UPDATE 11/27/07: I'm sorry to say, I can no longer recommend this light. Based on the responses in this thread, it seems DX is now shipping completely different lights under the same name. Not only is build quality varying widely, but so is output and runtime. One user even reports receiving a C3 light with the old inefficient 5-stage circuit! At this point in time, it seems to be a complete lottery what you are in for.
This thread is a quick comparison of the new multi-stage Ultrafire C3 compared to the previous single-stage version
For a comparison review of the higher-end 1AA lights, please see my new:
Multi-stage 1AA Review - Part III: Runtimes, beamshots & more!
From left to right: Single-stage C3, 2AA extension tubes, Multi-stage C3
As you will notice, the new multi-stage C3 is a little taller, and the tailcap switch is now recessed allowing tailstanding. The new 2AA extension tube is slightly shorter than the previous one, but still fits on both models (screw threads and diameters are the same on both lights).
In 1AA format, on Hi with Sanyo 2500mAh NiMH, as my Duracell 2650mAh wouldn't fit.
Method: All my output numbers are relative for my home-made light box setup, a la Quickbeam's FR.com method. My relative overall output numbers are typically similar to his, although generally a little lower. You can directly compare all my review graphs - i.e. an output value of "10" in one graph is the same as "10" in another.
Throw values are the square-root of lux measurements taken at 1m using a light meter.
Summary Chart for 2500mAh NiMH
For runtimes, I've added the new Jetbeam C-LE v2.0 for comparison purposes, as its features and circuit design seem similar to this light.
"Hi" mode on NiMH (Sanyo 2500mAh)
Hi/Med/Lo modes on Alkaline Duracells
2AA Hi mode on 2500mAh NiMH
14500 (AW Protected) on Fenix L1T body tube (C3 tube too narrow for protected cells)
Note: 14500 is not recommended in this light, as you may fry your emitter or circuit due to the high output
3AA Hi mode on 2500mAh NiMH
Note: I do NOT recommend you try this, as it requires additional conductive spacers to allow the batteries to make contact when using 2 extension tubes. As you'll see, output is similar to 14500, but with much longer runtime. Frankly, I expect you are at even greater risk of destroying your light this way
PWM: The new C3 uses PWM for lower modes, measured at a respectable 297Hz, which is not noticeable to me in everyday use.
Memory: The new C3 lacks a dedicated memory mode of last setting used, instead the light cycles through settings in the following initial sequence: Med - Lo - Hi - Strobe (7.3Hz) - SOS, repeating. However, once the light has been off for ~3.5 mins, it resets to the original initial sequence (i.e. comes on Med and cycles from there).
Interface: You can soft-press or click on/off to change modes (or, for that matter, simply twist head on-off to cycle). Light remembers last mode and moves to next mode any time the current flow is interupted and restored. Switch is difficult to soft-press given its recessed nature and poor tactile feel (see below for a discussion), but it doesn't matter much since clicking works as well as soft-pressing to advance the state.
Single-stage C3 on top, multi-stage C3 on bottom:
Unfortunately, build quality has decreased noticeably from the single-stage version is many ways.
- As you can see in above pics, anodizing arrived chipped on the face near the CREE logo. Anodizing is more matte finish and seems less substantial than original single-stage.
- Machining seems a lot rougher, and you'll notice that the flat areas for the logos are somewhat irregularly shaped. Knurling on the body is far less agressive, and is barely raised in places.
- Lettering and logos are poorly imprinted compared to the original C3.
- The tailcap on mine arrived defective, causing the light to flicker on all modes. A replacement is en route, but in the meantime I used the superior clicky that came on the single-stage C3 for all runtime tests. The new recessed switch allows tailstanding, but is actually harder to activate (and much easier to soft-press on the old clicky as well).
- The original single-stage C3 gave identical output in 1AA/2AA/14500 modes, with improved regulation and runtime improved on 2AA.
- New multi-stage C3 on Hi is considerably dimmer than the single-stage on 1AA, but noticeably brighter in 2AA modes (which is most welcome). Hi mode on 14500 is very impressive - among the highest output I've seen
- Medium and Lo modes are actually set to appropriate relative levels (I would estimate 40% > 10% > 100% sequence), unlike many of inexpensive 5-mode circuits DX/Kai sell where the Lo is still too high.
- Interestingly, on 14500 the single-stage C3 runs longer and at a higher output level than the C3 multi-stage on Med.
- Although the multi-stage C3 output on 1AA is lower than the Jetbeam C-LE by ~20% or so, the increased runtimes are very impressive.
- A significant upgrade to the Ultrafire C3 head, with 1AA performance that approaches the higher-end JetBeam C-LE (minus the last state used memory), although fans of the high output of the single-stage C3 will be disappointed by the 1AA output.
- Ability to run 2AA for greater output is welcome.
- Output on Hi on 14500 or 3AA (with 2 extension tubes and a battery magnet for contact) is insanely bright (note: my protected 14500s won't fit in the C3 body tube, needed to use L1T body). Long-term stability on 14500 or 3AA is unknown, but there is concern you will blow your circuit or emitter if you try this - buyer beware!
- Build quality has decreased in several ways, but is probably still minimally acceptable for many users, assuming tailcap switch is functioning properly.
- A good upgrade for existing C3 users looking to replace the head with a multi-mode circuit.
- The poor man's C-LE?