Every once in a while I get the chance to check out some different kinds of gadgets - ones that I wouldn't normally buy on my own. At first it was the 699 USD Wicked Lasers 155mW green laser that can ignite matches, and then I took a look at the 400 AE Light Xenide 20W HID personal searchlight. Today I'll be taking a look at something a bit more ordinary, a LED flashlight by Neofab called the Legion II. Okay, well maybe it's not that ordinary. With a rated output of 742 torch lumens, Neofab claims the Legion II is the world's brightest single LED flashlight.
Details & Setup
The Legion II is a 179 USD flashlight sturdily crafted out of a few pieces of 6061-T6 aluminum with a hard anodized protective coating. Powering it are three 18650-size 3.7V rechargeable lithium ion batteries (batteries and charger not included). This is the first problem with the Legion II. The batteries are hard to find and expensive.
I ended up going with UltraFire batteries that were 3000mAh — that's about the highest mAh rating I was able to find for 18650 batteries. Each battery runs about 10 USD and then you'll need to get a charger. Unfortunately, everywhere I looked I could only find a charger that charges two 18650s at a time. The Legion II needs three, so unless you have two chargers, it will take about 40 (20*2) hours to charge all of the batteries. The higher the mAh battery rating the longer charging takes, and with 3000mAh 18650s, it took about 20 hours to charge two empty ones. (Note: numbers from the 5.5VDC/450mA 18650 charger I have.)
On top of that, charging the batteries requires taking them out each time and putting them in the charger. It would be nice if there was a simple charging jack, similar to the Xenide flashlight, especially since I found putting the batteries in to be a bit of a challenge. The tail cap of the Legion II has a PCB that relies on some small contact patches to touch the bare aluminum inside of the flashlight body. Getting good contact requires a lot of force, at least with my particular Legion II and batteries, so I ended up applying some foil to help with the connection. I think it would be better if there was a piece of copper that came up the inside of the body and made a better attempt at making contact with the tail cap.
The heart of the Legion II is the powerful CREE XLamp MC-E LED, which paired to the 18650 batteries gives the Legion II a rating of 742 torch lumens. While technically it is a single LED, it's like having four LEDs in one with a multi-chip design. Neofab claims the Legion II is the world's brightest single LED flashlight. Before continuing though, it's important to mention that the 742 lumens rating is torch lumens, compared to emitter lumens. Emitter lumens measures all of the light coming out of the LED in all directions. On the other hand, torch lumens is a more real-world measurement that excludes light that goes out of the back of the reflector, light that doesn't bounce off and is used to heat up the reflector, light that is used to heat up the front lens and doesn't pass through, light that bounces back to the emitter and heats it up more, among other things. It has been said that torch lumens can be as low as 2/3 of the emitter lumens. The CREE MC-E LED used in the Legion II has an emitter lumens rating of 90 lumens per Watt, so the real emitter lumens of the Legion II is likely closer to 900 emitter lumens. Overall, I'm just pointing out that the Legion II really is bright and the rating method used for it is realistic, where as you might see some other flashlights say they have 900 lumens when really they are just stating emitter lumens.
10 Watts for a diode is a lot
Using the Legion II is a bit interesting. It is controlled by twisting a spring-loaded ring on the body of the flashlight. The main benefit is that you can have access to every feature of the Legion II using only your thumb. The downside is that it's not very intuitive. It can temporarily be turned on by moving the ring counter-clockwise, or turned on for constant use by keeping it in that position for a few seconds then letting go. However if the ring accidentally goes back to the middle and moves back to the clockwise starting position, the flashlight turns off. In addition, there are five levels of brightness available by twisting the ring counter-clockwise to go to a lower level or clockwise to go up a level. The lowest setting emits 98 lumens, the second gives out 157, the third 264, the fourth 456 and the full-brightness fifth level outputs 742 torch lumens.
I would have preferred if the control ring had notches and stayed in those positions as you moved it. While I applaud the creation of an innovative control mechanism, I find it a bit buggy in its current implementation. I have to think about using it, which shouldn't be the case with intuitive controls. For example, if you are on the fourth level of brightness, there's no way you could tell based on the position of the control ring. If it had the notches like I suggested, it would be easy to tell from a glance.
Control ring instructions from the manual:
Left = TemporaryON , and OFF when you release the ring. Left + Hold (5 sec+) = Constantly ON. * * You can set the brightness level for this mode separately.
Right = Temporary ON, and OFF when you release the ring. Right + Hold (1 sec+) = Constantly ON. * * You can set the brightness level for this mode separately.
When the light is constantly ON, you can use these functions: Right + Hold (1 sec+) = OFF. Left + Hold (1 sec+) = Battery Gauge. Right = Brightness Level UP. Left = Brightness Level Down. Loosen the tailcap , then the light is OFF,then tighten the tailcap = Save the brightness setting.*** *** You can reach Constantly ON from Left or Right, and the setting will be applied to Left or Right depends on the way you turn on the light.
I did a run-time test of the Legion II at its brightest setting and it ran for 3 hours and 27 minutes with the 3000mAh batteries I was using. Unlike other flashlights that get dimmer as the batteries drain, the Legion II delivered the same full 742 lumens at all periods during my runtime test. However, when the batteries are done with, the beam shuts off immediately after flickering a few times. That's why the Legion II has a battery gauge built-in to give you an idea of battery level as you'd have no idea otherwise. Runtime can go as long as 20 hours on the lower settings, but I did not personally test that.
As for how the Legion II can run at full brightness for so long, it does an excellent job at dissipating heat with the integrated heatsink design.
Beam throw is clearly visible compared to the orange glow of the sidewalk light. Photo not manipulated or touched up in any way.
My biggest issue with the Legion II is the lack of a user-focusable reflector setup. While you can purchase additional reflectors and swap them out yourself for different uses, it would be much nicer if you could just twist a ring to adjust the throw and width of the light beam.
Recorded with a Canon SD990IS that apparently sucks in low light situations. Sorry about that.
The Neofab Legion II is a strong, well-built flashlight that lives up to its promise of being freakishly bright. However, at 179 USD without including batteries and a charger I began to question its value. I think the price includes research and development — similar to how electric-only cars started out being remarkably expensive (Tesla stated their Roadster price includes their R&D). The Legion II strikes me as an early prototype. I like where it is and surely future versions will be great, but I have a hard time recommending it right now. There's not even any retail packaging yet and the website doesn't have
The current implementation of the Legion II, despite its usability issues, does what a flashlight is supposed to do and executes that core competency well. I give the Neofab Legion II 7.5 out of 10 Stammys.
What do you think of the Legion II? Would you shell out 179 + shipping + batteries + charger for it? What would you use it for?