Lumintop FW3A review | EDC Flashlight
Table of contents
By now, those amongst the flashlight community all know the long and varied history of the FW3A – a joint venture between TLF and BLF with manufacturing provided by Lumintop, this light took almost two years to the day after its inception. The brief seemed simple – single 18650, triple emitter with Carclo optics, tail e-switch, great firmware.
The Lumintop FW3A accepts 18650 batteries with a size of an average 18350 flashlight. Yes, it’s that tiny. It is probably one of the shortest 18650 flashlights on the market. Although it fits right into your pocket, it can also produce a bunch of light when needed, with the most sophisticated UI.
What you’ll get:
The light was packaged well in the traditional Lumintop box – plain cardboard sleeve with image outlines and name, with the actual box inside. The light is well padded inside the box with a foam insert, and I have no fear that this will stand up to all but the most negligent/vicious handling en route. Opening the box up, it contained:
- The FW3A
- Battery insertion card
- A small plastic bag with O-rings and the glass lens requested
|Beam intensity||10,000 cd|
|Modes||Many: Anduril UI|
Handling of the FW3A EDC light
The BLF/TLF team has been putting their heads together to come up with the best bang for the buck and the shortest possible 18650 light with a triple XP-L engine.
That being said, the Lumintop FW3A is definitely short and probably one of the shortest 18650 flashlights on the market. It’s barely longer than an average 18350 cell or even an AA flashlight. This makes it a great EDC flashlight. That being said, you shouldn’t think this is to be a tactical flashlight, since it’s not tactical at all. The UI is too complicated for that purpose. I would never use this light as a self-defense tool, ever. But it’s great for everyday carry, or just for playing around.
The body is smooth and tapered and there is only knurling on 2 parts of the body; namely the head, and tailcap. The switch is an electronic switch without a ‘click’. Mine also squeaks, and I will try to find a way to get rid of the sound, but it might be the design of the switch.
Pocket clip The pocket clip was already attached when I received the light. It’s pretty stiff and seems of good quality.
Please do not take off the tailcap, since you might end up losing small parts of the tailcap and ruin your flashlight. This problem has been eradicated since the original design has been upgraded.
- Tailstand is easy, as it was designed as flat as possible – this light is very stable when tailstanding, even with a schooner (425mL glass) sitting on it as a diffuser!
Build Quality, anodization
Lumintop makes some great products, and the FW3A seems to be a great fit for their current lineup. Knurling and anodization are done well. No missing spots or blemishes can be found anywhere on the light.
One thing I’m not really sure about is the switch. After taking the tailcap apart and putting it back (right after I received the package) the switch felt really uncomfortable. It squeaks when you press the button from the side, and it misses that “clicky” feel that I am used to with other flashlights. I complained in the Budgetlightforum thread, and it seems that there were a few batches with this “squeaky” sound and a little uncomfortable switch.
In the second row of pictures, you can see the rubber button. In the center of the rubber button is a very tiny piece of rubber that can be taken out. Make sure you don’t lose this! Or your switch may not work properly anymore.
Lumintop now also offers different versions:
Lumintop FW3A Titanium
Lumintop FW3A Copper
Besides these special editions, they also have a Green version, a Purple and a Blue. Scroll down to see where to buy them.
Threads and O-rings
On both ends of the batterytube are O-rings. They are lubed and fit well. Threads are not anodized except for the one near the bezel. The threads run really smooth, so that is nothing to complain about!
LEDs, Lens, Bezel, and Reflector
If you are trying to replace the Bezel, lens, or reflector for the Lumintop FW3A, you may be disappointed. Why? Because the FW3A doesn’t have all those!
It’s using a matte Carclo 10511 TIR optic to smooth out any artifacts in the beam. I chose the Cree XP-L HI 3D (NW 5000K) since that was the brightest option with a Neutral White tint. It’s also available in Nichia 219 Hi CRI, but I just wanted a bit more punch. I prefer NW over CW for general use. CW is needed to reach maximum output though, and I only have 1 WW (warm white) light in use. And it’s currently used as my kid’s bedside flashlight. It’s not used often these days, but it’s great for darker areas without ‘hurting’ your eyes, or waking up somebody!
But here I chose an NW LED!
This is one of the main characteristics of the Lumintop FW3A. Accepting a 18650 battery in a 18350 sized body. Amazingly short for this type of light. Flashlight manufacturers mainly show dimensions in millimeters. Since the body is tapered, it’s kind of difficult to show a “body diameter”. If you look at the pictures below, take a look at the difference between the Nitecore MH25GTS and the FW3A
- Length : 92.5mm / 3.6″
- Weight empty: 53gr / 1.8 oz.
One of the reasons this light is so popular is because of its firmware: Anduril. This UI is put together by BLF member ToyKeeper. She has been groundbreaking with her fully programmable firmware. Many flashlights currently use this UI, since it’s a mix of ease of use, and programmable at the same time.
When you receive the Lumintop FW3A, you’ll notice that the default menu is a simple, stepless dimming mode. Press the button to ramps the brightness up really smooth, and repeat to ramp the brightness down again.
For Download: You can check out the full Anduril UI manual here
- Single-click: On
- Double click: High (Top of ramp)
- 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 normal ramp. In party strobe mode, ramping up and down will increase and decrease the frequency of the strobe, for incredible effects.
- 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 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 (signalling / 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)
LVP makes the light step down to a lower level when the battery is low, and if the light is already at the lowest level, it shuts itself off. This activates at 2.8V. LVP adjustments happen suddenly..
Thermal regulation attempts to keep the light from overheating, and otherwise adjusts output to stay as close as possible to the user-configured temperature limit. Thermal adjustments happen gradually, in steps so small they are difficult for humans to perceive.
Lumintop FW3A Troubleshooting
If for some reason you have found that the FW3A is acting up, follow these steps:
- Make sure the battery is fully charged
- Make sure the head and tailcap are tightly screwed down
- Check whether you have a Turbo mode (if not, you are probably in Muggle mode)
For more steps and troubleshooting read this thread: http://budgetlightforum.com/node/66960
Batteries and charging:
Insert the batteries from the top, not from the tail. If you do it from the tail, the switch may fall out! Make sure the positive terminal of the battery is pointing towards the head! To keep the cost down and maximize the potentials of this little gem they decided not to include a charging system. So if you are looking for a flashlight with a built-in charger, this may not be your best choice.
Powering 3 pieces of the CREE XP-L, you need some serious power, and that can be provided by using a single High Amp 18650 battery, like the Samsung 30Q, Sony VTC6, VTC5 etc.
These are great batteries to maximize the flashlight’s output!
Non-protected batteries only
Since Lumintop kept the body size as short as possible, you can’t use any protected 18650 batteries. You need to stick with high amp non-protected batteries.
Many people are mostly interested in this part, and I can totally understand. This part makes reviews so interesting. It’s always interesting to see if the claims are actually true. Many cheap flashlights you can buy on eBay make some ridiculous claims. Major brands like Lumintop don’t do that as much. But at the same time, I have seen time after time that even the bigger flashlight makers tend to exaggerate a bit. Because why show 8000 Lumens if you can just show 12000 Lumens. But anyway, let’s take a look what the FW3A can do.
The runtime is done with a pink Samsung 30Q 18650 battery in High mode (not Turbo). It has almost no meaning of doing a runtime test with these kinds of flashlights since everyone is using a different battery, but to know how the flashlights behave etc. a runtime test can still be pretty helpful.
The output drop took about 8 minutes from max to a pretty stable 17%. The rough graph for the first hour has to do with the setup. I put the light + phone in a box, so the light bounces around. If I moved the camera (light sensor) 5 mm to the left or right, the numbers would be different.
If you do a runtime test, its better to do it in an integrating sphere. But mine isn’t set up for that. Still have to make a box to fit my 50cm styrofoam ball.
The runtime was 452 minutes (7.5 hours) for the first major drop. And then another 20 minutes till its about 1% output. 7.5 hours of runtime at about 160 Lumens.
Low Voltage Warning
There is a low voltage warning at 2.8Volts according to the Anduril firmware manual. During my runtime test it went down to 2.93V, but it didn’t turn the light off yet.
- Nope. At least I couldn’t detect it by eye, so you shouldn’t worry.
The throw was measured indoors at 5 meters. The battery used was a Samsung 30Q, fully charged. The highest lux number I got, I recorded. Lumintop says the throw should be 10.000cd, which I easily surpassed. Theirs might be measured with different LEDs, optics or tint.
- Lumintop FW3A throw measured at 5 meters: 18500 cd
Lumintop decided to offer different kinds of accessories.
- Turbo Glow Gasket
- Turbo Glow Button
- Reversible pocket clip
- 18500 battery tube
- 18350 battery tube
- Extremely short 18650 flashlight
- Anduril firmware has lots of features
- non-protected batteries only
- squeaky and uncomfortable switch (my copy)
- UI features can be difficult to remember
- Some users reported problems due to the inner tube design
Overall Rating: very good ☆☆☆☆
If you are looking for an EDC flashlight and really like to use the capacity of a 18650 battery in the smallest possible form? Have a look at the Lumintop FW3A. It’s far from perfect, but for the characteristics and price, this one is hard to beat. 2000+ lumens, a pocket clip, and the size of an AA flashlight make this one of the most popular EDC flashlights.