Back in August, I bought a tiny keychain flashlight and conducted a geeky comparison of it with like-sized flashlights in our house. (For the record, I am still in love with the Streamlight Nano.)
On Christmas, a new flashlight appeared under our tree. This one isn’t mine. I bought it for my wife out of self-defense, because she keeps stealing my Maglite. That problem has been solved, and a new one introduced in its place: I might have to steal her flashlight.
It’s a Fenix E21, and it’s a marvel. Coming in at just 1.5 centimeters longer than the Maglite, it uses the same two AA batteries and somehow manages to parlay that into a ridiculous amount of light. Seriously, this flashlight could be a weapon. If anyone broke into the house at night, all we’d need to do is shine the Fenix into his face and he’d be blinded for several seconds.
As before, I took the two flashlights into the bathroom for a light test. First up is the Maglite, which I focused down to its spotlight setting for maximum brightness.
I had to photograph it by itself, because once the Fenix is fired up, you can no longer see the full light cone of the Maglite.
The Fenix overwhelms the Maglite with a gigantic and perfectly circular cone of light. Unlike the Maglite, it doesn’t have a focusing mechanism to change from spotlight to flood. It simply gives you both simultaneously — a massive flood with a brilliant spotlight at the center.
In place of the focusing mechanism, the Fenix E21 offers two light settings, low and high. The above photo is…the low setting.
Ready for the high one?
This is the one that could be weaponized. Seriously, if you shine it on the back of your hand, the reflected light is so strong that it’s hard to look at — and will leave a retina afterimage that lasts for several seconds. I can’t imagine how blinding it would be to look directly into this thing.
For those who want the stats: the low setting is 54 lumens, while the high is 170 lumens. Fenix claims a battery life of 11 hours at the low setting, and 2 hours 15 minutes at the high one. It also claims that the light beam will reach a maximum of 145 meters (475 feet). I haven’t tested that yet, but based on how it turns our darkened apartment into near-daylight, I believe it.
Here is a “shine it on the celiing” comparison of the two light cones, with the Fenix on its low setting.
It really shows the remarkable evenness of the Fenix’s illumination. The Maglite, on the other hand, has very uneven illumination with a dark spot in its center, which can’t be eliminated no matter how much you focus it down to the spotlight setting. In the flood setting, of course, it’s much worse. The Fenix has no dark spots anywhere, and I can’t get over the perfect dual circle of its light cone.
With its rough exterior and pleasant balance, the Fenix is very easy to hold. One of my favorite features is the tail switch. No twisting this way or that to turn it on, and no fumbling for a side switch. Just press the bottom and you’ve got a floodlight. It also remembers the brightness setting you left it at, which is a nice touch.
Did I mention that it’s waterproof to two meters?
Did I also mention that I might steal it from my wife?