The Barbølight Apollo Penlight APFL1 is fun, unusual flashlight. It’s got a massive history, but has been retrofitted with a warm emitter that makes it fantastic for use today. Read on for some photos and testing!
Official Specs and Features of the Barbølight Apollo Penlight APFL1
You can say this in a number of ways, I guess. There are possibly many versions if you consider the historical context. But of the Barbølight Apollo, there is just one – maybe two. Originally launched as a kickstarter, I think there was initially a TIR version, and with some cajoling, a reflector version was offered. What I have here, and all you’ll see available now, is the reflector version.
These are listed at lunareplicas.com for $99. Stock comes and goes, so if you see one for sale and are tempted, go ahead and grab it! This is also where I purchased my Apollo.
I both appreciate and love this flashlight. There are things about it that I don’t love, but those are things brought forward from a historical perspective – they aren’t things that “should have been fixed.” You can’t fix things, and have a historically accurate replica. So we have to (have to) let those slide. And as such, this light is just wonderful!
There are some things about the light as a brand that I don’t like, but I’ll cover those below. They’re cosmetic!
The Big Table
|Barbølight Apollo Penlight APFL1|
|Emitter:||Cree XP-L HI (3000K)|
|Price in USD at publication time:||$99.00|
|Claimed Lumens (lm)||100|
|Measured Lumens (at 30s)||136 (136% of claim)*|
|Candela per Lumen||5.1|
|Claimed Throw (m)||–|
|Candela (Calculated) in cd (at 30s)||68lux @ 3.178m = 687cd|
|Throw (Calculated) (m)||52.4|
|All my Barbølight 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).
- Barbølight Apollo Penlight APFL1
- Barbølight polishing cloth
Package and Manual
As I said, I got this light from LunaReplicas.com, and not from Barbølight directly. I’ve messaged Barbølight a bunch of times, both to discuss review scenarios, and to try to buy some of their lights, and I can’t get a response. And I’m not going to send money to a store which seems to be a one- or two-man operation, if I can’t get a response (ie, it seems like they were on a very long vacation and I didn’t want money in limbo.)
So what you see here regarding packaging, is the Barbølight packaging, and also some Luna Replicas packaging. The sticker you see on the box below seems to be for “proof of sealedness” but … the box slides out in either direciton from the sleeve, and also the sticker isn’t actually stuck to the inside box. Thus this sticker “proves” nothing (not that you need it to! – I consider it a cosmetic part of the packaging…)
Opening the inside box, you see your light. In case you were wondering, yes, that is a bare brass light, in an unsealed condition. Maybe not the biggest point of contention in the world, but I’d rather have a sealed light, and patina it naturally myself – I don’t want just purely aging in the box to patina a light. So this light should positively be in a sealed package, inside this box.
But there’s more. The light sits in a foam pocket (you can see it above, but it blends in). This foam…. hasn’t aged well, while sitting on whatever shelf it was on. (And by that I mean, Luna Replicas, or Barbølight’s…. anywhere this light has been in an box, wasn’t good). That foam has started to break down, and deposited onto the raw brass.
This is a big problem for me. I polished with the included cloth, and that didn’t do anything at all to remove the lines (which you’ll see better below). The seller said if I wanted these lines to be gone from the Barbølight that I a polish of “literally 5 seconds with Brasso or any other paste metal polish” would fix it.
In any case, if you do order one (and I do still think you should), I recommend telling whatever seller you use to spend literally 5 seconds with Brasso on the light you’re buying, and bag it, so that it arrives to you without blemish.
Build Quality and Disassembly
Since this is raw brass, I took some photos the day I received the light, and also some “review photos” (which I often call having “done the art” for a review) later.
Here are the initial photos:
These fingerprints and general stuff about the light, I don’t mind at all. I’d rather it have been in a hermetic pouch, but that is what it is.
But here you can see where my biggest gripe is. See that line that extends from the tail to the head, just under the text below? That’s the foam line, and it’s on both sides, and also in a different spot on the head. All the way down the light.
Polishing that off the body would probably be easy enough. But I don’t want to polish over the text, and I don’t really want to have to polish the whole light, either. Also polishing through the knurling on the head? No thanks.
Below should be the sales pitch for this light. Just look at that perfect eggy reflector and emitter combo. I absolutely love this, and would buy it again just for photos like this.
Much later photos are below. How much later? How much use? Well probably a month or two. And I haven’t just edc’d the mess out of this light, but I’ve used it, and handled it, and it’s been sitting out on a desk.
It really hasn’t aged much! The finish still looks great.
As far as general build quality goes, the light is solid. It’s also extremely simple – it’s a twisty, and has just one mode.
You can see on the body of the Apollo some laser etched text, which includes a serial number, and some other text. I’m guessing this is replica text, since my light wouldn’t have been manufactured in 1968… It does look like “7-68” is a historically accurate replication.
Otherwise, I’m not sure what some of the text means. BBL FA-5? Ok! Great let’s go with that.
The head has an “-OFF” and “-ON” “position” but no corresponding mark on the head to line up with. Not that it’s really needed…. and again, this is a historically (mostly) accurate piece.
One more note on the historical accuracy of this light. I’m not here to provide a history lesson on this light. But there are places where you can get a ton of information on this light, including the old photos. The manufacturer page is one such place. Here’s another, including some historical in-use EDC … is “space” considered EDC??… photos with velcro patch on the head! But here’s the positively definitive text.
Below is the bottom-down photo series.
I love the knurling on this light. It happens to be historically accurate, sure. I get that. I also love it. It’s just right – diamond patter, flat on top, but deep grooves….
The threads on the body are quite long, and maybe not the cleanest threads ever. More on this part of using the light a bit later
Inside the head are some minor differences from “historical.” The positive contact is a flat brass button. The rest of the light (literally the rest of the brass parts of the light) are the negative contact.
I tired to show the inside of the tube but… failed miserably. The tube is completely dumb – there are no springs or electronics or anything here. Just simply a brass tube.
See inside the head there – that o-ring. Now, you can opt to swap cells in two ways. One is to take the head off the body. If you go that route, you’ll be pressing the cell tube (aka “body”) through this o-ring over and over. That’s fine if you want to do that, and you can feel free to replace that o-ring as it wears from being pressed through those threads (which are triangle cut).
It’s not ideal. I don’t like the wear, I don’t like taking the lube off the o-ring with those threads. And also this probably accounts for the threads being so dirty.
Note that there’s no manual to say do things this way or that way. But what I found is that the head splits very easily in the gap you see below (which is already a bit open, for demonstration.)
I learned late to take the head apart to swap the cells. This way, the body says “nearly on, but off” (riding that edge, basically), and also you don’t wear the o-ring and dirty the threads.
And you probably say “Well duh Zero, you see the two sets of knurling, right?” Sure I do! Now I do…..
With the head apart, you see the driver much more, and the cells still slide right out.
Swap the cells the right way! 😀
Overall build quality is good. And more importantly, historically “close enough.”
Size and Comps
I am not seeing any official measurements, so here are mine:
16.97mm: tube diameter
25.34mm: head diameter
25.96mm: head diameter (around knurling)
130.17mm: length in off position
129.52mm: length in on position
34.46mm: head length
108.58mm: cell tube length
First are some in-hand photos from “initial receipt.”
And then some after having the light for a while.
If a light will headstand, I’ll show it here (usually the third photo). If a light will tailstand, I’ll show that here, too (usually the fourth photo).
Here’s the test light with the venerable Convoy S2+. Mine’s a custom “baked” edition Nichia 219b triple. A very nice 18650 light.
And here’s the light beside my custom engraved TorchLAB BOSS 35, an 18350 light. I reviewed the aluminum version of that light in both 35 and 70 format.
Retention and Carry
There is no way included for carry of the Apollo Penlight. It’s essentially a pocket or shelf light.
Power and Runtime
The Barbølight Apollo Penlight APFL1 is powered by two AA sized 1.5V cells. I used NiMH because they’re rechargeable, but primary AA cells would work too. Two are required (ie the operating voltage is 3V.)
The cells are installed in the light in the usual orientation – positive toward the head. And below you’re seeing the “right way” – don’t take that body out of the head!
There’s just one mode, and here’s a runtime of that mode.
I’d love to see a shorty tube for running a single cell on this light! I know that’s not “replica status” but still. A single AA version would make this incredibly “flashlighty.” Maybe this would work (or could work) with a 14500, in single cell setup.
Modes and Currents
|Mode||Mode Claimed Output (lm)||Claimed Runtime||Measured Lumens||Tailcap Amps|
Pulse Width Modulation
The single mode does not have PWM.
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 operation mechanism of the Barbølight Apollo Penlight APFL1 is a twist action. Twist the head tighter for on. Loosen the head for off.
Normally not a fan of twisties, this one pleases me… very easy for one hand operation.
Here’s a UI table! I am not sure it could be simpler.
No strobes, or other nonsense. STROBES!? WHERE WE’RE GOING WE DON’T NEED STROBES!
LED and Beam
Obviously the replica has been improved with the switch to LED technology, from the incandescent of the original. And what better than a LED that is replicating that warm incan…. this is a Cree XP-L HI (which is one of my favorites) and is very warm at 3000K.
I can’t get enough of this one. Cree XP-L HI at 4000K is my second favorite emitter, but for this brass light (brass, which I consider a “warm” metal), 3000K is absolutely perfect.
The reflector is lightly orange peel. It’s also very shallow, and quite broad. I’m sure you’ve all dated people like this reflector. But in this case, those attributes are great!
One hundred lumens doesn’t seem like much on paper, but it’s really a good amount of output.
These beamshots are always with the following settings: f8, ISO100, 0.3s shutter, and manual 5000K exposure.
Tint vs BLF-348 (KillzoneFlashlights.com 219b version) (affiliate link)
Test light is on the left!
I compare everything to the KillzoneFlashlights.com 219b BLF-348, because it’s inexpensive and has the best tint!
What I like
- Accurate-enough replication of the original product
- Easy twist operation
- Cree XP-L HI at 3000K
- One mode is “enough” modes
- A hundred lumens is “enough” lumens
What I don’t like
- Not sealed from the factory
- Lines from foam all the way down body
- No manual to say this is how you swap the cells dummy
- There’s no way to carry the light except “loose” – a pouch would be nice. (Swap the cloth for a microfiber pouch).
- This light was provided by me for review. I was not paid to write this review.
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