by John Boch
(GunNews) – Got a satellite you need to signal? Hunt nocturnal creatures where legal? Like uber-bright flashlights? If so, the Fenix TK-35 is the light for you.
This portable torch, as the Brits call them, runs on four CR123A lithium batteries or two rechargeable lithium ion batteries (available for about $18 with charger from dealextreme.com or other online outlets).
Don’t let the unique shape scare you – it fits very comfortably in the hand. Operation is controlled through two buttons on the tail of the unit. The larger button powers it up to the last setting used.
The smaller button runs through four brightness levels and activates the strobe. The strobe function alternates between two strobe patterns. It’s “dazzling” to say the least. If you’re using this light as a good guy, you’ll need to make sure you don’t dazzle yourself with the intense light splashback.
The CREE XM-L is the advanced light engine inside, offering both performance and efficiency. It emits 820 lumens in the “turbo” mode for 90 minutes of full, pure-white brightness. The highest, “turbo” setting is pretty much just for showing off, illuminating distant objects or testing a bad guy’s bladder control. The other settings are rated at 375, 110 and 15 lumens respectively. Run times are even longer with the rechargeable Li-Ion batteries!
So, how bright is 820 lumens? I fired mine up in the park next to my house and giggled like a little girl as I illuminated a good part of the church complex 200 yards away as though someone had installed stadium lights on the place. I quit playing before I caused an accident from drivers passing by.
The beam is a little tighter than I’d like for social uses, but outdoors, distant objects are readily illuminated and close objects are equally well handled with the lower two settings.
It’s not too heavy and will ride semi-comfortably in a cargo pocket or the back pocket of a pair of 5.11 pants, beside your wallet.
The waterproof (to 2m) aluminum bodied TK-35 sells for just over a C-note at a number of online retailers (and probably some gun shows in coming months).
I’ve been playing with uber-bright lights since about 2005 when I started building custom lights that put out almost 1000 lumens in a very floody beam. They are a pain to maintain because of battery self-discharge, and aren’t without risk of melting components, fire and other issues one encounters while pushing the performance envelope of hand-held incandescent flashlights.
Unlike those custom modified lights, the Fenix TK-35 is safe to use while remaining extraordinarily powerful. It also offers a much better beam and flexibility in brightness settings.
If you like really bright flashlights, you’ll probably like the TK-35 as well.
Follow up: The above was originally published in the July 2011 issue of GunNews. Since then, there are now a host of lights that are uber-bright (as in over 600 lumens). In the time since I wrote this piece, I've used this light maybe a dozen times, and most of the time it wasn't serious usage. I have to admit it does a nice job spotlighting kids riding 4-wheelers in the dark nearly a quarter-mile away, causing them to lose bladder control. Most of the time though, it's just showing folks how bright a really bright light can be.
If you want to buy one of these $100+ lights just to horse around, have at it. Unless you've got a real need to illuminate significant expanses a football-field away (or several football fields away), or want to get thrown out of a football game for blinding the players from the stands, this light probably has more horsepower than you can reasonably expect to use 99.44% of the time.
If you really want to go all out, I think there are LED units out there that output over 2,000 lumens. If you've got money to spare, have at it. Just keep in mind that illuminating anything under a couple of hundred yards away with 1500 or 2000 lumens is going to wreck your ability to see anything else until your eyes readjust.