Perniciously pimping my pitifully pathological perversion, my buddy Gary Lee at EliteLED sent me another flashlight to try out. This one approaches perfection, according to my personal standards, which are as follows:

  • Priced so that a sane person might want to buy it;
  • Well-made and able to take most punishment, short of being run over by an Abrams tank. That includes at least nominal water resistance. If it breaks easily, it doesn’t qualify as an emergency tool, and that’s what personal lights are for;
  • Uses inexpensive batteries that are easy to find, preferably available as rechargeables;
  • Long burn time. Normal people don’t carry extra batteries. Able to get you through a long, hard night without a battery change;
  • Capable of a broad range of chores, from reading to finding the way down a woodland path, or around the house during a power failure. It does not have to be able to light up the National Cathedral, or paralyze a terrorist at 100 meters;
  • Small enough to carry with you all the time. I believe in the .22 v. .44 principle: a .22 in your pocket will have more effect on a snake than the .44 Magnum at home in your gun case. Likewise, the LazerBeam EgoMagnum 1000 sitting at home won’t help when the lights go out while you’re looking for your car during a thunderstorm, in the middle of a dark parking lot.

Gary sent me a sample of the new Fenix E01, and believe me, it’s all that. It came in a sturdy box, suitable for gift-wrapping, with a spare O-ring, and it is small.

The new baby Fenix is available in several colors of type III (hard) anodizing. It has well-cut raised checkering, roughly 30 lines per inch, that improves its appearance over the other small Fenix models and makes it less likely to slip out of a wet hand. Another change is on the back end. The E01 has moved away from Fenix’s more or less continuous flat end that allows the light to be stood upright and used as a candle. Instead, it has a three-legged raised section, no doubt to simplify manufacture. This does not provide as much stability as the other system. It works OK, just not as well. On the other hand, I like it better for securing a split ring, which folds out of the way more easily.

Like most small flashlights, the E01 has no flats on its outer circumference to prevent rolling. A split ring helps, but the light just isn’t stable when laying flat on a tilted surface. Fenix really needs to fix this. If they have to make their flashlights a shade thicker and heavier, I for one, would be willing to put up with another few grams and a millimeter or two to provide the needed radius. Other manufacturers take note, as well. A clumsy, ugly rubber collar is not the answer, Mag****.

The E01 has a permanently-fixed Nichia GS LED in the front section, along with a DC to DC converter that juices the current from the 1.5 volt AAA up to the 3 volts (nominal) that the LED needs. Twist the head one way to turn the light on, reverse to turn it off. The regulator maintains a very flat output through about 12 hours of full-power operation, then the light drops over a few minutes to (a guesstimate) about 2 lumens, falling off slowly from there for another 10-11 hours. The diode is deep-set in a machined and polished reflector that appears to be protected by clear anodizing. There is no lens. Lenses can break if the unit is dropped, and LEDs are so tough that they don’t really require one. If the diode gets a bit scratched over time — well, it is a diffused beam…

The LED produces 10 lumens of slightly bluish-white light, projected in a moderately broad central beam, or “hot spot” with plenty of spill to light areas to the side. The hot spot of my sample is elongated about 1½ diameters, rather than perfectly round. Gary tells me that this is characteristic of the Nichia GS, and not a flaw. It isn’t objectionable, just a bit odd until you get used to it. In a light with a tighter focus, it would certainly make for some interesting reflector design.

The cell is cushioned by a spring to keep it from rattling. All varieties of AAA cell may be used, including lithium.

The connection between the two threaded sections of the barrel is protected with a black O-ring. The E01 is “waterproof to IPX-8 standards,” according to Fenix. Unfortunately, they don’t explain what the standards are. Unlike IPX-7 (30 minutes submerged to 1.5 meters) IPX-8 requires a statement of time and pressure, and can vary according to the manufacturer’s agreement with the user — 2 hours at 10 bars (100 meters), for example. The minimum standard, however, is 30 minutes at 2.6 meters (8 ft.), so we know that the light is submersible, but almost certainly not a dive light.  I think Fenix should clarify this claim on all its lights.  Flashlight geeks love information like this, and it sounds ever so scientific.

As far as comparisons go, I would have liked to test it against an ARC, but I gave mine to a daughter and it wasn’t available. I did compare it to an Infinity Ultra, a single AA LED flashlight that used to be the standard for small lights.

Infinity Ultra with fresh NiMH AA cell @ 15 cm. from target*

Run times are almost exactly as stated by Fenix: 11 hours at full brightness (alkaline Duracell) and 10 hours at “moon mode.” Moon mode is dim, but useful, especially if your eyes are acclimated to low light. At 23 hours the E01 was still producing usable light. At about 23:15, its spirit departed. I let it rest for an hour and got another 13 minutes of usable light out of the slightly-rejuvenated AAA cell. I expect performance to be noticeably better with the Sanyo Eneloop that replaced the Duracell.

E01 with fresh Duracell AAA*
My standard test for any light if this sort is simple: I close the blinds, turn off all the lights, and spend an evening using the light as my exclusive source of illumination (excluding the computer screen). I don’t care much about numbers; I want to know what happens where the rubber meets the road. The E01 did beautifully. It was not so bright as to make reading uncomfortable, yet plenty bright for navigating around the apartment. Set on its base, it lit the bedroom fine, and bounced off the ceiling in the bath there was ample light for showering and the other necessities. I’d be leery of shaving, however.

E01 At 19 hours¹

The E01 is small and light enough to be held in the mouth for projects requiring direct light and two hands. I tossed it into the bathroom sink when we went to bed, left the door to the bedroom open, and it made a great night light.

I like the heck out of this little flashlight. It isn’t perfect, but until something a lot better comes along for $12.50, it will be living in my pocket with my other “roundabouts,” (as my mother used to call pocket junk). If most of the people in my life weren’t already well-stocked with flashlights, I’d be planning Christmas gifts as well. With a lithium cell, an E01 (in red) would make a great addition to a small survival kit — worth thinking about if you’re a fisherman, hunter or hiker. At slightly less than 3 inches and less than an ounce when loaded for…well, rabbits…it kicks those coin-cell lights to the curb. Get one. You’ll like it, I promise.

* All “beam shots” were 1/60 @ f5.4, ISO 400 with a Pentax K10D, if anyone cares.