UPDATE January 20, 2012: Olight discontinued their ITP brand of budget lights a few months ago, and released new versions of the old ITP A-series lights (now known as the Olight i-series). See my recent comparison review of the new Olight i3 here.
UPDATE August 4, 2011: I recently bought a new XP-G R5 version of the ITP EOS A3. Comparison beamshots, runtimes, and PWM testing for this new version is presented at the very end of this review.
Reviewer's Note: The ITP A3 EOS lights were provided for review by GoingGear.com. Please see their sales thread in CPFM for more info. The Maratac AAA lights were provided for review by CPF user StandardBattery.
Warning: very pic heavy!
Combined ITP A3 EOS specifications, condensed from GoingGear's website:
- Cree 7090-XP-E Q5
- Operating voltage: 0.9V - 3.0V
- Uses 1 x AAA, 1 x Rechargeable NiMh AAA, or 1 x 10420 (10420 batteries are not recommended).
- Dimensions: Length: 66.5mm , Diameter: 14 mm
- Color: Black
- Weight: 9 g without batteries and keychain
- Standard Edition: Single output level – 80 lumens (55 minutes runtime)
- Upgrade Edition: Three output levels - Medium 18 lumens (4 hours) -> Low 1.5 lumens (50 hours) ->-High 80 lumens (55 minutes)
- Superior heat sink that disperses heat to protect LED and electrical components
- Orange peel reflector.
- Mil-spec: MIL-STD-810F
- MSRP: ~$20 (price varies depending on specific make/model and supplier)
This review is of the much-discussed and highly-anticipated ITP A3 EOS and Maratac AAA keychain flashlights.
The ITP EOS comes in two flavors, a Standard single-stage version and an Upgraded multi-level version. The Maratac AAA comes in a multi-level version that is widely believed to be identical to the Upgraded ITP EOS (scroll down to find out ). All lights come in a choice of anodizing finishes - black or natural gray.
Packaging for the ITP EOS lights is the same for both versions. They come in a fairly basic box with the light, attached keychain ring, removable pocket clip, spare o-rings, and user manual. Both lights included the same manual which has both sets of instructions for the Standard or Upgraded versions.
The Maratac lights are even more minimalist. Here all you get is the light with attached keychain anchor point, pocket clip, one page manual card, and spare o-rings - all in a clear sealed pouch. Clearly, the Maratac version is meant to be more of a budget offering.
For all compilation pics below, the ITP EOS Standard version will be shown first, followed by the Upgraded version, and then finally the Maratac AAAs.
From left to right: Duracell AAA, ITP EOS Standard (Black), ITP EOS Upgraded (Nat), Maratac (Nat), Maratac AAA (Black), Fenix L0D, LiteFlux LF2XT, Lumapower Avenger GX.
Note that the anodizing difference between the Natural finish on the ITP EOS and Maratac samples is not as great as it appears above (although the ITP version does seem a bit more brown).
As you can see, the Standard ITP EOS is about 3 mm shorter than either the Upgraded EOS or the Maratac lights. This is likely due to the simpler circuit needed in the standard single-level light.
Dimensons: (weights are all with no keychain attached, but with pocket clip installed)
ITP EOS Single-stage: Weight: 10.3g, Length: 66.6mm, Width: 14.0mm (bezel)
ITP EOS Upgraded: Weight: 11.6g, Length: 69.7, Width: 14.1mm (bezel)
Maratac 1xAAA: Weight: 10.9g , Length: 67.5mm, Width: 14.1mm (bezel)
Overall weight and size are remarkably low for all models – they are not that much bigger than an AAA battery. Despite the small scale, battery tube wall thickness feels sturdy enough.
The main differences between the Maratac and ITP EOS offerings are in the external styling and keychain attachment point.
The Maratac lights use fairly aggressive knurling on both the body and head to help with grip. The ITP EOS lights have grooves running along the length of the body/head. Personally, I find the Maratac versions to be "grippier".
The keychain attachment point on the Maratacs is a removable piece of metal around the tailcap region (which frankly seems a little thin and fragile to me).
In contrast, the ITP EOS lights have a built-in split-ring attachment point on the tail of the light, and come with an included chain and keychain ring (note the actual large keychain ring portion can be quickly removed from the rest of the chain). While this is definitely sturdier on the ITP versions, the attachment point does prevent tailstanding.
Otherwise, all the details of these lights are identical. They all seem to use the same emitter in reflector combination. The heads and bodies of the lights are interchangeable for all the members (i.e. you can put the Maratac head on the EOS body, and vice versa). Even the pocket clips are identical between all the models!
The positive contact board in the head seems to be the same on both the Upgraded ITP EOS and Maratac lights. In keeping with the smaller head (and simpler function), the Standard EOS contact board is slightly different.
Screw threads are anodized on all lights, which of course is necessary to ensure lockout (i.e. lights are only activated when the head is screwed fully down).
Internally, all lights have a simple spring at the bottom of the battery tube that can be manually removed (a sample from the Maratac is shown above).
Getting a strong feeling that the Maratac and ITP lights are one of the same?
The lights come in two finishes: black and natural gray (although my Upgraded EOS sample seems a bit more brown). Personally, I'm a fan of natural finish on keychain lights, as they survive abuse better (i.e. dings and scratches are less noticeable). According to the specs, these lights use a type III hard anodized finish.
Fit and finish are excellent on all my samples, with no chips or marks. The lettering is clear and sharp on all samples.
The lights use the new smaller Cree Q5 XP-E emitter, in a premium white cool tint. For more information on tints and color perception, please see my Colour tint comparison and the summary LED tint charts found here.
XP-E emitters tend to have fairly smooth beams with minimal Cree rings, even with smooth reflectors. In this case, there seems to be a fairly mild orange-peel texturing to the reflectors. Combined with the fairly shallow depth, you get a reasonably wide beam with smooth transition from spot to spill (see below).
All lights are on Hi/Max on Sanyo Eneloop (NiMH), about 0.5 meters from a white wall.
As you can tell, there is no real difference between the EOS/Maratac samples. Overall beam pattern is fairly similar to the Fenix L0D. Note that the camera is accentuating the tint differences a bit in the first panel, but the Fenix L0D (older Cree P4 model) does indeed have a slight bluish cool white tint. The Avenger GX is on the warm end of cool white (maybe a WG-WH tint), and the LF2XT is not as orange as the pic above suggests – a lot more yellow (4C neutral tint).
All four of my EOS/Maratac samples have a premium cool white tint.
The user interface of the ITP EOS Standard single-stage light is extremely simple: twist the head tight against the body to activate the light, loosen to turn off.
The Upgraded ITP EOS and Maratac AAA lights use an identical interface to the Fenix L0D. When first activated, the light comes on in Medium. Do a rapid twist off-on and the light advances to low. Do another rapid off-on twist and the light advances to Hi. Wait a few seconds before re-activating the light after turning off, and it returns to default Medium.
This cycle continues indefinitely - keep doing off-on twists to run through all the sequences in order again. There is no strobe or SOS mode on any of these lights.
FYI, I noticed that performing a too-rapid switch on my ITP EOS Upgraded sometimes didn't advance the level (i.e. it didn't seem to register the off mode). You may need to go a little slower to reliably switch levels.
The Standard ITP EOS does not use PWM for its lone output mode, and neither do the Upgraded ITP EOS or Maratac AAA lights on their Hi mode.
On Medium and Low, the ITP EOS Upgraded and Maratac lights both use 200 Hz PWM, on all battery sources.
While still visible, this is better than the 100 Hz PWM of the original Fenix L0D . Note that later model Fenix L0D/LD01 lights used a much higher and undetectable PWM frequency.
Throw/Output Summary Chart:
Note in the comparison above that my Fenix L0D is an early edition with a Cree P4. Based on a 350mA drive current (where Cree Output bins are determined), a Cree Q5 emitter would be expected to be ~30% brighter on average, for the same drive current.
As expected, there was relatively little difference in output or throw between all the Maratac and ITP samples. This makes the Maratac and ITP lights the brightest 1xAAA lights on standard batteries in my collection at the moment (though likely close to what a Q5-equipped LD01 would produce).
The real difference between these lights comes out the Lo/Med levels – here, the EOS/Maratac lights have a lower Lo than the Fenix L0D, but a higher Medium. See runtimes below for more information.
I've also included basic Min and Max lightbox numbers for a couple of these lights on 1x10440 Li-ion. I have not included detailed throw numbers for reasons I will discuss in the detailed conclusions of this review.
As you can see, there is remarkably little variation between the various Maratac and ITP samples on Hi. The output/runtime performance is virtually identical on all samples, including the single stage ITP EOS.
Similarly, on Medium, output and runtime are remarkably similar on my samples. It thus seems clear to me that the ITP EOS Upgraded and Maratac AAA lights use the exact same circuit.
In terms of performance, I think the ITP EOS/Maratac lights do quite well at all levels on standard batteries. When matched for output, runtimes seem comparable to the LiteFlux LF2XT, which is my best performing1xAAA light to date.
For 1x10440 Li-ion, here are the results of the Medium level run:
Here you can see runtime performance is acceptable, although certainly not as impressive as my LiteFlux LF2XT. I would note that only the LiteFlux light is officially rated to accept this higher voltage battery source. Regardless, I do not recommend running an unprotected Li-ion in any light without a circuit that has built-in cutoff protection features (e.g. LiteFlux LF2XT). If you over-discharge a Li-ion cell below ~2.7V (which typically occurs as soon as the output begins to drop), your cell will be damaged and should be discarded.
I don't plan to do runtimes on Hi on 10440, but here's a graph showing you the comparison to the initial value I observed:
Simply put, I do not recommend running such small lights at this output level on a Li-ion battery. It seems to me that the heat generated from this output level could be sufficient to potentially trigger a thermal runaway that could destroy the emitter.
Moreover, given the runtime performance of the L0D on Hi (which had a >4C discharge rate!), I doubt my 10440 would last for very long if I kept doing these tests. That sort of discharge rate is damaging to a Li-ion battery, and I don't think that is something you want to do. If you really want to use a 10440 cell, please avoid the Hi mode and avoid over-discharge.
The 3-mode ITP EOS Upgraded/Maratac lights use visible 200Hz PWM on their Medium/Low levels. There is no PWM on Hi, or on the single-stage ITP EOS.
The keychain clip attachment point on the Maratac seems a little flimsy. The built-in attachment point on ITP EOS versions is better, but prevents tailstanding.
One of my Maratac lights occasionally experienced some flickering upon activation in the default output mode (i.e. Med). Cycling through all the levels and back to Med invariably solved the problem, although I'm not sure why.
I can see why these lights have generated so much interest here. They have a very compelling feature set – and even more compelling price (~$20 or so).
First off, I can confirm that circuit performance of the Maratac AAA and ITP EOS Upgraded edition are identical. Basically, the choice between them comes down to the build differences (and local availability).
Physically, the lights are actually interchangeable – you can put the Maratac head on either of the ITP bodies, and vice versa (although the Standard ITP EOS head is shorter than the multi-level Upgraded/Maratac versions, likely due to the simpler circuit required for single-stage). It all comes down to styling preference – scroll back up the review for some detailed comparison pics and comments.
Thanks to the XP-E emitter and shallow OP reflector, the beam profile is fairly pleasant for a keychain light, IMO (i.e. broad and diffuse hotspot, fairly wide spillbeam, minimal rings). For the multi-level lights, the output levels are well spaced – Medium (i.e. default on) seems to be set higher than the Fenix L0D, and Lo is even lower. Max output is one of the highest in my collection for this class.
Although not officially supported, 10440 Li-ion seems to work in the Maratac/ITP EOS – and with greater output at all levels, as expected. But I DO NOT recommend you run these lights on Hi on 10440. Output was extremely high on Max – and there is no way that amount of light (and heat) is going to be good for the emitter OR the battery in such a small shell. I have not done runtimes at this level, and I suggest you don’t try either. You don’t want your Li-ion going .
My only real issue with the lights is the visible PWM on Med/Lo (200Hz in my testing). Clearly, there is a lot of individual variability in detecting and/or being bothered by PWM. But I would strongly encourage ITP to raise the PWM freq to undetectable levels (i.e. >1 kHz), as I personally consider these lights only minimally acceptable at their current level. Of course, your experience may be different (and count yourself lucky if it is ).
One last minor point – I never really got the point of the Med-Lo-Hi sequence on 1xAAA lights I presume the reasoning is that Med is likely to be used the most, but the sequence is just not intuitive. Lo-Med-Hi would be the most useful when having dark-adapted eyes. After all, it's not like anyone would use a 1xAAA keychain for “tactical” purposes.
But these are minor points. Fundamentally, the combination of multi-levels, excellent efficiency, good beam, small size, and unbelievably low price makes these lights an incredible deal. I’m not surprised by the warm welcome they have received here. As for me, I will be loading up on these as gifts for friends and family. Now to go and find a good deal on Energizer L92 lithiums to bundle with them …
UPDATE August 4, 2011: ITP has made significant upgrades to this light since it was first released. To start, the mode sequence has been changed to Lo > Med > Hi, and PWM frequency has been increased to visually undetectable levels (2.45 kHz in my testing):
The emitter has been upgraded to a XP-G R5, which produces greater output. Here are some recent comparison beamshots:
Here is how this new version compares to other 1xAAA lights for output and runtime:
As you can see, these are significant upgrades to the light.