LED torches

Mini LED torch review 2
Nice simple page this one. Just some ramblings on my experiences with some more LED compact diving lamps.

The previous review concentrated on 5 torches -
Underwater Kinetics Mini Q40 eLED
Underwater Kinetics C4 eLED
Aquatec Aqua Star 3W LED
LED Lenser Frogman
Northern Diver 3W Fusion-X LED

I've since bought a couple more torches -
Intova ICON Compact LED torch (37 from Simply Scuba)
Fa-Mi Super Ledium LED Rechargeable (149 from Simply Scuba)

I'd already established in previous tests that the 3W Frogman was my preferred choice. It's now time to see how these new lamps compare with the 'old' favourite.

LED Lenser Frogman approx 45
This torch features a single 3 watt LED and is powered by 4 AA cells. The version 2 torch is operated by a mechanical switch - this is the one to get. The case is tough ABS with a stainless steel encased bulb unit and is sealed by a single O-ring with an additional rubber sealing surface (not a traditional O-ring though). The size is very compact at L=155mm, W=35mm, H=25mm, head dia=42mm and weighs in at 225g when loaded with Duracell batteries. Manufacturers claimed burn time is 50 hrs!
Observations The switch is a cause of failure unless you do some preventative maintenance. The magnets and retaining screw will both rust in sea water, eventually causing the switch to become difficult to operate and causing the thing to break. I strongly suggest dismantling the switch and greasing both the screw and the magnets on the underside of the switch. Personally, I used Quicksilver outboard engine grease as that stuff is virtually impossible to remove.

Intova ICON Compact LED (£37 from Simply Scuba)
A very compact (140mm long) torch featuring a 5W CREE LED as the light source. It is powered by 3 AAA batteries with an estimated burn time of 5 hrs. It is quoted as having a light output of 130 lumens. The body is lightweight aluminium, and is switched by a multifunction button at the end of the torch. It will give 100% power, 30% power and flashing modes. The battery compartment is sealed by 2 o-rings and has a relatively long travel thread. Both combine to give confidence in keeping water out and to prevent accidental flooding of the torch due to the end cap unscrewing slightly (the lanyard is connected to this end cap)
Weight of the torch, with Duracell batteries is 190g
Observations The switch may be a cause for concern as it is spring loaded. Whether this will be a point of failure, due to corrosion, is yet to be seen. There doesn't appear an easy way to be able to access the spring so that preventative measures can be taken.

Fa-Mi Super Ledium LED Rechargeable (149 from Simply Scuba)
A new compact torch from Fa-Mi that boasts 3 No. 5W LEDs as the light source. The torch is again in a very compact (140mm x 33mm dia) housing, which means that the reflectors used for the LEDs have been downsized from say the Frogman. The torch is powered by a single 18650 3.7v Li-ion rechargeable battery (supplied) which is charged using the included charger.
The light is pleasingly bright, but also features a good spread. Where the Frogman produces a tight concentrated beam, this lamp is much more evenly spread and will be a better option as an emergency video light (see the Salem Express video on this site for an example of using the Frogman as a video light source). Using the lamp is simplicity. There is a 'gearstick' locking mechanism, that once moved into the unlock position, allows the large main collar switch to be operated. There are no choice of power levels. It's either on or off. Likewise, there is no flashing / SOS mode either. This isn't a surprise as this is the Fa-Mi 'budget' lamp.
Weight of torch is 240g, with a quoted burn time of 2 hrs using the supplied battery.
The supplied charger will charge 2 batteries, so I would recommend buying 1 or 2 higher power spares. Personally, I bought a pair of Ultrafire 3000 mAh batteries from e-bay for £8.50, which should provide a slightly longer burn time than the supplied 2600 mAh battery. You also have the added advantage of not having to wait for a battery to re-charge as one can be charging while the other is in use.
Observations I have concerns that the locking mechanism will seize over time due to the destructive effects of sea water. As a preventative measure, I've loaded the entire mechanism with Quicksilver marine grease, although I think it would still be a good idea to leave the lamp in the 'unlocked' position while being stored, and to remove the battery.
My 2nd concern is the sealing. There is only 1 o-ring. While a lot of manufacturers are going for the insurance option using 2 o-rings, this seems a little cheap given the price of the lamp.
My 3rd concern is the end cap. It unscrews relatively easily, which itself isn't a major problem, however as the lanyard also connects to the end cap, this may be a source of problems in the future. For my own piece of mind, I'll probably slip a short length of bicycle inner tube over the cap and body to give a bit more turning resistance.

Rather than go through the table of numbers as per the older page, I'll just do the photographic tests.
The torches on test were the N-Diver 3W Fusion-X, the LED Lenser Frogman, the Intova ICON @ 30% and @ 100% and the Fa&Mi Super Ledium. The first 2 torches were included as a control as these featured in the previous test.

The first test is with the lamps aimed at my hedge from a distance of 3m. The camera settings for each image on ALL the test images was identical (50mm lens, F5.6, 1 sec exposure, ISO 200), and all torches had new batteries inserted.

You can see that the Intova @ 30% is similar to the N-Diver. @100% it is considerably brighter than the Frogman and also has a larger 'splash' with a fair degree of peripheral lighting. By comparison, the Fa&Mi does not have the same bright hotspot as the ICON, however the spread of the beam is much greater.

The test was repeated at a distance of 5m. These are the resultant images....

The results are very similar, with the Fa&Mi producing an even beam, but nowhere near as hot as the ICON.

As a final comparison, here are the lamps lined up side by side so that you can get a direct comparison between them in one simple image. Click the image to see a larger version. The image itself is a stitch job, however the camera settings are the same for each image and as used in the 3m and 5m tests.

This image was shot at 7m distance.

As can be seen from the images, the ICON produces a bright, relatively tight, beam and is the hottest of the lamps tested here. It definitely out-performs the Frogman in both brightness and beam spread, and can be argued that it is the best lamp of the 4. Where the Super Ledium owns the rest is in the spread of the beam. The spread comes at a cost though as it is clearly not as bright as the ICON.
The question therefore begs, is it worth the extra £110?
From the above, I would tentatively answer "No", however as this is a virgin test and doesn't take long term usage / ownership into account, it cannot be a definitive "No".

Update - Dec 2010
Have now used both the Super Ledium and the Intova ICON torches in a nice blue water environment (the Red Sea) and have decided that for general purpose usage, there is no need to spend the extra cash on the Super Ledium as the Intova does the job just as well.

Both lamps have a useful spread with the cone from the Intova being around 45 deg. The FaMi, provides around a 35 deg spread. The hotspot of the Intova provides considerably more reach, however as a close up lamp for say video work, the FaMi would be the better option.

So 37 for the Intova ICON, in my not so humble opinion, is considerably better value than the 149 you'd splash out on the Super Ledium, *unless* you need the more even beam spread offered by the 3 LEDs of the Super Ledium.

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