Spark SL6-800CW

Ever increasing lumens in hand held illumination, Spark Technologies is raising the bar with some pretty big numbers. Does the rest of their light live up to their big claims in output?

Spark SL6-800CW

Spark SL6-800CW

Meat and Potatoes

The SL6-800CW is a megalight in a mini package. Boasting a top end of 800 lumens and yet firmly ensconced in the 2 cell duty light size range. It definitely shows that output for this class is steadily increasing.

Powered by your choice of 1-18650 Lithium-ion rechargeable, or two standard CR123A cells, the SL6’s first noticeable feature is the inclusion of not one, but two electronic activation buttons. One is occupying the standard location on the tailcap, however Spark has given the user the option of using a head mounted side switch also. While this may conjure opportunities for unique programming or user interface options for each switch, this is not the case. Both buttons act in exactly the same manner, simply activating the light in its last used mode. Pressing and holding will cycle through the 4 available standard modes from low to high. Always starting this cycle in low is an excellent option because it essentially gives you a shortcut to the minimum 20 lumen output level. Also, Spark has included a “Super” output level accessible by quickly double clicking the switch once the light is on in any level. More about that later though.

Sitting nestled in a lightly textured reflector is the relatively large Cree XM-L LED. This powerhouse I believe currently holds the top honors as being the most efficient power LED generally available. Its large die format, especially when coupled with the SL6’s not overlarge reflector, provides a beautifully floody beam profile. Its hotspot is rather wide and it has an enormously diffuse transitional corona. With very few artifacts to distract the user, this beam is really a thing of beauty. The light is not a thrower, that much is for certain, but with this many lumens available, it doesn’t seem to do too terribly bad at distance illumination. I wouldn’t pit it against some of the real lumen powerhouses, but it holds its own very respectfully.

Cree XM-L

Cree XM-L

The SL6 comes packaged with a few nice extras. The most notable is the available frosted glass diffuser lens. If the smooth floody beam already emanating from the bezel isn’t quite smooth or floody enough, this option is perfect for you. As I stated in my review of the Spark ST6-500CW, the frosted diffuser spreads the already wide beam into a veritable wall of perfectly smooth light. Any semblance of throw is instantly decimated. Also included are a decent pocket clip that, though only tension mounted, manages to function quite well, and a durable holster emblazoned with the Spark logo.

Spark SL6-800CW

Spark SL6-800CW

Constructive Criticism

As I mentioned earlier during discussion of the UI, double clicking the switch in any output mode sends the light into a “super” mode that gives you 5 minutes of access to the full 800 lumen top end before stepping back to an easier to manage 500 lumen high. This is time limited like this because the heat dissipation capabilities of such a small light are not able to keep up with this much heat being generated. It is a protective measure to help insure your LED isn’t permanently damaged by these high temperatures. Unfortunately I have discovered that many 18650 cells are also unable to keep up with the amount of current being used by the SL6 during this full-on sprint. Nearly every time I activated Super mode during testing it would only stay there for 10-20 seconds before turning off entire. This was the protection circuitry on the 18650 cell kicking in to keep the cell from being damaged by a significantly high discharge rate. Upon further research my experience with this was far from unique. Apparently only the highest quality cells are going to stand a chance of matching this discharge rate (I’m using EagleTac 2400mAh cells that I didn’t think were lacking before this point). A Spark representative has specifically stated that use of CR123A cells is not recommended for Super mode so that eliminates that option. I have heard of other high-discharge capable Li-ion chemistries, but unfortunately I don’t personally know anything about them. What this all boils down to is that you have to play it safe and only count on your SL6 being a 4 mode light with a top end of 500 lumens. This is still pretty impressive in and of itself, but a 38% reduction in advertised power is a bit disappointing.

The aesthetics of the Spark series and the SL6 in specific are quite excellent. The appearance is instantly likeable. However excellent the artistic aspect of the machine work is though, there is something about handling this light that calls its durability into question. All the edges seem a little bit on the rough or sharp side, and the walls of the light feel uncharacteristically thin. As was the case with the ST6 headlamp, I believe that the light could stand to be fleshed out a bit more. I prefer my illumination tools to be over engineered rather than just adequate.

Spark SL6-800CW

Spark SL6-800CW

Conclusions

Bright and quite floody, the SL6 is an extremely versatile light in a fairly small package. Build quality could be better and I wish that I had use of the super mode with the lights actual top end, but even without it this light is still impressive.

Spark SL6-800CW

Spark SL6-800CW

Provided for review by the kind folks at Spark Technologies.

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8 Comments

  1. Politely, there is no reason you cannot use the highest mode on this light. Drop a Panasonic 3100 in there, and away you go. If you want to go protected, which I *highly* recommend, grab a Panasonic 3100 cell under the AW, Redilast, or Kallie’s labels.

    🙂

    ~Enjoy!

    LEDAdd1ct

  2. Oh I agree. I see now that though my EagleTac cells are plenty adequate for most of my lights, the high discharge rate of this light at its top end just requires something with a little more “oomph”. The Panisonic cells are definitely high quality, but I had to review this strictly on what I had.

  3. Makes sense.

    I am debating picking one up at some unknown point in the future, but there are a few things dissuading me:

    1) Outer wall looks rather thin/brittle

    2) A little high on price

    3) Having to go through modes every time I charge battery (would prefer light to turn on in high)

  4. I agree that the outer wall looks (and feels) thin, but I haven’t had any issues yet with durability and I even saw some kind of torture test video posted on CPF a while back. As for price, I can’t help you there, but I can say that the changing modes when you put a fresh battery in is really kind of a non-issue. It’s an extra couple of seconds the first time you start it up, and then from then on you have it starting on high like you want.

  5. I’ve always enjoyed your posts—didn’t realize you had a whole separate website!

    Do you know anything about the possibility of a Spark/Zebra split? I am wondering whether the electronics are built to a higher standard.

  6. Yep, been running this almost as long as the posts on CPF. ever since my 4-5th review.

    Nope, I don’t know anything about the Spark/Zebra thing. Zebralight has been unreceptive to being reviewed for whatever reason.

  7. this is cherry form a shop named wallbuys, and we want to send you a free flashlight, and you write a review for it,is that OK? if you like, reply me

  8. I’m interested in hearing from you. Just contact me through my contact page and we’ll start chatting.

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