Newbie wants 3 or so lights for forest/field use (plus ultra-fire C309 mini review)

Hi! I've always had a 'thing' for bright lights but have just recently found these great LED lights you folks use. A friend pointed me to an Ultrafire C309 which has an XP-G R5 and claimed 320 lumens. The hotspot is bright and big and fades very gradually into the corona/spill. It's really a great light, especially for $30, but:

1) It illuminates great with 3 aaa for detailed viewing up to 12 feet. I got my 18650s and am charging them - I'm sure the light will be brighter with that. I will need to have similar illumination out to 25-35 feet.

2) the color flattens out depth, especially with green objects. I need a warmer colored beam

I'm using these lights in the forest with no trails. Sometimes tree & brush are close, often they're not. Often I'll be driving and want to see across the road into a fairly open forest that starts about 30-50 feet away and I'll want to see into it as far as the trees will alow up to a total of 200' I imagine.

So I *think* I'll need 3 lights, all neutral to warm light, preferably 'high CRI':

A. 1 very floody, bright light for the immediate area up to maybe 10-15 feet.
B. Something just like the C309 but with a brighter high with a medium that's similar to the 309 but warmer
C. something that will throw 50 - 200 feet with a hotspot at least 3 feet wide at 50 feet that will alow me enough light to see color and detail. This will be used from the car so it could even be the Kong light (

but I doubt I need that power even if it wasn't 20 - 40x my desired price

OK, maybe "C" would need to be 2 different lights, but at least I'm not asking to light a match at 300 yards

Some common questions (list from CP forums)

1) How would you prefer to purchase the light?

____I will be mail-ordering or buying online, so this doesn't matter.

2) Budget: An easy question, but you may change your mind after answering the rest! :-)

I'd rather order 1 $75 light than be dissatisfied with 3 $25 lights, but if a $30 light will do the job, that's even better.

____I’m flexible, tell me what you gotJ.

3) Format:

____I want a flashlight. for any or all
____I want a headlamp. For A this would be fine

4) Flashlight-specific format/size: numbered in order of preference:

____Keychain size. this would be fine if it existed
1____Every day carry small (2-4 inches).
_2___Every day carry medium (4-7 inches).
_3___Holster carry.

5) Emitter/Light source:

____LED (known for efficiency, longevity, and compactness) Which is why it's in this forum

6) Manufacturer:

____I want to buy a light from a traditional mass producing manufacturer that is ready to go out of the box.
____I would consider getting a light that is pieced together (for example a “host” or flashlight body from one manufacturer, and a “drop-in” emitter from another source). Under the right circumstances, this path can provide more options to the consumer to meet specific needs, and can often be easily upgradeable as technology improves.

I want good heatsinking but am not willing to risk soldering. I will turn a screwdriver and I would order parts from various places

7) What battery type do you want to use?

18650 one or two; four or six if they are in a 2 or 3 x2 arrangement

8) How much genuine out the front (OTF) light do you want/need? Sometimes you can have too much light (trying to read up close up with a 100 lumen light is impossible).

See above. I'm walking in trailless areas so there will be tripping over things.
I will carry A&B with me as I walk, possibly using both at the same time

9) Throw vs. Flood: At what distance will you be most likely to use this light? Select all that apply.

__A__Less than 1 yard/meter (reading, other close work)
__A,B__Less than 5 yards/meters (looking for something inside a dark shed/garage/basement)
__B,C__5-20 yards/meters (check out a noise in the backyard)
__C__30-50 yards/meters (I have a big backyard)
__C__50-150 yards/meters (I live in a very rural area/farm with wide open spaces)

10) Runtime: Not over-inflated manufacturer runtime claims, but usable brightness measured from first activation to 50% with new batteries (Measured on maximum output).

I will have extra, charged 18650s in plastic containers but walking around it's massively inconvenient to change them plus easy to lose them. Hopefully A & B wont die at the same time.

_C___30-60 minutes (I have plenty of batteries just ready to be changed)
_A,B, C if possible___90-120 minutes (Runtime is moderately important, but still not critical)
____3 hours + (I critically need this light to run on max for extended periods in between battery changes/charges). 3+ hrs would be great if possible, but I'm not counting on it

11) Durability/Usage: Generally the old phrase “you get what you pay for” is very accurate for flashlights.

Mostly____Very Important (Camping, Backpacking, Car Glove-box).
_But if I can afford it___Critical (Police, Fire, Search & Rescue, Caving, Survival).

My C309 is pretty well built. Running it over with a car wouldn't hurt it, but I don't have the knowledge to judge the innards.

12) Switch Type and location (choose all that apply) PLUS
13) User Interface (UI) and mode selection. Select all that apply.

Side clicky would be first choice but I don't mind rear clicky. I'd prefer no tighten/loosen (could it still be weatherproof if you did that?) but if it was otherwise perfect I'd consider.
I love the idea of switching modes separately from turning on & off and I think high, 75%, 50%, 25% are great modes to have. I don't really care about blinking of any kind. I think sos would be more useful than strobe unless strobe also confuses large, predatory animals. A forward ring to select modes is great. My C309 uses a light touch of the rear clicky to change modes and then you turn off & on with a full press in the selected mode (it turns on in last mode used) and that works well. Infinitely variable levels would be terriffic if it was affordable.


____Anodized Aluminum – prefer III but II will do if it's otherwise great

15) Special Needs/extras: Is there anything else you want or need that hasn't been mentioned? Select any below.

weatherproof/dunk proof prefered.

I don't have any test equipment for lights and not even a tripod but I will show a few beamshots for the C309 with 18650. Usually the light is a lot brighter than the photos reveal because I'm hand holding at 1 second and the photo's still too dim.

C309 outside - looks much brighter. It was foggy so I thought I had a better beam shot about 40 feet.

This was a 1 sec exposure but the beam looks much brighter IRL. I could easily have read a non reflective sign or seen a salamander climbing that wall

C309 wall, about 8 feet away. Looks a little brighter IRL

C309 on left, UltraFire U4-MCU with XR-E Q5-WC on R because I know a few of you have it

spill shot:

So what lights do you think I should look at? Links to low priced sources would also be appreciated Thank you for your time!

Bob C.

Where did you buy it from?

Hi and welcome to BLF! : )

The neutral or warm tint requirement limits your options quite drastically. Shiningbeam (SBs own brand and Romisen) and 4Sevens (occasionally, no neutral 18650 though) makes neutral versions of their lights. They are on the higher end of what I would call "budget lights", but they are worth a look. DIY emitter swap is your best bet but it requires soldering in 99% of cases. CNQG also stocks neutral versions of some of their lights. If you need high CRI lights then custom ($$$) or DIY (soldering) are pretty much your only options.

Welcome Harborseal

Good to have you here!

Not all that many lights that have a useful beam to 200 feet will give you a three foot hotspot at fifty feet. I have plenty of lights that can do the first bit, but not the second.

The target tree I use in all my beamshots is just over 50 feet away. I think the only thing i have that would easily meet both your requirements for that was a very long way from a budget light.

The tree trunk is about 15" in diameter so you want a hotspot twice that width in any of my beamshots. Take a look at them and see if any of the lights interest you. Each beamshot in the same post will have the same exposure, but not all of the posts use the same exposure so a picture in one thread may have a dramatically different exposure from one in a different thread. The MRV clone and the RQ thrower from KD are worth a look for that. Both will reach out past 200 feet easily, should do 2-300 yards. The MRV is more useful at close range, the RQ is essentially useless close-up. The MRV is the better made light, the RQ the better thrower. I plan to put an XM-L LED in the RQ just to see what happens. If you want a high CRI LED in either of those, you are going to have to solder it in yourself. The RQ will be easier than the MRV to do this to.

Thanks! I'd be open to the upper end of budget range. Even a $110 light is better than hating 3 $30 lights :) How likely am I to cook the LED while soldering? I don't even know what reflow means. How hard is it to get the beam centered? I've looked at SB's neutral Romisens but the most prominent hits were threads hating them. One thread listed it as "the light I most regretted". Do you folks have different experiences? One person mentioned the fenix LD40 but I see too many complaints about dark center with real world implications. The only person who mentioned actually using it said everytime he moved the beam it looked like something moved in the forest. One guy who gave a positive review sold it soon after. Then there's the plastic :) Any thoughts on that?

Here's the link to the C309. USA supplier, so fast shipping to me - YMMV :)

What's the RQ and MRV? Is there a tutorial anywhere on how to start modding? I'm not opposed to that as long as I can do it without specialized tools. I know how to use a soldering iron on wire, but I've never done it to ICs or LEDs.

Or do you solder these lights by putting the cold solder on the lead and then supplying power to the LED? ;)

I realize that the beamspot of 3' @ 50' may need to be a different light than the 100 - 200 foot light. At 100 feet I'd want a beamspot of at least 10 feet, so I'm not looking for a recoil type light :)

The LEDs are almost always mounted on stars - soldering bare emitters is tricky. Essentially all you are doing is buying an LED on the correct sized star. Once it arrives you have to unsolder the wires to the star on the LED in the light. If your iron is hot enough (but not too hot), this should only take a couple of seconds. If both wires to the star are the same colour, make sure to take a note of polarity on the star and mark one of the wires - I tend to mark the negative but it doesn't matter which one you mark as long as you are sure. Pick out the star - it may be held in with thermal epoxy or just thermal paste (The same stuff you use on PC heatsinks). There may be a screw holding the star down. Once you've got the star out, clean up the top of the pill where the LED goes, then apply a thin smear of thermal paste to the bottom of the new star and mount it where it is to go. Make sure the wires you have can reach the solder pads and are the right way round. Fasten down any screws. Solder the wires to the correct solder points on the star. Test, reassemble.

If I can do it, anyone can. When my XM-L LEDs arrive I'll do pictures of the process. I hope this'll be in the next day or two.

If you can solder wires into place then you can do a emitter swap! No need for fancy reflow soldering when you're getting into the basics of modding : ) Budget lights are also often easier to mod and more forgiving.

What's the RQ and MRV?

Both are referred to a flashlight.

Forgot which one was RQ (there are a few RQ's at KD nowadays) but MRV is like this one:

The RQ is this one. Another well executed Raidfire Speak clone.

Here's the LED I want 4-8*18650 should be able to run 2 of these on high over an hour, CRI Ra=75, for 1000 OTF lumens! Any of you modders want to make me one of these? With an infinitely variable output level switch, of course!

(actually I want a higher bin that puts out 6xx Lm @ 700mA)

Why not rather warm white MCE's which should be getting cheaper day by day in a similar host like this one:

Driving three of them at 2A each you should get 1000 lumens easily and have the desired runtime along with warm white as it seems you wanted.

I really like the host. But waterproofing seems impossible... Would have liked the sealed head much more.

The MC-Es might be a possibility, too. I'm just beginning here :)

It will be adequately waterproof - there are O rings at the ends of the reflector.

Here it is in the sink. I'll check it in half an hour or so for evidence of water entry.