XTAR is a maker of high-end flashlights, focusing on use in situations a little more "extreme" than normal, such as dive lights and tactical lights. The TZ60 is a new light in XTAR's tactical series, constructed for use in hand or attached to a gun (with the optional gun mount and remote switch).
Thanks to XTAR and MD Lightsource for providing the TZ60 for review.
I’ll be reviewing the TZ60 in two sections: first, I’ll discuss the light objectively (the facts about the light itself), then I’ll discuss the light subjectively (my impressions about the light's performance when used for specific applications). This is a high powered light designed for a good throw, so I'll be reviewing it as such. If you have any other specific applications you'd like the light tested for, let me know and I'll see what I can do.
Below is a video "quick review" you can watch in just a few minutes, if you're not up for reading the full review right now:
This video is available in 720p HD, but defaults to a lower quality. To select the playback quality click the settings button (looks like a gear) after you've started the video.
Price: $130 ~ $200 (depending on the kit ordered)
-Base Kit - light, extension tube, holster, spare o-rings, lanyard, hard case, spare switch
-Deluxe Kit - Baske Kit plus WPII charger, two XTAR 3100mAh 18650 cells
-Weapon Mount Kit - Deluxe Kit plus coiled pressure switch, carbine mount, (2600mAh cells instead of 3100mAh)
I received the "base kit" of the TZ60 for review. The base kit comes in a sturdy plastic case with a sticker on the front displaying the light and model name, and one on the back with the specs (on my review sample the spec list was blank). Inside, the light and accessories sit in a foam cutout. From what I understand, all of the "kits" include a carrying case, but if you order just the light without a kit, it comes in a cardboard box.
The TZ60 is made from aluminum, coated in black HAIII anodizing to prevent wear on the light. The light does appear to be completely black (not grey), except of the control ring, which is of a slightly different color, a sort of grey-brown. The TZ60 uses 18650 sized lithium ion batteries. Also, you'll notice that the TZ60 uses a much more "rough" style, compared to a "smooth" style favored by many manufacturers lately.
My review sample of the TZ60 included an extension tube, so that the light can be used either with one or two 18650 batteries. I understand that the kits all include the extension tube, but the "light only" package does not. The extension tube fits between the main body and the head, leaving the clip at the far rear.
Now, let's take a closer look, starting at the head and working back.
The TZ60 uses a CREE XM-L U2 in a smooth reflector. The U2 is currently the most efficient high-brightness LED available. The smooth reflector will help maximize the throw of the TZ60 (compared to a textured reflector). The head and reflector of the TZ60 aren't as large as some other dedicated throwers, but the reflector is definite designed for emphasis on the throw of the light, giving a bright spot with not very much spill light. Due to the small head, the spot will spread out more quickly over a distance than throwers with larger reflectors.
The bezel of the TZ60 is crenelated, which allows you to see if the light is on or off when placed head-down on a table. The head has a band of grooves near the front to add extra grip, and a few small heat dissipation fins near the rear. Below those are the control ring.
The TZ60 uses a magnetic control ring to adjust the output. This ring does not have any electrical connection to the innards of the light, other than by a magnetic field, so it retains it's waterproofness. The ring has a symbol of a ring with a triangle in the middle that points to either High, Medium, or Low printed on the head, to designate the output selected. The ring has a octagonal shape, with four flat sides and four sides with a double-bowl cut out to add grip. This ring is a large improvement over the ring of the XTAR S1, which was difficult to get a good grip on. In contrast, the TZ60 ring is easy to get a good grip on, and rotates very smoothly. Each of the three settings has a slight indentation, so that the ring will not shift from one mode to another by accident. The output changes about halfway between the indentations (ie, when shifting from Medium to High, the output will increase at the point halfway between).
The TZ60 has a series of raised knurled bands on the body, tail, and extender tube. A clip is situated between the tail and body, fastened underneath a grip ring.
The TZ60 has two flat sections milled out of the body. One displays the model name and serial number, the other has the XTAR logo.
The tail of the light has a mechanical forward-click switch. This means the switch will give momentary-on when half-pressed, and constant on when pressed fully and clicked into position. Because the switch extends well beyond the tail cap, the TZ60 does not tail stand.
Now, let's take the light apart.
Without the use of tools, the light comes apart into five pieces: head, extension tube, body, grip ring, and tail cap.
Inside the head, a large spring makes electrical contact with the positive terminal of the body. This means that flat-top cells should work just as well as button-top cells. The XTAR brand name is also printed just around the spring.
The threads on the body and extension tube are square-cut, non-anodized. This means the threads will make electrical contact, even if slightly loosened. Orange-red o-rings keep water from entering the body.
At the tail, another spring makes contact with the negative battery terminal. Because both ends have a spring, this should provide reasonable protection against damage to the battery in the event of an impact.
With a battery inserted, the battery extends just beyond the end of the body.
As mentioned earlier, I received the "base kit" for review. This includes the extension tube, holster, lanyard, spare switch, and two spar o-rings.
The holster fits the light head-up, with the tail sticking out the bottom. The holster has an open bottom, which allows the light to fit in the holster with or without the extension tube.
The only attachment point I've found for the lanyard is the removable grip ring.
The grip ring can be unscrewed when tail cap is off. Beneath the grip ring, the attachment point of the clip is accessible. In many other lights with this configuration, I've seen the clip removable in this way, but in my review sample it seems to be stuck, and will not come off.
The user interface of the TZ60 is very simple, being controlled by the tail switch and the control ring, with only three modes: High, Medium, and Low.
The tail switch turns the light on and off. A half-press will turn the light on momentarily, until the switch is released. A full press will turn the light on until the switch is pressed again.
The control ring sets the output of the TZ60. To choose the output, rotate the ring so that the marker (triangle inside an oval) points to the desired mode. It's worth noting that this ring is "backwards" from control rings on some other lights, with High output being all the way to the right, and Low output being all the way to the left. Using the control ring, the output mode can be selected either while the light is on or off.
You can click on any of these shots to see them full size.
Light in Hand
White Wall (Low, Medium, High)
ISO 100, f/3.3, 1/20"
(Even on Low output, it was too much for my camera to handle straight on, so here's a side shot)
Indoor Shots (High)
ISO 100, f/3.3, 1"
Outdoor Shots (Low, Medium, High)
ISO 100, f/3.3, 2.5"
Long Range (High)
ISO 100, f/3.3, 5"
Submersion: I submersed the TZ60 in about a foot of water for an hour, turning it on and off and switching modes (using the switch and control ring) during that time, and the light shows no sign of water entering or damaging the light.
Heat: The TZ60 gets warm quickly when on High mode, but the heat moves down throughout the entire length of the body, which means it is being dissipated away from the head well.
PWM: The TZ60 does use pulse-width modulation to adjust the output. The PWM is visible on all three modes when moving the light quickly and looking at the emitter, but not visible when looking at the beam during normal use.
Drop: I dropped the TZ60 from a height of about 1 meter onto various surfaces including grass, packed dirt, carpet, and wood. The light shows no cosmetic damage and still functions normally.
Reverse Polarity Protection: I can find no claim or evidence that the TZ60 has any form of reverse polarity protection, so be sure to insert the batteries in the correct direction.
Over-Discharge Protection: The TZ60 has a low battery indication, the light will flash on and off a few times when the battery reaches a certain voltage. In my testing, this only occurred when using the light in the two-cell configuration.
All light that we see as white is actually made up of several different colors put together. The relative intensities of the different colors in the mix are what determine the tint of the white we see. For example, cool white LED's have a lot of blue, and warm white LED's have more red or yellow. This measurement was done on a home made spectrometer. The plot below the picture is corrected for the spectral sensitivity of the human eye. Note: the peak in the 900nm region doesn't really exist, it's a piece of the second-order spectrum that's showing up here because of the high intensity of the light source.
Output and Runtime
ANSI FL-1 runtime ratings are the time it takes for a light to fall to 10% of it's original output (counting from 30 seconds after turning the light on).
The vertical axis of the graphs below represents a relative brightness measurement using a home made light box. The horizontal axis is time in hours:minutes:seconds. Runtimes are stated in hours:minutes:seconds. These graphs may be truncated to show detail.
------ 1x18650 ------
When using 1x18650, I did not observe any low battery warning flashes, which is what would be expected if it activates only at a certain voltage.
------ 2x18650 ------
You can observe the low battery warning in both of these graphs when using two cells. Near the end of the run time, the light flashes off then back on a few times, to let you know to change the batteries. These appear on the graphs as small dots near the bottom right.
ANSI FL-1 standard for stating a light's throwing distance is the distance at which the peak beam intensity (usually at the center of the beam) is 0.25 lux. I calculate throwing distance and candela (lux at 1 meter) by measuring peak beam intensity at five different distances and using the formula lux*distance^2=constant.
Peak Beam Intensity: 252m
Throw Distance: 15846cd
Peak Beam Intensity: 309m
Throw Distance: 23898cd
Quick break down:
+Solid construction, springs at each end of battery tube, good grip
+Good throw with tight spot, better than expected for the relatively small head
+Smooth functioning control ring with good grip
+Good regulation on two cells
+Output and throw higher than spec
+Gun mount and pressure switch available
+Low battery warning when using two cells
-Regulation on one cell could be improved
-Low battery warning could be added for single cell use, and made to occur a little sooner
-Low output could be slightly lower (but not much)
-Many people might like a strobe option for tactical use
The TZ60 is a very impressive tactical offering from XTAR. I measured slightly higher output and throw than listed in XTAR's specs for the light, and it throws better than I expected for a reflector of that size.
One of the first things noticeable with the TZ60 is that it's got a much different aesthetic style than other manufacturers in this league. Where most seem to go for either a simple minimalist or a sleek style, XTAR takes a more rugged look, which I find consistent with the harsh consonants in it's name. The body of the light is covered with mildly aggressive knurling, the bezel and grip ring are crenelated, and overall the light just looks like it's made for intense situations. I have yet to really give it abuse, but the solid construction leads me to believe it will stand up well. The walls of the body are plenty thick, the lens is set back sufficiently from the bezel, the battery tube has large springs on both ends, with several large square-cut threads for the connecting pieces. A lot of people prefer anodized threads so they'll keep feeling smooth longer, but for a tactical light I think un-anodized makes more sense so that it can maintain electrical connection (and keep the light turned on) even if the body is slightly loosened.
Performance-wise, the TZ60 performs as well as I'd expect from a light in this class, and better than the specs claim. I measured output and throw as a bit above spec on both 1x and 2x18650. I'll say again, I didn't expect the spot to be quite as tight as it is with a reflector this small, so I'm pretty impressed, this turns out to be a very good compact thrower when used with a single 18650, and a not-quite-so-compact thrower when used with two cells.
One thing I'd really like to highlight is how good the control ring feels to use. The last XTAR light I reviewed was the S1, a multi-emitter light with variable output using a control ring. The control ring of the S1 is very large, with only small holes for grip, and it is slanted, making it hard to turn, and the one real negative on that light. On the TZ60, they got it right. The control ring is octagonal, and just the right size to make it easy to hold, plus it has circles cut in every other side, so it's easy to grip. On top of that, I think the resistance of the turning is just perfect--each mode has an indentation to hold the ring in place and prevent accidental mode changes, but that are easy to overcome when you intend to, and the transition between indentations is smooth with very low resistance. This ring is a pleasure to use, and fits the style of the TZ60 very well.
I like that XTAR included a low battery warning on this light, though it could be improved a bit. As the manual states, the light flashes off then on again a few times when the battery voltage reaches about 6V. This is good to keep you from relying on the protection circuit of your batteries, but it still lets the batteries get a bit lower than most people like (about 3V per cell). Also, with only one low battery indication point, this means the LBI does not work when only using one cell. Normally, I might say this isn't too big of a deal, but since XTAR offers the "light only" package without the extender, it would make sense to have the LBI work when using a single cell also. Ideally, the light might be designed to give the warning at two voltages, maybe around 6.6V and 3.3V.
As a side note, XTAR has definitely presented the TZ60 as usable as a gun light. I did not receive the kit that included the gun mount so I can't test it for sure, but the construction of the light is very solid, and it does have springs at both ends of the battery tube, so I believe it would most likely be able to handle the recoil when mounted on a gun. My only concern is how the remote switch works--if you are able to change the output from the remote switch even though this is a control ring light, or if it's just an on/off switch and you still would need to use the ring to change the output.
Update 9/2/12: Mark outlined the function of the remote switch in this post. Basically, it's momentary on/off, with the output controlled by the ring.
On the subject of output, I'll say that 120 lumens isn't what many people would call a "low" output. In my opinion, the low mode could go a little lower, but not much. With the way the reflector is shaped, the TZ60 has a tight hot spot, and is designed mostly for throw. Normally I use a low output setting when working with something close up without damaging my night vision, or to give just enough light to illuminate the path I'm walking, whether through a dark hall or a dark forest. Really, because of the bright hot spot and dim spill, the TZ60 isn't ideal for those sorts of tasks that we'd normally use a very low output for, so I believe the main reason for a low mode on the TZ60 is to provide an amount of light that is still useful at medium-long distances (where the hot spot gets large enough to be useful) but give a much better run time. After taking the TZ60 for a few walks, I believe this could be achieved with a slightly lower output on Low mode, but I wouldn't want it too much lower.
Also on the subject of the modes, I'm personally not a big fan of flashy modes, but as a "tactical" light, I do know that some people like to have a strobe mode readily available. The TZ60 does not have a strobe mode, but the control ring design presents a very easy opportunity to add a strobe mode that would not be activated by accident or unintentionally, but would be quick to access when it was desired.
So, overall the TZ60 is very good at what it does. This is a slim alternative to other 18650 throwers, available either in compact or lengthened form. It's got all the basics we accept as industry standard, with a very solid construction and well-implemented control ring that's easy to use. If that's what you're looking for, and you like XTAR's rugged aesthetic, I don't hesitate to recommend the TZ60.
Long Term Impressions
I'll fill this part in after carrying the light for a while. If nothing get's added here, either I find nothing else worth noting about the light, or I end up not using it often.