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Thread: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone - UPDATED

  1. #1

    Unhappy SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone - UPDATED

    This is a quick review of the new “MRV-clone” light, the 18650-only Smartfire V-68C Q5. The body design appears to be a knock-off of the MRV, but with some important differences. I got mine from Kai Domain, but I know DX also sells it.

    For a detailed comparison to all the other thrower lights in my collection, please see:
    Thrower review: DBS, Spear, MRV, Tiablo, Regal & clones: THROW, RUNTIMES, BEAMSHOTS!

    UPDATE 2/7/08: After isolating the contacts around the emitter pill, the "flickering" issue in my low mode and strobe modes has been resolved. This is the minimum required fix for all users of this light - failure to do so could result in shorting out the emitter fairly quickly (including upon initial activation!). Buyer beware ...

    The contenders:

    On the left, the Smartfire V-68C, on the right, Lumapower MRV (2nd Gen),



    Weight:
    Lumapower MRV: 195g
    Smartfire V-68C: 137g

    As you can see from the non-battery weights, the light is not going to be as substantial as a MRV.

    I’ve saved beamshots for the end, after the discussion of build quality.

    Measurement Method:Throw values are the square-root of Lux measurements taken at 1m using a light meter. Note that my lightmeter tends to report lower absolute values than most, but I have verified it is linearly responsive over the range of intensities in question.

    Smartfire V-68C “Q5” (18650-only) Throw Lux @ one meter:
    • 18650 x 1 on high with stock lens: 15,000 Lux
    • 18650 x 1 on high with MRV lens: 16,300 Lux
    • 18650 x 1 on high with UCL-AR lens: 17,000 Lux
    • 18650 x 1 on low: 6,000 Lux

    MRV 1st Generation with DX Cree Q5 WG mod - Q5 Throw Lux @ one meter:
    • 18650 x 1 on high: 11,800 Lux
    • 18650 x 1 on low: 8,500 Lux
    • CR123A x 2 on high: 18,200 Lux
    • CR123A x 2 on low: 8,500 Lux

    Dereelight DBS 3-Stage - Q4 (18650-only) Throw Lux @ one meter:
    • 18650 x 1 on high: 21,200 Lux
    • 18650 x 1 on medium: 10,500 Lux
    • 18650 x 1 on low: 1,830 Lux

    DX WF-600 (18650-only) - Q2 Throw Lux @ one meter:
    • 18650 x 1 on high: 16,300 Lux
    • 18650 x 1 on low: 3,600 Lux

    Throw observation:
    • At first glance, the V-68C throws the same as the Q2 WF-600 on 18650 on Hi - despite the Q5 label on the V-68C. However, I believe this light does indeed contain a Q4 or Q5 emitter (scroll down to build quality for a discussion).
    • Throw improves with a better quality lens (see my discussion in post #36 here).


    Runtimes:
    Runtimes charts are slightly different from my other reviews - since my home-made milk carton lightbox doesn't accurately capture overall output on these intense throwers, I have adjusted all my relative output numbers to initial throw (measured as the squareroot of Lux @1m). This allows you to directly compare the relative throw of each light over time on the graphs below (although you can't directly compare these graphs with my other reviews).



    Runtime observation:
    • Again, the V-68C performs exactly the same as the Q2 WF-600 on 18650 on Hi. And again, see below for a potential explanation why.


    Build Quality:

    Let’s start at the top, the source of the throw problem: the V-68C (left) lacks an o-ring around the lens in the bezel.

    EDIT: You can solve this problem with a 40mm x 1.5mm o-ring available from oringsusa.com. Once you add the o-ring, waterproofness should be halfway decent.



    The light seems to use a similar-size reflector as the MRV, and the head/bezel has the exact same dimensions. But since the o-ring is missing, the reflector “wobbles” loosely inside the head unless you have it screwed all the way tight against the body so that the actual emitter seems to be holding the reflector firmly in place. This is obviously a huge potential problem, since if the aluminum reflector touches the Cree contacts you could short the emitter.

    Are the contacts protected? Let’s take a look under the hood.



    Note that I have not removed anything – this is exactly what you see when you unscrew the head (i.e. unlike the MRV, there is no plastic insulating disk around the emitter). And that’s got to be one of the worse soldering jobs I’ve seen in awhile – note the bare exposed copper wiring at the –‘ve terminal. So why is the light not completely shorting out in my sample? Simple reason – the reflector is not screwing down quite far enough to touch the contacts, even with the bezel fully tightened.

    EDIT: On further testing, it seems I was getting some shorting across the contacts initially. This was manifesting as a "flicker" on my low mode and strobe modes that was immediately resolved when I isolated the contacts from the reflector with some kapton tape.

    In any case, the emitter is not properly focused within the reflector, leading to reduced throw. My measurements of overall output tell me the light is putting out more than my Q2-based lights – but throw @1m is no better than a Q2. See Beamshots below for a fuller depiction of the problem.

    How about the further down the body? Here’s a shot of the contact board in the head (looking down the battery tube, since there’s no heatsink to unscrew). Hard to see, but there’s a rather messy soldering job in there.



    And here are the tailcap threads. A bit messy, but they are anodized allowing tailcap lockout.



    And finally the switch mechanism:



    FYI, either my switch is unreliable or the emitter is shorting out on the reflector, as occasionally the light wouldn’t come on in my early testing - only flicker once upon pressing the switch and then go off.

    I haven’t bother taking any additional body pics, but the type II anodizing is chipped off in numerous places along a lot of the edges of my sample, showing bare aluminum. The lettering is clear (although there is too much of it – every flat surface has writing on it).

    Beamshots:

    Quick and dirty comparison at ~1 meter from a wall, to show you the different overall spillbeam patterns. V-68C on the left (on 18650), Lumapower MRV Q2 (on primaries) on the right, both on Hi.






    As you can see, beam profile is similar, but with a slightly wider hotspot and more defined corona on the V-68C. But that's not a good thing, as you'll see in the next couple of pics chosen to show you the effect of the de-focused reflector. These are taken close up at ~0.3 meters from the wall, on Low, to better show the hotspot.




    As you can see, the reflector isn't properly focussed, even when screwed down all the way.

    User Interface
    • According to Kai's website, it's supposed to Hi - Lo - Strobe - SOS - off, accessed by clicking the switch in sequence. In fact, mine is Hi - Lo - slow strobe (2.5Hz) - medium strobe (5Hz) - off, with no SOS mode
    • Light uses PWM for low mode, at a fairly high frequency of 467 Hz. But my light originally had a horrible low freq flicker on the low mode, separate from PWM pulsing. It seemed to be due to a shorting issue, as once I isolated the pill from the aluminum reflector the problem disappeared.
    • The strobe modes are also very unsual - at first, they struck me as "reverse strobes" (i.e. rather being in "off" mode most of the time and flashing "on" for brief periods - like most lights - these strobes seemed to be "on" most of the time with a partial dimming "off" during the strobe sequence). However, after isolating the contacts from the reflector, this effect has gone away.
    • Instead, I now realize that the duty cycle is exactly 50:50 on/off for both of the strobe modes (i.e. light is on half the time, off half the time). This is an unsual strobe mode, and not likely to lead to signficant improvement in runtime.
    • There is no memory mode as such. If you wait more than 2 secs between clicks, light will revert to Hi mode.


    Conclusions:
    • I cannot recommend this light for someone looking for a turn-key solution to work well out of the box - it's going to require some effort to turn it into a useful light.
    • Most important fix is to isolate the contacts around the emitter pill. My light had noticeable flickering issues on low and strobe modes that disappeared once this was corrected. Note that at least one user has reported frying his emitter on first use, due to a contact issue.
    • Adding a lens o-ring would be a good second step. The 40 MM X 1.5 MM BN70 from oringusa.com is a good fit.
    • You might also want to replace the lens with a UCL AR-coated one for improved light transmission. The 41.8mm UCL lens from flashlightlens.com is a perfect fit (it was developed for the MRV), and adds an additional ~2000 lux to the peak throw in my testing (i.e. UCL produces 17,000 lux @1m, compared to stock 15,000 lux).
    • Replacing the circuit board might also be a good idea (if you can access it - I haven't tried). The two low freq strobe modes may not be very useful for most.
    • Emitter is not well focussed in the reflector, as compared to the MRV lights on which this is based. The result is a slight-to-severe "donut" effect in the center, depending on your sample.
    • Rear clicky doesn't seem very reliable in my sample.
    • The body has a lot of superficial nicks, but does come with anodized tailcap threads (useful feature).
    • Heatsinking is a big unknown (can't access it separately), but we can expect it to be nowhere near the capabilities of the excellent (and heavy) MRV heatsink.

    As shipped, I'm afraid this light needs a little more work before it is ready for prime time.

    But after isolating the contacts, replacing the lens and adding a lens o-ring, it is not a bad inexpensive thrower light. However, it remains to be seen if the heatsinking is adequate over a prolonged period of time.
    Last edited by selfbuilt; 02-29-2008 at 10:29 PM.
    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: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

    I see Ernie has beat me to the punch: his V-68C review here.

    Note that his light seems to have a similar build, but a different circuit.
    Full list of all my reviews: flashlightreviews.ca. Latest hobby: whiskyanalysis.com. Latest flashlight review: Thrunite TN42.
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  3. #3
    Flashaholic* woodrow's Avatar
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    Default Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

    Wow, those wonderful Chinese... no copyright or patent infringement rules apparently.

    Thanks for the review. It was very hard for me to spend the money for my MRV SE when there were so many other great throw lights out there for less. This one appears not to be one of them though.
    "I only smile in the dark...my only comfort is the night gone black..."lyrics from Garbage

  4. #4
    Flashaholic* ace0001a's Avatar
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    Default Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

    Quote Originally Posted by woodrow View Post
    Wow, those wonderful Chinese... no copyright or patent infringement rules apparently.

    Thanks for the review. It was very hard for me to spend the money for my MRV SE when there were so many other great throw lights out there for less. This one appears not to be one of them though.
    And yet the Lumapower is also a Chinese light.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

    Nice job as always, selfbuilt.

  6. #6

    Default Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

    Quote Originally Posted by Rzr800 View Post
    Nice job as always, selfbuilt.
    My pleasure ... not a lot of time these days, but I thought it was important to get this review up. I imagine a lot of people will be attracted to the price tag of this light, but they need to realize what they are in for.

    I'm hoping to fix up a number of the problems with this light, and see if I can't turn it into something half-way decent. But I've got a couple of higher end lights in the review pipeline right now.
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  7. #7
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    Party Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

    Hi Selfbuilt,

    Thanks for your review. Hope you get those problems fixed & retested, soon
    as you can. I plan to buy this light or the WF-600; which seems to be a bet-ter light; & a little brighter (with a Q2 bulb). I like both, but the V-68C is 3 oz.
    lighter & a little smaller. Which is important to me. With a Q5 it should be br-
    ighter than the WF-600. I really like your reviews. Wish I had more time and
    money to expand my hobby. Happy New Year. Gordon

  8. #8
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    Default Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

    I ordered a couple and fried the emitter when I first turned it on. I looked under the hood and found that the MRV-style reflector shorted out the emitter. I put an insulator ring over the second, and it is bright and has a nice tint. Anybody know where I can find a GITD or other MRV-size o-ring?

  9. #9
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    Default Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

    Quote Originally Posted by bspofford View Post
    I ordered a couple and fried the emitter when I first turned it on. I looked under the hood and found that the MRV-style reflector shorted out the emitter. I put an insulator ring over the second, and it is bright and has a nice tint. Anybody know where I can find a GITD or other MRV-size o-ring?
    Mine isn't here; yet should I (obviously) find an o-ring somewhere also before the same thing happens? (not really certain how to prevent this otherwise). Also, are these o-rings something special material or shape-wise that can't be found at the local indutrial supply house?

    Thanks for the heads up, bspofford.
    Last edited by Rzr800; 01-02-2008 at 08:15 PM.

  10. #10

    Default Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

    Quote Originally Posted by Rzr800 View Post
    Mine isn't here; yet should I (obviously) find an o-ring somewhere also before the same thing happens? (not really certain how to prevent this otherwise). Also, are these o-rings something special material or shape-wise that can't be found at the local indutrial supply house?
    Not sure where to find the right o-ring size (should be ~42mm, but I haven't double-checked). If anyone knows of a source, I'm sure we'd all be happy to hear it.

    But it is more critical to insulate the contacts around the emitter. I use kapton tape ("kaptan" at DX), which is heat-resistant. But you could try the clear plastic cover from a microwave dinner - I remember StefanFS using that in one of his D-mini mods (just cut a small round hole the right size to fit snugly around the emitter ring).
    Full list of all my reviews: flashlightreviews.ca. Latest hobby: whiskyanalysis.com. Latest flashlight review: Thrunite TN42.
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  11. #11

    Default Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

    My V-68C came with a plastic cover for the emitter. It fits loose not secured. Once the bezel lens is screwed down the pressure from the reflector holds it down.

    You maybe able to cut something similar to this.




  12. #12

    Default Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

    Thanks for all this information, great job!!

  13. #13
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    Default Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

    [quote=woodrow;2283664]Wow, those wonderful Chinese... no copyright or patent infringement rules apparently.

    Woodrow
    You got that right. They have the Wild, Wild East. The D-Mini and MRV which we both have, started the Pocket Rockets and Throw Monsters. The blatant counterfeit even uses the shortened name "Lpower MRV (type)" adds nothing but cheapness and the clones find willing buyers. Lumapower, JetBeam, Fenix and Surefire and others get also get copied.

    It's curious, when a guy spends $30.00 or $40.00 to upgrade a clone light and is still not happy and tries to sell it. Yup, finally sells for around the price he paid originally.
    Also, our members so, demanding of perfection often help the better makers improve their offerings. Paradoxical?
    It reminds me of the old saw, my manual arts teacher taught us long ago when a burger was 15 cents and value was king:

    There is scarcely anything in the world that another man cannot make worse and sell a little more cheaply.
    The person who buys on price alone is this man's lawful prey.
    John Ruskin

    Happy New Year CPF
    marlite

    P.S. Thanks again Selfbuilt, you brighten our days, err um nights with wise words. Kudos to you!

    Last edited by Marlite; 01-05-2008 at 02:53 AM. Reason: P.S. Kudos to Selfbuilt

  14. #14

    Default Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

    Quote Originally Posted by ernsanada View Post
    My V-68C came with a plastic cover for the emitter. It fits loose not secured. Once the bezel lens is screwed down the pressure from the reflector holds it down.
    Thanks Ernie, glad to hear your's came with one. But I suspect a lot will be like mine and bspofford's - at high risk of shorting out.

    It's certainly an easy fix to fasten some sort of heat-resistant plastic or tape over the contacts. I would recommend anyone who has bought one of these to check under the reflector before you try to turn it on for the first time - you don't want to fry the emitter!
    Full list of all my reviews: flashlightreviews.ca. Latest hobby: whiskyanalysis.com. Latest flashlight review: Thrunite TN42.
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  15. #15

    Default Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

    So, do you think that dealextreme`s version is a good purchase? It looks nice, Q5 cree, multiple modes, good prize... or would it have any problem, like kaidomain´s one?

  16. #16

    Default Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

    Quote Originally Posted by asturianin View Post
    So, do you think that dealextreme`s version is a good purchase? It looks nice, Q5 cree, multiple modes, good prize... or would it have any problem, like kaidomain´s one?
    Typically, DX and Kai use the same suppliers, so there's no guarantee one will be better than the other.

    Whichever one you get, I would just recommend looking under the reflector before turning it on to make sure the contacts are protected.
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  17. #17
    Flashaholic* TITAN1833's Avatar
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    Default Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

    Hi guys have a look here for O-RINGS.
    Scroll down on page two you will find 42.5 there.
    http://www.oringsusa.com/catalog/ind...70a327689c8ae1

    Quote Originally Posted by selfbuilt View Post
    Not sure where to find the right o-ring size (should be ~42mm, but I haven't double-checked). If anyone knows of a source, I'm sure we'd all be happy to hear it.

    But it is more critical to insulate the contacts around the emitter. I use kapton tape ("kaptan" at DX), which is heat-resistant. But you could try the clear plastic cover from a microwave dinner - I remember StefanFS using that in one of his D-mini mods (just cut a small round hole the right size to fit snugly around the emitter ring).
    Last edited by TITAN1833; 01-08-2008 at 02:37 PM. Reason: add
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  18. #18

    Default Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

    Quote Originally Posted by TITAN1833 View Post
    Hi guys have a look here for O-RINGS.
    Scroll down on page two you will find 42.5 there.
    http://www.oringsusa.com/catalog/ind...70a327689c8ae1
    Thanks Titan ... I've measured the lens, it is is definitely less than 42mm (closer to 41mm). Also, I suspect the thinner ones will work better (more than ~1.5mm thickness, and I doubt they will fit under the lip).

    I've just placed an order for a number of different sizes, and will post my results here once I receive them. Hopefully one of them will fit well!
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  19. #19
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    Default Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

    Which way does the reflector need to move to properly focus the light?

    I wonder why different people are getting seemingly different lights.

  20. #20

    Default Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

    Quote Originally Posted by Stereodude View Post
    Which way does the reflector need to move to properly focus the light?

    I wonder why different people are getting seemingly different lights.

    I noticed on my MRV the Cree sits higher in the reflector. The MRV reflector works with the clone. THe beam quality with the MRV reflector is better. My clone has a large ring which is off center. The MRV reflector straightens out the ring.

    I tried shaving down the reflector to see if I could get the Cree to sit higher in the reflector. The MRV reflector looks thinner where the Cree comes through the reflector. Shaving down the reflector did not help. I did shave down the reflector to the same thickness as the MRV reflector.

  21. #21

    Default Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

    Quote Originally Posted by ernsanada View Post
    I noticed on my MRV the Cree sits higher in the reflector.
    Yes, I've noticed the same thing. If you wanted to improve the V-68C focus, you would need to lower the reflector a little further down (i.e. make it so the Cree emitter sits slightly higher in the reflector). I haven't tried modding my reflector yet.

    Basically, the current situation with my V-68C is similar to what you would see if you defocussed the MRV reflector slightly (i.e. "unscrewed" it slightly so that it sat higher up on the reflector). It's not a huge mis-alignment, but it is noticeable in the up-close shots.
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  22. #22

    Default Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

    Is it possible to adjust the focus to get a wider beam with this flashlight?

  23. #23

    Default Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

    Quote Originally Posted by Volny View Post
    Is it possible to adjust the focus to get a wider beam with this flashlight?
    No, all you can do is slightly defocus the hotspot by loosening the bezel head - but that will just make the reflector rattle. The overall spillbeam width won't change.
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  24. #24

    Default Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

    okay, another questiopn. Is it possible to use it without the whole reflecotrhead? So it will give light to 180 degrees?

  25. #25

    Default Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

    Quote Originally Posted by Volny View Post
    okay, another questiopn. Is it possible to use it without the whole reflecotrhead? So it will give light to 180 degrees?
    Yup, that you can do - you can run the light without the head/reflector attached (like in my pic showing the emitter).

    I would recommend you place something non-conductive around the emitter contact, to make sure you don't accidentally short the light (in case it falls over, etc.).
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  26. #26

    Nana Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

    Quote Originally Posted by selfbuilt View Post
    I see Ernie has beat me to the punch: his V-68C review here.

    Note that his light seems to have a similar build, but a different circuit.
    Hi ,

    This is my first post but I've been learning quite a bit and reading/learning a ton of info on this forum for a few months now. Just wanted to thank Selfbuilt, Ernsanada, and Bessiebennie for the great reviews and for taking the time to help out the rest of the community. You guys are really turning me into a flashaholic...my wife thinks I'm nuts

    I already purchased a few EDC's that I really like, MTE Rebel 100 5 mode, MTE SSC P4, Ultrafire C3 5-mode (my favorite), and a Romisen. They're all great lights but I'm really looking for a super powerful light using a single Q5. I've heard some mixed reviews but overall I think I may end up going for this Smartfire V68C light.

    However, I'm confused as to why Ernsanada's Smartfire V68C from DX measured 8,888 lux at 1 meter and why yours from Kai measured a whopping 15,700 lux at the same distance. Am I reading these measurements correctly and am I right in thinking that the Kai light is going to be waaay brighter even though it's the same exact torch???

    Please help...there's so many variables and so many new lights, that I just can't seem to make the right decision . Basically, I'm looking for a Q5 thrower under $30 that's truly utilizing the Q5 (super bright) and has decent runtime (18650-only preferable, RCR123's ok)...any other suggestions beside V68C?

    Sorry for long post.

  27. #27

    Default Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

    My SmartFire V-68C Q5 MRV Clone has a hole in it's beam. At 1 meter my light my light starts showing the hole. Any closer the hole gets worse. Maybe that is why my reading is so much diffferent.

  28. #28

    Default Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

    Quote Originally Posted by ernsanada View Post
    My SmartFire V-68C Q5 MRV Clone has a hole in it's beam. At 1 meter my light my light starts showing the hole. Any closer the hole gets worse. Maybe that is why my reading is so much diffferent.
    Sounds like the likely issue - mine doesn't really show the hole in the center at 1m, but at shorter distances (as you can see in my beamshots). Also, Ernie's light meter tends to report a little lower than mine in most cases as well (there's lots of variabilty between light meters).

    Phreeflow, the light should probably work fine for you as as long as you take care to insure the emitter contacts are isolated from the reflector, as discussed above. But you might also want to look at the reviews around here for the Q5 Aurora throwers at DX/Kai for a comparison.

    Incidentally, my o-ring order from oringusa.com is still on back order. When it gets in, I'll let you know if any fit the head opening ...
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  29. #29

    Default Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

    Well, what do you know - UPS just showed up with my o-ring order from oringsusa.com.

    The best fit was with the 40mm x 1.5mm BN70

    Fit in nicely between the glass and the front of the bezel. I had already covered the contacts with kapton tape, so it's looking pretty spiffy now with the o-ring in place.

    Thanks again for the suggestion Titan!
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  30. #30

    Default Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

    Wow, thank you both for the extremely quick feedback . I've been watching the Aurora Q5 with the 18650-only circuit, but it's always out of stock and I need a light ASAP so I've started looking at other options.
    Here is short list of lights I'm currently considering :
    Trustfire T1 Q5: http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.10659
    Aurora Q5 2-mode: http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.10637
    Smartfire Q5 V68C: http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.10301
    VB-16 Q5: http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.9741
    Ultrafire C2 Q5 5-mode: http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.10853

    Any help making a final decision would be greatly appreciated as the more I read, the more variables I discover that I didn't initially put in the equation . Seems to be a never ending quest. Once again, my criteria is a light that is utilizing that Q5 to it's fullest potential...brightest and best of the bunch. It will be for mid to far-range work. I'm assuming build and runtime are all pretty similar, and I have plenty of rechargeables, so they are secondary for me.

    What would be the best two torches at this price range?? Thanks again!!!

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