Wednesday a week ago, my older brother Ted was badly injured in a motorcycle accident. That would have been a big deal if he were my younger bro, but Ted’s about to turn 76! Since I’m one of his medical surrogates and the other wasn’t readily at hand, I needed to talk to his docs — 300 miles away.

My oldest friend (I was 8, he was 10 when we met) was visiting in Daytona, down from Indianapolis where he is a patent attorney and consultant to Thomson Electronics. When he heard about it, he immediately called and offered his airplane, and his services as pilot. (Since I haven’t flown as pilot-in-command in about 30 years, that was prudent of him.) The next day we flew from West Palm Beach to Gainesville, talked to the doctors at Shands hospital, and he got me home that evening.

This is the kind of favor that you don’t overlook, but that’s impossible to repay in kind. A nice little Thank You! gift was in order. Bill (my friend, also a Bill) had admired my little Fenix E1 that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, so I thought, “Aha!” When I got home, I started looking for the perfect pocket light for a dedicated (and very professional) pilot. I didn’t have to look far…

My E1 also has a big brother (well, 0.1 cm bigger), designated the L0D. I have no idea what L0D means, although I’m sure Fenix has a good reason for calling it that. If I’d named it, it would be called “Badass AAA Pocket Flashlight“.

Here’s why:

Now that’s a beamshot to set any geek’s heart a-flutter. The E1 is kicking out its best, about 132 lumens at beam center (1 meter). The L0D, however, is mistreating the Duracell AAA alkaline battery so badly that Amnesty International is liable to start a protest any day now. It’s putting out 400 lumens on its high setting. (It’s only good for about 20 minutes at that setting, and then the poor little cell gasps its last.)

But wait! There’s more! The intermediate setting gives you 138 lumens (slightly more than the E1) for about an hour and a half, and at the low position you get around five hours and 61 lumens.

These sound like big reductions, but 138 lumens is fine for just about any chore or lighting a room for general navigation. (Remember, it’s a bit more than the E1’s normal setting, and it’s a rockin’ little flashlight.) The 61 lumen low setting is good for reading and close-up work without welding your cornea to the back of your skull. When we speak of 400 lumens at 1 meter, we’re talking more powerful than a 3-cell MagLED, which is itself brighter than a 4-cell MagLite with a regular (halogen) bulb. I’m not kidding. I own one, and I compared them myself. The MagLED, a police-size light with tactical performance (i.e. it will bloody well blind you temporarily), will throw a tighter beam than the L0D, and project it farther, but when you focus the big flashlight as tight as it will go, then shine them on the wall side-by-side at about 4 feet and superimpose them, the beam from the big light disappears, except for a tiny hollow circle about one inch wide inside the LOD’s roughly 10-inch center beam.

Tell me that ain’t an ass-kickin’ little flashlight (as us redneck flashlight geeks say).

Furthermore, the testing I did was with an ordinary alkaline cell. I would expect more output and probably two or three times the runtime from lithium cells or Ni-MH rechargeables, because alkalines aren’t well-suited to the beating they take from high energy LED’s like the one in the Fenix L0D.

Operation is simplicity itself. Turn the head of the light counter-clockwise, as seen from the rear, and it responds with the intermediate setting. Turning it off, then back on, within 1.5 seconds sets it to “low.” Another quick turn off and on sets it to the “high” position. Turning the L0D off for more than a second and a half resets the sequence, so it always starts at “medium,” probably the most useful arrangement for most users although I’d prefer a straight low-medium-high sequence myself. (What can I say; I’m a linear thinker.)

But wait! There’s YET MORE! If you crank the little bugger up and cycle it through medium, low and high, it switches to a 4th “strobe” setting (at full power) that’s a real attention getter, if someone within a couple of miles needs their attention got. And — especially good for my pilot buddy — a fifth twist sets it to a full-power automatic SOS signal: three shorts, pause, three longs, pause, three shorts. Is that the cat’s — ah — pajamas, or what?

I don’t know how long it will run on those two settings. I would expect substantially longer than on the full power setting, since LEDs switch on and off without power spikes, and when they’re dark they draw no current. In fact, that’s how the L0D dims its light emitting diode — it simply switches it on and off really fast. You don’t notice, but at the lower settings the LED is only “on” for a fraction of the time the light is switched on, using less juice and producing less light. The flicker, even on low, is faster than a TV screen or monitor refresh rate, so it shouldn’t bother anyone.

As they say on the NFL commercials, “I WANT that!” But it’s for Bill, and I’m not getting one of my own. Why? Because I want its bigger brother, the Fenix L1D/L2D-RB80, an AA-powered flashlight that converts from a 1-cell to a 2-cell configuration. (Can you say, “3000 lumens at one meter, beam center?)

When I get it, I’ll tell you all about it.

[tags]Fenix, Flashlights, Survival, LED[/tags]