It wasn’t that long ago that the best thing under the sun in terms of flashlight was a…drums… Maglite. You carried a mini Maglite 2xAA in your pack, and were happy with its 15 lumens (with fresh batteries) and about a couple hours worth of good light. Heck, people even mounted them on weapons!
That changed a lot with the introduction of LEDs. Battery duration suddenly sky rocketed and now you get hours, even days worth of illumination.
But the LED revolution is still an ongoing process, every couple months or so there are new LEDs created, a race towards making the brightest and most efficient emitter. We are living in interesting times indeed. Specially for gadget fans, the lumen output and duration exceeds anything those of us who grew up with out trust Minimags ever imagined.
I’ve often recommended dealextreme.com as a place to buy cheap yet ok flashlights using some of the latest light emitting diodes. DX product aren’t bad, specially if you buy those that are 3 starts or better, but these days some new brands are there at the top of the illumination technological wave and constantly improving their products.
Quark Mini 123
4Sevens is such a company and I’ve been carrying their Mini 123 Titanium model for several months now. It gets carried in my front left pocket every day and thanks to the compact size you just forget about it until you need it, which is a nice characteristic for an edc gadget to have.
There’s also an aluminum Quark Mini 123 that is just as good, lighter and probably better if you don’t have a thing for titanium. Not only is it lighter but it dissipates heat better and the threading feels better.
The price for the aluminum Mini 123 is 39 USD. While the average DealExtreme LED costs around 20 bucks, its hard not to spend another twenty and get the lastest CREE XP-G R5, installed in the smallest CR123A commercial flashlight currently made. You also get a brand name product with a 10 year warranty.
The specs for the Mini 123 (same for aluminum and titanium ones)
Low: 3 OTF lumens, 150 hours
Medium: 40 OTF lumens, 8 hours
High: 189 OTF lumens, 1.2 hours
Special (hidden) modes:
Strobe 2.4 hours
SOS 7.2 hours
Beacon (Hi) 12 hours
Beacon (Lo) 60 hours
I find the 3 Lumen output to be of particular use for when getting up at night and not wanting to wake up the wife, or looking for things dropped under the bed. Consider that a Maglite Solitarie has 2.5 lumens of output, so 3 lumens isn’t bad when your eyes are used to darkness.
The High 189 lumen output is something that surprises people if you’re not used to these latest advances in flashlight technology. For comparison, the state of the art Surefire G2 (pictured with the small Mini123 for comparison) gives 90 lumens, and that’s enough lumens to be considered a “tactical” light.
The Mini 123 is more floody and doesn’t have much throw but it’s still a considerable output, specially for such a small flashlight, almost keychain sized.
For ordinary work around the house, or searching something in the yard at night, the 40 lumens provided by the medium mode works ok.
I’m happy with mine, and sure feel confident about recommending it to others.
For everyday use or more serious emergencies, it’s a nice piece of kit to have around.
The Quark Mini 123 and the wall of light it makes when on high mode, theowing 189 lumens out the fron (OTF)