One to Watch: Fenix RC09
Tony Sculimbrene 02.25.16
At one point in time, Fenix was THE brand in flashlights–the overseas innovator that was punishing Surefire and Streamlight at the high end of the market. Eight years ago, the future looked incredibly (rimshot) bright for Fenix, but since then things have gone distinctively downhill. They continue to make solid lights, but none are cutting edge in the same way that that first wave or two of lights were.
Many of their lights nowadays are simply redos or mods of their older lights with emitter swaps and some new buttons. They have completely eschewed some of the more recent trends such as Hi CRI emitters and selector ring UIs on EDC sized lights. Furthermore, and perhaps most damning, is that they continue to release lights without a moonlight low, a feature that all of the better companies have and something that lots and lots of people need. oLight, Foursevens, Eagletac, and Zebralight have all lapped Fenix in terms of innovation and performance.
It seemed like Fenix was willing to settle in for the long haul as a boring, incremental maker, the best light at your local outdoor store but nothing all that great. The S1 Baton from oLight, for example, destroys many of the Fenix offerings. Furthermore, they continued to make specialized lights like those for bikes and headlamps. But the RC09 seeks to reverse that trend. This is an EDC light packed full of innovation and aimed squarely at the oLight S1 Baton. This is a light that might just usher in an even more furious arms race among light makers, pushing what is possible in an EDC light even further.
The S1 Baton was clearly the best light released last year under $100, giving even the great Surefire Titans a run for their money. It was small, incredibly bright, and very pocket friendly. The RC09 is Fenix’s attempt to outdo the Baton.
First, unlike the Baton, it runs on a rechargeable cell, a 16340. The cell can be charged IN the light via a magnetic charging port and a USB cable. The light has a side switch much like the Baton. It does not have a TIR optic, instead opting for the classic dish reflector. The light is running the new CREE emitter the XP-L, an upgraded version of the XM-L. On high it is a firebreather, scorching retinas with a whopping 550 lumens from something the size of your thumb. Unlike the S1 though, the RC09 does not have a true moonlight mode (usually something under a lumen). Instead, it has a low of 5 lumens which lasts for 53 hours. This is great for work around a camp site, but still probably too bright to save your night vision. I’d love to see one less mode between high and the 5 lumen output and a true moonlight mode. This is not the first Fenix to skip the moonlight feature.
The RC09 is currently only available in a titanium body. The clip, compared to the S1, is a wash–both are terrible friction fit clips. Ditch them immediately. The RC09 even has a magnet in the tail to allow it to tailstand. Fenix could not be more explicit in is target with the RC09.
In the end, it comes down to UI–the S1 Baton’s UI is really superb. Anything less on the RC09 and it will die a fast death. There is no reason then to buy it over the S1 Baton. But if it is decent, as always, competition is good.