NITECORE caused a stir with their AA powered EA4 Pioneer, and have now followed it up with the EA8 ‘Caveman’ powered by 8 AAs.
The EA8 takes the principals of the EA4’s design but doubling the power supply and improving range with a larger reflector.
With the array of li-ion powered lights on the market, in the EA8 NITECORE brings great performance to those who prefer to stick to good old AAs.
For a light housing 8 AAs, the EA8 is remarkably compact, much more so than any other light I’ve come across that runs on 8 AAs.
Thanks to this compact form (made possible by the design not using a separate battery carrier) and the convenient side switch, the EA8 handles really well.
I was very pleased to find the EA8 comes with a belt holster. A really strong point as I want to be able to carry my lights with me. The holster allows for flexible carry options as it has a D-loop to suspend it, and a choice of fixed or Velcro belt loops.
From the moment I opened the box, I was chomping at the bit to get it loaded up with AAs and put to use (and as a note to any readers, I always finish the photos of the light and contact surfaces etc before I can start to use it so you can see it in the ‘just out of the box’ condition, so I did have to wait).
What is in the box:
The EA8’s retail packaging.
Included are the EA8, belt holster, lanyard, instructions and spare o-ring.
Taking a closer look and looking inside:
The EA8’s body has a ribbed grip with two flats that have the branding and model information laser etched into them
Looking closely at the etching there is a slight chiselled look to it which is very much in keeping with the ‘Caveman’ name.
Unlike most of the other two-stage (camera shutter style) switches on NITECORE lights, the EA8 has a black rubber boot covering the switch just as on the EA4.
The tail-cap has a cross shape machined into it which incorporates a lanyard hole, and all around the tail-cap is crisp knurling to provide grip when fitting or removing the cap.
Heat sink fins surround the base of the reflector and include longitudinal grooves like those on the P25’s head.
A flawless deep reflector gives the EA8’s beam real punch.
The EA8 uses a XM-L U2 LED
The square yellow shape of the well centred LED’s surface is shown magnified in the reflector.
The tail-cap contacts are a special rotating circuit board with locating pins to ensure it lines up correctly with the four columns of AA cells.
Deep inside the battery tube are the corresponding set of head contacts
There is a lot of thoughtful design in the EA8s battery tube. Is has four battery columns each supporting 2 AAs. In the 12 and 6 o’clock positions are the location holes for the tail-cap locating pins to fit into. From each of these location holes there is a groove machined across two of the battery columns. If the batteries need to be fitted in the dark, these grooves indicate to a user which of the four columns have the negative terminal of the battery facing towards you.
Each of the four battery columns reaches far enough around the battery that it is held in place without needing any of the other columns to be filled. This is illustrated by a single AA being suspended in the top battery column in this photo.
The threads are very well lubricated out of the box, fully anodised, and have a flawless trapezoid form.
An excellent feature of the EA8 is that it comes with a holster. There are other 8 AA lights on the market that fail on this point, but the EA8 does not. It is very much like the TM11/TM15 type of holster only scaled down in size.
I am a firm believer in holsters being provided, if nothing else to protect the light however you carry it, so am very glad to see the EA8 has a good one.
It cannot be avoided any longer, there has to be some comparison to a long standing contender in the 8 x AA light segment of the market, the Fenix TK41. Here they are shown side by side so you can see the size difference. Interestingly, the TK75 weighs in at 534g and the EA8 at 521g (fully loaded with 8 x AA) so there is a negligible difference in weight, but a significant difference in overall size.
Modes and User Interface:
NITECORE first introduced the two-stage switch and concept of Daily and Turbo modes with the TM11. The EA8 is very similar in this regard as it too has a two-stage illuminated switch. There are some differences in the interface of the EA8.
The EA8’s instructions cover this comprehensively, so I will not repeat this verbatim as you can read the instructions here:
What I will do is a summary and a couple of observations I have made.
When the batteries are first fitted, the EA8 enters Standby mode.
In Standby, starting OFF – (entering Daily mode)
A half press enters Daily mode. Further half presses cycle through Ultra Low, Low, Medium and High.
- A full press turns the EA8 OFF when running in Daily Mode. (the last used Daily mode is memorised)
In Standby, starting OFF – (entering Turbo mode)
A full press enters Turbo mode. A half press cycles between Turbo and High. After 3 minute Turbo automatically down shifts to High. A half press reinstates Turbo.
- A full press turns the EA8 OFF when running in Turbo Mode
In Daily mode ON – (entering Turbo mode)
A half press and hold for over 1s will enter Turbo mode.
In Daily or Turbo mode ON – (entering Lockout)
A full press and hold for around 1s enters Lockout mode. The EA8 will flash the main LED to indicate it is entering Lockout and then the illuminated switch to indicate the battery voltage (first flashing the whole volts and then the 0.1V)
In Daily or Turbo mode ON – (entering Strobe)
A quick, full double-click enters Strobe/flashing modes. This always enters Strobe first.
To change the flashing mode, fully press and hold the switch for 1s and it will change to SOS. A further full press and hold enters Beacon.
A half or full press turns the EA8 off from Strobe modes.
Exiting Lockout mode –
A Full press and hold for 1s will turn the EA8 into Daily mode and the Low output. The last used daily mode is not remembered when exiting Lockout, it always comes on in Low.
Momentary action starting from OFF in Standby mode–
Using either a half press, or full press for over 1s will be in momentary mode. As soon as the switch is released the EA8 will turn OFF.
The illuminated switch provides three main fucntions:
When first installing batteries or entering Lockout mode, the battery voltage is indicated.
When in Standby mode it flashes slowly to act as a locator beacon for the EA8
If the battery is running low, it flashes while the EA8 is on to indicate low battery.
Batteries and output:
The EA8 runs on standard AA cells (not 14500 li-ion) cells so can use Alkaline, Ni-Mh or Lithium AAs. Best performance will be with quality Ni-Mh cells.
The cell configuration is 4S2P which means the EA8 can actually run with either 4 AAs or the full 8 AAs.
With the minimum 4 AAs fitted
And here with all 8 AAs fitted.
As the tail-cap is mated with the end of the locator pins have to be lined up with their matching locator holes before screwing the cap fully home.
Output testing was carried out with AA Eneloop Ni-Mh cells.
To measure actual output, I built an integrating sphere. See here for more detail. The sensor registers visible light only (so Infra-Red and Ultra-Violet will not be measured).
Please note, all quoted lumen figures are from a DIY integrating sphere, and according to ANSI standards. Although every effort is made to give as accurate a result as possible, they should be taken as an estimate only. The results can be used to compare outputs in this review and others I have published.
NITECORE EA8 I.S. measured ANSI output Lumens PWM frequency (Hz) Turbo 901 (stepping down to 598lm after 3minutes) 27.7kHz High (Turbo mode) 598 27.7kHz and 285Hz High (Daily mode) 599 714Hz and 333Hz Medium 260 45Hz is present on the oscilloscope trace but this is not visible Low 84 45Hz is present on the oscilloscope trace but this is not visible Ultra Low 8 0
Strobe runs at a mix of 25, 18 and 14Hz
Beacon flashes every 2.1s
Due to the automatic downshift from Turbo to High every 3 minutes, I had to reset this during the entire runtime test (and on the odd occasion was not quite a prompt in doing so).
As well as with the full 8 AAs, the output test was also run with just 4 AAs to see how well this would run.
As you can see the heavily loaded 4 AA output means the cells do not manage 50% of the runtime of 8 cells, instead achieving around one third of the Turbo output run time.
Due to the thick battery tube walls, the EA8 has excellent heat-sinking and has no issue running at Turbo for extended periods. During the Turbo runtime test (under a small cooling fan) the maximum temperature recorded was 33ºC. This makes the automatic downshift very frustrating as there is no good reason for it.
As the EA8 has an electronic switch there is parasitic drain to consider. As the EA8 has two different parasitic rates depending on if you are in Standby or Lockout, these have both been measured.
In Standby, the parasitic drain is an average of 3.25mA. This average figure has been measured by recording the standby current as the switch illumination flashes and taking the mean of the readings. At this rate, a fully charged set of 2000mAh cells will be fully depleted in 51 days.
In Lockout the switch illumination is off. The measured drain is 113uA. At this rate, a fully charged set of 2000mAh cells will be fully depleted in 4 years.
The indoor beam shot shows the very bright hotspot with super smooth spill with no flaws or artefacts.
Underexposing the image shows the uneven slightly yellowish corona around the hotspot. This is only noticeable when white wall hunting.
As mentioned before, I have to make comparison with the Fenix TK41. For the outdoor beam-shot the first image is of the TK41 and then at the same exposure, the EA8.
NITECORE EA8 at the same exposure. The width of the spill appears the same, and the hotpsot very similar though marginally wider on the EA8.
As far as throw goes, using the same equipment to compare them, the TK41 has an estimated beam range of 447m and the EA8 444m.
What it is really like to use…
The EA8 brings the size of an 8 x AA powered light down to something very comfortable to hold and compact enough for easy carry.
At just over half a kilogram in weight when fully loaded with Eneloops, the EA8 feels really solid. The impression is one of a very robust light.
The two-stage switch is a clever interface, and being a side-switch your thumb naturally falls onto it making the EA8 a very ergonomic design.
The half-press / full-press interface doesn’t always work all that naturally, especially when for daily mode you switch it on with a half press and off with a full press. I’ve found myself frequently turning it onto Turbo when I meant to use Daily as I’ve used a full press (having just turned it off that way) to turn it back on. So it gives you a good control method, but one that you may need to think about.
On the original NITECORE models with illuminated two-stage switches, the switch illumination has been very bright. In fact the switch’s beacon flash on these models, such as the TM11, is too bright to use on a bedside table. In a dark room it is bright enough to disturb a light sleeper.
The EA8 almost goes too far the other way. The switch illumination is very dim through the opaque black switch cover. The photos shown earlier in the review required long exposures to show the switch lit up. In daylight it is not possible to see the switch illumination and if using turbo, it is also often not possible to see the switch light.
Unfortunately this makes it very difficult to see the battery voltage when putting the light into the Lockout mode.
However, this dim switch illumination is now perfect for use on a bedside table, as the brightness is sufficient only to locate the EA8 and not project a beam of light on the wall.
With a real 900 lumens, the EA8 is the brightest AA powered light I’ve used and is very impressive. With strong throw and a smooth, bright, usable spill, the EA8 gives you a great all-round beam.
Full power is available even if only running on 4 AAs (be careful if trying to use only 4 Alkalines as they might struggle) making the EA8 very versatile and easy to feed.
Whether exploring caves and treading in the (torchlit) footsteps of our ancestors or just out walking the dog, the EA8 gives you a fist full of light with the ease of AA power.
Test sample provided by NITECORE for review.