Sunday, 26 February 2012

Fenix TK35 Review

UPDATE: It is worth noting that Fenix have updated the TK35 since writing this review, and while much of the information still stands, stated brightness and runtime figures are for the older model. 

Key Info
-820 lumens max output (ANSI) – 1hr 33mins, 12 lumens min output (ANSI) – 170 hrs. 
-Cree XM-L LED.
-4 brightness levels, SOS and strobe.
-2 switches – one on/off, other brightness level switch.
-Uses 4x CR123 batteries, or 2x 18650 rechargeable.
-Aluminium body, toughened glass lens, type III anodized finish.
-Waterproof to IPX-8 standard – 8 feet for 30 mins.
-Smooth reflector.
-Very well made.
-Spare O-rings included.
-Constant regulated output.
-330m throw.


The Fenix TK35 is an excellent torch for most tasks. Admittedly, it is not pocket-sized, but it is not very large and heavy either, especially when its output is considered. On 'Turbo' mode, it has similar output (820 ANSI lumens) to a car headlight, and a much nicer beam profile. The battery life is very good, considering the output, and on its lowest brightness level (12 lumens), which, if you're used to 'normal' torches, will seem really bright, you can get 170 hours! Also, the output is regulated by digital circuitry, so the brightness will not slowly reduce as the batteries deplete, but will stay constant until the batteries reach a certain level, when it will drop down to the next brightness level. This is an excellent feature of all Fenix torches, as it means you get the most possible brightness for a long as possible. 

The TK35 is a very tough torch. It comes from the same 'Tactical' family as the T1, Fenix's first tactical torch, which could stand up to massive punishment, such as being burnt, thrown from a plane, submerged for days, frozen etc. This toughness has followed through to the TK35, and while it will probably not take the same punishment as the T1 did, because of its larger size and weight, it should still stand up to much abuse with no ill effects.

The TK35 has 4 brightness levels and 2 flash modes:
-Low – 12 lumens for 170 hours. Suitable for small tasks, such as finding keys at night, or as an emergency light in a power cut.
-Medium – 109 lumens for 16 hours. Suitable for general use, such as walking through a house at night, or average outdoor use.
-High – 346 lumens for 5 hours. Suitable for outdoor use where higher brightness is required. 
-Turbo – 820 lumens for 1 hour 33 minutes. Suitable for search and rescue, or lighting distant objects.
-Strobe – 820 lumens. Used for self defence – extremely blinding and disorientating.
-SOS – used for emergency signalling.

The output levels are chosen by pressing the secondary 'mode switch'. Pressing and holding this switch will activate flashing modes. These output levels seem to be very well chosen. The 'High' output level will probably see the least use, as I imagine most will opt to use Turbo instead, but is still useful to have. The battery life on 'Low' is extremely good. It is an excellent level to have for emergency situations, where spare batteries are scarce, or simply if you want to save money on batteries! 'Low' will seem very bright to those who are used to standard filament bulb torches! 'Turbo' output is very bright. Fenix claim it will throw 330m, and the light is certainly visible for several miles (though obviously it won't throw that far!). There are many occasions, such as indoor use, when 'Turbo' is too bright! It will reflect of surfaces with such intensity that it is blinding to look at. This is when the lower output levels really come in handy.  The 'Medium' output level will see a lot of use. It is a great level for general use, as it is not so bright that it's blinding when up close, but it is not 'dim' either. It is perfect for most situations, and will give a very nice amount of light.

In addition to the four brightness levels, there are two flashing modes – strobe and SOS. These flashing modes are activated by pressing and holding the secondary switch. Strobe mode is extremely effective, and as a self-defence tool, is probably one of the best things you could have. Having this torch strobed in your eyes renders your vision useless for several seconds afterwards, even longer if your eyes are night-adjusted, and is somewhat comparable to walking into a "wall of light"! SOS mode is used for signalling in an emergency, and is visible for several miles. It is at the 109 lumens brightness level, so, while I am not certain of the exact battery life, it is likely to be considerably longer than 16 hours.

The ANSI (American National Standards Institute) technique has been employed to measure output in Lumens. ANSI lumens measure the actual lumens 'out the front', rather than the amount of lumens that the emitter is theoretically capable of at that current level. This means that the 820 lumens of the TK35 is roughly equal to about 1000 emitter lumens of other brands.   

The beam profile on the TK35, like all Fenix torches, is, in my opinion, the best type of beam for a torch. It has a very bright hotspot in the middle, and a clear, defined line between that and the excellent, strong spill beam. There is, perhaps, a very faint hole in the middle of the hotspot, due to the smooth reflector, which has been used to increase throw, but it is only just noticeable when shining it on a white surface and carefully examining the beam. It is not at all noticeable in normal use. 

The TK35 uses 4x CR123 Lithium batteries, or 2x 18650 Li-ion batteries.  While CR123s can be quite expensive, they can be found very cheaply online.  The battery life is very good. While 1 hour, 33 mins on 'Turbo' may not seem like much, 'Turbo' will not be used all the time, and the battery life on the other modes is considerably better. 'Medium' mode battery life is 16 hours, which is very good, considering its output, but by far the best battery life is 'Low' mode, at 12 lumens for 170 hours. 170 hours equates to just over a week of solid use on one set of batteries. In normal use this will last for ages. 

The TK35 has digitally regulated output, which means that the output will not decrease as the batteries deplete. Instead, the torch will remain at a constant brightness level until the batteries can no longer sustain it, when the brightness will drop down to the next mode. This is a much better way of managing power when compared to other 'normal' torches. 

The TK35 is of excellent quality. It is constructed from aluminium, and is very strong. It can take quite a beating without ill effects, and won't mind being dropped or getting wet. It is also waterproof to 8 feet for 30 mins (IPX-8). Another great thing about the TK35 is that the lens is made from toughened glass. So many torches these days use plastic, which just scratches, resulting in a dimmer torch and a horrible beam. Fenix, however, has stuck to glass, which means that the beam is always perfect, and it's really hard to break the lens. Another factor contributing to the toughness of this torch is the Type III Anodizing on the aluminium. It is much harder than the aluminium itself, and is very difficult to scratch compared to powder-coating or paint, resisting scratching caused by being dropped, or rubbing up against objects such as keys over a long period. 

Not only is the TK35 great for specific applications, such as search and rescue, but it also makes an excellent torch if you're looking for a general purpose torch to satisfy all your needs. If you don't already have a decent torch, this is definitely a good one to look into due to its versatility, strength, brightness and good battery life. 

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