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Photon Microlight II



Photon Micro Light II (all visible colors), retail $19.95. (Photonlight.com)
Buy them here or here.
Last update: 10-30-06

Photon Micro Light II


The Photon Micro Light II is a very small, keychain-sized LED flashlight. The first model I tested was their turquoise version (see below), which, according to Photon's claims, is their brightest.
A little larger than a US quarter, this tiny light is really, really bright when the batteries are fresh. It does dim down a bit over the first few minutes, but then the decline slows down a bit. All lights using small coin cell batteries will do this.

SIZE REFERENCE

UPDATE: I now have a Photon II in every visible color, so all of the pictures will be replaced and some new information can be added here. So don't change that channel.


The Photon Micro Light II is operated by squeezing it between your thumb and forefinger. It also has a small switch you can pull back to keep the light continuously lit; this is great if you need both hands free for the task at hand. The switch is very small and can be difficult to move, which may make it a minor problem to use for those with large fingers or short/no fingernails. And although there have been scattered reports of this slide switch failing, the one in my Photon has always worked reliably.
The switch is easy to find in the dark, since you immediately feel it when you pick up the flashlight. Even if you can't feel it right away (wearing gloves?), giving the Photon a squeeze will not only turn the light on, but cause the switch to glow and allow you to see it and maneuver it into the steady-burn position. Squeezing the light too hard can make the switch difficult to slide - if you find this to be the case, quit squeezing, and the switch should slide back quite easily with a fingernail.

The light is very bright when the batteries are new, and easily illuminates a good sized room or the trail in front of you for you outdoors people. The beam is nice and wide, and illuminates objects directly in front and off to the sides with nearly equal intensity. Thankfully, the batteries do not just die all at once; the light slowly dims over its life, giving you plenty of time to finish a repair job, get to a campsite & start a fire or change a flat.


2xCR2016 1xCR2032 )
The resin case (which contains the batteries) is held together with four "00" Phillips screws, which require that you keep a jewler's screwdriver or an eyeglass repair kit around the house.
Once you unscrew the case, the insides are exposed and ready for the minor surgery which you are about to perform.


A disembowelled Photon, awaiting new batteries.

Be careful when you open the case, because the tiny plastic switch can come out and fall prey to the vacuum cleaner if you're not looking. I've heard several reports of these switches ending up in the vacuum cleaner bag after they were dropped on carpet, so until you get used to it, take it apart at a table or over a paper plate. Disassembling/reassembling it is not difficult by any means, but it does require you to pay attention to things, including battery polarity, getting the LED's lead in the little groove in the switch, getting the top of the switch through the opening in the flashlight body, and all those tiny screws. You should also note, the type of LED in this flashlight doesn't like being hooked up backwards directly to the 6 volt power source, and it can occasionally let you know its displeasure by failing to work ever again or by becoming very dim even with new batteries.
Other Photon colors; namely red, orange, yellow and infrared, aren't adversely affected by getting the batteries backwards by mistake.
The lesson to be learned: watch which way the old batteries were installed, and put the new ones in the same way. If you're in the woods, it might also be a good idea to keep another flashlight (perhaps another Photon) in your pocket so you can light your way though that nighttime battery change if need be.

Once you have the case halves apart, remove the two dead batteries and replace them with a new pair; being sure to put them in the same way.
The flat (+) side faces down, and lays over the bottom (long) LED lead. The shorter LED lead that has a twist in it should lie just barely above the surface of the (-) face of the top battery. Lay the plastic switch over the LED lead, seeing that the lead fits into the groove on the bottom of the switch. Lay the top piece of the Photon back on, being sure the switch protrudes from the small rectangular hole in this part. That done, hold the light in one hand, flip it over (still holding it) and put in the screws. Once you have one or more screws in, you no longer need to hold the halves together - the screws will do that for you from this point on.

It sounds like a really nasty procedure, but it honestly isn't. All of the parts (except the batteries) only fit together one way, so you can't really screw it up.
It's a lot easier to DO it than it is to EXPLAIN it.


The Photon Micro Light II is made of a special fiberglass resin, and seems to be extremely tough. The most vulnerable components appear to be the tiny plastic switch and the exposed portion of the LED bulb itself. Dropping the Photon has no effect on it. It has also been run over (on carpeting) with an electric wheelchair and has been stomped on with no ill effects.

Water resistance is another matter. I've been caught in a thunderstorm on several occasions with my Photon, and one thing it does is light all by itself after water gets inside of it. It doesn't light very brightly - it seems to be a high resistance circuit, but that shows that the flashlight fills up with water quite readily. After emptying it though, it continued to work just fine.
Note: although fresh water is generally harmless to the Photon if you dry it out whenever you get a chance, I would probably keep this one away from the boat if you live near the ocean and plan on getting salt water everywhere.
(For your information, they are now producing water resistant Photons.

The flashlight's major drawbacks? You don't want to accidentally leave one on; since the battery life at full brightness is limited (still longer than incandescent) and the batteries can be very expensive if you do not have access to the internet. They can also be difficult to change out in the wilderness. Put in a fresh set before going on an extended outdoor adventure; you can still re-use the older set after you get back.

beams from Photon Micro Lights
This is a collage of beams from all of the visible light Photon II lights.
Stay tuned for individual test results for each color.


Overall, this is a really great little flashlight to keep on your keyring if you don't use it many times each day. The lithium cells should stay reasonably fresh for 5 to 10 years, so there is a certain dependability about it if it's kept around strictly for emergencies. It's tough as hell, and has a lifetime guarantee against any failure except the batteries.
Although this may not be the light you're looking for you if you use a flashlight often (more than a few minutes a day, every day) because of the battery expense, this is the perfect little light to keep in a purse, pocket or on your keys since you never know when you'll need a light - and it's good to know the Photon will always work when you need it.


This Photon has a permanent home dangling from the keyring on the steering post of my wheelchair.





UPDATE 05-25-00:
After trying replacement batteries, the Photon's light is even more intense than I ever remember it being. This pretty much confirms my suspicion that its original batteries were defective in some manner.

UPDATE 05-28-00:
I liked the white Photon so much that I made my own after returning this sample to its owner. All that entailed was taking a 5600mcd white LED and twisting it up until it resembled the LED that came out of my turquoise Photon II. I then cut the leads to the same length as those on the original bulb, popped it in, and presto! Instant white Photon II.

UPDATE 10-12-00:
The last set of batteries I installed were installed in May, and I'm still using the same set.
I ended up putting the original turquoise LED back in, because I have a number of other white flashlights already if I need that color for something.

UPDATE 11-02-00:
Some kind soul has sent me a whole set of Photon IIs in all of the visible colors. Because of this, each color will be reviewed on its own merits with a brief summary of the test results posted in a near future update.

UPDATE 12-12-00:
An ultraviolet Photon is being tested. This unusual little light produces a mainly invisible beam of longwave UV at 370nm plus a very minor purplish white visible beam.
This visible emission can be greatly filtered by use of Woods glass, but I haven't hacked a blacklight bulb to obtain this material yet.



Initial tests showed the beam from the UV Photon to illuminate UV-sensitive materials greater than 20 feet away in heavy darkness; 10 feet in average room illumination.
The beam is approximately 10 wide, which although narrow, works fine for this instrument.
The UV emitted from the Photon was also shown to activate phosphorescent and fluorescent materials of all sorts: the hands of alarm clocks and watches, brightly colored packaging, day-glow fabrics, white cotton, bleached papers, highlighting pens, even urine in places around the toilet that you may not regularly clean.


Highly judgemental, here are my opinions on the various Photon colors. Your mileage may and probably will vary, so use your own common sense and judgement when choosing a color.

Red: Respectably bright, preserves night vision. Blacks out certain colors. Fine for locating errant keys/keyholes, emergencies in the home or campground. Color appears to be what I call 'HeNe laser red' which has a slight orangish tinge.

Orange: Items viewed in its light appear clearer than they do with the red. Beam isn't as even, but the color is neat. Best comparision: the color found in a neon nightlight. Can be used for most tasks.

Yellow: Dimmest of the visible colors. Fine for emergencies, map reading, digging through the glovebox.

Green: One of the brightest of all the colors. Washes out live foliage, but is otherwise fine for both indoors and out. Some colors appear 'contrasty' in this light. This light is true green, not the yellowish green like you see in cell phone displays.

Blue-green: For total brightness, this one tops them all. More 'contrasty' than green. This is a raver's light. The brilliant, uncommon color will attract attention.

Blue: A brilliant, pure blue. Not as useful for actually finding things in boxes, but works great for walking about in darkness. Ravers will like this color too, as there are very few other sources of this color that are seen often.

White: The best color for reading or looking for articles in small, dark spaces or working in dark areas where colors (like wires or bundles of cable) must be distinguishable. Provides a full, natural color rendition not available with any of the single-color LEDs.

Ultraviolet: Lights up ultraviolet-sensitive materials like the security strips in money, hand stamps, Ticketmaster event tickets, and other invisible security measures.
Unlike other models, battery change is a screw-free process.

Infrared: I don't yet have one of these. :(


UPDATE 12-19-00:
Fresh from the great land of Sweden, a sample of Photon's "older" wide-angle white Photon II has shown up meowing on my doorstep, donated by a dedicated user of this website.

A wide-angle white Photon
Notice the baby blue ring on the test target. This ring occurs about halfway between the center and the outer edge of the beam, so even with this picture you can tell the light has a very wide-angle light. It is good for walking around at night with slightly less of a chance of waking up your spouse or other persons in the room. The wider angle also makes it better for reading dirty magazines on the toilet at 4am. :p


UPDATE 02-27-04:
Today, I received the new "Hands Free Photon Clip" directly from LRI. This simple device allows you to use your Photon light hands-free; clipping to the brim of a hat or to a shirt pocket or even to your collar if your shirt does not have a pocket. You can also clip it to the bridge or lens of your eyeglasses if you wish. The fairly stiff spring-loaded clip has serrated "teeth" on the inner faces of the clip, so it ought to stay put where you clip it on. A ball & socket joint on a pedestal allows the flashlight to be pointed just about anywhere when it's affixed to the clip. There were no instructions provided with my evaluation sample, but I think it's intuitive enough that you probably won't need them.

In case you can't figure it out though, it kinda goes like this:

Insert the front (LED-end) of your Photon Micro Light into the front of the clip where the two larger and more widely-spaced plastic tits are. After the front of your flashlight is in there, lower the rear side of the flashlight (where the keychain hole is) into the two narrowly-spaced plastic tits on the Hands Free clip. Be sure it's on there all the way so you don't lose your Photon light. Clip it to whatever you want to clip it to. Turn your Photon on, and aim it wherever you need the light. Finally, turn your Photon off, at least until you're ready to use it.
There, that was easy, wasn't it?


Here's the device itself, compared in size to a Photon 3.


And here it is, clipped to the brim of a baseball hat.


And, finally, here it is clipped to a pair of eyeglasses, while I'm using them.
My eyes are closed in this photograph because one of them is still {vulgar term for having had intercourse} up from (crash course in) brain surgery I had in late 2002.

The Hands Free Photon Clip costs $4.95, but is included free of charge if you buy a Photon II or Photon 3 from LRI's website by 03-15-04.


UPDATE 10-30-06:
Spectrographic plot
Spectrometer plot of the UV LED in the 370nm version of this flashlight.
Ocean Optics USB2000 Spectrometer on loan from TWO-CUBED.


PROS:
Super bright
Good color rendition (white model)
Nice wide beam
Doesn't discolor badly when pooping out
Tiny in size
Easy to carry & use anywhere in any situation.


CONS:
All those tiny little screws!
Batteries can be expensive.
Brightness drops off significantly with continuous usage.



    MANUFACTURER: LRI
    PRODUCT TYPE: Mini keychain flashlight
    LAMP TYPE: LED, 5mm, all colors + IR + UV
    No. OF LAMPS: 1
    BEAM TYPE: Circular, quality varies with LED type
    SWITCH TYPE: Slide on/off and momentary squeeze-on
    BEZEL: None
    BATTERY: 1 CR2032 or 2 CR2016 lithium coin cells
    CURRENT CONSUMPTION: Varies, 40-60 milliamps
    WATER RESISTANT: Weather resistant only
    SUBMERSIBLE: No
    ACCESSORIES: Battery(ies), lanyard with clip
    WARRANTY: Full lifetime


    PRODUCT RATING:

    Star Rating









PHOTON MICRO LIGHT II * WWW.PHOTONLIGHT.COM




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