Part of the thrill of fantasy sports is your ability to endulge in what ifs. What would happen if Max Scherzer pitched on the same staff as Chris Sale? How good would your team be if Mike Trout and Mookie Betts batted one after the other? In the flashlight world I often wondered what would happen if Jason Hui of Prometheus Lights made a collab with a production company.
Then in January of 2018 at SHOT, Jason announced that he was buying FourSevens. This is kind of like Pagani buying Ford, but aside from the weird size issues, it seemed like a win-win. FourSevens was one of the most innovative companies in the market, and then, after a flurry of initial amazing releases it started to stagnate. New ideas, such as the Paladin, weren’t just weird they were awful. Meanwhile Jason was grooving winner after winner into the market via his Dark Sucks site and Kickstarter. The Preon Mk. III is the first product from FourSevens to be released after Jason took the wheel and while it is not a radical change for the Preon, it is one that portends many good things going forward. This is a very solid EDC light, one that looks two or three times its price, and one that performs exceedingly well in its intended role.
Here is the product page. The light sells for $50 exactly and comes in four versions, two black (one matte and the other high gloss) and two silver (again with a matte and high gloss option). There are no written or video reviews of the Preon Mk. III. Here is my review sample (purchased with my own money):
Twitter Review Summary: What do Silver Surfer and John the Baptist have in common? Yeah, it’s that but for flashlights.
In the piano gloss finish, the Preon Mk. III looks glorious. It is sleek, polished, and compact. The gloss doesn’t just look good, it helps the light slide in and out of the pocket with ease. That, coupled with Jason’s best-in-the-business clip make the Preon Mk. III truly outstanding. If the light could tailstand, I don’t think it could be easily beaten. Alas, there is no tailstanding, but that doesn’t really detract from how good this light is all that much. The simple shape seems to invite your fingers and given that it is about the size of a pen, it just fits. Simple, sleek, and easy to use and carry—the Preon Mk. III’s design is really excellent.
The lumens to weight ratio is: .86 (100 lumens/1.16 ounces). Maximum lumen output (lumens x runtime) is 3,600 found on medium. Both are decent for an AAA light, but not great.
Fit and Finish: 2
Pre-Hui takeover FourSevens had nicely made things. Post-Hui takeover nothing has changed for the worst. One of the nicest things Jason has brought to EDC gear is his awesome finishes. Nothing gleams quite like the electroplated finishing on his torches and pens. So to see a piano gloss finish on a production torch that rivals, or in my opinion, surpasses that is awesome. The finish is tough, beautiful and makes the light easier to use. I am very happy with every single aspect of this torch and if this is a sign of things to come, FourSevens will be the Chris Reeve Knives of flashlights. Amazing quality for a mass produced item.
Thanks to a middle section that is nicely tapered, a well-designed clip, and a finish that looks slick but isn’t, the Mk. III is great in the hand. AAA lights are always good in the hand because they have a shape very similar to that of a pen and our hands and fingers have muscle memory since age 3 for those objects. As such, it is second nature to hold, pick, and use lights of this size. Thankfully, everything else about this light does nothing to screw with that muscle memory and the end result is a very usable light.
I wrote this in the flashlight design document but it is worth repeating here—Jason Hui has “solved” the pocket clip design for flashlights. Where it is on AAA sized lights or bigger torches, his clips are always the best. They are simple, easy to use, and sturdy. When I was cobbling together my Surefire Titan “Pro” I picked his clip out of all of the others because it was the best. This light and others have done nothing to change my mind. Compared to the awful friction-fit clips, there is no contest. But that is not all that makes this an elite carry light. The gloss finish works well sliding in and out of your pocket and the very nice size of a AAA light also works well. I like the fact that this light can be mistaken for a pen and works just as well in nicer clothes as it does in jeans.
This is simple—the K18 and Titan Plus have raised the bar for 1xAAA torches. I want 300 lumens or more. And this is not just a lumens arms race thing. The difference between the Mk. 3’s output and the Titan Plus’s output is actually quite substantial, again as I discussed in the flashlight Design Document piece. The low and the spacing of the outputs is fine. I just want that punch-a-hole-in-the-darkness high. As an EDC light, this is plenty bright, but if you want to take all comers, that is a different matter and you need a bit more high end here.
The runtimes on the Mk. III are good, certainly a 2, but they are not bonkers crazy like you see on Muyshondt torches or Zebralights.
There is, however, a quirk. Modern flashlights have a circuit inside them that meters out power from the battery so that that instead of slowly dimming, they output full brightness until just before the battery dies and they stop working. Generally there is something of a warning, a slightly dimmer beam, but here it is exceptionally abrupt. So abrupt that the first time it happened I thought I had a bad light. I switched batteries and it was fine. Then it did it again. This time I measured the cell and it was, in fact, in need of a recharge. The third time it happened I was again caught by surprise. Some bumping got a few more flickers of light out of the cell, but it was basically on and then dead. I mention this because it is so abrupt that it might cause problems. You get no warning here. There is no dimming. The cells in the Mk. III have two modes functioning: on and dead. Its not really a flaw, its just something to be aware of. On the flip side, of course, you get pretty much peak brightness throughout the cell’s charged period, so that is good. Its a design choice that is different than what most light makers choose, but it is not an inherently bad one. When I am in critical need of light, such as on a night hike in winter, I generally have more than one light and more than one cell for each light. The worst that happens here is that I have to make it home from the office without the security of knowing I have a working light if I need it (though, of course, like any good flashlight fan, I have torch in my glovebox).
Beam Type: 2
The Mk. III still runs a traditional reflector, which, in theory, is not cutting edge, but the beam pattern is very pleasant with a Surefire-esque hotspot surrounded by a beautiful corona of useful less bright light. Its not a throw monster, but it can punch up street signs surprisingly far away especially compared to the squashed patterns found on non-Surefire TIR lights like the S1R from oLight and the D25AAA from Eagletac. Great balance and useful beam pattern—not a surprise from a flashlight guru as smart as Jason (credit also to the original FourSevens folks, I think the reflector is a carry over from the Mk. III, but I am not sure).
Beam Quality: 2
If you have a good beam pattern, a nice balance between hotspot and spill suited to the light’s role, you almost always get an equally nice beam free of artifacts, holes, and egg-shaped hotspots. Here that heuristic carries over nicely. This beam, like the finish on the light, is clean and gleaming. There is nothing I could ask for from a $50 light. Great.
The clicky is bang up nice with great feedback and an easy to hit shape and texture. I like it alot. I also strongly prefer the clicky to non-stage (aka twist, twist again) twisties. Obviously, a selector ring like that on the HDS Rotary would be amazing, but to my knowledge no one has ever made a 1xAAA with a selector ring unless you count the MDI HF-R with the spare body tube. The debounce times are just right, too. I only wish it had mode memory so that you could predetermine if it comes on in low or high. As it is, it comes on in low, which is the right choice in a light without mode memory.
Hands Free: 1
It doesn’t roll and works well in jury-rigged set ups, but it lacks both the ability to tailstand and the ability to magnetize to surfaces. Those aren’t killer drawbacks, but it is a bit behind the times compared to other lights in this class. I’d love to see an aftermarket tailcap or a FourSevens upgrade accessory that fixed this problem. Jason, are you reading this? I want to give you more money. PLEASE.
Fidget Factor: Very High
With its piano gloss finish, perfect size, and finger-friendly pocket clip, there is no way that you will let this live in your pocket the whole day. You will want to fidget with it and the extra nice clicky will reward you for doing so. Just be careful you don’t run out the batteries. Remember—its light or dead. Nothing in between.
Fett Effect: Low
Given the finish I thought this thing would look like Boba Fett’s armor after it was hauled out of the sarlaac pit (is that still canon? I have no idea anymore). But to my surprise and delight it has maintained 99.9% of its glossy finish. It looks great.
This light runs and looks like a million bucks. Jason is a master of finishes and this light benefits from that tremendously. This could easily have been 50% more and no one would have balked at it (well, people balk at $50 flashlights in general, but if you are willing to pay $50, you aren’t that person).
Overall Score: 18 out of 20
The Mk. III is one of the best EDC lights on the market. I strongly suggest you pick up a glossy version, especially if you have never had a chance to handle Jason’s high gloss finish gear before. I wish the output was higher and I wish the light could tailstand, but other than that, this is about as good as EDC lights get in 2018. Unless something dramatic happens in the last two months of the year, this thing is a lock for GOTY 2018 for Best Flashlight. There is one other contender I have to check out, from a new company, but aside from that or a surprise like two years ago when the BOSS35 dropped like a fiery meteor on us in the waning days of 2016, this is it. Great offering and hopefully a herald of things to come from the reinvigorated FourSevens.
Boy is this light good. Compared to the stock Titan Plus, I’d probably take the Mk. III. The combination of a better clip, snazzy looks, and tailcap clicky make up for the lack of lumens. The fact that the Mk. III is about half the price doesn’t hurt either. The Ultratac K18 is another really good 1xAAA light, but I like the clip here better than the atrocious friction fit clip on the K18. Finally, I’d also look at the EagleTac D25AAA. Again, the better clip makes a big difference, as does the high end finish and clicky. Overall, among the really great 1xAAA lights out there for EDC, nothing beats the Preon Mk. III out of the box, though the Titan Plus is very, very close.