Photon Freedom LED Micro-Light SPOTLITE REVIEW

This miniscule wonder has most of the functionality of a regular headlamp, at a fraction of the weight.

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by Will Rietveld and Rick Dreher | 2006-04-12 03:00:00-06

Introduction

The new Photon Freedom micro-light is a perfect example of the amazing things that are attainable with tiny microprocessors. It essentially has all the functionality of a regular headlamp, and even more utility, especially for ultralight backpackers.

Photon Freedom LED Micro-Light SPOTLITE REVIEW - 1
The Photon Freedom advances beyond its predecessors in both microprocessor technology and utility. It’s claimed to be 100% brighter, easily adjusts to the desired brightness level, and comes with both a neck lanyard and a swiveling bill clip.

To make it even more usable, the Freedom comes with a clip so you can easily attach it to the bill of your hat or to a loop in your tent, and also comes with a thin lanyard to carry it around your neck. The bill clip even has a swivel so you can aim it just right, and little imbedded magnets for attaching it to steel surfaces. No more holding the Photon light with your teeth!

Photon Freedom LED Micro-Light SPOTLITE REVIEW - 2
The Photon Freedom comes with a swiveling bill clip (left), key clip (upper center), and a neck lanyard (right).

The Freedom can be switched on by either of two ways: by pressing and holding the button down starts at the dimmest level and brightens until it reaches maximum, which is indicated by a brief blink. Or, a quick push and release starts the light in brightest mode, then a second continuous press dims it to the desired level. After a pause in either mode, a quick press switches the Freedom off. This simple yet sophisticated control strategy places the Freedom ahead of virtually every flashlight and headlamp we’ve tested in terms of user control and preservation of night vision.

The Freedom sports multiple flash modes as well, making it useful as a location marker or a signal light. Other improvements are the Freedom’s greater water resistance and the addition of a pry-off battery cover, eliminating the four tiny case screws formerly used. Our white LED Freedom is powered by two CR2016 button cells (certain colors use one CR2032).

LED’s keep getting brighter and more efficient, and the Freedom (and the new Photon II) is claimed to be 100% brighter than its predecessors and any other micro-light on the market. To check that claim we measured the Photon Freedom’s output, and found a teensy weensy little problem. Read on.

We measured maximum intensity with new batteries (in lux, at beam center and one foot off-axis from a distance of 2 feet) at 30-minute intervals for 12 hours. The initial brightness measurement confirmed what our dazzled retinas had already told us - the Freedom is very bright. As a point of comparison, initially it’s actually brighter than a Princeton Tech Aurora with fresh batteries.

Unfortunately, the performance went downhill from there. Our measurements revealed that intensity dropped by two-thirds in the first half hour (50% in the first 15 minutes), followed by a long tailing off in brightness. We terminated the test at 5 lux, so we don't know how long it would hold this glimmer, which was still bright enough light to see inside a pack at night.

Photon Freedom LED Micro-Light SPOTLITE REVIEW - 3
At its brightest setting, the Photon Freedom is remarkably bright at first, but intensity dropped rapidly after the first 30 minutes of use, and tailed out from there.

Based on these results, our main caveat for anybody interested in this light is that you can't count on the dazzling in-store performance for long. The Freedom rapidly drops to output similar to other single 5mm LED lights. The very lowest setting is so dim is that we couldn't record it. It's definitely dimmer than 5 lux. The Freedom could probably run at that level for a week.

Beam color and quality are a huge improvement over the original white Photon Micro-Light, there's hardly a comparison. There's still a purple beam center but it's more even and better controlled, and the surrounding halo is a pleasant warm white.

In the field, we used the Freedom on several winter and early spring outings, and found it very user-friendly. Using the bill clip made it easily to read a magazine in our tent while waiting for bedtime. Will especially liked using it with the neck lanyard, and carried it around his neck most of the time so it was always handy.

Don’t let our test results discourage you from buying the new Photon Freedom; it’s the best Photon yet. We found the Freedom’s utility and light output to be a big step above previous Photon models. It’s very versatile and convenient to use, and the light output is certainly adequate for general camp chores and reading. Just don’t expect endless dazzling light to guide you hour after hour down a long, difficult trail, at least not without pausing to swap batteries.

Specifications and Features

  • Manufacturer: Photon Light (www.photonlight.com)
  • Features: one button operation, electronic on/off, continuously adjustable brightness, signaling modes, water-resistant, 10 different beam colors
  • Included: light, clip/swivel, neck cord and clip, key chain clip
  • Weight: light 0.24 oz, clip/swivel 0.2 oz, cord and clip 0.06 oz
  • MSRP: $20


Citation

"Photon Freedom LED Micro-Light SPOTLITE REVIEW," by Will Rietveld and Rick Dreher. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/photon_freedom_led_microight_spotlite_review.html, 2006-04-12 03:00:00-06.

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