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Thread: Spark SG3 & SG5 [XM-L2, 1x(R)CR123A, 1xAA] Review

  1. #1
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    Arrow Spark SG3 & SG5 [XM-L2, 1x(R)CR123A, 1xAA] Review

    Reviewer's note : Spark SG3 & SG5 were provided by Spark for review.

    Spark has released the SG3 and SG5 headlamp powered by 1x(R)CR123A and 1xAA respectively.
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    My samples came in the cardboard packaging box with cut-out foam insert.
    Note that the SG3 and SG5 have identical packaging. SG3 and SG5 come with headband, removable pocket clip, removable thread-on reflectored bezel, wrist strap, user manual. (The manual is available for download on Spark website.)
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    Manufacturer Specifications from Spark's website & user manual :

    1. Common Specification
    • Aluminum alloy material with Class III hard anodized finishing
    • SCHOTT ultra clear lens
    • Reverse polarity protection
    • IPX8 waterproof

    2. SG3 (XM-L2)
    • Weight : 40g (without battery), 58g (with battery and headband)
    • Dimension : 70mm (Length) x 24mm (Diameter)
    • Output & runtime :
    1) SG3-NW : Super (350lm : 0.8hr), Max (180lm : 1.8hr), Med2 (60lm : 6hr), Med1 (8lm : 30hr), Min (1lm / 12days)
    2)SG3-CW : Super (380lm : 0.8hr), Max (200lm : 1.8hr), Med2 (70lm : 6hr), Med1 10lm : 30hr), Min (1lm / 12days)

    3. SG5 (XM-L2)
    • Weight : 40g (without battery), 68g (with battery and headband)
    • Dimension : 80mm (Length) x 24mm (Diameter)
    • Output & runtime :
    1) SG5-NW : Super (260lm : 0.9hr), Max (100lm : 2.8hr), Med2 (30lm : 9hr), Med1 (6lm : 32hr), Min (1lm / 10days)
    2)SG5-CW : Super (280lm : 0.9hr), Max (110lm : 2.8hr), Med2 (40lm : 9hr), Med1 8lm : 32hr), Min (1lm / 10days)
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    The SG3 & SG5 are quite small for their class. The hard(type III) anodizing is a matte gray natural and no flaws on my sample. However, anodizing doesn't seem thickly coated. Labels are minimal on the head, but clearly legible against the background. The carbon fiber sleeve is present over of the body. The light has no tail switch. There is knurling on the tailcap only. Fit and finish looks good.
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    The lights come with a removable pocket clip. It looks sturdy and hold onto the body securely. It's not reversible, allowing bezel-up only. The both clips on the lights are identical.
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    The light has 2 parts. The body is one piece with the head (i.e., the body has a built-in head). The pocket clip works as a good anti-roll device.
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    The Lights come in a choice of emitter types (Cool White or Neutral White), and my review sample is the XM-L2 Cool White.
    The light has the non-reflectored bezel with the SCHOTT ultra clear lens which gives the poor flood beam. Note the bezel is removable and swappable (i.e., you can replace it with the reflectored bezel which gives both spot and spill beam). There's an electronic switch on the top of the head. Switch feel is similar to the Spark SL6S-740NW electronic switch. The switch has a good feel to touch and has short travel, which produces a clear soft clicking sound when pressed.
    There is a flat positive contact point in the head, and the light has the reverse polarity protection function.
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    The reflectored bezel has a LOP reflector and is somewhat higher than the non-reflectored bezel in depth, due to the LOP reflector. But the diameter of the non-reflectored bezel is quite the same as the reflected bezel. The reflector is well polished with no noticeable finishing flaws and well-centered XM-L2 LED sits at the bottom of the reflector cup.
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    - ISO100, F/2.8, 1sec, Auto white balance






    The above beamshots are on Turbo, High output on 1xSanyo CR123A, 1xEneloop AA, about 3 or 4 meter from a target. As you can see, the non-reflectored bezel is all flood.
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    The battery tube (i.e., body) is mostly covered in a thin carbon fiber sleeve. The sleeves on both SG3 and SG5 rotate easily. The wall thickness of the body is 2.44mm in the lights. The lights feel solid.
    The SG3 runs on CR123A or RCR123A, and the SG5 runs on Alkarine or Ni-MH or Li-ion AA cell.
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    The screw threads are general triangular of good quality. Threads are well machined, and anodized which allow the light to be locked-out when the tailcap is slightly loosened. As supplied, threads are well lubricated. Screw threads action is smooth with no cross-threading or squeaking on my samples.
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    There is a gold-plated negative spring on the inside of the tailcap. The female threads are anodized too. The lights can tailstand, as the center of the tailcap base has a flat face.
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    User Interface

    The SG3 user interface is the same as the SG5.
    On-Off and mode control are controlled by the electronic switch. A quick press and release turns the lights on, and another quick press and release turns the lights off.
    Holding down the switch will cycle between Low -> Med.1 -> Med.2 -> Max (i.e., High), in repeating sequence. To select your desired mode or output level, just simply release the switch. There is Super (i.e., Turbo), and this is accessed by double-clicking the switch in any mode. Note double quick click from Off will activate Super (Turbo) directly.

    There is no flashing modes such as Strobe and SOS on the lights. The lights have mode memory, and remember the last output level used when you turn the light off and back on, even if you unscrew the tailcap. Note that the lights do not have mode memory on Super (Turbo).

    [New 13.09.14]
    The lights have mode memory on both Ni-NH and Li-ion 14500, and this memory is retained even if you unscrew the tailcap (i.e., the lights recall the last used output after a battery change). But this memory effect is retained for about 10 minutes. (i.e., the memory lasts for 9~10 minutes after disconnecting the tailcap on both Ni-MH (CR123A) and Li-ion 14500 (16340). [New 13.09.14]

    If you hold the switch for around half a second before releasing, the lights turn on and shut off soon as if the lights show momentary light. This is an interesting function, but I don't know if this is the manufacturer's design-intended function.
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    The headband is good quality. There are stoppers for adjusting the headband.
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    The headband itself worked well in my testing. It is a single headband which is adjustable loop with two adjusters. I found the black rubber holder holds the SG3 firmly, but it doesn't do that for the SG5. Both SG3 & SG5 have the exactl same holder in size (i.e., inner diameter of the holder, holder space), but the two lights have the different holder space between the head-end and the clip-groove. It means the holder space doesn't fit in the head-end and the clip-groove on the SG5. The holder of the SG5 might fit in the head-end and the clip-groove as the holder is fairly flexible and stretchy. But it will loose the head-end and will not hold the body firmly, because the carbon fiber sleeve rotate easily.
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    From left to right, Panasonic CR123A, Xtar WK21, Spark SG3, Sunwayman M11R, Eagletac D25C, Olight M10.
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    From left to right, Sanyo Eneloop AA, Spark SG5, Olight S15, Armytek Partner A1 (XM-L2), Sunwayman V10A, Fenix LD12.
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    It is good small size to hold and use. It can be used as an EDC light. Overall build quality is high.
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    Measured Dimensions

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    Standby Current Drain

    Due to the electronic side switch interface, the SG3 and SG5 are drawing a small current when the light is fully connected. I measured this current as 116.2μA, 68.8μA with 1xCR123A, 1xEneloop AA respectively.
    For SG3 and SG5, that would translates into around 1.4 years on 1400mAh CR123A, and about 3.3 years on 2000mAh Ni-MH respectively. This is negligible, not a concern. This current can be cut by simply unscrewing the tailcap a little when the light is not in use.
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    PWM

    1. SG3

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    2. SG5


    The lights show no sign of PWM at all output levels. I notice there is no buzzing sound at any levels.
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    Runtime

    The runtime to fall to 10% of its initial output from 30 seconds after the point the light is first turned on (i.e., based on ANSI FL-1) for High is as follows :

    1. SG3


    1) Panasonic CR123A - Turbo (59min), High (91min)
    2) AW RCR123A - Turbo (37min), High (75min)
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    2. SG5


    1) Sanyo Eneloop AA - Turbo (52min), High (150min)
    2) Duracell Ultra AA - Turbo (56min), High (88min)
    3) AW 14500 - Turbo (39min), High (153min)
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    Beamshot

    1. White door beamshot (about 50cm from the white door) on Max output
    [New 13.09.12]
    1-1. Panasonic CR123A
    - ISO100, F/3.2, 1/100sec, Auto white balance

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    - ISO100, F/3.2, 1/125sec, Auto white balance

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    - ISO100, F/3.2, 1/250sec, Auto white balance

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    1-2. Sanyo Eneloop AA
    - ISO100, F/3.2, 1/60sec, Auto white balance

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    - ISO100, F/3.2, 1/125sec, Auto white balance

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    - ISO100, F/3.2, 1/250sec, Auto white balance

    [New 13.09.12]
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    2. Indoor beamshot (about 3.5m from the target on Max. output)
    2-1. Panasonic CR123A
    - ISO100, F/2.8, 1sec, Auto white balance

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    2-2. Sanyo Eneloop AA
    - ISO100, F/2.8, 1sec, Auto white balance

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    3. Indoor beamshot (about 7.0m from the target on Max. output)
    3-1. Panasonic CR123A
    - ISO100, F/2.8, 1sec, Auto white balance

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    3-2. Sanyo Eneloop AA
    - ISO100, F/2.8, 1sec, Auto white balance

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    Last edited by candle lamp; 09-14-2013 at 07:29 AM. Reason: [13.09.14]

  2. #2

    Default Spark SG3 & SG5 [XM-L2, 1x(R)CR123A, 1xAA] Review

    Thanks for the great review candle lamp. I have 2 questions

    - since the same head strap is use for both, and doesn't seem to hold the thinner bodied AA version as well, does that mean you cannot fix it's beam angle, ie, it will keep drooping down?

    - also does this light retain all the lower modes at spec on 14500s?

    Thanks.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Spark SG3 & SG5 [XM-L2, 1x(R)CR123A, 1xAA] Review

    Quote Originally Posted by reppans View Post
    Thanks for the great review candle lamp. I have 2 questions

    - since the same head strap is use for both, and doesn't seem to hold the thinner bodied AA version as well, does that mean you cannot fix it's beam angle, ie, it will keep drooping down?

    - also does this light retain all the lower modes at spec on 14500s?

    Thanks.
    Thanks. reppans!
    - If the holder is located in the carbon fiber sleeve and the clip-groove as shown in my review, I'm not be able to fix the beam angle with the SG5.
    In my opinion, if the Spark extend the holder space of the SG5 by 3mm and reduce the innder diameter of the holder by 0.6mm, that issue will be fixed.
    However, the holder is rubber and you can still rotate the light easily. This means the light can also rotate on you inadvertently while you are moving around.

    - Yes, SG3 & SG5 perfectly retian the lower modes on 16340 & 14500 Li-ion.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Spark SG3 & SG5 [XM-L2, 1x(R)CR123A, 1xAA] Review

    Just uploaed the following beamshot!

    1. White door beamshot (about 50cm from the white door) on Max output
    [New 13.09.12]
    1-1. Panasonic CR123A
    - ISO100, F/3.2, 1/100sec, Auto white balance

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    - ISO100, F/3.2, 1/125sec, Auto white balance

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    - ISO100, F/3.2, 1/250sec, Auto white balance

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    1-2. Sanyo Eneloop AA
    - ISO100, F/3.2, 1/60sec, Auto white balance

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    - ISO100, F/3.2, 1/125sec, Auto white balance

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    - ISO100, F/3.2, 1/250sec, Auto white balance

    [New 13.09.12]

  5. #5
    Flashaholic holylight's Avatar
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    Default Spark SG3 & SG5 [XM-L2, 1x(R)CR123A, 1xAA] Review

    Me first? Thanks for the review
    lights: saber1a, v11r, sc52, sc600ii, ea4, tn31, archer1a.



  6. #6

    Default Re: Spark SG3 & SG5 [XM-L2, 1x(R)CR123A, 1xAA] Review

    Great review, thank you. I'm hoping you can answer a question about the ability of the SG5 to memorize the modes. The Spark ST5 claimed the same feature, where the light would remember which mode you used last. However, I found the lamp would not remember the mode when using AA batteries, although other users said it worked with 14500s. Does the mode memory feature work with AAs on the SG5? Thanks again for the useful review.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Spark SG3 & SG5 [XM-L2, 1x(R)CR123A, 1xAA] Review

    Thanks. holylight! Second!

    Quote Originally Posted by tedh View Post
    Great review, thank you. I'm hoping you can answer a question about the ability of the SG5 to memorize the modes. The Spark ST5 claimed the same feature, where the light would remember which mode you used last. However, I found the lamp would not remember the mode when using AA batteries, although other users said it worked with 14500s. Does the mode memory feature work with AAs on the SG5? Thanks again for the useful review.
    Thanks you for your support. tedh!
    Ah! I didn't know the ST5 has no mode memory in case of using AA. I have tried to check again if the SG5 has mode memory on both Ni-MH and Li-ion, and found the followings:
    The SG5 has mode memory on both Ni-NH and Li-ion 14500, and this memory is retained even if you unscrew the tailcap (i.e., SG5 recalls the last used output after a battery change). But this memory effect is retained for about 10 minutes. (i.e., the memory lasts for 9~10 minutes after disconnecting the tailcap on both Ni-MH and Li-ion 14500.
    This memory effect after disconnecting the tailcap on both CR123A and Li-ion 16340 is the same as the SG3.

    I updated the user Interface in my review. Thanks for your question. tedh!
    Last edited by candle lamp; 09-14-2013 at 06:17 AM.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Spark SG3 & SG5 [XM-L2, 1x(R)CR123A, 1xAA] Review

    Great, thanks! That helps. I like the memory mode feature, and found it very frustrating (with the ST5) the memory mode didn't work with Ni-MHs. If I understand you correctly, the memory mode works properly with both battery types, as long as you don't remove the tailcap for a long period of time. Thanks for checking this, I appreciate it!

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Spark SG3 & SG5 [XM-L2, 1x(R)CR123A, 1xAA] Review

    Quote Originally Posted by tedh View Post
    Great, thanks! That helps. I like the memory mode feature, and found it very frustrating (with the ST5) the memory mode didn't work with Ni-MHs. If I understand you correctly, the memory mode works properly with both battery types, as long as you don't remove the tailcap for a long period of time. Thanks for checking this, I appreciate it!
    You are exactly right! My pleasure.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Spark SG3 & SG5 [XM-L2, 1x(R)CR123A, 1xAA] Review

    Thank you for the review, I went ahead and ordered a SG3.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Spark SG3 & SG5 [XM-L2, 1x(R)CR123A, 1xAA] Review

    Hi does the spot reflector come with the headlamps or is it a separate purchase? Would the lg5 fit better in the headband if you left the clip on?

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Spark SG3 & SG5 [XM-L2, 1x(R)CR123A, 1xAA] Review

    Quote Originally Posted by ragnarok164 View Post
    Thank you for the review, I went ahead and ordered a SG3.
    Hope you will like it.

    Quote Originally Posted by bob_dobalina View Post
    Hi does the spot reflector come with the headlamps or is it a separate purchase? Would the lg5 fit better in the headband if you left the clip on?
    My local dealer said the removable reflectored bezel is a separate purchase. When leaving the clip on the SG5, the light would better fit in the headband. I think that will be an alternative to hold the body firmly, and will prevent the light from rotating easily.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Spark SG3 & SG5 [XM-L2, 1x(R)CR123A, 1xAA] Review

    I've had the SG3 NW for about a week or so now. Very nice light. The UI is very simple and just works. The SG3 by itself is a bit fatter than I expected. I usually keep an EagleTac D25A clipped inside my jacket pocket, but this light is a bit too fat to carry like that. They do go nicely together as a duo edc though. The D25A is pretty throwy for a small light, and the SG3 is all flood. I like carrying both like that. When winter comes I'll have more edc-space in my pockets and I think I'll keep both on me for those early dark days.

    Lack of a sub-lumen moonlight mode was initially a concern, but I've found that with any mule light, the low mode doesn't need to be THAT low. Mode memory works well, but I actually prefer to have it always come on in low, so I keep setting it to low whenever I turn it off for longer.
    Haven't used the headband or reflectored bezel yet, so no thoughts on that. I wanted the additional reflector, but I think my main use for this light will be photography and computer work, so bare led is probably the best option.

    One thing I did notice is that if you use it in extreme close-up, there's a hint of hotspot to the bare beam. I might get another reflectored bezel and add some sort of frosted glass to it. Might work even better for close up work.
    The NW tint is amazing though, and all round I'm happy I got this light. Prefer the mod-ability over getting two zebralights.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Spark SG3 & SG5 [XM-L2, 1x(R)CR123A, 1xAA] Review

    I would buy the SG5 if it fit tight in holder. So incredible they would release a light like this. Infuriating really.

    Maybe they''ll get around to fixing it someday.

    Would someone please define "Mule light" for me? thanks

  15. #15
    Flashaholic* TweakMDS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spark SG3 & SG5 [XM-L2, 1x(R)CR123A, 1xAA] Review

    I think it comes from the McGizmo (a great flashlight builder - if not the best) terminology, and basically means a pure flood led with no reflector. Just a bare led that doesn't throw a beam, but just emits the light directly from the led. Very nice for walking in pure dark and even nicer for close-up technical work.

  16. #16

    Default Re: Spark SG3 & SG5 [XM-L2, 1x(R)CR123A, 1xAA] Review

    Great review - thanks. I just bought the SG5, and can report that it fits into the headband holder just fine (although I doubt I'll use it as a headlight). Also there is no movement / rotation of the carbon fibre sleeve at all - it's quite firm. I don't know if Spark have changed these since your review.

    First impressions are that it's a lovely little light, and a handy edc.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Spark SG3 & SG5 [XM-L2, 1x(R)CR123A, 1xAA] Review

    Quote Originally Posted by Dubois View Post
    Great review - thanks. I just bought the SG5, and can report that it fits into the headband holder just fine (although I doubt I'll use it as a headlight). Also there is no movement / rotation of the carbon fibre sleeve at all - it's quite firm. I don't know if Spark have changed these since your review.

    First impressions are that it's a lovely little light, and a handy edc.
    That's good news. I'm happy to hear that. Thanks a lot for your sharing. Dubois!

  18. #18

    Default Re: Spark SG3 & SG5 [XM-L2, 1x(R)CR123A, 1xAA] Review

    >> It's not reversible, allowing bezel-up only

    It is reversible on my SG5
    Clip it on right under the head.
    It works and is quite secure.
    Bill
    Pacific NW

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Spark SG3 & SG5 [XM-L2, 1x(R)CR123A, 1xAA] Review

    Quote Originally Posted by wjv View Post
    It is reversible on my SG5
    Clip it on right under the head.
    It works and is quite secure.
    Yes, you can clip it on right under the head. It doesn't look like the clip hold onto the body securely, unlike the tail, there is no groove on right under the head.

  20. #20

    Default Re: Spark SG3 & SG5 [XM-L2, 1x(R)CR123A, 1xAA] Review

    Quote Originally Posted by candle lamp View Post
    Yes, you can clip it on right under the head. It doesn't look like the clip hold onto the body securely, unlike the tail, there is no groove on right under the head.
    Actually it's quite secure on the one I have. .
    Bill
    Pacific NW

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Spark SG3 & SG5 [XM-L2, 1x(R)CR123A, 1xAA] Review

    For the SG5, how come none of the batteries output 100% of the lumens?
    It looks like the NiMH and LCO can only output ~27%.

    Any luck that you might have some LFP batteries to compare runtime/output with?
    Wish: 1) Super low beacon; easy find flashlight. 2) Low voltage indicator, so not stranded without light. 3) Simple, one handed control ring mode changer (magnetic control ring). 4) Flood beam for walking/tasks. 5) Pocket carry. 6) LiFePO4.


  22. #22
    Flashaholic* candle lamp's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spark SG3 & SG5 [XM-L2, 1x(R)CR123A, 1xAA] Review

    Quote Originally Posted by snakyjake View Post
    For the SG5, how come none of the batteries output 100% of the lumens?
    It looks like the NiMH and LCO can only output ~27%.

    Any luck that you might have some LFP batteries to compare runtime/output with?
    Actually, all outputs of the SG5 are based on the SG3. i.e., When the relative output of the SG3 on Turbo on AW RCR123 is 100%, the output of the SG5 on Turbo on AW 14500 is about 72%.

    Sorry, I don't have a plan to use LFP cells in my reviews.

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