Just over four years ago now I posted a thread titled How long before LED light is really good?, where I asked the question:
Well, as it turns out my estimate of three to five years was just about right! With McGizmo's introduction of Nichia 083 High CRI LED's to our humble online community, the highest quality light I have ever dreamed of from an LED is now available! The light from these 083's does indeed rival the light from even a high CCT incandescent. Or surpasses it. I'm amazed at how wonderful it is; at how well it renders colors; at how bright and sunny it is while totally lacking the yellowiness of incans. It is the best of both worlds.How long, do you think, before the quality of light from LED's starts to rival the light from a good incandescent? I'm guessing three to five years, but does anyone have a more informed estimate? What's on the horizon for LED technology? Will there soon be another high quality/power LED besides the Luxeon? What advances are in sight?
My experience with the 083's is due to a single light: McGizmo's SunDrop. Don suggests in the thread that the name "SunDrop" might possibly be a bit too ambitious, but I don't think so. It is my considered opinion, after living with this amazing little light for going on two months now, that the Sundrop does indeed fulfill the destiny of its name, and does in actual fact, in reality, put a goddamned drop of SUNLIGHT on whatever you shine it on! Does my amazement come across here? Because, it is amazing! I'm amazed. It's an amazing light. I was stunned when I first experienced it, and still today, I like to just shine the light into my hand and admire the bit of sun held there, and always use it around the house when I need or want the highest quality light. The SunDrop is magic. I know, I'm being very hyperbolic here. I'm sorry. But those of us who have experienced this light will attest to the fact that the reality deserves some hyperbole. paulr says in one of his posts that:
This is what I'm taking about. And, of course, being a McGizmo light, the SunDrop is impressive not only because of its light engine and high CRI light output, but also because of it's design and build quality. It is based upon one of Don's clickie C packs, which has the nicest clickie switch and silicon rubber boot I have ever used, and which features the trade-mark McGizmo ergonomic titanium body design with the flared end and grippy concentric rings. Two fingers fit very nicely in between the tail flare and the head of the light, making switch activation a joy. The lens, which is not flat, but which is in fact a focusing lens specially designed by Don, is sapphire crystal, and the o-rings are high quality EPDM. It's a real beauty of a light—very charming and endearing. Oh, and best of all, the silicon rubber switch boot is easily and separately user replaceable, so for those of us who dislike the feel of smooth slick squishy rubber, we can economically and conveniently change out the switch bootie as often as we like to keep it feeling crisp and new.The Sundrop has almost killed my interest in other lights, I like it so much. I've been carrying mine every day for months, where I always used to switch from one light to another.
One drawback of the 083's is their lower efficiency compared to Crees and Seouls. This is the cost of very high CRI, unfortunately. However, it is still plenty bright for most uses—about 40 lumens—and has a good runtime on a single 123. (There is also a SunDrop XP which gets extended runtime from two 123's in a longer clickie pack, and of course the currently offered Sundrop 3S)
The other draw back of the SunDrop is that the beam, like the beam from the Mule, is a total flood, and really doesn't throw at all. This is not a problem for indoor use, and for near-field outdoor use, of course, and for many of us, throw isn't really absolutely necessary, or we carry more than one light anyway (those real flashaholics out there, right brightnorm!?!). For myself, for better or worse, I find that I absolutely do need throw in my EDC, and I refuse to EDC two lights, as I have other important things I want to EDC besides lights, like my Sebenza, for example. Nonetheless, for me, the Sundrop is the single best around-the-house-and-yard light I have yet had the fortune to use, and for most people, I suspect that the Sundrop's lack of throw would not be an obstacle even for use as an EDC light.
There are plenty of good photos in the SunDrop thread, but I wanted to take some of my own that would capture just how good the light is from this thing. I tried a number of different setups in about a freaking dozen locations around my house, but when I framed it up and went back and forth, I just didn't feel satisfied that they captured the full amazingness of the Sundrop. In a number of cases, this was partly due to whites in the pictures being turned into even more whiter whites by the Cree LED in the Mule head, which frankly, looked pretty good, even though it was an artificial coloration, not a faithful rendering like the Nichia 083 in the sundrop. Further, nothing I came up with bettered (or even added anything to) the pictures in the Sundrop thread. Not surprising, I suppose, but frustrating nontheless.
Then this evening, I started "thinking outside the box" as it were and figured that I needed two main things: RED and a PERSON (a woman, in point of fact)—and in addition, also wanted a background that wasn't white: no white walls, no white backsplash, no white period. And, for good measure, wanted some other colors besides red. Well, it's maybe a little unconventional, and not as sophisticated as the amazing outdoor pictures Don took, but I do think it captures very well the superior color-rendering of the Sundrop. Plus, honestly, how can you go wrong with a beautiful woman in a bikini? So here they are: (oh, and I threw in the X-Rite ColorChecker chart, which sadly, is *cough* upside down—must have been distracted by the GQ cover, I guess)
You can clearly see the difference in skin tone, and the dramatic difference in the red cover. Also, notice the light golden, honey wood-color of the chest in the sundrop picture. That's how it really looks during the day, whereas the Mule light really skews it to a kind of pale greenish cool cast. And the Mule head also unnaturally amps up the blue border and Megan's eyes, although it's not a huge difference. More precisely, you can clearly see the superior color-rendering in the ColorChecker chart part of the pictures. Notice in particular the purple (3 over, 3 down from top-left), and the three redish/pinkish squares touching the purple. Sunlight itself wouldn't really do much better than the sundrop, in all honesty.
Also, let me reiterate about the neatness of this light. It's just a charming, wonderful little light that fits in the hand very well. It's a pleasure to use and look at, and the clip is, of course, the McGizmo titanium clip, the single best clip in all of flashlight-dom. No matter how you grab this light, the clip won't get in your way or annoy you. On the contrary, it even feels better in some grips precisely because of the clip. The clip does it's job very well on top of this, and is positioned properly at the very rear of the light for correct, bezel-down carry. If you clip this to the inside of your pants pocket, the head won't be sticking up a full inch like a SureFire light. Or you can just drop this little guy right into a pants pocket for very comfortable carry. On top of all this, the Titanium body feels really, really good to the touch, and the concentric rings don't get in the way of that, while at the same time providing a nice grippiness. It's a very well designed and thought-out light.
I highly recommend it for those people who, when it comes to light (and flashlights), are more interested in quality, than quantity. This is one for the flashlight Hall of Fame. Or my flashlight hall of fame, for whatever that's worth.
Thank you, Don. You've created yet another truly extraordinary light.