My first 'expensive' flashlight I ever bought happened to be a Fenix L0D Q4 (a AAA keychain light). At that time spending $50+ on a flashlight was a huge investment for me, but having bought some budgets flashlights that failed far too easy, I felt it was worth paying more for something that would last. Being happy with the robustness and quality of this flashlight, I soon followed up with buying a Fenix L2D Q5.
Fenix has recently release a new flashlight to the market, the Fenix PD32. With the release of this flashlight, Fenix had a competition offering samples of the PD32 for review. I was lucky enough to be selected to review the flashlight, though it did take some time for my sample to arrive.
Since Fenix was one of my first quality flashlights, I do have a soft spot for their lights. Nevertheless, I'll do my best to provide an honest and non-biased review on the Fenix PD32.
SPECIFICATIONS (FROM THE MANUFACTURER'S WEBSITE)
• Cree XP-G (R5) LED with a lifespan of 50,000 hours
• Uses two 3V CR123A batteries (Lithium) or one 18650 rechargeable battery (Li-ion)
• 127mm (Length) x 25.4mm (Diameter)
• 61-gram weight (excluding batteries)
• Digitally regulated output - maintains constant brightness
• Reverse polarity protection, to protect from improper battery installation
• Over heat protection to avoid high-temperature of the surface (turbo drops down to high after 30 minutes)
• Anti-roll, slip-resistant body design
• Tactical tail switch with momentary-on function
• Side switch in the head
• Made of durable aircraft-grade aluminum
• Premium Type III hard-anodized anti-abrasive finish
• Toughened ultra-clear glass lens with anti-reflective coating
Cost: ~$70USD (Give or take a few dollars)
PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES
The version of the Fenix PD32 I received was a prototype sample, so the packaging was more rudimentary. There were no accessories included and the manual was a photocopy on plain A4 paper. According to the information included with the prototype sample, the proper packaging should come with a clip, spare o-ring and rubber switch boot. (N.B. according to the actual fenix website, a holster and lanyard should also be included with the Fenix PD32)
|Packaging for test sample|
DESIGN AND BUILD
The head of the Fenix PD32 has a crenulated bezel. A minor benefit that I've noticed from having these crenulations, are they let light through when standing it with the head down. This lets you know if you've accidentally left it on in this position. The crenulations are not too aggressive and civilian friendly.
|Crenulations allow light through while the flashlight stands with the head down|
At the base of the flashlight head there is an anti-roll ring. This does an adequate job of stopping the light from rolling on a flat level surface. However, I do find if the surface is at a slight angle, the flashlight can still have a tendency to roll downwards.
|Anti roll ring|
This light has a smooth reflector. This obviously will affect the beam characteristics which will be mentioned later.
|Smooth reflector. Cree XP-G R5 LED emitter|
There is knurling present on the body and tail-cap. The knurling on the body provides 'grippiness' when generally holding the flashlight. The knurling on the tailcap is well placed, providing grip when unscrewing the tail-cap to change batteries. The knurling on Fenix PD32 is slightly on the aggressive side, but no overly so.
|Knurling on the body and tail-cap|
The tail-cap has a forward clicky that provides a momentary on. As with most forward clickys the rubber button is slightly protrusive. The tailcap is also scalloped on two sides to allow better access to the rubber button. Unfortunately due to the protrusive button, this flashlight does not tailstand.
|Protrusive rubber button. Tail-cap scalloped to allow easy access to switch|
Also at the tail-cap are two lanyard holes. Unlike some other flashlights I have come across, these lanyard holes are nice and wide, and fit a standard lanyard strap easily.
|Hole for lanyard strap. There is another lanyard hole on the opposing side.|
The button at the tail of the light is used to turn the light on and off. On the side of the flashlight, near the head there is also a grey button. This grey button is used to switch between the various modes of the light.
|Grey side button|
The Fenix PD32 unscrews into a head, body and tailcap. Joining these sections are nice thick square threads. The various sections of the flashlight engage together easily, with no chance of cross-threading. The threads are also annodised, allowing you to 'lock-out' the flashlight.
|Nice thick square threads and black o-rings on either end of the body section.|
There are nice thick o-rings at either end of the body section. These o-rings help to prevent the ingress of dust and water.
The Fenix PD32 is rated as waterproof to the IPX-8 standard. To provide cooling for the light during some runtime tests, I dunked the flashlight in a glass of water. While this is not same as testing it to IPX-8 standards, I can say over the two hours it was running, there was no ingress of water.
|Fenix PD32 submerged in a glass of water|
In terms of size the Fenix PD32 is moderately compact for 1x18650/2xCR123 sized lights. However if size is major factor for you, there are smaller 1x18650/2xCR123 lights around. Personally, I still find the Fenix to be a little too large to carry around in my pockets.
The following picture gives you and idea of size in comparison to some other 18650 flashlights I have.
|From the left: Armytek Predator, Ultrafire 504B, Fenix PD32, MG L-mini II, Zebralight sc600w|
USER INTERFACE AND OUTPUTS
The Fenix PD32 has 4 outputs in it's general mode and 2 hidden flashing modes. Outputs and times reported by the manufacturer are as follows:
Turbo - 315 lumens - 2 hours
High - 130 lumens - 8 hours
Mid - 70 lumens - 16 hours
Low - 9 lumens - 200 hours
Strobe - 315 lumens - ? no data provided on runtime
SOS - 130 lumens - ? no data provided on runtime
The runtimes were based on using 2xCR123a batteries. Do note, the runtime for turbo is an acculumated runtime; it will not run for 2 hours non-stop without manual intervention. This is because, when using the turbo mode, it will automatically drop down to high after 30 minutes of usage. This a feature to prevent overheating of the flashlight.
As mentioned previously the button on the tail of the flashlight is used to turn the light on and off. The tail switch is a forward clicky that provides 'momentary on'. This means if you half depress the rubber button, the flashlight will turn on whilst the button is half depressed. As soon as you let go of the button, the light will turn off. If you want to leave the light on, just push the button all the way down until it clicks and it will remain on.
To switch between modes, you click the grey side button whilst the light is already turned on. It will cycle from low -> medium -> high -> turbo -> back to low. This flashlight will remember the last general mode used (it will not remember any flashing modes). So the next time you turn on the flashlight, it will light up at the last output used.
To access the strobe, you need the hold down the side button for one second, whilst the flashlight is turned on. The strobe is a random strobe that switches between various frequencies in how fast in flashes. To access the SOS mode, you need hold down the side button for around 3 seconds. If you want to switch back from the flashing modes to the general output modes, either click the side button once, or turn the light off and on again at the tail-cap.
The Fenix PD32 can run on the following battery configurations:
-Non-rechargeable 2xCR123A (3.0V nominal voltage per cell)
-Rechargeable 1x18650 li-ion (3.7V nominal voltage)
-Rechargeable 2x16340 LiFePO4 (3.2V nominal voltage per cell)
It is NOT recommended to used 2x16340 li-ions (3.7V nominal voltage). Fenix also recommend using 1x18650 li-ion with caution. I believe this is because of the potential dangers of using li-ion batteries. I am not 100% sure but I do not think this flashlight has overdischarge protection for li-ion batteries. I was able to run down a 18650 li-ion down to 3.06V. I believe the light would have discharged the battery further, but I discontinued the test at this point.
The fenix PD32 has a fairly pronounced hot spot. The central zone of the hot spot is slightly darker than the outer edge of the hot spot. There are some rings in the beam, though this is not unusual considering it uses a smooth reflector. Personally I don't find the rings in this flashlight too distracting.
I wouldn't consider the Fenix PD32 a throw based flashlight, however for a flashlight of this size, it is more on the throwy-side, as it has a fairly intense hotspot.
The tint in my sample is a nice clean cool-white when run on turbo. On the lower levels there is a slight hint of green. In current controlled lights it's not unusual to see a shift in tint at different drive levels.
Beamshots @ ~5m. From the top: Fenix PD32, Ultrafire 504B, Armytek Predator. The armytek predator is considered a thrower, and you can notice the more intense hotspot. The Ultrafire 504B is more floody. The Fenix PD32 is somewhere in between.
Beamshots underexposed so you can better see the characteristics of the hotspot. Order is same as the last set of beam shots
Outdoor beamshots. Same order as the first set of beamshots.
There's really not a lot to criticise about the Fenix PD32, but there a few things I would like to see improved.
As mentioned previously the anti-roll ring does not work so well if surface is not flat and level. Perhaps the ring could be modified slightly, to reduce the tendency to roll on an inclined surface.
I like using the 1x18650 li-ion format, as they are rechargeable and energy dense. I would like confirmation on whether there is overdischarge protection when using 18650 batteries. I have not read any where that there is overdischarge protection, so I assume it is not present. In my tests, I managed to discharge a battery to 3.06V, which is considered overdischarged by most standards. I feel overdischarge protection is important in flashlights that use li-ion batteries.
With presence of a forward clicky and a randomised strobe, I get the feeling that the Fenix PD32 is targeted towards law enforcement officers and military personnel. The presence of a randomised strobe could be useful for such personnel, however, I assume they would want instant access to strobe. In this flashlight, the light much first be turned on tailcap, before the strobe mode can be activated. If you were going to use the strobe tactically to disorientate your target, I assume you would want to switch from off to strobe, instantly.
Myself, as a general-user, I would have preferred an light with a retruded tail button that allows the flashlight to tailstand. However it is hard to cater for and satisfy everyone in the market. I understand, having a retruded rubber button at the tailcap, would make it harder to use the momentary feature... and more so if you need to wear gloves.
Another personal preference, would like to see in the Fenix PD32, would be having a lower low mode. The current low mode is fairly bright. The difference between medium and high are not that pronounced. If you are dropping the low mode, I would also consider dropping the medium mode too.
I have to say, I quite like the Fenix PD32. Though you can get smaller lights in the category, the Fenix is not overly large and does fit the hand comfortably. I feel the UI is fairly easy to understand, especially compared to some previous generations of Fenix lights. (where there is a need to tighten/loosen the head for different mode lines and then half click the tail button to switch between outputs in that mode line)
I guess whether this light is right for you depends on what you are after. If these following points suit you, then it would be a good flashlight to consider:
-if you want a light that has memory and remembers the last mode used
-if it's important for you to have a light with momentary-on, with a button that can be easily used with gloved hands
-you want something that is not overly large
-if you want a light that has a combination of flood and throw, with a tendency to having slightly more throw.
-you like to have strobe and sos modes, but prefer to have them hidden away.
It might not be for you if:
-if you want a light that has a lot of throw
-if you want a light that has a lot of flood
-if you want a light that can tail stand
-if you prefer a light without memory. (Some people prefer the light to start up at the same mode, no matter what it was last used for. It comes down to predictability)
-if you need instant access to strobe
-if you want a flashlight with absolutely no rings in the beam, and a smoother transition from hotspot to spill
-if you want a light with a lower low mode
Fenix Website: http://www.fenixlight.com/viewproduct.asp?id=155
|Inside shot of the flashlight head|
|Inside shot of the tail cap|