Thursday, October 29, 2015

No Light Box For Old Men

I've spent a quarter century pushing the envelope for software engineering. Being self-educated and self-motivated all these years, I like to think that not only do I think "outside the box," but I've tried to completely discard the box.

So it's only apt that I demonstrate this philosophy with my photography. I'm finally getting to the point where my photography skills are mostly not terrible. As I grow as a photographer, I've tried to distill it all down, just like with software. I'm not afraid to fail, and I'm not afraid to spend a whole day trying to master a certain shot.

Above you can see my fancy "light box" on top of my oven, being held up by my Thermos




Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Review: Lansky LKN111 Mikkel Willumsen Responder Quick Action Knife

Flippers have always been appealing to me. There's a lot to like: one-handed opening, good ergonomics and they are usually sleek. I've owned at least a dozen Kershaw flippers, and they are probably my favorite brand for that style of knife, but I wanted to try something different and unique looking. This Lansky LKN111 looked rugged and well designed, and I own their sharpening system, so it seemed to be exactly the type of flipper I was looking for, so I bought this one and another Lansky flipper. They both looked a little gimmicky but they both also looked well built, and they were cheap.

Lansky LKN111 Pocket Knife - Product Link
Lansky LKN111 Pocket Knife - Product Link

Product Description


This is a "tactical flipper" whatever that means. It's made of  9Cr18MoV Chinese steel, though there are other versions of  this knife made from much better steels. I suspect that many of these Amazon sellers get them confused. Mine is the $15 version that I assume comes with the cheapest steel of the bunch.

Official Specs (From Amazon)


(Note below that the steel is not 440C on mine)

  • 35" 440C Stainless Blade
  • 7" Overall Length, 6 oz
  • 2 position pocket clip (tip up or tip down carry)
  • 2 Position Pocket Clip
  • Nylon Handle

From Top: Lansky LKN111, Lansky LKN003, Ganzo G704, Spyderco Tenacious
From Top: Lansky LKN111, Lansky LKN003, Ganzo G704, Spyderco Tenacious

Initial Impressions


I was expecting a large knife, and it's still a little larger than I expected. This thing is built like a tank, though not quite as heavy as I thought it would be. It still makes the Ganzo 720 look heavy. So, its weight isn't excessive for its size, which is good.

The knife also looks well built. Sometimes I get tired of hearing myself gripe about the quality of clips and case screws, so it really stood out to me that this knife has well built hardware as well, which I'm only used to seeing on knives that approach 100 bucks, so bravo to Lansky for that. Good day to you, sirs.

Now, if you have a reputation for building good quality knife sharpening systems, and that's what you are most known for, then I would think that a knife with their name on it would come sharp .... nope.

Overall, this knife gave me a good impression. I'm not sure I like the geometry, either, but people say that about my Spyderco knives. The knife itself is well executed even if it has a strange design.


Lansky LKN111 Pocket Knife - Product View 1

Lansky LKN111 Pocket Knife - Product View 2
Lansky LKN111 Pocket Knife - Product View 3

Lansky LKN111 Pocket Knife - Product View 4
Lansky LKN111 Pocket Knife - Product View 5
Lansky LKN111 Pocket Knife - Product View 6Lansky LKN111 Pocket Knife - Product View 7



Build Quality



My review sample is well built. I wouldn't say that a build quality this good is rare for a 15 dollar knife, but I will say it's uncommon. I suspect that the exact same materials of the more expensive versions of this knife are used for the cheap model. Certainly the higher quality screws would be rare for any version of this knife.

Fit And Finish


Overall, good. It's maybe a little rough around the edges, but certainly spot on for the price point. Again, bravo to the well made looking screws and hardware. I've seen maybe a Ganzo at this price point with screws this good, and that's about it. 

I'd have to deduct points for having an almost dull edge out of the box. Again, I would point out that Lansky is a company known for making equipment to sharpen knives. I would give the edge a "boo" but my voice is hoarse since I've been fighting a cold.

Lansky LKN111 Pocket Knife - Finish 1

Lansky LKN111 Pocket Knife - Finish 3Lansky LKN111 Pocket Knife - Finish 2



Blade


This LKN111 has what I would call a hollow grind, modified drop point blade. It's stone washed and well done other than mine being dull. It has an interesting geometry that I can't think of a purpose it would be ideal for. It has too much belly for a self defense knife or food prep, and while rugged, it's nowhere near the right shape for outdoors / camping / bushcraft activities. 

My version has 9Cr18MoV steel which is a step up from the usual cheap Chinese fare. While this is a capable steel for pocket knives, I would say that if the shape of the blade appeals to you, step up to the Sandvik steel.

Lansky LKN111 Pocket Knife - Blade View 1

Lansky LKN111 Pocket Knife - Blade View 2


Lansky LKN111 Pocket Knife - Blade View 4Lansky LKN111 Pocket Knife - Blade View 3

Handle


The G10 on my sample is well done. It's honestly hard to get G10 wrong, but its finish is a little above average for a budget knife.

The ergonomics of this knife don't seem ideal to me. The handle is grippy, and the knife itself feels solid, so I guess it's the weird shape that gives it a weird feel. It's not bad, but it's not ideal either. The flipper does form a nice guard, though, and the jimping on the liner make this knife feel nice and safe ... just a little weird.

Lansky LKN111 Pocket Knife - Handle View


Clip


This model out of the box comes with a deep carry clip configured for tip-up, right-handed carry, which is what most people will want. The clip is configurable for tip-down as well, but you're out of luck if you're a lefty. 

It's a little stiff, but overall the clip is decently made and well executed. Putting "designed by" some person in the name doesn't impress me; good design impresses me. 

Lansky LKN111 Pocket Knife - Clip View: SideLansky LKN111 Pocket Knife - Clip View: Top



Deployment


Certain reviews have said that this model is hard / impossible to open one-handed. Like many unassisted flippers, it just takes some practice, but I didn't have any problems. The mechanism is a little stiff, but it deploys fine and locks up smoothly. 

Locking Mechanism


The LKN111 uses the typical liner lock mechanism. It's well done, giving it what feels like a solid lock. The lock engages and disengages fine. Just like G10, a liner lock is pretty hard to screw up. The liner does seem a tad thin for how bulky the knife is, but it's certainly a reasonable width, and they deserve a nod for not over-thinking a liner lock. 

Lansky LKN111 Pocket Knife - Lockup 1

Lansky LKN111 Pocket Knife - Lockup 2


Usability


This one went to my brother, who went through a whole box of knives and picked this one as the one he wanted. Men are basically big apes. You wave wave something like this in front of us and say "Mongo like shiny object?" and we scratch our under arms and say "Mongo can have please shiny object?" and so I stopped guessing long ago what my friends and family would want; now I just wave shiny objects until they pick one. But they have to tell me how they used it and how it held up.

My brother reports that in actual use it's just about as rugged as it looks. He works in a clean room wearing a "space suit" all day, and I believe he keeps this knife on a belt outside his suit. At any rate, it's something he uses every day. He says it's starting to feel like it's getting a little loose after several months of hard use. I suspect the pivot screw needs to be tightened. When I say "here, let me see it" he clutches it and says "naw dude, it's fine." (meaning: "Mongo no give up shiny")

Lansky LKN111 Pocket Knife - In Hand 1

Lansky LKN111 Pocket Knife - In Hand 2


Weights And Measures


ounces is not bad for a knife this size.

Lansky LKN111 Pocket Knife - On Scale

Lansky LKN111 Pocket Knife - Caliper Measurement 1

Lansky LKN111 Pocket Knife - Caliper Measurement 2

Conclusions


This is a decent knife. I wouldn't say it's all looks, but I wouldn't say it's all business, either. This model isn't personally my thing, but I don't really have a gripe with it. There's so many decent knives in this price range that they all kind of blur together for me. 

The looks are a little aggressive in proportion to its functionality, but that it also personal taste. Some people would never consider having a knife this "tactical" looking lest it disturb others around them, and some people would consider it a plus. 

I would recommend getting the version with better steel, though. I bought this to see if I really, really liked it, in which case I was going to give it away and get the better one. But this version seems like a good value as well. As long as you don't mind sharpening your own knives, which most enthusiasts wouldn't have a problem with.


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Review: Lumintop Tool 1xAAA EDC FLashlight

I've always had an interest in 1xAAA flashlights. Many years ago I had one of the first incandescent Maglite Solitaire lights, which had a pathetic output equal to about a single candle. They've come a long way even in the last couple years, and people I meet are continually amazed at the output and features of these lights.

Lumintop contacted me and asked me to review the Lumintop Tool, and then they went out of stock, and they are sending me a different flashlight to review. But ... I wanted this one! So I went ahead and bought one. They can be had from direct-from-China sites with a wait about 30 days, or you can pay a little more and get it from Amazon much quicker. Keep an eye out, though, because prices fluctuate quite a bit on these types of products. At the time of this writing, they are the same price on both sites. They wanted me to give out a 20% coupon for their Amazon store: LMT20OFF

Lumintop Tool - Product Link
Lumintop Tool - Product Link

Product Description


This is a 1xAAA "clicky" flashlight with a Cree XP-G2 and a snap on clip suitable for every day carry (EDC). It's got a reverse switch just like you would expect, and interestingly, a scalloped tail with lanyard holes.

Official Specs (From Lumintop)


Bulb
Cree XP-G2 R5 LED
Output / runtime
5 lumens (60 Hours)             
32 lumens (10 Hours)           
110 lumens (30 Minutes)
Max Beam Intensity
553cd
Max Beam Distance
47 Meters
Modes
3 Modes(Low-Mid-High)
Size
Length: 3.2" (81.5mm)
Head Diameter: 0.57" (14.5mm)
Body Diameter: 0.57"(14.5mm)
N.W
0.53oz(15g)
Working Voltage
0.9v-1.5v
Battery Type
1 X AAA
Water Resistant
IPX-8 (2 meters)
Impact Resistant
1.5 meters
Accessories
2 x O-ring
EAN/UPC
6933165915053
889709150588

From Left: L3 L10, SingFire SF-348, Pelican 1910, Streamlight Microstream, Lumintop Tool, Thrunite Ti2, Tenergy AAA Battery
From Left: L3 L10, SingFire SF-348, Pelican 1910, Streamlight Microstream, Lumintop Tool, Thrunite Ti2, Tenergy AAA 

Lumintop Tool with Spyderco ManBug, Leatherman Squirt PS4, Victorinox Executive and S&W Tactical Pen
Lumintop Tool with Spyderco ManBug, Leatherman Squirt PS4, Victorinox Executive and S&W Tactical Pen


First Impressions


Wow, it looks well done at first glance. The fit and finish look perfect. Of course, I don't like the snap on type clips, which this model has. I also prefer clips to ride deeper on my EDC gear. But if I have an issue with that part of the design, the execution looks near perfect. And the clip is on tight at least. I don't have a very good record with snap on clips, since the best outcome is usually that the clip ends up somewhere out in the world and the flashlight ends up at the bottom of my pocket.

Putting an Eneloop AAA in the unit, I could see the other issue I was going to have with this light: It has fairly low frequency PWM which I can see on low with my eyeballs. It's on the high end of low--higher than the MT06 I didn't like, but it's still something I don't like.

All things considered, this sample made a very good first impression with me.

Lumintop Tool AAA Flashlight - Product View 1
Lumintop Tool AAA Flashlight - Product View 2Lumintop Tool AAA Flashlight - Product View 3



Lumintop Tool AAA Flashlight - Product View 4

Lumintop Tool AAA Flashlight - With Tenergy AAA

Build Quality


The quality of my review sample is better than average. It's well machined and the sharp knurling is well done. The scalloped tail looks like a more expensive light, and the clip is even anodized. The short-throw "reverse clicky" tail switch has a very good feel to it. There's just no good way of predicting the number of cycles that a switch has before it goes belly-up, but it seems like the ones with a better feel are better switches.

Fit And Finish


Lumintop Tool AAA Flashlight - Fit and Finish
Overall, perfect. One of the photos shows what could be an artifact in the reflector, but I can't see it with my eyeballs, even with a magnifying glass, and I can't see it in the beam pattern, so I can't really deduct points for it.

The emitter is perfectly centered, the triangular cut threads are well machined and anodized and there's no nicks, blemishes, tool marks, scratches or anything else to find fault with. Threads are well lubed and o-rings look fine. Overall machining looks perfect, including the sharp, diamond-cut knurling. Even the clip is unblemished. Bravo, Lumintop--good day to you.

Tail Switch


A reverse clicky tail switch is pretty much standard. Forward switches are my preference but they make it awkward to switch modes, so a reverse switch is simple and has a good, intuitive feel for most people.

The only thing remarkable about the tail switch on the Tool is that it has what I consider an almost ideal feel for this type of switch. Time will tell how it holds up to my abuse. If it's the ideal switch type for this type of light, then it's also the most likely thing to fail in my experience. I don't think they make lights this small with high-cycle electronic switches. This one is replacing the Ti3 I had in my EDC bag. It's a fine backup, but I really like the switch on this one, and the fact that it can be clipped to a ball cap as an emergency headlight.

Lumintop Tool AAA Flashlight - Tail View 2Lumintop Tool AAA Flashlight - Tail View 1



Lumintop Tool AAA Flashlight - Tail View 4Lumintop Tool AAA Flashlight - Tail View 3


Circuitry


This model uses PWM on low and medium, with high looking like it's regulated constant current. My eyes barely notice it, but they notice it. Like I said above, it's on the high end of low frequency, but I still wish they would bump it up if they were using it for the tint.

Modes


The Tool uses an interesting Medium / Low / High mode order, with no mode memory. I personally prefer Low / Medium / High mode orders with no memory, with no mode-order preference if there is a memory. But this is one of the few areas of EDC flashlights where it's like arguing religion, and there are many, many opinions on the subject.

Changing modes is typical for this style of light with a reverse clicky tail switch: Full click for on/off and a half click to change modes when the flashlight is powered on.

Lumintop Tool 1xAAA Flashlight Modes Animation

LED Emitter


Lumintop Tool AAA Flashlight - Head 1
Lumintop Tool AAA Flashlight - Cree XP-G2 LED Emitter

Lumintop Tool AAA Flashlight - Head 2The Tool uses a Cree XP-G2 LED emitter. There's no way a single AAA can power an emitter like this anywhere near its maximum output, but it's still very efficient, and puts the output limitation on the battery, where it should be.



Tint


The tint on my unit is fairly pleasing. It leans towards neutral white, and I can't see any hint of blue or green that bugs me on other models. They did a good job with the tint. The only purer white tint below is the Ti3. The Tool only has the slightest hint of blue-ness.

1xAAA Flashlight Tint Comparison


Reflector


This model has a textured, "orange peel" style reflector. It's pretty shallow, as it should be. The lens has an anti-reflective coating, and gives the tool a smooth, floody beam. There looks like a small blemish or crack in mine, but it could just be a trick of the lighting.

Beam


The beam is pure flood, as it would have to be with an emitter this big in a reflector this small. It's almost perfect for EDC, which is why I like small lights with an XP-G2 in them. The textured reflector makes for a smooth beam.

Output


I don't have the equipment to measure output, but Lumintop's claims look reasonable to my eye, and by comparison to other lights.

Clip


The snap on style clip looks reversible, which is odd, because the body of the flashlight itself looks to be reversible as well. So any way you look at it, the clip is reversible. Reversible clips are a nice touch with lights like this because they work as a backup headlamp if you have a ball cap to clip them to.

I do not like this style of clip, but at least it looks tight enough to where it wouldn't easily fall off like my *cough* Ti3. But I have carried this light clipped to my pocket where I can at least say semi-confidently that it's tight enough not to worry about under normal conditions.

Of course, a clip that's as tight as it's supposed to be is going to rub on the body, scratching that good anodizing off. While it's a deal breaker for a "shelf queen" that has to sit there not decreasing in value, it's normal for a "user" but still makes me a sad panda to see that anodizing scratch.

For hard use, I don't personally trust any non-mounted clips. But it's certainly good enough for my EDC bag as a backup.

Lumintop Tool AAA Flashlight - Clip Closeup 1

Lumintop Tool AAA Flashlight - Clip Closeup 2

Lumintop Tool AAA Flashlight - Clip Closeup 3


Run Times


NOTE: All run times and current tests done with a Panasonic Eneloop Pro AAA battery.

Mode Run Time (Minutes) Current (mA) Notes
Low - 30 Not run.
Medium 246 280 Lost regulation at about 3 1/2 hour mark.
High 80 910 Lost regulation at about the hour mark.

Usability


Lately I've been a fan of 2xAAA flashlights, but traditionally I've liked to keep it simple, and that means one cell lights light this. It's a very good EDC form factor. Not the only good EDC form, but a very good one.

The good knurling with a good-feeling switch makes using this light a good experience day to day. It sticks a little farther out of my pocket than I would like, but it's not a deal breaker. There's just not that many companies making what I consider an ideal clip, so I'm used to the disappointment.

Overall this is a solid EDC performer day to day. I'm not a big fan of the visible PWM, but it's not a deal breaker given everything else is good. The output on high is very good, and with a good tint and no PWM, it's the reason this one went into my "small carry" EDC bag and not into the "bag of shame."

Lumintop Tool AAA Flashlight In Hand 1

Lumintop Tool AAA Flashlight In Hand 2

Tail Stand


This model will not tail stand. BOOOOO. They could've made that scalloped tail a little longer to made it tail stand. That's why some of the bigger "tactical" lights use that style of tail in the first place. The scallops make it easier to click an inset switch.

Weights & Measures


It's light at 1 ounce even with a Panasonic Eneloop Pro AAA cell in it.

Lumintop Tool AAA Flashlight - On Scale

Lumintop Tool AAA Flashlight - Next To Ruler

Lumintop Tool AAA Flashlight - Caliper Bezel Measurement

Conclusions


With a slightly better driver and a mounted clip, this would be the ultimate small carry EDC flashlight. It's not going to replace my Thrunite Ti4, with its deep carry clip and a creamy, perfect tint for my EDC, but it's fine as a backup to it, and many people will find this model to be the perfect EDC.

Certainly Lumintop knows what it's doing with the 1xAAA form factor. If you are not super hard on your clips, and your eyes aren't bothered by PWM, then this could be your perfect EDC. The output on high is fantastic for a 1xAAA light.

The good output, with the good tint and floody beam makes this a pleasant experience pointing this thing into a dark area--at least on high where I can't see the PWM.

I'm not sure that there's a perfect 1xAAA light out there for me. Something that looks like the Tool and has the same switch, but with the circuitry from my Ti3, and a deep carry, mounted clip that I'm pretty sure doesn't exist on any 1xAAA light in current production. But a guy can dream...

Gallery


Lumintop Tool AAA Flashlight - In Box 1

Lumintop Tool AAA Flashlight - In Box 2

Lumintop Tool AAA Flashlight - In Box 3