Review of Solarforce L2m Torch with CREE XP-G

Author sophos9 - Last updated: 15.01.2012

As part of getting new products in for Flashlight Heaven, I test items and see if I like them. Some make the cut, a lot don’t. I have just started to stock the Solarforce L2m, so those of you on the ball will have guessed that I already like this torch! Nevertheless, I have tried to look at each aspect and judge objectively to make sure this review is balanced!

But hey, I’d love to hear what your opinions are on this torch as well, especially if you’ve got new points to raise or other opinions. You should – if I’ve got the hang of this article add-on – be able to comment (or ‘review’) on this review at the bottom if you’re a registered user of the site.

L2


L2 mini

 

 

Construction and Build Quality

There are a few things I don’t like about the construction, but many more things that I do. Lets start with the negatives;

It doesn’t come with enough grease on the threads!! Obviously this is a minor issue, as it is very easy to fix, but for the same reason I wonder why they couldn’t just do this at the factory. This means it sometimes queaks a little when un-doing the tailcap, though I have only tested this one torch. A bit more grease solves this and the rest of the threads are flawless and smooth with good o-rings that give a nice feel when doing the tailcap / head unit up.

The anodising is very well done and there are no flaws – however it doesn’t feel durable enough for the most extreme punishment, i.e. if I put it in a tumbler dryer with some rocks I don’t think it would come out flawless. OK this is probably asking a lot of a mid-range torch I’ll admit, and I haven’t gone to the lengths of throwing this torch around to test, so I could be wrong. From the specs I’ve read, the torch has HA Type II anodising, which is very good, but its not the best you can get. This has to be put into perspective though, few torches at this pricepoint come with real Mil-spec Type III hard-anodising, though many claim to but leave you suspicious that this is just made up!

A side-note – it would be nice if manufacturers quoted the anodising thickness (in µm) so that buyers could directly compare – for reference, the wikipedia article on anodising describes the thicknesses possible and the levels required in spec MIL-A-8625 to comply with the various types, for example Type-III HA could be anywhere from 25µm up to 150µm (apparently) – if the thickness isn’t given then two torches with seemingly ‘identical’ anodising types could have vastly different wear resistance. I digress…

L2 mini

The positives are mainly everything else. The LED is well centred in the reflector on the sample I have, and the reflector has a perfect finish and the whole module seats well inside the body. The soldering on the LED module is also very good, which is usually a tell tale sign in some cheaper modules, I have seen some LED modules break at the solder joints at the back of the LED module, but this looks very clean and strong. The knurling is well machined and provides a good level of grip.

Overall the feel of the torch is excellent, and there were no machining defects. The laser etching is clear and centred with no imperfections. The clicky switch is firm and responsive. Basically, it just feels good!

 

Features

L2 mini

The Solarforce L2m has the unique ability within the L2 family to be able to run off a single RCR123a cell ini a ‘mini’ configuration (will not work off a 3v primary CR123a as I found out, see the section on the light output testing). This is because the body is made up of two parts, and the end extension tube can be removed to leave a compact half-size torch using a single RCR123a cell. I think this is a great feature! Awww look how cutesy it is. goochy goochy gooo

The tailcap switch is a simple on / off which works very well, but it doesn’t have a momentary-on ability which is something I would have liked to see. How important this is for you depends on your application, if you’re using it as a general household torch, an every day carry (EDC), or for camping purposes then this probably won’t trouble you at all. I can see momentary-on (or off) being a useful feature for hunting or airsoft or other uses though.

The head is anti-roll which works very well on most gentle slopes and is a welcome feature. In addition the head has a tactical bezel which is very useful when you have it end-stood on a table as it allows you to tell that its turned on. And naturally, if you do happen to end up in a nasty situation with this torch, the tactical bezel gives you that flashlight equivalent of knuckle dusters for you to jab your way to safety – fantastic!

LED beam and light output

luxmeter

The LED module in this torch is the 3V-18V single-mode version of the Solarforce LC-XPG drop-in, that uses a CREE XP-G LED – rated at 340 lumens max. Unfortunately proper lumen measurements require more kit than I have available – however with some luck I do have a lux meter so I am able to measure the illuminance (lumens per metre2) at various points of the beam profile.

First of all I decided it would be interesting to see how the beam pattern and intensity drops off as you move away from the centre spot. For this I positioned the torch at a 1m distance from a plain white wall.

This setup produced a beam approximately 106cm in diameter at the wall, and with a very bright centre spot and good level of flood dropping off – see the beamshots below.

18650 cell

I used a freshly charged Trustfire 2400mAh 18650 Li-ion celI and waited about 60 seconds after turning the torch on for it to warm up and the light output to stabilise before taking measurements.

I placed a tape measure with the 1m mark at the centre of the beam and then took measurements with the luxmeter at 2cm intervals (changing to 3cm further from the centre).

You can see this setup in the picture below, together with a graph I took of the recorded lux values versus distance. This gives a good representation of how the light output drops off as you move away from the centre (scale is logarithmic).

 

beam pattern graph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

beam measure picture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now some beam shots! These were taken with the torch in the same position, 1m from the wall, and with the camera just next to it. The camera is a Lumix G3 micro 4/3 camera, the pictures were taken on F/3.5 and ISO 320, with the shutter varied for each shot;

In order, shutter speeds; 1/25th, 1/40th, 1/100th, 1/200th, 1/1000th:

beam shot 1/25th

beam shot 1/40th

beam shot 1/100th

beam shot 1/200th

beam shot 1/1000th

 

 

 

 

multimeter

Next step; current draw. Using a Greenlee DM-500 multimeter I measured the current drawn for various battery combinations. I also did a lux measurement of the centre of the beam for each case.

1x 18650:      Current draw was measured as 0.745A with a centre lux reading of 3920 lum / mat the centre.

2x CR123a:  Current draw was measured as 0.984A with a centre lux reading of 4180 lum / mat the centre.

1x CR123a:  Not possible (see below).

The current measurement for 1x CR123a was not possible because I did not have any RCR123a (rechargeable CR123a) cells available. Unfortunately, as I realised during this testing, the single cell mode needs a rechargeable CR123a Li-ion cell with a 3.7v voltage – it will not run off the standard 3v disposable lithium CR123a as the voltage ends up below the minimum required for the 3V-18V LED module.

It is also worth noting from these current measurements that the mode with 2x CR123a’s is far less efficient than using a single 18650 cell – the current and voltage are significantly higher, but the lux reading only increases slightly. I guess most people knew this already, but its worth noting how large the efficiency difference is.

Note that these results only depend on the LED module used, any other P60 type drop-in could easily be used inside the L2m host / torch body. One of the new XM-L T6 drop-ins would fit in and give a nice boost to the brightness, though this would reduce the runtime. Its up to your personal preference which of these trade-off you prefer.

Appearance and any other business

Like my other gripes this last one is also quite minor – I don’t think the laser etched www.solarforce.hk marking on the tailcap looks very good. I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is about it, its not that its done badly, probably just that it looks a bit too plain!

There’s not much else to say about the appearance, again this is up to your preference but I think it looks very good, it has good machining and is well finished in black, and it doesnt look wimpy – so all is good!

Overall

For those of you who have skipped my various ramblings, here’s the bottom line:

Likes

  • Overall high build quality, with almost flawless finish
  • Tactical bezel, anti-roll body.
  • Solid feeling clicky switch
  • Smooth, well-machined threads
  • Well-centred LED and flawless reflector
  • Smooth beam pattern with good balance of spread and throw

Dislikes

  • No momentary on / off
  • Not quite enough grease on the threads from the factory!
  • Tailcap laser etching looks a little unexciting
  • Anodising is ‘only’ Type II.
  • CREE XP-G module not as high output as CREE XM-L
  • 1x CR123a mode doesn’t work with primary CR123a cells

 

Overall – I love this torch. There are a things that could be improved, but for me none of these are big enough to take away from the positives and the general well-made feel I get when handling this torch. The Solarforce L2m merits serious consideration for your collection!

Review provided by Kevin at Flashlight-Heaven – check his site out to purchase

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