HManPhoto's Random Musings

Posts covering ride reports, motorcycle gear reviews, game and movie reviews, and thoughts on life and my job.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Inova Microlight vs. Photon Freedom Micro (with video)

Several months ago I purchased an Inova Microlight and was VERY happy with it. Its worked great both at work and at home. With three function modes I felt that it did everything I would need as well as provide plenty of light. If I had one complaint it was that the "keychain" attachment point was poorly designed and hard to use.

This light came with me on a camping trip and amazed two people when we used it at night after letting our eyes adjust to the darkness. It was nearly a full moon but the light being thrown by it was still VERY impressive. Many at work were impressed enough with it to purchase one for themselves so that says something for it.

So, I'm totally happy and content with the Inova right?

COME ON!! Us flashlight nuts are NEVER content. ALWAYS looking for the next best thing. We're long the single mother in the bar. Constantly on the prowl for the next one that will make us happier than the last.

Enter the Photon Freedom Micro. I read about this on and had to check it out. I was making a purchase of batteries and other assorted items from and they had a great price on said Photon so I went ahead and added it to the order.

First thoughts upon arrival? WOW, this thing is SMALL! It came with a small keychain attachment that allowed you to clip it to a key ring. While it is smaller and more "useable" than the Inova's, it looked a bit weak to me so I took it off. It also came with a clip to attach it to the bill of a hat or anything else of that thickness. I stashed it for a later date and ended up using the attachement that hangs from a string. Makes it handy in that I can just hang it around my neck like a necklace and its right there anytime I need it. This piece can be seen in this comparison shot of the Inova and the Photon.

As you can see, even in the necklace holder it is still smaller than the Inova. Some people would consider this a bad thing as it may be easier to lose but I guess if its attached to your neck, well, its not likely to go anywhere without your knowledge.

The light is easily popped out of this carrier if you need to use it handheld and free of the restraints of the holder. You simply grab the light back by the string attachment point and lever it outwards and it slips out of said carrier.

I do have to mention that both of these lights are really really small. I can't knock Inova by saying that its light is too big by any means. The Inova is also much easier to turn on. Maybe a bad thing, maybe a good thing depending on where you carry this light and how you store it. One thing that should be noted in this picture is that the picture of the Photon makes it look bigger than it is. Compare the two quarters and you'll see that I inadvertantly zoomed in more on it than the Inova.

As for light output, the Photon is most definatly superior to the Inova. One thing the Photon has over the Inova OTHER than sheer brightness is that the Photon has a multi-variable dimming feature where as the Inova just has bright, dim, and strobe. The Photon can either be click on and off, or it can be clicked on (bright) and then the button held which will then start dimming the light in a smooth transition down to its dimmest setting where it will flash once to let you know that you hit this point. This is also where the strobe features come in but we'll come back to that. Another nice point about the Photon. If you are somewhere that you don't want the light to come on bright at all, just hit the button and hold it without releasing and when it comes on, it will be on its dimmest setting. You can then continue holding to bring it up in brightness to your desired level.

Its hard to compare brightness levels via photographs but you can easily compare the level of dimming. Below are two photos. The picture on the left is the two lights on their brightest setting. While the Photon is clearly brighter, by quite a bit, in person it is hard to see in the picture. The picture on the left is of them both on their lowest setting and its clear to see that the Photon wins out on this.

Last thing that needs to be discussed is the strobe features. Inova wins in simplicity by simply making it One click is high, two clicks brings you to low, three clicks activates strobe. Photon is a bit more complicated but has more options. Turn the light on and release the button. Then, hold the button down to dim. Light will "flash" at lowest setting. Continue holding. Light will strobe bright. Release and you'll have a strobe that flashes every 5 to 6 seconds. Hold down again. Light will flash a bit faster. Release and its about every second (similar to Inovas strobe). Hold down again. Light will begin rapidly strobing. Somewhat disorienting and reminds me of the Gladius flashlight, just much dimmer. Hold down again and the next strobe function is morse code for S-O-S. Will you really NEED all these strobe modes? Who knows. I guess it depends on what you intend to use the light for. I could see the strobe modes as being a good thing for hikers that push on after dark or may need help after the sun goes down. This light is VERY visible if being looked directly at from a LONG way off. I am limited on distances in this area but I know that several blocks away it REALLY stands out, especially on strobe mode.

The quality of the below videos is not very good and I apologize for that. However, it is good enough to compare the functions of the two lights. I did not include the 5 second strobe just as its gapped too far apart to bother with.

Slow Strobe:

Fast Strobe:

S-O-S strobe:

In all honesty there is really no reason not to pick either light. I just happen to always want the brightest light I can get and to me, the Photon wins here. Some may feel differently and depending on their use, they could be right. When it comes down to it, you can't lose with either one of these great lights. Of course, one of these days, something better will come along and I'll be here comparing it with these so stay tuned.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Inova T4 review.... finally.

I purchased the Inova T4 light roughly a year ago to use at my job in a correctional facility. However, since purchasing this light I've found it useful in multiple ways. I've carried the light at work, at my job as a reserve police officer, while riding my motorcycle, and while hiking. To be totally honest, I wear this light on my belt anytime I feel that I may be out after dark.

Even on nights when I just go out to eat and watch a movie I carry it. Yes, its come in handy on several of those nights. It came in particularly handy one night not but a few weeks ago when I hit a deer on a dark highway during a trip home from the movies.

All this being said, how does it work?

I must first say that some would argue that NO flashlight is worth the price of this one. I argue that worth is a relative thing. There are lights that are pricier and that are cheaper but in the end, I'm happy so its worth it to me. The fact that the light is rechargeable, has a long run time on a single charge (I've found it to run for just short of two and a half hours), is incredibly bright for a small light, and has a long life LED bulb makes it a fantastic piece of kit to me.

The only real problem I have with this light is that when hiking, the light needs to be aimed out in front of you more as the focused beam from the TIROS optics lens gives a bit of the old "follow the bouncing ball" effect.

The new for 2007 T4 apparently comes with a brighter (5.5 watt vs. 4 watt) LED as well as a reflector and I would LOVE to get my hands on that version. I have to say though that its a minor issue and I still use it with little issue now that I'm used to it.

As I said before, the charger is small and takes up little room on my wall in a spare room.

Recharges are fast but depend on how long the light was used between said charges. An indicator LED shows whether it is charging or full. Blue indicates that its charging. Green indicates that it is fully charged. If the light does not come on or flashes, the flashlight needs to be jiggled to make a better connection between the two contacts and their counterparts on the charger base.

I understand that some have a lot of problems with this particular issue but its only happened to me once that I can recall.

The T4 is advertised as having a 300' effective range but I can attest that the actual throw on a dark night with adjusted eyes is much further than this. As with many small lights, in an urban setting with eyes adjusted to street lights and the like, the throw appears to be much less.

The light will take quite a bit of abuse. I've dropped mine a few times from pretty high distances onto concrete with no ill effect other than to leave a few small dings and scratches in the aluminum housing.

Inova claims the light to NOT be water/rain resistant due to the electrical connections of the rechare points. However, I can state that I've been stuck in some torrential downpours while on duty on the street and have yet to have a problem. I do keep o-rings at the back cap (for battery compartment) and around the lens lubed with silicone lube to help keep water out.

Weight could be an issue. There are definatly lower weight lights out there. I for one find the weight "comforting" in both a possible defensive use as well as making the light just plain feel substantial. Its not enough to be an issue with me when hiking but for a hard core packing enthusiast, well, you may want to look elsewhere when pinching weight down as low as possible.

I think this pretty much sums the light up. I'd like to be a bit more specific and well spoken in this review (the light deserves it after all) but I'm a little rusty. Hopefully my reviews will improve in a short while. LoL

I hope this review will help you to choose this wonderful little light the next time you are doing some shopping. I honestly don't believe you will be disappointed.