Now this is a torch I’ve been sitting on for a while! With some torches, I immediately know how they’re going to play into actual use, but this wasn’t one of them. So after close to a year, I’m ready to share my thoughts in a formal review.
What is the Nucelus? The Nucleus is the brainchild of maker George Kemenes, and it is one of the smallest torches in existence. He’s expanded his repertoire over time, but his minuscule torches are no doubt his calling card. Now in all honesty, I wasn’t too blown away when these were first released in 2016. Sure, I thought they were cool, but 16 year old me was more interested in the likes of budget flashlights. And not to mention $135 felt like a lot to drop on a torch back then.
So let’s get something out of the way: This is the antithesis of a budget flashlight. Everything budget flashlights prioritize – namely cost and performance – well, this is most nearly the opposite. You guys have probably heard me throw around the term “functional jewelry” when talking about custom torches, and this is the epitome of the term.
On the lines of jewelry, everything about this torch has been crafted to the most absurd of standards I’ve seen on any torch. The light is fully disassemble from head to tail and there are O-ring seals at every joint. And yes, I’ve taken the torch swimming on multiple occasions – the Nucleus held up just fine. Oh, and I want to take a moment to gush about the threads. These are the best threads on any titanium gear piece I’ve seen (and I’ve seen quite a few); they are the standard by which I compare anything else titanium.
The tritium vials at the tail of the torch are another touch that highlights such nuances. I believe these were small enough that they had to be special ordered, and boy do they bring out the bling aspect of the Nucleus. And when you consider that this is all being crammed into a package smaller than a thumb, it’s mind-boggling. So while there exists smaller lights than this one, I’m confident none can match the Nucleus’ intricacies.
But how does this play into practice? Is the Nucleus simply a curiosity piece, or can it walk the walk? Well…I’d say it’s a little bit of both. I’ve tried using a lot of small torches as neck lights, and they’ve just never really worked out for me. It was always a problem with the size or aesthetic, and even the Omicron (the successor to the Nucleus) was somewhat cumbersome at times to neck carry. But that all changed with the Nucelus. It’s far smaller than any other “small” light, plus it has the aesthetics to back up the jewelry aspect of a necklace piece.
The tiny size, though, isn’t without drawbacks. Running off of three Maxell SR41W coin cells, the Nucleus is a direct-drive flashlight. It only has one output, and that output drops fast, lasting for a couple hours. Size, runtime, output – you can have two, but you can’t have three. This saying is engrained in the flashlight world, and it depicts a series of trade-offs. But with the Nucleus, you don’t have a choice; there’s only one option and that’s size small.
The Nucleus is also small enough to the point where some with larger fingers might struggle to actuate the torch. It operates by turning the tail which also means that one-handed activation is out of the question. And thus, the output/runtime and operation constraints lead me into my conclusion.
Generally speaking, used as a neck light, most people won’t need their torch for more than a brief instance. I rarely use the Nucleus for more than thirty seconds. The torch is more than apt in this scenario which makes the output/runtime concern a minor niggle especially considering the size. But if you’re using the Nucleus as a keychain flashlight, which might be used for longer periods of time, there are no doubt more suitable options.
I have high regard for the Nucleus because it redefines what functional art is for torches. There’s a lot of custom torches that use fancy materials and designs (hence functional art), yet these aspects don’t enhance function in any sense. By its inception, though, the Nucleus is an exercise in the smallest, finest of machining and, as a result, delivers as a jewelry-esque piece in daily use.