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January 10, 2009 Comments (0) Gear & Equipment

Fenix L1T V2.0 Review

Fenix L1T V2.0

Fenix L1T V2.0

Yes, we’ve been on a bit of a Fenix kick here lately.  There’s a couple of reasons for that.  First, we just came out of the holidays, so several of us here either spent money on ourselves, or we had others spend money for us on the things we like.  And, one of those things is flashlights.  The second reason we’ve been on a roll with our Fenix reviews is that these lights are not only well-made products, they are a fantastic value for the money you are spending.  Over the past month, I’ve acquired two lights myself.  One is a Fenix TK10 which I will write about in another review.  But, the one I’m writing about today is the Fenix L1T V 2.0.  The reason I chose to write about this one first is that I’ve got the most hands-on time with it already.  It’s small size lends itself to being carried around every day in the front pants pocket where the TK10 has a more specialized role to play in my gear.  So, today, we’re taking a look at the L1T and the niche it fills for me as an EDC item.

In all honesty, I have come to the Fenix party a little late.  Yes, I have seen their name bandied about in different forums and on different websites.  However, I’m not as hard-core a junkie when it comes to flashlights like I am other types of gear.  For the past several years, I’ve been content carrying around a Gerber iteration of an Infinity Task Light.  Like the Fenix L1T, the Gerber light uses one AA battery, but unlike the L1T, it only puts out a smattering of light.  It was good enough to see by on those nights when I was out in the woods and needed to find an area to make a pit stop.  And, it did well enough when I need to scrounge around my tent at night, or even when I just needed to light up the area inside or behind my computer to let me do a little work.  What I liked most about it was that it was small enough to just drop in my front pocket and have it with me at all times.  I used lithium AA batteries in it, and they last a long, long time.  The advantage of an LED light, also, is that the bulb will last tens of thousands of hours.  That is a welcome relief to those of us that have been inconvenienced by having to buy and store replacement bulbs for our older-style flashlights.

Fenix L1T with my beaten up Gerber Task Light

It wasn’t too long ago that a group of us writers for Woods Monkey were on Skype talking about different products that were out there, and which ones we should write about.  The subject of flashlights came up, and while we were having our VOIP conversation, we all went over to look at the stuff at www.4sevens.com which is the distributor for Fenix Lights in North America.  My eyes glazed over as soon as I saw the Fenix L1T V2.0.  Version 2.0 of the L1T is a refresh that includes a more efficient emitter for a brighter and more intense beam.  I just so happened to have my old Gerber Task Light sitting on the desk next to the keyboard, and when I eyed it’s scratched and dinged old body, I just knew I had to treat myself to a new EDC light.  Hence the purchase of the Fenix L1T was made.  Wow, was I impressed when I got it into my hot little hands!  Before, I give my impressions, let’s take a look at the features as listed by the website at www.4sevens.com:

  • Cree Q2 LED with lifespan of 50,000 hours
  • Two digitally-regulated output levels, selected by turning the bezel
  • High level: 98 lumens, 1.5 hours (Ni-MH)
  • Low level: constant 16 lumens, 15 hours (Ni-MH)
  • Operates on one 1.5V AA (Alkaline, Ni-MH, Lithium) battery (not included), inexpensive and widely available
  • Dimensions: 9.4cm (L) x 2.1cm (D)
  • Weight: 45g (excluding batteries)
  • Aircraft-grade aluminum body with durable type-III hard-anodized finish
  • Toughened ultra-clear glass lens with anti-reflective coating
  • Textured reflector for a flawless beam
  • Waterproof to IPX-8 Standards
  • Included holster, lanyard, two spare o-rings, and extra rubber switch boot

 

My Impressions:

With its high-power setting, the L1T V2.0 makes a great carry companion for my Ruger LCP.

One of the reasons that I picked up the L1T was that it takes a AA battery that you can find in just about any store–no exotic batteries required.  But, the main reason was having two modes of output–98 lumens of light for 1.5 hours and 16 lumens for 15 hours.  You change the output levels by turning the bezel on the body of the light.  On one hand, I thought that would be a fantastic spec for a small EDC light taking only one AA battery, but on the other, I was also thinking it might be just a bit of hype on the marketing side.  I have a couple Surefire 6P’s that only put out about 60 lumens and they run off of two CR123A batteries.  There is only one brightness mode on the 6P, and that’s full blast!  I can get about an hour off of two CR123 batteries running at 60 lumens.  For the L1T to have about 64% more light with a high-level runtime that’s 50% longer on just a AA battery boggled my mind!  That was the hook that got set in me and helped reel me in.

Even thought it’s just a bit larger than my old Task Light, it still slips into the front pocket quite easily with lots of room to spare.  The Fenix comes packed with a few little extras that I wasn’t expecting, because I didn’t pay attention to the listing of package contents originally.  It had the connectors for both a wrist and neck lanyard, and it came with a nice little nylon holster for clipping to a pack, belt, or other piece of gear.  Additionally, it also comes with a high-visibility organge replacement switch cover and replacement O-rings to help with future repairs to maintain its water resistance.  The finish and appearance of the L1T is superb.  It has a knurled tail section and bezel ring for a non-slip grip on the light while turning it to activate the low/high power modes.  The tail switch can be pressed halfway for momentary operation of the light, or it can be fully depressed to click it into its constant-on position–the best of both worlds!  On top of that, throw in Fenix’s lifetime warranty, and you’ve got a sweet package combining the best aspects of form, fit, and function!  But, as they say, the proof is in the pudding, and I wanted to test out some of the performance claims stated in regard to the L1T V2.0.  After trying it out initially, I knew there was no point to comparing it to my Gerber Task Light.  The Task Light has only a low-power setting, and it was also priced for only about a third of what I paid for the Fenix L1T.  It wouldn’t have been a fair comparison.  So, I decided to put it up against my Surefire 6P.  

Fenix L1T V2.0 (left) and Surefire 6P (right)

Now, just to make sure I was playing fair, I put two brand new CR123A batteries into my 6P for comparison purposes, even though I used the same battery in my L1T V2.0 that I’ve already been using on and off for the past couple of weeks.  The results of my tests were startling to say the least.  After turning out the lights and getting a decent focus on the wall, I shone both lights in the same general area from the same distance so the reader could see real-world results of the comparison between the two lights.  It seems that the performance specs listed on www.4sevens.com were dead on with regard to light output.  There is no question that the L1T V2.0 is at least 50% brighter than my Surefire 6P as is evidenced by the supplied picture (click on picture to enlarge). Don’t worry about the yellow tint on the Surefire’s light throw.  It’s an incandescent bulb, and the picture was taken with a digital camera with a neutral white balance.  It just happens that the color of the Fenix’s light was closer to the white balance set in my digital camera.  Unfortunately, you can’t shoot in two white balances at once.  That’s why the Surefire’s incadescent beam  looks more yellow in the picture.  In actuality, to the human eye, the Surefire looks more white than reflected in the picture.

At roughly little over half the size of my Surefire 6P, the Fenix L1T packs quite a punch.

Before I move on, I want to throw a couple of caveats in here.  First, I don’t want this to come across as a knock on the Surefire light.  I’ve had this particular light for almost ten years, and it does exactly as the packaging says.  It puts out 60 lumens for about an hour.  I love my Surefire lights, and I can still remember how excited I was when I got my first one about fifteen years ago.  I was amazed at the technology that went into that light to get such a powerful beam–just like I am amazed by the technology of this new Fenix L1T V2.0 light.  It’s absolutely incredible that I can get more than 60% additional light for 50% more time than the Surefire 6P using just one AA battery.  Fantastic!! 

The reason that I brought Surefire into the discussion is that they are another prominent maker of high-end flashlights and there are sure to be comparisions made between Fenix and the Surefire equivalents.  Speaking of which, Surefire also makes high-output LED lights as well.  We certainly don’t want to act as if they don’t have such models available.  And, there is no question with regard to the fantastic quality and reliability of their products.  They are incredible tools, and Surefire was the pioneer for putting high-quality, high-power lights into the hands of military, law enforcement and consumers at large over two decades ago.  That alone gets a tip of the hat from me.  However, when looking through Surefire’s catalog of LED lights, to acquire something that’s comparable in light output and runtime to the L1T, the consumer is looking at least a $120.00 retail price for one model and that price climbs up into the $200.00 range for others.  When you compare those prices against the $48.50 price of the Fenix L1T V2.0, it’s hard to justify paying nearly three times as much.  That’s particulary true, as well, when you consider that most of Surefire’s offerings require two CR123A batteries which are more expensive than AA batteries, and the Fenix L1T only requires one AA battery for the same performance.  Personally, for that kind of money, I’d rather have three of the Fenix L1T’s.

Runtime Tests:

Now, we come to the runtime tests for the Fenix L1T.  While I’ve never exactly been accused of being frugal about things, I hated the idea of wasting batteries just to do a runtime test, but I gritted my teeth, and went ahead with the testing anyway.  I wanted to test the runtime for the L1T in its high-power mode.  The specs call for 1.5 hours with an Ni-Mh AA cell.  Ni-Mh are typically rechargeable cells, and you can get some high end AA Ni-Mh cells that have a large capacity rating.  But, rechargeable Ni-Mh cells do not hold their charge indefinitely, and I wanted to test the light based on what would be real-world use for me.  For most high-tech gadgets, I use lithium batteries for a few reasons.  First, they last longer than typical alkaline AA cells.  Second, they are lighter than alkaline cells.  That lighter weight is a God-send if you’ve got a box of replacements stored in your pack.  Finally, another reason I prefer lithium batteries is that they have a shelf-life of about ten years.  So, you don’t have to worry about the battery losing its charge by a certain amount each month like you do with Ni-Mh cells or lithium-ion cells.

One observation that I made during the high-output runtime testing was that the body of the Fenix L1T got quite warm.  While it never got too hot to hold, it seemed like it was getting close a time or two.  I don’t know if this is a normal occurrence or not, but it would seem somewhat reasonable.  It’s a very compact and slim form factor to be pumping out almost 100 lumens, so I don’t suppose that an all-metal body becoming warm should be any real surprise.  For me, this is of no true consequence as this light’s main role is as a small utility light.  Probably 90% of the time, I will be using its low-power setting to conserve battery life.  The high-power setting is just gravy in my case, and even then, I would probably use the momentary function in the switch.  After about an hour, it seems that I did notice a slight fall-off in the output from the L1T, but it wasn’t much and was still brighter than the 6P stoked with fresh batteries.  I could be wrong about the fall-off since I didn’t have any kind of light meter and was only judging it by eye, but whatever I noticed was only a slight difference. 

At one hour and nine minutes, the Fenix L1T basically gave up the ghost.  It went from its high-output level down to the low-output level.  I turned the bezel to change the level settings and could see no difference between the two.  Now, some out there might say that this falls a little short of the 1.5 hour claim, but I don’t think that’s the way to look at it.  The specs on their website call for a 1.5 hour runtime with Ni-Mh cells.  I have a good amount of experience with batteries since I have a lot of high-tech toys like MP3 Players, PDA’s, digital cameras, and flashes.  I am well aware that there are some very high capacity Ni-Mh cells out there on the market.  So, it’s very likely that some of those will get you that 1.5 hour runtime at its high power setting.  But, as I mentioned earlier, the trade-off is that the Ni-Mh cells lose their charge faster than lithium cells do.  And, for the tasks that I routinely use this type of light for, I was more than satisfied with the L1T’s performance on a lithium cell.  Come on!  It threw 60% more light than my 6P on just a AA battery for a little over an hour!

Even so, I decided to test a regular alkaline cell in it as well.  I did that for a couple of reasons.  First, I wanted to gauge the runtime of the alkalines as well since they are cheaper than the lithiums.  And, I also wanted to see if using the alkaline cell would result in the same build-up of heat in the L1T’s metal body.  So, I was careful to duplicate the conditions of the test, including where I sat the light while it was running to make sure that I was comparing apples to apples.  During the second runtime test, the body did get warm with the alkaline cell, but it did not get as hot as it did with the lithium cell.  So, take that for what’s worth, and it might be worth mulling over as we look at the final results.

This second test did and didn’t meet my expectations.  I knew the alkaline cell wouldn’t last as long as the lithium cell.  However, I didn’t realize that the battery life would be dramatically shorter.  The brand new alkaline Energizer AA battery that I used only kept the L1T’s high power beam going for about half an hour.  At that point, its output was the same as it’s low-power setting.  So, it confirms my belief that lithium cells do last much longer than normal cells, since the lithium cell kept the full-power beam going for about 39 minutes longer than the alkaline one did.  But, I guess that should be the case, since the lithium cells are substantially more expensive than alkaline batteries.  To sum, like your grandma always told you, "You get what you pay for!"

I didn’t bother with testing the runtime of the light on its low power setting.  Frankly, I don’t have the patience to wait around 15-16 hours, and it doesn’t really matter to me.  The high-power mode test turned out to be close enough that I trust their time ratings on the low-power mode.  What was most important to me in doing my tests was to get a true idea of its full potential in the high-power setting, and I am more than satisfied.  I will rarely use the high-output beam, as I am already used to the output of my old Task Light.  But, it’s nice to know the extra power is there if you need it in a pinch.  So, it turns out that the Fenix L1T is the right prescription for my daily carry needs, and the money invested in it was money well spent.

So, the poor old Gerber Task Light is getting retired–somewhat.  It’s found a new home in a basic survival kit that I put together to keep in the truck.  The beauty of LED lights is that they last tens of thousands of hours, and the Task Light has seen nowhere near that amount of use.  So, it’s got plenty of light left in it, and it will serve quite nicely as a small, back-up light in my kit.  After I stoked it with a fresh AA lithium battery, I put it away in its new residence after having carried with me on a daily basis for the last five years.  Yes, sometimes you just have to let go and move on.  The upside of this transition is that I’ve found a great new tool that will serve me well for years to come.

The Fenix L1T truly lived up to the brand’s reputation, and it opened up the door for me to a great company making quality lighting products that are extremely competitive in price when compared to similar products on the market.  As a gear junkie, you will find my pockets full of a large assortment of items on a daily basis.  Such items include knives, lighters, multi-tools, LED lights, camera accessories, and even a pocket pistol on a fairly regular basis.  The Fenix L1T feels right at home with all the other quality equipment that I keep with me as part of my daily routine.  Aside from just fitting in, the L1T also raises the bar.  With its optional high-output beam, I don’t feel left wanting for a more powerful light–especially when I don’t have the pocket space for a larger lamp.  If you consider the features, performance, and the lifetime warranty, you’ll come to the same conclusion that I did.  This is a quality tool at a great price, and you will absolutely be delighted with its performance.  I’m sure I’ll make the same observations about my new Fenix TK10, but oh well, that’s for another day!

Visit:  www.4sevens.com

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