Since the advent of white LED technology several years ago, I have waited for torch manufacturers to come to grips with the advantages of LEDs in high efficiency and long life, among others. Eveready-Energizer have held out for a long time with their existing bulb based products and it is a pleasant surprise to see that at long last they have grasped the LED nettle and started to engineer products which use the LED to its fullest advantage. Although LED technology is becoming very widespread in torches of many different types, most of them are using LEDs of fairly average brightness or without any reflectors. Regardless of the light intensity of the emitter, the beam drops off fairly rapidly without a properly engineered reflector. As battery life is always a consideration for torches, it stands to reason that making the maximum use of the beam by fitting a proper reflector is an advantage worth having.
Energizer have developed a line of high quality high durability torches called “Hard Case” which start at 2 AA and range up to 2 D size. Practically all of the smaller models now use LEDs, but a bulb is still used in the largest model. While I am still waiting for Energizer to give us a super bright LED 2 D torch with very long battery life, I’m happy to buy the 2 AA swivelhead which is the subject of this review. With a claimed light output of 75 lumens and 5.5 hour run life (presumably on Energizer alkalines), this product fits the bill for a strong bright light in a package that will survive the rigours of working conditions and will fit in a pocket. At around $60 though, it’s not cheap.
The Hard Case’s head normally rests at right angles to the body but can be rotated up or down through an arc just over 90 degrees. The rotating mount is made out of 5 mm thick metal and like everything else about this torch it has a solid rugged feel to it. The torch is claimed to withstand a 6 metre drop, the lens is claimed to be shatterproof and the torch has gaskets fitted at joins to keep water out. However, no claims are made about submersibility. As the torch is obviously designed to resist water I would expect it to survive being dropped into a bucket or some other container filled with liquid but Energizer has not given any guidelines about this. One of the advantages of LEDs is that the emitter can be permanently sealed into the lamp as with a life of 100,000 hours and immunity to burnout or vibration shock, it never needs changing.
Now that I’ve mentioned the emitter, this torch has not one, but in fact four of them, controlled by a pair of membrane sealed push button switches. The upper switch alternates between two red (“night vision”) or one green (“pipeline inspection”) LEDs of high, but by modern standards, relatively ho-hum brightness level. The lower switch is the one you want to be more careful of. One push illuminates the main emitter’s fantastically bright 75 lumen beam, while a second push switches it to a lower power level. I would guess the emitter is probably about a 3 watt unit, and as everyone hopefully knows, on no account should you ever look into the light as it has the capacity to permanently damage your eyesight. With the advantage of a properly designed reflector in its favour, the swivelhead’s full power output easily outperforms a cheaper 2 D Energizer with four “ordinary” LEDs and no reflector. The emitter is bright, but the reflector is what makes the beam blinding and thus it outperforms by a wide margin anything else in its class. Simply put as a torch it packs the best performance I have ever seen in 2 AAs and I am now waiting for that 2 D high power LED Hard Case, or perhaps an LED Dolphin would be nice (maybe I can get one of those drop in LED bulbs for my customised Dolphin, which has been upgraded with a gel cell).
FOOTNOTE: Since I made my original posting, a friend noted that the colours output by this torch are the same ones used in hand signals for trains – red, green and white. I have thought about this a little, and in theory you could use this torch for this purpose, but in practice it could be too slow and awkward to be able to change the colours in situations where a rapid change is needed as, for example, changing quickly from a Go to Stop signal (red to green). When I was involved some years ago in a heritage railway, it was always a point of interest that LED technology was developing to the point where all three colours could be displayed in the same device, which would probably have to be custom assembled built due to the very specific requirements for the three colours used, as we well know that there is virtually nothing out there that is readily available and cheap – I expect that there are commercial devices produced for this purpose, probably at a cost of hundreds of dollars. This particular model of torch may be able to be used in situations like these and is a well made rugged device for outdoor use in all conditions especially where it may be dropped.
FOOTNOTE 2: Energizer do have a 2 D LED model available, PRO2D1, though I have yet to see it in NZ. It has a Cree 3 watt emitter, although the output is actually lower than the PRO2SWA at 65 lumens (about the same as a standard Dolphin torch), the beam has double the useful distance, probably due to a larger reflector, and its runtime on alkalines is a very useful 15 hours. In general this model has similar performance overall to the standard Dolphin but is much more solidly made, and on 2 D cells it is cheaper to run than the 4 Ds or 6V lantern battery of the Dolphin. Also of interest is the TUFRC1, which is a bigger unit in a handheld spotlight form factor though it uses a 3 watt LED, has about the same range and output as the PRO2D1, and is rechargeable. I think that this model is available in NZ but is getting fairly pricey. Top of the range is the specially engineered high power Dolphin, the 108MK6R, with a special halogen bulb, which can run for about 1 hour on a charge and pumps out a massive 210 lumens, but it would be very expensive if available, and the short run time puts it in the same league of impracticality as numerous handheld halogen spotlights already in the marketplace. As is typical with such lights, the 6 V 10W halogen bulbs are hard to come by – in fact, from experience, 6V halogen bulbs for handheld spots are almost impossible to buy in NZ. So the TUFRC1 looks like the best option for replacing any of my large and bulky cordless spots even if the beam won’t go as far. One day I hope a cordless spot engineered with LEDs will become an affordable and practical proposition in a similar power output as the 55/100W 12V models commonly available.