Fenix UC50 Flashlight Review
We came across Fenix when we saw their ad in a magazine. The light that they were promoting looked promising. When I took a closer look at their website, I realized that the lights they are producing are not the ones you’re going to find at your local Wal-Mart. They are producing lights with the kind of features and specifications to be named in conversations with LED Lenser and Surefire. They make lights that cover applications such as camping, biking, diving, general outdoors, headlamps, and tactical situations.
We were able to get our hands on the Fenix UC50. It’s an everyday lighting flashlight that also has a place as a tactical light. The non-adjustable head disperses light to a maximum of 945 feet and has 4 brightness modes that range from 10 – 900 lumens. When the package showed up, I was impressed. The construction and feel seemed solid and I was immediately ready to charge it up and take a look at its capabilities.
Fenix UC50 Specifications
- Turbo: 900 lumens, 1 hour 15 minutes
- High: 415 lumens, 2 hours 45 minutes
- Medium: 150 lumens 8 hours 30 minutes
- Low: 10 lumens, 120 hours
- Strobe: 900 lumens
- Max Luminous Distance: 288 meters (945 feet)
- Intensity: 20860cd max
- Impact Resistance: 1 meter (3.28 feet)
- Waterproofing: IPX-8, 2 meters (6.56 feet) underwater
- Light Source: Cree XM-L2 (U2) LED
- Power Source: 2600 mAh, 3.7 V Lithium-ion battery (rechargeable)
- Length: 181 mm (7.13 inches)
- Head Diameter: 40 mm (1.57 inches)
- Weight: 248 grams (8.75 ounces)
- Lens Material: Anti-reflection coated glass
- Warranty: Fenix UC50 – 24 months, Battery – 12 months
- Price: $119.95
Fenix UC50 Features
The Fenix UC50 features aircraft aluminum construction. The surface is protected using a Type III hard anodizing process and anti-abrasive finish. The body is a thinner design that makes for a comfortable and secure traditional or tactical (over the shoulder) carry position. This houses the 3.7 V Lithium-ion battery.
The head is not perfectly round like many flashlights. The Fenix UC50 has five flattened spots around it to prevent it from rolling. This subtle feature is very welcomed.
Moving up to the neck, the diameter increases and houses the electronic communication between the battery and Cree LED light source. The Fenix UC50 head houses the LED in a deep cone that allows for a tighter focus that will reach out to 945 feet in Turbo mode. The lens is made from toughened glass with an anti-reflection coating. How tough and scratch resistant it is, I’m not sure. I have no intention of intentionally finding out. The glass itself is among the clearest I’ve seen. This should result in extremely low light loss from the lens.
There are two buttons at the base of the Fenix UC50. On the back is the on/off switch. Just above it on the side is the gray mode button to adjust between Turbo, High, Medium, and Low modes. Fenix has designed the UC50 to survive falls from up to 3.28 feet and is waterproof up to 6.56 feet. The battery compartment is sealed with an O-ring to help keep moisture out. The charging cradle is powered through a USB connection. A full charge cycle takes about 4 hours 30 minutes.
In addition to the flashlight, battery, and charging cradle, you’ll also get a nylon holster and lanyard. The holster features a sleeve that the light easily slips into and is then secured with a Velcro strap around the head. The back features a belt loop and plastic ring for hanging or clipping. It’s fairly light construction and may start falling apart more quickly than other holsters. With storage being in the charging cradle, this is a minor issue for me.
Using the Fenix UC50
Out of the Box and Charging
The first thing that you’ll notice when you go to charge the Fenix UC50 is that you can’t just plug the charger into the wall. You’ll need to either connect to a USB port on your computer or use another device’s USB/Outlet adapter. My Kindle Fire HDX charging adapter is what I chose. Before you can charge the battery, you’ll need to unscrew the back and remove the tabs on both ends of the battery. They were placed there to prevent any current flow during shipping. There is only one way that you can secure the UC50 in the charging cradle so it’s nearly fool-proof to incorrectly set it in. When you’ve got it right, it will lock into place and feel very secure. The charge indicator will be red while charging and green when fully charged. There is no partial charge indicator.
Grip, On/Off, and Modes
The on/off and mode buttons are designed to be clicked easiest using a tactical (over the shoulder) grip. Turning the Fenix UC50 on and off is very easy from that grip. The mode button is a little trickier. It’s design allows you to use your pointer finger to activate it. I found that it was much easier if I removed my thumb from the on/off to give it a little more flexibility.
The base has a thumb groove in it to adjust the light by feel and put the mode button on your pointer finger without taking your eyes off of what is in front of you. You can have it reverse, but simply turn it 180 degrees or until your finger pad feels the mode button. Some user may find it easier to use their thumb to work both buttons.
With a traditional carry, you’ll need to use two hands to turn the light on and off or change modes. Alternatively, you can flip the light in your hand to work it one handed.
Turning the Fenix UC50 on and off is easy with a simple click of the button on the back. By holding the button down halfway, the light will be on until you remove your finger. The button is recessed enough that a flat surface will not be able to accidentally click it on. It will, however, be enough to hold the light on until the pressure is removed.
When you cycle through the modes, you’ll go from low (10 lumens) to medium (150 lumens), to high (415 lumens), and Turbo (900 lumens). To activate the defensive strobe feature, hold down the mode button for about 1 second. If the power button is in the off position, the strobe will turn off as soon as you remove your finger from it. In the on position, the strobe will stay on until you turn the light off or press the mode button again to return it to the previous mode. The strobe mode is not the traditional steady pulse that comes on most flashlights. This is a true defensive strobe that switches from slow pulse to fast pulse about every 1.5 seconds to keep a person truly disoriented.
The Fenix UC50 will also remember what mode the light was in when you turn it off. It will turn back on in the mode that it was turned off in with the exception of strobe. It’s fairly awkward to do, but if you really want to, you can switch modes while having the light on with just the thumb pressure instead of a full click.
The Fenix UC50 is a combination of a light with outstanding throw (luminous distance) of 945 feet but also practical everyday use. This means that it needs to be able to produce more than just a really long, tight beam. The light produced is characterized by a very even, symmetrical throw. The majority of the reflected light produces a very tight hot spot with the rest creating a small corona. The side spill provides a nice broad flood that is very capable of illuminating the entire back wall of a room upon entry. On turbo mode pointing the light at any light colored wall will reflect enough light to illuminate the entire room.
There are a few tradeoffs with the Fenix UC50. Comparable light from LED Lenser and Surefire are getting more run time by a significant margin in their rechargeable systems. The 850 lumen LED Lenser M17R will run for 5 hours while the 1000 lumen Surefire UNR Commander gets 2.25 hours out of theirs. You won’t get the TIR (Total Integrated Reflector) lens of the SureFire. The 2 year warranty period is also shorter than the 5 years of LED Lenser and lifetime of SureFire.
Let’s talk about the good tradeoffs. LED Lenser’s M17R is only waterproof rated to 3.28 feet while the Fenix UC50 is double that. The big, glaring, monstrous elephant in the room is price. LED Lenser’s M17R is $400. Surefire’s UNR Commander is $665. Fenix UC50 is just $119.95.
The light attributes of the Fenix UC50 are outstanding at any price point. Combined with the fact that this is a rechargeable system, I don’t think you’ll find a better value for the combination of light quality and durable construction. The tradeoffs required, in my opinion, are easily offset by the price. With the 50,000 hour life of the Cree XML2 LED, the only question left in my mind is the quality of the Lithium-ion battery and waterproofing. These are questions that only time will be able to answer for me. Out of the box and new, the Fenix UC50 is a player in the high end flashlight market and seriously worth your consideration.
Don't let the Fenix UC50's minor feature shortcomings overshadow that this is an outstanding rechargeable flashlight at a price point that is equally as good.
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