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Thread: Spark SF3 and SF5 [XM-L2, 1x(R)CR123A, 1xAA] Review

  1. #1
    Flashaholic* candle lamp's Avatar
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    Arrow Spark SF3 and SF5 [XM-L2, 1x(R)CR123A, 1xAA] Review

    Reviewer's note : Spark SF3 & SF5 were provided by Spark for review.

    This SF series is available with either Cree XM-L2 Cool White, or Cree XM-L2 Neutral White. The SF3 & SF5 are powered by 1x(R)CR123A and 1xAA respectively. You can see my SG3 & SG5 headlamp review for a comparison.
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    My review samples came in the small cardboard packaging box which is the same as SG3 and SG5. The SF3 and SF5 have identical packaging. The lights come with small pouch, removable pocket clip, removable thread-on non-reflectored bezel, and user manual.
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    Manufacturer Specifications from Spark's website & user manual :

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

    SF3 (XM-L2)
    • Weight : 40g (without battery)
    • Dimension : 70mm (Length) x 24mm (Diameter)
    • Output & runtime :
    1) SF3-NW : Super (350lm : 0.8hr), Max (180lm : 1.8hr), Med2 (60lm : 6hr), Med1 (8lm : 30hr), Min (1lm / 12days)
    2) SF3-CW : Super (380lm : 0.8hr), Max (200lm : 1.8hr), Med2 (70lm : 6hr), Med1 10lm : 30hr), Min (1lm / 12days)

    SF5 (XM-L2)
    • Weight : 50g (without battery)
    • Dimension : 90mm (Length) x 24mm (Diameter)
    • Output & runtime :
    1) SF5-NW : Super (260lm : 0.9hr), Max (100lm : 2.8hr), Med2 (30lm : 9hr), Med1 (6lm : 32hr), Min (1lm / 10days)
    2) SF5-CW : Super (280lm : 0.9hr), Max (110lm : 2.8hr), Med2 (40lm : 9hr), Med1 8lm : 32hr), Min (1lm / 10days)
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    The SF3 & SF5 are quite small for their class. The hard(type III) anodizing is a matte gray natural and no flaws on my samples. 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 as well.
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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 lights came with a flood / throw reflector by default. The reflector is well polished with no noticeable finishing flaws, and well-centered XM-L2 LED sits at the bottom of the reflector cup. There's an electronic switch in the head. Switch feel is quite similar to the Spark SG3 & SG5 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. Unlike SG series, there is a thin transparent film around the positive contact point in the SF3 head, and there is a raised metal ring around the positve in the SF5 head. So I guess the lights have mechanical reverse polarity protection to protect from improper battery installation .
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    A nice feature of the lights is that they come bundled with a non-reflectored bezel. The bezel is removable and swappable (i.e., you can replace it with the non-reflectored bezel which gives pure flood beam).
    The reflectored bezel has an OP reflector and is somewhat higher than the non-reflectored bezel in depth, due to the OP reflector. But the diameter of the non-reflectored bezel is quite the same as the reflected bezel.
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    The battery tube (i.e., body) is mostly covered in a thin carbon fiber sleeve. Unlike the SG series, the sleeves on both SF3 and SF5 doesn't rotate. The wall thickness of the body is 2.5mm and 2.1mm in the SF3 and SF5 respectively. The lights feel solid.
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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. The lights can tailstand, as the center of the tailcap base has a flat face.
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    User Interface

    Note that the lights have the same UI as the SG series.
    Undoubtedly, the SF3 user interface is the same as the SF5.

    On-Off and mode control are controlled by the electronic side 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. Double-clicking again will return to the previous mode. Note that 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. Note that the lights do not have mode memory on Super (Turbo).

    If you unscrew the tailcap of the SF3 on both CR123A and RCR123A, this mode memory is retained for not more than 40 seconds in my test.

    But, the SF5 has mode memory on both Ni-NH and Li-ion 14500, and this memory is retained for a long time even if you unscrew the tailcap (i.e., the light recalls the last used output after a battery change). However, this memory effect is retained for more than 20 minutes when using Ni-MH, but it is retained for 10~20 minutes for Li-ion 14500 (i.e., not more than 20 min). That's interesting.
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    From left to right, Panasonic CR123A, Olight S10 Baton, Brinyte ES10, Spark SG3, Spark SF3, Eagletac D25C, Niteye MSC10.
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    From left to right, Olight S10 Baton, Spark SF3, Eagletac D25C, Niteye MSC10.
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    From left to right, Sanyo Eneloop AA, Spark SG5, Olight S15 Baton, Spark SF5, Brinyte ED30, Niteye MSA10, Jetbeam DDA10.
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    From left to right, Olight S15 Baton, Spark SF5, Niteye MSA10, Jetbeam DDA10.
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    It is good small size to hold and use. It can be used as an EDC light. Overall build quality seems very high.
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    Measured Dimensions


    As shown in the above table, the overall length become shorter if the non-reflectored bezel is installed.
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    Standby Current Drain

    Due to the electronic side switch interface, the SF3 and SF5 are drawing a small current when the light is fully connected. I measured this current as 116.1μA, 93.0μA with 1xCR123A, 1xEneloop AA respectively.
    For SF3 and SF5, that would translate into around 1.4 years on 1400mAh CR123A, and about 2.5 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. SF3


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    2. SF5


    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. SF3


    1) Panasonic CR123A - Turbo (38min), High (64min)
    2) AW RCR123A - Turbo (27min), High (51min)

    I found the SF3 is brighter than SG3 in the Super (Turbo) and Max. (High) mode.
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    2. SF5


    1) Sanyo Eneloop AA - Turbo (49min), High (139min)
    2) Duracell Ultra AA - Turbo (45min), High (67min)
    3) AW 14500 - Turbo (54min), High (142min)

    Like the SF3, the SF5 is brighter than SG5 in the Super (Turbo) and Max. (High) mode.
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    Beamshot

    1. White door beamshot (about 50cm from the white door on Max. output, AWB)

    1-1. SF3

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    1-2. SF5

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

    2-1. SF3

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    2-2. SF5

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    The above beamshots are on Turbo output on 1xSanyo CR123A, 1xEneloop AA. As you see, the non-reflectored bezel gives you all flood beam.
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    3. Indoor beamshot (about 7.0m from the target on Max. output)
    - ISO100, F/2.8, 1sec, Auto white balance

    3-1. SF3

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    3-2. SF5

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    [New 14.01.01]
    4. Indoor beamshot (about 30cm from the target on Low output)
    - ISO100, F/2.8, 1sec, Auto white balance

    4-1. SF3

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    4-2. SF5

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    It's useful to read a book or newspaper on Low mode with a reflectored bezel or a non-reflectored one. Personally, I like to read a book with a reflectored bezel on Low mode.
    [New 14.01.01]
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    Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year !
    Last edited by candle lamp; 01-01-2014 at 02:39 AM. Reason: [New 14.01.01]

  2. #2
    Enlightened
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    Default Re: Spark SF3 and SF5 [XM-L2, 1x(R)CR123A, 1xAA] Review

    Awesome review! Thanks for posting it!

  3. #3
    ven's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spark SF3 and SF5 [XM-L2, 1x(R)CR123A, 1xAA] Review

    As above,fantastic review ,awesome pics,i am really tempted for a SF5 and love the idea of changing the bezel for flood etc

  4. #4
    Flashaholic* candle lamp's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spark SF3 and SF5 [XM-L2, 1x(R)CR123A, 1xAA] Review

    Thanks for your support. AngryDaddyBird and ven

    Yes, the swappable bezel is very useful.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Spark SF3 and SF5 [XM-L2, 1x(R)CR123A, 1xAA] Review

    Great review, I would like to know some more information on the low mode though does the SF5 dim down enough to be able to actually read small print at a normal reading distance or is it still to bright.

    Thank You

  6. #6
    Flashaholic* candle lamp's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spark SF3 and SF5 [XM-L2, 1x(R)CR123A, 1xAA] Review

    Quote Originally Posted by wyoben View Post
    Great review, I would like to know some more information on the low mode though does the SF5 dim down enough to be able to actually read small print at a normal reading distance or is it still to bright.

    Thank You
    Thanks wyoben!

    In my view, both lights on Low mode is good enough to read a book or newspaper at a normal reading distance. I don't need to swap with a non-reflectored bezel to read a book on Low mode.
    When using the Med1 mode, I feel the necessity to swap with a non-reflectored bezel to read a book.

    [New 14.01.01]
    4. Indoor beamshot (about 30cm from the target on Low output)
    - ISO100, F/2.8, 1sec, Auto white balance

    4-1. SF3

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    4-2. SF5

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    It's useful to read a book or newspaper on Low mode with a reflectored bezel or a non-reflectored one. Personally, I like to read a book with a reflectored bezel on Low mode.
    [New 14.01.01]
    Last edited by candle lamp; 01-01-2014 at 02:34 AM. Reason: [New 14.01.01]

  7. #7

    Default Re: Spark SF3 and SF5 [XM-L2, 1x(R)CR123A, 1xAA] Review

    Quote Originally Posted by wyoben View Post
    Great review, I would like to know some more information on the low mode though does the SF5 dim down enough to be able to actually read small print at a normal reading distance or is it still to bright.

    Thank You
    Don't know about the SF5. But I have an SF3. It has a true moonlight mode, dim enough you can stare into the emitter without hurting your eyes. quite a nice little light actually. The neutral white version has superb tint. Much better than my Zebralight SC52w.

  8. #8
    Flashaholic* Stefano's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spark SF3 and SF5 [XM-L2, 1x(R)CR123A, 1xAA] Review

    Sorry for my bad English.
    NIce review !
    This Spark (SF5) as it goes like throw?

    I know it's an AA and is designed to illuminate only a short distance, I wondered how he behaved when compared to a Zebra SC52 as a throw.

    (Terrible translation by Google Translate)
    Last edited by Stefano; 01-17-2014 at 11:00 AM.

  9. #9
    Flashaholic* candle lamp's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spark SF3 and SF5 [XM-L2, 1x(R)CR123A, 1xAA] Review

    Quote Originally Posted by Stefano View Post
    This Spark (SF5) as it goes like throw?

    I know it's an AA and is designed to illuminate only a short distance, I wondered how he behaved when compared to a Zebra SC52 as a throw.
    Unfortunately, I don't have Zebra SC52, sorry.

    But, accordiong to Trevilux's post, it seems the SF5 with reflectored bezel has a good throw similar to the SC52.

  10. #10
    Flashaholic* Stefano's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spark SF3 and SF5 [XM-L2, 1x(R)CR123A, 1xAA] Review

    Quote Originally Posted by candle lamp View Post
    Unfortunately, I don't have Zebra SC52, sorry.

    But, accordiong to Trevilux's post, it seems the SF5 with reflectored bezel has a good throw similar to the SC52.
    Many thanks !

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