Niteye appear to be making an impressive transition from OEM manufacturer to building a brand of their own.
On test here is a special edition of the compact triple XM-L light, the EYE30 Desert Edition.
They say that with food the first bite is with the eye, well with the Desert Edition of the EYE30, the eye is certainly well fed. From the carry case to the crisply finished light inside the EYE30 impresses.
Taking the EYE30 into your hand and when you see and feel the finish of the Desert Edition you know you are holding something special.
What is in the box:
Already knowing the specifications of this light, when the package first arrived I expected it to be something different, but it was the EYE30, the case is just surprisingly small. The EYE30 package is contained in a well presented and finished aluminium and plastic carry case.
The front of the case has the main specifications listed.
The rear of the case has more specifications.
Opening the case reveals the EYE30 Desert Edition in a foam liner with the car charger, spare o-ring, handle, holster, instructions and warranty card.
The contents out of the case.
A side view of the EYE30 in its holster and the optional handle. The holster has a fixed belt loop and Velcro loop.
Taking a closer look and looking inside:
This section is going to be longer than normally as there is so much detail to take in with the EYE30.
The EYE30 tailstanding
The EYE30 has two main sections, the head and body tube. Looking inside the head shows the central positive contact surrounded by the large negative contact
The main threads are fully coated and trapezoid in form, with a single o-ring
A closer look at the thread
Looking down the body tube shows the strong spring that keeps the battery holder firmly in place
In keeping with the overall quality, the battery holder is solidly built using metal construction.
The battery contact springs are strong and the positive contacts are raised metal pads ensuring flat top cells will work.
The holder has identical ends with positive and negative terminals so it can be inserted into the light either way round.
The four AW 3100mAh cells lined up ready to go.
The fully loaded battery holder
Looking at one of the three identical XM-L LEDs and reflectors
So with the basics covered there are several more details that need to be taken in to appreciate the EYE30.
On one of the three plain panels on the battery tube (with no knurling) the Niteye logo is crisply laser etched
The second panel has the model and basic specifications/standards
A stainless steel tailcap ring finishes the base of the aluminium tube and protects it from damage and wear
The triangular head has a different function on each face. Here the built in charging port is shown
And the blanking screw for the handle fixing point. The third face has a battery power meter which I’ll cover later on.
The thick glass lenses are fully coated for optimum light transmission.
Each lens is held in place with a stainless steel bezel.
To fit the included handle, the blanking screw is removed. The recess acts as a locating key for the handle to keep it perfectly aligned.
A substantial thumb screw is used to attach the handle. Inside there is a split washer to stops the thumb screw loosening during use.
Very well designed, then handle provides an alternative comfortable grip for the EYE30 for users with any size hands.
To give an idea of scale the EYE30 is shown next to a single AW 18650 IMR cell (so is slightly shorter than a protected cell)
Fit and finish of all components of the EYE30 is really excellent. The finish on the Desert Edition is outstanding. The Desert finish is matt, making the entire light incredibly tactile and increases the available grip. The colour is a real breath of fresh air and complete contrast to the standard black/grey smooth anodised we are so used to.
Modes and User Interface:
Niteye have chosen a magnetic ring interface, so the EYE30 has no buttons or click switches, just the main control ring near the head of the light.
There are no markings to indicate the OFF position or any of the mode positions, so it is a matter of trial and error.
While pointing the light away from you, turning the control ring clockwise to the first tactile detent point, switches the light into Low (single LED). There is a ball bearing/detent system to give a location point you can feel as you turn the ring; there is one for each mode position.
Continuing to turn the control ring clockwise moves on from Low (single LED) to Med (two LEDs), High (three LEDs) and Turbo (three LEDs double output).
The modes which do not use all the LEDs cycle between the LEDs each time it is turned on and off to balance the ‘wear’ on the LEDs.
Each time you change mode, the battery status meter shows the current battery state of charge relative to that mode.
This means that once the batteries are slightly use, in the lower modes the meter may show all four lights, but as you ramp it up to turbo, it may then show three or fewer lights.
Taking the control ring back to the OFF position, you then have three modes accessible by turning the control ring anti-clockwise.
There is only one position in the anti-clockwise direction, so the modes are selected by turning it anti-clockwise, then back to OFF as many times as needed to select the mode.
First mode, just from turning it anit-clockwise, is Strobe. The next mode, after a brief OFF and on again it the Beacon mode (Niteye call this Cruise Warning) and then after another brief OFF and on you get the battery status meter showing the no-load condition of the batteries.
The OFF and on process to change these modes must be completed within a second or two as if you leave it longer, you have to start again. For example, if you have entered Beacon mode and a couple of minutes later want to check the battery level, you will need to go through strobe, beacon and then access the battery meter.
Batteries and output:
The instruction manual states that the EYE30 uses 4x 18650 batteries. In fact the EYE30 is more versatile than that.
The battery holder uses the 18650s in 2P2S configuration resulting in 8.4V at the holder’s terminals. This means that you have the choice of 2x18650 or 4x18650. Obviously is you use 2 your runtime will be at least halved and turbo may not run.
Using 2x18650 IMR cells, such as those sold by AW, will allow Turbo to run, but with a lower runtime than when using 4x18650.
I’ve been running AW 3100mAh cells which I bring to precisely the same resting voltage using the built in voltage display of Cottonpicker’s Nona-Charger.
You may also notice in the manual, that it states the working voltage is 6-12.6V. This allows for two extra, useful, features. Firstly, the EYE30 has built in protection as it will not run once the voltage from the battery holder drops below 6V (though this may not get all available power from the newer NNP li-ions in the 3100mAh rnage). Secondly, what is not stated specifically in the manual, but has been confirmed by Niteye when I asked, is that the EYE30 can run on 4, or 8 CR123s. RCR123s are NOT allowed as these will give too high a voltage, but for those who want to use primary CR123 cells, and have a massive output, the EYE30 is an option.
If used in hostile environments, you will not be bothering with rechargeable cells, so can use CR123 primaries. In less hostile environments, you may choose between unprotected or protected 18650s and the battery holder allows for a large variation in battery length.
Niteye specify the EYE30 as having a 2000lm output. Does it live up to this?
I used an integrating sphere, that I have recently constructed, to give an estimate of the output. The sphere has been calibrated using many well known lights which have reliable outputs and the average of these used to give the factor for working out the actual lumen output of any other light. AW 3100mAh cells were used for the testing.
Niteye specify the outputs as being 60, 300, 1000, 2000
The calculated lumen readings from the integrating sphere are as follows:
58, 273, 1002, 1891
These do correlate well with Niteye’s specified output figures.
Please note that the measured figures are from a DIY built and calibrated integrating sphere, so should not be taken as absolute.
Having a magnetic control ring rather than a click switch means there is a control circuit which must always be powered up. This leads to parasitic drain. The drain on the EYE30 was measured at 0.06mA (or 60uA). With four 3100mAh cells in 2P2S the capacity is 6200mAh and at this level of parasitic drain it would take over 11years to exhaust the batteries.
In The Lab
In an attempt to quantify the actual beam profile I developed the following test. There are probably many flaws in my method, but it is simple and easy to carry out and seems to provide a good enough comparison.
The method used was to put the light on the edge of a table 1m from a wall, with a tape measure on the wall. The zero of the scale is placed in the centre of the hotspot and a lux meter is then positioned at points along the scale, with the measurements recorded. Beam shots are often taken with the light shining on a flat white wall, so this method is simply measuring the actual intensity across the beam on a flat surface, not the spherical light emission.
The results are then plotted on a graph.
For the best throw you want to see a sharp peak with less of the distracting spill. For the best flood light the trace should be pretty flat.
The EYE30 is shown here with the Fenix TK41 (known for its massive throw) and with the standard Cree R2 I often include for comparison. The EYE30 beam is floody and is excellent for area lighting.
Taking this a little further, I calculated an approximate factor to apply to the lux measurements, as each measurement gets further from the centre of the beam, it corresponds to a larger area onto which the light is falling. It seems to me that this should also be taken into consideration, so I applied these area corrections and came up with this odd looking graph.
The key quantity here is the area under the graph line. This should correspond to the total light output.
This shows the massive amount of light the EYE30 outputs which totally swamps the TK41’s already impressive output.
The beam of the EYE30
The previous graphs show the massive amount of light the EYE30 it outputting, and that although the beam has a strong central brightness, it is very floody lighting up the whole area.
So bright in fact that your eyes start to close down (as in sunlight) so in some instances you may not realise just how bright it is.
Taking these lights outside for some beam shots, each set of photos uses the same exposure settings so is an accurate comparison.
Starting on the driving range with the Fenix TK41 which is a really strong light.
And then the EYE30
And a tree lined track again first with the TK41
Then the EYE30
Using the EYE30
The EYE30 takes you back to when you got your first ‘pocket rocket’. Unexpected brightness from such a small package. Now you almost have too much light – although that is not something a flashaholic will think for long.
In particular I like the colour and feel of the Desert Edition’s special finish. It is a real break from the norm, and is not different for differences sake, but has great feel and appeal.
The finish is the result of a careful process of pickling, anodising and powder coating which is difficult to achieve an even finish. Niteye have said the finish is as hard wearing as anodising.
The EYE30 Desert Edition just asks to be picked up, and more than any other light I have used it has a very tactile appeal.
I would have preferred the light to have some better indication of the off position as I have often found myself strobing when switching off quickly.
When running on Turbo the EYE30 does get noticeably warm, but the mass of metal in the head and the cooling effect of holding it in your hand means it never got too hot. This is different if you sit it on a bench on Turbo indoors when it will get very hot. If you want to use it tailstanding as a room light, it is better to keep it on no more than High.
Pay careful attention to fitting the batteries into the holder. The flat-top AWs I have been using resulted in me accidentally putting one in the wrong way round. I noticed straight away, not because sparks flew( in fact nothing bad happened possibly due to the cells protection), and quickly corrected it.
You also have to sort-of ‘squeeze’ all the cells into the middle, as there is a tendency for the holder to not fit into the battery tube if the cells are sticking out slightly. It is quite natural to do this, so not a problem. When screwing the two halves of the light together, the top plate of the battery holder does have a tendency to catch on the top of the battery tube. All it takes is a little jiggle to get the battery holder into the end of the tube and then you can screw the light back together.
The option of in-light recharging is very useful, meaning you can top up the cells or give them a full recharge. The built in charging circuit seems good, but remember that you have the 2P2S configuration and it is better to take out the cells after a few in-light recharges, and charge them individually, as the EYE30 does not have a balancer.
The built in battery meter is very useful and allows you to keep an eye on the remaining life in the cells. The fact that each time you change mode, the battery status meter shows the current battery state of charge relative to that mode, gives you confidence and allows you to plan the use of the light. Imagine your mobile phone not having a battery meter, and now think how we usually use our lights, with no way of knowing how much charge is left in them. No more constant topping up ‘just in case’. I’d like to see more lights including a battery meter like this.
The finish of the Desert Edition of the EYE30 does make it stand out from the crowd, and in a good way. It has a great feel and one that adds grip and prevents reflection. Even my ‘better half’, who just about tolerates my involvement with flashlights, thought the Desert EYE30 was lovely, and nearly didn’t give it back to me to test.
The only problem I have with the EYE30 is that I like it too much. So much so, that my natural tendency is to keep it safely wrapped up, perfect and safe in its case, rather than showing what it can do. But every time I look at it I have to pick it up.
Rarely do I need as much light as the EYE30 can produce, but now I am always looking for a good excuse to let it rip!
Oh dear… I think I may have lost some of my objectivity over this one.
Stock photo from Niteye showing the Desert edition with stainless control ring.
Review sample provided for review by Niteye.
I’ll update post 2 of this thread once I have some more comments to add....