Flashlight Review: Folomov Hero
The Folomov 18650S is one of my recommended budget flashlights for light painting photography. The new Folomov Hero has more than double the lumens in a compact package. Let's see how it performs...
The Folomov Hero was sent to me for an honest review. I do not make any money through links or sales. This review is written from the perspective of a light painting/night photographer and flashlight enthusiast.
Construction and Design
The Folomov Hero is a surprisingly compact 18650 tube light format flashlight with a "bamboo like" grip design. The light arrived in a branded box, with instructions, holster, USB-A to USB-C cable, and spare O-rings. The Folomov Hero is just 107mm long, 24.5mm in diameter, and 55g in weight (without battery). A side clip is included. The recommended retail price is US$49.99.
The light contains a Cree XHP50.2 LED emitter in a beaded TIR optic. The tail cap unscrews to allow the insertion of the included Folomov branded 3500mAh 18650 Li-ion battery. This battery has a USB-C charging port at the +ve end of the light. The battery can also be charged in a Li-ion charger such as the Vapcell S4 Plus, which is my personal preference. Charging was at approx. 1.5A, and thus a full charge will take less than 3 hours. Charging terminated at 4.19V, which is good. There is no battery capacity remaining indicator. An indicator light in the +ve terminal shows red during charging, and blue when charging has terminated.
There is a single tail switch, which also happens to be a single stage e-switch. Only the tail cap unscrews. There is a pin connector at the +ve end, and spring at the -ve end. The spring is quite short and unprotected 18650 batteries will not work in this light.
The light's dimensions and side clip means that it is compatible with the following light painting systems - Light Painting Brushes, Light Painting Paradise, Light Painting Tubes, Luminosify, Light Painting King, and generic T8 tubes.
The Folomov 18650S had a quirky user interface (UI), that whilst being far from perfect did lend itself to being useful for some light painting use cases. I was hoping the Folomov Hero would the same, or better, but sadly that isn't the case. The user interface consists of a single stage tail e-switch with the following operation:
Single click from off > on (last mode memory).
Single click from on > mode change (5 steps ultra-low to high).
Hold (0.5sec) from on > off.
Hold from off > momentary on (0.5sec delay) until button released.
Double click from on or off > strobe.
Double click from strobe > SOS > beacon mode.
Single click from strobe > last mode memory.
Hold (0.5sec) from strobe > off.
There are 5 brightness levels claimed to be 17lm, 125lm, 300lm, 700lm, and 2300lm. Strobe is also at 2300lm, which is very bright for an 18650 light!
There a things I like and don't like about the UI.
13Hz constant frequency strobe - most flashlight manufacturers are now using alternating frequency strobe, so it is fantastic to see new lights with constant frequency strobe.
Last mode memory for all brightness levels - no double click for Turbo which is becoming increasingly common on flashlights.
Momentary Turbo mode.
Possible (with some dexterity) to move between strobe and constant brightness on the fly).
Short click for on, but hold for off is not intuitive - this makes the light frustrating to use, I keep changing modes instead of turning the light off!
Double click to access non-memorized strobe - as with most new consumer grade flashlight's the strobe mode is "hidden" and not memorized. There is no reason why a strobe cannot be both hidden (i.e. double click to active) and memorized (single click to activate once memorized).
Hold for momentary has a delay for the light to turn on.
Hold for off has a delay for the light to turn off.
For simple light painting photography where the light is turned on throughout the entire exposure, then this light is OK. For more complex light painting such as light plants, where a light has to be turned on and off multiple times, then the user interface is not useful. I also found the hold for off to be quite annoying during general purpose use.
An e-switch user interface such as Anduril UI (or similar e-switch UI with single click on/off, hold for mode change) would also have been much better.
The light can be both mechanically locked out (unscrew tail cap) or electronically locked out (triple click).
Brightness, Beam, and Optics
The Folomov Hero has a claimed max output of 2300 lumens from its Cree XHP50.2 LED. Instead of a reflector, the light has the emitter in a beaded TIR optic. This creates a floody beam profile. This light is advertised for Security, Self Defence, Camping, and Everyday Carry (EDC). The former two "tactical" use cases are more suited by throwy general purpose beams, whilst the floody beam profile is more suitable for the last two use cases. Peak beam intensity is claimed to be 10,000cd at max output, which is relatively low for 2300 lumens.
As this light has a floody beam profile, I would expect a high-CRI beam for short to medium distance illumination. Unfortunately, it is the usual cool white 70 CRI fare. The tint was relatively neutral, with slightly positive DUV/tint (towards green). The CCT, DUV, and CRI were tested using an Opple Light Master 3 on Medium and Turbo mode:
Turbo - CRI 70.9, CCT 6032k, DUV +0.0032.
Medium - CRI 70.5, CCT 5958k, DUV +0.0039.
Brightness modes and runtimes are claimed to be:
I measured all modes to be within +/- 10% of the claimed brightness, apart from the lowest mode that seemed to be at least double the claimed brightness.
As expected for a 18650 format 2,300 lumen flashlight, brightness stepped down rapidly, being 2,280 lumens at start, 1,810 lumens @30secs, 1,070 lumens @60secs, 460 lumens @90seconds. This is fairly average step-down performance for this class of light, and reason why I prefer to use flashlights with approx. 1,200 lumens max brightness as they can last for minutes before brightness step-down. The brightness stabilised at approximately 460 lumens for most of the runtime. However, due to the light becoming way too hot to touch (even hotter than the Convoy S21D), I stopped runtime testing at 12 minutes.
Good max brightness/size.
Side clip included.
USB-C rechargeable 18650 battery included.
Last mode memory for all continuous brightness modes.
Constant frequency strobe.
Can move between strobe and continuous on the fly.
Compatible with most light painting systems.
Mechanical and electronic lockout.
Good range of included accessories.
Click for on, and hold for off is counter-intuitive.
Double click to access strobe (strobe not memorized).
Delay for momentary turbo to turn on.
Floodier beam than expected for a "tactical" light.
Not high-CRI (which I expect in floody lights).
Became too hot to hold after 12 minutes.
Ultra-low mode isn't particularly low.
No battery capacity check.
Unprotected 18650 batteries will not work in this light.
With a relatively bright constant frequency strobe, and light painting system compatibility, I had high hopes for the Folomov Hero. Unfortunately, it was let down by a counter-intuitive user interface. It is OK for basic light painting, but not suitable for more complex light painting. It may still make it into my 2023 flashlight buying guide for light painters due to having a bright (and increasingly rare) constant frequency strobe.
The floody beam is suitable for short distance illumination purposes. However, as the light has a floody beam I would have preferred a high CRI emitter. Tactical users would generally prefer a more throwy beam profile.
The Folomov Hero is an interesting budget flashlight. However I feel that the user interface makes it struggle to stand out in a crowded budget flashlight market.
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