Friday, June 13, 2014

Photon Freedom Review

Photon Freedom – The best button cell flashlight!?




Before I went AWOL, I had planned to do a review of this little flashlight.  To this day, out of all the keyring lights that run on button cells, this has been my favourite!  I have taken the Photon Freedom all over the world with me on various travels.  You can see here an example of a keychain setup I take for travelling HERE.  While the Photon Freedom is not overly bright, it's light weight, flexible, reliable and has a good runtime.  It crams a lot of versatility and hidden features into a very small package.

At the Grand Canyon


Pros:

-Great UI – has adjustable brightness levels that ramps up or down.  Gives you instant access to full brightness with a single click.  Or if you want to preserve you night vision, you can hold down the button and ramp up from low to high.  Sos/blinky modes are available, but tucked away for emergencies
-Unlike some cheap fauxtons, I haven't had any issues with it accidentally turning on.  If it does become a concern, you can set it to signal mode where it will only turn on whilst the button is pressed down.
-Comes with a neck lanyard and cradle for the Photon Freedom.  The cradle comes in handy as a way of storing the light that also prevents accidental activation.  See HERE for an example.
-Comes with a hands-free magnetic clip.  The magnets allow you to attach it to anything metallic.  You can clip it to things such as your hat, becoming a make-shift emergency headlamp.
-Quite a few hidden features/modes – will go into that later
-The ''white light version” uses 2xcr2016 lithium batteries – I feel these lithium button cells are better than the alkaline button cells in the streamlight nano/egear pico light.  I haven't done any objective tests, but I feel the lithium batteries maintains it brightness for longer.  They also work better in extreme temperatures.
-Comes with a life time warranty:  https://www.photonlight.com/pages/Photon-Guarantee-and-Warranty-Service.html
-Comes in a variety of colours (including pink!) and different coloured LEDs.
-Specs suggest 12hr+ runtime.  I wouldn't be surprised if this were true, but I would assume the later stages would be at a much, much reduced output than at the start.




fauxton, photon freedom, different fauxton, abitax tag light, streamlight nano, egear pico lite


Photon Freedom, hands free clip, neck lanyard with cradle.  The original quick-release clip is quite large.  I've switched it to a smaller mcgizmo clip (see above).


Cons:

-I feel the keyring clip included is a little too big – I've switched to a smaller mcgizmo clip instead
-I got a special version that is camouflage in colour (I don't think they make this style body anymore).  Aesthetics aside, this probably wasn't the best choice in colour, if you drop it in grassland it could be hard to find.  However, there is a “Doug Ritter” version that is bright yellow in colour, which should make it easier to locate when dropped.
-Very prominent PWM if not at max brightness.  But considering it's size and other features, I'm pretty forgiving of this.  Most of the time, I'd be running it at max brightness anyway.
-Not very bright (~5 lumen), but generally enough for keyring use, especially with a fairly fresh batteries.
-Beam fairly ugly, typical of most other 5mm LEDs.  Has a purplish tint and quite 'ringy'
-Costly compared to cheap fauxtons you can buy from many of the chinese electronic webstores


Beam typical of most 5mm LEDs

Camoflauge colour probably wasn't my best choice.  More difficult to see in nature environments


Photon Freedom hidden modes:


These were found in various threads in CPF and EDC forums, which I will link to at the end of this article.

Signal/morse code mode:
Keep clicking the button 5-6 times until the light only stays on momentarily. In this mode the photon freedom will only turn on whilst the button is pushed down.  To turn it off signal mode, hold down the button until the light turns off.

50% mode (potentially useful if you want to prolong your battery life using blinky modes):
From OFF Push until “first light” and then Release quickly. You can now Push & Hold until it reaches the level you would like. It will be using half the power as usual, so “full power” is 50%. This effects all levels and the blinking modes as well. You can check that you are using this mode by setting it to “full power” and waving it back and forth. In 50% mode it will look like a dotted line (strobing or PWM). In normal mode it will be solid. It will return to normal mode when it is turned off.

Demonstration mode (light turns off after ~6 seconds):
This is the way the light comes when new. You can also return to this mode by removing the battery(s) and then Pushing & Holding the switch as you put the battery(s) back in. In this mode none of the blinking modes will work, but all the ON/OFF and brightness controls will work. The light will also turn OFF after about 6 seconds. To exit this mode Push & Hold for about 20 seconds (till it turns OFF) or remove and replace the batteries without Holding the switch.

“Auto off” after 3 minutes:
1) press the button rapidly 6 times, which puts the light into "signal/morse code mode."
2) Then press and hold the button for about 5 seconds until the light goes out (this takes the light back out of "signal mode").
3) Continue holding the button for another 5 seconds until there is a brief flash of light.
-Now the light is in "auto off" mode.  At ~3minutes the flashlight will slowly ramp down in brightness until it is completely off.
-To return the light to normal operation without auto-off, Repeat steps 1 and 2 above without doing step 3 (ie. Let go of the button before that brief flash of light)






Conclusion:

If you want something small and light, and don't need more than ~5 lumens, the Photon Freedom is worth some serious consideration.  Personally, I like the brighter modes and nicer beam available with 10180 lights, so that remains my format of choice for a keyring light.  However, the 10180 batteries don't last very long on higher modes, so you'll need to recharging them relatively regularly.

This is why I like having the Photon Freedom as my keyring travel companion.  The batteries usually last the duration of the trip (provided your not TOO heavy with it's usage), and I don't need to any extra chargers that I'd need with a 10180 flashlight.  I'll often EDC an AA/AAA flashlight when travelling, so usually ~5 lumens is enough for keychain usage and an emergency backup to the EDC.



Links:

Good round up of information on the photon freedom:
http://edcforums.com/threads/photon-freedom-101-puting-it-all-together.43690/

Hidden auto-off mode:
http://www.candlepowerforums.com/vb/showthread.php?182818-secret-Photon-auto-off-mode-Freedom-and-Rex-3-min-w-ramp

For specifications and to purchase:
http://www.photonlight.com/led-flashlights/photon-freedom-micro-led-keychain-flashlight/#

Doug Ritter Version, also with some good ideas/info.
http://www.dougritter.com/dr_photon.htm

Another review from a serious hiker
http://www.backpackgeartest.org/reviews/Lighting/Flashlights%20-%20LED/LRI%20Photon%20Freedom%20Micro%20Flashlight/Owner%20Review%20by%20Ray%20Estrella/

Extra Pictures of Packaging:




2 comments:

  1. My husband and I have a small obsession over cool key chain gadgets. Since my husbands birthday is coming up this week I am thinking about buying him a Thor Hammer key chain. He is just really big into his superheros and I think it would be a perfect gift.

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  2. Very thoughtful and comprehensive review. This keychain light seems the descendant of one which I bought for my father circa 2001 or so. I was pleased that Dad actually got some use of it for many years. My father became adept at installing the batteries himself. For the time period in which I did gift my father with this light LED lights were a novelty; especially this tiny dynamo. I recall that I paid $20.00 for this item.

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