I have no ideal if anyone will ever need this, but I figure there is at least one person who is curious about the topic. So to that one sad person, thank you for reading my review.
I have carried a 2 cell AA Mini-Maglite for 20+ years. It is the perfect flashlight to have on your belt for all those times when you need a quick light. In fact, I use it at home quite regularly when I need to pick something up in a dark room, and don’t feel like hitting the light switch.
While the MagLite is tough, they do were out, get lost, or dropped down a 100+ chasm in a cave system. (I could still see the light, but I wasn’t repelling down to get it.). About 4 years ago I switched to an after market LED system for my MagLite. Just by chance I needed another light for an employee, so I decided to put the converted MagLite head to head with a factory LED MagLite.
Cost. A factory LED MagLite was $21.24 from my local Lowes Home Improvement Store. My Converted MagLite was $8.77 for the regular incandescent body and $9.50 for a Nite Ize 3-bulb LED converter kit, for a total of $18.27. There were a few different options for converting to LED, I just happened to pick the 3-bulb Nite Ize.
Size/Configuration/Weight. The factory LED MagLite is about a half an inch longer, but still in the same diameter. The extra length also does not come from a single larger part of the light. Every aspect from the body, grip, and head are just a touch longer. To compensate the nylon belt holder is also just a touch longer, but I found that the factory light fit well into a standard pouch. The factory LED MagLite is 4oz, while the converted one is 3.75oz. Externally, the only real difference is the loss of the mounting/attachment hole at the end of the standard light. I never used this hole to attach thing to my light, but I have used it for prying or scrapping something in a pinch. The factory LED light also has white etched serial number of the side above the grip and bellow the head, something not on the standard body.
The Factory light on top is just a bit longer
The extra length is accommodated for by a longer case
The Factory MagLite on the left lacks the attachment hole
Candle Mode. I’m never sure if this is an approve method of using a MagLite, but serval times over the past two decades I have had need to remove the head of the light, place it on the bottom of the body, and use it like a candle. Admittedly I have done this less with the converted LED light, as the light dispersal pattern was not as effective as the incandescent bulb. The factory LED MagLite however has returned much of this lost light when in candle mode.
Factory MagLite on the Left is much brighter
Bulb. LED bulbs pretty much have 50,000 hour life spans. In fact the electronics package driving the light has less life span then the diodes themselves. To put 50,000 hours into perspective in a flashlight. If left on 24/7/365, an LED would burn out in 5.5 years. For my use pattern of an average of 5 minutes per day, the life expectancy of the LED would be 1,644 years . Of course, turning it off and on so much might half that life span, but still, in a flashlight, you can expect the LED to outlive the body. The converted flashlight uses a cluster of 3 diodes to emit light. The factory light has a single high power surface mount LED. By the very nature of the part, you can replace the bulb in the conversion light, I saw no way to replace the bulb in the factory light, but again, the bulb and electronics should last as long as the body.
The LED on the Factory MagLite does not stand off of the body.
In contrast the Conversion light has a large electronics and bulb package.
Light. The light patterns and color where very different between the factory and converted MagLites. The converted light has a softer bluer light, while the factory light was sharper and more white. I would almost say the factory light has a yellow ting to it, but that may be just me being used to 4 years of the converted light. The pattern on the converted light is a wider more nebulous field, giving light pretty much equally to all aspects of where the pattern hits. In contrast the factory light has an intense center of light, with a uniform surround of softer light. The “range” of light from the factory model is greater, given this high intensity center.
The light patter on the left is from the factory light. It shows a MUCH brighter field with a sharp center. The conversion light has a softer and smaller pattern.
These two pictures show the light dispersal when in candle mode between the factory light on the left/top and the conversion light on the right/bottom. They are of the same thing with the same camera settings. To stop glare, the MagLite itself in sanding upright just out of frame to the right in both images.
Carrying. I have noticed no difference between carrying the factory light and the converted light. While the factory light is longer and heavier, it is not noticeable so on the belt.
Battery life. I’ve not have the factory life long enough to test. In my use pattern of less than 5 minutes per day, I replaced my AA batteries only twice in the last 4 years. This was in contrast to replacing them every 6 or 9 months with the incandescent. There is also a sharper decline with the LED light over incandescent. The LED seems to simple stop working one day, and I have to replace the batteries. With the incandescents, I remember this getting dimmer and dimmer over several week until I replaced the batteries, then was amazed at how bright it was again. LEDs work of a constant voltage, so once the batteries fall out of that range, the light goes out. We’ll see how well the factory light handles batteries.
Conclusion. What first put me off the factory light was the larger size. I like things to be smaller and compact. While I’m not sure of the technical reasons for the extra length, it really isn’t a big deal. I have to admit after a week of caring the factory light, I think it’s better overall than the converted one I had for the last 4 four years. The main reason for having the conversion was that in 2006 I needed a new bulb, and decided to buy the $10 conversion rather than the $2 incandescent bulb. If you already have a 2xAA incandescent Mini-MagLite, then I think the conversation is worth it just in battery savings alone. However, if you’re thinking about buying a new MagLite for whatever reason, spend the extra $10 and get a factory light. Of course you could do what I did and give your old light to someone and get a new factory LED for yourself .