A Fun Fund Friday review of a light you all probably already own and have moved past… The Lumintop FW3C – yes another FW review! My copy of this light has been in my possession for a while now, so shipped with an early version of Andúril, and the review might not be the most relevant any more.
Official Specs and Features
Here’s a link to the official product page. That’s an affiliate link. Click, enjoy!
It’s a FW series light. There are a million versions. Aluminum, copper, titanium, all sorts of emitter options. (Cree XP-L HI 1A or 3D, Nichia 219c, Luminus SST-20 (seen here)).
These were $69.95 when available at NealsGadgets.
This is one of the few copper lights I’ve actually been happy with in the build of it. Normally the copper smell is just too much. And the light worked great for me at first, but now all of a sudden, the UI is… not working right. It was bound to happen – these tail e-switch lights in this series are known for issues, but I can’t seem to get mine sorted. So buy this one for the body, and probably be willing to reflash it to the most current Andúril. (Would anyone be interested in a visual guide for that?)
The Big Table
|Emitter:||Luminus SST-20, 4000K|
|Price in USD at publication time:||$69.95|
|Turbo Runtime||High Runtime|
|Quiescent Current (A):||?|
|Claimed Lumens (lm)||2800|
|Measured Lumens (at 30s)||621^ (22.2% of claim)*|
|Claimed Throw (m)||–|
|Candela (Calculated) in cd (at 30s)||261lux @ 4.428m = 5117cd|
|Throw (Calculated) (m)||143.1|
|All my Lumintop reviews!|
* Measurement disclaimer: I am an amateur flashlight reviewer. I don’t have $10,000 or even $1,000 worth of testing equipment. I test output and such in PVC tubes!! Please consider claims within 10% of what I measure to be perfectly reasonable (accurate, even).
^ After the huge stepdown!
- Lumintop FW3C Flashlight
- Tactical grip ring
- Spare o-rings (2)
I my case, I also ordered a glow switch cover, and glow gasket for under the optic. Those are seen above.
Package and Manual
Standard FW3A box – the “C” on the sticker indicates copper, and the SST20 indicates the emitter.
The uncoated copper light is shipped in a vacuum sealed plastic pouch.
Build Quality and Disassembly
There are a couple sets of photos here. First is the light immediately after I received it. Straight out of the package, and untarnished. The second set is notable for having 5 months of age on it.
The build quality is very good. The threads are smooth, and also match non-copper FW3 lights perfectly, too.
Straight out of the package the light is super shiny – just exactly like a shiny new penny. I mean it’s exactly like that in a way that most copper lights just are not.
This does make it a bit of a fingerprint magnet, though.
The knurling is fantastic. I don’t love that there’s knurling on the tailcap, because that sends the wrong idea. So don’t remove the tailcap on this light! unless you’re prepared to lose the nib, and search for ages for it.
After 5 months of fairly intermittent use, the patina looks like this (below). The threads (which have generally been protected by the light staying closed and the o-ring), are still very shiny.
The head has a spring, as does the tailcap. Normally this would mean you could use any type cell, but not in this case. That’s because of the e-switch in the tail. More on that later.
The threads are very smooth – square cut and bare. I’m not even sure they’re lubed, but they’re super smooth.
The cell tube is not reversible. Also note the threads on the tail end (right, below) – they’re much finer and clearly not as intended for being used a bunch.
Here’s the tailcap. This is the old tailcap – there’s no retaining ring AND the nib is a separate piece in there. Newer versions, at least on the FW1A, have a retaining ring and the nib is built in better. This is still the old style, which is easy to lose and mess up.
The bezel also unscrews easily, and you’ll need this feature if you wish to add the glow gasket. And you should add the glow gasket, because glow gaskets are awesome.
Size and Comps
Really this is a perfect sized EDC light. In copper form it might be a bit heavy, but it’s still a joy to carry. Not a ton of copper smell too, which I consider a great feature.
Two pics with the Convoy S2+ below – first without any patina.
And next, with some patina. It really ages well.
The EDC18 below is really the same as the FW3A/C, but it’s not a tailswitch light. Here’s my review of that one.
Retention and Carry
The only included means for carrying this light is the attached pocket clip. It’s the most secure type, since it’s a collar that connects under the tailcap.
The clip boasts a couple of features, too – the holes allow lanyard attachment. There are three holes for this. The clip is steel of course, and not copper.
The clip is not reversible, and so the light can not be used on a hat. Too heavy anyway!
Power and Runtime
The FW lights work on a single 18650 cell. In the case of the tail e-switch variety (as this one is), you’ll need to use an unprotected flat top cell. Even then, I found my light to be a little bit picky…. (or my light was just already trippin’ after working properly for a while. I am not really sure which.)
The reason you need to use this type cell is that little black sleeve that runs inside the cell tube. That makes the contact for the e-switch, which always needs access to power in order to work. So the rim of that sleeve must be in contact with the tailcap. This means the parts must be appropriately tightened, or that rim won’t make proper contact. And it’s just the tiniest fraction of a mm difference in working, not working, or working stupidly here.
So flat top unprotected cell, and tighten things down fully.
These runtimes are deceiving, because the light steps down so hard almost immediately. Even the measured 30 second output – if the light was recalibrated this would be much better. The light does get hot – very hot – but it could live like that for at least a bit longer! But it is what it is….
The light does step down to an extremely low output when the voltage is low. Seems to protect cells properly.
Again, we know Anduril utilizes PWM. Note the timescale, though – the PWM is very fast, so not noticeable at all (for me anyway, and likely for you too). These PWM shots are reused from the FW3A review.
For reference, here’s a baseline shot, with all the room lights off and almost nothing hitting the sensor. And here’s the worst PWM light I have ever owned. Also one of the very first lights I ordered directly from China!
User Interface and Operation
The UI on this light is just like the other FW I’ve reviewed, so there’s no point rewording it.
The interface for this light is a tail clicky, but unusually, it’s an e-switch. That’s a bit of a coup, and something not many manufacturers are doing (in tail-switch form). Lumintop actually has the Tool AAA, which has a tail e-switch option. And at least one more option I can’t think of right now.
The button itself is metal (with that rubber cover under), and has a very minimal amount of travel (1mm or less). Despite being a very big switch, it’s possible to actuate from anywhere on the surface – even the tiniest fingernail on the very edge will still work.
I’m dropping in ToyKeeper’s newest UI diagram, which includes some features my light does not have. The firmware reset, for example, and also the secondary emitter options – but the graphic itself as a whole is much better.
Here’s a UI table anyway!
|Off||Click||On (Mode Memory)|
|Off||Click 2x||Highest Hybrid Mode|
|Off||Click 3x||Blinkie Mode Group|
|Off||Click, Click, Hold||Strobe Group (Mode Memory Strobe)|
|Strobe Group||Click 2x||Strobe Cycle (Candle > Bike Flasher > Party Strobe > Tactical Strobe > Lightning Storm)|
|Blinkie Mode Group||Click 2x||Blinke Cycle (Sunset > Beacon > TempCheck > BattCheck)|
|On||Click 3x||Switch between Stepped and Smooth Ramp|
|On||Click 4x||Ramp Configuration|
|TempCheck||Click 4x||Thermal Configuration|
|Beacon||Click 4x||Beacon Configuration|
|Candle||Click 3x||30 minute timer to off|
|Strobe Group||Hold||Heighten selected mode (Make faster or brighter)|
|Strobe Group||Click, Hold||Lessen selected mode (Make slower or dimmer)|
|On||Click 2x||FET Turbo|
|Ramp Configuration||[Wait for Single flash] Click N time for level N.||Selection of the “Low” you like best by clicking 1, 2, 3, etc. where 1, 2, 3, etc are different levels of low.|
|Ramp Configuration||[Wait for Second flash] Click N time for 1+Turbo-N.||Selection of the “Ceiling” you like best by clicking 1, 2, 3, etc. where 1, 2, 3, etc are different Ceiling levels.|
|Ramp Configuration||[Wait for Third flash] Click for how many steps you want in Stepped mode.||Sets Number of Steps.|
|Thermal Configuration||[Wait for First flash] Click for N times for N degrees C.||Displays Current Temperature.|
|Thermal Configuration||[Wait for Second flash] Click for N times for 30C + N.||Sets Temperature Limit.|
|Beacon Configuration||[Wait for First flash] Click for N times N seconds per flash||Sets Beacon Speed.|
I performed two runtimes on factory calibration and it became clear that the light needs to be recalibrated for thermal considerations. This is where I hit a wall. I either clicked into a way that the light just no longer has any love for me, or the firmware got bricked in a way that only works about half the way it should. As such, I wasn’t able to recalibrate it, and so that’s why I didn’t perform any calibrated runs.
LED and Beam
I had some other emitters in this format, so I opted to get the Luminus SST-20 in this one. I’m super pleased with that. They’re 4000K and just have the best tint. I fully recommend these!
I added a turbo glow gasket, which I installed myself and again I’d truly recommend those.
I also picked up a glow tailcap but I’m only “whatever” about that – it doesn’t glow usefully so next time I’d definitely skip it. (It’s visible at left below, while at right is the glow gasket glowing around the emitters.)
These beamshots are always with the following settings: f8, ISO100, 0.3s shutter, and manual 5000K exposure.
Tint vs BLF-348 (Killzone 219b version)
I compare everything to the Killzone 219b BLF-348, because it’s inexpensive and has the best tint!
Random Comparisons and Competitive Options….
Here’s a link to a relevantly filtered page on parametrek.com. I use that site a lot!
What I like
- The copper. And copper isn’t usually my jam. (The scent is very low!)
- Super smooth threads
- Output is good
- Luminus SST-20 is a solid choice for this light – warmer might even be better!
What I don’t like
- How picky the light is about the cells being used
- The tailcap lacks the newer retaining ring
- The UI went crazy on me and I can’t get the light back.
- Factory stepdowns are too dramatic (probably due to thermal calibration)
- This light was provided by me for review. I was not paid to write this review.
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