Illuminator flashlight has to be seen to be believed. To create the photo above, I put my camera on a tripod and simply began lighting up a number of boats and mooring buoys about 500 to 700 yards away. The beam is so tight I was able to do so without blinding either myself or (hopefully) anyone who was on their boat in the outer harbor of Camden, Maine, where I was moored.
Powered by three D-cell batteries, the Ultra Long Range flashlight is big—13 inches long—and seems to be heavy enough to take down a large mammal if used as a club. Marinebeam (marinebeam.com) doesn’t make claims about its being waterproof, but I noted the light has a pair of O-rings where the big lens screws on to the body. The rubber-encased switch is on the tail end and cycles between full power, half power and a strobe function that would definitely get someone’s attention if your aim was good.
The heart of the beast is the little LED assembly immediately behind the lens. It uses a technique called Recycled Light Technology (thus the RLT) to multiply and collimate the relatively modest 300 lumen LED chip into a beam with a rated usable range of over 2,100 feet, which might normally take 2,800 lumens to achieve, according to Marinebeam’s detailed write-up.
The thick reverse fisheye-style lens also has something to do with how far the Ultra can throw light, as shown in the photo above Without the lens, the flashlight appears to have a fairly normal conical beam, but evidently the lens works with the RLT to produce that highly focused spot. Note that with the lens on, even that bit of light on the table is not spillover, but rather a reflection from the white board. Note, too, that the ability to collimate 300 lumens so tightly is why this flashlight can purportedly run 12 hours at full power on three fresh D cells. According to Marinebeam’s resident geek, Jeff Field, RLT is also why this sort of long-range spot beam will eventually come out in smaller, less expensive flashlights and may also work well in a high-power pan-and-tilt marine spotlight (stay tuned for more on that).
I had fun trying to photograph the Ultra’s special properties. Above is another composite image showing the LED to the right and, to the left, what the Ultra beam looks like once it’s 10 feet or more from a white surface. The beam is square and so sharply collimated you can make out the two tiny electrical connectors that slightly block the Cree XPG2 LED’s surface (the two dots on the left edge of the square). I believe the black lines around the LED itself are the back of the reflective material that’s pushing high-angle spillover light back onto the LED phosphorus where it becomes more light focused across the harbor.
RLT was invented by Dr. Kenneth Li, who’s working with Marinebeam and companies serving other niches, like bike lights. It is an unusual and promising technology to keep an eye on in the years to come.
Ed note: For more of Ben’s insights into marine electronics, go to panbo.com
All photos by Ben Ellison