Reviewer's Note: The D1 was provided for review by Ray Tactical. Please see their website for more info.
Warning: pic heavy, as usual.
Manufacturer's specifications, condensed from their website:
- LED: CREE XR-E (R2)
- Max output:235 Lumens
- Reflector:Aluminum reflector
- Lens:steel optical glass lens
- Material:T6061 aircraft aluminum
- Batteries:CR123,16340 rechargeable Li-ion
- Switch:tactical forward switch
- Size:Head diameter 36mm,Body diameter 22mm,tail diameter 25mm,Total length 96mm
- Weight:86g(without battery installed)
- Output & Runtime: Max output:
- Using 1*CR123:About 200 Lumens,45 minutes
- Using 1*16340:About 235 Lumens,30 minutes
- Min output: Using 1*CR123:2 Lumens,more than 100 hours
- MSRP $70
The Ray Tactical D1 looks a lot like the classic D-mini – and is similarly designed for max throw in a pocket size. Combined with a versatile circuit that includes programmable outputs along a continuously variable continuum, is the D1 the new D-mini? Scroll on, gentle reader …
The Ray D1 comes in a hard cardboard box with magnetic closing flap. Inside, in layers of foam, comes the light, extra o-rings, GITD tailcap button cover, and manual.
From left to right: Duracell CR123A, D-mini VX Ultra (no extender), original D-mini (Cree P4), Ray Tactial D1, JetBeam Jet-II Pro, NiteCore Exreme, Novatac 120P
Ray D1: Weight 82.8g, Length 99.0mm x Width 35.7mm (bezel)
The overall physical dimensions of the Ray D1 are actually very close to the original D-mini – just slightly smaller. There’s a bit of extra ridge detail to help with grip, but it is not very aggressive.
The D1 feels very well made. To use a phrase, the screw threads are “like butter” on mine – I don’t know what kind of lube they shipped with the light, but it’s doing its job well. Screw threads are anodized for tailcap lockout.
Machining and anodizing of the light are top-notch on my sample. Labels are clear, but their relative brightness varies across the length (i.e. not uniform, dim and bright).
The light can’t tailstand due to the projecting forward clicky switch. The switch has good tactile feel in my testing (momentary on, click for lock-on).
The smooth D1 reflector looks remarkably similar to the original D-mini, although the overall dimensions seem to be just slightly smaller. I’m sure it will be a great thrower.
And now for the requisite white wall hunting … all lights are on Max with on RCR, about 0.5 meters from a white wall.
OK, this light can throw! Scroll down for some further details on how it compares to the competition.
Tint is pretty good on my sample, maybe just slightly on the purplish side of premium cool white (of course, YMMV). For those of you not familiar with tint bins, please see my Colour tint comparison and the summary LED tint charts found here.
UPDATE: Here are some additional long-distance beamshots, to show you how the light compares to a few others in its size class.
Please see my recent 100-yard Outdoor Beamshot review for more details (and additional lights).
The D1 features a programmable interface with a lot of options. I will take some time to explain it here, because the manual is fairly short and not always entirely clear. In some ways, it is similar to other programmable lights with multiple settable states (e.g. Novatac lights, etc.), but there are few quirks.
To begin, the light has a programmable number of output modes (default is 4, but you can customize anywhere from 1 to 6). During regular use, each mode is accessed in sequence by soft pressing on the clicky switch (sequence repeats indefinitely). The preset 4 output modes are “Med” (~70%), “Lo” (50%), “Hi” (100%), “Frequence Conversion Strobe”, in repeating sequence. To move through the various set modes, soft-press the clicky or turn the light off-on within 2 secs. If you wait longer than 3 secs, the light will come back on in whatever you mode you left it (i.e. it has mode memory).
This default strobe mode is basically a varying frequency tactical strobe, similar to that seen on the newer JetBeam RRT lights. Here’s a sample run trace of the default strobe:
UPDATE 1/12/09: the description of the UI below has been corrected and revised on a few points.
Of course, you can customize the light over a wide range of options. To do so, you enter the programming menu by turning off the light and doing three rapid flashes of the tailcap (press-release) and then clicking to lock-on or simply holding on the 3rd flash. The light will now slowly flash the number of possible set modes, followed by a quick flicker (i.e. 6 slow flashes). To change the number of default modes, release the clicky or click-off (depending on which way you are doing this) at the number you want. So, if you want a single-stage light, press/click off on the first flash. For a 6-stage light, press/click off on the 6th flash. And so on.
Once you have determined the number of output modes, you then set each of them in sequence. To do so, turn the light back on. The light will run through all of its possible sequence modes for the first settable state, in an infinite loop, until you make your decision by clicking off the light. When you click back on, the light then shows you the same sequence of possible modes again, this time for your second settable state (if you chose more than one). And so on, and so on, until you have set all the states you defined in the earlier programming step.
The actual sequence of possible output modes takes about 1.5 minutes to run through. There are six different types of outputs that are provided. This part reminds me a little bit of the Novatac programming step, although the choices here are a bit different.
The first options it runs through are the constant output settings. These are presented in a continuously variable fashion, from low to high, over a 20 second or so time interval. The ramp looks like this:
The light will flicker once or twice at three points - ~20%, ~50% and 100% - in the continuously variable ramp. It will then proceed to the basic strobe modes. The strobes run at full power, and start at 1Hz and slowly increase to 15Hz. It takes about 30 secs or so to move through all the regular strobe modes – as shown below
The light then presents its two SOS modes, the first at 100% output, the second at 50% output. These take about 20 secs or so in total to display in the sequence. In the first trace below, you will see the end of the 15Hz Strobe mode, and the start of the 100% SOS mode.
This is followed by a Standby mode, where one lower output flash is presented every 5 sec. This mode is isn’t up for long in the sequence (maybe 5 secs).
The fifth output mode is one they term “Liaison Signal”, and is basically used to signal back and forth with another party. It is a sequence of 3 rapid flashes, repeating every 3 secs. Again, this mode is isn’t up for long in the sequence (maybe 5 secs).
And finally, the “Frequency Conversion Strobe”, which is the variable strobe frequency presented earlier. It is similarly only shown for 5 secs or so in the mode sequence.
And after a brief pause, you are back to the continuously-variable brightness ramp and the whole 1.5 min-long sequence starts over.
So, to summarize once again – you click or soft-press off to set the given output mode. When you click back on, the process starts all over again for the next mode, until every mode is set.
If you ever screw up, there is fortunately a reset option that takes you back to the default configuration. Click the light on and off, then immediately do 5 quick flashes. When you turn back on, you should be in the default configuration.
One last point – the light features a low-battery warning flash at 2.9V. So you can use unprotected cells, as long as you are paying attention (a double-flash warning happens three times, spaced 30 secs apart, starting at 2.9V). After that, there are no more warnings.
No PWM (Pulse-Width-Modulation)
I am unable to detect any signs of PWM on any level. It must be at a sufficiently high kHz frequency as to be undetectable in my setup.
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 (i.e. >12 hours) 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:
The D1 throws like crazy at 1m – frankly closer to a lot 2xCR123A throwers. It’s overall output values also put it at the top end of my Cree XR-E 1xRCR/CR123A lights, suggesting the R2 emitter is maximally driven.
Note: Effective January 2010, all CR123A runtimes are now performed solely on Titanium Innovations batteries sponsored by BatteryJunction.com. You can compare the generally excellent performance of these CR123A cells relative to the Duracell/Surefire cells used in all my earlier reviews here. I have marked all the new runtimes of lights with Titanium Innovations CR123As on the graphs with an "*".
A couple of points stand-out from these runtimes:
- Given the obviously highly-driven nature of this light, regular RCR is clearly NOT appropriate on Max or near-Max settings. I recommend you use an IMR cell if you plan to run it at anything above ~50% output on Li-ion. Primary CR123A seem fine, although max brightness is a bit less.
- There is a relative efficiency problem on the Med-Hi settings of the light. Basically, ~70% on IMR has the same runtime as 100%, despite the lower output. On primary CR123A, 50% and up all have the same basic runtime pattern, except for the output differences.
- Below 50%, runtimes are greatly increased, as expected.
So how does it compare to the competition?
In addition to relative efficiency issues of Med-Hi settings, overall output/runtime efficiency is fairly low, compared to other lights in its class (although efficiency seems remarkably similar to the similarly maximally-driven Dereelight C2H). Of course, the D1 is continuously-variable, so you could always drop down to lower outputs for even greater runtime.
The light is driven very hard on Max on Li-ion, so RCR is not recommend beyond ~50% or so. I recommend you use IMR cells if you want to run it higher than that – they should be able to easily handle these drive currents. Note that the D1 has a low voltage warning flash at 2.9V, so as long as you are paying attention, unprotected IMR cells should be fine.
Overall output/runtime efficiency is lower than most lights of its class (and actually quite comparable to the Dereelight C2H – another maximally-driven light). There is also a relative drop-off in efficiency at the Med-Hi settings (i.e. there is no runtime advantage in reducing output from Max, until ~60% or lower).
Light get hot quickly on near-Max settings (long-term stability?)
For those looking for a replacement to the D-mini - with even greater output and a programmable interface featuring a continuously-variable ramp and wide range of strobe modes - this could be the light for you.
I quite like the feel of the build – minimalist, without skimping on quality. It would be easy enough to mistake this light for the D-mini on first glance, although it is in fact a bit smaller than the traditional build.
One of the main differences to the D-mini is the programmable circuit used on the D1. This certainly does provide a lot of options – I particularly like the fact that you can customize the number of output modes from 1-6, select your outputs along a continuously variable ramp, and choose your optional strobe rate at anywhere from 1-15 Hz. Low power SOS and beacon are also sensible, although I’m not so sure about the need for the extra “liason” and “freq conversion” stobes, but they aren’t really in your way.
That being said, I did find it a bit confusing working my way through programming all the modes at first. The manual isn’t always clear about when a soft-press or click on-off is required (although the light is generally fairly forgiving if its not specified), nor with what sort of time limit you have to make your choice. So you might be a bit confused as to where you wind up if you are configuring a lot of modes.
Of course, worse comes to worse, you simply start over. But I think you are going to want to re-program it out of the box, as I don’t personally find the default 70%>50%>100%>freq-variable strobe very useful.
And once you get used to it, you likely won’t need the manual to reprogram, since it basically walks you through each step (i.e. you choose by simply turning off the light, and it presents the next option when you turn back on). Note that this means you can’t actually exit from the programming menus once started until you go through every step for every mode – so be sure you really want to reprogram everything. And if you miss your desired output level on the continuous ramp, get ready to wait for a minute and half while being intermittently strobed ….
Output-wise, there is no denying this light is a thrower – I would rate its performance closer to dedicated 2xCR123A thrower lights. Its overall output is also at the max range that you could expect for 1xRCR/CR123A equipped with a X-RE R2 emitter. Pocket need-for-throw freaks should be happy.
Of course, with those kinds of extreme settings, you usually get a few less desirable “features” – reduced overall efficiency (think Dereelight C2H), excessively rapid discharge rates on RCR on near-Max, and heat build-up at the higher settings. All of those are present here, but Ray Tactical has thoughtfully included a low-voltage warning sensor to allow you to use unprotected cells (like the higher-current rated IMRs, which I recommend).
Interesting point here – since the sensor goes off at 2.9V (a conservative level I rather like!), this means you are likely to trigger it on primary CR123A at the start of your runs (especially at higher outputs/current draws). But Ray has limited the warning to simply a double-flash repeated twice, at 30 sec intervals. So you don’t need to worry about an ongoing warning while running CR123A. A reasonable compromise in my books.
So what’s missing? A 18650 extender tube like the D65 offered for the D-mini would be very nice. And they need to work to improve the overall efficiency, as well as fix whatever is happening at the near-Max settings (i.e. no increase in runtime from 100-60% output?). This isn’t the first new light I’ve tested with a few efficiency quirks, and hopefully Ray will be able to fix them soon. In the meantime, there are always the lower output levels if you need extended runtime. Of course, this again is where 18650 support comes in handy …
For such a small light, there does seem to be a lot to talk about! Bottom line, it's a sophisticated (if a bit quirky) programmable interface on one of the most heavily driven 1xRCR/CR123A lights I've seen, in the form factor of one of the best pocket throwers. Just please take appropriate precautions with your RCRs - like the recent D-mini VX Ultra, I recommend the use of higher-current-rated IMR cells. And for long-term safety and reliability, I'd personally keep it to something a little shy of the absolutely max setting.
Feel free to discuss amongst yourselves ...