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Reviews > Lighting > Flashlights - LED > Fenix MC11 LED Flashlight > Test Report by Larry Kirschner

Fenix MC11 LED Flashlight

TEST SERIES BY LARRY KIRSCHNER

Fenix MC11


INITIAL REPORT - July 23, 2011
FIELD REPORT - October 24, 2011
LONG-TERM REPORT - December 4, 2011



TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Larry Kirschner
EMAIL: asklarry98 at hotmail dot com
AGE: 47
LOCATION: Columbus, OH
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 200 lb (91 kg)

I've been an intermittent camper/paddler since my teens, but now that my kids are avid Boy Scouts, I've caught the backpacking bug. I typically do 8-10 weekend hikes per year, and have spent time over the past few years backpacking the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico and canoeing the Atikaki wilderness of Canada and the Boundary Waters between the US and Canada. I like to travel "in comfort", but I've shrunk to medium weight, and continue to work toward going lighter and longer. With all of my investment into these ventures, I expect my wife and I will continue to trek long after the kids are gone…


INITIAL REPORT
July 23, 2011

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Fenixlight, Ltd
Year of Manufacture: 2011
Country of Manufacture: China
Manufacturer's Website: www.fenixlight.com (although the company also appears to own www.fenixgear.com and www.fenixtactical.com as retailing sites)
MSRP: USD $44.95

Listed Weight: 53.5 g (1.89 oz) (excluding batteries)
Measured weight: 67 g (2.33 oz) (60 g/2.12 oz flashlight, 3 g/0.11 oz diffuser, 4 g/0.14 oz wrist strap). Note that trail weight was measured at 90 g (3.2 oz), which is 67 g/2.33 oz plus 23 g/0.81 oz for AA battery

Listed size: 99mm (Length) x 21.5mm (Diameter) x 25 mm (Head) (3.9 in x 0.85 in x 0.98 in)
Measured size: as noted above. The 25 mm/0.98 in head length describes the amount that the head sticks out from the cylindrical body of the light.



ITEM DESCRIPTION

The Fenix MC11 light (the 'Fenix' or the 'MC11') is described as a "multifunctional angle light" which can be used as an "L-shaped flashlight, camping light and headlamp". To me, it seems to be a pocket-sized angle light with a pivoting head which should be useful on the trail and in other situations.

How big is a Fenix?

The MC11 uses an XP-E LED (R2) LED bulb with a reported lifespan of 50,000 hours. The maximum brightness of the lamp is 81 lumens, and it is reported as having an 87 m (285 ft) beam distance. The LED bulb essentially functions as a spot light, and the MC11 comes with a small plastic attachment that acts as a beam diffuser to produce light more suitable for activities like reading. The Fenix is powered by a single 1.5V AA battery. The manufacturer recommends a 1.2V Ni-MH battery, but notes that 1.5V alkaline batteries or non-rechargeable lithium batteries can be used. Rechargeable 3.7V Li-ion batteries are not suitable for the Fenix. The manufacturer notes that the light output is digitally regulated to maintain a constant brightness. The light also has "reverse polarity protection" to prevent any damage from inserting the battery upside-down.

The MC11 itself is constructed from a plastic-aluminum alloy that provides it a hard, black shell. It is rated to be impact resistant to 1.5 m (5 ft). There is a metal clip wrapped around the center of the light that appears to be suitable for clipping the light onto a belt, backpack strap, or something similar. There is also a triangular closed metal hanger in case I want to hang the light or (for example) clip it to a carabineer. Finally, the Fenix comes with a wrist strap which attaches to a plastic loop near the lamp's head.

Fenix apart

One of the interesting features of the Fenix is that it is capable of functioning as a freestanding light, which is convenient for placing it on a table. Also, as promoted by the manufacturer, the head can swivel up and down, to about 45 degrees in either direction. The swivel mechanism is ratcheted with 3 clicks in either direction, so there is a good range of angles which the lamp head will hold. The photo below shows the head flexed backwards fully.

Fenix flexed backwards

The bottom of the lamp twists off to reveal the battery compartment. There is a rubber o-ring at the top of the cap which should protect the insight from water. A replacement o-ring was also supplied in the package. The lamp is rated waterproof to the IPX-8, which means it should be protected water submersion. The box indicates that the MC11 is safe for submersion up to 2 m (6.5 ft).

The lamp is operated by means of a single pushbutton on the top of the head.

Fenix top--check out the logo on the button!

Depressing the button turns it on and off, which is always a good start. Beam intensity is adjusted by holding down the button for 0.7 seconds. The headlamp cycles in the order of low, medium, high. It also has 2 flashing modes: strobe and SOS mode. Flashing modes are also selected by holding down the button for 0.7 seconds. The MC11 is changed from 'regular' mode to flashing mode by 2 quick depressions of the button.

Burn length on a single AA battery is rated as follows for each of the modes:


High
Med
Low
Strobe
SOS
Output (lumens)
81
36
3
135
36
Runtime
1hr 43 min
6h 14 min
53 hr




The photo below shows the differences in settings. Note that all the photos were taken at the same time with my point-and-shoot camera, so any differences in the apparent brightness reflects the camera trying to compensate for more light from the Fenix. The photo using the diffuser was taken on the medium setting

Fenix light settings




INSTRUCTIONS

The MC11 came with instructions printed in English and Chinese, which basically outline the features described above. There are some usage and maintenance instructions, including the recommendation to use high-quality batteries, and to remove them if the light will not be used for an extended period. There is also a note that the cap can be unscrewed for half a turn to prevent the light from accidentally turning on.

The MC11 comes with a registration card and warranty, which indicates that products can be replaced within 15 days of purchase for manufacturing defects. Further, the light will be repaired free of charge within 24 months of purchase if problems "develop with normal use." Beyond that, repairs will be made based on the cost of replacement parts needed.


TRYING IT OUT

I installed the battery, the wrist strap, and the diffuser attachment onto the Fenix, and then started playing around with it. It was a little tricky for me at first to figure out the different modes, but with a little practice (and much jeering from my sons) I was able to make it work as expected. The medium and bright modes are fairly bright, but the low mode seems rather dark. Of course, my lighting needs on the trail may be quite different from sitting around the kitchen table. The head swivels easily and I do like the fact that the light can stand on its own. I played a little with the diffuser attachment. This is a small plastic piece that can be installed either on the top or the bottom of the head. Compare the photo below with the one at the top of the report.

Diffuser on the bottom

It doesn't seem to make much difference, although maybe it sticks out less when I put it on the bottom.


INITIAL IMPRESSIONS and EXPECTATIONS

I am not familiar with Fenix products, but I am impressed with the apparent quality of the light. It is small and seems quite sturdy. I'm a little concerned about battery life, but I will have to assess this during the testing period.


THE STORY SO FAR
    Impressive
  • Small and sturdy
  • Good variety of lighting modes
  • Only needs 1 AA battery
    Questions
  • Will the Fenix eat batteries?
  • What will be the best way to provide hands-free use on the trail?
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FIELD REPORT

October 24, 2011


FIELD CONDITIONS

I took the Fenix with me on a 12-day trip to Cimarron, New Mexico, for backcountry hiking in the Sangre de Cristo mountains. We covered 82 miles (132 km) on the trip in weather that ranged from a significant thunderstorm to warm sunshine. Temperatures ranged from a low of 50 F to a high of 85 F (10 to 29 C). All in all, beautiful weather for backpacking!

from the top of Mt. Baldy I took the Fenix with me with the plan to use it as my main light source on the trail. However, I also brought a headlamp as a backup plan. I usually don't like to carry extra weight, but I didn't want to be in the dark in the backcountry if anything happened.

Fortunately, the Fenix performed like a champ. Although I was concerned that the low light setting might not be sufficient to light my way when I was backpacking, the lowest setting provided plenty of light for routine use. I could walk around my campsite or read in the tent easily when the light was on low. I typically kept the diffuser lowered, although there were a few times when I was trying to find something in the distance (e.g., the latrine). For these occasions, I flipped the diffuser up and used a brighter light setting. I found that this provided a good beam of light for searching far away. I also found that the light provided excellent illumination when I was trying to peer through a glass window into a darkened room.

The size of the Fenix was very handy, as I usually carried the light around in the outer pocket of my pants. It is small enough that I often forgot I was carrying it. Even though the light got slightly damp in my pocket, I never had any trouble, suggesting to me that the waterproofing is adequate for routine use.

Because I mostly used the lowest light setting, one battery was plenty of juice for 12 days on the trail.

Although all the features of the Fenix worked well, I had one MAJOR complaint about it, which has significant diminished my enthusiasm for taking it back into the backcountry. I noted in my initial report how I thought it was handy that the light can stand on its own. The problem is that there are very few flat spaces in a backcountry campsite. Thus, I struggled with using the light for reading in my tent. I typically let it lie on my chest with the head pointing up. This worked satisfactorily, although the Fenix had a tendency to roll. This was particularly troublesome when I was trying to change my clothes or rearrange anything inside the tent. I tried putting it on the tent floor, but it invariably fell over, meaning I couldn't see what I was doing. In order to do anything effectively with my hands, I found it necessary to hold the Fenix sideways in my mouth. Although this strategy worked, it was uncomfortable and limited how fast I could do things. By the same token, I found that if I needed to carry the light when I walked around in the dark, it was necessary to keep it in my hand. I tried clipping it to my shirt or pants, but it tended to slip to one side or the other. Thus, if I didn't need to use both hands, the Fenix was great. If I was doing something 2-handed (and I'm mostly ambidextrous, so I do this a lot), I struggled with it.


FIELD IMPRESSIONS

To date, I love the functionality of the Fenix MC11, but I don't like the fact that it is pretty useless if I don't have an extra hand to hold it. To be honest, there were times in the backcountry when I got frustrated and just used my headlamp instead. I'll see if my opinion changes any over the Long Term part of test, as I'll be doing less backcountry and more cabin camping over the next 2 months.

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LONG-TERM REPORT
December 4, 2011

FIELD CONDITIONS

Over the last 2 months, I took the Fenix with me on a weekend trip in Newark, Ohio. I have also used the Fenix for a variety of small projects around the house that required a flashlight. For example, I used it for some plumbing work and for lining up holes while assembling furniture. Also, it was handy for looking in my kids' throats when they were feeling sick!


FIELD EXPERIENCE

When I went camping in November, I arrived after sunset and hiked about ½ mile (1 km) with my pack up to the cabin. While hiking in the dark, I clipped the Fenix onto the sternum strap of my pack. This arrangement worked well, as the light remained focused in front of me. I dropped off my pack and went back to the car to get more gear. As I was no longer wearing my pack on the walk back, I had nowhere to clip the light where it would stay pointing forwards. This problem is the same one that I had identified in my backcountry usage of the Fenix.

In terms of burn time, I am still using the same battery with which I started. The battery has not shown any signs of running out of energy to date. Thinking about the 14 trails nights I have used the lamp plus some miscellaneous usage, I would think I've used it for about 7-8 hours of burn time, almost all of which has been on the low setting. As the product manual indicates a burn time of 53 hours on the low setting, I expect it will continue to run for a long time.


SUMMARY

All in all, I like the Fenix MC-11 light. It is reasonably lightweight, compact, and provides an excellent amount of light. However, the fact that I can only get it to point the right way when I hold it in my hand is a major limitation. Thus, although it is a great little flashlight, I don't think it will replace a headlamp in the backcountry. I expect that I will continue to use it around the house as a utility light.

Things I liked about the Fenix MC-11 Flashlight
  • Excellent light source
  • Sturdy and compact
  • Only requires 1 AA battery
Things I disliked about the Fenix:
  • Generally can only be used by holding in hand

This concludes my report on the Fenix MC-11 Anglelight. My thanks to Fenix for providing this light for testing and to BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to participate in the evaluation process.

-larry kirschner


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