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Astrolux FT03 Mini – Copper review
|Brand/model||Astrolux FT03 Mini – Copper|
|LED||CREE XHP50.2 (3V)|
|Beam intensity||51,000 cd|
|Review date||November 2020|
There are a lot of things in life that people buy not because they need them and not because they’re practical, but because they’re just cool or aesthetically pleasing. Think things like sports cars and high-end timepieces. To me, the Astrolux FT03 Mini Copper fits squarely in that bucket. You don’t need it, but boy do you want it! It’s heavy, it’s flashy, it’s a hot-rod…. but oh so cool.
The FT03 Mini arrived in pretty typical Astrolux packaging: a sturdy white cardboard box embossed with an image of the flashlight with custom-cut white foam inside. Inside this nice box was:
- Astrolux FT03 Mini Copper (with an 18650 tube installed)
- A 18350 tube
- Spare o-rings
One thing I will say… I feel like copper (and sometimes brass) flashlights commonly arrive in a vacuum-sealed package. The FT03 Mini did not arrive vacuum sealed, yet there was little to no sign of oxidation. Granted, this is a brand new light that hasn’t been sitting around long. But either this flashlight has a coating on it or Astrolux is welcoming the oxidation (“patina”) that is normal with copper and many people enjoy. I’m guessing it’s the forming – the light is probably coated.
Handling of the light
This Astrolux has a single switch, an e-switch on the head of the flashlight. As far as handling goes, it’s a pretty comfortable size when using the 18650 tube. With the 18350 tube, it’s a bit stubby and perhaps a bit silly looking. But hey, I’m not going to complain about having the option for 18350 or 18650.
The FT03 Mini is slippery. There is some rectangular knurling, but that does little for grip when the light is polished smooth. Oh, and it’s heavy. Ya know, it’s solid copper, right? Copper is heavy and so is this solid copper flashlight. But you knew that going in – it’s no surprise.
Build Quality, Knurling, Threads, and anodization
When I first opened the box of the FT03 Mini Copper, I might have giggled a little bit. It’s just so shiny (queue up the Moana soundtrack)! The copper looks great and has a really good polish to it. My sample did arrive with a slight scratch on the head – noticeable, but not the end of the world.
The threads are square and smooth. I was able to remove the bezel (no glue) which revealed the aux LED board in addition to the main LED. This is my first flashlight that I’ve had that has forward-facing aux LEDs with a reflector, and I’ve gotta say – it’s pretty neat. Granted, I’m a huge fan of aux LEDs. My lights need lights.
The tailcap has dual springs, which is an appreciated touch. The driver has a brass button for a contact.
LED, LENS, BEZEL, AND REFLECTOR
On the business end of the FT03 Mini, you’ll find a lightly crenulated bezel – just enough so that you’ll know if it’s on when sitting head-down. In the middle of that is AR (anti-reflective) glass sitting atop a smooth reflector. The reflector opening is nicely centered around the XHP50.2 3V. Speaking of that, Astrolux also offers this same light with a Luminus SST40 or an Osram NM1. Flanked on each side of the primary LED is an RGB LED. There is a gasket, but it’s not visible unless you remove the reflector.
Typically with the newer Cree LEDs you’ll see a pretty ugly tint shift as you transition from the hotspot to the corona. You really can’t get away from that, especially with a smooth reflector (that is, unless you install some D-C Fix or something). So if you do any white-wall hunting, yes… the Cree rainbow is present on the XHP50.2 version of this light.
- Length with 18350 tube: 113.7 mm / 4.5 inches
- Length with 18650 tube: 144.8 mm / 5.7 inches
- Head diameter: 43.5 mm / 1.7 inches
- Body diameter: 25.5 mm / 1.0 inches
- No battery, 18350 tube: 330 grams / 11.6 ounces
- No battery, 18650 tube: 371 grams / 13.1 ounces
Astrolux brothers, left to right: Astrolux MF01 Mini, Astrolux FT03 Mini Copper
And some popular flashlights.
Common lights, left to right: Sofirn SC31B, Convoy S2+, Astrolux FT03 Mini Copper, Sofirn C8
Driver & User Interface:
- Single-click: ON
- Double click: High (Top of ramp, to get to Turbo, you need to do another double click)
- 3 clicks: Access the blinky/utility modes.
Enter Special/Fun modes from OFF:
- 2 clicks + hold: Strobe modes
- 4 clicks: Lock Out mode
- 5 clicks: Momentary on
- 6 clicks: Muggle mode
- Single-click: Off
- Double click: Turbo
- 3 clicks: change ramping mode.. Instead of a smooth increase, it has 6 little steps between Lowest and Max.
- 4 clicks: change to ramping configuration mode
- Press and hold: brightness ramps up.. release and press and hold again to ramp down.
INTERESTING, SPECIAL AND FUN MODES:
Please read the manual carefully to know how to access or customize these modes. Also see the firmware picture, above.
- Blinky Utility mode:
- Battery check
- Sunset Mode
- Beacon mode
- Temperature check
Strobe / Mood modes:
When in the strobes mode, double-click to rotate between them – all modes except party strobe are brightness, changed the same way as a normal ramp. In party strobe mode, ramping up and down will increase and decrease the frequency of the strobe, for incredible effects.
- Bike flasher
- Party strobe
- Tactical Strobe
- Lightning mode
- Lockout mode (can’t use the light)
- Lockout mode is available by clicking four times from off – while in lockout mode, click-and-hold will light up at bottom of the ramp, and a double-click-and-hold will light up somewhat brighter. This is to give you a way to quickly use the light if necessary, but if it activates in your pocket, it will only be at very low modes, and only for as long as the button is pressed. No more holes in pants!
- Momentary mode (signaling/ morse coding)
- Muggle mode: (safer for children)
- Configuration mode
- Ramp config mode
- You will be able to detect some PWM at low modes via phone camera, but as soon as it kicked in higher, it disappears. None of it was able to be detected by eye, though.
Protection Features (Low Voltage Protection)
- Yes, the light will step down until the voltage gets critically low, at which point it will turn off
- Yes, it will come on in the last used brightness
The driver does have programming pads on the spring side, but they’re in a straight line – not a programming key configuration that I’m familiar with.
Batteries & Charging
The FT03 Mini has built-in USB-C charging. I observed a charge rate of 1.47 amps. I was somewhat concerned about the charging circuit when the light arrived: the USB-C jack is sitting cockeyed and I feared that I couldn’t get the plug inserted properly. But alas, it did charge just fine.
Protected batteries do not fit – they’re too long and don’t allow the tailcap to screw down all the way.
For current measurements, a ANENG AN8008 multimeter and UNI-T UT210E clamp meter were used. Lux was measured by a UNI-T UT383 BT at 10 meters. Lumens were measured in a homemade lumen tube using a TSL2591 sensor, calibrated against several known lights. The temperature was monitored with an MLX90614 IR temperature sensor.
The following tests were performed with a freshly charged (and recharged) non-protected Samsung 30Q cell. And for the sake of having defined modes to measure, I switched the FT03 Mini into the default stepped mode configuration. Thermal calibration was performed (it was off by about 8°C from the factory).
- Standby: 22 uA
- Step 1: 5.3 mA
- Step 2: 40 mA
- Step 3: 143 mA
- Step 4: 349 mA
- Step 5: 1.24 A
- Step 6: 3.04 A
- Step 7: 6.14 A
- Turbo: 14.43 A
In Turbo mode, the FT03 Mini started out at 4637 and it held pretty steady for the first 2 ½ minutes. Over the next 2 minutes it ramped down to 198 lumens, where it stayed for 12 more minutes when it had finally dissipated enough heat to ramp back up. Due to Andúril’s thermal control, output varied up and down before eventually dropping steeply down at 107 minutes.
I performed a second run, this time using the top of the default stepped modes. Output started at 2394 lumens and by 30 seconds was still at 2273 lumens. At 5 minutes, it had finally warmed up enough to cause a drop in output. It rapidly decreased to 198 lumens before bouncing back to the 500-700 lumen range. Light output dropped down sharply at 123 minutes.
- Step 1: 2 lumens
- Step 2: 23 lumens
- Step 3: 85 lumens
- Step 4: 208 lumens
- Step 5: 620 lumens
- Step 6: 1326 lumens
- Step 7: 2394 lumens
- Turbo @ 0 sec: 4637 lumens
- Turbo @ 30 sec: 4290 lumens (spec: 4200)
- Lux at 10 meters: 528
- = 52,800 cd (spec: 51,000 cd)
- = 460 meters of throw (503 yards) (spec: 452 m)
Outdoor beam shots are taken at 25m (82ft) using a Pixel 3 set to ISO 200 with ½ second exposure time
- Astrolux FT03 Mini Copper
- Powertac E5R-G4
- Brinyte PT28
- Convoy M21C-U
- Sofirn SP33 V3
- Convoy C8 XP-L HI
Disclaimer: This flashlight was sent to me for review at no cost, by Banggood. I have not been paid to review, nor have I been holding back on problems or defects.
- USB-C charging
- RGB Aux LEDs
- Andúril firmware
- Arrived blemished
- USB-C port misalignment
- Short-lived brightness
5 stars: ★★★★★
I struggle a bit on how to rate this. I initially typed out 4 stars. Partially due to a couple of quality concerns that I noticed (the blemish and the misaligned charging port), but I have to think that those are anomalies. At least I hope they are. But my other, and primary, detractor was that while the FT03 is quite bright with the hot-rod XHP50.2 LED, it doesn’t last too long before dropping down to a measly 200 lumens for around 12 minutes.
However, the more I thought about this… If you’re interested in the Copper version (likely a shelf queen) of a mid-sized light with a hot-rod 4000+ lumens FET-driven monster, then you know what you’re in for. You’ve got a beautiful, heavy beast of a hot-rod that’s going to blaze through the ¼ mile but then limp back to the starting line. This isn’t (or shouldn’t be) a surprise, it’s all part of the hot-rod show.
So just as long as you know what you’re in for, I think you’ll be really pleased with the FT03 Mini Copper. It’s a beautiful piece to add to your collection and to take off the shelf every now and then and play with. But if you’re looking for a proper EDC, this isn’t the light for you – that’s a whole different category.