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MrBulk's VIP (Var-I-Pin) 3W Luxeon Star Flashlight Review

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MrBulk's VIP

If you are one of those who like being on the bleeding edge of flashlight industry then chances are you already know MrBulk. If not, then he's the guy who's constantly in search of something new and cool that will shine brighter, and throw the light further and use latest technological advances and so on. Anyway, this time I picked up his VIP. Which stands not for Very Important Person, but for Var-I-Pin. I am not entirely clear what Var-I-Pin is exactly, perhaps related to the fact that VIP has variable light output selector, or pin in other words. So, the story is that in winter 2004, (for those who like statistics - 01/17/04 according to Charlie's website) MrBulk announced VIP. Pocket size, single CR123 cell powered flashlight, using single 3W Luxeon star LED. Estimated light output in high mode would make it the brightest single cell Luxeon star flashlight available on the market for now. Major features distinguishing this flashlight from many others were selectable light output, with 3 settings low, medium, high, original tri-scalloped tail guard, and modularity. That means you can purchase additional modules, more about that below.


 - As I noted above, VIP was announced in Jan 2004. Per-ordering was available in late march 2004, and finally the light has been delivered to me in Jun 2004. Delay from projected delivery time was around a month. Compared to knife industry where 6 month or 1 year delays are usual thing, let alone 3-4 year delays from many makers that was blazing fast ;)
    Original VIP configuration was the light with standard bezel, and Fraen optics. When in came in I was surprised to find my VIP equipped with SO17XA reflector from IMS. By that time I have already ordered custom modified SO17XA from another CPFer. So, I ended up with 2 reflectors, plus extra Fraen optics that Charlie generously included in the package. Extra reflector was just great, because I was able to drop it into my Longbow Micra right away. I've mentioned on other pages, and I'll repeat here that I do prefer reflectors over various optics, and currently for all the flashlights in my possession not equipped with reflectors I am trying to find suitable one. Fraen optics do give more focused beam, but they lack the consistency and evenness of the reflectors.


 - Ok, now back to VIP. Generally, it is a small(relatively) pocket light. Cylindrical shape, 4.12 inches long and 0.99 inch in diameter. VIP body can be divided into 3 sections, bezel, body and a tail guard. Here's a picture of VIP disassembled. Body is anodized, black color, HA III type. The light is equipped with brightness selector pin, located right below the bezel, protruding around 4 mms, and standard Kroll switch. One distinctive feature of the VIP, its tail switch guard. Officially it's a tri-scalloped, King's Crown shape. The guard protects the flashlight from accidentally turning on in your pocket, plus gives the ability to stand on its tail, thus using the flashlight in candle mode.
    VIP also features knurled fins over entire body, minus head assembly and tail guard. Fins themselves are designed for better heat dissipation, while knurling is supposed to improve the grip. I remember, in the beginning there was rather long debate whether or not to have knurling on the fins. I personally voted for the smooth fins. But grip security obsessed crowd has won the debate, so we got knurled VIP. I myself don't quite see the usefulness of knurling on the flashlight to begin with, and especially on the flashlight that small. It is not an axe or a club? If you expect someone prying out your VIP from your hands then that knurling should be the least of your concerns. Same for the usability, you are not gonna chop with your flashlight, are you? Or use this 4 inch long tube as a club? Anyway, I guess matter of taste. Though, just the presence of the fins without any knurling would provide more than sufficient grip security for the flashlight in my opinion.
    Even though VIP is definitely in small flashlight class, I doubt it is pocketable. Too large for that. Length, width... Not realistic, unless you're wearing cargo pants, or some custom made ones with real large pockets. Funny, but much shorter Arc LS 3W I had was a problem in small jeans pocket too, VIP is twice as long in default configuration, so you do the math. Obvious solution is to carry it in a special sheath. I am sure there are some already available out there and more to come. Actually VIP was larger than I have anticipated, despite seeing comparison pictures before. I donno why, but it seemed thinner, smaller. Take a look at this pictures pic 1, pic 2 may be you'll get the idea.
    For those who like using lanyard or clips on your flashlights, good news. KC tail guard has a lanyard hole drilled into one of the tail fins. The Kings Crown tail guard is quite pointy. In an emergency VIP will easily substitute the Kubotan :) I've mentioned above, there are several accessories available for VIP already. In addition to reflectors, flat tail switch is also available. First delivery will be somewhere in July 2004. I've ordered one. It'll make VIP probably 0.5 inch shorter. Obviously Kroll switch is easier to operate, but longer. We'll see which one will work out better.
    Well, that's pretty much all I wanted to say about VIP body. For the record it is made of aluminum.


 - As mentioned above there are lots of accessories available for VIP. You already know about 2 of them, reflector and flat tail switch. What's more interesting is the ability to change bezels and the body unit. Since VIP uses CR123 lithium battery in standard configuration it's clear that you need 3 volts to power it properly.
    2 AA - Replaceable body allows the use of 2 AA size NiMh disposable batteries instead of single CR123. Obviously 2 AA body is longer. Don't know exactly, haven't handled one yet and the specs aren't posted, but on the picture looks like twice as long. However this allows the use of rechargeable NiMh batteries, improves runtime 1.5 times(projected) and brightness 10%. Comes with matching black anodization. Cost 30$. BTW this one is produced by CPFer Otokoyama, not by MrBulk here's the reference thread.
    2 CR123 body - Not so sure about this one. There were some talks, but how did it end I don't know. Here's the reference thread. In short this was an idea, and as far as I understand AA adapters can be modified to accommodate CR123. May be someone does it already, check CPF.
    BBH - Stands for Big Bulkhead. This is a large head unit with a reflector. Light output increases several times, for comparison, if standard one produces around 950-1000 Lux from 1 meter, BBH kicks that number up to 9640. Cost - 65$. Link to reference thread.
    BH - That's one more head unit for VIP. In between of the BBH and standard bezel. BH triples or almost quadruples the light output of a standard bezel. Cost - 30$. BH will increase the overall size of your VIP by 7/16" in length and 21/32" in diameter. Putting the light definitely out of your pockets :) But it I think the increase in output is worth.
    I think that's pretty much is for now accessory-wise. Check CPF once in a while, chances are you'll find more addons and mods.


 - Probably I should say beams :) Since VIP has 3 different settings. As far as the LED quality goes it's good. Generally 3W luxeons are much better in terms of consistency and QC compared to their 1W and 5W brothers. White beam, slightly purplish tint. No complaints from me in short. Thanks to the reflector the beam produces well defined bright hotspot, very even circle, that gradually goes into larger corona. IMHO much nicer than Fraen optics. Although on the light meter Fraen would measure higher, because it focuses better than the S017XA reflector, but unless you need your VIP to illuminate high ceilings or distant fences reflector is more useful and what's more important artifact free, no squares, dark spots, etc.
    Finally we arrived to that light output selector. As you already know, it has 3 positions, low, medium and high. On my light meter VIP measured correspondingly 30, 560 and 950 Lux from the distance of 1 meter. Cool. I think this choice of the levels is good, and real world oriented. Overall I don't think you need more than 3 or 4 settings, and for most of the time I get along with 2. Very low and max. But your needs may vary. As far as the current goes, according to VIP maker the draw is as following - ~30mA on Low, ~350mA on Medium, and 800-900mA on High. As I understand the light will last around 35 minutes on high, then it'll begin to strobe indicating the insufficient power. You'll have to turn it off, set lower setting and switch it back on. Useful hint - when you can replace the battery ;)

Beam Selector

 - As for the selector design to me it's somewhere in the middle. Not the best there can be, but definitely better than some of the others. I like VIP selector better than multi-click design for Arc 4 flashlights. Having to commence dozen clicks in a rapid succession isn't an easy job for mere mortals :) Being a software engineer I do a lot of clicking and double/triple clicking for work, but when I want to change some settings in my Arc 4 I make mistakes too. Not that I practice for Arc 4 operations though. But it's too complicated for the flashlight IMHO. VIP selector on the other hand is a lot simpler. What I don't like about it is the difficulty with single hand operation, and the pin itself protruding from the body. But something had to be compromised :). What I like the best, from known designs is the dial type brightness selector for soon to be available FireFly2. I'll update this section once I get FireFly2, should be sometimes soon.

VIP Gallery:

MrBulk - VIP MrBulk - VIP MrBulk - VIP MrBulk - VIP
TnC Key-Lux, Arc 4p, Longbow Micra, VIP TnC Key-Lux, Arc 4p, Longbow Micra, VIP TnC Key-Lux, Arc 4p, Longbow Micra, VIP TnC Key-Lux, Arc 4p, Longbow Micra, VIP
VIP,Micra,Arc4p,FF2,KeyLux VIP,Micra,Arc4p,FF2,KeyLux VIP,Micra,Arc4p,FF2,KeyLux VIP,Micra,Arc4p,FF2,KeyLux

Last updated - 05/06/19