Saturday, July 23, 2016

Review: Fenix E12 LED Flashlight

My second Fenix branded flashlight. The first was the Fenix E01 which I thought was okay but not that impressive. However, it was probably one of the cheapest LED flashlights from Fenix. Thought I'd give them another shot with something higher end.
Fenix E12 LED Flashlight Package
x1 - Fenix E12 LED Flashlight

Paid: ~CA$ 40.00

The Fenix E12's packaging was a combination of paper and plastic. It was like opening a package of batteries in that I found myself peeling the paper back until the plastic shell was exposed. Once I got to the plastic, peeling the paper around it exposed a shell that was only sandwiched between layers of paper -- as opposed to sealed shut with glue or heat-sealed. This was very easy to open packaging and I didn't need a pair of scissors or to be extra careful to avoid jabbing myself like with blister packaging.

Inside the plastic shell were the flashlight, some literature, a lanyard in a plastic pouch, and an AA alkaline battery. Assembling the Fenix E 12 LED involved unscrewing the head from the body, inserting the battery, and screwing the head back on.

Design / Construction
A cylindrical black tube a bit longer and wider than an AA battery. The body of the Fenix E12 had a rough, patterned exterior, and it used a rear tail-cap switch that was covered by what felt like a rubbery material. I had no trouble standing the light up on its head or its tail -- doubt I'd ever do that during normal use to avoid tipping accidents. And unlike many Maglites I had used, the Fenix flashlight unscrewed at the head and not the tail -- my Fenix E01 was like this too.
Fenix E12 LED Flashlight Unboxed
How was it?
This was the first time in a while I was really impressed by a flashlight straight out of the box. There were others that I thought were kind of cool but after messing around with them for a while, something popped up that bugged me. I've had this one for a relatively short amount of time so far before writing this review but it hasn't disappointed me yet -- if it were to die within a year, I'd change my mind very quickly.

So, where to start? The Fenix E12 LED flashlight I received used a single AA battery. Most flashlights in the CA$ 40 or under range that I've encountered have used at least two AA batteries or AAA batteries. I prefer AA batteries because I have more of them since they're what I use in TV or cable box remotes. On paper, they also have higher mAh capacities as well. While I have AAA batteries, most of them were bought specifically for use in flashlights.

The size of the flashlight was also slightly bigger and felt more comfortable than my single AAA lights. This probably had something to do with the fact that it had to accommodate an AA battery. Being slightly bigger would make it a bit easier to handle during use and to find in a pocket.

I loved the switch and the order in which the light level modes were laid out: low, medium, high. The packaging noted that the three output ratings were 8 lumens (low), 50 lumens (mid), and 130 lumens (high). From lower to higher levels of light like increasing a throttle. My Maglite Mini-AA, XL50, and ML300LX all go from high to low. I really do prefer going from low to high because I don't need the highest output levels often. It's nice not to have to squint my eyes and avert my gaze to avoid being blinded while I click into the lower modes.

One thing I noticed that may be important about the light settings: the E12 does not appear to enjoy being on the high setting for long. I spent about 20 to 30 minutes straight testing the light out by changing between modes, leaving it on high and medium, but also turning it off multiple times in between. During that time, the Fenix E12 started flickering and/or dimming the lamp when left on the high setting for a few minutes or less. It felt warm around the head area each time this happened. I don't think it got as hot after leaving it on the medium or low setting for the same amount of time. Seeing as how my preference is for sub-100 lumens, this doesn't affect me too much. However, I will treat the high mode as a "boost" setting in the future.

Switching light modes was also interesting. With my Fenix E12, the switch required a hard click to turn it on. Tapping the switch while it was on allowed the light output to be switched from low to high. Another hard click seemed to turn it off. I thought this was nice. The switches on my Maglites have required clicking the switch or turning the head very quickly within a short amount of time to change modes. There have been numerous instances where I was too slow and missed the window.
Fenix E12 LED Turned On
And how was the light beam itself? I thought it was nice, even, and a good shade of white without being blue. The head did not appear to have a focusing mechanism so the beam was fixed. However, it spread the light out pretty nicely without a massive hotspot at close ranges -- within a few meters. Having a very low output option was excellent for use very close-up as well. Sometimes my Maglite Solitaire LED -- it supposedly has a lumen rating in the 30s -- can be overwhelming at very close ranges.

I haven't used the Fenix E12 LED long enough to know how long batteries last. However, the ratings on the packaging and literature suggested that an alkaline battery could do 1 hour to 22 hours depending on the output setting. Ratings for NiMH batteries were longer but I don't know if they used low self-discharge batteries or high-capacity ones in testing. Considering that my single AAA battery lights are only rated for about 2 hours, these numbers would be great if they were true.

My first single AA battery flashlight with three light output modes from dim to pretty bright -- for me at least. The Fenix E12 LED flashlight impressed me quite a bit with its size, beam pattern, switch operation, and output level layout. Only one question remained: was it durable? I didn't use it for long enough before reviewing it to know, so if it ends up lasting a couple years, I'd be very happy.

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