(Note : All pics and video are up.)
Yes, I am one of the lucky flashaholics to have been selected for testing and reviewing a TK45 sample flashlight! I received my sample on the 16th of June. As all other review samples, my TK45 sample is also equipped with R4 LEDs rather than the R5 to be standard issue on the final production model.
Since Fenix gave out 50 of these test samples, I can’t brag to be one in a million, so I’ll be doing something as different as I can. I’ll first give my impressions as a real-life user of flashlights, since I need and use flashlights at home, at work and at play (hiking and camping). This is a >>very<< thorough review, so hold on tight.
In the second part I will post plenty of comparative shots of the TK45 and other lights in the most original locations. I also took Fenix’s claim of having a portable flashlight that is comparable to a car’s headlight literally and took some beam shots.
I am leaving all the runtime testing, output measurement and graph generation to those who have the experience, equipment and a final production model with the R5 Leds.
I also have a lot of different Fenix flashlights, and since they are one of the most popular and most referred to, I might use known Fenix products as a comparison, such as, the L2D Q5, PD30 R2, TK11 R2, but mainly the TK40, since they are close siblings.
I promise one thing: no boring backyard, white-wall or average flat field shots… well, ok, there will be a few of those, just to demonstrate clearly some of the features of the TK45. What I promise is original shots from the most original locations I could have access to and, believe me, these are original places. This is the first time, however, that I take official beam shot pictures, so not all of them are as clear as they should be, but I’m getting better at it.
For my review, I have had access to three very original locations for my beam shots: A movie theater, the longest suspended pedestrian bridge in the world, and two observation towers standing about a mile apart from each other, as I promised last year in this thread:
The Ultimate Flashaholic Camping Trip. I took a lot of pictures while at these locations, so to stay on focus with my review of the TK45, I am creating a separate thread for the rest of the beam shots and to tell you about my trip in general. See the rest of the pictures here: Ultimate flashaholic camping trip: Year 2. (Beam shot comparisons at a mile distance)
My sample came in a plain box, without any accessories or labels, but it is a test sample and I’m not going to complain about this. The box was a little damaged from transport, so it looks like the postal service took care of the first drop test for me (Sorry, forgot to take a picture, but it wasn’t very damaged, just a crack at the seam.) This didn’t worry me one minute: it’s a TK flashlight…
I had an impression the head of the TK45 is not as wide as the TK40, and I was right
The two siblings.
It’s also ever so slightly shorter, since there is no rear button. As you can also see, the little hot surface warning is absent on the TK45. I can’t say I ever burned myself with the TK40 anyways, but I never left it on for more than 20-30 minutes.
The buttons are very nicely placed for underhand hold. I have tried using my TK40 overhand, but always resorted to underhand hold. With these lights, the strength and spill are really sufficient so you don’t need to hold them very high to walk outdoors. Mind you, my experience is based on hiking, not looking for criminals in a warehouse, but overhand hold is still possible, even if it’s not as comfortable as the TK40 to do so.
The wider part right behind the buttons, where the battery tube screws into the head, means that the buttons are recessed and should not be activated by accident. Either by fluke or good design, I think it’s a plus.
When I hold the TK45 in my hand and ready for use, my index finger naturally overlaps the lanyard hole recess, making it very easy to find the proper position for regular operation. You don’t have to hold it that way and don’t need to, since the buttons are very easy to find by touch anyways.
BUTTONS AND OPERATION:
Left button = mode change
Right button = on/off. Double tap while the light is on for strobing modes.
The button design is no concern whether you’re left or right-handed – I’m left handed and have no issues whatsoever. I do have to say that I was a little surprise to see that the on/off was on the right side. Being left handed, I am conditioned to pay attention to these kinds of details and I was really expecting the opposite. I personally really like it this way. Is it because I am a lefty stuck in a righty’s world or because of the way I use it? It just works great for me period.
The buttons are not switches, but simple contacts and they provide a good tactical feedback. On my sample, the left button is a little softer and is more silent than the right button. It’s not a problem, as feedback is still very sufficient, but I am wondering is that is simply a difference due to button manufacturing or something Fenix thought desirable to differentiate the mode change from the on/off buttons. Nevertheless, there is no issue here, just something I noticed.
Since the buttons are not switches but contacts, I think it would be a plus to have some way of programming the light to reverse the button functions for the more picky users.
This light has a last mode memory, which means it will turn on in the same mode it was last time you turned it off, even if you remove the batteries. I haven’t tested this on my TK45 sample yet, but my TK40 will remember the last mode for weeks, even if I “lock” it out or leave the batteries out. I’m expecting the same with the TK45.
One of the biggest improvements over the TK40 is the sidewinder switch design. On the TK40, since only one button was available, it was used for everything: turning the light on and off, changing modes and accessing the strobe modes. The effect of this was that whenever you changed modes, the light was off for a short period of time and also that it took a certain amount of time to cycle all the way through. Not ideal if you use a flashlight in life or death situations. The sidewinder switch design has solved that issue entirely and now, not only does the light stay on while changing modes, but you can cycle through so fast it’s like having an extra attention-grabbing mode.
The light only comes on or off when you let go of the on/off button. If you press the button and leave your finger there, nothing will happen until you let go. This is not an issue, but is the way the light is designed. As for the mode change button, you get immediate reaction when pressing on the button, and that is one of the nicest improvements over the TK40.
POWER AND BATTERIES
This light functions on 8 AA batteries in series. This means that NO, the TK40 battery carrier doesn’t fit in here and NO, you can’t run it on four batteries. I personally do not have a chosen side in between standard AA batteries and Lithium batteries, but I like knowing that the good ol’ regular store batteries can be used for something this good.
However, Fenix does recommend good quality NiMh batteries (rechargeables – I personally used LSD batteries in all my AA lights without any issues except better runtimes) over alkalines, as the latter are not really good at dealing with high intensity discharge. Don’t get this wrong: your light will work on alkalines, but Fenix warns that you might not get the best runtimes or optimal intensity in the TK45. I just think it would be a lot of money wasted to run this kind of light on alkalines.
The TK45 has the same small issue as the TK40 when it comes to parasitic drain: if you leave the flashlight off with the batteries in for a long period of time, the batteries WILL slowly drain. Read slowly. This can be prevented by “locking” out the light: To do this, simply unscrew the tail cap (or body) 2.5 turns to prevent the battery carrier from making contact.
I sure had hoped Fenix would have found a fix for the parasitic drain by now, but they haven’t. Being an electronics technician, I can tell that this drain is most probably due to a circuit waiting for input from the on/off button, because there is no actual switch on this design. One solution would be to lose the flashing modes, or access them through the mode change button, and put an actual switch instead of a temporary on/off contact, which I wouldn’t mind, since that would also mean the light could have a momentary on function.
All in all, parasitic drain should not be a major issue if you’re using NiMh batteries, so long as you remember to recharge them once in a while. Unfortunately, I haven’t tested this out to see how often you would need to recharge your batteries or how fast they will drain while the light is off. I’m sure it would take a few weeks or even over a month or two before your batteries are getting that low. I just have enough flashlights lying around to use as intruder deterrent, so I’ll leave this testing to those with oscilloscopes and to battery-power savvy flashaholics.
Each end of the body has its own O-ring, consistent with Fenix’s compliance to IPX8.
Tk45 body on the left and TK40 body on the right.
The wall of the battery tube seems thin at first look, but as far as I can tell, it seems to be the same thickness as my TK40. Knowing what the TK40 has been put through in “My Extreme Fenix TK40 Torture Test.”, I tend to believe the TK45 should be able to withstand similar torture. Don’t ask me to do it, however, I like my lights with the anodization on, thank you, but if anyone feels like doing it, be my guest… I’m kinda curious myself.
Yes, headS, since this one has three. Although Mini-Gun is a name that really fits this light, my personal choice for a name would have been “Hydra”. Then again, a Hydra is supposed to have anywhere between seven to a hundred heads, so who am I to second guess Fenix’s choice. Mini-gun is a nice name.
I haven’t taken the heads off on my sample, even if others report it is easy to do so, but they seem very well in place. The only thing that could be a concern for some is that you can see a little bit of the aluminum underneath the head. I don’t think there is any issue here at all, but some people are picky with these things and I confirm that my sample is the same as others reviewer’s on this point.
Some people have expressed concern about dirt getting stuck in between the head, but I’d like to give them a reality check on this: This is a TK series flashlight, TK stands for TANK and this light is waterproof to IPX8 standard: just hose it down (yes, with a garden hose) and “floss” between the heads with a soft cloth. Afterwards, you can always take the heads off to do an in-depth job…but be warned that Fenix does not recommend removing the heads and doing so will void your warranty. I know some will still do it and Fenix might never find out about it, but you should be warned.
Because of the triple head design, finding a good filter / diffuser for this light will be a challenge. To be honest, I don’t think you need a diffuser for this one, but different people have different opinions. My opinion might be easier to understand once you’ve been through my beam shots. I have tried the regular LD/PD Fenix filters, but they won’t fit on here, and even if they did, because of the spacing in between the heads, you wouldn’t be able to fit more than one. Since Fenix never came out with any filter or diffuser for the TK40, I’m not expecting them to come out with anything for the TK45 either. Might have been cool to have different color filters on different heads, but that’ll have to be a DYI project. I’ll let you know if I ever come up with something.
LEDs AND REFLECTORS
So, the LEDs on my sample are R4 and seem well centered as far as I can tell. I feel I need to specify for the more knowledgeable, that the tints seems perfectly matched on all three LED’s on my sample. I can’t say I see any difference in tint, so Fenix did a good job on this.
The reflectors on this flashlight are only slightly wider than the one on my PD30 and about the same depth. Because of that, I’m not expecting it to out throw my TK40, but we’ll see if that’s true or false in the second part of my review. The smaller reflectors do have one big advantage over the bigger ones: less light is reflected directly into your eyes while the yflashlight is tail standing, making for a better emergency light. It also means that the lenses are smaller, therefore more resistant.
That part feels massive and you probably can bang nails in with it. I’ll leave that type of testing to others until the day my life depends on it.
The triangular shape of the head assembly means that this is the most anti-roll design I’ve seen so far. I’m sure this light will slide off a table before it rolls over, unless you are lying it down with the head sticking out from edge, which at this point it becomes just averagely anti-roll for a flashlight this size – thanks to the indentations in the body design.
The flatter sides of the head also mean that, for a flashlight of this category, when you lie it down on a table, the beam projection is really horizontal.
Using it as my main light for over a week means that this light actually showed me some new tricks! I found out that this is the best night stand flashlight I have in my possession! Since it lies even better than it stands, it is virtually impossible to knock it off the stand! Even better yet: when I grab it from this position, and make sure the buttons are facing towards me, my thumb naturally falls right onto the buttons! As if this was not enough, while it’s lying in the very same position, I leave it on low and since it’s pointing at the wall behind my head, I have a perfect reading light! No more headlights in bed for me!
REALLY anti-roll design! If a flashlight was ever designed to be anti-roll for idiots, this is the closest I have seen so far!
The tail cap is slightly crenulated (supposedly the correct word for “crenealed”), but has no sharp edges. Although it feels light on its own, I’m sure it makes for a good impact surface while screwed onto the flashlight body. Since it has no circuitry or button, it the best part of the light to use to break glass in an emergency situation.
Other than that, the tail cap is nothing more than a cap and its main function is to push the battery carrier to make contact with the head. No current goes through here. You can even go as far as removing the tail cap and push the carrier in by hand to operate the flashlight, but you have to push hard enough for it to make contact, so you’ll prefer not to loose your tail cap... then again a replacement probably comes real cheap.
The upside of a flat buttonless tail cap is that this light tail stands really well and that makes it a real good emergency light for power outages, since you basically need only one TK45 to light up a whole room. As a matter of fact, this light tail stands better than it head stands, even if it does so very well.
I couldn’t capture this on camera, but in medium mode, this flashlight still give some useful light while head standing.
The threads are square-cut. This should mean longer thread lifetime, but I personally haven’t had any item of the sort out-live its threads. I don’t know if Fenix is making a move to standard square-cut threads, but it sure looks like it.
Since the tube on this one does not have to conduct any current, all the threads are anodized in and out on the tube, tail cap and head assembly (haven’t removed the individual heads on my sample, but the aluminum showing out from under tells me they’re probably not). Screwing and unscrewing all parts on my sample is very smooth, and I would dare to say smoother than most other of my Fenix flashlights.
Post-Testing Note: I see that Fenix had changed the carrier on the final design, so some of these comments may only apply to the testing sample’s battery carrier. I left most of this part as it was when I wrote it for Fenix to review, because some aspects might still apply.
The battery carrier is the only part that has to conduct current from the batteries to the head assembly. The top of the carrier has both positive and negative contacts on top of it, so you should keep your loaded carrier inside the flashlight and away from metal objects – I saw a spark while trying to measure the voltage from the carrier as my hand slipped. The batteries are wired in series, which means that for alkalines, you get 8 X 1.5V = 12 volts, or rechargeables 8 X 1.2 V = 9.6 volts. Nothing to straighten the hair on your head or give you a heart attack, but you don’t want to short those batteries for too long.
The carrier is basically one piece of plastic with a simple pre-assembled PC board screwed on each end. It IS very sturdy for a plastic carrier, mostly due to thick V shaped outer posts and a square center post. I have strong confidence in Fenix, and I’m sure this battery carrier can handle a lot more stress than it seems. What most people forget when they look at it is that, while in operation, the carrier sits in an aluminum tube and also has a bunch of batteries in it to help bare any stress it might suffer from falls or knocks. The other point people forget about, is that if you drop your flashlight, only the part of the carrier sitting on the bottom at the time will suffer from stress, so even weak posts should be able to go a long way. Time will tell if there is any issue here.
The batteries fall off very easily from the carrier that came with my test sample. Fenix has changed the battery carrier on the final production model, so I can’.
The upside with this carrier is that, despite the lack of marking for battery polarity, it’s VERY clear which side your batteries are supposed to go in. I think the fact that it looks plain is less distracting than the design they had on the TK40’s carrier.
Some users have reported mild rattling of the batteries, others have reported loud rattling. I might have figured what’s going on here: while holding my TK45 sample the way I would while using it, with my hand and fingers around the tube, I have to shake it more than just a little to hear a mild battery rattling. While I was driving with it sitting next to me, I heard a loud rattling (the roads are terrible around here). Further investigation demonstrated that if I hold the TK45 test sample by the head and shake it (thus having no physical contact with the tube) I can hear a LOUD rattling comparable to a Maraca. I have read a report that the new carrier seems to make this issue better. If it’s still not enough for you, here’s a solution: just put a piece of scotch tape around the batteries. Even covering just four batteries on the sample’s carrier is enough to completely eliminate the rattle.
The only part of the light that has knurling on it and needs it is the battery tube. It is consistent, fairly aggressive, feels good, looks good and does a good job at preventing slippage. I put the whole flashlight under water and wet my hand at the same time and tried to make it slip from my hand without any success. The knurling passed the test.
The anodization is standard Fenix quality, which means good! It is even, looks good and uniform. I don’t know what else to say about it other than I don’t see any difference with any other of my Fenix flashlights. Their method is still the same and still works. As I mentioned earlier, the only weak part of the anodization is underneath the heads, where I can see a little bit of metal, which isn’t an issue for me.
The only parts of this light that have rough edges are around the lanyard hole and the cut-outs around the heads. These seem to be intended more as a means to let you know if your light is on while it is head standing than an impact weapon. Since some of these cut-outs are on the outer edges, it is possible you might scratch the surface of your table with them.
I have used the light in a headstand while on during my camping trip, and it does let some useful light out. Whether you should use it this way just depends on what you need light for and how much.
Low = 8 Lumens, 232 Hrs
Med = 95 Lumen, 22Hrs
High = 312 Lumens, 6.5 Hrs
Turbo = 760 Lumens, 2Hrs
Mode cycling starts from the last memorized level and all the way through high, then back at low for another cycle. One thing I would personally like to see on personal flashlights is a way to also cycle down in brightness, rather than lose my night vision while looking for a lower setting. Perhaps this could be done without adding any buttons to the sidewinder system by simply holding the mode change button for one or two seconds. Then again, this is a pretty powerful and useful light, so I haven’t had much of an issue with night vision even out in the woods: Just leave it on low until your eyes adjust again.
The low on my TK45 sample seems a lot lower than the one my other Fenix flashlights, which are mostly rated around 8 lumens as well. I have no way of saying if it’s only because my sample has the R4 LEDs rather than R5’s, but I personally like it like this. As a rough guesstimate I would say it looks more like 3-4 lumens, but don’t take any of this for granted, as the final production model might be different. I have turned on my test sample after lying in bed, in complete darkness for over an hour, and I can say it didn’t hurt my eyes the way even my L0D Q5 does. Let’s hope the same goes for the R5 version.
The spacing of the brightness levels is very nice as it usually is in Fenix flashlights. There isn’t much to say here other than my opinion on having only four pre-set brightness levels is that it makes for a very simple and comfortable navigation through the modes. More modes than this can be confusing at times, even for an experimented user like me.
The high mode on this flashlight IS impressive. I can’t say that my test sample seemed much brighter than my TK40 at first look (more on that later), but this is a test sample using lesser LEDs than on the production model. Numbers will probably speak for themselves when they come out. However, if you hold your hand in front of it, you can really feel the heat coming out. I’m not saying you will burn yourself, but if you wait for long enough, it might happen.
As with all their lights, Fenix recommends to use turbo mode for less than 15 minutes in hot environment. Lots of people seem to be a little disappointed by that, but I’d like to repeat that they specify IN HOT ENVIRONMENT. I don’t think there is any issue at all running these lights on turbo for a long period of time in most situations and according to the TK45 manual, all that is supposed to happen is that your light will flicker. Lots of reviewers out there have done runtime testing of the turbo modes on every single Fenix flashlights and I haven’t seen a single comment on a flashlight failing so far due to running on turbo for extended periods. I’ve done my own subjective heat dissipation testing by leaving both the TK45 and TK40 on for twenty minutes in turbo. The TK45’s heads felt noticeably hotter than the TK40 to the touch, but nothing that worries me.
Runtimes and regulation are consistent with Fenix quality. I haven’t tested any of these other than with my eyes and judgment, but I really don’t feel I need to, since these guys are basically the gods of regulation. I can, however, say that they have used batteries with some of the biggest capacity around for their rating, so actual runtimes with other batteries are likely to be a little lower.
STROBE, SOS and WARNING FLASH
Accessing the flashing modes is done by double tapping the on/off button while the flashlight is on. This flashlight will not turn on in a flashing mode, as these are separate from the normal modes, but ARE memorized! Whichever flash mode was used last is the one that will be recalled next time you go back in flashing mode. NEAT! This also means that you will cycle on from that flashing mode to go through all the flashing modes if you wish to use a different one.
Flash-mode intensities: (I don’t know if final production model will be different)
The strobe is run on turbo (as far as I can tell)
The sos is run on med
The warning flash is also run on med
The only flashing mode I miss here is a beacon. I love the beacon on my TK40 and was hoping to see it on the TK45. I only use it for fun, but I do miss it on the TK45.
I’m also thinking Fenix should have had more fun with the 3 head design. I would go one step further and add another beacon mode where all three heads cycle independently one after the other for an even longer runtime. A strobe with three heads flashing at different speeds might be interesting too. Maybe even a “crazy flash” pattern where the emitters are lit separately at random intervals for a random number of milliseconds at a random brightness level. Add to that a filter with a different color for each head and you have yourself a walking party! Yea, I know, I have a lot of imagination…
As I stated earlier, this flashlight remembers which normal mode was used last when you turn it off, even if you remove the batteries or lock it out. For memorization to take place, you need to leave it in the mode to be memorized for 2 seconds. While testing this option, I have found out that it seems that if you turn the light off too quickly after changing modes, it might turn back on in the previous memorized mode, in the mode it was in before switching it off, or a totally different mode. I doubt anyone should have an issue with this, as I have been playing with the buttons like I’m shooting for my life for this to happen.
As I also stated, the flashing mode is also memorized after 2 seconds, and whichever flashing mode you used last will come back when you switch back into flash mode, even after a lock-out or removing the batteries.
Fenix calls this light the mini-gun for two reasons: it does look like a Gatling gun, and to accentuate that, since the low mode only uses one LED, a different LED turns on each time you turn the flashlight off and on. Only turning the flashlight off and on tells the circuit to switch emitters for low mode, no matter which mode it was in when you turned it off. If you just cycle through all the modes and come back to low without turning it off, it will use the same LED as last time. No issue here, just observations from thorough testing.
In short, it’s The TK45’s strongest point!
Beam pattern at 3-4 feet
Beam pattern from the back of a movie theater onto the screen. (With the theater owner’s permission, of course) Sorry for the blurry picture; I was still learning about the camera at that point.
This light is a very nice piece of art when it comes to beam pattern. Fenix somehow managed to focus three different heads in such a way that when you hold the TK45 at even less than a foot from the wall, you don’t distinguish the three different hotspots, and even at a real long distance, there are no artifact whatsoever.
In fact, spot and spill are perfectly round on this light, as is the really smooth corona that transitions nicely from spot to spill. My testing so far has revealed that this flashlight is much more useful than most others I own, since you don’t need to chase the hotspot so much, like you would with most other LED flashlights. The spill on this light is not quite as wide as the one on my TK40, but it doesn’t have to be; in my opinion, it is really sufficient, especially for hiking. You’ll see from my beam shots how useful this light is for outdoors and why I say I don’t think it needs a diffuser.
I noticed while using it on low mode (which means only one emitter was on), that there was a very small darker dot in the center of the spot on a white wall projection. Further investigation shower that this must the infamous donut hole from R4 and R5 LEDs that was being revealed to me. As I held the light further from the wall, this donut hole seemed to grow, but it wasn’t an issue at all, as this is a very tight dark spot that didn’t seem to affect the usability of the light at all. To find out more about this new found artefact, I had to turn the light into a brighter mode while blocking two of the heads with my hand, and yes, I still could see an extremely small donut hole, but the second I removed my hand from the other two heads, this flashlight revealed an absolutely perfect beam pattern. I tend to believe the whole design of the three heads was an attempt to eliminate the infamous donut hole seen in R4 – R5 LED flashlights. Whatever the case, this light has an incredibly nice beam pattern.
For comparison, here is the beam pattern from the TK40 on the same movie screen :
As you can see, when compared to the TK40, the TK45 has a smoother corona around the hotspot, which means less contrast in between the hotspot and the spill. The brightness ratio in between the two theater pictures is correct, but do remember that my sample has lesser LEDs than on the production model.
The TK45 has an extremely useful combination of spot-corona-spill. Walking outside with this light IS comparable to walking with car headlights on and, as always with Fenix, the spill of this light is very useful. See the beam shot portion of my review to see for yourself.
In my opinion, the beam pattern is the best feature on this flashlight! That’s good news, since its main function is light!
I have EDC’ed my TK45 sample for over a week, brought it to customer’s sites (I need a flashlight for work anyway), showed it to some of them on purpose and left it on the table for them to see it and pick it up. The very first comment I have usually heard was “that’s a nice flashlight”, and that was mostly before turning it on. The second comment I usually heard is a turning away of their heads followed by “that’s bright!” Well, ok, I did it on purpose to point it straight at the palm of my hand to make sure they had some sort of reference point, since pointing it at a 15-20 foot + ceiling seems to pass for normal to the non-flashaholic. I should add that my clientele is mainly composed of people who do all sorts of inspections, so a lot of them use flashlights for work too.
I have left the TK45 tail standing in sight on purpose to see if any of them would pick it up. It seems in general to take from a few up to 20 minutes for that to happen. I guess it looks a little intimidating at first. When they did pick it up, they all figured out on their own, without any instructions of my part, how to turn it on or off, and how to change brightness modes. I think that this alone is a major success compared to any light I own that has more than one mode. +10 for the sidewinder system! Obviously, the few to whom I have omitted to show that it had more than one brightness setting asked what the other button was about and some stumbled trying to operate it, as they often turned the flashlight off before pressing it. That was corrected with short verbal instructions.
FINALLY, SOME BEAMSHOTS!
My beam shots where taken at different locations with different equipment. I don’t have a camera of my own, so I borrowed one from work, and one from my dad. I am dividing this section in two just so I won’t have to specify which camera was used in each location.
In the first part, my beam shots where taken with a Nikon Coolpix, which isn’t the best camera in dark conditions, but works. In the second part and for most TK45 close-ups, I used my dad’s camera, a Panasonic Lumix FZ28.
I borrowed his camera for a weekend camping trip focused on flashlight testing with my cousin. This camera has a lot more options than the Coolpix and I barely started understanding how to take good beam shots with it when the weekend was over. I’m a little disappointed some of the pictures didn’t come out quite as clear as I expected, but I’ll be borrowing it again in the future and have better pictures next time.
All night time pictures where taken with a 1 second exposition time and an ISO sensitivity of 400. f stop varies in between 1.8 and 3.8 (sorry, too many pictures where taken to take specific notes)
PART 1: REAL-LIFE USE COMPARISONS
The best way to give a good idea here is a test in broad daylight:
YOU KNOW YOU’RE A FLASHAHOLIC WHEN YOU TURN A FLASHLIGHT ON IN BROAD DAYLIGHT! (…and take a picture…)
I am fortunate enough to have a field at reasonable walking distance from home, so I went on a small hike to do some testing in preparation for the camping weekend . I’ll show you first some daytime pictures of my locations to give you a reference point.
This is what the path looked like when I walked to the field around 12 o’clock.
The perils of outdoor shooting. Fortunately, I can walk around the puddles, but I think I deserve extra credit for wearing an extra pound of mud on my shoes, and for bringing over 30 pounds of flashlights and equipment on top of a hill in the second portion of the shooting. On top of that, it rained for about an hour later, making the mud even softer and the puddles bigger. Luckily, the sun came back out, so it wasn’t too humid. From experience, I can say that the beams where not much brighter than they would be on a dry day. Sorry for venting, but I felt the need to share, hoping it will contribute to the appreciation of my reviews, since the picture quality is not quite up to par with what I hoped to bring back.
This is where I took most of the shots. I put my tripod down about ten feet from the tarp.
I estimate I was about 50 meters from the trees (measured in footsteps). This picture does no really give a good impression of the actual distance.
The second picture was taken at an angle in case the moon was interfering, so the tree is more than 50 meters away. These pictures are unfortunately not as clear as they should be. Let’s just say that a guy hanging from a branch in a white t-shirt would have looked like a stop sign in the desert.
For comparison, here are the same pictures with the TK40:
My TK45 test sample might not out throw the TK40, but it comes pretty close for the size of its reflectors.
I then turned the camera parallel with the field and pointed the lights at the ground to take some closer shots
For reference, here is the same setup with the PF30 R2, TK40 and TK45. The spot is aimed at about 6-7 meters from the camera
LIGHTING EASY ACCESS PATHS
I might not have mentioned that I’m a hiker, so these paths are easy acces type for me. If I ever find some paths that are more of the intermediate-advanced category that are also accessible with shooting equipment (i.e. not far from base camp), I’ll make sure I take some pictures and post them here.
This is my second shooting location.
It rained after I took the daytime picture, so never mind the puddles.
This is my third shooting location. Since the moon was right in my face here, I set up at the opposite end and pointed my flashlights where I was standing while taking this picture. It pretty much looks the same from one end or the other.
Fenix rates the TK45’s throw at 200 meters, which is lower than their rating of some of their other lights, such as the TK11 and obviously, the TK40. I understand that throw is a big concern, here on CPF. My opinion on this is that for fun, yes, throw is fun to have, but in actual on the ground use, unless you’re a sniper with a scope that can actually cut through the haze, it’s not that useful past a certain limit. (Disclaimer: I am basing this comment on my personal hiking experience on paths and in the woods.) To be quite frank, past a certain limit, let’s estimate a little less than 100 meters, you’re eyesight has a hard time distinguishing details and you still have to get closer for your brain to understand what you’re looking at. Using a COOL LED flashlight, this is amplified by the fact that the beam is also creating a hazy barrier by illuminating the air (moisture) in between you and your area of interest.
Unless someone is holding the light for you at a certain distance, you might not see that clearly, and then some. I have tried the obvious remedy for seeing at a distance: binoculars won’t help if you’re too close – or parallel – with the light source (still talking about COOL LEDs here) This is the reason why I have come to the conclusion that it is time to move on to warmer LED spectrums for outdoor use, especially for flashlights this bright. I have compared cool, neutral and warm LEDs with incan, and in the cutting through fog, the incan wins hands up, followed by warm LED, followed by neutral LED, etc.
TK45 VS CAR HEADLIGHTS: DOES IT STAND UP TO THE TEST?
When you see a flashlight this bright in action, you can’t resist but to compare it with something bright you are familiar with. This urge is doubled when the manufacturer makes such an extraordinary claims. I decided I’d take Fenix to the letter on this, so I went street hunting for a location to do a shoot-out.
First off: My Car
I own a 2001 Saturn SC1. This was actually my dad’s car until a few months ago, so I know the complete history of this vehicle all the way back to 2004. My dad had a serious problem with the headlights fogging up and got an out-of-court settlement about a year or two ago where the dealer replaced the whole headlight assemblies.
You can see for yourself that these headlights are like brand new; no fogging, no dirt and no yellowing. The bulbs inside are some of the brightest available without making the jump to HID. To put it quite simply, when I put these on high, I can see the fabric of the head-rest inside the car I’m following (but I only did this because he did it to me first!)
I found out the same day I was going to do take the pictures that they just started a new street segment for new housing. I Couldn’t resist.
So… is the TK45 comparable to a car’s headlights? See for yourself…
My headlights on low
The Tk45 held at about the same height as my car headlights. Note that the right side of the road should get more light than this, as I was holding the flashlight next to my car, hiding part of the spill.
My headlights on high.
The TK45 held over my shoulder.
Note: All four of these pictures have been taken with identical settings (ISO 400, 1 second exposure)
… And this is not even the production model of the TK45…
Aside for the difference in lighting color, I’d say it’s almost stronger than a car’s headlight, since I had only one flashlight…
Actually, I took it to another step and compared it with a 35W (cheapo) Eliminator HID. See my movie on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6Sz2IARwgQ
WARNING: this is a very short video in high resolution that weights about 89 Megs...
Note it was late when we shot this video and we had been walking for hours that day, so aside not looking my best, we where pretty tired and I seem to be point at the HID as being the TK45 in the beginning... should have brought coffee rather than 2 beers.
I’d just like to come back to my statement about moving to warmer colored LEDs. The strongest incan I have available is my car’s headlights. I think the pictures prove my point when I say you can see better with warmer color lighting. I hope LED technology evolves towards solving this issue.
BEAMSHOTS PART 2: MORE EXTREME CONDITIONS
I promised last year that I would take some pictures from the towers standing at about a mile apart (measured from Google Earth at 0.98 miles). I figured I might as well make that part of my review, since I was already heading out there with 30 pounds of flashlights anyways. We also took some night pictures 50 meters over a canyon (actually, this one is a gorge) and some fancy pictures I took while killing time.
See my complete camping report for all the pictures and details about the towers and the bridge on this thread: Ultimate flashaholic camping trip: year 2 (not up yet)
I don’t like traditional indoor pictures, so rather than a ceiling bounce picture, here’s a tarp bounce picture comparison:
TK40 Tarp Bounce on Turbo
TK45 Tarp Bounce on Turbo
This was taken at our camping site. We didn’t have time for a fire, since where out most of the night, so we used the TK45 as our main light. We put a tarp up because the forecast was calling for rain, which fortunately never came.
I started second guessing using the TK45 in tail stand when I noticed it was lighting up the tree branches over the tarp. We where pretty easy to see from the other camps with this setup.
At some point, while I was waiting for my cousin to come and join me, I had some time to kill and took these pictures: The TK45 is on the ground about 10 to 15 meters from the camera. I took a picture of it and then set the camera timer and started walking towards it.
Not too pleasant to look at from this side.
On this one, the light passes between my legs, but notice how much light my clothes reflected on the surrounding vegetation.
That’s me, not an alien. Its also my new avatar.
Very useful light coming out of the front.
As I mentioned, one of the main goals of the camping trip was to take face to face pictures from the top of the towers, separated by just about a mile. My cousin took care of taking the pictures of my flashlights from what we call the Sun Tower. We named these towers the Sun Tower and the Moon Tower. I was standing atop the Moon tower
This is a daytime picture taken from the Sun Tower, towards the Moon Tower. The red arrow points to the tower. Measured distance with Google Earth: 0.98 miles. I hope this can be considered far enough for honest testing.
I zoomed in on the tower so you could see for yourself. This picture was taken at 25.7X zoom.
Night Time: I'm putting three reference pictures as the sun is setting to give you an idea about the corresponding landscape. Unfortunately, because of lack of communication, my cousin took the following pictures with an exposition time of 1/8th of a second rather than the one second exposition I was using. These pictures are much much dimmer than they should be.
Reference picture. We had a full Moon, but it's not on these pictures as I thought it might be.
The bright spot in the center is the TK45. Even if this picture isn't even close to reality by a mile (pun intended), I didn't realy need any reference pictures here but, hey, I had them. Even at that distance, you can't miss it. As a reference, the green spot that's barely lower to the right is some sort of HID that is much much brighter than regular street lights, but that one is aimed at the ground rather than straight at the camera.
I omitted to insert a picture of the TK40 simply because they both look exactly the same.
This is the longest suspended footbridge in the world as seen from the Sun Tower. It is 50 meters over the bottom of the gorge.
This is the target that was used for our beam shots from the bridge. The arrow points at a couple sitting on the rocks to give you an idea of proportions.
50 meters is a long distance. I kept this picture blurred on purpose, since I don’t know these people.
I later found out that I could have put up the exposition a little more for the pictures, but on my computer screen the pictures look fairly close to reality.
Notice that we can actually see both sides of the river.
Here’s the same setup with the TK40 for reference:
While the TK45 won’t out throw similar products, it does throw at quite a distance for the size of the reflectors on it, and the light it produces is much more useful. Even though it doesn’t seem brighter on a white wall shootout, the total output of light seems a lot brighter in average outdoor applications.
POST TESTING REMARKS:
I have EDC’ed my TK45 sample for a little over 2 weeks, used it for work, fun, hiking, camping, reading in bed, nighttime house navigation and even repairing my computer prior to finishing my review (fortunately it was just the power supply). This light has worked great so far for all of these uses and I’m not letting go of it. As I have stated in the TK40 extreme torture thread, there is just no way I will be conducting destructive testing on this one, even though it was provided for free. Don’t get me wrong, I think the demand was reasonable and sane, but that’s definitely my best light so far and, ironically, my job is calibration and maintenance of non-destructive testing equipment (no joke!), so I’ll stand by that and leave my sample intact, aside the few scratches it got from regular usage. I would still be interested to see someone do it, though. Let me know if it happens.
It took only a few minutes to switch the power supply once I got back from the store... I normally used a headlamp to do this, but had to bend over since the top of the casing was blocking a lot of the light. This works a lot better...
My personal conclusion is that TK45 is one of, if not the best flashlight of its category / price range. (I don’t have all of them, so I won’t risk vouching against products I haven’t used). I base this opinion mostly on the simplicity of the interface, built, and especially intensity and beam profile. This one has the most useful beam profile I have seen so far for my real world needs and on its own replaces the use of two simultaneous lights that cost me more than the TK45 is sold for alone, and the one I have is only a sample beta version. Of course, the other two lighs are more portable, but I need to carry a few spare batteries for one of them so, if I had to scramble for some reason, I would take the TK45 without a second thought. The fact that it now resides on top of my nightstand kinda helps on this one.
ALL IN ALL
Just look at the pictures. They’re not the best, as I was not very familiar with the cameras I used, but they do say a lot.
EXTREMELY USEFUL BEAM PATTERN
For a light that doesn’t throw quite the same as the TK40 and M1X V.4, the TK45 is much, much more useful with its wide corona. (more comparisons on my other thread. See the beginning of this review)
For this type of brightness, 2 hours of use on high seems to me like it’s a long time to need car headlights if you’re not driving. If you are driving and still haven’t found a garage, you better sleep this one off!
On the low setting, you have time to starve AND dehydrate to death before it goes out. Isn’t that great?
STURDY AND GOOD GENERAL QUALITY
Fenix build quality has proven itself in my opinion. There’s a good reason they are so popular among flashlight fanatics. I dropped my test sample a few times on the path and at home and it still works the same. It only has very minor marks, just as any other Fenix flashlight I’ve dropped.
I haven’t had any more problems with the TK45 sample than I have had with any other Fenix light I own, which is NONE to date.
Store-bought batteries that don’t cost a fortune or raise eyebrows when you ask about them are more likely to attract Mr. Everybody, but mainly I like knowing there is an option where I won’t need to pillage the whole city in case of need. It’s also comforting that I won’t have to drive 5 hours away from camp to refill my light when I’m way out of town.
EXTREMELY SIMPLE TO OPERATE
It seems that the TK45 is the simplest multi-mode flashlight to operate around. I’ve lent tactical lights to people, and almost always had to explain they had to twist / untwist the head to change modes, but not with the TK45. Buttons speak to the layman because people just like to see what happens when you press on the button
EXCELLENT TAILSTANDING CAPABILITIES
Haven’t seen better so far!
PERFECT ANTI-ROLL DESING
Haven’t seen better so far!
You can THROW this one on the table, on the ground or on a rock and it’ll stay there. You might make marks on your table, the anodization or the rock, though.
PREFECT NIGHT STAND LIGHT
Ok, it’s a lot bigger than the usual nightstand light, but nothing will stay put this good and still let you find the buttons this easy. I think all nightstand flashlights should have a triangular head so no one will ever have to think twice about a flashlight rolling away in the dark.
Not too many bad things to say about Fenix Flashlights. I’m really digging into the dirt to find any, but here’s what I came up with:
SIZE / WEIGHT
This cannot really be considered a bad thing when you consider the outputs, runtimes and required battery power. The only drawback here is that technology is not quite here yet to give us the same kind of light in a package that would really be practical for pocket carry. An Option to use different battery type would help alleviate this, though (which leads me to…)
AA BATTERIES ONLY
I know I’m no the only one who would like to be able to switch the body and have different battery options to include CR123’s, RCR123’s and 18650’s.
We can only wish someday such a light would cost 30$ at Costco. Then again, flashaholics will still want the 500+$ scorcher than can blind Martians from the bottom of the oceans on Earth. All things considered, it competes very well with products in the same price range, and costs less than most similar products did last year.
Ok, it is a mid-size flashlight, but I’d like Fenix to come up with an actual holster that would protect my light from scratches encountered while working in half-bent positions between steel machinery.
LED color temperature seems to be a personal preference, but I think that when you use a searchlight outdoors, rendition and the beam projection become a major concern over longer distances with cooler color temperatures. I find that the beam on my sample can actually hide what I’m trying to look at when the humidity level is high enough and my target far away. I would buy a flashlight like this one with a little less power but warmer color temperature, knowing it would suit my usage conditions better.
TWO WAY BRIGHTNESS SELECTION
I’m not 100% sure about this, but it might be interesting to see a flashlight with a similar interface where we could bring the brightness setting down without cycling through higher settings first.
A good holster does a lot to protect your light from scratches and from falling off your belt when you have to bend or jump over obstacles. I made one out of leather and made sure I can wear it two ways: directly on my belt, or lower, like a big gun. Works good, but since I’m not a professional at leather works, it could be better fitted.
Well, a diffuser doesn’t seem necessary on this one, but color filters are always fun and sometimes useful. Maybe a yellow filter lens could compensate for the cool color of the LEDs. I still have to test this option for myself.
Thanks to Fenix for organizing the contest and giving away so many beta versions of their flashlights for tests and reviews.
Thanks to Peter form FenixLight for keeping in touch and following up on delivery.
Thanks to Alex from Fenix Tactical (http://www.fenixtactical.com/fenix-tk45.html) for forwarding the light over to me.
Thanks to my Dad and my manager for lending me their cameras.
Thanks to “Fern” for lending me a high resolution movie camera.
Thanks to Jonathan for letting us shoot in his movie theater after the last presentation.
And special thanks to my cousin without whom I couldn’t have pulled off the second part of the shooting. He wishes to remain anonymous, but I already named him “Mr. Compass” in last year’s thread. He did pretty much half the work with me in the park, such as setting up on the second tower to show off his lights, take pictures of mine, and held the flashlights for most of the other shots and the video. I also extend my sympathies for having lost his L2D flashlight at some point during the weekend. His L2D flashlight will be missed dearly. I hope it found a good new home and is making a future flashaholic happy.