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Old September 3, 2006, 09:34 PM   #1
pangris
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Join Date: September 20, 2002
Location: Baton Rouge
Posts: 68
1000+ lumen rechargable flashlight... review of Black Bear's Borealis

I am generally intrigued by the technical aspects of things that are the best at what they do. In the last few years, flashlights in general have dramatically improved. The technology has improved by leaps and bounds with regard to almost every aspect from basic construction and power supply to the reflector and bulbs.

Being from the Gulf coast, I liked flashlights before Katrina… afterwards, I have to say I consider them second only to guns and gasoline in an emergency situation. A light that is exceptionally bright AND rechargeable is essential.

I started playing with a Surefire 6P about 15 years ago. At the time it was by far the most amazing flashlight I had used. Since then I’ve owned a bunch of Surefires, Streamlights, etc etc – and I’ve also spent almost as much on CR123A lithium batteries as the lights themselves.

Being a flashlight nut, I took notice of a gentleman doing high performance conversions to factory lights a couple years ago. He is on a number of forums and people that bought the lights seemed satisfied. They caught my interest but I like to play with things before I shell out that kind of money, so I never got around to buying one. It turns out writing reviews about everything I find interesting has a fringe benefit – I was given the opportunity to play with not only one but two of these conversions.

"Black Bear" is the man behind the “Borealis” (previously known as the MAG 951) and the “Bear Cub” along with a number of other lights. People have been tinkering with off the shelf lights for a while but Black Bear offers a turn-key light like I’ve never seen. The Borealis offers 1050 lumens for 45 minutes in a rechargeable package.

A decked out, polished Borealis with a custom bezel and lanyard

[img]pic17.picturetrail.com/VOL827/1560122/9723711/184070190.jpg[/img]

There isn’t a direct comparison to the various 2 and 3 cell lights because of the size difference – but there is no comparison in performance, either. 1050 lumens is tremendous. It will light up the entire side of a two story commercial building on the other side of a highway with enough light to see EVERYTHING. It is as bright as a headlight on my car. It is retina searingly bright. You can’t appreciate how bright it is until you have witnessed that even if your eyes are closed it will make you turn away.

Size comparison to the M6

[img]pic17.picturetrail.com/VOL827/1560122/9723711/184070469.jpg[/img]

The general quality and construction of the lights is fantastic. The Borealis strips the original host Mag down to the aluminum shell – everything is replaced, including the reflector, switch, bulb, power delivery system... The quality of the components is impressive – the reflector is a milled aluminum unit, the switch a ceramic insulated number, etc etc. It makes good use of the host aluminum shell and is a “sleeper” until you hit the switch, at which point it is obvious this isn’t your average light.

The Bear Cub is based on a shorter, lighter and thinner C cell light and maintains a little more original hardware, but the battery system and bulb come together to provide 220 rechargeable lumens. The Bear Cub is also a great buy at $120.

I had thought always thought the Surefire M6 was a pretty cool light but would never have bought one. MSRP is $399, street price $320+, and $10 in 123A batteries for every 20 minutes of 500 lumens. The Borealis is a little longer, but less expensive up front and tremendously more “fuel efficient” with regard to both run time and being rechargeable.
Overall the Borealis the brightest portable light I’ve seen in a rechargeable package. There are other hand held lights out there that cost more but in my experience, the Mag 951 is an exceptional value.

Options – You can get a number of different reflectors depending on if you want more “throw” for spotting at a distance, or a reflector better suited to “flood” at which point it is brighter than patio floodlights… Black Baer offers three different reflectors to suit your needs.

Some beamshots -

Borealis on the left, Surefire 120 lumen P61 on the right

[img]pic17.picturetrail.com/VOL827/1560122/9723711/184070194.jpg[/img]

Borealis on the left, Streamlight TL-2 LED on the right

[img]pic17.picturetrail.com/VOL827/1560122/9723711/184070472.jpg[/img]

Standard 3D maglight

[img]pic17.picturetrail.com/VOL827/1560122/9723711/184070184.jpg[/img]

Borealis

[img]pic17.picturetrail.com/VOL827/1560122/9723711/184070179.jpg[/img]

Pros:

A) Bright – to the point of being able to use it as an emergency headlight. There is nothing I’ve held in my hand that was anywhere NEAR this price that is nearly as bright.

B) Rechargeable – Normally batteries on very bright lights eat your lunch. This uses a cradle with NiMH AA batteries. You can also recharge in a car with a 12V adapter or an inverter.

C) Built like a tank – solid aluminum construction, top quality components.

D) Run time – 45 minutes of 1000+ lumens is unlike anything else I’m aware of.

E) Total cost with everything you need as far as the charger, etc, ranges from $235-$308, which is less than lights that aren’t as bright with shorter run times.

F) Very high “wow” factor. When you hit the switch, everyone involved will be nothing short of amazed.

G) The “host” is a $20 Maglite. If something happens, you can swap the parts into a new shell in a few minutes.


Cons:


A) They aren’t the smallest lights out there – being based on the Mags, it is what it is…

B) You have to do things like charge the batteries then let them “rest” for a couple hours to let the voltage drop, or use a bleeding lamp for 40 seconds, etc etc. Not completely plug and play – certainly not a big deal, but they aren’t idiot proof.

C) For the Borealis the total cost with everything you need ranges from $235 to $308. That said, it is worth that and more in an emergency.

D) If you use a max throw reflector, there is still a little of the need to adjust the beam due to hot spots, etc.

Black Baer 84 also offers a number of other lights…

[img]pic17.picturetrail.com/VOL827/1560122/9723711/184070465.jpg[/img]

The Black Bear 678 (actually 720 lumens now with the Pro-Gold system)
This is based on the Maglite 2 D (10 inches long) the Rolls Royce battery carrier and 6 Nimhs cells. Same high quality as the MAG 951 II but in a shorter format with 720 lumens. 35 minutes run time. This is $250.00 and can be used also with the RC chargers for fast charging.

The Polar Bear is made on the Maglite 3 C and all the high quality components are included, reflector, Pyrex lens, switch etc. except that the Polar Bear do not use battery carriers but 3 Lithium Ion protected batteries. 426 lumens for 75 minutes.
The Polar Bear includes the charger and is $250.00

The EXP 852 lumens is similar to the Borealis, but with a over bore body and a special carrier for 12 batteries (actually 11 and one dummy). It will give 852 lumens of light for one hour. It is specially made for those people that asked for extra run time. And runs around $300.

The Bear Cub: It is made on the Maglite 2 C. (9 inches long and lightweight at 13 oz.)
It make 220 lumens for one hour and a half This light will outperform the Magchager and the Stingers lights. This light does not need the special switch or reflector. It uses Lithium Ion batteries and the charger is included. $120.00

Edited to add... contact info for the creator.

Black Bear can be reached for information about the BOREALIS and his others lights, at

jcharles11784(at)yahoo(dot)com
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Old September 3, 2006, 11:23 PM   #2
JohnKSa
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I have a Bear Cub, it's a very handy flashlight that is very bright for its size--over 180 lumens from a 2 C-Cell Mag-lite package. It runs off a couple of "smart" rechargeable lithium batteries and comes with a charger. Very impressive little light and the lithium batteries give it a better shelf-life once charged than normal rechargeable lights. The smart batteries prevent overcharging, over-discharging, shorting, etc. In addition to its high lumen output, the Bear Cub focuses down into an extremely tight beam that carries much better than the light output alone suggests.

I've also got a Black Bear Search and Rescue Flashlight. It puts out over 850 lumens and mine runs for over an hour on a set of the high-output NiMH AA rechargeable batteries. I opted out of the extra 200 lumens available with the Borealis and got longer run time instead--and it's still off-the-scale bright. It's externally identical to a 4 D-Cell Mag-lite but as pangris explains, it's been internally reworked to handle the much higher current and heat of the high-performance bulb.

The idea of using Mag-Lite chassis is that if you externally damage your light, you can buy a new "body" for your flashlight from Wal-Mart and simply transfer the works to the new body. And, the flashlights still retain the focusing capability of the Mag-lite host.

Besides selling some impressive high-performance flashlights, Mr. Charles is a very nice guy. If off-the-shelf flashlight performance leaves you cold, you should check out his lineup.
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Old September 4, 2006, 04:15 AM   #3
black bear 84
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The inquiry I get most often about my MEGA lights, such as the BOREALIS (new name for the older 951) is how much more powerful they are compared to the regular police or military flashlight.

The Magcharger and the Stinger have been for many years the standard from which all the others lights are judged.
The Magcharger has been upgraded in the last few years from 30,000 candlepower to 40,000, and the Stinger has come out with the Ultra Stinger, that has upgraded the candlepower of the Stinger from 40,000 to 75,000.

Last year I bought one of the Magchargers, and just now I bought one of the Ultra Stingers of 75,000 candlepower, to test them again my rechargeable BOREALIS.

And to represent the military high end flashlight, I included the Surefire M-6 with the 500 lumens lamp. Of course, this light is the darling of Special Forces and many SWAT teams; it uses six 123’s batteries for a 20 minutes run time.

The target is the tool shed with the beam shots coming from 43 yards away, while my camera is placed at 15 yards from the target.

The lights, from left to right: Surefire M-6, Ultra Stinger, Magcharger and my red BOREALIS




Magcharger, 40,000 candlepowers, 200 lumens



Ultra Stinger, 75,000 candlepowers, 290 lumens



Surefire M-6 (500 lumens)



BOREALIS this time with the 3 plastic battery carriers for 951 lumens (the more inexpensive version at $200.00)



Regards
black bear
__________________
builder of the BOREALIS 1050 lumens flashlight
http://thefiringline.com/forums/show...=169074&page=3
and www.BlackBearFlashlights.com
e-mail admin@blackbearflashlights.com
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Old September 7, 2006, 05:31 AM   #4
black bear 84
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The most powerful flashlight that you can get over the counter today is the Surefire M-6, (at 500 lumens) which is famous as the light used by Special Forces and SWAT teams.

That light uses six disposables 123 batteries for a 20 minutes run (close to $12.00 in batteries every 20 minutes) and the light itself cost close to $400.00.

So it is not strange that many inquires that I received about the BOREALIS 1050 lumens, is about how much more powerful my light is than the Surefire M-6.

Here are some comparison beamshots:

Surefire M-6 (500 lumens)



BOREALIS 1050 lumens, 45 minutes run time, rechargeable.



And again here in a ceiling bouncing test (A dark room illuminated only by the flashlight beam)

Surefire M-6



BOREALIS



And again here at 18 feet, notice that I use dark backgrounds, as I don't need to gain more reflections shooting at white walls.

Surefire M-6



BOREALIS



Using my RC FAST charger the BOREALIS recharge in one and a half hour, and the batteries will be good for well over 500 hours, before a new pack of $30.00 is needed.

The Surefire M-6 will spend $14,940 in batteries before it can run 500 hours.

Best regards
black bear
__________________
builder of the BOREALIS 1050 lumens flashlight
http://thefiringline.com/forums/show...=169074&page=3
and www.BlackBearFlashlights.com
e-mail admin@blackbearflashlights.com
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Old September 7, 2006, 08:42 PM   #5
JohnKSa
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Quote:
The Surefire M-6 will spend $14,940 in batteries before it can run 500 hours.
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Old September 8, 2006, 12:09 PM   #6
FirstFreedom
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Join Date: May 31, 2004
Location: The Toll Road State, U.S.A.
Posts: 12,451
Just bumped a borealis way up higher on my to-buy list. Dang that's a good light!
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Old September 12, 2006, 10:59 AM   #7
black bear 84
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FirstFreedom,
Thank you for your appreciation of the light, contact me at my E-mail:
jcharles11784(at)yahoo(dot)com if you want to know more about the light.

For example, one of the secrets of the output is the super-bulb that is not a flashlight bulb at all, but a bulb that is used in operating rooms of major hospitals, and is adapted to run in this flashlight.

And the second is the voltage that the bulb is driven:



And of course the special high temperature parts that are used to cope with the increased heat.



And also the novel way we use to recharge the batteries in a very short time.



Best regards to all
black bear
__________________
builder of the BOREALIS 1050 lumens flashlight
http://thefiringline.com/forums/show...=169074&page=3
and www.BlackBearFlashlights.com
e-mail admin@blackbearflashlights.com
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Old September 12, 2006, 10:38 PM   #8
FS2K
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Wow, them suckers are BRIGHT!

I didn't even know things like that existed!
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Old September 28, 2006, 07:04 PM   #9
Cerbera
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Posts: 9
Indeed they are real!

Yes the Borealis is amazing! Twice the output of the Surefire M6 and much cheaper to operate! $12 for every 20 minutes? That's insane!

People say they can find something better but they're just pulling garbage out of their mouth. I only had the Borealis for about two months but no one has stepped up to the challenge. No one has provided me a portable incandescent flashlight that operates at no costs and has amazing bang for the buck!
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Old September 28, 2006, 07:09 PM   #10
FirstFreedom
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By the way Black Bear, not only are your lights incredible, but your house decor is, too. My dream house is a log cabin style with a wood-accent-heavy, hunting-cabin-look interior much the same.... some day.
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Old October 7, 2006, 08:16 AM   #11
black bear 84
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Join Date: April 23, 2005
Posts: 246
Hi guys,
I have received several P.M.'s asking specific questions about the BOREALIS.

I will post the answers here for all to see.
Thank you all for your interest.

BULB LIFE: About 35 hours (just about the same as Surefire lamps)

RUN TIME: 45 minutes

LIFE OF THE RECHARGEABLE BATTERIES: 1,000 recharges, much more than 500 hours of use from one pack.

REPLACEMENT COST OF PACK: $30.00 for the nine optimized batteries (two forming charges and matched for capacity)

REFLECTORS TYPE: Smooth (for maximum throw) Orange Peel (for more side spill) Light Stippled (for more flood light) and Medium Stippled (for even more flood light)
I will install your choice of reflector.

WHAT IS THE HOST ADVANTAGE?
When your light is all dented and scratched or if you just are bored with the color, a new "host" will cost you less than $20.00 and ten minutes of your time will exchange the special parts.



For more information, contact me at:
jcharles11784(at)yahoo(dot)com

Best regards
black bear 84
__________________
builder of the BOREALIS 1050 lumens flashlight
http://thefiringline.com/forums/show...=169074&page=3
and www.BlackBearFlashlights.com
e-mail admin@blackbearflashlights.com
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Old October 29, 2006, 07:37 PM   #12
black bear 84
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Join Date: April 23, 2005
Posts: 246
Now is a place that you can see the BOREALIS and all my others lights, It is open now!

www.blackbearflashlights.com

Best regards
black bear
__________________
builder of the BOREALIS 1050 lumens flashlight
http://thefiringline.com/forums/show...=169074&page=3
and www.BlackBearFlashlights.com
e-mail admin@blackbearflashlights.com
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Old November 2, 2006, 04:21 PM   #13
Cerbera
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Join Date: September 28, 2006
Posts: 9
Bear Cub

In honor of Black Bear 84’s new website, I thought I might give my thoughts on my recent purchase with the Bear Cub.

Why the Bear Cub?
The size of the Bear Cub is something that really attracted me. The Maglite 2C host is compact and light. It feels like an extension of your hand. I do carry lights with me for my night classes and this fits nicely in my bag.



As you can see, it is much shorter than a Maglite 3C. However, not only is it shorter, but the diameter of the body is smaller too.



Now how does it perform against a Maglite 3C? I did a wall shot to illustrate the character of the light and how much light is able to illuminate a room. The Maglite on the left produces very little light compared to the blinding white beam of the Bear Cub on the right. It produces enough light throughout the room to take a photo without a flash. Compare that to the Maglite that can barely give me light to produce anything.

Now let’s look at some outdoor photos.



I was aiming at a tree that across my house. I believe my aim was about four-five stories high. The top photo is the Maglite 3C. There is very little light. The bottom right corner shows the Bear Cub throwing out light like there is no tomorrow. It is a very nice, tight white beam, but what is the photo to the left of that? It illuminates more surface area but with a less intense hotspot. That shot used a light stippled reflector that Black Bear 84 provides as an option.



The light stipple (right) hole is definitely smaller to reduce loss of light and the texture of the reflector is designed to diffuse light to produce a nice, even beam. The only drawback is that the light will not throw as far. This reflector is the same high quality reflector used in all of the other Black Bear 84 flashlights.



Speaking of options, it doesn’t end there. You can also order a Crenellated bezel with it to customize the look of your Bear Cub. Not only does it look cool, but the sharp points and edges also make it a potential weapon. Now that the Crenellated bezels are made out of aluminum, it is much lighter and you won’t know it is there. It really adds a nice touch.



Contact Black Bear 84 for even more info. He is one of the nicest people that I have met and I am glad to be one of his customers.

Visit the website for more info!
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