As I mentioned a few months back, I approached the folks at The Amazing Light to see if I could possibly procure one of their various glow-in-the-dark units for test and evaluation, and generously enough, they agreed.
So, just to recap, take a look at The Amazing Light’s story – I dare say we all need an “Uncle Vernon”:
In our family we all got our “Uncle Vernon survival kit” – Once we were licensed to drive. “When you go traveling, camping, hiking or just exploring the outdoors you need to be prepared,” says Uncle Vernon. You need your flashlight with back-up batteries and bulbs, you need your multi-tool or small tool set, safety reflectors, first aid kit, air pump, large knife, compass, ready to eat meals, and so on. “Since you never know what can happen when you get out and about these days.”
Their UVPaqlite was the first such product they believed fully met Uncle Vernon’s standards for a source of portable, emergency light – it will (supposedly) last forever, it does not require batteries, it provides sufficient light to work by, it could be used for signaling, it is reusable, and there is really nothing to break or damage. Unlike the glow-in-the-dark stickers and toys we all had as children, though, these actually put out a fair bit of light:
The Patent Pending technology provides a new way to capture the glowing photons, which are produced via crystal manufacturing from the earth’s resources of strontium, aluminum and other rare earth elements. When exposed to other light sources the crystals quickly absorb the light, store it, and then produce enough light to continue glowing all night long. UVPaqlite glow lights are environmentally friendly and non-toxic.
So what is a fair bit? We will get to that.
I was lucky enough to get one of The Amazing Light’s newest products – the UVMatlite – which takes the general purpose of their patent-pending crystals and rather than having them vacuum-sealed into a plastic sheet, instead suspends them in a rubbery mat (I am honestly not sure what the material is). While this does make the light source heavier (it weighs in at 7.625 ounces, which is apparently five times the mass of the original UVPaqlite), it also means it is perfectly suited for hanging out on your dresser or nightstand and being a wonderful location for those items you occasionally need to find in the middle of the dark – glasses, sidearms, medicine, etc. The UVMatlite (measuring about 8.625” x 5.625” x 0.25”) does still have holes punched in all four corners if you wanted to suspend it on a wall, or strap it to the back of a backpack, so it does not have to be stuck at home.
What you see there is a fairly standard ammo can, six 12-gauge 00 buck shells spaced out at six inch intervals, and a measuring tape to adequately show that spacing. The basic premise is that I closed the room’s door, pulled its curtain, and leaned the mat up against the ammo can (not ideal, but you can imagine how hard setting up a similar rig on the vertical axis might be) and then took pictures of the light it emitted using the same exact camera settings each time at fifteen minute intervals (15 second exposure, f/1.4 aperture, 100 ISO, and no flash with a Sigma 30mm EX DC HSM Lens, which is apparently a lot more expensive than it was). And I charged the UVMatlite as you can see to the left.
Basically, the mat was fully discharged (by leaving it in a closed closet for about a week) and a 60-watt grow lamp was suspended 18 inches over it, for two hours for the first test, and four hours for the second. The crystals in the mat can store up energy from pretty much any source, and the ideal source is, of course, that big glowy ball in the sky, but this provides a controllable, understandable benchmark without having to rely on weather or the like.
So how did it all work out? Well, here are the results from the first, two-hour-charge test:
But even these pictures do not really tell the full story. By the end of the first 15-second exposure, our eyes had adjusted enough that the room was entirely visible with just the light the UVMatlite was giving off. For the last exposure, we hung out in the room for a few minutes afterwards, and by the time our eyes had adjusted that much (full adjustment can take hours), the light was enough to at least navigate by, but not, as they say, read a newspaper.
And now for the four-hour charge:
As you can see, that additional two hours made an impressive difference in the initial output of the UVMatlite, and it took about another 15 minutes to get to the same level of output as the two hour charge managed in an hour – that final level seems to be what it holds steady at during its gradual decay into darkness, which definitely takes longer than the 8 hours quoted on the page (though I have never bothered to stay up and time it).
Note that people estimate a light-adapted eye can see at about 800 ISO, up to a potential 60,000 ISO maximum. At 800 ISO I could have used about a 1.75 second shutter and accomplished the same pictures, and at 6400 ISO I could have gotten away with 1/4 second – my camera is not really capable of those ISOs without excessive amounts of noise, but the point is the human eye is stupidly more sensitive to light than our camera sensors are now, so even these pictures are not an adequate portrayal of the mat’s illumination.
All said, we are pretty impressed with the UVMatlite – it provides enough light for Better Half to successfully navigate the bedroom without running into furniture, it does so for at least a couple hours after the sun sets and lights go out (and as your eyes adjust, the light becomes more useful), and it requires no electrical power to do so (this is less a “green” issue for us and more a matter of “what if the power goes out?”). The only real downside – apart from the cost, which is about 10x the average night light – is that the mat does have a rather… peculiar… smell, especially new out of its packaging, and especially if its light source is too close to it. This smell probably has to do with the mat material, and definitely dissipates over time, so it is not a deal-breaker for us.
So is it worth the $35 sticker price? Well, to begin with, I have to admit to loving The Amazing Light’s general concept – it does provide enough light to be “useful”, and it does so without requiring a power grid or outlet space. If you like the concept, though, the exact model you should purchase depends on your application – if you are not going to be using it as an actual mat to set things on, I think your purposes would be better met with an original UVPaqlite (at about a quarter the price). If you are not going to take it hiking, however, and you want a more durable light source that is arguably a bit more aesthetically pleasing, I believe the UVMatlite will serve you well.
(Obligatory Middle Finger to the FTC: The UVMatlite I reviewed was provided by The Amazing Light, free of charge, for the express purposes of reviewing it. No guarantee of a positive review was provided or requested, and, as such, all opinions are mine and mine alone.)