Testing of flashlights for The Punishment Zone consists of a number of discrete steps, each designed to place the sample in an abusive
to measure it using known physical parameters, and to determine how usable the unit might be once it ends up in the hands of a real consumer.
These steps are:
- Examine the light and the packaging it came in. Note any difficulties I had in removing the light or any of its accessories from the
package. Note whether or not it came with batteries.
At this time, I've already opened a template and begun constructing the flashlight's web page.
- Install the batteries, and attempt to operate the light without referring to any instructions
first. This determines how much difficulty a typical consumer might have if they also fail to
read the instructions, or if the instructions are disposed of, crushed out on the carpet like a cigerette, fall in the toilet and are then disposed of in the garbage can or by flushing, or become lost.
- Loose accessories included in the same package, such as split rings or lanyards, are
also installed at this point, and note is taken of any difficulties I had beyond the ordinary.
If the unit turns into a pile of loose parts when opened, this is also noted.
When possible, the packaging is preserved for future reference.
- The steps needed for correct battery installation are recorded for future reference, and for the benefit of website visitors.
- Perform spectroscopy of the unit's light source(s), using a USB2000 Spectrometer. If the light also has NIR (near-infrared) LEDs or is an incandescent, perform an additional spectrographic analysis using a PC2000-ISA spectrometer, which can "dig" a bit deeper into the NIR band.
- Measure the light output while the batteries are still new. This is done by holding or mounting the light so the LEDs are aligned with
a precalibrated bar located exactly 12" from the face of the light sensor, and recording the resulting figure(s).
A Tektronix J-16 photometer is used to take this measurement. A Wavetek Meterman LM631 light meter has been in use since mid-2002, and it performs the same duties the Tektronix model does.
- Take the flashlight's picture. Say cheese!!
Typically, this would include one photo of the flashlight itself, and a second shot of the light in my hand, which is usable as a general
reference to its physical size. Sometimes, a third picture is taken of the light's bezel (head) for inclusion on its web page.
- Photograph the light's radiation field on a precalibrated test target. Most lights tested need only one picture of this; however if there are any unusual beam characteristics, I'll adjust the camera exposure to a lower and/or higher value and take another picture or pictures so these artifacts can be seen in the photograph. I may also take an additional picture from ~10 feet away if the flashlight uses a Luxeon Star LED and is touted to "throw" far away. I don't have access to an outdoor "testing range", so I cannot take any outdoor photographs. And if the flashlight uses a "rear-firing" mechanism and produces a square beam, I'll take another photograph showing this square shape, underexposing the photograph if necessary.
Beam photographs on this target are taken at 12", and the markings on the target itself are exactly 1" apart.
- Mount the light to a carrier and fire up the ProMetric beam profile analyzer and start taking readings.
This analysis will display all aspects of the light's beam, highlighting various defects, rings, and other artifacts. This instrument is also capable of taking more standard photometric measurements as well, which will be posted with the ProMetric's chart on each light's page.
This will not eliminate the need to take the measurement with the Tektronix photometer; but is intended to agument it. The ProMetric will also not replace the traditional beam photograph, as it records its images in black & white and/or false color; while the traditional picture will be used to show how you might see the beam with your own eyes.
A seperate computer system will be running specifically for the ProMetric and for a recording meter that gets used later on in testing.
- Closely examine the sample(s). This examination is to note the overall fit & finish, and to note any features like split ring attachment points, knurling or texturing, note how the switch operates, the material(s) the flashlight is made from, note the LED lamp (to see if there's anything different about it than in other products), examine the reflector and note whether or not it is actually useful, examine the battery contacts, check for the presence or absence of a catalyst pellet, and to examine it for anything else that would be deemed noteworthy.
Unusual characteristics or special features are noted and/or photographed at this point for inclusion on the web page.
- For flashlights that aren't specifically marked or sold as "fragile" or "not impact-resistant" and do not look delicate, conduct the first series of drop tests. The first test is from chest high onto tight loop carpet (0.1" thick) with no padding over a linoleum floor.
Then the unit is dropped from the same height onto bare linoleum, and any breakage is noted.
Finally, the unit is thrown or dropped from approximately 7 feet onto bare linoleum; again any breakage is noted.
For "consumer level" testing I will wander around the test area with the lit flashlight in hand and purposely run into doors or corners,
being sure the flashlight is knocked to the floor. Lights with belt holsters are mounted, and then I purposefully get jammed in a metal framed doorway so the flashlight takes the brunt of the "accident". If the unit tears away or becomes broken, that is noted on the web page
Appropriate lights are also "carelessly" tossed into a fairly full metal toolbox a number of times. Sometimes I throw them right in, other times I do a "lay up" against the opened lid, tossing the light in from five or six feet away. (Maybe I should install a miniature basketball hoop on my toolbox).
Smaller to medium sized flashlights may also be left on chairs and then "accidentally" sat on.
If it happens to a flashlight in real life, I try to recreate the same type of occurance here.
- Next comes the real abuse. I start by holding the light near the bottom of the barrel, and strike the head or bezel assembly against the concrete floor of an outdoor porch, and note any breakage. I then hold it by the bezel, and strike the barrel against the same target.
The force used is "moderate", something a bit more than might be achieved by sombody spinning around in alarm and whapping their light against a rock face, metal doorway, car door, or other hard surface. The test is repeated until each part of the light has been struck five times, or until breakage occurs.
Flashlights marketed specifically as being "extremely tough" (Mag Lites, Tektite, Princeton Tec, etc.) may also be subject to an even more brutal version of this test, where I swing the light like a ball peen hammer and strike the concrete. They may also be run over with a 400 pound motorized wheelchair, or intentionally stomped on. Smaller metal lights tend to do well with this particular test.
- Now, assuming I haven't destroyed the test sample (and very few actually are totally ruined by this), I turn the light on and immerse it
in a tank of water for a period of time. This can be anywhere from 20 minutes to several days, depending on manufacturer's claims of
water resistance. Lights that are *clearly not* water resistant generally aren't dunked, unless I am specifically asked to do that test.
When possible, lights are turned on and off while still submerged.
- Now I wait until darkness falls, and then try to use the flashlight for as many situations as I can get myself into.
Such situations can include:
- Checking on / playing with / feeding the pets at night.
- Raiding the refrigerator; making a simple snack (sandwich, etc.) using only the flashlight.
- Reading a paper or reading a magazine.
- Using the bathroom.
- Wandering around the house without stubbing toes or breaking lamps.
- Unclogging a sink or toliet bowl (or pretending to do so) at 4am with only the test light.
- Looking for various objects (TV remote, other flashlights, cigarettes, etc.)
- From bed: Groping for the flashlight on the nightstand or floor and turning it on as quickly as possible. Note how easy or hard this is to do in total darkness.
- Attempting to change the unit's batteries in total darkness.
- Checking the breaker panel.
- Some of the brightest lights are also tested by being mounted to the steering arm of my wheelchair and then going out at night
to see how well they perform outdoors as a headlight.
- Finally, many of the units will be "adopted" as a daily carry light, and then used in any situation calling for the use of a flashlight.
This can go on for several months, and any breakage or malfunction that crops up would be noted in the "Updates" section of that
light's web page.
- Lights which are "loaners" (sent by private individuals / fans of the website) are not subject to some of these tests, particularly those which could result in breakage.
Most people who loan their lights for testing on this website want them returned in working order. These lights are shown in the pick list
with "(PA)". Please do not e-mail me asking me to compare one of those to some other light - there is no way for me to re-test or compare what I don't have anymore. These are also marked with a red "X" in a yellow box when they're sent back to their owner.
- When time and instrument availability permits, run-time tests are performed at this point.
This determines how long the batteries last if the unit were used in a full-time situation, such as the admittedly extreme case
of nuclear winter or the slightly more likely scenario of being trapped someplace dark after a natural disaster.
- All lights which aren't "loaners" are kept available for both future testing and to use for comparisons with other lights
when somebody e-mails me asking to perform such a comparison. No test units are sold or given away, as doing so would eliminate
the possibility of doing future comparisons with that sample. When a product is received for evaluation, it will not normally be returned unless found to be defective. This is to ensure the sample remains available for long-term testing or comparisons as needed.*
- No provider is ever asked to pay cash or offer other consideration in order to have their flashlight reviewed by me. This is a free and voluntary public service and will always remain that way. Making
somebody pay to have their flashlight tested is not a true evaluation; it is nothing more than cheap underhanded advertising - and I simply won't do it.
NEED BATTERIES FOR ALL THOSE FLASHLIGHTS?
Because of my very low disability stipend (net $4014.88 in 2001), this website is funded in part by ad revenue as I cannot afford to host it on my own.
In one case, the advertisement was made in exchange for the use of expensive equipment which is used for testing both LEDs and flashlights alike without prejudice.
The fact that the site needs some ad revenue to stay afloat has no bearing on how a light will "do". I've given some pretty terrible reviews to lights made by somebody with
an advertisement here (check out the Avalanche headlamps if you don't believe me!) and I've given equally bad reviews to lights made by manufacturers who have no advertising.
NOTE: Advertising is confined to very specific, neutral areas of this website, and is NOT ALLOWED on any page containing a product review.
Flashlights are tested and then eventually given a rating of 1 to 5 stars. 1 star means the flashlight is a POS (piece of sh*t) and should not be purchased; while a 5-star light is essentially the best money can buy - it is virtually perfect in every way.
REALLY, REALLY not recommended!!!
A real PWPOSMF, and you should really be ashamed of yourself if you went out and bought a light with this rating. (But not if you bought it before seeing this website! )
Check the "Worst Of" list (the "Toylet Bowl" ratings) for several lights that earned (cough, sputter, sound of a toilet flushing) this rating.
Not recommended. Lousy construction, leaks like a sieve, fragile casing, explodes into hundreds of sharp little pieces all over the kitchen floor when dropped, intermittent operation/flickering, and other major issues. A flashlight with this rating has more problems than the Pope caught in the girl's locker room.
Recommended only for light duty or household use. Not exceptionally sturdy, not waterproof. May rattle like a pair of maracas when shaken, or break if struck sharply. Would handle minor household
chores like going to the fusebox or looking through a closet.
Recommended for general purpose use. Flashlight is probably weather resistant, and is reasonably sturdy and bright enough to be truly useful. A flashlight with this rating may
have some other flaws, but nothing that would cause the light to not function when needed.
Recommended to highly recommended. A flashlight receiving this rating should be proud of itself. Only minor issues like a whimpy lanyard, missing knurling, lack of spill light, lack of regulation, the need for expensive batteries, or the need for tools to change a battery would keep a 4-star light from being a 5-star light.
Highly recommended. This is a 4.950 Star rating - the only thing that might prevent a light from earning five stars and end up with this rating would be personal opinion - the unit seems a bit too large for example.
HIGHLY recommended. Top of the line stuff. No flaws or defects found, bright, waterproof (submersible), and for all intents and purposes, indestructible. For metal lights, they should be hard anodized; for plastic lights, they should be very thick and have
a grippy surface texture and have no brittle feel. They should not rattle when shaken, or break when thrown against the side of the house or stepped on. They should also be regulated; but this is not an absolute necessity for larger flashlights. The 5-star flashlight should also have a real switch, not a twist-to-light bezel mechanism that uses a metal strap to dig into solder traces on a PCB. A light that has both, or has a non-destructive twist-on mechanism would still be a candidate.
CheapBatteries.com (http://www.cheapbatteries.com) sells virtually any battery you might need for flashlights reviewed on this site. Prices are fair, and even better
if you can buy a bunch of them at once. However, it appears you can only buy here if you own a credit card. No provisions for paying by cash or checks was listed anywhere on the site.
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.
Please visit this web page for additional contact information.
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.
* EFFECTIVE 04-28-09: The way that products are rated here will change slightly...my testing criteria will not be changing, but a rating will be applied at once instead of under a long delay. If a product later poops out, fails, malfunctions, or otherwise goes down the tube, I can always downrate it...conversely, if a product turns out to go beyond its expectations, I can change its rating upward if necessary.
It doesn't really matter where you go
It makes no difference baby who you know
This thing has gotten way out of control
It doesn't really matter who you are
You might as well be a super star
Cause everything has gone way too far
It's the strangest thing
It's getting stranger and then
It's getting harder to win
There was a flashlight and then
It starts happening all over again
I'm heading off on an LED trip
And that's what I plan to do
I'm goin' away to a luminous plain
And I ain't comin' back real soon
The whole thing is electrical
It's running through my veins
And everything's connectable
I'm goin' digital
Now I'm invincable
Let's all get digital
This change will absolutely eliminate the possibility of forgetting to rate a product - whether it deserves a crappy rating or (as in the most recent case) a full five star rating and placement in this website's Trophy Case.
* EFFECTIVE 11-12-08: I will be forced to dispose of (donate or discard) almost *ALL* flashlights and other products seen on this website. I do not do so willingly; its because my parents (whom I live with mainly for financial reasons) are adamant that I dispose of them prior to our move to western Washington in early-2009.
I will be keeping at least several; among them, the Arc LS prototype, the royal blue Arc LS, and a fair percentage of SureFire products. I also intend to keep at least some of my lasers: all Blu-ray (violet-emitting) lasers, at least one blue DPSS laser (probably this one), at least several green DPSS lasers, both yellow DPSS lasers, and several red lasers.
I forgot to add that I perform spectroscopy on all lights & LEDs.
September 11, 2001.
A day that will be forever remembered.
Never forget the victims of the World Trade Center,
the Pentagon, and the passengers on the four lost flights.
WHITE 5500-6500K InGaN+phosphor
ULTRAVIOLET 370-390nm GaN
BLUE 430nm GaN+SiC
BLUE 450 and 473nm InGaN
BLUE Silicon Carbide
TURQUOISE 495-505nm InGaN
GREEN 525nm InGaN
YELLOW-GREEN 555-575mn GaAsP & related
True RGB Full Color LED
Spider (Pirrahna) LEDs
True violet (400-418nm) LEDs
Agilent Barracuda & Prometheus LEDs
Oddball & Miscellaneous LEDs
Programmable RGB LED modules / fixtures
Where to buy these LEDs
Links to other LED-related websites
The World's First Virtual LED Museum
Legal horse puckey, etc.
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