Flashlight Review: Noctigon KR1
Updated: Jan 4
There are plenty of flashlights / torches that use the Anduril user interface, which have adjustable strobe frequency as a feature, but only a handful are suitable for light painting. This review is of the Noctigon KR1. Is this the best Anduril based flashlight for light painters?
The Noctigon KR1 was purchased from my own funds.
The Noctigon KR1 is produced by Intl Outdoor, who also produce flashlights under the Emisar brand. Both Noctigon and Emisar brands are aimed at flashlight enthusiasts. The Noctigon KR1 is a compact thrower, i.e. it will fit in a pocket, and can throw light a long way with a tight hotspot. It is 110mm long, with a 24mm diameter battery tube, and a 35mm diameter head. It will thus fit in the Light Painting Brushes Universal Connector, Light Painting Paradise, and Lumenman Adapters. It is too large for Light Painting Tubes / T8 tubes, and does not officially connect with the KYO. The KR1 has a single tail e-switch, which allows for easy access when in light painting connectors. The KR1 is relatively heavy for it's size at 120g (without batteries), but more thermal mass can be a good thing when it comes to performance! Accessories included a lanyard, side switch, and spare O-rings.
As the KR1 has a tail e-switch, there is an inner signal tube, and extra springs for it to connect to the head. Both the head and tail can be unscrewed for cleaning, maintenance, or battery insertion.
As per most lights aimed at flashlight enthusiasts, the Noctigon KR1 requires rechargeable flat top unprotected rechargeable Li-ion 18650 batteries - I recommend the 3000mAh Samsung 30Q, Sony Murata VTC6, or LG HG2. There is no USB charging, so you will need to use a dedicated Li-ion charger, which I always recommend anyway.
Size Comparison (Below) - L to R - Noctigon KR1, Lumintop FW1A, Light Painting Paradise LightPainter, Klarus XT11GT.
The Noctigon KR1 uses the highly configurable Anduril 1 user interface, controlled by a single e-switch on the tail. Whilst general use of Anduril is simple to use, light painting requires the use of more complex parts of the user interface. More on that later.
Basic use involves a single click (1C) to turn on or off. A hold (1H) ramps or steps the brightness up or down between ramp min and ramp max settings (which are configurable). A double click (2C) jumps to Turbo mode, and 2C again to return back. A triple click (3C) switches between ramped and stepped brightness, with 7 brightness steps by default. I prefer stepped brightness for consistency. There is last mode memory for the stepped/ramped modes, but not strobe modes or Turbo. If you need to return to any other level such as strobe or Turbo, you need to engage momentary, which is explained later.
One of the most useful features of Anduril for light painters is the adjustable strobe frequency. However, unlike the excellent Light Painting Paradise LightPainter, the strobe is at a fixed brightness. The two most useful strobes in the KR1 are:
Party Strobe - 1.3ms on-time - 3.5Hz to 90Hz
Tactical Strobe - 33% on-time - 2.3Hz to 80Hz
To enter strobe mode, the light must be on, and you do a click, click, hold (3H) from off. It can take a few attempts to get this right, and it is easy to accidentally change from ramping to stepped mode (3C from on), or enter battery check (3C from off). Once you are in strobe mode, a double click (2C) advanced between modes - Candle > Bike Flasher > Party Strobe >Tactical Strobe > Lightning Storm. A hold (1H) will increase the strobe frequency by ramping until released, and a click, hold (2H) will decrease the strobe frequency by ramping until released. Now, if you want to use that strobe setting in momentary mode, you need to click once (1C) to turn off the light, and then click 5 times (5C). The light will flash once to acknowledge that you are in momentary mode. Now, when you hold down the switch, the light will be on in strobe mode. To exit momentary mode, you have to slightly unscrew and then re-screw the tail cap . This is much better than having to completely unscrew the tail cap on Lumintop FW series lights.
I'm not a fan of the ramped strobe frequency as it is difficult to get good consistency between photoshoots. I much prefer the 8 or 10 stepped strobe speeds as in the Light Painting Paradise LightPainter flashlight. This may be a reason why most light painting photos I've seen using Anduril based lights are using the strobe set at either the fastest or slowest setting. However, I do like the relatively large range of strobe frequencies/speeds. I have some issues with the brightness of the party strobe, which is explained in the next section. The bike flash, lightning, and candle modes are also fun additions.
I have grown to like the momentary mode on Anduril based lights on the constant modes as well. 5 clicks from off saves the last used mode. Unlike many momentary switches where you have to ride the tricky line between a half-press and full-press, you just fully hold down the switch.
As is usually the case for Anduril based lights, the lack of printed product specific instructions, and ANSI/NEMA brightness/runtime charts is disappointing. It is also easy to make a false click and enter some other mode you are not expecting such as battery check mode. Most Anduril lights also need thermal re-calibration for optimal performance, though this light was good out of the box.
Beam and Output
The Noctigon KR1 has multiple emitter options to match its smooth reflector, each with different lumens, and peak beam intensity:
Osram CSLNM1.TG 6000k - 900lm, 1100Kcd (Red, Blue, and Green options are also available).
Osram CSLPM1.TG 6000k - 1300lm, 1000Kcd.
Cree XP-L HI 4000/5000/6500k - 1300lm, 45Kcd.
Luminus SST-40 5000/6500k - 2200lm, 29Kcd
These options all use a 5A+FET driver apart from the tested SST-40 which uses a 7.5A+FET driver. Now I have to honest, that I'm not sure which emitter is most optimal for light painting. This is because most light painting connectors have a 20-25mm aperture for the light to pass through to enter the tool. Thus more lumens doesn't always mean more light entering the tool, with head size, reflector shape, size of LED, number of LEDs, and peak beam intensity all being other variables that need to be taken into account. However, I decided to play it safe, and chose the Luminus SST-40 6500k which should have similar performance to the Klarus XT11GT and XT2CR Pro models and their Cree XHP35 emitter. Testing showed that the strobe modes and 7/7 step (ramp max) actually performed 1/3 of a photographic stop brighter than the XT11GT, XT2CR, and FW1A when connected to a Plexi Tube.
Why did I not test the 4300 lumen Noctigon KR4 instead? Well, this light has 4 emitters, instead of a single central emitter. Thus I theorize that the KR1 will probably get a higher percentage of its lumens into the light painting tool than the KR4. Also, the strobe brightness (at ramp max) are similar between the two lights. The KR4 may just about fit in Light Painting Tubes/T8 tubes, though that hasn't been tested, so don't take my word for it!
Anduril uses 150 possible brightness levels. Levels 1 to 120 use the regulated driver. Levels 121 to 150 use the FET driver. By default, the stepped modes are 7 equally spaced steps between level 10 (min) and 120 (max). The ramping mode is between level 3 (min) and 120 (ramp max). Strobe modes are at ramp max level 120. I measured the stepped modes at - 10lm, 100lm, 275lm, 550lm., 900lm, 1,300lm, and 1,900lm. I measured Turbo at 2,300lm.
With no thermal re-calibration, the performance at 7/7 (ramp max) was pretty impressive for this class of light. The light sustained 1,900 lumens for 2 minutes, before gradually declining in brightness, and stabilising at 800 lumens after 6 minutes. In comparison, the Lumintop FW series lights, and Klarus XT11GT Pro and XT2CR Pro all step down after 25-30 seconds, and stabilise at 250, 550, and 550 lumens respectively.
No Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) was detected during testing. The SST-40 is a low CRI emitter (<70 CRI), but that is not an issue for use with light painting tools. The 6500k cool white tint is quite "white" in higher modes, but the classic SST hint'o'green is noticeable on steps 1/7 and 2/7.
Unfortunately, the party strobe with its "motion freezing" 1.3ms on-time loses a lot of "brightness", being approximately 3 photographic strops darker than when using tactical strobe or step 7/7 - we are talking equivalent brightness to RGB lights here! The on-time should be longer at 5ms, as per the LightPainter and Strobe Master lights. The Tactical Strobe also seems to be slightly affected by the short on-time at 80Hz (which is an approx. 4ms on-time).
The (also Anduril based) Lumintop FW1A is my go to light for creating "fairy dust" which I use on the slowest party mode setting. I was hoping the KR1 would outclass it. However the larger reflector, and narrower hotspot of the KR1, means that that the fairy dust is not quite as consistent. For example you will get a brighter starburst with the KR1 if the beam hotspot hits the camera lens, but it's harder to get a direct hit with the KR1's narrower hotspot. Thus you may get some very bright and some not so bright starbursts. The KR1 is good for "fairy dust", but the FW1A is better. Unfortunately, Lumintop have just made some changes to the latest iteration of the FW1A which could negatively affect it's performance.
The following test photos show the slowest and fastest strobe speed/frequency for tactical and party strobes. The KR1 was connected to a Plexi Rod Spiral with Blue Filter.
Below is a light painting photo, with the lime green light trails created with the KR1's tactical strobe.
Things I liked:
Highest quality Anduril based flashlight suitable for light painting.
Impressive range of strobe frequency/speeds.
Excellent maximum (2,300lm), tactical strobe (1,900lm), and sustained (800lm) brightness.
Momentary switch can work for any strobe or continuous brightness setting.
Well spaced, stepped brightness levels.
Last mode memory for brightness steps 1-7.
Can be electronically or mechanically locked out.
Reasonable value for money.
Fits Light Painting Brushes, Light Painting Paradise, and Lumenman systems.
Things I didn't like:
Party strobe is relatively dim - 1.3ms on-time is too short, needs to be 4-5ms..
Strobe frequency/speed adjustments are ramped - not good for consistency.
No last mode memory for strobe or turbo (you need to use momentary instead).
Anduril UI is too complex for many users.
Lack of printed product specific instructions and ANSI/NEMA charts.
Too large for Light Painting Tubes/T8 Tubes.
The Noctigon KR1 is the highest quality Anduril based flashlight that I've tested for use with light painting tools. The build quality and sustained brightness is noticeably better than the Lumintop FW series lights. However, I prefer the "fairy dust" created with the Lumintop FW1A. In terms of brightness, the KR1 slightly outperforms the Klarus XT11GT, XT2CR, and FW1A by 1/3 photographic stop, and the LightPainter by 2/3 photographic stop, when connected to light painting tools and using tactical strobe or 7/7 brightness. This makes the KR1 fantastic for light painting in blue hour and relatively bright ambient conditions. Unfortunately the "motion freezing" party strobe is not very bright, being 3 photographic stops dimmer. If I had to choose between the KR1 or FW1A as the best Anduril based light for light painting, it would be a toss up between the KR1 for build quality and max/sustained brightness vs FW1A for fairy dust and increased light painting system compatibility. The latest iteration of the FW1A seems to be degraded compared to previous versions, so the KR1 is overall the safer bet.
The Noctigon KR1 is not as flexible or easy to use as the Light Painting Paradise LightPainter - Ryu's Lightworks flashlight which has both adjustable strobe frequency and adjustable strobe brightness. The LightPainter is still my most recommended flashlight for strobes. The KR1 is a very useful "secondary" light for light painting, particular for use in blue hour or bright ambient light conditions. Unless you need to use a remote pressure switch or require KYO compatibility, then I would recommend the KR1 over commercial grade flashlights from the likes of Nitecore, Klarus, Olight, and Fenix.
The Noctigon KR1 can be purchased from Intl Outdoor.