Saturday, June 22, 2013

Maglite LED 3-D Battery Flashlight Review

Flashlights are one of those very useful tools that some kids, and adults, love to collect. Way back when, I was one of those kids with a bunch of flashlights of various sizes and shapes. They would be taken everywhere and entire nights would be wasted with the lights off around the house. I don't really remember what I did with the light except point it at things -- simpler times? And whenever anyone actually needed a flashlight to do something useful in the dark, being ready and available was a great feeling when young.
Maglite 3D LED Flashlight On
That last point hasn't changed at all as I've aged. Grown men still feel great being one of usually very few people with a torch on hand when it's needed. From what I've seen on the interwebs, lots of grown men have extensive collection of flashlights. These don't appear to be cheap collections either. Collectors are often very forthcoming in showing off their $100 to $200 compact super bright flashlights.

But this post isn't about expensive lights, this one is about the old dependable flashlight from a very well known brand that's probably been around since I was born. I'm too lazy to look it up, so I'll just assume that it's true because I remember getting a Maglite Solitaire when my age was still in the single digits.

LED Bulbs

Incandescent household bulbs are yesterday's news and may even be getting banned in certain areas from being sold. Why? Usually because they use a lot of electricity compared to compact fluorescent bulbs and light emitting diodes. I haven't heard any news about incandescent style (e.g. krypton) bulbs being banned in flashlights. Nonetheless, it appears that the flashlight industry is moving on its own away from traditional bulbs and towards LEDs.

The choice seems pretty simple. Why not move away from a bulb that regularly burns out and uses relatively more electricity in a battery powered flashlight? Some of the nicer things to have in a flashlight are a long battery life, reliable bulb, and bright consistent light. My understanding is that LEDs take care of all two issues better than regular bulbs. The brightness issue should also be handled somewhat, especially with the longer run time, but I do believe they still start dimming as the battery runs down as well.

Maglite 3D LED Flashlight
Maglite LED 3 D-Battery Flashlight
I bought my first LED flashlight years ago for a camping trip. It was not a Maglite, it was actually a 3 bulb headlamp with multiple settings that ran on 3 AAA batteries. If I remember right, it was advertised to run for nearly 100 hours on the lowest of the three brightness settings. That set me back about $50 and still works today.
Maglite 3D LED Flashlight Head
That would make this Maglite LED 3-D Battery flashlight my second LED flashlight. My understanding is that various iterations of the same light have come out over the past few years that can be discerned by their model number, which I can't find on mine. Best I can do is say that it's from circa 2008-ish.

According to the Amazon website for the MagLite ST3D016 model, the torch utilizes a 3W LED bulb, the case is made of an aluminum alloy, and it is water and shock resistant. Price is around US$ 20 to 30. The weight is 1 lb, which I'm assuming doesn't include the 3-D batteries. Measurements come in at 12.3" x 1.6" x 2.2". Light can be focused with my version by twisting the head, and the switch is a push button on the body of the case. There is also a MAGLITE ST2D016 2-D available if you want something more compact. The product description also says that it uses a 3W bulb.

More information is available at the manufacturer's website.

Light Output

Below is a photo of the light from my Maglite in a dark room  from about 10" away. If it's not obvious, the deflector has been set to the flood or unfocused position. You won't be using it as your primary light source in a room, but it does a great job of illuminating entire rooms just enough. I use it regularly to crawl out of bed with all the lights off to do things. Just flicking the switch on and there is enough light to walk around even without the light pointed in my path.
Maglite Illumination from about 10' Away in Floor/Unfocused Setting
Clearly, you can see the in the picture that the light isn't perfectly uniform. A number of concentric circles of various brightness and dark spots can be seen. They are probably due to the design of the reflector at the head. I don't have a problem with this because I grew up with all flashlights outputting light in this manner. Remember my first LED headlamp though? That lamp actually put out a very uniform amount of light that was great for illuminating areas evenly. However, remember that this is about a US$ 25 flashlight (I paid CAD$ 35 a few years back) and the headlamp was about CAD$ 50. Then again, maybe you can find a cheaper light with more uniform light output.

Color temperature doesn't show up too well in that picture. You can see that it's pretty white as opposed to a warm, incandescent light with yellower light. I would say that the light is more blue than it appears in the picture. Even bluer than a 4100k CFL bulb I have. So, my guess is 5000k-ish or up color temperature?

Brightness and Battery Life

I'm still using the same 3-D batteries I put in when I bought the flashlight years ago. That's probably a combination of the battery life and my limited usage. It's a standby, useful tool and toy for me. My best estimate is an hour of use a year for maybe three years? That's at least three hours and pretty useless. I haven't noticed a degradation in brightness though.

According to the official specs on the Maglite website, the 3-D LED is advertised with a 79 hour runtime at 131 lumens with a 364m range. The 2-D LED apparently has an 8 hour runtime at 134 lumens with a 388m range. Keep in mind the updating of models and whatnot when looking at those stats. The only stats I could find for the incandescent 3-D Maglite are on the Amazon website, which says that it has a 10 hour runtime at 45 lumens and 254m range. I'm a bit skeptical about those numbers, but another model I noticed had similar numbers.

If that information is to believed, then the LED should shine brighter and longer. There appear to be graphs showing light output over time (i.e. as the battery wears down) available on the interwebs, so do some googling if you're interested.

Last Words

I love this flashlight for its longevity and brightness. One important detail may be that I keep my flashlight indoors in a mostly temperature controlled room. If left in a car or outdoors, the batteries may not appreciate the constantly changing temperatures and leak. Mr. Google suggests that that is a common problem with anything battery operated, so do make a note of that.

Overall, a great flashlight for a reasonable price. The incandescent version is usually cheaper by about $10, but you have to factor in the extra batteries and new bulbs.


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