I’ve been trying out a lot of flashlights over the last year or so. The most expensive light I have is made by Fenix. It is pretty nice, but a little dated. Since I bought that light, I’ve learned a lot more. I like the Cree XP-G R4 LED with a neutral tint. I bought a couple of these LED’s and put them in flashlights and they are two of my favorites now. They aren’t cool blue like most LED lights, instead having a slightly yellowish tint.
Another nice feature is momentary On which you can get if you have a forward clicky. This allows you to halfway depress the switch and the light comes on. I only have one light like that, all the rest are reverse clickies where you have to fully depress the switch and then let go before the light comes on.
I’d also like different brightness levels: one bright for distance and one dimmer for close up. Usually you can change the modes by halfway depressing the switch, but it would be nice if there was a way to set whether the light would come on in High or Low and stay that way until you reset it. The Low is very tricky: outdoors you want 10 lumens, but indoors you might want 1 or less, especially if you are reading something. Therefore it would be good if the Low mode could be set by the user.
There’s only one light I know of that has all 3 of the features above. It is the Quark 123² Tactical made by a company called 4Sevens, based in Tucker (though the lights are actually made in China). It comes with several different LED’s and one limited edition uses a neutral white XP-G R4 (the normal LED is a XP-G R5 which is one notch brighter; just today they introduced a new XP-G S2 which is one notch brighter still, but also cool white). It is a $70 flashlight, but I figured if it did just about everything I want, and it is a limited edition, I should go ahead and get it.
The light arrived on Wednesday. It came set to strobe and some other mode, but it was pretty easy to reset it to one of 5 different brightness levels and 3 flashing modes. I chose Max (220 lumens) and Low (4 lumens; there is an even lower mode called Moonlight that is 0.2 lumens) and took the dogs for a walk in the dark. One thing I noticed was that after I would switch the light to Low by loosening the head, then turn the light on, there would be a bright flash for an instant and then the light would be in Low. It didn’t do it all the time. Most often it would happen if I had been on Max before turning the light back on or if I waited a few minutes before turning the light on (this happens a lot because I don’t use the light the whole time we’re on a walk). This effect is called “preflash” and it’s the first time I’ve seen it on any of my lights. I do not like it.
I got home and researched preflash, especially for this flashlight. It seems that all of the Tactical versions of the Quark lights have preflash on lower modes. In fact there is even a second kind of preflash where if you turn the light on Moonlight, it flashes Low first. That preflash wasn’t nearly as bad, but it happens every time and with all of the different Quark lights, not just Tactical ones. Here’s a longer review of the light I wrote for Budget Light Forums.
The light was so close to being just right, but I decided I should return it. The shop I bought it from, called Going Gear, is in Atlanta and I had been meaning to go to their store ever since it opened. I even blogged about them last year. This is the same place I ordered the tiny flashlights from and I ordered another one with the Quark after losing mine (that’s the problem with tiny flashlights! the new one will stay attached to my keychain).
The Going Gear store sells flashlights, knives, and camping supplies (they have emergency kits that include very small rolls of duct tape, which I thought was pretty funny). They had a sign out front saying they had something like 200 models of flashlights on display! The owner of the shop was there and he showed me a bunch of different lights, most of which I had heard of but never seen, and some really neat ones I hadn’t even heard of. I don’t think I realized just how it impressive it was that almost all of the flashlights I’ve read about over the last year were there with batteries and you could try them out. There were $400 flashlights there. I didn’t find anything else that I had to have, so I just returned the Quark. I did see a couple of neat lights by Sunwayman and might get one someday. That was a brand I didn’t even know about. They have a collar around the head that you turn to select the mode you want and have a forward clicky on the back. But they don’t have any neutral tint LED’s.