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Photon Fusion, $82.00 (Photonlight.com)
Buy them here or here.
Last update: 09-09-02 (Major and minor updates throughout the page)
Q: What do you get when you cross a miner's headlamp with a flashlight,
a table light, and a tent light?
A: You get the new Fusion, from the makers of the famous Photon Micro Light!
The Photon Fusion is a new combination LED "lighting device" that features six LEDs, a microcontroller, switching power supply, gold plated electrical contacts,
and comfortable headband all in one stylish, compact unit. The Fusion is powered by three common "AA" cells.
The Fusion can be used in any of three "primary" or "intended" modes, and has numerous additional uses.
Mode 1 is the headlamp. The Fusion is affixed to the head or a helmet using a comfortable, 3-point elastic strap.
The strap is wide and comfortable, adjustable to fit your head or helmet size, and elastic to give a snug, secure fit.
The light head with the LEDs & switches in it can be adjusted to a number of preset positions; these all lock in place so the light will
not change positions until you want it to.
A soft rubber cowling or hood around the light's head prevents any spill light from getting in your eyes, and makes the head easy to grip
when changing positions or switch settings.
The Fusion screwed onto an ordinary head.
Mode 2 is as an ordinary handheld flashlight. The entire headband elastic assembly just pops off, so it doesn't get in your way.
When you remove the headband, you don't lose your personal adjustment, so the next time you need it, it stays exactly the same
way it was when you last used it.
Mode 3 is as a table lamp. The triangular shape allows the unit to sit solidly on any reasonably flat surface, and the adjustable head
allows you to direct the light exactly where you need it - onto a specific target, or up at the ceiling for a more diffuse illumination.
Additionally, the Fusion can be used as a tent light, a map light in your car, or pretty much for any other situation requiring light.
Two of the LEDs in the array are the usual 20° Nichias; but the other four are wide angle white models - a combination never before seen
in any portable LED light!
This gives the Fusion a degree of versatility not found in the others.
One of the best parts is that light can be dimmed and has three additional flashing modes. Here is a list of the light's modes:
Hyper BrightTM: This is the brightest mode, for use when you need the brightest possible light with no regards for battery life.
Auto Off: This mode provides a fairly bright level of illumination - approximately 70% of absolute maximum.
After 1 minute, the unit shuts itself off.
The indication that this mode is active is that when you turn it on, the unit performs a "soft start", in which the LEDs come up to brightness relatively slowly (over a 1 second period).
After the timer has expired, the Fusion dims to half intensity for approximately two seconds, then it shuts off.
If you're going down the stairs, this gives you warning that you need to stop, reach up & reactivate it.
High: Provides virtually the same illumination as Auto-Off, without the Auto-Off part.
On this setting it was possible to read a newspaper in a totally dark bathroom with no dark adaption using only light from the Fusion
reflecting off the bathroom ceiling.
Medium: Provides an intermediate level of illumination, with substantially increased battery life.
Although not that bright, some people will find it is sufficient for many close-up tasks.
Low: Provides a low level of illumination, suitable for wandering a dark house at night. Also suitable for situations where batteries
might be hard to come by.
Strobe: All of the LEDs strobe in unison at near maximum intensity. Frequency is unknown, but it's probably around 10-15Hz.
Although the dwell time is a bit long to be useful for true, crystal clear stop-motion effects,
this mode can be a trip at a party or a very noticeable attention-getting device for attracting help.
Medium blink: Unit flashes on and off at an approximately 3Hz rate.
SOS: Unit flashes the international SOS signal until the batteries die, until you change modes or turn it off.
Modes are changed by pressing and holding down the rightmost half of the button. Modes will advance approximately every 1.5 to 1.8 seconds for as long
as this button is depressed. Release button to lock the unit in the desired mode.
Brief presses of the rightmost button now will turn the Fusion on and off in the mode you selected.
To go directly to the highest possible brightness (the Hyper Bright mode), press & release the leftmost half of the button.
Regardless of the previous setting, the light will come on at maximum intensity and stay on until you either press the left half of the button again, return to your previous mode by
pushing the right half of the button, or allowing the batteries to run until they've died.
In my opinion, this is a more 'user friendly' configuration than the one chosen for the Photon III. See 09-2002 update series for info on new modes associated with the Hyper Bright button.
The large rubber switch glows in the dark for a time as well, making the Fusion easy to see next to your sleeping bag or on the night table.
A look down the barrel. Four wide-angle LEDs going horizontally, with a narrow beam above & below.
The unit "folds up" into a relatively compact shape for easy storage or stowage in luggage & camping gear.
The head can be positioned either on the side of the battery box or on the end, depending on your needs.
The Fusion is powered by three ordinary "AA" alkaline batteries, held in the triangular compartment that makes up the unit's base.
To install or change them, open the battery lid as described below. Dump out the dead ones if present.
Hold the unit so the apex (point) of the triangle faces you. Insert two of the AA cells towards the rear (forming the 'base' of the triangle) button-end up,
and insert the last battery (in the apex of the triangle) button-end first, as you see in the picture.
Correct battery orientation.
Swing the lid shut, and press firmly until you feel it snap in place, and you're back in business.
Polarity markings are embossed on the inside of the battery lid should you need to change batteries while away from my website. ;)
BECAUSE A NEWER, MORE EFFICIENT DRIVER IS BEING USED IN THE NEW FUSION, ALL BATTERY TESTING IS TO BE REDONE AS OF 09-2002. PLEASE DISREGARD THIS CHART; IT WILL SOON GO AWAY!
The Fusion is built to take whatever punishment you can dish out.
Testing by the manufacturer showed it could survive a 30 foot drop onto concrete; my own less brutal tests shows it just bounces around.
The worst thing I can get it to do is switch itself into "low" mode when it strikes the ground - see below for more information on why this
If you do ever smash the lens, it is easily replaceable. No need to throw out a perfectly good flashlight because it has a broken lens.
This is how it *should* be.
Both the headband system and the battery lid are secured by very stiff and substantial latches; neither were shown to fly apart
when the sample was abused. It's almost built too well - I needed to enlist the aid of a small screwdriver to pry both the headband bracket
and the battery lid off their latches. Any tool will work - a ballpoint pen, pocket knife, dime, teaspoon, or any relatively thin, sturdy object.
I broke two fingernails off before I learned my lesson. :)
Photon Fusion. Note the brighter central region and the very wide angle beam outside that.
In the prototype version, when the illuminator head position was changed, the light dropped into "Low" mode as the (apparently rotary) contacts in the hinge momentarily
break & remake. It would also sometimes switch into "Low" when violently struck or dropped, but that depends on how it hit the ground.
(IMPORTANT: See 9-24 update below!)
This page is just getting underway. The first unit tested was most likely a pre-production unit, there are some differences between that
and the units that are now being made available to the public.
I have also discovered the head & battery pack can be seperated; and the head remounted on the end of the battery pack, to make it easier
to use as a "regular style" flashlight. This is accomplished by a clever arrangement using a pair of contacts, a threaded receptacle, a threaded
post with a knurled thumbwheel, and small "keyed" posts that fit matching receptacles on the battery box.
Because of this keyed arrangement, the head cannot be properly fitted to the battery holder when you try to put it on backwards.
It will actually go on, but the head will freewheel and refuse to lock into position until you turn it 180°.
A reverse biased diode in the light protects the electronics from a brief connection at reversed polarity. I determined its presence by observing
sparking when attempting to ruin the sample by hooking the head on backwards for a brief period, as an actual user might accidentally do.
Chances are, the worst damage you would do is drain fifteen minutes worth of life out of the batteries before you figure out what went wrong. :)
If you change the head from side to front (or vice versa) and your light no longer works, all you need to do is quickly loosen the thumbscrew, give the head a 180° turn, and retighten.
The Photon Fusion comes with yet another trick up its sleeve... if one of the buttons are crushed in storage or in your
camping bag causing the light to turn on unnoticed, the light shuts itself after ten seconds (for the "turbo") or 50-60 seconds
(for the mode change).
Once the smooshed button is relieved of its burden, the light will resume normal operation.
But therein lies the fly in the ointment: when the load shifts and the pressure on the button is released, the light comes on and stays on.
This tends to defeat the purpose of the anti-smash feature.
Only if the light were set to Auto-Off to begin with will this feature really be of value.
So do yourself a favor, and switch it to Auto-Off before stowing it in your camping bag or backpack.
The programming has been "fixed" to totally eliminate the smash protection bug. The smash protection now causes the light to resume
operation in "Auto Shutoff" mode when the button(s) are relieved of pressure regardless of any previous settings.
What this means for you is that no matter what happens (barring total destruction of the Fusion, of course!), the light will only come on for 1 minute inside your bag, if it comes on at all.
So you won't arrive at your destination with dead batteries in there unless you installed them on purpose. :)
The other known fault - that of the light switching to "low" mode following an accident or following your repositioning the illuminator head has also
been corrected - apparently the fault never really existed, and that an incorrect capacitor was installed in this specific unit. None of the current
production units will do this.
An upgraded unit is now being tested. It arrived in an attractive and unique retail package.
As promised, the two known faults have both been corrected. The unit stays in the current mode when the head
is moved, and the smash protection logic now works as it should.
Maximum brightness has also increased measureably - by at least 2 candelas on Hyper-Bright mode.
Battery life testing, plotted to a graph, is expected to begin at 12:00pm PST Wednesday 10-17-01.
This test depends on instruments that were unavailable because of a similar test running on another light that took three weeks to finish.
Now these instruments are available to use with the Fusion.
The original battery life test turned out to be invalid as the run-time was much shorter than predicted. A new sample of the Fusion
will be tested shortly.
Because the Fusion uses wide-angle LEDs, ordinary photographic methods will be ineffective in comparing the Fusion with other lights.
Expect to see a disparity between most any light and the Fusion. With some adjustments, it may be possible to compare by photographing
various objects and scenery to show how the wide-angle Fusion illuminates a much wider path than an ordinary flashlight, but these results would
be quite unscientific and should be taken with large amounts of crystalline sodium chloride.
Battery life testing is currently set to be re-started with a replacement unit shortly after Halloween.
A battery test was run on the replacement, which promptly blew up after the first series.
So a fourth replacement will (hopefully) be sent soon so that the tests may resume.
Also you will note that on "High" mode, the light starts turning itself off and on towards the end of battery life. This is normal!
The Fusion was intentionally programmed to do this to let you know you need to switch to Medium for the remainder of your battery life.
If it is allowed to blink unattended, it will automatically switch to low after approximately an hour as you see in the battery discharge chart.
Several months ago, a problem was identified concerning a potentially faulty latch on the battery box. Apparently, a lot of these have become broken in the field; but this sample wasn't one of them. This has since been fixed, and if you have an older unit with a broken battery box or with a grey or white discoloration on the latch for the battery lid (indicating iminent failure), the battery box will be replaced at no charge, even if you broke the latch by knocking the light to the floor or while changing batteries.
I received the following email this morning:
"Your real world test of the Photon Fusion left out the bicycle mounting bracket failure that has cost me $85. It
bounced off the mount and into the bushes and I assume some transient looking for cans will find it some day. After
45 minutes of searching for it I was not able to find it. Cost to me was over $120. The cost of the unit and the loss
of pay for being late to work.
The mount is not solid enough to keep the light on when hitting even moderate bumps. I suppose I should have
taken the light off after it fell of the first time but then I wouldn’t have had any light on the way to work.
I recommend that you use rubber bands to keep it on the mount and that it not be used at all for off road riding
(single tracking) unless you are made of money and can afford to buy a new one every now and then."
As my test unit was NOT provided with the bicycle clamp or any other brackets, I did not have the opportunity to test the Fusion in this manner. I have decided to post this as an advisory to other Fusion owners who use the product as a bike light. Use rubber bands as a 'safety' and avoid off-roading with it at all unless you really wind a lot of bands around it.
If there's one lesson I learned about flashlight makers, it's that they never fail to amaze you.
Such is the case when a package from LRI showed up a couple of days ago (approximately 08-28). I never got around to fully examining the contents because I was (and still am) working on a top secret testing project. But with much of that testing out of the way, I went back to the LRI box. Inside was something that looked like a Fusion, smelled like a Fusion, and tasted like a Fusion - but it isn't the same old Fusion you might now be using. First off, when you look at the LEDs; they're different. Instead of four wide-angle and two narrow-angle; that's been reversed. Now there are four narrow angle and two wide angle. Plus, there's a tiny little 3mm RED LED tucked neatly into the formation. I'll get to that in a moment.
Another thing that I noticed right away was that the button assembly now provides a definite tactile feedback whenever you press one. There is also a light clicky sound you can hear; yet it's not so loud as to be obnoxious.
BEFORE YOU CONTINUE!! This new model isn't expected to be available for another 1-2 months, so please don't go pestering LRI or TheLEDLight.com about it just yet. I'll let you know when they're out. Thanks. :)
A look at the new and greatly improved Fusion.
Looking "down the barrel", as it were. Note the two wide-angle LEDs at each edge, the four narrower beam LEDs clustered in a tight diamond in the center, and little baby LED tucked lovingly in mamma's arms in the lower right of the center formation.
This LED can be turned on by itself using the override (Hyper Bright) button. Holding the button down for 1 second or more activates the red LED mode; it then ramps up the brightness of the red LED from a dull glow that can be used as a nightlight or to read a watch dial to a screaming orange-red beam bright enough to illuminate something 20 or 30 feet away that can be used to walk around at night with. Lower intensity settings for the red LED are dim enough to not kill your night vision.
Holding down the button while the red LED is brightening will cause it to continue to get brighter and brighter, until it reaches the top. Then it very briefly winks out and comes back on to let you know you've maxed it out. If you continue holding the button long after the red LED has reached its maximum, the Fusion will automatically drop into Auto-Off mode; as this is part of the smash protection logic that prevents the batteries from draining if the unit is squashed in a bag or a suitcase.
The Hyper Bright button still retains its original function - by giving it a quick click (holding it down less than 1 second), all of the Fusion's LEDs (including the red one) come blazing to life, giving you the highest possible output possible from this instrument.
This is a shot showing all five LEDs illuminated at once. This Hyper Bright mode provides absolute maximum brightness on demand without sparing the whip.
All of the Fusion's other modes not involving the Hyper Bright button work pretty much as they always did, except that the battery gauge now appears at the startup of Auto-Off mode, rather than at the end. When the Fusion is in Auto-Off mode, turning it on with the right-hand button ramps up the brightness, and then flashes the LEDs a certain number of times to indicate relative battery strength. 1 flash indicates weak batteries; 4 flashes indicates new ones.
Auto-Off mode governs not only itself, but Hyper Bright and red LED modes as well. If you wish to use either of these modes and not have the light turn itself off after a minute, switch the Fusion into any mode *except* Auto-Off before engaging Hyper Bright or red modes.
Here's a look at the two-button switch. Yes, there are two seperate switches under this oval-shaped dome. Press one side or the other to activate them.
The switch glows in the dark, so you can see the Fusion on the ground, on the tent floor, or on the night table at night.
The left half of the switch activates Hyper Bright mode and controls the red LED; the right half controls all other modes.
Finally for today (yes, there will be additional pictures soon), this is a look at the new, reinforced battery door latch. Black on black isn't very easy to photograph, so I apologise for the results.
The sample was shipped with the robust headband assembly, and with what I believe to be a wide, spring-loaded pants or belt clip. By mounting the illuminator head on the end of the Fusion, you can connect this piece to the side (using the same type of thumbscrew attachment as the illuminator head uses), and slide the end of this clip down your pants or over a thick belt; and walk around with the Fusion hands-free and without using the headband. A pair of hooked "teeth" at the bottom of the clip ensure it can't fall off your belt or wasteband even if you're running away from a biting stray dog. This piece also may be attached to the bill of a hat; though the weight on the bill might tend to make your hat slide forward and down unless you have the hat's adjustment set fairly tight. No documentation was supplied because this Fusion model is still a pre-production piece, and packaging hasn't yet been manufactured. So I have to guess at the purpose of the clip - and I could very well have guessed incorrectly. Just so you know. :)
I'm not yet sure how well this clip will hold up to abuse or extended clipping & unclipping. This is going to be one of those "Only time will tell" situations.
I have been supplied with the bicycle bracket to test along with the light itself. Sometime in the next few days, I will be affixing this to the upright steering column on my electric wheelchair. This post is connected directly to the axle above the right front wheel, and there is no shock absorption between it and the ground. So the bike bracket and attached Fusion will take a pretty good beating just in day-to-day travels; more so if I intentionally drive over chunky roads, unpaved roads, & sidewalks.
Throws both wide and fairly narrow beams bright enough to be truly useful.
Light has multiple uses depending on user's needs.
Uses cheap & common batteries.
Potential for long battery life
Lens is replaceable if gouged up or shattered.
Soon-to-be available accessories extend the light's versatility.
Unit can be smoked if it is connected backwards & switched on. (This has been fixed, pls. disregard)
Unit is not watertight - at least not the battery box. (Has this been fixed? We'll find out)
There have been reports of multiple structural failures occurring with one of the optional mounting devices. Addition testing will focus on these mechanisms.
PRODUCT TYPE: Multi-purpose. Headlamp, bike, table lamp, handheld flashlight
LAMP TYPE: LED, 2x white 20° and 4x white 50°, 1x 3mm red
No. OF LAMPS: 7
BEAM TYPE: Central hotspot with WIDE, brighter than usual flood.
SWITCH TYPE: Digital, actuated by 2 pushbutton microswitches
BEZEL: Removeable rubber cowling, replaceable lens, fixed reflector.
BATTERY: 3 AA cells
CURRENT CONSUMPTION: Not yet measured
WATER RESISTANT: Yes
SUBMERSIBLE: No, but should survive accidental dunking
ACCESSORIES: Adjustable 3-point head strap, Energizer batteries
WARRANTY: Full lifetime, excluding intentional abuse
Do you manufacture or sell an LED flashlight, task light, utility light, or module of some kind?
Want to see it tested by a real person, under real working conditions? Do you then want to see how your light did? If you have a sample available for this type of
real-world, real-time testing, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Unsolicited flashlights appearing in the mail are welcome, and it will automatically be assumed that you sent it in order to have it tested and evaluated for this site.
Be sure to include contact info or your company website's URL so visitors here will know where to purchase your product.