Tuesday, September 11, 2012

EDC Flashlight Mondo Comparo!

A while back I asked for suggestions on flashlights for EDC carry. I took a handful of the suggestions, plus one I stumbled across, and figured I'd run a comparison of the four flashlights I found for s**ts and giggles science.

Here's a group shot:

From left to right:
Streamlight MicroStream
Coleman MAX
FourSevens Mini M2A
Fenix P30D

All flashlights except the Coleman MAX were purchased at Amazon (yay free shipping!); the Coleman was an impulse buy at WalMart. I'll run through the specs of each flashlight first, then a light comparison at the end.

Streamlight MicroStream:
Output: 28 lumens
Activation: Pushbutton endcap
Power source: 1 AAA battery (included)
Runtime: 2.25 hours
Price Paid: $16.50
Water resistant
Extras: Extra end cap, lanyard

Coleman MAX:
Output: 144 lumens
Activation: Pushbutton endcap
Power source: 3 AAA batteries (included)
Runtime: 6 hours
Price Paid: $24.88
Water resistant
Extras: None

FourSevens Mini M2A:
Output: 180 lumens (max)
Activation: Twist
Power source: 2 AA batteries (included)
Runtime: 88 hours (low setting), 1.7 hours (high setting)
Price Paid: $40.50
Waterproof to 3 meters
Extras: Extra O-rings, lanyard

Fenix PD30:
Output: 257 lumens (max)
Activation: Pushbutton endcap
Power source: 2 CR123 batteries (not included)
Runtime: 2.5 hours (high), 126 hours (low)
Price Paid: $47.54
Waterproof to 2 meters
Extras: Extra end cap, belt holster, lanyard

Now, a quick comparison of the light thrown by each light. I stood in the same position, holding the light in the same hand at the same height, focused on the same ~ 1' square object. The room was dark, with the picture taken at night with all house lights off, and the object was approximately 10 feet away.

Here are all four lights under as close to identical parameters as humanly possible:

Streamlight MicroStream:

The object was illuminated evenly, but the beam doesn't do much more than highlight the object and immediate surroundings.

Coleman MAX:

 The object was well-lit, but pinpointed in the center and nearly washed out.

FourSevens Mini M2A:

Good, even lighting; quite a bit of coverage; impressive distance for beam.

Fenix PD30:

What a difference those extra 77 lumens make! Even over the quite well-lit M2A, the PD30 throws plenty of light - certainly enough to illuminate the object completely as well as a good three foot diameter around it. Even white light, and this was the only flashlight that didn't cause my digital camera to go into "low light" mode.

Thoughts on all four.

Streamlight MicroStream:

Excellent price
Small size for ease of carrying
Single AAA battery is inexpensive to replace.

Least powerful
End cap requires significant effort to engage.

Coleman Max:

Reasonable price
Simple operation - on/off, button is large, easy to push, and doesn't turn on accidentally.
Common battery (AAA)

No clip or lanyard carry - pocket only.

FourSevens Mini M2A:

Bright light, slim design
Clean, bright light
Two AA batteries - very common and inexpensive to replace
Settings for SOS and strobe

Twist-to-on is difficult to use, imprecise, and leads to the flashlight turning on when not needed
Settings, while easy to cycle, require the flashlight go through low through high - time consuming.

Fenix PD30

Very bright - blinding, good for an EDC defensive light
Solid construction
Many extras
Settings are easy to cycle - high/low; strobe/constant

Expensive batteries - and not included.


It's not fair to include the MicroStream in this grouping, in that it's not the same class of flashlight. For under $20, though, it's a great flashlight value - and it can be clipped to the brim of your hat for hands-free operation. The Coleman Max is very simple, which is good; but limited without clip or lanyard. The Mini M2A throws a great amount of light, uses very common batteries, and has useful settings, but the twist-on activation is imprecise and unsure. And, lastly, the Fenix PD30 would be absolutely perfect if it ran on AA or AAA batteries - as it is, for an EDC light that might see only intermittent use, it's not terrible, but if you're going to use it much at all, the battery cost will be significant.

Hope this was illuminating!

That is all.


Bubblehead Les. said...

I know that Time and Technology marches on, but I just can't get into the CR123 System for anything. If "Something Bad" (i.e., Hurricane, Power Outage, etc.) is happening, being able to go to the local Gas Station and picking up a pack or two of AA or AAA batteries is comforting.

So when the CR123's are that readily available, then I'll be looking at those Flashlights.

YMMV, of course.

Anonymous said...

If you buy in bulk, the CR123's are more reasonable (~$1 to $1.50/battery, as compared to $10-$15/battery at the pharmacy). Also, for a light that won't see much use, say in your car or emergency kit as compared to for EDC, the shelf life of the lithium batteries can be a plus as well.

BC said...

I've got a Streamlight much like the one pictured here, except 2 AAA batteries. It is brighter, and the longer barrel makes button actuation much easier. The 2 battery version is a little more money, but very worth it. It carries like a large pen in the pocket too.

Streamlight also has a 2AA "protac" light. Nice light, much brighter. Would be nice without the silly strobe though.

The Fenix looks like a nice light. I agree that it would be handier if it was on AA batteries though. Nice reviews!

RipRip said...

Try some rechargeable CR123's http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002UEE7SU/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i00 these work great in my Nu-Flare 77R92L

Anonymous said...

You'll find that per lumen/hour the 123 is not that much more expensive.

and the shelf life is greater.

Mopar said...

Everyone else has already said it, but yea, if you shop around the CR123s are not that expensive. Also compare apples to apples. The CR123s are lithium batteries with a 10yr shelf life, and they are 3 volts each, not 1.5 like AA/AAAs. So, to play on a level playing field, a AA/AAA powered light would need 4 lithium batteries to compare to 2 CR123s. When you look at it like that, the 123s are a reasonable choice. It's an EDC light, it's not a primary light source. for the few seconds it gets used to find a key in the dark, or look under the sofa for the tv remote etc, those CR123s in the PD30 will probably last you several years. Not bad for $2.50 worth of batteries.

Erin Palette said...

Aww, you didn't use my recommendation. :(

Jay G said...

Sorry, Erin. This was a self-financed T&E period, and I ran out of finance...

Mopar said...

For poops and giggles I just looked on Amazon and compared prices on both AA lithium and CR123 batteries. I stuck with name brands, and they had to be eligible for Amazon's free shipping so I didnt have to factor in shipping costs, and it had to be a resonable quantity, no 100 pack discounts. The best price I found that way for CR123s worked out to $1.69 each. For lithium AAs the best price I found worked out to $2.55 each.
On top of that the CR123 based flashlight produced almost twice the light and ran almost twice as long as the AA light.

Geodkyt said...

The 10 year shelf life on CR123s sold me on the system -- I'm tired of throwing away AA and AAA batteries that I only get a couple of minutes use out of, because they drain out between uses. Likewise, the extra capacity of the CR123s makes the price comparison a lot closer on a "lumen/hour" comparison, as has been noted.

AA and AAA batteries are "cheaper" than CR123s like ethanol is "cheaper" than straight gasolene. . . sure, in dollars per gallon the hooch is cheaper, but in miles per dollar, gasolene wins.

Ratus said...

We'll make a flashlight blogger out you yet Jay. :D


doubletrouble said...

I had a long comment, but Blogger ate it.

BGMiller said...

I've carried my PD30 for a year and a bit now so I've got a couple of longer period observations I can share.

If run for an extended period at max output this sucker gets freakin hot.

The pocket clip is arranged in such a way as to carry with the lens down making for a natural draw with the thumb over the switch.

A simple twist of the bezel lowers the output for non-blinding use and I've used that feature a lot.

The strobe feature is great for getting a friends attention from across a large parking lot.

All in all a great light and I will happily keep it paired up with my Walther PPS as part of my EDC for the foreseeable future.


Robert said...

Jay, when you do these kinds of comparos, and I really appreciate them, I'd also like to see a "Where manufactured" listed for each item. Thanks.

Roadkill said...

Fenix makes effectively the same light in an AA version the Fenix LD22. It is not as bright, but 190 is not so much less. Also, they will take AA lithium. Which are fairly easy to find. Very useful for carry, but then normal ones are easy to find as replacement after your charge is out.