Reviewer's Note: The EZ123 and EZCR2 were provided for review by NiteCore. Please see their website for more info on the EZCR2 and EZ123
Warning: Pic heavy!
Specifications from manufacturer's website:
- CREE Q5 LED
- EZ123 uses one CR123A/RCR, EZCR2 uses one CR2/RCR2
- Brass heat sinking guarantees efficient and effective thermal management
- Twist-activated output for easy one-handed operation
- Straight-forward UI with two modes of output
- Military-grade aluminum alloy
- Mil-Spec Type-III Hard-Anodized finish resists scratches
- Extensive knurling for excellent grip
- Current-regulated circuitry
- Water resistant to IPX-8 standard
- Reflector optimized for a balance of output distance and spread
- Impact-resistant optical-grade glass lens with anti-reflective coating
- Flat base allows light to tail-stand like a candle
- Designed to fit standard camera mounts
- EZ123 Dimensions: 70mm (length) * 19mm (diameter), Weight: 26grams (without battery)
- EZCR2 Dimensions: 63mm (length) * 17.5mm (diameter), Weight: 20grams (without battery)
The EZ123 and EZCR2 are the new members of the EZ line, following in the footsteps of the inaugural EZAA reviewed previously. The design philosophy of the series is consistent - all models feature a simple two-stage twist interface and generally similar build. The differences between the models are subtle, but there are a few (aside from the battery sources, of course ).
Packaging is similar to the other NiteCore small light series, and comes with a one-page instruction sheet, warranty card, wrist lanyard, extra o-rings, and new "lock-style" keychain clip. No holster or body tube clip is included (or available, AFAIK).
Since I know size is the prime concern for a keychain light, here’s how things compare:
(from left to right, Duracell CR123A, EZ123, EZCR2, EZAA, Duracell AA)
(from left to right, Fenix L0D 1xAAA, EZCR2, EZ123, NiteCore EX10)
EZAA: 85mm x 16.6mm, 20.9g (no battery)
EZ123: 70mm x 19.0mm, 26.2g (no battery)
EZCR2: 62mm x 17.5mm, 22.5g (no battery)
In keeping with the EZAA, these new members of the family are similarly among the smallest I’ve seen for their respective battery classes. Note the walls seem slightly thicker on the EZ123/EZCR2 (which explains why they are slightly heavier than the EZAA).
Fit and finish are excellent on my samples, no blemishes or flaws. Screw motion is fairly smooth on both, right out of the box. As with the EZAA, all lights have a brass pill – which is visible at the interface between the body and the head. All lights have a tripod screw attachment in the base (and can tailstand). With the slightly thicker walls, hand feel is very good on these new models.
The emitters are all well centered, and give a fairly smooth beam. For beamshots below, all lights are on “standard batteries” to show you their regulated levels – Surefire CR123A (EZ123), Sanyo Eneloop (EZAA), and Panasonic CR2 (EZCR2). Distance is about 0.5 meters from a white wall.
Spillbeam width for the EZ family is typically is slightly less than traditional size lights of the same battery class, likely due to the narrower head/reflector. The CR2 and EZAA seem to share the same reflector, and the EZ123 is slightly larger (leading to slightly wider spill). As you can see above, on standard batteries, the output of the EZAA and EZCR2 is about the same on max, while the EZ123 is brighter. Things are a bit more complicated on Li-ion rechargeables – scroll down to runtimes for more info.
I’ve included a couple of slower shutter speed shots to allow you to compare the low modes. As you can see, the lights all differ on the Lo mode outputs, with the EZCR2 and EZ123 both being brighter than the EZAA. Scroll down to the summary table and runtimes for more details.
User interface is very straight-forward: tighten the head until the light comes on (Lo mode). Keep tightening until full contact is made and the light switches to Hi. On my samples, it typically took about half- to three-quarters of a full turn past the Lo activation point to reach Hi. To turn off, loosen the head until the light turns off.
As always, I recommend you be careful and not overly tighten the light on Hi. Even with the spring in the head, there is always a potential for this sort of design to result in battery crushing.
The lights do not seem to use PWM for their output modes (or if they do, the frequency is so high that I can't detect it).
UPDATE: I may have spoken a bit quickly - my testing setup does occasionally detect an intermittent signal in the 18-19 kHz range on Lo. But that is at the extreme range of my testing capabilities, so I'm not sure if you should trust it. Also not sure if its even PWM - could just be some sort of oscillating signal interference. It is certainly high enough to not cause a problem.
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.
Throw values are the square-root of lux measurements taken at 1 meter from the lens, using a light meter.
Throw/Output Summary Chart:
Consistent with the beamshots above, you can see the Hi/Lo output differences on standard batteries. Unfortunately, I don’t have any RCR2 to compare in the EZCR2, but you can see how initial output of the EZAA on 14500 and EZ123 on RCR compare. Scroll down to the runtimes for more info.
In case you are wondering how the EZ123 compares to other lights, here’s a few comparison tables. The EZAA is compared to the 1xAA class in its own review here.
(Sorry, there's an error in the labels to the graph above - the second EZAA Hi trace is actually on 14500, not L91 as listed. I'll fix it tomorrow.)
As you can see, the EZCR2 on primary CR2 has exactly the same Hi output as the EZAA on standard alkaline/NiMH, while the EZ123 is brighter on primary CR123A. On 14500, the EZAA is close to the EZ123 on RCR initially, and both run direct-drive until their regulated level is hit – the difference being the EZ123’s regulated level is brighter than the EZAA
On Lo, the picture is a little different. The EZCR2 is a bit brighter than the EZAA, and the EZ123 is brighter still. Interestingly, the EZAA on 14500 is initially as bright as the EZCR2 on primary CR2, but slowly drops off until the regulated EZAA Lo level is achieved. The EZ123 is again slightly brighter initially on RCR, but slowly decays until the regulated level is reached.
Here’s how the EZ123A compares to the 1xCR123A/RCR competition:
Output/runtime efficiency is quite good on the EZ123, especially for a Q5 emitter. Although not as efficient as the current-controlled competition, the EZ123A easily beats most other PWM-based lights.
Tighten-to-activate twisty lights always have the potential to be battery crushers, so care needs to be used not to over-tighten. Inclusion of the head spring is a good idea, but common sense should still prevail.
When the EZAA came out, I expressed some doubt as to whether it was truly small enough for keychain carry. It is certainly one of the smallest 1xAA lights out there, but this battery size may not be best suited for keychain use, depending on the individual. The new EZ123 and EZCR2 provide greater flexibility in output and battery source, providing you with greater choice within a common form factor.
Consistent with their older sibling, the EZ123 and EZCR2 retain high build quality in a small package. Care and attention to detail seems excellent, with smooth thread action on all my samples. Wall thickness seems have been increased slightly on these new models, giving them a bit firmer feel than the EZAA. This is likely a good design choice, as the EZAA did feel a bit on the thin side to me (although still acceptable). The textured reflector does a very good job in providing a very smooth beam (especially for a Cree), with identical performance for the CR2 and AA versions (seems to be the same reflector).
As I mentioned in my EZAA review, even if keychain carry isn't a priority for you, the keep-it-simple-stupid (KISS) interface and slim-lined design have great appeal for many. There are certainly a lot of options if you are looking for more sophisticated on complicated lights, but the simplicity and utility of the EZ line is hard to beat.
In terms of output, I find it interesting how NiteCore has settled on a couple of output choices on Hi, depending on the battery source (see summary graphs above). The decision to the match EZCR2’s Hi mode to that of the EZAA makes a certain amount of sense, given the lower heatsinking mass of these lights (and lower storage capacity of the CR2 battery). Fans of CR123A format will be glad to see the higher output of the EZ123.
And for those of you who find the Lo mode of the EZAA too low for general use, you will be glad to see that both the EZCR2 and EZ123 are a bit brighter. Looks like NiteCore listened to your feedback.
All-in-all, two well-thought out new additions to the EZ family of KISS lights. This gives you added flexibility in choosing the EZ model that matches your needs based on battery configuration and size.