Reviewer's Note: The Ese LZ2 was supplied by CPFM dealer shiningbeam for review (www.shiningbeam.com).
UPDATE: This light is no longer available in the form reviewed here.
A relative newcomer to the flashlight world, Ese appears to trying carve out a niche at what I would consider the high-end of budget lights. Although I no longer review budget lights, I thought this specimen deserved comparison testing, as it seems to overlap price-wise with the low-end of premium lights (~$30-35). Specs according to the dealer:
- Cree XR-E premium Q5 LED emitter
- Shiny stainless steel body
- Toughened ultra-clear glass lens with anti-reflective coating
- Memory feature will memorize the last mode
- Smooth alumimum reflector for better throw
- 6 Modes: Low>Mid>High>Strobe>Police Style Strobe>S.O.S
- Powered by one AA (1.2V/1.5V) batteries,
- Accepts voltage input of 0.9V-1.5V
- Comes with spare O-rings and silicone tailcap
- It can tail stand
In keeping with its budget-status, the light came wrapped in bubble-wrap in a padded envelop. Included were spare o-rings, extra tailcap button, and basic wrist strap.
The light is very sturdily built, definitely better than the cheaper budget lights I’ve tested. The stainless steel body is quite solid, with a polished smooth surface. Frankly, I find it a bit too smooth, as it’s hard to get traction when unscrewing the tailcap sometimes. But the screw threads are smooth and solid, and the o-rings are a decent thickness - both of which contribute to a smooth and confident feel when unscrewing the light components.
Due to the stainless steel construction, anodizing is not possible – hence no tailcap lockout. The light can indeed tailstand. Switch action seems pretty standard, and has worked reliably in my testing.
The reflector is smooth, but not as shiny as most other smooth reflectors I’ve seen. There is a slight misalignment of the emitter in the reflector on my sample, and the reflector seems a little more forward from the emitter than is typical. Taken together, these factors likely explain the somewhat reduced throw compared to the competition (scroll down for the summary table).
UI is very straight-forward: click to turn on/off, soft press or turn off/on rapidly to advance to the next output level. Sequence is Lo > Med > Hi> Strobe > Intermittent Strobe > SOS. If you leave the light on for ~3 secs at any one level you will see a brief flash to let you know the memory feature has been activated. Next time you turn on, the light will come back on at this level.
The runtimes will provide more info about relative output levels, but a few general comments about the circuit:
- The circuit seems to be a slightly revised version of the 5-mode circuit common to a number of MTE and Ultrafire lights.
- The 3 main output levels seem unchanged from earlier 5-mode circuits (and lack a true low mode).
- Tint change from low to medium was very evident on my sample (i.e. from cool pink to warm yellow/green) – as I have noticed on previous lights with the 5-mode circuit.
- Strobe freq has been increased to “tactical levels” – I measured 13.7Hz on my sample (which is indeed very distracting, as intended)
- ”Police Strobe” seems to be intermittent strobe cycle where you get ~0.6 secs of tactical strobe, followed by a ~1.2 sec pause, repeating in an endless loop. Not quite clear what the point of this is.
For beamshots, I’ve kept it simple – below is a comparison to the Fenix L1D Q5, both lights on Eneloops on max, ~0.5 m for a white wall.
As you see in the pics, the smooth-reflector LZ2 is surprisingly free of rings (but that is likely due to its somewhat de-focussed reflector).
Testing Method: All my output numbers are relative for my home-made light box setup, a la Quickbeam's flashlightreviews.com method. You can directly compare all my relative output values from different reviews - i.e. an output value of "10" in one graph is the same as "10" in another. All runtimes are done under a cooling fan, except for the extended run Lo/Min modes which are done without cooling. Throw values are the square-root of lux measurements taken at 1 meter from the lens, using a light meter.
Throw/Output Summary Chart:
As you can see, the LZ2 has very good overall output for 1AA on NiMH. However, its throw is less than the competition, and it lacks a true low mode. See the runtimes below for a greater discussion of the output levels and their performance.
As you can see, the LZ2 holds its own quite nicely at its maximum setting. Alkaline/L91 performance was particularly impressive. Of course, all 1AA lights tend to be somewhat range-bound for output, given the power limitations of this battery source. But the LZ2 holds its own well here.
On medium, the best I can say is that the LZ2 does an acceptable job. I would like to have seen better regulation on alkalines, though.
Low mode is where this budget circuit really shows its limitations – output is simply too high, and runtime performance too low. This remains a common problem for all budget circuits.
First impressions are that the LZ2 is a well built light for the price (~$30-35). I’m not generally a fan of stainless steel, but this is definitely the best built example I’ve seen with this material.
It also held up well physically in my testing – something that is very rare for budget lights I’ve tested. Usually, some component fails or experiences intermittent problems early on (like a faulty tailcap switch, o-ring failure, flickering, internal component wobble, etc.). Even my branded budget lights (like MTE and Ultrafire) have typically experienced these issues, to the point that I am not comfortable recommending any of them (with the exception of Romissen – it is the only one among the budget makers that has yet to disappoint me). The Ese LZ2 is remarkable for its consistent build performance in this class.
That being said, quality is still not as high as a Fenix or one of its other mid-range equivalents. But I would rate this light at the top end of the budget lights for overall build quality, and thus reasonable value for the price.
Although the beam is not as throwy as most other lights, the overall beam pattern is very pleasing – with a surprisingly lack of rings for a smooth reflector. Tint, output, and performance were all excellent on the max setting of my sample. If this were a single-stage light with all these features, the review would end right here with the recommendation that this is a serious contender for the budget single-stage class.
Where things go downhill is in the circuit performance. It’s disappointing that the budget makers have not managed to source a substantially improved circuit after all this time. Basically, if you took one of the original 5-mode budget circuits/lights and added a newer emitter, you would get equivalent performance to what is seen here. Consider it a personal plea, but I wish the circuit makers would stop adding useless features like an intermittent strobe, and work on fixing things like tint shift, poor regulation on alkalines, and lack of true low modes. But at least this circuit version includes a memory feature.
Bottom line, if you are comfortable with the features and performance of this budget circuit, then this is probably the best built light you can get with it. But given the decent build quality Ese is obviously capable of, I would like to see them start using better circuits. I would also like to see what they can do with aluminium bodies, since stainless steel is of limited usefulness IMO.