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Niteflux Visionstick Photon 4 Commuter



Poor mount and no side visibility mark down a bright and solid front light

At every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.

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Let's get the tongue twister of a name out of the way first: I'll call it the Photon 4 from now to save my fingers. Essentially it's a torch, which splits in half at the base of the head, and the body is a Li-Ion battery that gives a stated run time of 2hrs on high beam. We didn't quite manage that long, but we got pretty close.

The bike mount that comes with the light is clever in that you attach the battery to the head through a loop in the mount and the whole thing comes together nicely as a unit. The beam is intense and quite well focused, with the slightly murky bluish centre spot that's common in LED lights. 270 Lumens is the claimed output, and it's certainly plenty enough for any road commute you might want to do, and even a spot of off-roading. There's a low-power 1W mode too (battery life is quadrupled) and a 4W flashing mode if you really want to annoy some motorists.

So far so well thought out, so what's not to like? sadly, quite a few things. For a start, the Aluminium thread that holds the two ends together is unnecessarily shallow, and ours has started to wear already. The Photon 4 is also too easy to switch on by accident when it's in your bag. I had two journeys back home without a light because it had lit up and run down, and now I keep the head and battery separate. These are niggles, but there's more serious concerns.

For a light that's aimed at commuters it's simply not good enough to have no side visibility. It's a legal requirement, and important around town. Secondly, the mount simply isn't up to the job. The two halves are connected by a bolt that's only held by a plastic flange. It's too easy to break, and I broke mine – now it's glued together with epoxy. The knurled wheel to tighten the clamp doesn't hold it tight enough either, the light sits too high and tends to slip. I gave up on it in the end and used a cheap rubber and Velcro mount that I bought off the internet, and that's fine, but I'd expect the mount to work properly if I was shelling out eighty quid.

You can get a cheap and bright LED torch and mount for less than a quarter of what you'd pay for this, and it's pretty hard to justify the extra expense in my opinion. The Photon 4 is bright, and the torch itself is pretty well made, but the mount is a weak point and the lack of side visibility is unacceptable in a light that's marketed specifically to commuters.

Dave is a founding father of, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.

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the-daily-ripper | 15 years ago

Dave, what's going on? You're in the bike press, I though there was an unilateral agreement between journos and the manufacturers that all products would receive at least a 7? And if it was a specialized it got a 9?

But if that's the one that Oli used overnight, I didn't rate it that high, especially for the price.

Oli Pendrey replied to the-daily-ripper | 15 years ago

...that I used on the overnight ride. Thought the beam was pretty good on full whack, but not really sure that the crazy flashing mode was good for anything except 90s-based raves.

The main gripe that I had with it was the blasted mount. I took it off once and then it took an age to put it back on, which was far too fiddly with gloves on and then even more difficult with frozen fingers!

Tony Farrelly replied to the-daily-ripper | 15 years ago

 That most bikes and kit and pretty good. The only area where you still regularly get rubbish is locks plenty of them get low marks. Most bike journos would love to get something bad to review for a bit of variety. We're always on the lookout…

dave atkinson replied to Tony Farrelly | 15 years ago

Tony's right - lots of stuff gets sevens and eights because it's really rather good. Take mid-range road bikes as an example: you'd have to look really, really hard to find a bike that wasn't worth at least a seven, they're all pretty good. At the end of the day, five isn't really even a bad score, it's just an average score. We wil be trying to keep the scoring realistic though, feel free to moan if you notice any upward creep...

the-daily-ripper replied to dave atkinson | 15 years ago

I know that really, I was just being facetious.

Thing is, if most stuff is really that good, and considering the general public is unlikely to be sold a real pup (as it wouldn't make it to the mag in the first place), I've pretty much come to accept 7 as being on the crap end of the retail scale, and 9/10 being something that I could potentially purchase. So is there any real point in keeping a 1-10 for the occasional product that's likely to get, at worst really a 5?

And secondarily, have you ever reviewed anything really crap?

dave atkinson replied to the-daily-ripper | 15 years ago

Oh yes. plenty of stuff. Locks are the obvious low-scorers and there's plenty of bad ones - even expensive ones - but pumps are pretty variable too. I've tested a couple of real nails - one which had a return valve that just didn't work, and a plastic thread you could pull apart with your hands, the upshot being that every time you attached it to a tyre the end popped off and ended up 20 yards down the street. Some bikes too, though that's getting rarer. Bags can be crap, multi tools can be crap, lights can be crap - much, much worse than the Photon 4.

You're right - most stuff probably won't score lower than a five. But it's good to have those lower scores for when the manufacturers really do balls it up...

Tony Farrelly replied to the-daily-ripper | 15 years ago

Lots of people think 7 is a poor mark, including quite a few in the bike industry. It's called "rating inflation" amongst product testers.  

The problem then is when you try re-calibrate your marking you also have to re-calibrate people's perceptions of what the marks mean.

Better to start off being clear about the meaning of each mark and sticking to that  - we need to put something up on the site saying what each mark means - 5 is supposed to be "Does the job, no more, no less", but because there are so many products out there that do more than that it isn't a mark you see that often.

Crap I have tested…lots of locks, pretty much every cable under £30, definitely every cable under £20 - they may have improved. One particular top selling Squire lock a few years back with a Silver Sold Secure rating that we popped in under thirty seconds. In fact it didn't so much pop as disintegrate. We thought we'd got a dud so nipped down to the shops, bought one, and it did the same. Squire were quite up front about it – they built the lock to pass the Sold Secure Test at the time and we tested it in a different way so they weren't surprised it failed.

Can't think of any crap bikes, though I can think of one which in hindsight I should have been harder on, the Focus Ergoride - the geometry was all to cock, but I rode it for so long I got used to it… 

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