REAL WORLD REVIEWS – ThorFire BLF Q8 Searchlight

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REAL WORLD REVIEWS – ThorFire BLF Q8 Searchlight

REAL WORLD REVIEWS – ThorFire BLF Q8 Searchlight

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A brief opening note about the "Real World Reviews"

At this point many fellow "flashaholics" have developed very sophisticated and detailed methods for measuring nearly every conceivable technical aspect of the illumination products on the market.  The "Real World Reviews" acknowledge the existence of the detailed technical reviews (and I'll link to them below if I can) but will not re-hash all of that tech data. Instead the focus of the "Real World Reviews" is to take that "laboratory" information out into real world conditions to give the reader an idea of how the numbers translate into actual use.

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Technical Review (done by someone else):

http://budgetlightforum.com/node/56468

 

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PREFACE:  I don’t think a review of the BLF-Q8 would be complete or fair without a brief history lesson.  This light is somewhat unusual because it represents collaboration between a flashlight manufacturer (Thorfire) and an online forum group (The Budget Light Forum).  The end result is a light which can certainly be used “as is/out of the box” but which has also been left somewhat “open source” so it can be fairly easily modded in any number of ways including reprogramming the user interface.  My review is going to be on a “bone stock” BLF-Q8 as it came from the factory.

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Intended Use:   Searchlight, High power.

Power Source:   4x18650 Li-Ion battery packs (not included)

Average Cost:    $75.00 (USD)

 

What you get:

  • Simple but adequate packaging
  • Spare “O” ring
  • Spare switch covers
  • Small programming “cheat sheet” that can be folded up and tucked in the basecap

 

Initial Impression(s):

This light is a roughly soda-can sized block of aluminum that feels extremely solid and has a bit of heft even before you install the 4x 18650 batteries.  My sample was put together very well but it is also apparent that this light was left somewhat “open source” for easy modification because some areas that might usually be sealed up or fortified with lock-tite are left bare.  This is not a failing of the light,  just an observation.

 

The interface is a single button operating through a programmable chip.  Fans of the light have created documentation that is literally multiple pages long to cover all of the possible modes and tweaks that can be done.  I’m not going into all that and will be reviewing the “factory stock” interface programming.

 

Click ON/Click OFF

  • When off, the switch glows green to locate the light
  • When on, the default is “ramping” mode which also has “last level” memory

 

Instant Low - With light off, press and hold to turn on at lowest setting

Instant High – With the light on, fast double click at any time for TURBO

Lockout – FOUR fast clicks (the light will flash to indicate it is in lockout mode).  Repeat to end lockout.

 

And FIVE “signal” modes which I am not going into any further in this review.

  • Strobe
  • Police Strobe
  • Bicycle Flash
  • Fast Beacon
  • Slow Beacon

 

Battery voltage indicator – Triple Click, the green switch light will begin flashing a sequence representing the voltage (example four-blinks, pause, three-blinks would be 4.3 volts)  This will repeat until you click again to cancel it.

 

Low voltage battery warning – Switch will turn red to indicate a low charge

 

The beam is wide and bright.  I really like the color of the CREE XP-L HD emitters.  The reflector focuses the beam well with nice broad coverage.  This is an “area” light but it has such a large “bucket of photons” that it throws for a pretty impressive distance as well.

 

Output (Per manufacturer):

Because this is a “ramping” light built to the expectations of a bunch of flashlight geeks, we’re just going to accept the manufacturer claims for the lowest and highest settings

 

By default, thermal regulation is set to lower the light level if the head reaches 55 C (131 F… just about too hot to hold with bare skin)

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The “Standard evening walk” begins with illuminating 3” circular reflectors and then seeing if I can make out the trees to which they are attached (neutral brown bark).  Part Two then takes place over either a 1.5 or a 2.5 mile loop on an unlit and mostly open grassy area with a few trees, and then ends going through a short, steep, uphill/downhill gravel trail surrounded by  trees and heavy undergrowth which I call the "confidence course".

 

Target Test

Target 1:   30ft [10yd/09M].......... Well Illuminated

Target 2:   60ft [20yd/18M].......... Well Illuminated

Target 3: 120ft [40yd/36M].......... Well Illuminated

Target 4: 180ft [60yd/54M].......... Well Illuminated

Target 5: 300ft [100yd/91M]........ Well Illuminated

Target 6: 450ft [150yd/137M]...... Well Illuminated

Target 7: 600ft [200yd/182M]...... Well Illuminated

Target 8: 750ft [250yd/228M]...... Well Illuminated

 

In short, turn it on high and you can see, well, everything.

 

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The Walk

I had initially done a regular walk on a cool but not unpleasant evening (about 36F) and was extremely impressed with the light overall.  I absolutely loved the ability to set the light level just exactly where I wanted it to be while still able to rapidly access full turbo if needed/wanted.  I had started to do a write up based on the standard walk and then a crisis came up a few days later in the form of a lost dog.

 

Without getting into too much detail, a mostly-indoors hound mix got frightened outside and took off just as the sun was setting.  Unfortunately the weather was absolutely punishing with strong gusty winds pushing a sleet/rain mix around in an average of 30 degree temperatures (F) so the owners were pretty concerned that the dog might not be able to handle the weather and so a half hour later the call went out for more manpower to help search.

 

Ultimately we spent just a hair over TWO AND A HALF HOURS on the search which was a combination of driving in my Jeep and foot-searching through some pretty intense ravine crossed terrain where you REALLY NEEDED to know what your footing was to be safe.  We also covered a couple of large (400+ acre) open fields and some fairly thick forested areas at the base of Shenandoah National Park.

 

The light was operated in full turbo quite a bit, the air being cold enough to keep the temperature down, and was also backed down to roughly 3/4 power to extend runtime which still gave a huge swath of viewing area.  It was subject to sleeting rain and got banged around a bit on the edge of the vehicle doorframe and a few branches and such as we walked on foot.  There wasn’t and actual abuse but the light was definitely subject to harsh conditions and came through with flying colors and in fact I think the light held up better than the searchers.  I know that I was  glad for the “hand warmer” effect a couple of times!

 

Ultimately the pup was found and when we got home the Nitecore D4 charger said I’d consumed roughly 80% of the usable charge (drawn evenly from all four batteries)  so I think with a bit of care in terms of light level that the Q8 would have rounded out the full three hours before it started to ramp down on me. 

 

Things I consider nearly mandatory with this light…

 

1) Respect the power of this light!  As a “super-light” it has a set of parameters for safe and civil use.  Ignorant use of this light has the strong potential for consequences including personal injury.

 

2) This light has the capability to draw on its batteries fairly hard so you really should get a matched set of 4 good quality cells and keep them together as a set.

 

3) Spend a little time learning the UI.  Even if you intend to just leave it as factory default it’s worth it to understand just how flexible the programming is.

 

4) Add on a screw in camera strap holder and a lanyard so you don’t drop it.  The holders are cheap and you will really hate yourself if you drop the light.

 

5) Have a good quality “smart” charger to maintain the batteries and monitor their lifecycle.

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CONS:

  • On the large and heavy side, not an EDC type of light
  • Should have a lanyard hole built in
  • Needs polarity protection
  • I wish the bezel came out a bit more (or the lens was set in a bit deeper) for protection
  • This is a “Super-Light”. It requires some education with regards to proper use, care and feeding.  There is enough energy and heat capability here to injure the uninformed or careless.

 

PROS:

  • Solid construction
  • POWERFUL with excellent beam behavior
  • Able to take bad weather
  • Versatile with light levels for pretty much every situation
  • Insanely good runtimes especially from 50% down to “moonlight”
  • Easy to operate default UI

 

Summary:

Every once in a while I run into a light that forces me to go back and seriously reconsider how I’m going to review it.  Really the limitations on this light only seem to be due to size, as in it is too big/heavy to be a typical EDC, but otherwise this light has the capability to fill in almost any man-portable requirements.

 

Be aware, this is a HOBBIEST light built with a specific audience of flashlight-geeks in mind.  As such I feel that it requires some education with regards to proper use, care and feeding.    This is NOT “just a flashlight” and there is enough energy and heat capability here to injure the uninformed or careless.

 

Final conclusion:

5 Photons of 5 (STRONGLY RECOMMENDED).

But do some research and understand what you are buying, this is a “super-light” and has its own implications for safe and civil use.

Tonights forecast, 100% chance of dark.