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Thread: Solarforce T7 - Q5 Cree

  1. #1

    Wink Solarforce T7 - Q5 Cree

    This new Solarforce T7 was kindly provided by CPF user waion at no charge for review. You can find more information on these at the supplier’s website: www.solarforce.hk.

    UPDATE 1/25/08: They are now currently available for sale at Lighthound for ~$55.



    Features of Solarforce T7, according to the supplier and one eBay vendor (note that I do not have independent verification for most of these):
    • Cree Q5 LED
    • 2xCR123A lithium battery, 2x16340 (RCR) Li-ion rechargeable battery or 1x 17670 Li-ion rechargeable battery (note that my protected AW 17670 won't fit, so I used a lower capacity 14670 in my tests - 18650 will certainly NOT fit)
    • Aerospace grade aluminium 6061-T6 body with HA III coating
    • 7 output levels (note: my sample actually has 8 levels)
    • Max output 240 lumens
    • Digitally regulated for constant brightness (see my review for a discussion)
    • SOS & flashing modes available at each intensity level
    • Unique 3-button control system (see below for an explanation of the UI)
    • 4cm (Length) x 2.1cm (Diameter)
    • 56-gram weight (excluding batteries)
    • Waterproof to IPX-8 Standard.
    • Toughened ultra clear glass lens with AR coating.
    • Push-button tail cap switch
    • Capable of standing up securely on a flat surface to serve as a candle


    What came in the package:







    Beamshots:

    On Max with AW protected RCR (black-label). For comparison purposes, I’ve also included the Fenix P2D-Q5 and T1-Q5. For P3D-Q5 comparison, see post #2.






    As you can see, the Solarforce T7 seems to be the brightest of bunch, with a similar profile to the Fenix Q5 head. Tint on the T7 isn’t as purple as it looks in the pics, although the Fenix lights are quite warm in comparison. I’d estimate WF tint on the T7 (common on Q5 Crees these days - and the same as my Fenix P3D Q5 which just arrived, shown in post #2).

    Output:

    For more detailed comparisons, please scroll down to the runtime charts below. Here are the results of a quick "ceiling-bounce" test in a small windowless room, with my light meter on the floor near the base of the light (which is shining upward in candle-mode). All are on max output on AW protected RCR except for VB-16 (18650).

    Solarforce T7: 8.7 lux
    Fenix P2D-Q5: 7.1 lux
    Fenix T1: 8.1 lux
    Fenix P3D-Q5: 8.1 lux
    VB-16 ("4W" overdriven) modded with U-bin SSC: 6.2 lux

    Output/Runtime Method: All my output numbers are relative for my home-made light box setup, a la Quickbeam's flashlightreviews.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.

    Batteries used were Energizer primary CR123A, AW protected RCR (black-label, 750mAh), and AW protected 14670 Li-ion (1100mAh). My AW 17670 Protected Li-ion is too fat and won't to fit into the tube.







    Summary Chart:

    Throw values are the square-root of lux measurements taken at 1m using a light meter.



    Digital Regulation:
    • I'm not sure how the Solarforce T7 regulates its output modes. I suspect it is likely current-controlled. If it uses PWM, the frequency is too high for me to detect by eye or by instrument.
    • Output is very nicely regulated at every level on primary CR123A and RCR.
    • On single-cell Li-ion (14670 in my case), output is only semi-regulated – but all 8 output levels are preserved.




    User Interface:
    • The light lacks a memory mode, and always comes on at max brightness
    • Light is turned on by the reverse clicky switch in the tailcap (note the tailcap threads are anodized, so you activate this light like a twisty if you want). Rear clicky is a bit stiff on my sample.
    • The light has 8 output modes, not 7 as claimed by the supplier
    • Press the lower red button once to decrease the output level by 1
    • Press the upper red button once to increase the output level by 1
    • Press and hold the upper red button for 2 sec to get into the flashing mode (or quickly press the tail switch twice - i.e. "flash" the tail switch)
    • Press and hold the lower red button for 2 sec to get into the SOS mode








    Build Quality
    • Overall build quality is fairly good. I don’t have a P3D Q5 to compare to (yet, it’s on order), but I would say build quality is close to the Fenix lights. UPDATE: the P3D Q5 has just arrived, and is certainly not as long (see post #2), but has a slightly more substantial feel to it than the Solarforce (i.e. a bit more "heft" to the P3D-Q5)
    • Hard Anodized (type III) finish is in good shape and unblemished on my sample. Lettering is also neat and clear for the most part.
    • The head doesn’t open, batteries are changed by unscrewing the tailcap.
    • Can't access the head, but the textured OP reflector looks to be aluminum.
    • Clicky switch retaining ring was gouged on my sample, likely due to snap-ring pliers slipping during assembly. Note the light would “wobble” when tail-standing as shipped, due to over-tightening of the retaining ring – slightly unscrewing it resolved the issue.
    • Rear reverse clicky switch is a bit stiff, and requires a fair amount of pressure to activate
    • Red up/down intensity switches have good tactile feel and auditory feedback when pressed (makes a soft clicking noise). This is an improvement over the first generation VB-16s, which were somewhat "squishy" (i.e. you could easily jump a couple of levels at once).




    Accessories
    • As you can see in the pics at the top of the page, the light comes in a box very similar in design to Fenix (even has the same description on the front!)
    • Solarforce includes a nice sewn-nylon carrying pouch with closing flap and belt attachment.
    • Extra o-ring, tailcap cover, and wrist lanyard included.


    Conclusion:

    Pros
    • Brightest Q5 light of its class. To give you a comparison, output of my Q5 Fenix T1/P3D are about one level down from max on the T7.
    • Well-built, worked reliably during testing. I would say overall build quality is close to the Fenix line.
    • Good user interface with 3-button setup, very familiar to fans of the VB-16.
    • Clever placement of SOS and strobe out of the way, but easy to access by holding down lower and upper red buttons (respectively)
    • Fully regulated on RCR and primaries, semi-regulated on single-cell Li-ion. Note that all output levels are maintained on all battery types, which is impressive
    • Decent runtimes given the output.
    • Anodized tailcap threads, allowing for tailcap lock-out or use a rear “twisty”

    Cons
    • No memory mode, light always starts on Max. At the very least, I think people would want a forward clicky if it was always going to come on in Max. But a memory mode would be far more useful
    • Most of the 8 output levels are clustered near the higher end of output. The light could use a lower Min output level, and much more differentiation at the lower end of the output scale
    • Body tube is a bit tight: my blue-label AW protected RCRs wouldn’t fit (only black-label fit). Similarly, my AW protected 17670 Li-ion won't fit either (but in fairness, it won't fit in my Fenix P3D-Q5 either). Looks like 14670 is the way to go for maximum compatibility.
    • Rear reverse clicky switch is a bit stiff


    Summary:
    • The only thing holding me back from giving this light a firm is no memory mode and the relative lack of lower output levels. Fans of the earlier VB-16s will be disappointed by this change, as it seems a step back from two of the main advantages of those lights.
    • The user interface is a good design, intuitive and simple to use - with smart placement of the SOS/strobe out of sight, but available at all output levels
    • Overall output is the highest for all my general use Cree Q5 lights (although this sample has a slight purple tint – likely a WF tint bin). The Q5 Fenix T1/P3D overall output is close - around level 7 on this light (out of 8 total).
    • Compared to my overdriven 1st gen VB-16 "4W" with U-bin SSC mod, the T7 is at least 35-40% brighter overall. I doubt current SSC VB-16s are much brighter than my modded one.
    • Price is reasonable at ~$55.


    Cheers!
    Last edited by selfbuilt; 05-09-2008 at 07:34 AM. Reason: Added 17670 comments
    Full list of all my reviews: flashlightreviews.ca. Latest hobby: whiskyanalysis.com. Latest flashlight review: Thrunite TN42.
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  2. #2

    Default Re: Solarforce T7 - Q5 Cree

    Wouldn't you know it: no sooner than I post the review, and my P3D Q5 shows up in the mail!



    As you can see, the Solarforce T7 is much taller, closer the the 2AA Fenix L2D.

    Beamshots on Max/Turbo:




    The P3D Q5 has a slightly smoother beam, with less rings (likely due to the fact the emitter seems to be pulled back to just below the reflector on my sample). However, my P3D emitter is not perfectly centered, leading a slight shadow around the hospot (lower right in the pic above).

    You'll note there's no real tint difference between the Solarforce T7 and my Fenix P3D Q5. I'd estimate both are WF tints.

    Overal output of the P3D Q5 is exactly the same as my Fenix T1, so all the comparisons on the first post still apply.

    More info to come ...
    Last edited by selfbuilt; 12-21-2007 at 03:13 PM. Reason: Added pics
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  3. #3
    Flashaholic* StefanFS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solarforce T7 - Q5 Cree

    Nice review,
    an odd light. But it's interesting, not the regular fare.
    Stefan

  4. #4

    Default Re: Solarforce T7 - Q5 Cree

    Quote Originally Posted by StefanFS View Post
    an odd light. But it's interesting, not the regular fare.
    +1. It's certainly not your typical light - nice to see something different ...

    I only wish it had lower low modes and a memory feature like the old VB-16s. On the other hand, I wish Fenix could get its circuits working as well with single Li-ion cells.
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  5. #5
    Flashaholic* PhantomPhoton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solarforce T7 - Q5 Cree

    Thanks for the review.
    I am a big fan of 18650, so it's too bad that they aren't supported. I like 18650s on my VB-16.
    I do like the ui of this light. I agree that having more low options would be better though.
    Reverse clickie tailcap switch I assume?
    1) Neutral white, it's the new black. Heck, it's not even "new" anymore.
    2) User Interface... KISS.
    3) Proprietary cells and battery packs - Just say NO!

  6. #6

    Default Re: Solarforce T7 - Q5 Cree

    Selfbuilt,

    Another awesome review! Keep it up!

    This light looks really nice, but to me the killer is the fact that it has no memory and can only be turned on in the highest setting. If they had a memory I'm sure ALOT more people would be interested in it.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Solarforce T7 - Q5 Cree

    Quote Originally Posted by PhantomPhoton View Post
    I do like the ui of this light. I agree that having more low options would be better though.
    Reverse clickie tailcap switch I assume?
    That's what I get for rushing my review out yesterday - forgot to talk about the rear clicky!

    Yes, it is indeed a reverse clicky. One point I've just added to the main post is that a forward clicky would make more sense for a light with no memory mode that always came on max (i.e. make it "tactical").

    As for the lack of 18650, at least it still maintains all its levels on a single 17670 Li-ion (something Fenix has yet to figure out). I have an AW protected 17670 on order, and will confirm that it fits (likely to be a tight squeeze). My 14670 is only a temporary solution for now, to demonstrate the feature.

    Quote Originally Posted by adirondackdestroyer View Post
    This light looks really nice, but to me the killer is the fact that it has no memory and can only be turned on in the highest setting. If they had a memory I'm sure ALOT more people would be interested in it.
    Agreed, that is the main limitation in my view as well (followed by the lack of low modes). Both of these features were present on the VB-16, so it seems a loss here. On the plus side, the up and down level switches work a lot better than the first generation VB-16s (just updated the review to point that out). No more wondering where you will end up - and a very clever placement for the SOS/strobe.

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  8. #8

    Default Re: Solarforce T7 - Q5 Cree

    Just added low mode on the T7 on 14670 to the first post.

    Although the overall output on single Li-ion isn't that much lower on most levels, there is a considerable drop at the lowest level (which is a good thing, in my view). Still not as low as the lowest level of the P3D-Q5, though.

    I'll get cracking on some runtimes for the P3D and add those to the second post.
    Last edited by selfbuilt; 12-23-2007 at 09:14 AM.
    Full list of all my reviews: flashlightreviews.ca. Latest hobby: whiskyanalysis.com. Latest flashlight review: Thrunite TN42.
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  9. #9
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    Default Re: Solarforce T7 - Q5 Cree

    It's an attractive light. A bit long for my taste (I prefer lights to be not much larger than the battery they use as if I were to go for something longer, I would like a larger battery to fit for longer runtime), but it seems well made. I like the rectangular knurling. Overall, the light looks very Fenix-like. Nice to see a mfr have enough fore-thought to make the tube fit 17670s, unlike similar offerings which have trouble fitting them limiting the user to R123As as the only rechargeable option.

  10. #10
    Enlightened
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    Default Re: Solarforce T7 - Q5 Cree

    Thank you very much for the detailed review, which gives me and the other cpf fellows some very useful information such as the runtime, etc. Very informative indeed.

    Just a few words to add: this is actual a new light independent of the VB-16s, which seems to me came to an end months ago when I sold out my 1st and the only run of the 4th gen VB-16 (with the SSC P4 leds) here in CPF.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Solarforce T7 - Q5 Cree

    Quote Originally Posted by jsr View Post
    Overall, the light looks very Fenix-like. Nice to see a mfr have enough fore-thought to make the tube fit 17670s, unlike similar offerings which have trouble fitting them limiting the user to R123As as the only rechargeable option.
    I agree on the look ... unfortunately, my AW protected 17670 just arrived, and it won't fit in the T7. The battery is too fat (this is the new kind with the nipple on the positive terminal).

    Note that this is not a problem unique to the T7 - the same battery won't fit in my Fenix P3D either. You might be able to squeeze it into the P3D if you remove the label, but I wouldn't chance it. There's certainly no way it will make into the T7, which is a hair's width narrower than the P3D.

    Quote Originally Posted by waion View Post
    Thank you very much for the detailed review, which gives me and the other cpf fellows some very useful information such as the runtime, etc. Very informative indeed.
    My pleasure, I enjoyed working with this light. A slightly wider battery tube/body would be my last recommendation ...

    Merry Christmas everyone!
    Full list of all my reviews: flashlightreviews.ca. Latest hobby: whiskyanalysis.com. Latest flashlight review: Thrunite TN42.
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  12. #12

    Default Re: Solarforce T7 - Q5 Cree

    Very nice looking light. It's about time some of these features made their way around.

    I've been waiting for a multi-level light that always activates on high and has a reverse clickie.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Solarforce T7 - Q5 Cree

    Quote Originally Posted by spoonrobot View Post
    Very nice looking light. It's about time some of these features made their way around.

    I've been waiting for a multi-level light that always activates on high and has a reverse clickie.
    This could be a good light for you then. The clicky is a bit stiff, but that should help prevent accidental activation.

    FYI, waion informs me he's looking to incorporate some of my suggestions into his next project - looking forward to it.
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  14. #14
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    Default Re: Solarforce T7 - Q5 Cree

    Thanks for the detailed review, selfbuilt. Well done! :

    I think if the manufacturer would address the nits (lack or memory or replace the reverse-clicky with a forward clicky, spread the brightness levels out some more and provide a really low low), this light would have real potential.

    As it is: I think I'll just continue to regret missing out on Waion's last run of the VB-16 , and see what he comes up with next.

    Jim
    "God was able to create the world in only seven days because there was no installed base to consider." - Andy Finkel

  15. #15

    Default Re: Solarforce T7 - Q5 Cree

    I hope this light stays reverse clickie, it's a user interface that works better for pocket EDC than a forward clickie. Not all of us want to be tactical.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Solarforce T7 - Q5 Cree

    Quote Originally Posted by spoonrobot View Post
    I hope this light stays reverse clickie, it's a user interface that works better for pocket EDC than a forward clickie.
    Except a 2xCR123 is a bit large for pocket EDC, anyway, wouldn't you say? Plus this one's long even for a 2xCR123.

    Jim
    "God was able to create the world in only seven days because there was no installed base to consider." - Andy Finkel

  17. #17

    Default Re: Solarforce T7 - Q5 Cree

    Quote Originally Posted by SEMIJim View Post
    Except a 2xCR123 is a bit large for pocket EDC, anyway, wouldn't you say? Plus this one's long even for a 2xCR123.

    Jim
    Not for me, my pants have extra deep pockets.

    I find that length is much easier to carry than width. I EDC a D-Mini now and find the large diameter head disrupts the lines of my clothes more often and ends up causing my more discomfort than a slightly skinnier, but significantly longer light like the L2T I EDC on occasion.

  18. #18

    Default Re: Solarforce T7 - Q5 Cree

    Got mine today from an eBay seller. Turns out as I was waiting for the light to make the Air Mail trip lighthound begun stocking them. I'll have to order my next one from him.

    After playing with this light for a few hours I've come to the conclusion that it drops the D-Mini from my EDC is a heartbeat. Two different beasts I know, but this light is a big improvement for carry and offers a much easier way to change light levels over other lights out there.

    As stated above the levels are too close, there are too many of them and there aren't enough lows but if you like reverse clickies that always activate on high mode and have a wicked-easy UI then this light is for you.



    Also; two Panasonic batteries are included with the light. They state on the wrapper that they are Japanese manufacture, any input on whether this is true or not?
    Last edited by spoonrobot; 01-25-2008 at 12:05 AM.

  19. #19

    Default Re: Solarforce T7 - Q5 Cree

    Thanks for the update spoonrobot, glad you enjoy the light.

    I've just updated the first post with a link to the lighthound page where these are now for sale.
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  20. #20

    Default Re: Solarforce T7 - Q5 Cree

    So how much brighter is the T7 compared to the current SSC VB-16? I really like the form factor of the VB-16 with 18650 capability but the lackluster SSC bugs me.

  21. #21

    Default Re: Solarforce T7 - Q5 Cree

    Quote Originally Posted by Shaocaholica View Post
    So how much brighter is the T7 compared to the current SSC VB-16? I really like the form factor of the VB-16 with 18650 capability but the lackluster SSC bugs me.
    Just tested, and yes it is considerably brighter.

    My VB-16 is a 1st gen luxeon model, overdriven to 4W, which I modded with SSC U-bin last year. I doubt the the current VB-16 SSCs are much brighter than my overdriven SSC-modded one.

    According to my lightbox, on max, the T7 output is 89 on primaries, 82 on 14670. My SSC-modded VB-16 gets 64 on primaries and 61 on 18650. That's 35-40% increased output on the T7.

    Just did a ceiling bounce, and I again get ~35% greater output on the T7 (numbers added to the review above).

    Of course, the T7 doesn't go anyway near as low as my VB-16 does ...

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  22. #22

    Default Re: Solarforce T7 - Q5 Cree

    Are these made by or in conjunction with Fenix? Did I miss something somewhere?
    "We're talking a thermonuclear explosion, and...adios muchachos"

  23. #23

    Default Re: Solarforce T7 - Q5 Cree

    Quote Originally Posted by Warhead View Post
    Are these made by or in conjunction with Fenix? Did I miss something somewhere?
    No, there's no relation between Solarforce and Fenix that I am aware of. CPF user waion provide the T7 for review, since it uses a never version of the VB-16 circuit (which waion used to sell here).
    Last edited by selfbuilt; 03-02-2008 at 09:49 AM.
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  24. #24
    *Flashaholic* Patriot's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solarforce T7 - Q5 Cree

    selfbuilt
    As you can see, the Solarforce T7 seems to be the brightest of bunch, with a similar profile to the Fenix Q5 head.
    I didn't see that the same way. No matter how much I looked at the pictures the T7 never came across as the brightest to me. The T1 looked like it had a brighter hotspot and smother spill of equal brightness. I can't remember the lux readings from the T1 but weren't they also higher than what was recorded with this light?

    Anyhow, thanks for another great review selfbuilt. It's a strange light but nice to be able to read about it.

  25. #25

    Default Re: Solarforce T7 - Q5 Cree

    Quote Originally Posted by Patriot36 View Post
    I didn't see that the same way. No matter how much I looked at the pictures the T7 never came across as the brightest to me.
    True, the pics don't look noticeably brighter. Part of that is likely due to the fact that the hotspot is over-saturated in all beamshots, so you can't see intensity differences (white wall beamshots really only tell you profile and spill beam characteristics). Tint variation can also be an issue.

    But both my lightbox and ceiling bounce test tell me the T7 is putting out more light than the P3D-Q5 or T1 (~6-7% more), so I tend to trust that. It also seems marginally brighter to my eye, but of course that could just be tint difference as well.
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  26. #26
    *Flashaholic* Patriot's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solarforce T7 - Q5 Cree

    Quote Originally Posted by selfbuilt View Post
    True, the pics don't look noticeably brighter.

    But both my lightbox and ceiling bounce test tell me the T7 is putting out more light than the P3D-Q5 or T1 (~6-7% more), so I tend to trust that.
    Well, I also have to believe your lightmeter and not my own eyes. I will say that it appears that the both the T1 and P3D have nicer appearing beams as they seem to be less ringy than the T7.

    It's a very unique light though and to think that it displaces a couple of the mainstay lights in share output is impressive. Definitely worth the good review that you gave it.

  27. #27

    Default Re: Solarforce T7 - Q5 Cree

    Quote Originally Posted by selfbuilt View Post
    I agree on the look ... unfortunately, my AW protected 17670 just arrived, and it won't fit in the T7.
    Bummer ...that just blew it for me. I was liking your review of this light for reasons similar to @SpoonRobot...reverse clickie, starts on high, versatile/easy UI, and thin/long rather than short/fat....great for EDC IMHO. Oh well .
    Thanks again for another amazing review @Selfbuilt!
    You're the man!!
    Last edited by phreeflow; 03-03-2008 at 06:18 AM.

  28. #28

    Default Re: Solarforce T7 - Q5 Cree

    Quote Originally Posted by phreeflow View Post
    Bummer ...that just blew it for me. I was liking your review of this light for reasons similar to @SpoonRobot...reverse clickie, starts on high, versatile/easy UI, and thin/long rather than short/fat....great for EDC IMHO. Oh well .
    Well, the situation is at least no worse than for my P3D-Q5 - the protected 17670 won't fit in there either! Also, my P3D doesn't like my AW protected 14670 for some reason - I get a rapid strobe on max after ~1sec of usage. So I guess my 14670 will now do permanent duty inside the T7!

    BTW, forgot to mention it in the review, but there is a small raised area in the center of the positive contact board in the head (i.e. a nipple), so flat-top Li-ions work fine. I wish all makers were so considerate.
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  29. #29

    Default Re: Solarforce T7 - Q5 Cree

    Overall it looks like Solarforce really put some thought into this light. Other than some minor issues here and there, it seems like a possible contender to some of the more well regarded lights. Maybe not just yet but I can't wait to see version 2 with some revisions made. Thanks again Selfbuilt.

  30. #30

    Default Re: Solarforce T7 - Q5 Cree

    A little FYI for modder/those that are curious.

    The head is sealed to the body with an adhesive but can be removed with strap wrenches quite easily. Be aware that there are four wires that are attached to the head and run to the light level buttons, unscrewing the head seems to cause at least one of these wires to break at the solder point. Resoldering and getting it all back together is a real pain so if you are intent on seeing the insides have the soldering iron handy. Also, I have no idea how to remove the light engine without destroying it, it appears to be pressed and sealed into the bezel.

    #2, the brightness level buttons tore when I tried to remove them, I'm not sure where one could get replacements from this does not necessarily destroy the waterproofing since half the switch will still act as a seal if it isn't pushed into the body.

    Just a little FYI from someone who was bored on a Saturday night.

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