ESSENTIAL DESIGN BUILT FOR LIFE

Alpha Custom


 

$335.00

Out stock

The Alpha Custom Program is a blend between the Blue Label and Ready Made: they come with the exact same components & options as a Blue-Label, but built into a Ready-Made shell.


  • Electroless Nickel
  • Choose your LED
  • Choose button color
  • Icarus LED Driver
  • Primary Seal Ring
  • UCL Glass Lens
  • McClicky Switch
  • 6Al/4V Ti Clip
  • Report Card

What you get in an Alpha Custom


Right now there are a LOT people on the BL wait-list, and this is one of the main reasons I'm switching over to the Alpha Custom. My hope is that I'll be able to deliver these on a more consistent basis since I don't have to do the machining or spend the (countless) tedious hours on fancy finishes. I know this is going to make some people upset and others really happy, but this is what we've got to work with :) I'm very aware that some of the appeal with Blue-Label lights is the 100% hands on approach and the fancy finishes, but my current workload just doesn't permit me to make those and get anything else done. My humble apologies to everyone who has been waiting a long time to get their hands on a Blue Label. There is only one of me and I'm doing the best that I can. 

Quality-wise, the Ready Made bodies are every bit as good as the Blue Label.
 In fact, they might be better. They are machined by a guy who has been making chips longer than I've been alive. As a testament to his skill and talent, the Ready-Made shells are plated exactly in the condition they come off the machine. If I put fancy finishes on top of his perfect machining, it would be tantamount to disrespect.

The only real difference between the Blue Label and Alpha Custom (besides appearance) is the thread fit. I make the Blue Label threads to the tightest tolerance in the industry, which is more about showing off than performance. My personal light (that I carry everyday) is a Ready Made "because it's everything you need and nothing you don't." I stole that line from Nissan. I firmly believe that the Alpha Custom will fully represent my intention to build the best flashlights on earth. These will be serialized asBlue-Label lights, come with an individual report card, and be eligible for the "lifetime upgrade program" where you can upgrade your light to the most current version (if possible) for a reduced cost.

You might be wondering what you get for your money:


I've been working on this driver for over two years. It's simple, powerful, and full of features even the most demanding flashlight enthusiasts will appreciate. A maximum current of 3.4 Amps delivers class-leading power and an advanced software platform lets you make Icarus a reflection of your unique preferences by programming it any way you like...

This driver is 100% designed, programmed, and manufactured (in the USA) just for me. Until now, I've been limited by "what is available," but Icarus is the realization of a long standing goal. No expense is spared, no shortcuts taken, no compromise accepted. I'm proud to put the Prometheus stamp on this driver as the crowning jewel of the Alpha platform. Enough talk, let's get to the details.

I Made This...


I do design, assembly, prototyping, quality control, marketing, advertising, photography, web development, shipping, receiving, floor sweeping, light bulb changing, toilet cleaning, window washing, getting cut, getting burned, sweating, crying, bleeding, and the occasional flower arranging. The only thing I don't do is the actual machining.

LIfetime Upgrade Program


Every Alpha is covered by a limited lifetime warranty; however, Blue-Label (and Alpha Custom) lights are additionally supported by my lifetime upgrade program. When I come out with a new feature or component that can be installed into an existing light, you can upgrade.

To be honest, I'm not exactly sure how this will work, but you'll get some smokin' deal like "pay the shipping only" or "pay cost of parts + shipping" or "50% off retail." You get the idea. I'll make this policy more clear as I come out with upgrades and get feedback from customers. The whole purpose of this is to give you an awesome experience that goes far beyond your initial purchase. I also want to prevent "Apple Syndrome" where you just bought the newest thing and found out that next month it will be newer.

>>> This does not apply to voluntary LED swaps (flat fee of $75.00). It also does not apply to accessories that accompany the light (chargers, batteries, etc.) or optional upgrade parts. <<<

The photo above is a prototype, not an actual product, for McClicky V2...and tentatively possible in the distant future. Tentatively! Distant! However, Alpha Custom owners will get to upgrade for a cost far less than retail "if" it goes into production.

If you are saying to yourself, "really? I don't believe you'll follow through." I've already given all of my pre-production owners the option to upgrade their tailcap switches to the current version which involved a complete replacement of the tailcap and all of the internals...for free...because it was a permanent design change. They only had to pay for the shipping, and there was no agreement (expressed or implied) that I should do so. I just thought it seemed like the right thing to do.

Compact AC Adapter


All Alpha Custom lights ship with a compact AC adapter instead of a standard (larger) adapter. This is basically the same as the Apple adapter and is compatible with Apple products as well, so it's a great travel companion.

Every Alpha is coated with a medium-phosphorus Electroless Nickel (EN) plate:

I use EN plate on every Alpha because it's the ideal engineering solution, not because it's pretty.It's worth mentioning because no one else in the flashlight industry takes this approach to the design/engineering of a flashlight.

EN is specified when electrical conductivity, thermal conductivity, deposition uniformity, corrosion resistance, lubricity, and wear resistance are primary engineering requirements. EN is used in aerospace, marine, automotive, medical, and electronics applications. Unlike anodizing, EN coats every inch of the light, inside and out, with an even layer of super-hard nickel. EN is just as durable as anodizing.

You will not find any bare aluminum on the Alpha, like you see with anodized lights. Why does this matter? The only place it's important to have a protective coating (from an engineering standpoint) is on the threads. The body of the light is just a shell, but the threads play the critical role of conducting electricity. Ever wonder why anodized lights have bare metal threads? Anodize is an electrical insulator so it must be removed for the light to function. Bare aluminum threads will wear out over time and corrode when exposed to air, reducing your lights useful life span and decreasing its performance.

Hand-Stamped Prometheus Logo


Alpha Customs are stamped with the Prometheus logo, not my Maker's Mark, but they are still 100% assembled by me with the same components that go into my custom lights. This stamp was custom made for me by Infinity Stamps outside of Los Angeles. It has a curved face to match the curve on the outside of the light and produce a mark with even depth.

Fluorosilicone o-rings (standard)


Alpha Custom lights ship with blue Mil-Spec fluorosilicone o-rings that are 10x the cost of standard black Nitrile o-rings. Fluorosilicone is petroleum resistant and specified for use on aircraft fuel lines. Unlike Nitrile, fluorosilicone has an "unlimited" shelf life which means they should not dry out and crack over time. The body and head use AS size #019 and the tailcap uses #017.

UTS Class II Thread Fit


Thread fit is one thing that sets my lights apart. My threads adhere strictly to Unified Tread Standard (UNS) tolerances set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). This ensures reliable compatibility between production runs.

Blue-Label lights feature a Class III thread fit. This is the ONLY major engineering diffrence between the shell of the Ready Made light and the lights I machine in-house.

Alpha Custom lights use a Class II thread fit. This is the most common class of fit and specified to ensure that parts are compatible without high percentage (costly) inspection. The slightly looser threads are also more tolerant of contamination when used in dusty or sandy conditions.

Tailcap buttons


Choose the color that best suits your personality or select the Journeyman package and get all 4 button colors included. I'll install the color you select during checkout. The blue buttons are a brand new option as of June 2012. I have a limited supply and may (or may not) be able to get any more after this batch. Choose wisely (Indiana Jones reference).

Solid Copper Driver Mount


The copper isn't absolutely necessary from an engineering standpoint but it adds a nice touch and a little bit of weight to enhance that tasty feeling of quality in your hand. It also draws heat out of the driver to help it run at maximum power for longer.

Choose From 5 Different LED Options


As far as I know this is the best selection of LED options of any custom light. Get the MCE or XML in cool or neutral white, or select the High CRI Nichia 219 for 92+ color rendering. Have some other LED you want to use? Send me one and I'll install it in your light.

Letter Stamping


In the past I've charged for this service, but I've decided to include three character stamping for free, if you want to personalize your light. I use "low stress" letter and number stamps to mark the head of the Alpha with...letters and numbers. $5 per character beyond the first three, up to 5 characters total. This only works on heads that have enough smooth area to mark of course.

Like most things Alpha, these are marked by hand so you should not expect "machine" perfection in depth and alignment.

Alpha Report Card


Every Alpha Custom comes with an individual report card so you know exactly what you are paying for. Each light is tested for output in my home-made integrating sphere.

Titanium (Aerospace Certified 6Al/4V) Pocket Clip


Pocket clips now come standard with Alpha Custom lights. I used to sell them as a $25 accessory. Clips can be mounted and de-mounted without tools. The clip is also designed without screws, so if you want to run clip-less you don't have a couple of ugly threaded holes in your light. When the clip is removed, there is no gap because the cap and the body still close flush.

 

I have only one standard for quality: the highest.

Taking a concept from an idea all the way to a manufactured product has been a humbling experience. Despite many years in product design and manufacturing, this is the first time I've been 100% responsible for every aspect. It's incredibly difficult, infinitely complicated, never perfect, always challenging, and fundamentally satisfying. I once heard Adam Savage say that, "the best way to end a day is filthy and satisfied." Quite right.

I work with over 50 different vendors to bring you the Alpha and source everything I can locally, not just domestically. Every light passes through my hands on its way to yours, and I think that's meaningful. Call me old fashioned, but I like to know the people that make the objects I value, use, and rely on. I wish there was more opportunity for that in this day and age.

My work is a reflection of my values and the culmination of my years in design, fabrication, and manufacturing. A flashlight might seem simple, but I spend sleepless nights thinking about details that you will never even see.

Why go to these lengths for a humble flashlight? Lighting up the dark hasn't always been such a humble pursuit. For most of our history it's been life or death. When it's dark, and you need light, you really need light. If you think about it, it's not that different today.

We forget how important light is because most of the time you can just walk over to the wall and turn one on. What if that wasn't an option? There is accidental darkness: I actually get excited every time the power goes out. I also make lights for people that find themselves in the dark deliberately: airline pilots, mechanics, law enforcement, campers, hunters, fishermen, adventure racers, EMTs, contractors, moms, brothers, neighbors, and friends.

Details, details, details...

Visual Design

My lights look different because they are different. These don't look like "tactical" flashlights because they are not tactical flashlights. I like tactical stuff in a manly sort of way, don't get me wrong, but I don't need my flashlight to scream it. I'll meet the zombie apocalypse in style thank you very much.

The Alpha is a gentleman's flashlight like an Aston Martin is a gentleman's car. It pairs nicely with a Rolex watch and a Montblanc pen...or if you are a lady, with a Celine bag and a pair of Louboutins. The refined exterior only begins to hint at the ridiculous power underneath the hood, and that's the way you like it.


Electroless Nickel Plate (EN)

The EN coating is applied over 6061-T6 aerospace grade aluminum. I use EN plate on the Alpha because it's the ideal engineering solution, not because it's pretty. Unlike anodizing, EN coats every inch of the light, inside and out, with an even layer of super-hard nickel. EN is just as durable as anodizing and is electrically conductive.

You will not find any bare aluminum on the Alpha, like you see with anodized lights. The body of the light is just a shell, but the threads play the critical role of conducting electricity. Ever wonder why anodized lights have bare metal threads? Anodize is an electrical insulator so it must be removed for the light to function. Bare aluminum threads will wear out over time and corrode when exposed to air, reducing your lights useful life span and decreasing its performance.


Reasonable and Responsible Packaging

People like expensive products to come in fancy packaging. What I don't like is people spending money on packaging that could be going into the product. That's why my packaging is minimal. It's also reusable and recyclable. The paper in the packing tube is 100% recycled and the natural cotton bag is unbleached and un-dyed. Please keep the tube and use it to store something else. The cotton bag can store your accessories for travel or house that marble collection that's just been rolling around in a drawer.


Hand Stamping (roll-over image)

Unlike laser marking or screen printing, the deep marks left by the stamp will not rub off or wear away over time. Stamping is the traditional metal smith's method of signing their work.

I've had two custom stamps made to mark my lights. The first is my Maker's Mark (left) and this mark indicates the light was 100% manufactured in my own shop using my own tools.

The second stamp (roll over the photo) is the Prometheus Lights logo. This mark is only used on the Ready-Made lights, which are machined at a CNC shop just down the road from me.


Ergonomics

The Alpha's size is deliberate and based on a blend of engineering and aesthetics. It's proportioned based on the "Golden Ratio" and intended to deliver a specific "hand feel" in terms of size and weight. The light is balanced for overhand, underhand, and cigar grips.

It's the largest size for a pocketable light and the smallest size (in my opinion) for a light this powerful. Internal components are arranged for improved thermal management and the tailcap is recessed to allow tail standing.

The clip is sized specifically to deliver comfort and traction with an overhand grip.


Transparency

I tell you everything there is to know about my lights and this is very intentional. I hate it when companies are vague about what goes into their lights. I'm a researcher and a fiend for data. I want to know as much about a product as I can, before I buy it.

My "secret sauce" is solid engineering, the best components I can get, and old fashioned hard work. That's also why my lights are expensive. I show you everything so you can see that I haven't cut any corners.

Each Blue-Label light comes with it's own report card so you know exactly what you are spending your money on. Ready-Made lights do not because it takes a lot of time to test each individual light.


Free Stuff

It's not much but it's something. I like everyone to have a little surprise when they open the box...to get something extra. I suppose that's why I'm spoiling the surprise here?!

Every light comes with a 1cc bottle of Nano-Oil and two replacement o-rings. One for the head and one for the tail. Blue-Label lights come with fluorosilicone o-rings and Ready-Made lights come with Nitrile o-rings. If you get the Journeyman package (with maintenance kit) then these are not included.

The bottles are medical grade precision dispensing bottles. You didn't think I'd just buy something random off the internet did you? I fill each bottle by hand.


O-rings (roll-over image)

The Alpha is sealed with only 3 O-rings and the silicone tailcap, making the Alpha rated for submersion and tested to 300 feet for 5 hours. This is unprecedented for a "general purpose" hand-held flashlight.

Blue-Label lights feature blue fluorosilicone o-rings that are 10x more expensive that the industry standard Nitrile o-rings.

Ready Made lights come with black Nitrile o-rings. Nitrile is the most common o-ring material and it's amazingly good...just not as good as fluorosilicone.


Dual Coated, Ultra-Clear Lens (UCL)

This is one of the most expensive components in the light. These premium glass lenses are coated on both sides with an anti-reflective coating that achieves 98% light transmission. That's really impressive...in case you weren't already impressed.

The lens is so clear that a lot of people think I've forgotten to install it.

The coating is quite durable and can be cleaned with a soft cloth and Windex. Be careful though, because you "can" scratch it.


Faceted Ledil "Boom" Reflector

This reflector is made by Ledil of Finland. The only thing they make are optics for LEDs so you should expect it to be good. The reflector is precision-molded plastic and each facet is actually engineered to optimize the beam.

Most reflectors used in flashlights are smooth (SMO) or orange peel (OP). Smooth reflectors put more lumens out the front, but the orange peel texture is added to cover imperfections in the beam and create more spill light, while slightly reducing output.

The Boom is the best of both worlds, maximum light output with a perfectly smooth beam.


Beam Profile

The center spot is 20 degrees from edge to edge. The camera tends to exaggerate the separation between spot and spill. To the eye the transition is much more gentle. The Alpha is a floody light that produces a huge wall of light. It's not " thrower" but at +100m it's more than enough for 80% of flashlight use. In my opinion "throwers" are only good for special use cases...the 20% by the 80/20 rule and the Alpha is an everyday light, not a specialty light.

I'm proud to say one of the most frequent comments I get is how "perfect" the beam profile is. I can only take a little credit as most of it goes to those Fins. However, I did try (almost) every possible LED optic on earth before I settled on this one.


Premium LEDs

This is the most common place for flashlight manufacturers to skimp, but for me, this is where I spend most of my money. I purchase LED's from a US-based authorized CREE dealer. No grey-market or sketchy imports.

I specify exact bins and I want to be absolutely sure that's what I'm getting. If you aren't buying directly from CREE or an authorized dealer, there is no way to know what you're actually getting.


Thread Quality & Machining

Thread fit is one thing that sets my lights apart. My threads adhere strictly to Unified Tread Standard (UNS) tolerances set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). This ensures reliable compatibility between production runs.

Blue-Label lights feature a Class III thread fit. This is the most precision class and normally reserved for military and instrumentation applications. The increased thread contact area enhances electrical and thermal conductivity.

Ready-Made lights use a Class II thread fit. This is the most common class of fit and specified to ensure that parts are compatible without high percentage (costly) inspection.


Strain Relief

You'll never see it unless you disassemble your light; however, high-temperature silicone sleeves protect the LED leads as they pass through the head. This is probably not necessary but it protects keep the wire casing from being worn through from long term or intense vibration.

This was implemented around January 2012, so only lights made after this date feature strain relief. I install these in any light that is returned for LED swaps or as part of the Blue-Label Lifetime Upgrade program.


Mil-Spec Silver Plated Copper Stranded Wire (Teflon Coated)

This is pretty much as good as wire gets. Electrical resistance is incredibly low and the Teflon insulation resists abrasion and can withstand temperatures in excess of 300 degrees Fahrenheit. This wire meets the standards for MIL-W-16878/4.

This 24 AWG wire is very thin but it is capable of carrying up to 13 Amps of current. "Standard" 24 AWG wire is only rated to carry 0.5 Amps. I said it was good right?


Driver Mounting

The driver is secured by a custom designed wave spring and polycarbonate "window" to keep out dust. The sleeve acts as an electrical contact for power transmission and to act as a heat sink for the driver itself. The hollow shape and distance from the LED mounting surface helps with thermal isolation. The positive battery terminal is made from solid copper and has a large contact surface to ensure maximum electrical conductivity.

Blue-Label lights feature a C101 (99.9% pure) copper sleeve.

Ready-Made lights use an EN plated 6061-T6 aluminum sleeve.


Body Machining

Part of my signature style is the .375" diameter grooving on the body. These wide grooves provide finger-friendly grip and an interesting visual effect. The grooves on most lights are "as machined," meaning they receive no polishing to achieve the high degree of reflection...just the right tool at the right speed.

All bodies are finish turned to the correct outside diameter and then grooved on my Hardinge HLV-H manual lathe. No automated CNC for this step.


Titanium Pocket Clip

My pocket clip is now made from ASTM Certified 6Al/4V titanium alloy. There is a hole at the top that will pass a lanyard as large as two strands of 550 para cord. The bend in the tip of the clip is designed to be flat and smooth to minimize the wear on your pocket.

All my clips are manufactured from genuine ASTM Certified 6Al/4V (Grade 5) titanium. I'm also the only maker on earth that uses Certified material, because I make no compromises. Certified Ti is 50% more expensive than generic. Don't be fooled by claims of "aerospace grade" materials...if it's not Certified, it's not aerospace grade.


"Tool Free" Clip installation

It doesn't look like much but this tailcap is a tour-de-engineering. I won't bore you with all the details but my crowning achievement is the "tool free" installation. The clip "pops" over the o-ring so you won't loose it accidentally. Unlike most lights, you don't need to remove the o-ring to take the clip on/off.

When the clip is removed, the retaining shoulder slides into the body and disappears. Most clips are "screw-on" which looks cool if you use the clip, but if not, there are two ugly holes in the side of your light.

If your clip ever looses tension, simply install it backwards and re-tension it.


McClicky switch

Of course I use the most famous flashlight switch on earth. I have tried every other kind of switch, and like most things, you get what you pay for. The McClicky is 5x the cost of other switches, but it's worth it.

The McClicky is a "forward-type" clicky that allows momentary activation.

The Alpha battery should always be changed through the head of the light. You should not open the tailcap unless you are replacing the switch or removing/installing the pocket clip. Removing the tailcap causes the compressed spring to rotate against the battery, putting undue and unecessary stress on the switch spring which can lead to failure.


User Interface (UI)

Most people consider the UI to be the software onboard the driver; however, the UI also includes the physical means of interface. My current driver has three modes with last level memory accessed through a single button. This is the simplest and most robust flashlight UI.

Control rings and multiple buttons are useful, but they introduce cost, complexity, and additional points of failure. I think there are some things that should remain simple.

Please see the Icarus driver page for more details. Icarus is the product of more than 2 years of work, is fully custom made, and 100% manufacured in the US.


Primary Seal Ring (PSR)

The PSR was implemented in all lights starting in October 2012. My lights were pressure tested to 300 feet for 5 hours without the PSR...so it's not really necessary, but again, I accept no compromises.

The security of the primary seal was one detail that did not completely meet my standards. So I went ahead and had these rings custom manufactured by Smalley Steel Ring. I probably should have applied for a patent for this sealing method, but there you go, everyone feel free to copy :)

Packages include things like accessories, maintenance tools, and replacement parts.

If you are looking for a gift, I suggest package #2 (the "Apprentice") which includes everything you need to get started.


Package 1: Light ONLY

This is pretty self explanatory. A good option if you already own 18650 batteries and a charger that you are happy with.

Package 2: Apprentice (+ $33.00)

Dominate the dark with the basic package: light + battery + charger

  • Alpha Series light
  • 1x18650 AW Battery
  • Battery Tube
  • Xtar MP1 single bay charger

Package 3: Journeyman (+$58.00)

Maintain your Alpha like a pro and avoid buyer's remorse about your button color. Includes everything in the basic package, but you also get:

  • Maintenance kit (Nano-Oil + replacement o-rings)
  • O-ring removal tool with rubber grip
  • All four button colors ( I'll install the color you select in your cart)
  • Switch Tool (Bent nose pliers to aid removal of the switch and retaining ring)

Package 4: Master Package (+$77.00)

The full boat. A good friend once told me, "two is one and one is none." He was right, don't get caught in the dark. You get everything above, but you also get:

  • Spare UCL window (glass lens)
  • Spare McClicky tailcap switch
  • Mini Volt Meter

All lights are now shipping in my new v2 retail packaging!


Journeyman Package now shipping with a pair of Bent Nose Pliers to use when changing the switch or tailcap button


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This page will help you select the best LED for your application

Click on a heading below to expand the section

Beam Quality and Balanced Engineering

A good light is not just about more lumens, it's about having a well balanced package that is versatile in a variety of situations. My lights are designed for 80% of flashlight use cases, not the highly specialized 20% like a weapon light or search light.

The top four elements of a "quality" beam are: wide flood, smooth beam profile, good color reproduction, and usable power.

Wide Flood: If you follow the "80/20 rule," a floody beam is best for 80% of flashlight work. It's like camera companies trying to sell you more zoom when you really need wider angle. A highly concentrated beam is only good at one thing, distance, and if you are using the light up close that's bad. Every MCE and XML based light I make will throw light over 100m and provide a huge amount of flood.

Beam Profile:is the overall distribution of light within the beam. I insist that the beam have no dark shadows and a smooth transition from the center spot to the softer spill light. I tested nearly two dozen reflectors and optics before settling on the Ledil "Boom" reflector. Ledil is located in Finland and they only make one type of product...optics for LEDs. They really know their stuff. One of the most common pieces of feedback I get from customers (I'm paraphrasing) : "The Alpha has a better beam than any other light I've seen." Yep, that's the idea.

Color Reproduction: I say "color accuracy" and not "color rendering" because the latter is a technical term that can be measured by instruments. I also tested dozens of cool and neutral LED tints to select the ones that provide the most natural looking color at that particular temperature. LED lights have the reputation for ugly blue and purple beams, and that's because most manufacturers use the lowest possible quality (cheapest) LEDs. I only use the highest possible quality.

Usable Power: More power is not always better because it leads to shorter battery life and more heat. It's hard to explain the massive amounts of energy being released by these lights. People think LEDs "run cool" and that's just not the case at these power levels. You can find brighter lights but they are either much larger or will melt down in under 10 minutes. You can find lights that run longer but they are either much larger or they are much less powerful. The Alpha represents my ideal balance.


LED Options at a Glance

The spider chart and comparison table below help visualize your LED options at a glance.

Please see the next sections for detailed technical information and ANSI FL1 flashlight standards.

A lot of people write and ask what LED I recommend. Without question, I recommend the MCE 4500K Neutral White LED. If you are ordering a custom light you can select this option during checkout. All Ready-Made lights come with this LED.

  • Generally speaking, the MCE produces a beautiful beam and runs for 1.5 hours on maximum power.
  • The XML has more output, but it runs MUCH hotter and only gets 1 hour run time on maximum power.
  • The XPG is ideal for those seeking maximum color rendering and a warm beam that is the same as incandescent, but it's much less powerful than it's siblings.

ANSI FL1 Standards for Flashlight Testing

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) released the FL1 standards for flashlight testing and reporting in 2009. The standard is voluntary, and adopted by companies committed to the accurate and responsible reporting of their products. These standards help consumers make "apples to apples" comparisons between flashlhts.

ANSI FL1 should also help consumers feel more confident that they are getting products that perform as advertised. Many less reputable companies in the flashlight industry exaggerate their product claims, so please look for ANSI standards when purchasing a flashlight.


Light Output:Total lumens measured between 30-120 seconds of powering on the flashlight. A lumen measures the total quantity of light emitted, and does not indicate anything about how that light is distributed within the beam. For example, a street light puts out a lot of lumens but they are not very focused. A laser puts out very few lumens but the beam is highly focused.


Run Time:The length of "continuous" run time until the light output drops to 10% of the original value recorded. Please note that "intermittent" use will greatly increase the cumulative run time of a flashlight. The Alpha also has a low battery warning (light shifts to low and strobes once per second) that will activate at 3.2V. The light will be delivering more than 10% brightness at this time, but further discharge from this state may permanently damage the battery. The Alpha's run time is measured until the low voltage warning activates, not until 10% of original brightness.


Beam Distance: The distance in meters where the flashlight produces a light intensity equal to the illumination provided by a full moon on a clear night (.25lux). The value is calculated (based on peak beam intensity) because it cannot be effectively measured outdoors due to things like differing atmospheric conditions.


Peak Beam Intensity:Measured in candela, this is the brightest area of the beam measured at 1m...typically at the center. The candela is a unit of measure that replaces candlepower. This measurement should not be confused with light output (lumens). This value is used to calculate the maximum beam distance.


Impact Resistance:A light must survive a drop onto concrete from this height. In order to pass the test, the sample must be dropped on all 6 sides and the light tested for function after each drop. Cosmetic damage is not a factor in this test. This does not mean the light is guaranteed to repeated drops "in the real world" but rather that (on average) it is likely to survive.


Water Resistance:Measured in meters, this rating breaks down into three categories: water resistant IPX4 (splashing water), water proof IPX7 (submerged @ 1m for 30 min), and submersible IPX8 (submerged @ > 1m for 4 hours). Most hand-held flashlights have IPX4 or IPX7 ratings.


MC18-B (Cree MCE LED)


COOL WHITE (6500K)
NEUTRAL WHITE (4500K)

About the Cree MCE:

The MCE features 4 LED dies clustered onto one chip. This makes a very powerful light, but because of the large surface area, is best suited to "flood" applications. Generally speaking, the larger the emitter area, the "floodier" the beam.

The MCE is an older technology that the XML, but for a small hand-held light I think it's a superior LED. The XML is brighter, but it just can't beat the MCE for beam quality and color accuracy. It also costs 3X as much as the XML and is one reason flashlight manufacturers are eagerly embracing the newer XML. I'd be happy to put that extra $10 in my pocket, but it just doesn't make a better flashlight.


The MCE beam profile:

A "good" beam profile means a smooth transition from hotspot to spill and no artifacts (shadows) anywhere in the beam. The MCE, coupled with the Ledil Boom reflector produces and ideal beam profile. In fact the "perfection" of the beam profile is one of the most frequently celebrated characteristics of the Alpha.

This type of "flood" beam is ideal for general purpose and indoor use. When researching lights, most people focus on lumens (brightness) and throw (distance). This might be fun, but it doesn't necessarily make the most usable flashlight. If you had to choose between a top fuel dragster and a BMW M3 as a daily driver, which one would you pick?

A floody light is better for 80% of general use and a throwy beam...the other 20%. For my money, I spend it on the 80% use case. The Alpha is intended to be the best flashlight, not the brightest.


Comparing high, medium and low modes:

Most people think of mode selection as brightness selection. However, I suggest that you also think of it as a battery management feature. Medium runs for more than 5 hours and still puts out over 170 lumens.

On low (and in person) the low mode is plenty bright for indoor navigation and is effective outdoors to about 10 feet. High mode is ridiculously bright, especially indoors. Most of the time it's too bright...but it's there when you need it.


Color temperature and color rendering (mouse over the image to alternate):

Most people think that LEDs produce a very cold blue or purplish light. This is true of low quality LEDs you find in inexpensive lights. My lights do NOT produce a blue/purple light because I request specific "tint bins" from my supplier. This also means the LEDs I use are considerably more expensive.

The scene above is lit ONLY with the MC18-B. There is no ambient light. The camera white balance is set to "daylight" mode.

Cool White (6500K)

The MCE produces an extremely crisp cool-white beam in the 6500K tint. The color accuracy is superior to the XML. If you are in the market for a perfect beam profile and lots of lumens, choose the cool MCE.

Neutral White (4500K) "MAKER'S CHOICE"

The neutral MCE is absolutely gorgeous. I said it, gorgeous. It provides excellent color rendering while chucking out a darkness-punishing number of lumens.

My theory is, over thousands of years our human visual systems have adapted to take advantage of the only light source available after dark...fire. Even a typical incandescent bulb produces the same color light as a candle.

It's only since the advent of the LED that we can produce daylight 6500K...at night...and my experience says that our brains have a harder time with object recognition and eye strain when using cool light at night.


XM18-B (Cree XML LED)


COOL WHITE (6500K)
NEUTRAL WHITE (4500K)

About the Cree XML:

The XML is Cree's newest, most efficient, and most powerful LED. It features a single large LED die (as opposed the the 4 dies of the MCE) and has a smaller overall surface area. This means, coupled with the same Boom reflector, the XML will have a slightly brighter and more intense hot spot compared to the MCE.

The XML's efficiency has two drawbacks. First, increased heat. More efficiency means the LED can draw maximum current from the battery for a longer period of time...this translates to more heat. This also means the XML will drain your battery faster than the MCE.

Im practice, the XML is best suited to use cases that require short bursts of light rather than long continuous operation.

The XML beam profile:(the image above is grey-scale to highlight variations in intensity)

A "good" beam profile means a smooth transition from hotspot to spill and no artifacts (shadows) anywhere in the beam. The XML (with Boom reflector) produces an excellent beam profile, but not as smooth as the MCE. The XML also has a center spot that is a significantly different color than the spill. This "tint shift" is observed in every XML-based light I've seen.

The XML does produce a noticeably more intense hot spot, due primarily to the smaller surface area of the die. I would still consider this a "flood" type light but it's got little more punch than the MCE.

A floody light is better for 80% of general use and a throwy beam...the other 20%. For my money, I spend it on the 80% use case. The Alpha is intended to be the best flashlight, not the brightest.


Comparing high, medium and low modes:

Most people think of mode selection as brightness selection. However, I suggest that you also think of it as a battery management feature. Medium runs for more than 3 hours and still puts out over 230 lumens.

On low (and in person) the low mode is plenty bright for indoor navigation and is effective outdoors to about 10 feet. High mode is ridiculously bright, especially indoors. Most of the time it's too bright...but it's there when you need it.


Color temperature and color rendering (mouse over the image to alternate):

Most people think that LEDs produce a very cold blue or purplish light. This is true of low quality LEDs you find in inexpensive lights. My lights do NOT produce a blue/purple light because I request specific "tint bins" from my supplier. This also means the LEDs I use are considerably more expensive.

The scene above is lit ONLY with the XM18-B. There is no ambient light. The camera white balance is set to "daylight" mode.

Cool White (6500K)

So, color rendering in cool white tint...did I mention the XML is really bright? If you want good color rendering, the XML is not for you. I'm not sure if anyone else will say this...but the color rendering of the XML is (in my opinion) really poor.

p class="text">This is because the XML has a significant "tint shift" from the center of the beam to the edge. The center spot is the correct tint, surround by a yellow/green corona, and then tapering out to blue/purple at the edges. All XMLs exhibit this shift and it's most noticeable in the cool tints.

Yes, you are detecting a hint of green. I don't want it to be there...but it is. This is a "1C" bin XML which is the "best" white tint bin that is readily available...and it's still green...just barely.

Neutral White (4500K)

The neutral XML is actually quite good in terms of color rendering and tint. However, you still get the "tint shift" at the edges of the beam. In practice it's less pronounced than with the cool white XML. If you need a little more oomf than the MCE can provide, I'm actually happy to recommend the neutral XML...if you can accept 50% less run time and way more heat. Neutral LEDs are not as bright as their cooler brethren, but the slightly warm tint is better suited to our night vision.

My theory is, over thousands of years our human visual systems have adapted to take advantage of the only light source available after dark...fire. Even a typical incandescent bulb produces the same color light as a candle.

It's only since the advent of the LED that we can produce daylight 6500K...at night...and my experience says that our brains have a harder time with object recognition and eye strain when using cool light at night.


NC18-B (Nichia 219 High CRI LED)


COOL WHITE (6500K)

About the Nichia 219:

The Nichia 219 High CRI (Color Rendering Index) is specifically designed to deliver accurate color rendering to the human visual system. It is the most powerful High CRI LED on the market. On a scale of 1-100 it scores a 93+. The LED tint is neutral white and comes in a CCT (Correlated Color Temperature) of 4500K.

Unlike the more powerful cousins, the NC18-B uses a 1.4 Amp (vs. 2.8A) driver that provides double the run-time and can be operated indefinitely without concern for excessive heat build up.

This light is designed specifically for professional use. The NC18-B is an ideal choice for people whose lives and/or jobs depend on superior color rendering accuracy. A few examples include outdoor chefs, fashion designers, interior designers, doctors, EMT's, photographers, wildlife biologists, film makers, aircraft mechanics, airline pilots, building inspectors, contractors, crime scene investigators, detectives, etc.

The Nichia 219 beam profile(the image above is grey-scale to highlight variations in intensity)

A "good" beam profile means a smooth transition from hotspot to spill and no artifacts (shadows) anywhere in the beam. Again, the Boom reflector and the Nichia 219 produces an excellent profile. The hotspot is quite small because of the small surface area of the 219's die. However, the 219 is driven at 1/2 the current (Amps) compared to the MCE and XML. This means less intensity and fewer overall lumens. I still consider this a "floody" light.

A floody light is better for 80% of general use and a throwy beam...the other 20%. For my money, I spend it on the 80% use case. The Alpha is intended to be the best flashlight, not the brightest.


Comparing high, medium and low modes:

Even though the NC18-B is the least powerful light in my lineup, it's still brighter than 95% of readily available flashlights. The main advantage (besides color rendering) is that this light will run for 2 hours on high, and will never get too hot to hold, because the LED is only driven at 1/2 the current of the MCE or XML.

You can also grill a steak in the back yard and tell what it actually looks like. I don't know if you've ever tried to check your rib eye while wearing a headlamp (extremely cold color) but it makes your hard work look like zombie meat. Fun at halloween but not good when you are trying to tell the difference between medium and medium-rare.

This light is also intended for close-up work where excessive brightness can actually be a handicap.


Neutral White (4500K)Color temperature and color rendering :

The scene is lit ONLY with the NC18-B. There is no ambient light. The camera white balance is set to "daylight" mode.

The Nichia 219 is truly a stunning LED. Once you try it, it will be hard to go back to anything else. Your brain might not be able to tell the difference by reading my words, but your eyes will be amazed every time you turn this light on. If you demand the best color accuracy and don't care about insane output, this is an excellent choice.

While this is an unusual color temperature for an LED, you'll become accustomed to the different tint in a couple of days. These beamshots look a little "brown" but in person, you can tell the color accuracy and vibrance is quite high. If you are considering the Nichia 219 High CRI; congratulations, you're officially a flashlight geek :)


ALPHA FLASHLIGHT LED OPTIONS AND PERFORMANCE

All Prometheus Lights ratings are based on ANSI FL1 Standards

 
MCE
6500K
(cool)

750L

1hr:30m
4hr:00m
15hr:00m
118m 3500 cd 2m

100m

MCE
4500K
(neutral)

600L

1hr:30m
4hr:00m
15hr:00m
109m 2900 cd 2m 100m
XML
6500K
(cool)

800 L

1hr:00m
3hr:30m
11hr:00m
158m 6200 cd 2m 100m
XML
4500K
(neutral)

750 L

1hr:00m
3hr:30m
11hr:00m
127m 4000 cd 2m 100m
Nichia 219 HCRI
4500K
(neutral)

250 L

2hr:15m
7hr:15m
40hr:45m
96m 2300 cd 2m 100m
"LED Options"

Drop Proof? Check.

Takes 37 lickings and it keeps on ticking

(click here for the full blog post)

A few months ago I hosted a Candlepower Forums get-together at my shop in Mountain View. This was my first personal introduction to the CPF crowd so I wanted to give them something spicy to remember me by. I thought the opportunity to break one of my lights would be a good start.

I should start by saying it's a little hard to find ANY flashlight company that will impact rate their lights. At best, they are rated at 1 meter. I'm going with the slightly ambitious 2 meter height based on the video below.

So as will see, after 37 drops and some pretty massive hits, the tailcap switch finally broke. Does that mean the light failed? I don't really know. It would still turn on in momentary mode...but the switch would not latch. So, you decide. I think the bottom line is that if your own flashlight ever sees that much abuse...you probably have some other broken stuff that is higher on the priority list.

I think the main take-way should be: This light can take massive abuse. However, if that abuse just gets too massive...my light is deliberately designed for easy repair, putting in a new switch is really easy and (if you have strong fingers) can be done completely without tools in under a minute.


Water Proof? Check (and then some).

Pressure tested to 300 feet for 5 hours

(click here for the full blog post)

When I initially designed this light I was hoping it would be water resistant. Most "high end" commercial flashlights are rated for maybe 30 feet if they are really hard core. I'm not aware of any custom light that is rated for more than "splash proof" or "brief immersion."

I built this little pressure pot to test my lights. I started off with 10 feet, went to 30, went to 50, went to 100, went to 150...got bored...removed the safety over-pressure valve from the tank and ramped it up to 300 feet (130 psi). Three lights, 300 feet, 5 hours, no problems.


Crush Proof? Check.

Tried to bust it...ran over it with an SUV...didn't bust it.

(click here for the full blog post)

Okay, I'll admit, I really ran it over about 10 times. A friend was looking at the light and said, "This thing is a tank. It's really overbuilt. It doesn't need to be this beefy." I thought...really, what if it gets run over by a car? Would you want your light to be a pancake or just shrug it off and keep on going? I suppose you can guess my sensibilities fall into the latter camp.

So I ran an Alpha over with my 4Runner, repeatedly. In the photo below the entire tire is off the ground, only being supported by the Alpha.


Freeze Proof? Check.

Frozen in a block of ice for 8 hours

(click here for the full blog post)

In a quest to find of if my light was "everything-proof" I thought it would be fun to freeze it overnight, turn the light on high until it melted itself free from the block, and inspect. It actually took about 30 minutes for the light to melt itself loose. No water intrusion. The only problem I has was that it had been so long since I lived somewhere cold...I forgot that my hand would immediately freeze to the surface of the light. Ouch.

Anecdotally, I was up in Sun Valley, Idaho this winter and left two lights in the car overnight by accident. Big deal right? Well, the overnight low was about -7 degrees Fahrenheit. That's cold, real cold. Both lights fired up without a sign that they knew the difference.


Sand, wind, dust & no wall outlet proof? Check.

10 Days in the Utah back country (with a solar charger)

(click here for the full blog post)

Rechargeable flashlights are great, but what do you do when you can't plug it in? Go solar. I got this little solar charger (with USB port) just for this trip. I took two lights and two batteries. I'd put a battery on the charger every morning and it would be charged by mid-day. How easy is that?

The floor of this particular river valley was completely covered in the finest sand I've ever seen in my life. Powder. Like the sand you'd see in an hourglass. It got into literally EVERYTHING...except my lights. I used the Alpha with (near) total disregard for cleanliness. We camped in a shallow cave for several nights and I jammed the tail of the light into the sand and bounced the beam off the ceiling of the cave, illuminating the entire thing. Other than being cool, this made the Alpha very, very sandy.

Of course I had to swap the battery each day which meant repeatedly exposing the light to contamination. As long as you are careful not to get stuff inside the light while it's actually open, the primary seal is self-cleaning. Just wipe away any gunk that is pushed out while opening the light and you should be good to go.


Operate While Submerged? Check.

Full run time test in a glass of water

(click here for the full blog post)

Okay, so this is NOT a depth test. However, one thing that will test the seal quality of a light is being heated and cooled while submerged. As the light gets hot, the air inside the body expands and may be forced past a poor seal by positive pressure. Then, when the light is turned off, it begins to rapidly cool. If any air has escaped, the inside of the body will become a vacuum and may actively suck water into the light...if the seal is insufficient.

You can be pretty sure that the o-rings in the tailcap and head will resist this type of pressure change, but the lens seal is extremely vulnerable. The easiest way to test the lens seal is in a glass of water. Using ice speeds the change in pressure. I've done this at least a dozen times and have never had a failure...nor do I expect one :)

This test also serves another purpose, a measured run-time test. The MCE will run for 105 minutes on the highest mode and the XML will run for 65 minutes.

Despite the pretty face, the Alpha is all about business


Powerful

The Alpha Series are incredibly powerful LED flashlights that can produce over 500 lumens. Total lumen output is measured in an integrating sphere, not fabricated by the marketing department. It's 4x brighter than a 3D cell LED Maglite and 1/4 the size. Based on the current state of the art technology, it is the brightest flashlight light you can buy in a form factor this size. Brighter LED's exist, but that would result in a light that becomes dangerously hot during operation. LEDs are efficient, but these extremely powerful LEDs generate heat.

Rechargeable

The Alpha Series utilizes a rechargeable lithium-ion battery called an "18650." This is a size designation, much like AA size or C size. This specific type of cell is commonly found in computers and power tools. Modern li-ion cells have incredible energy density and make it possible for the Alpha (MC18-B variant) to run for more than 1.5 hours on full power, and over 30 hours on low. Li-ion batteries have no "memory" effect and can be recharged any time. Useful life should be in excess of 300 charges.

Intelligent

Alpha Series lights utilize a microprocessor-controlled LED driver to provide a CC (Constant Current) supply of power to the LED. This means optimized output for the life of the battery, instead of constantly diminishing output. The driver operates at three power levels and has a "memory" feature that will store the last level used and turn on at the same level next time the switch is activated.The driver also features a "low battery warning." When the battery voltage drops to 3.2 volts (or less) the light will switch to "low" mode and strobe once per second. This is an emergency mode. The battery should be changed or charged IMMEDIATELY to prevent permanent damage to the battery.

Repariable

The Alpha Series is specifically designed to be repaired and upgraded based on the idea of longevity instead of disposability. We live in a world where things are disposable and planned to be obsolete; I don't believe in that. One of my core design principles is: the light must be easily disassembled into it's component parts so that ANY part can be repaired or replaced when necessary. As a designer I spend a lot of time thinking about "why" things are made so poorly these days, and this is my small effort to begin doing something about it.

Personal

Every Alpha Blue-Lable or Custom flashlight is made to order. I maintain a small stock of parts, but there is no stock of finished inventory. You order it, I build it. This means it may take up to 30 days for me to ship your light...but normally it should be less than a week.The exception to this rule is the Ready-Made. This light is pre-assembled in small batches of 10-15 and ready to ship as soon as you order it.I'll be honest. I like to buy things from small shops made by people who care about them. The old fashioned way. Prometheus is about delivering real value and that's why I go above and beyond to do everything to the best of my ability. That's also why I spend so much time writing the content for this site. I want to give you an idea of who I am, what I care about, and why I'm doing this.


This light was personalized for one of my customers. If you are interested in this type of service, please email me.

Alphas are made in small volume to be functionally perfect, not cosmetically perfect.

A quick note about visual appearance...

Every custom flashlight is designed, machined, finished, assembled, and tested in my shop. Every Ready-Made light is machined at a local CNC shop but after that I do 100% of the assembly in-house, one at a time.

I use a CNC mill for the bulk of the machining, but a significant amount manual machining and hand work goes into each light. Nearly 5 hours per light. As a natural result, each light exhibits some cosmetic variation from one to another. Each light has its own character.

I do not intentionally remove "machining marks" from the lights because I like to retain some evidence of the process. I actually think machining marks are beautiful because they explain how the light was made. Each light has an experience and history even before it arrives in your mailbox, and some show it more than others.

During production, a light might receive a small nick, ding, or scuff. Aluminum is incredibly soft and it's very difficult to get a light through the dozens of manufacturing steps without a blemish of some sort. Sometimes a metal chip will get stuck between the part and the vise and leave a little dent. Even the paper transport cartons will scratch a polished or sand blasted finish before it's been plated.

When all the machining and finishing work is done, these lights are electroless nickel plated by a local plating company (sometimes dings occur here). This coating is extremely hard and wear resistant and will protect the light from now on, but at this stage any imperfections have been permanently "sealed" into the finish.

The point of all this is you should not expect to receive a light that is 100% cosmetically perfect. That's just not how "hand made" works. If you can't accept this degree of uncertainty, please order a mass produced light instead of one of mine.

Battery single 18650 lithium-ion (4.2V)
Cree MCE led (cool wht) (Flux bin "M")(Tint Bin "WC" 6500K)
Cree MCE led (neutral wht) (Flux bin "K")(Tint Bin "4A" 4500K)
Cree XML led (cool wht) (Flux bin "U2")(Tint Bin "1C" 6500K)
Cree XML led (neutral wht) (Flux bin "T5")(Tint Bin "4C" 4500K)
Nichia 219 High-CRI led (NVSL219B R9050)(4500K)
MCE output (cool wht) ~750 lumens OTF (minimum)
MCE output (neutral wht) ~600 lumens OTF (minimum)
XML output (cool wht) ~800 lumens OTF (minimum)
XML output (neutral wht) ~750 lumens OTF (minimum)
Nichia 219 output ~250 lumens OTF (minimum)
2.4A driver (Nichia 219) "Icarus" Proprietary Driver (3.8V input) Programmable
3.4A driver (MCE/XML) "Icarus" Proprietary Driver (3.8V input) Programmable
driver UI 3 Mode (100%,30%,5%)
run time for MCE (est.) High = 90min, Med = 300min, Low = 900min
run time for XML (est.) High = 60min, Med = 210min, Low = 660min
run time for Nichia 219(est.) High = 120min, Med = 430min, Low = 1,290min
reflector Ledil Boom MC-S (Spot)(Angle = FWHM 20°)
window (lens) 98% UCL glass (2 side AR coated)
thermal interface Bergquist Bond-Ply 100
clicky switch McClicky "forward" click switch (it's famous!)
switch boot Molded silicone (blue, orange, black, GITD green)
wire Mil-spec silver plated 24 AWG, teflon coated
solder Silver Solder (RoHS compliant)
body material 6061-T6 aerospace-grade aluminum
Coating Electroless Nickel (Hardness: 48-50 Rc)
driver mount (Blue-Label) C101 Oxy-free electronic copper (H02 99% pure)
driver mount (Ready-Made) 6061-T6 aluminum (EN plated)
o-rings (Blue-Label) Mil-Spec Fluorosilicone (70 Durometer Shore A)
o-rings (Ready-Made) Buna-N "Nitrile" (50 Durometer Shore A)
threads Body-to-head (1x28) body-to-tail (7/8x28)
lubricant StClaire Nano-Oil (10 Wt.)
dimensions 1.2" x 5.75" (body dia. is 1")
weight 4.79oz (136.1g) No Battery
ANSI thead tolerance (Blue-Label) Class III A/B
ANSI thead tolerance (Ready-Made) Class II A/B
depth rating 300 feet for 5 hours (tested!)

The Alpha Series is very small and very powerful.

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