With standard white-light flashlights becoming so prolific in today’s market, some companies have begun to expand their offerings to colored light as well hoping for increased sales. Is this a valuable commodity, or simply a gimmick?
Meat and Potatoes
My first experience with colored light in a standard, high power flashlight was a friend’s red Surefire A2 Aviator. Honestly, it’s one of the lights that played a major part in bringing me where I am today. I didn’t know it at the time, but modern flashlights were still in their infancy then. Today, multimode digitally regulated lights are the norm and anything that doesn’t use them well is considered primitive.
This brings us to the NiteCore Chameleon series. The C(x)6 has about the most distinct available outputs I’ve ever seen in a flashlight outside of “continuously variable” options. Packed with emitters, it not only sports an XP-G2 for its primary beam, and a more specialized colored XP-E in a parallel reflector as a secondary beam, it also fills the gamut of available colors with a deuce of 5mm RGB diodes. You can cycle through all three primary colors of light, plus 3 brightness of monochrome light from the secondary beam and 5 output levels of the most-used white beam. Of course there are a few included blinky modes, but they’re well hidden, so I won’t dock it any points for that. My particular model is the CR6, running Red light as the secondary beam color. NiteCore also offers versions in Blue, Green, Ultraviolet and Infrared to suit individual tastes.
Build quality is what I would call “typical NiteCore”, which is to say, pretty good. Uniform anodizing coats the entirety of the light, including the ample head. That head feels just a little portly to me, but that’s necessary to house the quartet of emitters and dual parabolic reflectors that such an advanced torch uses. Generous heat sink fins and a unique faceted design do well to accentuate the light, while the body is adorned with simple knurled bands for an adequate grip. I’d like to see a little more thought go into penning the lines for the flashlight body, but simple and reliable has taken precedence.
User interface on the CR6 is not the friendliest I’ve seen. Roughly classified, it has a nice forward clicky for momentary and constant activation paired with two side switches for mode selection with memory. On to the details, one switch is dedicated to white light (5 modes in increasing order), the other to the various color options (3 secondary beam modes in increasing order, followed by tertiary R-G-B). Where I’m docking it is the fact that these switches are so small and flat that I consistently have difficulty locating them in the dark. There isn’t really any kind of tactile indicator to help you navigate the exterior of the flashlight, even under ideal circumstances. Forget finding anything in any kind of stressful situation. Thankfully, I don’t believe NiteCore is marketing this as a tactical torch, so that helps a little.
The other point that I’m going to harp on is also a user experience issue, and one about which I’ve expressed many concerns. Some of you might even be able to guess it by now. The tailcap on the CR6 once again attempts to split the difference between being an easily accessible protruding button and a shrouded switch that allows tailstanding. Instead, it achieves neither well. Technically it can tailstand, as long as the moon’s gravity lines up with the surface you’re trying to use, and no mosquitoes fly nearby to disturb the ambient air currents. It is so unreliable though that it makes the sacrifices made against ease of access seem entirely unreasonable.
I’m not entirely sure how much I need colored light. I don’t personally find myself heading out to the deer blind before sunrise all that often. I don’t have any forensic needs, and quite honestly, I’m not at all certain what green light is ideal for. They sure are fun to show off though, and the white component is capable enough for the rest of us anyway, despite a somewhat clunky interface. If, however, you CAN find a use for the extra modes, this light might be perfectly ideal for you. The rest of us might prefer something a little simpler.
Provided for review by the kind folks at Survival Edge Lights.