High-power, quality flashlights are generally a very utilitarian tool, usually valuing function over form and durability over aesthetics. There are a few manufacturers however that place a high value on the “luxury” end of the handheld illumination market.
Meat and Potatoes
Orbita is a name that is relatively well known in the upper echelons of society for their quality automatic watchwinders. For those of you that like me, have rarely branched beyond the standard quartz movement, automatic winding mechanical watches are the type that contain a tiny weight connected to the winding mechanism that ratchets the watch spring tighter with the natural motion of your arm. Time spent sitting on your desk or in a case however is time that the watch is allowed to run down and eventually stop completely. The precision movements of these high quality watches benefit greatly from continued use, and so the concept of a watchwinder was born. It is a small device that sits on your desk and slowly rotates your watch to carefully keep it well wound and running smoothly.
In keeping with the precision that such a discriminating customer would expect, the Orbita Lighthouse flashlights are definitely built to exacting standards. First glance, especially at the base stainless steel model evokes a strong sense of familiarity. Indeed, my initial thoughts tying it to the distinctive Gatlight were well founded as I discovered Orbita was in contact with Lumencraft during planning phases. Sporting the same tie-rod structure of the Gatlight, but in steel, the Orbita Lighthouse is definitely a hefty torch. This weightiness lends itself to the solid feel that such a precision instrument demands. This is an impeccably well machined light that just feels good in the hand. I can’t stop myself from randomly picking it up and fondling it just to feel how nicely constructed it is. There are no rough edges to catch, no loose fitting pieces to rattle. nothing sticks out more than it is intended. Well-constructed is a phrase that this light absolutely embodies.
Powered by a single 18650 cell and sporting a Cree XP-G LED, the Lighthouse is no slouch. Putting out 350 lumens focused using a parabolic smooth reflector the Lighthouse’s main beam is beautifully usable with a middle to tight focus. Orbita claims that their light is protected to an IP54 rating which only calls it splash-proof rather than capable of withstanding any form of submersion. While this is just a touch disconcerting, I don’t believe this would be the type of light I would be looking to take swimming so I don’t really see a problem.
Orbita has chosen the Lighthouse as this torch’s namesake because of the inclusion of a quite interesting and I believe completely unique feature. Around head of the light, ringing the reflector is an octet of 5mm white LEDs that, when all lit, make for a fairly usable, albeit dim, area lantern. The visual effect is quite stunning and really sets off the lights singular construction as well. These secondary LEDs are also used for the Lighthouse’s take on a beacon mode. Under this setting, the 5mm LEDs cycle lighting up 2 at a time around the light’s head in a manner that definitely supports the nomenclature. There is no question why it is called the Lighthouse series.
One of the nicest and most “Luxury” features being offered by Orbita is the build options that are available. Just because you choose a Lighthouse, doesn’t mean your light looks the same as everyone else who does the same. There are 5 different finish options available from the base level stainless steel through beautiful carbon fiber and several quality, hand-turned woods. my personal thoughts are that the more industrial carbon fiber and pure SS models suit the appearance of the lighthouse series far better than the natural warmth of wood, but that is nothing but a personal preference. After using both for a decent amount of time I seriously have come to rest on the base SS as my favorite. Mostly this is due to the fact that I long ago fell in love with the aforementioned Gatlight, but I also appreciate the fact that the SS will not mar or scratch nearly as easily as the CF. I have had some personal experience working with carbon fiber in the past, and it is actually a softer, more scratchable material than you might expect. Aesthetically, it’s amazing stuff, but the durability of SS has captured my heart.
While the construction of Orbita’s initial foray into lighting more than lives up to the moniker of “Luxury”, I have come to the regrettable conclusion that their electronics simply do not. To get things out into the open right away, this feels like the engine of a much lower quality light that was outsourced and dropped into these bodies. It is as if, after building the bodies up to extremely exacting standards, they allowed the electronics to be supplied by the lowest bidder. I’m simply going to list my gripes and make a broad, sweeping call for change.
First off, the Lighthouse is a 6 mode torch, where only two of them represent constant output, main beam light. With a UI that uses cyclical mode progression with memory, this means you have to cycle through 4 specialty modes every time you change output from low, back to high. A full ⅔ of the Lighthouse’s modes are ones you will rarely, if ever, need or use. These should be hidden somehow. At the very least, getting rid of the mode memory would put them at the back end of the mode list, allowing you to use the flashlight as it is intended a much greater percentage of the time.
Second, one of my personal pet peeves shows up when the light is in low mode. Output is controlled by a relatively low frequency PWM. I don’t know what the rate is, but it is definitely enough to notice during daily use. I hadn’t even thought to check until it caught my eye and forcibly announced its presence. My third complaint also ties in with the low mode. For some reason, every time you activate the light in low, about 2 seconds in it blinks. This feels exactly like the blink used by Balder and TaoTronics to signify the change between only constant output modes to the more frustrating line with specialty blinky modes included. The difference here though is it doesn’t seem to affect anything, other than putting an annoying blink into your otherwise mostly useful light. If this serves some kind of purpose, I have yet to discover it, and not for lack of trying.
I don’t know if it is simply my early release (possibly pre-release) review samples or if it is pervasive throughout the entire run, but there seems to be a parts discrepancy between the two models I received. The switches, tailcap covers and lanyards are all different. Even the LED tints are noticeably dissimilar, both on the XP-G and 5mm LEDs. It feels like they were trying to nail down a supplier and experimented a little during manufacturing. None of these components have any significantly more or less quality than the others (well, the lanyards are both pretty crappy, but I almost inevitably toss those aside anyway), they are just…different. The only real preference I had was for the XP-G that is in my Carbon Fiber Lighthouse. It is one of the warmest and creamiest LEDs I’ve yet used, very nearly a true Neutral White. I’m hoping these are simply indicative of initial testing, and not something that will continue to occur throughout the life of these products. Customers always want to be able to receive exactly what they expect, even if the differences do not detract from usability at all.
Honestly, none of these problems render the light unusable. I am simply holding this light up to a higher standard of polish given the steeper price, Luxury branding and incredible build quality. Many of these same issues would easily pass muster in a more basic light and not cause much consternation for daily carry, but under this guise, more is expected. I would like to see Orbita seize these comments and run with them, turning out a vastly superior product for a 1.1 release.
The Orbita Lighthouse series feels like an incredibly well built, and beautiful collection of torches. I have very often seen much less excellent products turned out as initial releases. There are definitely some serious needs to address on the electronics side of the equation, but as far as construction, these seem to be quality lights. I am pleased to own such beautiful works of art, and happy to carry them for actual use at the same time. I will also be following this company closely to see if any improvements are made.
Provided for review by Orbita.
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