There are expensive lights that are pretentious, expensive lights that are powerful, but basic tools, and then there are the true luxury items. The Lux-RC FL33 definitely falls into the latter category.
Meat and Potatoes
Like I said, not all pricy flashlights are created equal. Not by a long shot. Lux-RC has set the bar pretty high however with their FL33 line of lights. One look at their website shows exactly how much pride they take in their product. The FL33 definitely falls into the semi-custom flashlight arena that I have only delved into once before. That experience was an incredible joy, but I think this may have surpassed it.
The current product order page at Lux-RC.com is simply a flashlight builder. What options do you want in your torch? There are plenty to choose from. From battery types to LED color temperatures, lens focus to indicator color, the total number of combinations is staggering. You can even choose what semi-precious gemstone you would like to use as your power button! I have actually found myself just toying around with the builder to see what kind of cool light I can make that day.
After the sale as well Lux-RC continues to brag about their product by maintaining a database where you can look up your torch by individualized serial number and see all the details about that particular light including build date firmware version and more. This was particularly interesting to me since my review sample was left entirely up to the discretion of Serge, the proprietor. Of course, this same information was included in the documentation, but it's quite a service to make this available and online, especially for those who might not happen to be the original owner.
The light itself definitely lives up to its hype. This is quite simply one of the most polished lights I’ve ever seen, both metaphorically and literally. The exterior of the light, instead of being simply anodized aluminum like virtually the rest of the field of flashlight options, is coated with a black Titanium Nitride ceramic coating. This treatment leaves a beautiful exterior that completely sets it apart visually from every other flashlight I’ve tested. Of course, this is helped along by body styling that doesn’t simply rehash the “tube with some interesting marks” concept so often regurgitated by other manufacturers. Bold, deep heat sink fins ring the light directly behind the head allowing for incredible heat dissipation, and the curvaceous body leaves the impression of some advanced alien technology discovered somewhere offworld. Build quality is exquisite. Sharp edges are nowhere to be found. Threading is smooth and uniform. This light is a joy to carry.
Looking down the barrel of this torch, you begin to see some of the magnificent electronics that compliment the exquisite body design. Skipping traditional reflectors, Lux-RC has stationed a trifecta of LEDs behind tiny collimator lenses. These prove quite nicely why I prefer lensing to reflectors. The beam emitted from my trio of 5000k XP-G2 LEDs is one of the smoothest and creamiest floody lights I've yet come across. The closest I've seen is the multi-LED high output monsters by Lupine, that just so happen to use a somewhat similar lens system. Any ringy artifacts that might be present in a single LED are completely cancelled out by having several in such close proximity.
At it’s simplest, this FL33 is a 2 mode light. Click the electronic switch once and it ramps up immediately to full power, 2A per LED. This is an incredible amount of light out of such a small torch. From off you can press and hold the button for a few seconds to get instant access to low mode. Incidentally, this super low is the only point where I can detect any sort of PWM with this light, and even then it is so fast I can’t see it unless I’m specifically looking for it. When the light is on High, pressing and holding the button for several seconds will allow you to select a custom user preferred medium mode. This can be incredibly useful for those times when low doesn’t quite give you enough light, but High will kill the meager battery life quicker than you would like. Beyond that, you have access to a number of signalling options and even a “tactical” option where the light turns on at 100% without ramping only as long as you hold the button. What use this light is as in a true tactical setup is somewhat questionable with such a small button on the side of the light, but it’s still an interesting option to be presented with. These extra modes are tucked out of the way enough that I have to consult the manual, or at least the included quick-start guide anytime I want to access them.
Beyond the basic features, there is still a lot going on under the hood of this work of art. Behind the window, intermixed with the main beam LEDs is a secondary red LED that flashes intermittently, just bright enough to make an excellent locator beacon to help you find your light in the dark. Surrounding the multipurpose power button is an LED ring that functions as a battery indicator, pulsing green, amber, or red when you shut the light off depending on the state of your cell. By special order you can have the head filled with dry nitrogen, in order to prevent lens fogging at low temperatures, and there is active thermal protection to prevent damage to your LEDs. My review model is the T50 which runs on a single 18500 cell, but the 3.0-9.9V FL33 is available using anything from a single CR123A/16340 to a pair of 18650 cells. It is simply that versatile.
Honestly, after carrying this torch for quite some time, I have really only found a couple of small points of contention with it. The Lux-RC FL33 has a definitive inductor whine that is present in varying pitches through almost all outputs. Thankfully, at my favorite full power the whine is either so high pitched that it has reached levels beyond my acute hearing, or it is actually not present at all. The remainder of the time it is relatively quiet, except when you are actively setting the user preset mode. That being said, I sure would be a lot happier not having to deal with this at all, especially in a light of this caliber.
The user interface is, well, not my favorite. It is useable, especially as a 2 mode torch, but once you add in that user preset, it feels a lot like the interface found on Lupine’s monster lights (about which I have also routinely complained). I suppose that designing a variable user interface that only has a single button as the sole method of control is no mean feat. Quite honestly I’m not sure I’m up to the challenge of improving upon it. I’ll have to give it some more direct thought. All I know is it seems to be a little cumbersome.
I love this light. Period. I don’t know what it really is about it, but I really enjoy using it. At work, around the house, camping. It has quickly become one of my absolute favorite lights, and will likely be on my short list of EDC items for some time to come. It’s not an absolutely perfect experience, but the overall light is just so darn nice that I am willing to overlook its few shortcomings.
One rather important point I should note. My review sample is classified as a V2.5. It mostly comprises of the V2.0 hardware, but there are just a couple features of the new V3.0 that snuck in for the ride. Any new orders however will have the full advancements of version 3; things like a 4th customizable LED in the head that is used for low modes, a new light engine with full programmability by the user including motion sensor, light sensor, full constant current regulation, TiCN coated Stainless steel parts for better durability etc.
Provided for review by the kind folks at Lux-RC.