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  • EEVblog #78 – Fenix LD01 LED Keychain Flashlight And Victorinox Minichamp Review

    Posted on April 19th, 2010 EEVblog 36 comments

    Reviews of Dave’s most used everyday tools. The Fenix LD01 flashlight to replace his ARC-AAA Premium, and the Victorinox Minichamp.


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    • Thomas Kilbride

      You should get a Leatherman Wave. I also like swiss army knives, but I do not like the fact they don’t have some sort of locking mechanism (i guess its a trade-off for portability) and if you hit something at a weird angle you can slice your finger.

      Good reviews though. Peace.

      • http://www.eevblog.com EEVblog

        You should get a Leatherman Wave.

        I do have one. You can’t carry it in your pocket so it hardly ever gets used.

        • DeKemp

          You can carry it in your pocket all day, at first its heavy but after a few days you feel naked if you left it somewhere. I carry it always with me.

    • Jan Schmidt

      I liked this list of essentials from Bunnie Huang the other day: http://andrew.huang.usesthis.com/

      Good reviews – as always.

      Also, check your pronunciation of ‘faceted’ :)

    • AskJacob

      Wow pulling 850ma from a single AAA will cause voltage sag pretty quickly! Good job it has a decent regulator on board.

      I don’t think you would get close to the label capacity of a AAA at 850ma – it would be rather short. Handy to impress your mates – but I reckon you are using it at 8 or 20 lumens mode most of the time…

      Cheers
      Jacob

      • http://www.eevblog.com EEVblog

        I don

    • Brian Hoskins

      Nice key-chain LED torch. Good that it’s regulated too, because then I suppose you can put one of those high capacity rechargeable AAAs in there.

      With regard to the penknife, I agree that they are very useful but unfortunately in our country (where everything’s gone bananas), you can land yourself in serious trouble if you get caught carrying one of those. You might have the most honest of intentions, and no previous record, but if you get stopped and you have one of those in your pocket… off you go to the local police station to get charged!!!

      There was a story in the paper the other day, I was moaning about it on my lunch break, where a guy got stopped in his car by the police and got arrested, charged, and convicted of carrying an offensive weapon because they found the damned penknife! And no… he wasn’t even carrying it on him, it was stuffed away in his glove box!!!
      This was an old, retired guy, previously clean record, and yet he was arrested, dragged through the courts, and now he’s got to carry around a conviction for “possession of an offensive weapon in public” for the rest of his life!
      It’s absolutely crazy. In our country they even prosecute the innocent people!!!

      The courts were probably just upholding the law, they have to when presented with such things I guess, but at the very least you’d think the Police in the field would use more common bloody sense. I guess it’s a quick conviction for them though. An easy one to add to the daily figures.

      So watch out for that if you live in a crazy country like the UK!!!

      Brian

      • http://www.eevblog.com EEVblog

        With regard to the penknife, I agree that they are very useful but unfortunately in our country (where everything

        • Tom

          I supposed that swiss army knifes where legal in all western countries, so I always took it with me on holiday, even when traveling by plane.
          Maybe I should check out the local rules next time I go on holiday.

    • PJ

      I also have the Fenix LD01, as well as some others in their range (LD20 and TK20). As Dave likes caving, he should check the Zebralight models, they have a very wide angle floodlight beam, also to be used as a headlight.

      My EDC knife is the Victorinox Tourist, which is a downsized Spartan. Only 2 layers, so thin enough to have on you while wearing a suit. I never cary any models without the spiral winebottle opener, because opening a bottle without it is impossible.

    • Kodon

      Hi,

      Really nice review, but I was expecting to see what components are used in that regulator, and maybe some circuit analysing also. Those are the most interesting parts of the blog. I love to teardown small devices to see how they work and what components they use.

      For example last week I opened a device that is positioned in a car’s rear axle, and it controls the headlight’s position in vertical direction so that when the trunk is loaded, the front Xenon lights won’t beam right to anyone’s face. The design was really nice, a cheramical PCB with laser cut resistors printed to the board, and the clue of the whole thing was to use a linear hall sensor, so there would not be any sort of a mechanical tolerances or drift (like a pot does). The actuator (linked to rear axle) contains a little magnet wich is then turned in a different angle when the burden changes in the back of the car.
      The whole thing was about a size of a thumb nail. Really nice, I like to see those such a cleverly designed devices.

      Okay, sorry, I got little carried away.
      Anyways: Probably the best episodes in your blog is the Varta charger analyse, chopper amp info and the Led lamp hacking episodes. Big thumbs up to them!

    • Tom

      Great review as usual, I was given a Victorinox Swisstool a few years ago, it’s a great tool, not an everyday pocket tool but has taken plenty of abuse and is still going strong.

    • Robert

      If you get this excited about this flashlight you should never visit CPF (www.candlepowerforums.com). No really, don’t! Your ad money will go away real quick like ;)

      And also a quick comment regarding the comparison between the Arc AAA and the Fenix. I don’t think it’s really a fair comparison as the Arc was never designed for output. It has always been designed for long runtime and ruggedness. The design has been around since 2001 and then disappeared for a while when Arc Flashlight went under (you don’t want to know what I paid to get my hands on an Arc AAA back then…) and then rose from the ashes once more in 2004. Arc Flashlight really helped pave the way for the flashlights we see today.

      Fenix on the other hand came along quite a bit later but has produced some very very good flashlights in a short time-span at decent prices. Difference being that they often shoot for output rather than runtime (although the addition of multiple output modes has toned that down).

      Aaanyways, I’m ranting so I’ll just stop now.

    • Mav

      Good review :)
      Your not a secret candle power forums member are you ?

      As for the legality of a pen knife in the UK, as long as it is below 3 inches blade length you can legally carry even a lock knife as long as you have a reasonable reason, as for a piddly little penknife you should have no issues at all.

      “It is an offence for any person, without lawful authority or good reason, to have with him in a public place, any article which has a blade or is sharply pointed **except for a folding pocket-knife which has a cutting edge to its blade not exceeding 3 inches.**” [CJA 1988 section 139(1)]

      Must have been a bloody big penknife :D

      I have been pulled over with a knife in my pocket (which I generally do carry for opening deliveries and stripping the odd wire or two) the bizzes didn’t even question it.

      • Brian Hoskins

        @Mav,

        I’m not sure how big the guy’s penknife was, but I don’t think it’d be outrageous to have a penknife bigger than 3 inches long. Obviously if it was a big massive thing then yeah… I could see why you’d get in trouble for that… but this really was a penknife.

        I understand that when asked why he had a penknife in the glove box he told the police that he used it to cut fruit for his wife (she has some problem with her hands) and also quite often uses it while camping. But, because he couldn’t offer a valid reason for the penknife being in his glovebox at the time he was pulled over, he was still prosecuted. Basically, if he’d been cutting fruit at the time then he’d probably have got away with it, but because it was there for no particular reason (other than he just keeps it in the glovebox because it’s useful), he was done.

        Bizarre if you ask me!

      • http://www.eevblog.com EEVblog

        Your not a secret candle power forums member are you ?

        I am now!
        Thanks for reminding me to post a link there, always on the scrounge for more viewers!
        Dave.

    • Rob

      I Love Fenix lights. I had an LD20 years ago and lost it at a bar/pub. I ended up replacing it with a Nitecore D10 because it had near infinite brightness settings and no blink function. Never could find a use for blink/SOS functions on flashlights.

    • Brian Hoskins

      I checked out the Fenix website and I also quite like the PD10 which is another pocket / keyring torch. Unfortunately it uses a CR123 battery though, which is a little bit of a pain in terms of rechargeable replacements. There are some rechargeable CR123 batteries out there but they seem to have significantly less capacity than their non-rechargeable counter-parts.
      Also, this PD10 torch is apparently capable of 190 Lumens so I don’t think a rechargeable one would last too long!!!

      Still, 190 lumens is impressive from such a small torch.

      Brian

    • Mav

      @Brian “Bizarre if you ask me”
      Totally agree, if it had been some punk teenager I’d say fair enough , but as it was some old guy and he gave a reasonable reason he shouldn’t have got in trouble I don’t think.
      Certainly going by the letter of the law he should have had no issues at all.

      @Dave
      Those candle Power Guys are obsessed aren’t they :D guess you had a look at the forum. It’s a fantastic place to find circuits for efficient and small power LED drivers though.
      And they are always at the cutting edge of anything LED :)

    • PJ

      The reason they continue working to the very low voltages is that they do not have a reverse polarity protection (which would sip relatively much power). So don’t you put those batteries in backwards!

    • Tristan

      The laws on knives in the UK are a real pain. It’s OK to carry a folding knife with a blade up to 3 inches UNLESS the blade locks. It then becomes illegal. I had an offensive weapons caution for carrying a 2 inch blade CRKT Kiss penknife on my keychain. I’m not sure about the politicians but i’d rather be stabbed with a 2 inch locking blade than a 3 inch non locking one!

      This locking blade law also rules out pretty muck all Leatherman tools. Spiderco manufacture a knife called the UK Penknife which is (I believe) their only knife which doesn’t lock but which has great build quality. I now carry that or my swiss army knife on a daily basis.

      Tritan

    • http://www.toddfun.com/ Todd Harrison

      Wow! that is sad!
      In the USA (state of Arizona) we can care hand guns concealed, “yes loaded”. And as of this year a new law passed so we don’t even need a permit or licence to carry. Crime is kind of low when the criminals know just about everybody has a gun.

    • Frank

      As Yogi Berra would say, viewing this blog gave me “Deja-vu all over again”, as I too replaced my Arc with a Fenix.

      I found the threaded connection between the light and body to be very loose, and more than once pulled out my keys to find the light & battery still in my pocket. I foolishly neglected those “warnings” and didn’t add friction to the threads, until finally one day I noticed the cap & battery were gone, $38 lost forever.

      As for a pocket tool, I carry a Leatherman Squirt E4 on my keychain, complete with (small) pliers and 12-20 ga wire stripper.

      Congratulations on an EXCELLENT site

    • JRR

      Honestly, I have a few AAA keychain lights, and I find them all too big. I just use a button cell light on my keychain. Whenever I’m desperate enough to use a keychain flashlight, my eyes are dark adapted enough that a little button cell light puts out plenty of light for me to see an entire campsite. Or it’s plenty to look behind a computer or inside a dark place.

      I pay about $4.50 for TEN keychain flashlights, put them on every keychain in the house, and they last me a couple of years.

      When I need a real flashlight, I pull the P7 off my bike’s handlebars. 500 lumens (well, they claim 900, but that’s BS).

    • Max
    • Brian Hoskins

      RE: LD01

      I’m sold! I’ve gone and bought one. In fact, I’ve now ended up with *two* keychain lights because in addition to buying the LD01 direct from Fenix I placed a bid on Ebay for a PD10. I didn’t think I’d win it, but I did! So now I have both.

      Previously I’ve always used a mini-maglight that I converted to an LED torch using a special kit. It was okay but far too big to carry around on your bunch of keys so inevitably I never had it on me when I really needed it. So the Fenix range of keychain torches are a really good idea.

      I’m very impressed with the intensity of the beam on these keychain torches from Fenix. Far brighter than my modified mini-maglight, that’s for sure!
      I quite like the way the twist-on mode selection works. It came across as a little awkward on Dave’s video (to me, anyway) but in practice I’ve found it really easy to use. The only criticism I’d give it is that it’s a bit of a pain having to cycle through all the modes if you mostly only ever use the same one. It’d be great if the torch remembered which mode you last used before it was switched off and then always returned to that mode by default. In fairness, this would probably be asking quite a lot more of the torch in terms of the electronic design and it’s a very small device so perhaps it just wasn’t feasible to add any more intelligence to it.

      The PD10 is even brighter than the LD01, it’s quite astonishing. It’s slightly smaller in length than the LD01 too, though it’s quite a bit thicker. The LD01 would probably be a better fit on your keychain, and the batteries for it are more widely available. If I were to choose one, I think I’d stick with the LD01.

      Brian

    • Michael Thompson

      I’m partial to the Leatherman Skeletool.
      Prior to that it was my Leatherman Sideclip.
      My Sideclip did many years of field service and had been “retired” to home use.

      For me, the clip on one’s pocket eliminates that annoying “bottom of your pocket” ride that pocket-based tools give.

      That flashlight is gorgeous. I might have to get one now.

    • Tilman Baumann

      I totally agree with your Swiss Army Knife idea.

      I never left the house without my Victorinox Ambassador for the last ten years or so.

      I used to have bigger ones, but they are just not practical enough.
      I can imagine having a Minichamp. Actually you just got me excited about them. I love the pen!
      All the other features are pretty much meaningless to me.
      The Ambassador has a knife blade, nailfile and scissors.
      The blade is solid.
      The scissors just cut EVERYTHING but diamonds can be abused as pliers and are perfect for jumpers.

      But the best tool is the nailfile.
      It is extremely sturdy. Can be used as a spatula to open plastic casings, with a bit of force and disregard it can be used to screw in any screw.
      And it can be used to clean your nails.

      The theory behind that is the same as with mobile phone cameras.
      They are shit! And this knife is shit!
      But it does not matter how much better the real deal is (cameras, tools, knifes…) you would not have them in the pocket when you need them.

      Regards
      Tilman Baumann

    • Tilman Baumann

      @Brian Hoskins

      Well, the UK is a crazy place. But I don’t care so much.
      Maybe it is because I’m not native.

      I will just ignore any law that does not make sense. Society is after what we make it and not what is the law.

      I mean I had pocket knifes throughout my youth and of course knifes where technically not allowed in school.
      Once a teacher mentioned that to me, and I just asked him “Do you think I pose any danger with my knife?” I was allowed to keep it.

      I’m a optimist. I trust other peoples sanity and common sense. Would I not do that would I go crazy.

    • tchicago

      I think it will also be interesting to attach this flashlight to the power supply via the current measuring resistor. Then, use the oscilloscope attached to this resistor to watch the waveform of the current flowing from the source. They surely have a capacitor on input, but the functioning of their PWM will still be visible. For extra amusement, wiggle the power supply voltage and watch how their PWM handles it to keep up the same brightness! :)

    • http://dclausen.net Dave Clausen

      Excellent video, as always.

      One suggestion: you can use lithium batteries in the LD01. They are lighter than alkalines, more tolerant of high current drain, and have more energy. Highly recommended.

      Also, check out the Leatherman Skeletool CX sometime. It’s much lighter than the Wave and fits perfectly in a front pocket. I used to carry a knife like yours with a non-locking blade, until it twisted in my hand while cutting something one day and folded up on my index finger. Ouch! I still have the scar.

    • Georgi

      The fenix is an awesome flashlight, but I would suggest, if you have time, to take a look at the Maratac AAA. It is smaller, lighter, cheaper and I think has better UI.

      Cheers.

    • ac

      For anyone interested in flashlights, here’s a nice ranking site with photos & lux from controlled test setting and lights from low end to high end polarion $3000 stuff.

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