Review: Shadow S-L3 Triple XM-L2 Delight

Shadow S-L3: The Joy of a New Flashlight

The S-L3 is a study on how to market a somewhat pricey torch to people already knee-deep in flashlights. I don't need to tell many of you here about the quiet thrill of careful consideration, ordering and finally receiving a brand new flashlight. Not a handyman or outdoorsman with an actual need; I'm talking about those of us so far gone that we're beyond embarrassment and long ago shed any inclination to appease or explain. To you my fellow whack jobs of whom I'm no longer ashamed, I present the S-L3 . . .


Bottom line: The S-L3 will be the brightest flashlight an average buyer will likely ever see. Of course, a torch like this wasn't meant for normal folk and this picky group will not be disappointed. It is aesthetically pleasing, well assembled with typical Shadow quality and is functionally perfect. The useful modes are great, the annoying mode is hidden, the switch is quiet and the reflector could double as a paperweight. The Shadow S-L3 delivers multi-emitter/multi-cell performance in a compact, single battery package. My only real gripe is the finish. My example scratches easier than any type III anodized light I have and for that reason alone, it is perhaps $20 too dear. Even still, the S-L3 is very much the AMG Mercedes of flashlights.

What I like:

- output, big power/small package

- updated XLamp XM-L2 emitters

- aesthetics

- quiet side switch

- UI

- thermal conductivity

- reflector quality

- pill design

- stainless steel bezel

What I do not like:

- poor anodization

- lack of 2-cell option

- a little pricey

Shadow S-L3 Triple XM-L2 Flashlight

$80.15 Int'l Outdoor Store

ordered: 6-7-13

received: 6-17-13

3 x Cree XM-L2/T6/3C emitters

6061-T6 aluminum

designed for 1 x 26650 or 1 x 18650 lithium-ion rechargeable battery (sleeve included)

aluminum SMO reflector

thermal throttled to 50% after 5-minutes

ascending 4-mode user interface with no mode memory: low, medium, high and hidden strobe (double-tap for strobe)

electronic side switch

low battery voltage warning

smooth stainless steel bezel

tail stands

two thru-cap perpendicular lanyard holes/flush cord cut

rated IPX-8 (immersion beyond 1-meter)

selected manufacturer specifications:

1,700 lumens

constant current circuit

"hard anodize III"

32mm body

63.5mm head


what you get for $80.15:

- S-L3 flashlight

- extra lens

- spare O-rings (red)

- lanyard

- padded box

Run time: 1:07*

Using an unprotected King Kong 26650 (INR) charged to 4.23 volts.

* Because of thermal throttling, actual run time might be a couple of minutes less. I simply clicked it back to high every time it powered down to 50%. (while watching Homeland re-runs) Also, I over-discharged the King Kong to 3.25 volts. Foy believes real run time is right at one hour.

Foy's S-L3 arrived in flawless condition inside this padded (top and bottom) cardboard box . . .

Light also came with a handy user guide, complete with detailed instructions, specifications chart and contact information.

The S-L3 is rather handsome, if a little busy. Smooth "knurling" is confined to the four corners of the anti-roll ring, itself a useless feature that comes into contact with nothing . . .

The flashlight is a simple two-piece design consisting of a head/pill/switch assembly and battery tube. I want to say I prefer a tail cap that unscrews but I'm unsure how that would make it better?

The S-L3 is less top heavy in the hand than its large, heavy head/short body suggests. It feels very substantial . . . and of course, it is . . .

Machine work is impeccable and the finish looks and feels expensive . . .

Which brings us to my only real complaint. Listed as having type III hard anodization, my example scratches easier than just about any light I own . . .

This happened exactly 30 minutes after the mail man drove away. I was kneeling by the open door of a C240 with the S-L3 in my usual shorts side pocket and lightly rubbed against the aluminum sill plate. A tiny chip on the bottom edge of the tail (don't know when that happened) and another small group of fine scratches occurring during photography has me wondering if this is in fact, type III anodization. I can roll a Solarforce P1d on cement with my hand with nothing to show for the experience. Real, type III ano is incredibly resilient; care and caution are required to keep the S-L3 shelf-queen worthy, assuming that to be its purpose.

The flat stainless steel bezel is gorgeous but the thing that pushed Foy to pull the trigger is this spectacular reflector design . . .

A lot of triples cram three emitters into a head too small and a reflector too shallow. The XLamp XM-L2 emitters in the S-L3 are deep, inside a large 55mm reflector. Other triple designs bank heavily on three emitters alone for wow factor. Each one of the three emitter/reflector teams in the S-L3 would be a formidable flashlight all by itself. Together, they are seriously deserving an all caps WOW!

The superior reflector design dominates any frontal shot and it doesn't take an engineer to guess that this light might have a little reach, or at least more throw than most triples . . .

Another plus is the electronic switch. Other than Mags, I don't have many side switched lights and I consider it a desired option. This one is a reverse clicky and although not completely silent, it is still very quiet. There is no mode memory and the light powers up on low. Click again for medium and once more for high. Double click for strobe and hold down for just under two seconds for off.

Superb machine work . . .

That is dust you see on the tube . . .

This stainless nub does go through to the inside but appears entirely ornamental. Spec on the edge at 10:00 is a chip that happened sometime during the first day of use . . .

The pill looks to be of the large, screw-in variety . . .

I confess to not wanting to remove the pill because it looks all sealed up and pretty. I also appreciate the extra care demonstrated by each emitter being clocked exactly the same, in relation to the circle. The emitters in my other two triples are seated with no regard to which way they are turned. Does it effect performance or longevity? No, but it does suggest a technician taking the time to do something that mattered to him, with little chance of comment or anyone noticing.

All sealed up and pretty - I'm going with that.

Anodized threads and I'm a sucker for red O-rings . . .

Foy needs a scale because this is the heaviest, thickest reflector I've ever seen. The cut to provide wire lead clearance gives you an idea how heavy it is at the base . . .

The whole kit, minus the lanyard I removed . . .

Here the S-L3 stands next to Foy's barely working HD2010. (dropped on thick carpet from 2 feet, approximately 2 lumens on high now)

White wall comparison with an XinTD SC-82/V4. Both have the same XM-L2/T6/3C emitters and you can see the beam profile and rendering are remarkably similar. The S-L3 has a fat center spot, exactly like a single XM-L, only one hell of a lot brighter. The corona is enormous, fading from pale green to a very white spill. Unseen in this picture are three faint lines radiating out from the middle and the only other hint that it's a triple are triangle shaped shadows at the extreme edge. You won't care. Trust me.

All beam shots use a .8 second shutter speed @ f3.2.

Sky Ray 818/3 x XM-L/T6 . . .

Shadow S-L3 . . .

The difference is even more dramatic in real life . . .

UltraFire UF-T60 on the left and the S-L3 at right. Most people wouldn't call a T60 dim but the difference in output is remarkable. As it should be, in my opinion.

I don't buy a multi-emitter light hoping for marginally better performance. I expect a conversation stopper and I don't think it's too much to ask for three emitters to be firmly in possession of three times the wow factor. The Shadow S-L3 has that covered. In terms of output, no light in the Foycollection even comes close except the Dry. Only the Dry's turbo mode can beat the S-L3 but this Shadow triple is a flashlight you actually won't mind carrying.

The Shadow S-L3 takes the thrill of a new torch to a whole 'nother level.


Thanks Foy. Its a shame about the ano and memory? Its good to hide the flashy modes but why no mode memory? Your picture may be misleading but the light looks quite small in your hand.

thanks and the review was super!
til this day, i still havent got the mindset to pay $80 for this light, and you know what, the funny thing is, this has got to be one of my favorite looking lights!

the only thing holding me back is the output. the king just spoiled me. i almost everytime compare every multi xml light to the king, and for double the price, id like to get at least the same in lumens.
even your xintd looked brighter than the sl3.
so since theres no memory, is it next mode?

thats why i was totally stoked when they said there was gonna be a 9 amp sl3.

maybe one day…

Nice review. Looks like a great compact scorcher!

that anno is a damn shame. i wonder if it is just the xml2 ones? this one and the pics on FT look darker than the one pictured on CNQG. i also noticed that this one and FTs have a black cover over the driver and CNQG has white.

good review as always Foy! i still want one, but may go with an xml version from CNQG

This light is very much on my wish list, especially since the driver uses AMC7135's that will make it very easy to increase output.

Looks good .

Shadow lights are great. Excellent review as always Mr Foy.

Very nice review, I didn't know that this light was so small.

I like this light

I added some 7135 chips to crank the driver up to 6.5a

due to the higher VF of the xml2s, it pulls around 6.2 amp on a fresh mnke 4000mah imr 26650

when i screw the battery compartment down the light come on in a moonlight like mode… no idea why… have to “lock the light out” to keep it from running in moonlight mode… my guess it something with the electronic switch.

the only thing i dont like is the crappy rubber switch and lack of a UCL… but a nice light (and yes a little pricey)

I couldn’t agree more Foy, its an awesome little light. you would be very hard pressed to find a brighter light in that small of package. the king may be a tiny bit brighter, but its much larger. the size and output with surprizing throw makes it one of my favorite lights. one could really edc it its so small.

The JM26 would make a great partner to the SL3. I would love to see it compared to a HD2010.

so with the added chips, is the output comparable to a king now? which of the two has more flood/spill? and which one has the bigger hotspot? do you guys think there are any other things to do besides adding more chips to make it brighter?

i would think driven the same, say 2a an emitter (just a random number) the sl3 would be the better thrower with a tighter beam, and the SRK more flood.

i have neither, thats just my speculation looking at the reflectors

Hate to disappoint you Foy, but the emitter alignment didn't require careful assembly, since they're all on a single board they have to go where the solder pads dictate. If they weren't all clocked the same, they wouldn't operate. :(


So the 3-up MCPCB has the LEDs in parallel? Must be, if it's a 7135/non-boost driver.

That's leakage through the 7135s, now don't ask me why it only started after you added more chips. I've experimented with 7135s a few times as slaves with a momentary switch (where battery power is always applied) and I never was able to get a setup where I didn't get that same constant moonlight when it should be completely off. PilotPTK or texaspyro would be the ones to ask, I haven't seen anything written that explains how to fix it yet.

Great review Foy. That reflector looks great, and it is such a small light.
I had concerns about run time on a single 26650 with that much power. Held me back from picking one up, in fact.
I’ve read that HA-III anodizing can only be done in dark colours, something to do with dye penetration. Any time I see HA-III mentioned on a lighter-toned host, I get skeptical. This one does not appear to be HA-III, it would not rub off that easy. Most of my grey coloured lights have this problem.

Then why are they all turned every whichaway in my Dry and Sky Ray? None of them are the same on both lights. I'm not asking defensively or doubting, just would like to know so I don't appear the fool yet again.

Wonder how often that happens . . . where I say something that sounds authoritative but is in reality bozo-clueless?


The emitter plate in the S-L3 is a single prefabricated MCPCB. The emitter pads are placed exactly where the designer wanted them, so they all line up perfectly.

In a typical light, the stars are independent so the installer can mount them every-which-way. That usually results in an OCD trigger (I fixed this on my SRK when I modded it :slight_smile: ).

I was going to point out the same thing. I bought an SL3 around a month ago. It is a beautiful little light and I don’t regret the purchase. It’s only as bright as a Black Shadow Darth and nowhere as bright as an SRK but it does throw well for it’s size and output. The Darth is all flood but the overall quality is a little better than the SL3 and the ano far more durable as its a true type3. The XinTD in the photo definitely looks brighter, even with the spill as you can see where they overlap the XinTD dominates it. Not one of the brighter small triples but it throws well and just feels a treat in your hand and in use! Like I said, no regrets.

A major plus for the SL3 not touched on by Foy is that it well regulated with zero visible pwm. It's always great to see an AMC7135 driver with no visible pwm.

The SL3 is a solid bugger and while far smaller than an HD2010 it is heavier and feels like it was carved from a solid block of very heavy aluminum. The HD2010 feels like a cheap toy in comparison.

wtf, heavier than a hd2010! lol thats one solid light