Monday, April 25, 2016

Fenix RC11-compact rechargeable 18650 flashlight REVIEW



It was a long time since my last review of a Fenix flashlight.
Now about two years later they offered me to review their new rechargeable RC11 model,and here it is-my Fenix RC11 tests and thoughts.
As usual,expectations are high when talking about a flashlight from one of the most popular and trusted brands.
Follow my review below to learn more and find out if the RC11 covers most of your expectations.
I am usually trying to not fill up the review with enormous amount of pictures,but I really like to show every aspect of the flashlight in details.



Here is a size comparison-
Fenix 18650 battery,Fenix PD35,Fenix RC11,Olight S30,ThruNite TC12
The TC12 is also rechargeable. The S30 is in its non-rechargeable version,but it is available in S30R version,which has built-in charging circuit.
Unlike the PD35,S30 and TC12,the RC11 lacks cooling fins.


First three flashlights have a Cree XM-L2 LED. The TC12 has Cree XP-L LED.
My Fenix PD35 is from its first version with the XM-L2 LED. Later it was updated with an XP-L LED.
All flashlights with almost identical head diameter and very similar reflectors. 2cm reflector diameter.


Tail side. PD35 and TC12 with a rear switch. RC11 and S30 only with a side switch.
In difference with Olight S30,Fenix RC11 does not feature strong magnet in its tail cap.


Here is an interesting comparison of the side switches.
Each model with a different idea for a side switch shape-every designer implement its understanding for a side switch easy to press,
in the same time meeting the requirement for accidental activating protection.
This requirement is in higher importance in the Fenix RC11 and Olight S30,as they are only operated by a side switch.
There is no physical switch-hard to press accidentally.



Below are couple of pictures of the plastic box and the RC11's Instruction manual.







User interface.
The UI is optimally clean. 5 brightness levels,plus hidden Strobe mode.
Fenix has chosen the variant of switching the light On/Off after pressing the switch and holding it for 0,5sec.
Cycling the modes is possible by briefly pressing the switch.
Strobe can be activated from Off or On state. Press and hold the switch for 1,2sec to activate it. Press again the switch to return to the previously used constant brightness mode.
Strobe mode is flashing with variable frequency.
The driver electronics memorizes all modes except Strobe and activate the last used mode next time when you turn On the light.

For better accidental activating protection,the switch can be electronically locked.

Read carefully the info below,regarding the Low voltage warning function.




Fenix RC11 comes in set with a battery,the specific Fenix charging cable,very simple lanyard,one spare O-ring.
A simple holster is also included,as it is virtually unchanged from the Fenix PD35 set.
No velcro on the back.Thin synthetic material. In size,the holster fits pretty well.
However,many could prefer another more sturdy holster.




Here is a close up of the switch and my thumb on it. You can figure out the approximate size of the button and its height.
The switch has metallic feel. 7mm button diameter. The switch is relatively soft and quite protruding allowing easy operation-but in many cases,easier to accidentally press it,while carrying in the pocket or a backpack.
In my experience the switch requires higher attention than the average. It will appreciate also using the electronic lock out function. Good news is that the head can be easily lock-out thanks to the anodized threads.



Right on the opposite side of the switch is the magnetic charging port of the RC11.
As you can see from the pictures(especially if you have a rechargeable Klarus flashlight) the port shares the same idea with the initially introduced magnetic port in the rechargeable Klarus flashlights.
The switch has a magnet in it,as well as the charging cable. Note it if you are carrying magnetic field sensitive devices. The magnets are probably not as strong,but definitely worth to mention this detail of the flashlight.
The RC11 is equipped with a nice sturdy pocket clip. Pretty securely mounted. It is quite stiff to keep the flashlight well attached.

Here you can see the magnetic port in good detail.(click on any of the pictures to go to Flickr and see them in even higher resolution).


The supplied with the RC11 charging cable is of a new type,patented by Fenix.
The new cable combines a regular MicroUSB cable with the other part of the magnetic connecting port.

On the top we can see a status indicator-flashing in Green light when charging and constant when charging is finished.
The usual charging time of the included 18650 battery is 4 hours,according to the specifications.
Terminating voltage on my sample is 4,16V. It is pretty much in the safe range and will keep the battery in a good condition.
The maximum charging current may reach 1A.


Connecting the cable is easy. The connected cable is not fixed to the flashlight and can be rotated,without disconnecting it.





Here is a close up of the switch and the laser engravings.


More views of the switch.


Here is an interesting comparison with the ThruNite's Neutron 2Cv2 flashlight.


A look at the quality and depth of knurling.
(All pictures were not improved in any way.)


The RC11 disassembled on two parts. I managed to unscrew only the head. I could not confirm if the tail cap is also removable.
Fenix uses physical reverse polarity protection-for protection of inserting the battery in reverse position.


As usual for Fenix,the threads are impressive-great machine work with excellent anodizing on my sample.


The flashlight is meant for use with a protected battery and most long protected Sanyo and Panasonic batteries fit well.
Of course the RC11 comes with the Fenix 18650 protected battery,so the need of finding a good battery after receiving the flashlight is not actual.



Close up of the tail-cap. Two holes for lanyard attaching. Pretty well rounded edges.


Cree XM-L2 LED. Ultra clear glass lens with anti-reflective coating. Aluminum reflector.
Perfectly centered LED.



Run/time performance.
As usual I test how the actual review flashlight performs on its highest mode,as the lower modes,if much less bright than the highest will take quite a long time for taking measurements.
In most cases the real output performance is clearly visible when testing the driver on its highest mode. Outputs of over 800 lumens are hard to be regulated to a constant value with a single Li-Ion battery and also generate strong heat,which forces the engineers to program the driver with a timed step down,to prevent overheating.
Below is the RC11 tested with the kit Fenix 18650 battery.

Unlike other times,I tested the flashlight three times on Turbo mode. I got very different results when testing the flashlight for Lumen output and run-time.
I got numbers from 930 to 1100 lumens initial. After some hesitation,which is the accurate measurement and how I get so different results,I found that even a little more tightening the head increases the output significantly.
This means that the metal contact ring in the head does not make so good contact with the aluminum battery tube,or the contact surface of this material has high current resistance.
In normal use,without measuring the output it will be hard to tell the difference,but this are about 70 lumens less.
So,if you have this flashlight,be sure to tighten the head as much as possible.

Fenix RC11 is programmed to lower the output 5 minutes after working on Turbo mode. It decreases the output to High mode.
In my test the output is over 1000 lumens in the first 5 minutes. That is a great result for such a small flashlight with not so large mass.
According to Fenix you can get back the max output by restarting the flashlight,but it is recommended to do it only if necessary.
With such a high output the flashlight gets hot quickly and may be damaged if you keep it constantly on its maximum output.
However,from my experience,if you are using the RC11 in a cold winter night,it could be ran on max mode without much concerns.

When the battery is almost empty,the RC11 will decrease its output to Mid mode and few minutes later to Low mode.
It will keep this state as long as the battery protection kiks-in. In my test this state lasted longer than two hours,before I stopped the test.
This means,it is not recommended to use unprotected batteries with this flashlight.
I did not waited enough to see the low voltage warning noted in the instructions.



Run/time comparison of Fenix RC11,Olight S30 and ThruNite TC12.
All flashlights on their max mode.
Note/Olight S30 and ThruNite TC12 tested with a Panasonic 3400mAh battery.
Fenix RC11 with its 2600mAh battery.


As every switch which activates the light electronically,the switch on the RC11 requires some current to keep the electronics ready to react on a signal from the switch,when the flashlight is turned Off(it is in Standby state).
I measured about 1mA current draw in the first few seconds and 45uA afterwards. There are much more economic examples of Standby drain,but yet 45microAmps is in the acceptable range for a flashlight powered by an 18650 battery.
My lumen measurements of the Fenix RC11-
Turbo mode 1080Lm initial/ 1055Lm 30sec later/ 1000Lm before step down
High mode 520Lm
Mid mode 166Lm
Low mode 61Lm
Eco 8Lm


Beam profile.

Close to the wall.


At 1 meter distance. White wall.
The light from the Cree XM-L2 LED mounted in the RC11 is Cool white with no visible tints,in normal use.
Compared to my XM-L2 version of the PD35,the light is much cleaner with no sign of the green hue that many of the PD35's have,especially compared to cleaner beams.
With visually identical reflectors,the beam profile is very similar. Big,well defined,homogeneous hotspot with a good clean spill.
There are no noticeable artifacts or rings in the beam. There is clearly visible tint difference between the hotspot and the corona around it.The corona has some yellowish in it,but this is pretty normal for beam from a reflector with smooth reflecting surface. At long distance and surface different from a white wall,this difference should not be noticeable,at all.


1 meter White wall
1/20sec




1 meter White wall
1/250sec


1 meter White wall
1/1600sec



5 meters,1/6sec



5 meters 1/6sec



5 meters 1/50sec




Thanks for reading!
Thanks to Fenix for providing the RC11 for test and review!

I hope you enjoyed the review and it was helpful.
I will leave the review without the usual Good and Weak points,as I may add them and more thoughts after some more use of the RC11.
So far the RC11 performed very well in my tests,with the only concern about the very protruded side switch.
The 10 lumen lowest mode could be unacceptable for many,too.
Overall,depending on the way of use and requirements,the RC11 is a great choice if you are on a market for a rechargeable flashlight,as it even comes with a full kit to start using it.