A look at small flashlights

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This roundup is about flashlights that are smaller than AAA flashlights or at least uses batteries that are smaller than AAA batteries. I have found two classes of small lights, cheap lights and expensive lights, but not really something in the middle. The expensive lights is sometimes designed to look like jewelry, but I do not have any good examples in my collection. The size of these lights are small, but for some of them, the light output is very high, even higher than most AAA lights, the reason for this is the LiIon batteries.

In my article about AAA flashlights I had some categories and I will do the same here, but the description of the categories will be tailored for these small lights.

I will look at the following lights (Same sequence as picture): Fauxton, La Petite Killer, Nano, TiFli, Drake, Wee, Matterhorn, Draco, Extreme Micro, Raw, Aeon, Cute CR2

The lights are small, here they are in my hand:

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Light emitter
All these small lights uses leds, there are a couple of reasons for that:

5 mm led

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Flashlights are made with two different types of LEDs. One type is the 5mm LED, it looks like a small bulb. These LEDs have a strict limit on maximum power, because they have limited cooling. They are good for a flashlight when you need a long runtime and not the most powerful light. Because the LEDs are encapsulated in a plastic bulb like package, they do not need to sit behind a protective glass in the flashlight.
The following lights uses 5mm LEDs:

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Fauxton, La Petite Killer, Nano, TiFli, Matterhorn

Power led

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The other LED type is known as a Power LED. These LEDs do not have any mechanical protection and have to be mounted on a heat sink with good thermal connection to the rest of the flashlight. Power LEDs always require a glass or plastic window in front of them for protection. These LEDs are used in more powerful flashlights, and some of the lights can get warm, or hot, when in use. The light output from a flashlight with power led is often far above the output of a typical incandescent flashlight. However, this review is about small lights with very limited battery power, i.e. they can not maintain a high output for very long, even with the efficiency advantage of LEDs.
The following flashlights uses Power LEDs:

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Drake, Wee, Draco, Extreme Micro, Raw, Aeon, Cute CR2


Operation
These lights are designed to be compact, this makes twist the preferred operation mode, with one exception.

Button
Due to the size of these flashlights, it is problematic to put a regular switch into them, a more simple construction is used, one that is only active as long as it is activated. This is very useful for signalling, but not practical for continuos use, but a physical lock can be added to the switch, making constant on possible.

Light with button and lock: Fauxton

Twist
These lights are activated by twisting the front and back of the light, this is simple and very reliable way to make a on/off function. Some lights has more settings, either by turning off/on fast or depending on how much they are twisted. One handed use can be a challenge on these small lights, but it is possible on most of the lights.

Lights with twist activation: La Petite Killer, Nano, TiFli, Drake, Wee, Matterhorn, Draco, Extreme Micro, Raw, Aeon, Cute CR2

Settings
Modern flashlights often have more settings, e.g. a high setting with lots of light and short runtime, and a low setting with much lower light output and long runtime. In the lights that has multiple levels, they usual has both a very high setting and a more normal light level. The high settings will match much bigger lights, but has very short runtime, both due to battery power, and because the flashlight gets to hot.

In some flashlight the brightness is regulated by regulating the current into the led, other uses a ”trick”, they turn the led on and off fast. To get half output, just keep the led on 50% of the time, doing it fast enough and the eye will not see any flicker. The method is called pwm (Puls Width Modulation), it is very easy to implement, but it can have some side effect, when looking at moving/rotating objects (Especially for low pwm frequencies).

These lights uses pwm: Drake, Draco


Brightness
Depending on type of light emitter and how it is controlled, light can be made with a wide range of light output, from weak lights that can be used to locate a keyhole but not spoil the night vision, to bright light that can fill a big room with light and definitely spoil any night vision. This review is about very small lights and that puts a limit on brightness, but mostly for the 5 mm leds. The ratings (week/medium/bright) cannot be compared to my other articles.

Below I have put the brightness of the different lights in a graph, it has a log scale, i.e. the step from 0.3 to 3 and from 3 to 30 has the same visual difference.

Brightness

Here some beam shoots with all lights on max.:

Fauxton, La Petite Killer, Nano, TiFli
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Drake, Wee, Matterhorn, Draco
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Extreme micro, Raw, Aeon, Cute CR2
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Battery type

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These lights are supposed to be small and usual the biggest item in a flashlight is the battery, this makes the battery the item where most creativity has been applied to get small solutions.

Button cells

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The smallest batteries are button cells and some of these small lights take advantages of that, but some lights are using multiple button cells. These cells exist in different chemistry, the two most important are Lithium (3 volt) and Alkaline (1.5 volt). Some lights take advantage of the cells limited current capacity and uses this as the current limiter for the led, to save some components.

Lights with button cells: Fauxton, La Petite Killer, Nano, TiFli

CR2

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This is a Lithium battery and is the largest battery that is included in this roundup. The size of this battery also puts the lights with this battery as the biggest lights for this roundup. The battery has a good energy density (but using the slightly bigger CR123 battery would give much more energy). One of the advantages with Lithium is there long storage time, they can be stored for 10 years.

Lights with CR2: Extreme Micro, Aeon, Cute CR2

LiIon

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These rechargeable exist in many sizes, for very small lights types 10180 and 10280 are very useful. Both types can supply lots of current and because of this these small flashlights can be very bright, compared to their size, then can easily match a typical AAA light in brightness, but not in runtime.

Lights with LiIon: Drake, Wee, Draco, Raw


Material and surface treatment
Aluminum
Most flashlights are mode from Aluminum, because it has some good properties for flashlights: It has low density and is good at transferring heat. But it also has one disadvantage, the surface can very easily scratch, on most lights this is solved by using hard-anodizing (Also called Type III anodizing) on the surface.
Aluminum can also be used without surface treatment, it does not corrode, but it will get scratched.

Titanium
Titanium can both be used with and without surface treatment, it is very strong and the density is considerable lower than steel.
For people that want a light around the neck, Titanium is very good, and there is no risk of corrosion.
Flashlight in Titanium is usual more expensive than aluminum lights, some of the reasons are that Titanium is more expensive and it is harder to process. Titanium is also often used for custom lights, i.e. by people that design small series of flashlights, one of the reasons for this is to avoid being compared to cheap mass produced aluminum flashlight.

Plastic
A cheap way to make a light and it makes it possible to include some functional elements in the design. It can only be used for low power lights, because it does not provide enough cooling for a high power led.


How to carry the flashlight
These small lights are designed to always be carried, some of the typical ways to carry them are:



Locate the flashlight in the dark

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Some flashlights can be equipped with a ”locator”, this is a small weak light source that is always on, this makes it possible to locate the flashlight, even in a dark room. These ”locators” can be made in two ways, either by a led with a small current or with a ”trit”. The last solution is the most common one.
A ”Trit” is a tritium vial, it is a small glass vial with a radioactive gas inside and a phosphor coating on the inside of the vial. This design will give a weak glow for many year, the tritium will be down to half after 12 years. The light from this vial is very weak and cannot be seen in daylight, but in darkness, with dark adapted eyes, it is easy to spot. These vials exist in different colors. The radioactive gas is not really dangerous, the radiation is very weak, but if a vial break, it is not healthy to inhale the gas from it.

Lights with locater option: Drake, Wee, Draco, Raw

Flashlights

Fauxton

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This is not a single type of light, but a category of lights, that are made by many different manufacturers, I have selected one of the cheapest for this roundup. This light is molded in plastic and are often without any electronic.
Fauxton is not the real name, but a name somebody made up, the name comes from Proton (The original manufacturer of this type of lights) and faux (Because they are not the real Proton), this was combined to ”Fauxton” for copies of the real Proton.
These lights are very cheap (It is often cheaper to buy a new light, than replacing the batteries) and the construction is very simple, do not expect them to be waterprof.
The cheap version I have uses two 3 volt Lithium batteries to supply the led, that has a maximum voltage of 3.5 volt. The only reason this works, is because the batteries has a very limited current capability, but it is not really the way to design for a long lasting lifetime for neither battery or led. But this matches with the usage of the light: replace the light when the batteries are dead.

I have tried to open a light, to show the simple construction, there are 4 small screws to remove and everything can be taken apart:

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Current consumption: 100mA, but drops fast.
Weight with battery: 7.3 gram
Light emitter: 5 mm led
Battery: 2 x 3V button cells.
User interface: push button/slide switch
Settings: 1 light level
Can be bought here: http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.18630 but also many other places
The original comes from here: http://www.photonlight.com/Photon-Micro-Light-II-Keychain-LED-Flashlights-p/p2-keychain-led-flashlight.htm


Aeon

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This light is much bigger than the above light and has a much higher quality, this can also be seen on the price. This light is made in a very high quality and can be ordered in both aluminum with different colors or titanium. The light has two brightness settings that is activated by tighten the light, first a low then a high will be selected.

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This ligts has some strange frequences in the light output on low, it is not caused by pwm, but due to the current regulation. Here is two samples.

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On low:
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On high:
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Current consumption: low:32mA, high:515mA
Weight with battery: 38 gram
Volume: 15.1 cm3
Light emitter: Power led
Battery: CR2
User interface: Twist
Settings: 2 light levels
Can be bought here: http://muyshondt.net/aeon.shtml


Lummi Raw

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A powerful flashlight, that exist in many versions, the version I show here is in aluminum. To turn the light on and select between the levels, the light has to be tighten more or less. When ordering the light, it is possible to select what two brightness levels to get, but even the lowest level is much more than a 5 mm led delivers. The light can also be ordered with or without trits. The manufacturer makes small series of the light in different materials, i.e. aluminum, nickel-silver, steel, silver, titanium. Some of these are very close to jewelry, but they are also very capable flashlights.
The design makes it possible, for the user, to replace the led with a new type or other power level.

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On low:
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On high:
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Current consumption: low:50mA, high:1.2A (20/200 lumen model)
Weight with battery: 22.7 gram
Volume: 11.9 cm3
Light emitter: Power led
Battery: 14250 LiIon
User interface: Twist
Settings: 2 light levels
Can be bought here: http://www.lummi.co.uk/


Lummi Wee

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A bright light that can be bought in different versions, the one featured here is the titanium version. The light is running on a small LiIon battery and only has one level, how bright that level is, can be specified when ordering the light. It is also possible to order it with trits, as can be seen on the pictures.
The manufacturer makes small series of the light in different materials, i.e. aluminum, nickel-silver, steel, silver, titanium. Some of these are very close to jewelry, but they are also very capable flashlights.
The design makes it possible, for the user, to replace the led with a new type or other power level.

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Current consumption: 118mA (50 lumen model)
Weight with battery: 13.6 gram
Volume: 5.2 cm3
Light emitter: Power led
Battery: 10180 LiIon
User interface: Twist
Settings: 1 light level
Can be bought here: http://www.lummi.co.uk/


Drake
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A very powerful flashlight, that exist in both aluminum and titanium versions and with different surface treatment (It is possible to get a gold colored light). The light has a advanced driver, called FluPIC, this drive has two fixed levels a low and a high and one user programmable level, to change between the levels, twist the light off and then on again. The light has memory and will remember the last setting. For its size it is probably the brightest light on the market.
This light can be ordered with trits.
The light is nearly the same as Draco, but it is 1 cm shorter, because it is using a smaller battery.

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See Draco about PWM.

On minimum:
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On maximum:
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Current consumption: low:14mA, high:730mA
Weight with battery: 13.4 gram
Volume: 5 cm3
Light emitter: Power led
Battery: 10180 LiIon
User interface: Twist
Settings: 3 light levels, one programmable in 10 steps.
Can be bought here: http://www.candlepowerforums.com/vb/showthread.php?t=166864


Draco

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A very powerful flashlight, that exist in both aluminum and titanium versions and with different surface treatment (It is possible to get a gold colored light). The light has a advanced driver, called FluPIC, this drive has two fixed levels a low and a high and one user programmable level, to change between the levels, twist the light off and then on again. The light has memory and will remember the last setting.
This light can be ordered with trits.
The light is nearly the same as Drake, but it is 1 cm longer, because it is using a larger battery.

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The light is using pwm at 200 Hz to regulate the brightness, the scope trace here shows two different settings:

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On minimum:
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On maximum:
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Current consumption: low:5mA, high:780mA
Weight with battery: 16.9 gram
Volume: 6.4 cm3
Light emitter: Power led
Battery: 10280 LiIon
User interface: Twist
Settings: 3 light levels, one programmable in 10 steps.
Can be bought here: http://www.candlepowerforums.com/vb/showthread.php?t=166864


La Petite Killer

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A solid constructed titanium light with a 5 mm led. The light is very short, this goal has been obtained by using a single button cell for power. The light is a bit fat, but not more than a typical AAA light (The light has exactly the same diameter as the Killer AAA light). The light is designed for use on a key chain or on a necklace. The standard version is in titanium without any surface treatment, but the manufacturer is working together with some people that can give it a surface treatment with many different colors (For a price).

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Current consumption: 35mA
Weight with battery: 11.9 gram
Volume: 3.5 cm3
Light emitter: 5 mm led
Battery: button cell SR44
User interface: Twist
Settings: 1 light level.
Can be bought here: http://photonfanatic.com/La_Petite_Killer.html


Amilite Cute CR2

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In this company it is not exactly a small light, but it has a high light output. It is, in fact, the brightest in this roundup. The light exist in two version, one with a CR2 battery (As shown here) and one with with a CR123 battery, the only difference between the two lights are the battery tube. This light is made of aluminum with HA surface treatment in a natural finish.

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Current consumption: 1.3A
Weight with battery: 36 gram
Volume: 18 cm3
Light emitter: power led
Battery: CR2
User interface: Twist
Settings: 1 light level.
Can be bought here: http://www.amilite.co.kr/


MJP Extreme Micro

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This is the smallest CR2 light. It was manufactured by ”ARC mania” that makes small series of quality lights. This light is a aluminum light with HA surface treatment in red.

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Current consumption: 450mA (350mA led current)
Weight with battery: 25.4 gram
Volume: 13 cm3
Light emitter: power led
Battery: CR2
User interface: Twist
Settings: 1 light level.


Streamlight Nano

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This is the smallest light from Streamlight, it is a aluminum light with a 5 mm led and 4 button cells as power. The light is without any electronic, the batteries are connected directly to the led.
I have some problem replacing the batteries in the light, they tend to rotate when I drop them into the tube, but somebody told me a trick: Put all the batteries in a pile, and then put the tube over the pile (Se picture):

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Current consumption: 70mA
Weight with battery: 10 gram
Volume: 3.5 cm3
Light emitter: 5 mm led
Battery: Button cells 4xLR41
User interface: Twist
Settings: 1 light level.


TiFli

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This small light is a custom light, that got started because somebody was looking for a replacement for a light called ”FireFly”, that is not produced any more. This light has nearly the same small size and is made from titanium. The light is produced on order and it is possible to order different designs and also different colors (for a price increase). This is not a high power light, it is the weakest of all the lights in this roundup, but the purpose of this light is not to be bright, it is to be an emergency light you can always keep with you.
My version has the led completely covered and with many colors.
I have some problem replacing the batteries in the light, they tend to rotate when I drop them into the tube, but somebody told me a trick: Put all the batteries in a pile, and then put the tube over the pile (Se picture):

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Current consumption: 2 mA (At turn on 20 mA, but it will quickly fall)
Weight with battery: 8.6 gram
Volume: 2.6 cm3
Light emitter: 5 mm led
Battery: Button cells 4x#10 Zinc Air
User interface: Twist
Settings: 1 light level.
Can be bought here: http://www.candlepowerforums.com/vb/showthread.php?p=2949290


Peak Led Solution Matterhorn

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The name I have used for this light is the name of a series of lights that can be ordered in different sizes, materials and brightness. Some version are sold directly from the website, other must be special ordered with the desired configuration.
My version is a brass light with one led and UP brightness, the same light will also be included in my AAA roundup, but with a AAA battery tube.
The light has a very solid construction and I believe that it can last many years on a key chain.

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Current consumption: 82 mA
Weight with battery: 22 gram
Volume: 5.1 cm3
Light emitter: 5 mm led
Battery: 10180 LiIon
User interface: Twist
Settings: 1 light level.
Can be bought here: http://www.peakledsolutions.net/

Notes
I do the current measurements with fresh batteries. The current will change, depending on the battery voltage, some lights will increase current when voltage drops, and other will decrease current. Each light will have tolerances, i.e. two light of the same type does not necessary have the same current draw.

The weight is with batteries, but batteries from different manufacturers does not always have the same mass.


All pictures of the light output are made with fixed exposure.
The camera settings are:
This exposure makes the brightness step between the pictures 4 times.