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Старый 11.07.2010, 06:37 Автор темы   1
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По умолчанию Review - Leatherman Serac flashlight trio (S1, S2, S3)

by carrot

Full disclosure: I was contacted by Leatherman and asked if I were interested in reviewing the Leatherman Serac series of lights. I received the lights free of charge directly from Leatherman on the understanding that I get to keep the lights if I allow them to use my review/photos freely. I was never advised as to what the content of the review should be. Despite receiving these specimens for free I have attempted to be as unbiased as possible in my review.

(more photos coming soon)

As many might know, Leatherman entered the flashlight world last year with the Leatherman Monarch series of lights, to little fanfare. They never got very popular, probably due to their large size and usage of multiple AAA batteries instead of the more popular CR123, AA and single AAA form-factors.

Leatherman learned their lesson and went back to the drawing board. This year, Leatherman introduced the Serac series, designed to appeal better to the outdoorsman and flashlight enthusiast, and hopefully the general public. The Serac series is truly worthy of the Leatherman name, a company that built its reputation on premium multitools.
Today I am reviewing the Leatherman Serac S1, S2, and S3, which currently represent the entire Serac line, as of October 2008. The style of this review will cover an overview of the entire line (when possible) on several key points and then "drill-down" to examine the different features of each light where the product features diverge.

Quick rundown:
Serac S1 -- 1xAAA, Nichia GS LED, 6 lumens*, 11hrs
Serac S2 -- 1xAAA, Cree XR-E 7090 LED, 5/35 lumens*, 10.5hrs/45mins
Serac S3 -- 1xCR123A, Cree XR-E 7090 LED, 7/43/100 lumens*, 36hrs/4hrs/1hr
* manufacturer estimate (using alkalines for S1 and S2 and a regular CR123A for S3)

Independent verification
CPF user Chevrofreak independently tested these lights and got the following on primaries (alkaline AAA and lithium CR123).
Serac S1 -- 7 lumens, 12.8 hours
Serac S2 -- <8 lumens, 6.4 hours / <55 lumens, 17.7 minutes
Serac S3 -- 6 lumens, 57 hours / 47 lumens, 5.5 hours / 110 lumens, 1.3 hours

For the S1 and S3 this corresponds to Leatherman's estimates favorably, actual tests performing better than Leatherman's estimates. For the S2, runtimes seem grossly overrated.

I found in my own experiences that the S2 does appear to run for at least 30 minutes on high with alkalines in an informal test so maybe Chevrofreak's sample is a fluke, especially when considering Leatherman's other two estimates were spot-on.

You can see Chevrofreak's detailed runtime graphs here:


As you can see, this S3 has a very low voltage LED. It's so low that it is in direct drive for about 16.5 minutes before the cell voltage dropped low enough that it could be regulated.

The High mode test shows that it is being significantly overdriven by an RCR123 cell. For this reason, I can not recommend the use of lithium-ion cells in the S3.

The clip on the S3 is pure genius. The way it attaches, and the ease with which it is removed and reversed is brilliant. This helps make the S3 a great headlamp when clipped to a baseball cap. While the clip on the S1 and S2 is nowhere near as sophisticated, they too serve well as headlamps when attached to a cap.

Of note, the low mode PWM of the S2 is very visible, at least to me. If you are sensitive to PWM, this may be an issue.

The high mode of the S2 also has some sort of flickering, though I do not know if it is PWM. You can see the thickness of the lines on High, which is because my meter was in Fast mode and was able to catch the fluctuations. I can also see a very slight pulsing when I shine the light at a fan. This does not in an way impact the usefulness of the light because it is not visible unless you look very hard for it.

S1 - 3.23in / 8.2cm
S2 - 3.48in / 8.84cm
S3 - 3.2in / 8.13cm

Light Output and Operation:
I have no light meter with which to verify the manufacturer's claims on light output but based on experience it appears that the estimates are not far off from reality, and in fact are probably fairly accurate. Leatherman's quoted runtimes also seem fairly viable, which I've listed above. Hopefully Leatherman will send a sample to Chevrofreak so he can independently verify their claims.

The Leatherman Serac lights are extremely easy to operate and should be easy to figure out for anyone, from grandma to "Joe Sixpack" to a flashlight aficionado. On the multi-level lights (S2 and S3) a light press or half-click on the clicky switch allows the user to switch brightnesses. Contrary to some rumors, both the S2 and S3 always on the lowest mode and each subsequent half-click cranks up the output, or reverts back to lowest once the highest level is reached. They DO NOT, in fact, save the last used level, to the relief of user interface experts everywhere.

I have a wooded area that is pretty devoid of light that I went to go test the Serac lights in. I walked around for a bit with each one and I can say that I would not feel naked or insufficiently illuminated if I only had one of these lights on an outdoor expedition.

The S1 is quite sufficient for walking around and reading, but the Nichia GS LED can only put out so much light and I often wanted to see out just a little further. However, its long runtime and useful output makes it an excellent backup light.

The S2 is definitely an excellent contender for a primary EDC (every day carry) as it is capable of cranking out a surprising amount of light when you need it and also offers a long runtime when high output is less important. I was able to comfortably walk around the forest with the S2 running on low and even identify "landmarks" by the patterns in the trees. Being able to quickly jump to high mode with a half-click was great and comforting when I heard barking off in the distance. My only concern is that with the S2 it is all too easy to want to kick into high mode and burn the battery down (only 45 minute runtime) so I felt continually conscious of the slowly depleting battery. Carrying a few spare batteries would certainly alleviate this concern.

One caveat with the S2 is that if the (alkaline) battery has been sufficiently drained it can still put out light but if you turn it off then turn it back on it will refuse to light until the battery has recovered a bit. A little disconcerting, although expected on a high-drain AAA flashlight. This effect should be far less pronounced on other chemistries like NiMH and Lithium. The other problem is it uses PWM for low. It is not as noticeable as some other lights I've used, so it doesn't bother me too much, even when moving, despite the fact that I am fairly sensitive to PWM.

The S3 is a beast of a light, as far as tiny pocket lights go. It has no problem reaching out and lighting up distant objects thanks to the deep reflector and offers three very useful brightness levels. Low is excellent for close up tasks, medium is great for navigating around and high is good at spotting distances when you hear noises or want to impress your friends. This is probably my favorite of the three Serac lights and gives my $450 custom a run for the money as far as being the perfect EDC light. CR123A batteries are a "funny battery" for anyone not a flashlight aficionado, however, so hopefully Leatherman can exercise its brand and sales prowess to make CR123A a more mainstream battery.

-- S2 and S3 --
When I first turned the Leatherman Serac S3 on, I was extremely impressed at the quality of the beam. It features a fairly tight hotspot for better throw (ability to light up objects at long distances) and a nice gradual transition to spill (the dimmer area around a hotspot). This gorgeous beam pattern is thanks to the textured "orange peel" reflector that is used in both the S2 and S3. When I turned on the Serac S2, I was equally impressed. For the record, my particular samples of S2 and S3 had a fairly neutral cool white tint.

Why is a good, smooth beam important? Artifacts in the beam can make weird shadows or make the user "see" movement where there is none. A smooth, gradual transition from hotspot to spill is more useful for a general purpose flashlight because the smooth transition makes the flashlight easier and more comfortable to work up close and read with, as well as navigate trails and paths more easily, without sacrificing too much throw. Simply put, such a beam makes for an excellent and versatile flashlight.

Design and Build Quality:
Each of the three lights is hard anodized 6061-T6 aluminum (commonly called aerospace-grade) with a stainless steel bezel and features a clicky switch located on the back for quick activation and ease of use. Each light also comes with a reversible pocket clip and offers some form of keyring or lanyard attachment. The pocket clip is an often overlooked feature on many competitor's flashlights but Leatherman nailed it with theirs, well-designed and perfectly executed. Since these lights are so small (but not underpowered!) a pocket clip becomes one of the most convenient methods of carry. They are an aesthetically pleasing silver and black, and should age (wear in) gracefully. The lights have a nice sturdy feel and the matte finish makes them easier to grip. I had no problem drawing and using the lights with or without gloves on. Another neat feature of the pocket clip on all three lights is that they are strong (stiff) enough to be used on a baseball cap in lieu of a headlamp.

The tailcap, which contains a reverse clicky switch, is user-removable for easier cleaning of the interior of the light or for switch replacement. The clicky switch has a very robust feel and forms a silicone rubber seal for water resistance. All three lights are capable of tailstanding for use as a "candle" of sorts. You can replace the battery by removing either the bezel (head) or tailcap, but it is easiest to replace through the bezel, which is textured for grip. To reduce the chances of accidental activation, you can unscrew the bezel partially.

-- S1 and S2 --
The S1 and S2 feature the same pocket clip and keyring attachment, which makes sense considering that the S2 is just .25" longer than the S1. The pocket clip is extremely well-designed and allows the light to ride low and discreet, allowing for excellent pocket retention. The minute size and excellent clip on these two AAA lights make them well-suited towards discreet carry in dress attire and would be practically unnoticeable in a suit or summer shorts. You can also reverse the pocket clip if you desire to carry the light bezel-up.

The lanyard ring, or keyring attachment is also detachable -- it clips into a ridge on the light and allows you to remove the light from your keychain quickly and easily. Should you choose not to use the lanyard ring, it smartly doubles as a retainer for the pocket clip, preventing it from sliding off.

A cool thing about the S1 and S2 is that despite having having a clicky activation switch on the back, they still can tailstand. One problem I foresee is that the S1 and S2 actually tailstand on the silicone rubber button, so over time as the button wears down it may become unable to tailstand. As the lights are new, I cannot say whether this will actually be the case. Still, some tailstanding is better than none at all.

-- S3 --
The S3's pocket clip is equally impressive in design -- it is a wire clip similar to that which has become recently popular amongst knife enthusiasts for the discreet carry and comfort during use. A small metal ring gives the wire clip tension to hold onto the light and allows the user to easily switch the light from bezel-up carry to bezel-down, which I prefer on most flashlights, again, for greater discretion and better pocket retention.

Before I got the Leatherman lights I was readying myself to tear them apart in my review ("Leatherman makes flashlights now!?") but -- when I actually received them I was extremely impressed with the careful attention to detail and thought that went into designing these lights. I really like the three Serac lights and I'm glad I got the chance to review them. To those of you thinking of passing over the Leatherman Serac series because Leatherman hasn't traditionally made flashlights -- don't overlook these excellent lights!

They are every bit as good as established competitors in the same price range and add some unique features that make them worth a second look. There are quite a few lights that are similar to the Serac series but the excellent design sensibilities of this Oregon-based company really make them shine. When Leatherman decided to make a new series of lights they really took it seriously and have a compelling product to show for it.

I would really like to see Leatherman offer a 1xAA light seeing how AA batteries are the most commonly available and offer quite a bit more power capacity over common AAA batteries.

I brought the Serac trio to Photon Fest 11, an East Coast flashlight aficionado gathering, and the response was positive. Many jaded flashaholics showed interest in the Seracs and for good reason -- they offer an attractive set of features at a reasonable price.

TL;DR version:
What makes the Leatherman Serac lights special and stand out over the other competitors is: stainless steel bezel, pocket clip, innovative keyring attachment (S1 and S2 only), clicky 1xAAA light, great beam quality, extremely simple to operate. Highly recommended.

MSRP lists the S1 at $30, S2 $55, and S3 at $80. However a quick search reveals that the average price is $25, $50, and $70 respectively. I think this is fairly priced and within the same range as competitors. As of the time of this review, Serac lights have not yet shipped to online retailers but may be found in some brick and mortar stores.

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[gearcarrot.com] Collector and distributor of (mis)information.
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