Reviewer's Note: The Fenix TK12 (R5) was provided for review by the Canadian Fenix distributor Notosora International Imports Ltd. Please see their website for more info.
Warning: pic heavy as usual!
Specifications for TK12 R5, adapted from Fenix and Notosora websites:
- Cree XP-G LED (R5) with lifespan of 50,000 hours
- Three modes, two types of output for each mode, selected by turning the bezel
- Outdoor mode: (A)65 lumens/12 hrs, (B) 280 lumens/1.5 hrs
- Camping mode: (A) 11 lumens/120 hrs, (B) 120 lumens/5.5 hrs
- Hunting mode: (A) Strobe/3 hrs, (B) 280 lumens/1.5hrs
- Smooth reflector, throws beam over 200 meters
- Dual switch system with easy operation - one for on/off, the other for output adjustment
- Digitally regulated output - maintains constant brightness
- Intelligent memory function
- Anti-reverse connection circuit
- Uses two 3v CR123A lithium batteries or one 18650 battery
- Dimensions: 137.5mm (Length) x 25.4mm (Diameter) x 34mm (Head)
- Made of durable aircraft-grade aluminum
- Premium Type III hard-anodized anti-abrasive finish
- Weight: 119g (not including batteries)
- Waterproof to IPX-8 standard
- Toughened ultra-clear glass lens with anti-reflective coating
- Tactical tail cap switch with momentary-on function
- Anti-roll, slip-resistant body design
- Included accessories: holster, lanyard, body c lip, two spare o-rings, and rubber switch boot
- MSRP ~$75
The TK12 is part of Fenix’s tactical TK series of lights (also known as “Tank” lights). Along with the TK11, the TK12 has recently been outfitted with the latest Cree emitter - the XP-G - with a R5 output bin.
The TK12 comes with a black aluminum bezel, removable black aluminum cigar grip ring and removable black body clip (with titanium exterior coating). Included in the package is the manual, warranty card, spare o-rings, extra orange tailcap boot cover, wrist lanyard, and belt pouch with closing flap.
From left to right: Surefire CR123A, Fenix TK12, EagleTac T20C2 MarkII, Olight M21, JetBeam Raptor.
TK12: Weight 123.3g, Length 138.6mm x Width 34.1mm (bezel max)
A little shorter than most of the competition, overall weight and diameter is consistent with other Cree-based lights.
On the surface, fit and finish are very good on my sample. No flaws in the matte black type-III hard anodizing. Knurling on the body and tailcap is about average in aggressiveness. Identification labels are clear, although not as bright as some of the competition (that may not be a bad thing ).
The grip ring is removable, but you have to take off the tail o-ring first. The black clip (with titanium coating) is similar to the Fenix LDx0/PDx0 series.
Screw threads are anodized for tailcap lock-out. Screw threads seem to be high quality, with a square-cut at both the head and tail regions. Due to the protruding forward clicky, the light cannot tailstand in stock form. But given that the tailcap sides are built-up slightly, you should be able adjust to the switch to potentially allow tailstanding. (e.g. add a washer underneath).
Note the body walls are fairly thick on the TK12, in keeping with its “Tank” family status. I imagine you could probably drive over this light with your car without much damage to the body.
Unlike a number of recent 18650-lights, my TK12 sample can take the newer flat-top high capacity (2600 mAh) AW 18650 protected cells.
The TK12 uses the new Cree XP-G emitter, with a cool-white R5 output bin (no tint bin reported). As you can see above, my sample came with a smooth reflector.
Unlike some of the competition, the head of the TK12 appears to be sealed. This means that reflector, bezel, etc is not user swappable.
And now for the white wall hunting … both lights are on Max on an AW protected 18650, about 0.5 meters from a white wall.
Even with the Smooth reflector, the TK12 has a very even beam with no obvious rings (presumably thanks to the XP-G emitter).
Like with many XP-G-based lights with deep reflectors, there is some evidence of a slightly dark centre to the hotspot (i.e. a faint donut pattern). This is only noticeable at a distance – and only if you are looking for it. It is not at all distracting in this case.
UPDATE SEPT 19, 2010: I've added some additional lights to my 100-Yard Outdoor Beamshot Round-up, including a number of XP-G R5 lights (like the TK12). Check out that round-up thread for more details. Here is a relevant animated GIF comparison:
The TK12 has an updated interface from the classic Fenix dual-stage head twist.
In basic terms, you can access two modes at a time as you would expect for a Fenix light. For example, in the light’s “Default Mode”, tighten the bezel for Turbo mode (280 lumens), loosen for Lo mode (65 lumens).
But you also have two other possible pairs of modes – “Camping Mode” (120 lumens/11 lumens) and “Hunting Mode” (280 lumens/Strobe). To switch between the three possible mode pairs, do two loosen-tighten switches from tight within 0.5 secs (i.e. loosen – tighten –loosen –tighten). The light will advance to the next mode pair in sequence, with a flash to notify you. Do another double twist cycle to advance to the next mode pair. The light has a memory feature, and remembers what mode pair you are in when you turn it back on. And of course, you can always tell if you are in the tightened or loosened state for that mode pair before turning on.
In practice, this works well. Most of the time, you will are likely to leave it your preferred mode pair. One thing to note – the sequence of mode pairs is actually Default – Hunting – Camping, not Default – Camping – Hunting as reported in the manual.
Strobe frequency was measured at a “tactical” 16.5Hz.
No PWM (Pulse-Width-Modulation)
Consistent with other Fenix lights, I was unable to detect any signs of PWM. As the runtimes clearly indicate, lower output levels appear to be current-controlled.
Testing Method: All my output numbers are relative for my home-made light box setup, a la Quickbeam's flashlightreviews.com method. You can directly compare all my relative output values from different reviews - i.e. an output value of "10" in one graph is the same as "10" in another. All runtimes are done under a cooling fan, except for the extended run Lo/Min modes (i.e. >12 hours) which are done without cooling.
Throw values are the square-root of lux measurements taken at 1 meter from the lens, using a light meter.
Throw/Output Summary Chart:
Throw is pretty good for a XP-G equipped light. Clearly, the smooth reflector is helping here.
Overall output on Turbo is right where I would expect for a “tactical” heavily-driven R5-equipped light.
Low output is very consistent with my EagleTac R5-equipped lights …
Note: Effective January 2010, all CR123A runtimes are now performed solely on Titanium Innovations batteries sponsored by BatteryJunction.com. You can compare the generally excellent performance of these CR123A cells relative to the Duracell/Surefire cells used in all my earlier reviews here. I have marked all the new runtimes of lights with Titanium Innovations CR123As on the graphs with an "*".
For all runtimes below, “Max” refers to Default/Hunting max output mode (i.e. 280 lumens), “Hi” refers to the Camping max output mode (i.e. 120 lumens), and “Med” refers to the Default output mode lo mode (i.e. 65 lumens). The Camping lo output mode (i.e. 11 lumens) was not tested.
As we have come to expect from Fenix, overall output/runtime efficiency is top notch! I am particularly impressed by excellent output, efficiency and regulation on 18650 on Max - that is quite rare in a multi-power light.
Interesting, while output levels are very well matched to my EagleTac R5-equipped lights, the TK12 seems to consistently exceed my P20C2-II and T20C2-II in runtime on all batteries. Of course, the difference isn’t that great – and I may just have a particularly efficient TK12 sample.
On my sample, there is a slight indication of the well-known XP-G dark-centre effect in the hotspot (i.e. a faint donut pattern to the hotspot). It is mild in this case – remarkably so given the smooth reflector (OP generally helps even it out). Not a major issue, but still something to keep in mind when looking at all XP-G lights.
The head of my unit seems to be sealed. While this should insure solid reliability and performance, it also means that the components are not user-swappable (i.e. no changing of the reflector, bezel, etc.).
The light can’t tailstand in its default form. But given the slightly built-up external ridges, you should be able to jury-rig a tailstanding solution by adding an appropriately-size washer around the boot cap cover before installation.
The TK12 is an example of the mature evolution of the Fenix “Tank” series of lights - it is a physically robust build, with a straightforward design and feature set.
The R5 output bin insures a good amount light on the Max setting, and the TK12 seems to be driven as hard as competing lights in this class (e.g. EagleTac). Although I cannot verify exact lumen counts with my setup, I can tell that the relative output levels are consistent with Fenix’s specs (i.e. proportional with 280/120/65/11 lumens). In fact, I suspect Fenix’s specs are fairly accurate as OTF (out-the-front) lumens.
The beam is pattern is quite good for a XP-G-based light (i.e. throw is reasonable, and the dark-centre void of the hotspot is fairly minimal on my sample). That being said, I know most users prefer a little more throw on their 2xCR123A lights – you may want to look at the earlier XR-E R2 lights if that’s an issue for you (but be prepared to accept ringier beams if you do).
Output/runtime efficiency is certainly top-of-its-class - as we have come to expect from Fenix. Good to see such reliably strong performance at all output levels and on all battery configurations. Rest assured that however you choose to run the light, you will get the best possible performance.
The only real limitation that I can see with the TK12 is its somewhat basic set of accessories and limited customization/upgrade options (i.e. the head is sealed). Reminds me a bit of Henry Ford’s infamous comment about the original Model T – “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.”
I also don’t quite get why the tailcap ridges are built-up to seemingly allow tailstanding, but Fenix doesn’t supply a low-rise boot cover or suitable washer adapter with the light? And at a minimum, Fenix really should invest in better belt pouches – I doubt the bundled one would hold up to much regular usage (it really doesn’t match the overall quality of the light).
But these are minor quibbles. It is certainly hard to argue with what you get here for the price – excellent performance, good selection of output levels, and a very solid build. While not as flashy as some of the competition, the TK12’s sturdy design suggests it would be a reliable and serviceable companion as an every-day duty light.