I was bitten by the flashlight bug when I was about 7 or 8 years old. My grandmother had gotten me my first penlight, and I imagined myself to be a spy of international reknown. I had a lot of adventures with that penlight, and considered myself on the cutting edge of technology when the 8 Track was still king. Oh, I wish I had the chance back then to play with today’s toys, including the new Preon 2 and Quark MiNi from 4Sevens. I would have had a blast!
It’s hard to convey to today’s kids the magic you felt growing up in the “good old days”, especially those late nights listening to AM broadcasts from far away and reading comic books under the covers with my new penlight. It was a grand time. Back then, I impressed myself with the technology that I began to incorporate into my life. Why, I had just gotten my first cassette recorder. Doesn’t seem like much now, but from my perspective as a child, it was like going to the moon! So, it was with some nostalgia in my heart that I received the 4Sevens Preon 2 for review, and I was happy to see that despite all of the technological advances made in the past 30 years, some of the magic was still there. That early model penlight sported a body made of polished tin and had a rather anemic bulb that put out maybe 5-10 lumens. That’s only a guess since the light is long gone and I don’t have the specs now. It had a red clicker top and it did what a light was supposed to do–turn on and turn off.
4Sevens has upped the ante considerably with their offering in the Preon 2. Boasting a body made of aircraft aluminum in a nice anodized blue finish, it too has a clicker top, but that’s where the similarities pretty much end. The bulb is an Cree XG-P R5 model that pumps out 160 lumens of light on the highest setting. But, it doesn’t end there. The Preon 2 actually has 7 different modes including High, Medium, Low, SOS, Strobe, Beacon (High), and Beacon (Low). All of these are actuated by the clicker top of the pen. By going through a simple sequence of clicks or soft presses, you can quickly get to whichever setting you desire. A soft press is when you simply depress the tailcap enough to turn the light on momentarily without actually clicking it all the way.
Even by today’s standards, the Preon 2 is out there on the edge with regard to performance–especially with such a compact footprint. There are plently of LED lights out there today that put out 100-120 lumens with two CR123 batteries, but the Preon 2 pumps out the 160 lumens with just two readily available AAA batteries. Not AA batteries…AAA batteries. That’s a strong showing for a penlight. The Preon 2 is actually rated to run .8 hours at the highest setting, 6 hours on medium (22 lumens), and 23 hours on low (2.2) lumens. These are runtimes that you might see on lights using larger batteries and bodies to support them. But, the Preon 2 does it in a body that weighs just a scant 8 ounces and slips into a shirt pocket with extreme ease.
The Preon 2 got a fairly extensive workout during a recent camp outing and during many nights since. But, at the camp outing, it quickly became my go-to light for the occasion. I used three main lights at camp. One was an area lantern. One was a headlamp that I used while changing, getting ready for bed, and visiting the facilities. The Preon 2 was the third light that I used for everything else. Whether we were walking the trail or visiting from camp to camp, the Preon 2 led the way. It was nice to have a very small light on hand as night drew close and it was time to retire for the evening. I won’t say that I was a rock star, but quite a few people were impressed by the incredible amount of light thrown by the Preon 2 at its highest setting. In fact, a few were awed by it especially when we compared it to other lights of much greater size and battery capacity.
I found the medium setting was more than adequate to move about our large camp area, though I was somewhat familiar with the area. For unfamiliar territory, you might want to jump to the high setting to make sure of your footing. Either way, the Preon 2 will serve you well as it did me. The Preon 2 is water resistent to IPX-8 standards which means bacially means it’s waterproof at 1m+, though it’s not dive rated. Besides the blue finish, there are other colors availabe as well as a Titanium model. So, whether you’re an outdoorsmen needing a rugged ight or a doctor wanting something with a bit more class, there’s probably a model right for you. And, no matter how much of an ultra-light hiker you are, you’ll always have enough room for the Preon 2 to be with you on your journey because of its tiny footprint and feather-light weight.
What I didn’t get to enjoy as a child was a light such as the Quark MiNi from 4Sevens. First, I don’t think they had the CR123 battery back then, and even if they had, I wouldn’t have been able to afford them. The Quark MiNi is a bit of the opposite of the Preon 2. Where the Preon 2 has the long, thin body, the Quark Mini is short and thick. Stout might be the better word. Also, because the of the different battery choice for the Quark Mini, you get a bit more performance out of it than the Preon 2. With regard to construction, both are pretty similar to each other. The Quark MiNi is also made of aircraft aluminum, is water resistant to IPX-8 standards, and has the same optical quality lens with anit-flective coatings on both sides. The one difference is in the knurling on the body for a sure grip as opposed to the sleek, clean finish found on the Preon 2.
The Quark MiNi has a runtime of 1.2 hours at 189 lumens, so you get a bit more light and a bit more time than the Preon 2. On the medium setting of 40 lumens, you’ll get around 8 hours. And, the lowest setting of 3 lumens will net you around 150 hours of use. While I’m rather fond of the Preon 2, I found the Quark MiNi to be a bit more useful for walking a trail at night. The 40 lumen medium setting gave much better visibility than the 22 lumen medium setting of the Preon 2. This means you can squeeze more time from the Quark MiNi while you’re out at night since you won’t have to go the highest setting while you’re walking. That said, you’ll pay a bit more for the CR123 battery than two AAA batteries even though you’re getting more time out of it. So, it’s up to the user as to which would be the best for them when it comes to output versus price.
The Quark MiNi also offers the special output modes including SOS, Strobe, Beacon (High) and Beacon (Low) just as the Preon 2 offers. You access then via the same routines you would with the Preon 2. Rather than a “clicker” on the tailcap, the Quark MiNi is turned on and off with the rotary head. Though not listed on the site as a feature, there is a momentary feature on the Quark MiNi as well. If you turn the rotary head to the point that the light is off, and then a bit more, you’ll find that by depressing the body with your thumb will turn the lights on temporarily. You simply let off the pressure and it goes off. You can cycle throughout the different modes this way as well. Bear in mind that there’s no tailcap button recessed into the end of the light. You’re actually compressing the two parts of the body together internally. I would caution that you make sure once you’re done using the light that you turn the head a good amount into the off position. If you leave the head turned until the light’s about to come on, you could find putting it in a pocket or kit might cause enough pressure on the body to activate the light when you don’t want it to be activated. So, make sure to give it an extra turn away from the on position when you’re ready to put it away for the time being.
Speaking of kits, the Quark MiNi would make an outstanding addition to any personal survival or preparedness kit for a number of reasons. First, the lithium CR123 batteries have a shelf life of ten years, so that makes the Quark MiNi a natural for storage in a kit. Yes, you can get lithium AAA batteries, but most folks aren’t tech savvy and will save a few bucks by simply getting alkaline cells. Second, since there is no protruding tailcap, you don’t have to worry about it being depressed accidentally when you stuff it away into a kit or a pack–provided you’ve turned the head into the fully “off” position. Third, even though it uses a CR123 battery, it’s an incredibly compact package. In fact, I don’t think they could make it any smaller unless they painted the body onto the battery itself. Plus, you get the longer runtimes from the higher capacity battery along with a bit more powerful output when it’s needed. Finally, you’ve got the robust, water resistant construction that will hold up to whatever elements you would encounter with such a kit. When you read stories about people that have been found because of the light on their cell phone, it’s easy to see where features like the Strobe or SOS mode would come in handy and why a light like this would be worth having in your emergency kit in the great outdoors.
No matter which form factor you prefer, the Preon 2 and the Quark MiNi are both great products introduced to the lighting market by 4Sevens. The end user gets great versatility and functionality in products that are compact and simple to operate. For their size and battery types, the output levels and runtimes are as good as I’ve seen (if not better) than similar lights on the market. Either one would be a great companion while you’re out in the woods or on the trail, but it will probably be your own carry preference that will determine the form factor that’s best for you. You get a bit more power and output from the Quark MiNi, but the Preon 2 certainly holds its own.
No, we can’t go back in time and change things, but we can enjoy what’s here with us today. With the advent of better technology and available materials, we are seeing products that weren’t even conceived in science fiction half a century ago. Whether it’s high-tech shelters, better knife steels, or more sophisticated solutions to our lighting needs, it’s a great time to be around to enjoy the fruits of our labors. The products offered by 4Sevens are no exception, and the Preon 2 and Quark MiNi are great examples of that fact. Yes, there might be something better down the road, but that’s always the case. Live in the “now” and check one of these great lights out. I’m betting you’ll have a light in your EDC routine!