There are numerous single LED pocket or key chain lights, some from recognized manufacturers, that seem to have no reason for being except to capitalize on the latest hot consumer item, LED flashlights. From our perspective, any light without a constant on switch of some sort is not worthy of being taken seriously. These include the ASP (Armament Systems and Procedures, Inc.) “Sapphire Light” and “Mirage,” the Princeton Tec “Pulsar” (the Pulsar II with a constant on-off switch, as shown in their catalog, is still not available) and the Emissive Energy "Inova."
L.R.I.'s Photon Micro-Light II is simply without peer as a handy all-around light you'll never be without. I carry one at all times, include them in my survival kits and carry a red one for backup in the cockpit (though it's brighter than I'd prefer). So far nothing else has been able to supplant it for the combination of size, ease of use and performance. It isn't suitable for use where a truly water resistant or waterproof light is required.
The Photon Micro-Light 3 will appeal to many, and we love the variable intensity capability and its water resistance, compared to the Photon II, but the inability to return instantly to a constant-on mode is a killer for us. Hopefully, down the road they will address our perceived shortcomings, taking further advantage of the microprocessor's capabilities.
The Arc Key Chain Flashlight is our choice if you are concerned about water and still want a very small, non-bulky light. Moderately waterproof, it is also very bright and gets reasonable battery life out of its easy to find and affordable AAA-cell battery. Given the ease of anodizing in multiple colors, some bright colored bodies would add to its appeal.
The Pelican Products L1 isn't the very smallest or very brightest, and is only water resistant, not waterproof, but we still found ourselves using it a great deal. It's small enough and among the brightest and the clip comes in handy. The price is right, it's tough as nails and the bright colored body kept us from losing it.
Both CMG lights, the Infinity and Q4, are well-built and reasonable performers, but a bit on the bulky side compared to the competition. For example, the Arc Key Chain Flashlight, a nearly identical concept except for battery size, performs better than the Infinity at half the size. Aside from their better waterproof capabilities, which may be important in some instances, they don't stand out. If that waterproof capability is critical, they are the better choice.
The Streamlight Stylus form factor may be perfect for docs and ELTs, but it otherwise doesn't seem to offer any advantage except being waterproof and finding those AAAA-cell batteries is hardly worth the hassle.
The Tektite Expedition 50 / C. Crane CCXtreme with adequate light and incredible battery life is perfect for survival use, if size and weight aren't serious constraints.
The battery-less Innovative Technologies NightStar, likewise, might be a nice addition to home emrgency supplies, an abandon ship bag or a survival kit, but only as a supplement, not as a primary light source.
LEDs offer many advantages over conventional flashlights for many uses and we've come to appreciate those a good deal as we've lived with these lights. There are still some areas where we don't expect LEDs to compete anytime soon, such as tactical lights. And, incandescent lights still offer more light per dollar initial investment in most cases.
The development of LED flashlights, especially those with white LEDs, is in its infancy. You can expect to see brighter white LEDs in the future and even more entrants into the market. Many new products are in development; we've seen some prototypes and pre-production units that are very interesting. This is definitely a product category that's going to see fairly rapid evolution over the next few years, though most everyone we spoke with doesn't expect costs to come down too much for a while.
For more information, check Craig Johnson's LED Museum
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Publisher and Editor: Doug Ritter
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First Published: June 7, 2001
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