- Update, July 2011: I lost this torch, and replaced it with a slightly bigger and brighter Fenix. This one turned up a couple of weeks later, and now Sam uses it. Still a great little torch.
Torches are always a compromise. The smallest ones are never very bright, and the brightest ones are hardly convenient to carry around. Things have moved on a lot in recent years, with big improvements in LEDs, and better use of lithium and rechargeable batteries, but the compromises are still there. Unless you’re really quite geeky about your gadgets, or you have specific needs (like camping, or walking home after dark) you probably won’t care much what sort of torch you have.
I wanted a torch that was brighter than the one I was using, but not too big. I was willing to carry something bigger, as long as it wasn’t too inconvenient. At that point, I was using a small Fenix torch, that used a single AAA battery. It was small enough to slip almost unnoticed into a pocket, and was surprisingly bright for its size. We live in a 3rd floor (4th to those in the US) flat, with an external metal staircase, so it’s handy to have some light when climbing them on winter nights.
After a bit of reading and thinking, I ended up with the Fenix P2D Premium Q5, which I’ve been very happy with. It’s probably expensive enough to horrify many people, but more expensive torches are available too. Add in the excuse of using some birthday money (or whatever excuse I actually added in to the mix – I forget), and an expensive torch starts to look like a sensible purchase. Maybe not to you, but to a geek like me trying to justify a new toy.
I’d read that it was the size of a thumb. It’s about the width of my thumb, but a bit longer. It fits very neatly in my fist, not sticking out at either end. It’s light enough than holding and carrying it doesn’t feel like an effort. It’s big enough, though, that it would take up a significant amount of space in an already part-filled pocket. It came with a little pouch on a belt loop, so that’s how I carry it, on my belt next to my Swiss Army knife. I can have it in my hand in about one second, so it’s not much hassle to reach for it.
It’s very easy and comfortable to have in hand. In a pocket, it would be quite small on its own, but it’s quite a big thing to add to a pocket that’s already fairly full. For those times when sticking a torch in your mouth is the easiest way to work with both hands, it’s usable, but a bit bigger than you’d want to chew on for too long.
Brightness is even more difficult to describe, but it’s quite impressively bright. On full brightness, when standing on the stairs outside our door, it can light up the ground three floors below quite well. It can light up the houses two long gardens away behind our building. The houses across the street from them, too, but not very noticeably. When standing, it can show up on the ground quite well in daylight, and if I shine it at a 100W light bulb, the bulb throws a clear shadow on the ceiling, even when turned on. It’s 180 lumens, if that helps any.
On full brightness, though, it has two limitations:
- It only lasts for one hour on a battery. Since they’re expensive lithium batteries, burning through one in an evening would be a problem. That’s not so likely to happen, though, because of the second limit:
- After ten minutes of use, it gets hot enough that Fenix warn that the torch or battery could be damaged. It becomes quite uncomfortable to hold.
With a small twist of the top section, though, it drops from ‘turbo’ mode to ‘general’ mode. Gentle presses of the power switch will then switch between three more power levels, giving between 2 hours of use and 30 hours of use from the same battery. Even on the lowest setting, it’s painful to look into the beam, and quite bright enough to see your way around in the dark.
It has a couple of other tricks, too:
- In turbo mode, it can also be set to strobe – very fast flashing of the full power light. Not much use day to day, but you can see why it might be useful for law enforcement and military. In a dark environment, it’s quite disorientating.
- In general mode, the same setting (an extra gentle press of the power button) sets SOS mode – it flashes the morse code for SOS. Probably not very useful halfway up the stairs to a flat in Tiverton, Devon, but could be a nice feature to have if you’re buying it for camping or hiking.
I bought the Fenix Diffuser Lantern at the same time, which is a useful accessory. It’s just a single piece of plastic that fits over the end of the torch, spreading it’s light in all directions. Sam has used it a few times in place of a lamp at her side of the bed, but it would be a very useful camping accessory.
I also stocked up on the NexTorch CR123A batteries, which makes the torch much cheaper to run. At a rough estimate, I seem likely to get through around three or four batteries a year, so the 12-pack will last a long time.
Unless you either obtain some geeky delight from a torch, or go about the sort of activities that really require such standards of light output, you’re unlikely to want to shell out for a torch like this one. If you do fall into either of those categories, though, it’s a very nice little tool/toy. I have no real need for it, but I love it anyway.