Thorfire TK12 review

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Last seen: 3 weeks 1 day ago
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Location: Texas
Thorfire TK12 review

Full disclosure: This review was bought and paid for by Thorfire because they sent me the flashlight for free. Everyone has their price. But seriously they just wanted my honest review and I’m not getting paid.

Also my flashlight overlords at Thorfire demand I pay homage by including a link to where you can get it: IDK if that’s some sort of Amazon tracking link or whatever, I’m not getting paid.

TL;DR One of the few lights you can get on Amazon that has truthful specs, specs are decent (but not outstanding), price is low, you can trust the USB charging to not to explode the battery, has reasonably good UI, and you don’t have to wait 7 years for it to be rowed over from China. I think it’s particularly well suited as a gift for someone you don’t trust with a pocket rocket.

Read on for more color. I also encourage you to follow the Amazon link to see professionally lit shots of the light instead of “guy in his closet trying not to wake anyone up” shots that I take to add detail that’s not on the official product description.

Box shot

It comes pretty simply packaged: couple spare O-rings, standard straight-to-the-trash 1” long usb cable, partially translated instructions. BYO battery, none are included. Lanyard would have been nice, but whatever. Has anyone ever had to use their spare O-ring? I’ve got a shoebox of spare O-rings so I’m ready for the o-ring-pocalypse.


I’m not too proud. Go to the product link up top to see a real marketing image.

TIR’s are a different breed than most reflector lights. I’m pretty sure this is the same plastic TIR you see in a lot of bike reflectors and other cheap flashlights, but it works and it does focus the light well. FYI, TIR = Total Internal Reflection. It’s a way to shape a flashlight’s beam without using a metal reflector behind/around and a glass lens in front. Instead an optic is designed that sits on top of / around the LED and direct all the light that enters out the flat front. There are pros and cons to reflectors vs TIR optics and I’m going down a rabbit hole here so I’m just going to trail off…

The button is metal and it has a bit of wiggliness. It doesn’t feel the best because of the wiggles, but it clicks nicely.

The clip, she is not too deep. But it is reversible so you can do cool “Look ma, no hands! Also I’m blinding you” tricks. It fits really well, it’s never going to fall off. It’s not flimsy. I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee you. Clip comes installed. I’ve taken it off and on a half dozen times and it hasn’t scratched the anodization. It’s shiny, which must make a harder finish because the matte anodization on my Thorfire C8s can get tiny scratches from the included clip. That’s a nice improvement.

Recessed area in tail cap

This doesn’t really show up in any of the other pictures online. There is a recessed area in the tail cap with a width of .79” and depth of .24” (20mm x 6mm). The flashlight is already pretty compact and short, but it could have been a little shorter had they flattened this out. I suspect they did it this way so you can thread a lanyard in the side holes and still tail stand, but it’s weird to put a feature like that and then not include a lanyard. You could also fit a good sized rare earth magnet in there and do some good hands free attachments and credit card wiping.

Tail cap propped on a battery to keep in focus with the body

The tail cap has been done in an interesting way. The external male threads are on the tail cap while the female internal threads are on the body tube. I did a scan of my 30ish flashlights only 3 others have been done this way: a very nice Preon P2 copper, BLF-348, and a no-name $2 “CREE” junk Zoomie to keep the kids away from everything else. So it’s not really a good thing or a bad thing that I can think, but it’s something interesting about this light. It also has a slightly raised button instead of a spring, probably for better current conduction. Tailcap threads come nicely greased.

Because the threads are nicely anodized (good for lockout since this light has not software lockout) the end where the connection is made is very recessed and I was unable to take tail cap current measurements.

Maybe they make multimeter probes tiny enough to go in there, but I don’t have any that will.

Dinky spring

If they lowered any resistance by using the button on the tail cap they got it back by this puny spring on the top of the body. You can hear it make a fait scratchy-springy noise when you are tightening the head onto the body, but it’s not that bad. The spring inside where the positive terminal rests is beefier. Head/Body threads come nicely greased.

Excuse me, your port is showing

The USB port is exposed only by completely removing the head. Hiding it upstream of the o-ring prevents them from having to put a rectangular rubber flap over the port that you have to dig out when you want to charge. I still think it would be nice to be able to charge the light while it is one piece, but I don’t like the flaps very much either. I would say the light should be pretty weatherproof, but the switch seems like it isn’t really waterproof and there is no o-ring on the front bezel.

The bezel is not glued on (thumbsup). Should you feel so moved it’s easy to get in there to modify the LED. It’s hard to tell with so little thread but it does not seem to be lubed (thumbsdown).

Look into my eye

The wires a little dinky, but not as dinky as that spring between the head and body, so they aren’t the weakest link. There is thermal … something… squeezing out the back. Since I don’t see screws holding the MCPCB on I’m guessing it’s thermal glue instead of thermal paste (?). It’s easy to disturb with my tweezers, not hard like glue, so it might just be thermal paste and a really closely matched MCPCB to head ID. MCPCB diameter 16mm. The inside of the switch is in this area so if the light starts to get hot it’s going directly to the thumb you try to turn it off with.

On the other side of the head where the body spring meets is … well… There’s not much to say or see except that there is a little button to make good contact with the tiny spring and the PCB is 22mm across.

UI / Charging

I don’t have any pictures to illustrate this but the UI is very simple. Long click turns on to low or off from anywhere. While on, short click to advance L->M->H or double click for Turbo. Short click from Turbo takes you to high.

It’s not the best, but you know what it is? Simple. I can’t lend out any Zebralights because they. will. blind. themselves. There’s nothing fancy to learn on the TK12. The long press to turn on is kind of annoying, but a side e-switch light in your pocket is going to need that or a lockout mode.

Turbo has a timed 3 minute step down. No thermal regulation. You can keep double clicking if you like the smell of burnt hands.

Here’s some thermal image shots:

This was after repeatedly jumping to Turbo. If you just turn it to Turbo and leave it the head barely gets over 100F which is warm but still tolerable to hold. At 120F it is no fun to hold and if you want to turn it off you have to brand a circle into your thumb (not really, but that head is hot).

I tried to get a very unofficial run time check by leaving it on high, but gave up after a few hours. I didn’t make lumen measurements before / during so I couldn’t measure to 10% output. I don’t know if this is an intentional feature or not but as the battery gets lower it starts to blip off. Just a wink. After a few hours of High when it is noticeably dimmer it starts doing it once every minute or two. After a few more hours the winks happen every 20 or so seconds. I don’t know when the light all the way gives out, but I turned it off a few times during the test (I was just shining it at the wall while at work and sometimes you have to go eat tacos). When the light dimly flashed on but wouldn’t stay illuminated the battery was at 2.907 V. So I guess the good news is that you will get some warning before the battery dies so you shouldn’t be left in the dark.

Charging does a nice limited .99A (you don’t want a flashlight charging your batteries with any more current than that). While charging the LED is a steady red. When charged it is a steady blue. After charged the battery read 4.187 V which is good. This charged while I was at work so alls I can say is >10hrs charge time.

I used my The Legendary BLF Integration Sphere to take some measurements.

On Low. Closet light left on for detail. Actual test done in dark and loneliness

On Turbo

My measurements (Thorfire specs)
Turbo 1140 lm (800 lm)
Turbo after step down: 426 lm
High 455 lm (350 lm)
Medium 248 lm (150 lm)
Low 10.9 lm (15 lm)

While the BLF Integration Sphere is Legendary, it’s not calibrated. The consensus is that it overstates measurements of sources above 1k lumens. My takeaway is that Thorfire delivers at least the advertised lumens, unlike your “8000 lumens Super Bright XM-L T6 LED Adjustable Focus Rechargeable Flashlight” your coworker got off of Amazon.

Beam Shotz
I’m not really set up to take great beam shot pics. My walls aren’t even white. I suppose I’m honor bound by the flashlight reviewers’ code to at least put something up:

This thing makes bright spots on walls

Close up shot of the beam

The beam is a little more blue in real life than this picture makes it out to be. The tint is pretty cool, but not LatticeBright purple. I’d guess 6000K / 6500K. Not my favorite tint, but it’s kind of the regular Thorfire tint. Bluer tints are slightly cheaper parts to purchase and they yield more lumens and at this price range you can’t afford to be a tint snob.

Also the outside of the beam is a little ringy due to the shiny metal bezel. The TIR makes for a smooth transition from the center hot spot to the outer spill. I also think with a TIR you get more spot/spill ratio than a regular reflector, but that might just be my particular TIRs and Reflectors available.

Comparison Shotz

Here’s the TK12 next to all my other 18650 lights.
From Left -> Right (all shots)
Thorfire CS8
Astrolux S2
Convoy S2+ (custom triple XP-l triple)
BLF A6 (frankenstein)
Thorfire TK12
Nitecore MH20
Zebralight H600Fw
Astrolux K01 cu (Actually a 14500, but it’s as long as an 18650 light and heavier to boot)

Stand up

As you can see it’s on the smaller side especially when accounting for length and girth. Without the recessed area in the tailcap it would be very close to a Zebralight which I consider to be the King of Compactness, the Sultan of Small, the Titan of Tiny, the Monarch of Miniature, and so on and so forth.


JJ Abrams edition (lens flare)

I can’t tell if the TIR of the TK12 focuses the light a lot better or if the ones with the big reflectors just aren’t as well ligned up at the camera.

Low glow (all lights on low)

All on low, facing the wall

You can kind of see beam shapes here, but they aren’t all the same length from the wall so don’t draw any huge conclusions. The TK12 has the highest Low mode of the bunch.


Firstly thank you for reading this far. Secondly here is the album with all the images:

And finally where can I editorialize and spout my opinions about this light? Right here.

I’d say this is a good light to give as a gift or for when someone asks you to recommend a light. It’s not my favorite light, but I’ve been spoiled by having a ton of lights on my shelf.

What it’s got going for it for a gift/recommendation for non-enthusiast:

  1. Reasonable cost. I’m ashamed to tell anyone how much my Zebralights cost. They wouldn’t understand.
  2. Beginner friendly UI. Simple is good. I don’t want to have to explain how to flashlight to a casual.
  3. Decent & truthful specs. Yes there are lots of cheaper lights that claim more lumens. Some might actually do that but the majority either lie by a little (1200 lumens!) or lie by a lot (8,000 lumens, with some 10,000 mAH 18650’s for good measure).
  4. Decent quality. Again Thorfire is pretty good quality for the money and when you are charging on the light I think a brand with some trustworthiness on their quality is worth the peace of mind that it won’t damage your battery and make your light explodey.
  5. Don’t have to order from some sketchy Chinese website. We enthusiasts are used to PayPaling money to random janky websites and having a flashlight arrive 2 months later in a bag, but your friend who wants a recommendation doesn’t want to do all that.

Why I don’t think it’s great for an enthusiast:

  1. The tint. Maybe you like cool blue. I like neutral and warmer. Thorfire doesn’t offer tint options on this light. When they do offer a warmer tint it’s usually a 5000K but they call lit Neutral White instead.
  2. The button. Most of the look and feel is alright, but I don’t like that wiggly button.
  3. Beginner Friendly UI. Simple is good, but there’s no customizability. And I don’t like long-presses to turn on.

That’s all until some more free flashlights show up in the mail. Until then: Stay Lit!

Last seen: 3 weeks 2 days ago
Joined: 01/16/2016 - 05:45
Posts: 602
Location: Skagen - Denmark

Thanks for the review, nice thermal images!

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light --- Plato