Fenix SD 20 Review
Before I dive into this review, pun intended, I want to clarify that I am not a scuba diver and as such I will not be delving into the specifics of how this light performs at depth on a coral reef or gnarly shipwreck. So, if you were looking for an extensive review in regards to this light’s functionality in that regard I hate to disappoint you but with that out of the way let’s plunge into this review…see what I did there…ok no more diving quips.
My ultimate purpose for getting this light was that I wanted something that could throw a good deal of light and also not worry about it taking a spill into a swamp or creek. I often find myself in wild wet places like this while shooting photographs of wildlife and videos for my YouTube channel. At 1000 lumens on full blast and 400 lumens on the low setting I wasn’t lacking or light while on my last few nighttime adventures. Not only is this light bright but it also has quite the throw of light, on the highest setting it can project clean white light for over 170 meters. One of the features this light offers is a red light setting and I actually really liked having the alternative to switch this thing over to the lower output red light while looking for skittish pine barrens tree frogs in the NC Sandhills and later while shooting photos of stars over the North Carolina coast.
My initial reaction to the light was that it was way bigger than I anticipated which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This thing weighs in between half and three quarters of a pound with the batteries included so as you hike or swim with it attach the supplied lanyard and get some curls in while you shine into those murky depths. I noticed personally that after a couple hours of holding this light in one arm at eye level shining for nocturnal snakes and tree frogs I did feel like my triceps were beginning to hit muscle failure, ok maybe that’s a bit dramatic but I definitely noticed the light’s heft while using it.
A positive to the weight of the light is that you can truly tell it is well constructed. Not only is it waterproof but it is also quite impact resistant. I took a bad spill and basically launched my light on the concrete on accident and was panicked thinking that I just shattered the lens because it fell lens first. It barely had a scratch on it. I was really impressed by that. Another plus to the weight is that if, let’s say, you’re alone in the backwoods and you’re being pursued by a surely sasquatch you can most likely knock that cryptozoological beast unconscious and get your name in the science and history books all thanks to this hefty light.
When I inspected the light after it came in the mail I was kind of bummed that the batteries weren’t included in it since previous lights included a battery or had one built in so for whatever reason it just slipped my mind and I had to wait another week to order the batteries and subsequent charger for them. This wasn’t the end of the world as had I paid attention to detail I would have read that the batteries weren’t included and would have ordered them originally.
You don’t HAVE to use the Fenix batteries since this light could also use either two Fenix 18650 series batteries or 4 CR123A batteries that you can pick up at any local gas station or box store at a premium. The rechargeable Fenix batteries are the way to go in my opinion since you just pay for them once for the most part and are able to recharge them. I opted for the Fenix ARB-L18-3500 Rechargeable 18650 Batteries and sprung for the Fenix ARE-X2 Battery Charger. If you go this route, like me, you will quickly realize you may feel like these batteries never die. I actually haven’t had to recharge my batteries more than once and I only did that as a formality between trips. The tech specs say that you can run this light for 3 hours on high and over 7 hours on low (and red light) continuously before the batteries die which is impressive considering most people are going to be flipping it on and off as needed in many cases thereby lengthening their use.
I tested this light both above and below water and it performed well in either environment. It does get a little warm after continuous usage out of the water but in all truth, I expected it to be much hotter considering it’s a sealed waterproof flashlight. After 3-4 hours of usage in 90 degree heat it was noticeably warm but never got hot or uncomfortable to use. I tested this light in both ocean water and local fresh water rivers and streams at approximately waist deep. In the ocean I just tested the light throw in the shallow green North Carolina coastal waters and it did much better than anticipated in that turbid water. In the fresh water ecosystems, I was able to shine this bright light underwater and spot little creek minnows of various species, chub, and some trout while on a fly-fishing trip with a friend.
One thing I do wish this light offered was some sort of mount for underwater cameras like the Fenix SD11 offers. For my particular usage I think it would have been advantageous to have the ability to mount this to a GoPro or camera rig underwater because it definitely provides good clean light which is advantageous when trying to film underwater in shallow water. The pros for this light far outweigh the cons for me and truthfully it was hard to find things I didn’t particularly like about the light. All in all, this light is a great buy and if you’re in the market for a new waterproof light I highly recommend the Fenix SD20.
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