing the light and quality just to maximy profits… thast now how u get happy customers lumintop… Facepalm

im so happy i have mine from the group buy but it sucks for newer buyers that want a blf designed light only destroyed now… sad

...where Frugal meets with Flashlight!

              つ ◕_◕ ༽つ

Firelight2
Firelight2's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 hours 4 min ago
Joined: 04/08/2011 - 15:17
Posts: 4771
Location: California

This sucks.

Sorry to hear about Lumintop cheapening what was a classic light.

sp5it
sp5it's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 hours 12 min ago
Joined: 12/25/2012 - 07:51
Posts: 1452
Location: Poland

Thanks for heads up.
Lucky me, I got FW3A from first batch, clean, without any markings Smile

Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that. George Carlin

 Anyone offended by my signature please fill Complaint Form. Thank you.

 If a lot of people listen to Slayer, the world would be a better place to live" - Tommy Wiseau

JaredM
JaredM's picture
Offline
Last seen: 16 min 5 sec ago
Joined: 10/31/2011 - 13:33
Posts: 2400
Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

What supplier was this red driver version from? I was considering buying one more, so I guess I oughta do it soon.

ToyKeeper
ToyKeeper's picture
Offline
Last seen: 11 hours 36 min ago
Joined: 01/12/2013 - 14:40
Posts: 10809
Location: (469219) 2016 HO3
JaredM wrote:
What supplier was this red driver version from? I was considering buying one more, so I guess I oughta do it soon.

The downgraded model in the picture was purchased through the Lumintop official aliexpress store.

Other people have reported that they received older versions recently though, like the old driver with Anduril 1 and all the chips. So there may still be some old stock floating around.

xevious
xevious's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 hours 23 min ago
Joined: 02/27/2013 - 21:55
Posts: 2694
Location: Hoboken, NJ USA

ToyKeeper wrote:
JaredM wrote:
What supplier was this red driver version from? I was considering buying one more, so I guess I oughta do it soon.
The downgraded model in the picture was purchased through the Lumintop official aliexpress store.

Other people have reported that they received older versions recently though, like the old driver with Anduril 1 and all the chips. So there may still be some old stock floating around.

So essentially, the way Lumintop has handled this, there’s no clean rotation of stock. I wonder how many Anduril 1 lights are still sitting around that will end up sold as Anduril 2. I wish there was some exterior visual cue to help with this… but at least there’s the driver board visible after removal of the head from the body tube.
ljtyk
Offline
Last seen: 6 hours 33 min ago
Joined: 09/13/2021 - 13:28
Posts: 30

I ordered FW3A off of Amazon with battery on Sept 1st 2021 and it was the old driver.

lordlupulin
Offline
Last seen: 20 hours 35 min ago
Joined: 06/14/2021 - 20:26
Posts: 23
Location: SD, CA USA

Is it possible to build the 1+7+FET driver diy? Oshpark? I accidentally tore the positive pad off of my old FW3A driver while trying to fix a bad connection. No-one seems to carry the driver by itself, Lumintop hasnt responded to my requests. I know there is the Lume1 driver but I liked the original.

trakcon
trakcon's picture
Online
Last seen: 12 min 13 sec ago
Joined: 01/23/2019 - 15:50
Posts: 452

This is truly disappointing. Thanks for the heads up.

lumenzilla
lumenzilla's picture
Offline
Last seen: 6 days 23 hours ago
Joined: 06/09/2015 - 04:18
Posts: 1004
Location: Java

Thanks for the information. It’s a disappointing move by the manufacturer.

cabfrank
Offline
Last seen: 2 months 1 week ago
Joined: 11/19/2010 - 17:25
Posts: 3119
Location: northern california

Disappointing is too kind of a way to put it.

uselessuser
Offline
Last seen: 17 hours 56 min ago
Joined: 07/17/2019 - 15:41
Posts: 44
Location: Switzerland
lordlupulin wrote:
Is it possible to build the 1+7+FET driver diy? Oshpark? I accidentally tore the positive pad off of my old FW3A driver while trying to fix a bad connection. No-one seems to carry the driver by itself, Lumintop hasnt responded to my requests. I know there is the Lume1 driver but I liked the original.

I think the design is on Oshpark, but Lumintop on their Aliexpress store were happy to sell me a driver. Now with this new info I’m somewhat worried what will be in the mail tomorrow.
Neal is also selling the driver alone, just text him personally via Facebook. I should mention that he sent me a wrong driver when I ordered an FWAA one (with a side switch… not sure what he was thinking) and ignored my complaints, but that’s part of the Neal experience I guess. I had better luck with ordering parts from him previously.

mortuus
mortuus's picture
Online
Last seen: 6 min 32 sec ago
Joined: 12/16/2014 - 09:33
Posts: 3127
Location: Sweden

Why even sell the light at this point if its been altered so much from the beginning ? they should have just sold the light during group buy and then close it for good.. keep the same quality and not just nerf it in secret over the coming months and later…..

...where Frugal meets with Flashlight!

              つ ◕_◕ ༽つ

xevious
xevious's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 hours 23 min ago
Joined: 02/27/2013 - 21:55
Posts: 2694
Location: Hoboken, NJ USA

mortuus wrote:
Why even sell the light at this point if its been altered so much from the beginning ? they should have just sold the light during group buy and then close it for good.. keep the same quality and not just nerf it in secret over the coming months and later…..
I think they had ambitions of selling more of this flashlight outside of the small pool of flashlight enthusiasts, hobbyists, and technologists. And as such, they looked for ways to trim production costs any way they could. This was inherently a bad idea. This is not a flashlight for mass consumption. It heats up too fast. If you aren’t mindful of the circuit contact weakness (inner tube), you can end up with unpredictable behavior or malfunction—even with “muggle” mode. They probably didn’t put their best people on the project of redoing the driver board, in order to save money. Now they’ve got a lemon that will tarnish the brand name for those who buy it. In the end, their ambitions have backfired. You would think that high visibility cases of this kind of practice would be a deterrent (e.g. cutting costs in production of children’s toothpaste that allowed toxic substances to be introduced, making children sick).
Firelight2
Firelight2's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 hours 4 min ago
Joined: 04/08/2011 - 15:17
Posts: 4771
Location: California

mortuus wrote:
Why even sell the light at this point if its been altered so much from the beginning ? they should have just sold the light during group buy and then close it for good.. keep the same quality and not just nerf it in secret over the coming months and later…..

The revised FW3A offends us on this forum for the obvious compromises they made to quality. And because this started as a project from a BLF’er and was made with assistance from a BLF team … and now Lumintop is cheapening that effort.

However, the average consumer who doesn’t browse this forum would still consider this a pretty good light even in its latest cheapest incarnation. (assuming the average consumer can get past the finicky operation and assembly).

  • It’s small for an 18650 light.
  • It’s a triple, so is very bright.
  • It has a powerful UI.

Most won’t notice that the driver is no longer quite as efficient. Also, even a FET+1 is not horrible. That’s what the Emisar D4 and D4v2 use.

Even the flashaholics on this forum would probably be pretty impressed with the FW3A if it were released today in the current FET+1 configuration (and if there had been no prior version to compare to). For what it does, it is still superior to many other lights on the market.

Personally, I think the biggest problem with the FW3A is not actually Lumintop’s fault. Rather it was a poor design decision from the very first prototype:

  • The inner contact ring and outer tube rely on anodizing to insulate themselves from each other. This was a rather poor choice. Not so much because the anodizing can wear off, but rather because this means the inner ring is so close to the outer tube… and same for their contacts on the driver and switch pcbs.
  • Because those contacts are so close together, there is no leeway. If anything is even the smallest bit out of position, the light malfunctions.
  • The FW3A isn’t the first light to use an inner contact ring for connection. But it may be the first light that chose to use anodizing rather than something else for insulation.
  • Other lights have solved this problem in ways that are much more reliable and cause no malfunctions. For example: the classic Liteflux LF2XT also used an inner contact tube and electronic tailcap switch. But instead of anodizing to keep them apart it uses a separate plastic separator tube. This ensures the inner tube is always perfectly positioned in a way that anodizing and o-rings in the FW3A cannot.

wle
wle's picture
Offline
Last seen: 15 hours 48 min ago
Joined: 01/07/2015 - 13:49
Posts: 2572
Location: atlanta ga

as far as inner tube insulation, i just put a ring of electrical tape at each end of the signal tube
it;s been working since day 1

"You never have the wind with you - it's either against you, or you're having a good day."
    Daniel Behrman, "The Man Who Loved Bicycles".
It never gets easy, you just go faster.   
-Greg Lemond.
       ,ø¤º°`°º¤ø¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø¸

Firelight2
Firelight2's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 hours 4 min ago
Joined: 04/08/2011 - 15:17
Posts: 4771
Location: California
wle wrote:
as far as inner tube insulation, i just put a ring of electrical tape at each end of the signal tube it;s been working since day 1

Mine have worked for the most part since Day 1 using just the stock parts.

However, I did occasionally have issues with some of them where I needed to reseat the tube, or adjust the retainer rings at each end to prevent the inner tube shorting.

None of that would have been necessary had the center tube been kept further from the edges via a plastic separator tube.

Flashlights aren’t all that complex. They really should just work out-of-the-box. It should not be necessary to apply electrical tape or otherwise disassemble a new light just to get it to work properly when brand new.

wle
wle's picture
Offline
Last seen: 15 hours 48 min ago
Joined: 01/07/2015 - 13:49
Posts: 2572
Location: atlanta ga

Right but now I like it just fine. Best light ever for me. Would not have bothered, otherwise.

"You never have the wind with you - it's either against you, or you're having a good day."
    Daniel Behrman, "The Man Who Loved Bicycles".
It never gets easy, you just go faster.   
-Greg Lemond.
       ,ø¤º°`°º¤ø¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø¸

ToyKeeper
ToyKeeper's picture
Offline
Last seen: 11 hours 36 min ago
Joined: 01/12/2013 - 14:40
Posts: 10809
Location: (469219) 2016 HO3

I like most of the FW3A / FW1A lights I have… but it’s unfortunate that I can’t recommend them to new buyers. Getting a good one was a gamble to begin with, due to inconsistent quality, and it seems like the odds have only gotten worse over time.

So I’ve been recommending the Noctigon KR4 instead. It’s similar, but has higher and more consistent quality, a nicer driver, more LED types, more features, a more robust build, a nicer clip, and is much easier to update.

Melez
Offline
Last seen: 1 week 4 days ago
Joined: 10/03/2016 - 17:58
Posts: 37
Location: Colorado

This makes me sad to hear they’re goofing around with it. I like mine, though I wish the XP-L HI 5D was available in the first round.

I ended up getting an FWAA before I heard about the additional messing around. It’s a nice form factor but… the optic/Emitters I’d probably change for something that’s not 1.5cd/lm. I’d want sw45ks and a clear optic so I could use it without toasting my hand.

At one point I recommended the FW3A, but with all the shenanigans that keep happening, I’m steering people towards the KR4 as well. I just got one with 219Bs and the 9A CC driver (super nice) and Hank really got it right.

Pages