WITH our dull, short winter days, work lights are a necessity on most work sites. Over the years I have used a variety of corded and cordless ones so I have come to appreciate their virtues as well as their downsides, writes PETER BRETT.
Modern corded LED lights are often bright, come with an adjustable stand and run cool. They are perfect for flooding big areas with light when painting, for example. But they often have clumsy fittings for adjusting the angle of the lighting heads. I hated the now defunct (maybe not everywhere!) halogen lights that generated so much heat that you had to watch how you handled them. And they also needed cooling-off-time at the end of the working day before being packed away.
Smaller cordless lights using main brand cordless tool batteries cast a good controllable light and usually have more features, like Bluetooth, decent tripods and phone charging USBs, but more features equals a bigger price.
But the ones I have seen the most of cost £12 - £35 from the ‘sheds’ under an own brand. They usually are quite compact and will last a whole working day provided you slow charge them overnight. The light quality is good enough, but my quibble is that they are a bit bulky and sometimes hard to place for maximum effect if you don’t have a handy flat surface or joist on which to hang them because of the way that the frames are made.
My ideal light would be fully featured with Bluetooth etc, compact, powerful, easily adjustable, easy to place or hang for optimum lighting and quick charging.
Quite by coincidence I had just picked up a small job laying some flooring and building some shelves in a loft. Since the Ledlenser iF8R had just arrived I slipped it into my toolbox (still in its packaging), hoping that it would help me out, because surely the loft would have a mains light in it…? It turned out that the loft had no such thing, and I was forced to rely on the iF8R for the whole job. Fortunately, the Ledlenser didn’t let me down and I came to quickly appreciate its virtues.
It doesn’t look like a site light – and that’s good
It is hard to describe the Ledlenser iF8R – the closest I can get to it is: like a mini-briefcase, but longer rather than wider, with a briefcase-type handle. It is just over 30cm long, 14cm wide and just 4cm thick – so it can easily be described as very compact. It does weigh in at about 1.74kg, including the battery, so it feels like a quality piece of kit. The matte black case is made of a strong nylon/plastic material and there is a large finned alloy casting behind the big LED light that helps to dissipate any heat that may be generated.
Switching and controls are on the opposite face to the light and operating it is simplicity itself. A big yellow button invites the forefinger to switch the light on and it is done with a single push.
The on/off button is surrounded by four other controls. A plus and minus sign on either side can be pushed to increase or reduce the brightness of the LED in five steps from 100%, to 75%, 50%, 25% and 10%. These are indicated by small red lights. The third control selects Bluetooth mode, which enables the user to remotely control the switch via a smartphone. A small blue light tells you it is on. Finally, a control marked with a battery enables the user to check the battery levels. If all is well, the lights light up as green, but when 10% battery level is reached, a recharge is going to be necessary sooner rather than later.
The simplicity of the controls is a good feature making for quick and easy information, and even with gloved hands they are easy to use.
For charging, a simple hinged rubber flap needs to be lifted to insert the jack plug. Initially, I charged the battery overnight so I didn’t take note of how long it took to fully charge, but to ensure a steady supply of light it will be necessary to recharge whenever the 10% battery capacity light shows up. Even a fill-up charge while you eat a sandwich and have a cup of tea will give a good run time.
The specs say that at full 4500 lumens power the battery will last about 75 minutes, while selecting the lowest setting of 400 lumens, it will last up to 12 hours. My experience of the 1F8R confirms this, but to ensure a full day’s work it is a good idea to get the Bluetooth operational so that it is easy to switch on and off and adjust the lumens when necessary.
Behind the jack plug is a USB slot into which the universal onsite smartphone could be charged from the i8R’s battery pack. Weather sealing is up to IP54 standard so occasional damp and rain on site should not be a problem.
Ways to set up
Despite being slimline and compact I did manage to stand the i8R on its side and base on the floor and beams of the loft where it seemed reasonably stable. But for more stability the robust carry handle folds back to form a supportive leg that is very stable even on a not-so-flat surface. It can also be held from a nail or screw driven into a joist via the handle. Six powerful magnets in the handle enable it to be stuck on a scaffolding pole or radiator as well – versatile non?
The shape and size of this Ledlenser light are the clinchers for me. It is so compact that I was able to slip it easily into my toolbox ready to take on site – something no other sitelight (to my knowledge) is capable of at the moment. Add to this the powerful and adjustable LED light that floods the workspace and the ease of use either via the switches or Bluetooth, which makes it a pretty perfect light for many users. Registering the product soon after purchase will get you a seven-year warranty too.
Ledlenser clearly has oodles of confidence in the product and I am not really surprised. I anticipate my sample will get hours and hours more use especially as winter draws in.