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Magnetic Flashlight Roundup

 

Float Testing
 

The float test was pretty straight forward.  Turn on the light and drop it into the swimming pool (yes, I did it at night, just in case you were wondering).  There are only 4 flashlights lit up (in the above picture) on account of the Everlast and its annoying switch.  The Everlast was floating around with the rest, but I guess you could say it was in stealth mode.  They all floated and that was what was being verified.  The most buoyant flashlight was the Nightstar.  This was determined by placing the flashlights on the swimming pool floor and then releasing them to rise to the surface.  The Nightstar RS was the slowest riser, due to its compact size and small internal volume. 

 

Waterproof Testing

How do you test a bunch of floating flashlights to see if they are waterproof?  You put them in an inverted milk crate, set the crate on the 2nd step of the swimming pool, and then place a brick on top of it to ensure it stays put.  This put them about 12" under water....not much in terms of absolute pressure, but I rarely have more than a foot of water sloshing around in my Jeep anyway so I thought it was a valid simulation of real world conditions.  I waited 90 minutes and removed the brick to retrieve flashlights.



The Everlast flashlight picked up some water inside the housing.  A handful of drops collected during the 90 minutes it was submerged. 

 

The Forever flashlight allowed more water to enter into the housing than did the Everlast.  It was not a huge amount but was noticeably more than what the other leaked. 

The Nightstar, Nightstar RS, and the Hummer flashlights had no evidence of water entry into the housing. 

 

Leak-down Testing

When I mentioned to my wife that I was going to do a leak down test, she thought I was heading back to the pool with the flashlights.  Wrong!  I wanted to test the quality of the flashlight's storage capacitor.  The capacitor stores the  electrical energy that is generated by the magnet passing through the charging coil.  If the capacitor is a quality component, you can charge the light today, use it for a little bit, and then toss it into your glove box.  Some time later, when you use it again, the capacitor will still be charged and your light can be used immediately without the delay to recharge it....or a few quick shakes will top it off and you are ready to go.  If the storage capacitor is a low quality unit, most or all of the capacitor's charge will dissipate and you will have to recharge the flashlight from zero before using it.  Depending on the capacitor, the leak-down rate can be minutes, hours, or days.  If your flashlight goes many days between charges and still retains a charge, you have a pretty good light, in my opinion.  In case you were wondering, the quality storage capacitor will drive the cost of the flashlight up.  Low quality capacitors can be had for less money and so can show up in a cheap flashlight. 

I should also mention that the storage capacity (measured in farads) of the capacitor will have an impact on the results of this test.  A larger capacitor will hold a larger initial charge and so will last longer.  If it is a quality component, it will experience only minor leak-down.  This would be an ideal setup for a magnetic flashlight.   On the other hand, a smaller storage capacitor with a faster leak-down rate is a recipe for a a poor performing flashlight.  You will be shaking it a lot and it won't hold the charge for very long. 

I wasn't sure just how long I should let the flashlights sit before doing the leak-down test so I decided to try the first test at about 30 hours.  (I picked 30 hours because it also fit my schedule of things I was doing over the weekend.)  Since I used a 2 minute charging cycle in the first run for the brightness and duration test, I thought it appropriate to use it again.  That would provide me with an already established reference point by which to compare the flashlights.  Each flashlight was dutifully shaken for 2 minutes and then set off to the side to "leak-down". 

Sunday afternoon rolled around and I found myself at the 30 hour mark.  I was, however, not at the same location where I performed the brightness and duration test.  I still had the loaner light meter so I setup a pair of test benches separated by the same distance I previously used.  The only thing that differed from the first setup was the ambient light conditions....but that was not a real problem.  Since I would be comparing the 5 flashlights to each other, it made little difference if the room was not lit the same as before since I still would be measuring the the LED output of each flashlight on the light meter at the same distance. 

After the testing was completed, I charged the Nightstar for 2 minutes and then tested it to get a reference for initial brightness.  Using this setup, it registered 2 on the light meter.  Obviously, the ambient light at my second testing location was higher than it was at the first.  Had there been less light, the initial brightness readings for the leak-down test would have been higher and the duration would have gone longer.  But as I said, all the flashlights were tested in the same manner during the leak-down test so the numbers for each model are still valid.

Here are the results of leak-down test:

 

Model Time
in mins.
Brightness
Nightstar 0 1.75
1 1.25
2.25 .75
3.5 .5
5.5 0
 
Hummer 0 1.25
1 .5
2.25 0
 
Nightstar RS 0 1
1 .5
2.25 0
 
Everlast 0 1
1 .25
2.25 0
 
Forever 0 0

The Nightstar came out on top in the leak-down test.  It retained more of its previous charge and continued to produce it for a longer period of time.  The Hummer edged out the Nightstar RS, on initial brightness, by just a bit.  The Forever model lacked enough charge to cause the light meter to move. 

 

Power Switch

Given the variety of different on/off switches being used on the flashlights, I thought I would make a few comments about them.  Some may say that this part of the evaluation is rather subjective and they are probably correct.  But some of the information here is fact and that can not be disputed.  So here is my take on the power switches being used.
 

Model Comments
   
Nightstar Two position sliding switch which indicates switch position, without manipulation. 

Switch is luminescent and a short exposure to room or sunlight allows it to glow for several hours. 

Switch does not penetrate housing so no leaking seals. 

Switch contains small magnet that moves into position to activate a small reed relay inside the body of the flashlight, closing the contacts that power the LED.

   
Hummer Two position push button, push on, push off.  Can not determine switch position without checking for light output. (can not determine if light is off or discharged without cycling the switch)

Appears that the switch penetrates the housing which could cause leaking.

   
Nightstar RS Unique rotary switch that resists clogging from mud and debris.

Switch is luminescent and a short exposure to room or sunlight allows it to glow for several hours. 

Switch contains small magnet that moves into position to activate a small reed relay inside the body of the flashlight, closing the contacts that power the LED.

Switch does not penetrate housing so no leaking seals. 

   
Everlast Momentary push button, push on, release to turn off.  Must constantly hold switch in on position to use flashlight.  Appears that the switch penetrates the housing which could cause leaking.
   
Forever Two position sliding switch which provides switch position indication, without manipulation. 

Switch does not penetrate housing so no leaking seals. 

Switch contains small magnet that moves into position to activate a small reed relay inside the body of the flashlight.



I like the rotary switch on the Nightstar RS the best.  It is easy to actuate and provides positive feedback when you do.  Its clog free design is just more gravy on the potatoes, in my opinion. 

The luminescent switch on the two Nightstar models is a nice touch.  They don't make the switch work any better but it makes it easier to find the flashlight in a dark room, tent, Jeep, etc. 

The Everlast switch is the worst choice for a flashlight, in my opinion.  I could not tolerate a light that could not be turned on and then set down to allow me to work on something using both hands. 

 

Drop Testing

The drop test was conducted from a shelf at 50" above the concrete floor.  The flashlights, one by one, were positioned at the edge of the shelf and nudged over the edge.  Most did a 1/2 gator onto the floor but a few opened into a full pike, with a 3/4 rotation, just before impact.   After impact, the light was checked to ensure it still had light output and the inspected for any signs of external damage.  This was repeated 5 times.  After the 5th drop, the lights were turned on and fully discharged.  Each light was then charged for 30 seconds and checked again for light output.  This last check was done to ensure the charging components were still functioning. 

This was actually the last test performed on the flashlights.  Since the survival rating of the flashlights was unknown, all other tests needed to come first so that they could be completed. 

 

 

The first drop of the Forever light caused the power switch to detach itself from the housing.  Since only one of the two pieces that came off could be located, the testing of this flashlight was terminated.  The only way this flashlight could be checked was to place the charging magnet of another flashlight near it and actuate the internal reed relay. 

One other incident repeatedly happened although the results were not as serious as those to the Forever flashlight.  The Everlast flashlight's rubber gasket that fits directly under the screw on ring that holds the lens in place, would partially dislodge itself each time the flashlight hit the concrete.  While the retaining ring was screwed down tightly, it seems the case and ring would flex, from the impact, and cause the gasket to squeeze out in one or more places.  After each impact, the retaining ring was released and the gasket placed back into position before the ring was again tightened. 

The Nightstar, Nightstar RS, and Hummer lights suffered no apparent damage from the drop testing. 

 

Beam Quality and Illumination Testing

Beam quality and illumination is pretty straight forward as far as testing is concerned.  The pictures below were taken using a Cannon digital camera mounted on a tripod.  The lens was set for f2.8 with a .4 second shutter speed in a relatively dark room.  The flashlight was positioned just above the camera and directed towards an off-white wall, approximately 10' away.  The camera doesn't quite capture everything the eye sees.  However, it is consistent from one flashlight to the next and that is what the pictures reflect.  Each flashlight was charged for 2 minutes prior to the picture being taken. 

The second part of the test was conducted outside in the front yard and also near some shrubby that borders the front of the house.  My dogs participated in this test.  My black and white terrier was a good test subject as the light from the flashlights contrasted against her coat quite well.  In other words, some of the flashlights made her pretty easy to see while others were not as good. 

 

The Forever flashlight showed poorly in this test.  It was notably dimmer than all of the other flashlights.  The beam was nicely shaped except that there just wasn't much of it for a picture.  As for its illumination outdoors, it did no better. 

 

The Nightstar RS flashlight provided a nicely defined beam.  There were no distracting rings located outside of the major center beam.  The warmer color (more yellowish than blue) illuminated outdoor objects better, including my dogs. 

 

 

The Everlast flashlight provided a beam that was slightly out of focus.  It appears that the LED itself is not quite centered within the flashlight's reflector.  It produces a round beam whose intensity is unevenly distributed throughout the beam.  A large outer ring is visible around the center beam.  This results from the design of the lens which has a "bubble" on it that looks as though it magnifies the center of the light beam.  The beam is more bluish and doesn't illuminuate the outdoors as well as some of the other flashlights.

 

 

The Hummer flashlight has a lens design that closely matches the Everlast.  Shining both of them on the wall, side by side, made almost identical patterns.  It too suffers from the same distracting outer ring.  It also has a bluish tint and so does not illuminate the outdoor subjects as well as those with a warmer light.  The beam was more clearly defined and did not have the improperly positioned LED within the reflector. 

 

The Nightstar flashlight turned in the brightest picture of those flashlights tested.  Its yellowish light worked well outdoors and finding the dogs in the shrubbery was not a problem.  The beam is well defined and has no distracting outer rings.  If you examine the lens, you will see the bubble, like on the Hummer, is absent. (that is a good thing)  

 

More Flashlights

 

 

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