ITP C9 Review - 1xCR123A/RCR - BEAMSHOTS, RUNTIMES, RAMPING, etc.

selfbuilt

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Reviewer's Note: This is a review of a pre-production sample of the new ITP C9 flashlight. Please see their Manufacturer's thread in CPFM for more details. The C9 was provided by ITP for review.

Warning: Pic heavy!

UPDATE 8/29/08: My review of the ITP C7 and C8 versions of this light is now up:
ITP C7/C8 Reviews - 1AA and 2AA Continuously-Variable - RUNTIMES, BEAMSHOTS, and more

Part I: Build Overview

C9-8A.jpg


ITP is a relatively new entry into the flashlight business. I reviewed their inaugural continuously-variable entry, the C6 series, previously.

The C9 is part of new series of lights with an interchangeable head on three different battery configurations: 1xCR123A/RCR (C9), 1xAA/14500 (C7), and 2xAA (C8). The C7/C8 models will be reviewed separately, as ITP is still finalizing the body tube production. ITP plans to make the body tubes available for sale individually, so you will be able to mix-and-match battery configs (i.e. play Lego).

C9-7A.jpg


All ITP lights feature a continuously-variable output mechanism with a novel switching interface (explained below), and come in two variants that share basically with the same build: a Regular version that comes with a reverse clicky and features an extra strobe and SOS mode, and a Tactical version that comes with a protruding forward click and lacks the strobe/SOS modes (see below for a UI discussion). For full detailed specs of the C7/C8/C9 series, please visit ITP's Manufacturer's thread in CPFM

Note that this review is for a pre-production sample, so full packaging was not available.

C9-2.jpg


Inside the box I received was the C9 light with an attached wrist strap, instruction manual, and warranty card. The final shipping version should also include a package of spare o-rings and extra tailcap cover. Note that like the C6, the lanyard quality is relatively poor compared to the high build quality of the light - ITP apologizes for this, and is working on finding a better lanyard supplier.

C9 Weight: 65.7g
C9 Length: 91.5mm

Here's how its size compares to some of the competition:

C9-4.jpg


For detailed output, throw, runtime and beamshot comparisons, see Part II of this review.

Design is interesting, with a more rounded and curved design than most. The overall length of the C9 is about middle of the pack of my 1xCR123A/RCR lights, as you can see above. I personally find it a good size that fits comfortably in my hand, in all possible use orientations.

C9-6A.jpg


As you can tell above, the Regular version (reviewed here) can tailstand, but I'm informed the Tactical version with the forward clicky won't.

The head portion of this light is common for all battery tube types, and features mild heatsinking fins near the base and round front edges near the glass lens (i.e. no sharp protrusions to catch anywhere).

C9-5A.jpg


The C9 body is one piece with the tailcap, and the tail clicky is accessed from within the body tube of the C9 (see below). Note that this will be different for the C7/C8 bodies - they will have a separate interchangeable tailcap for the body tubes. But all lights use the same head which will be interchangeable with each of battery tubes (bodies will be available separately).

C9-9A.jpg


Quality of the screw threads is very high - ITP is using square flat-top thread (similar to JetBeam, although not quite as thick). I should mention that screw thread action is very smooth - even without lube, the light is remarkably easy to twist. Good job! :thumbsup:

C9-10A.jpg


Like the NiteCore Extreme, the head and body of C9 unscrew into only two portions, so no anodized lock-out is possible. However, I understand that the C7/C8 bodies (which will have a separate tailcap portion) will come with anodized tail threads allowing for lock-out. :cool:

C9-11A.jpg


Fit and finish of the type III hard anodizing is very good on my pre-production sample - very even, with no discolorations or issues. Logo lettering on my C9 is not as clear as my C6s, but ITP warned me of this ahead of time for the pre-production sample. Final C9 shipping versions should have lettering as good or better as the shipping C6 (which I found to be quite clear and sharp).

C9-1.jpg


The C9 uses a Cree Q5 emitter (mine came with the "silver-backed" version manufactured at the Asian Cree plant, but standard "yellow-backed" Crees are also possible). Key thing to notice is the aluminum reflector - it's half textured and half smooth, similar to early O-lights. :eek:oo: This is done to help smooth out the Cree rings around the hotspot, while maintaining decent throw. To see how well it works, scroll down to Part II of this review (which has beamshot, output, throw, and runtime comparisons).

Features and User Interface

The continuously-variable UI is very straight-forward: with the head fully tightened against the body, turn the light on/off by pressing the tailcap clicky (press for momentary-on in the Tactical version, press and click for sustained-on in both versions).

To activate the ramp, simply loosen the head slightly. This immediately starts the output ramping. To reverse the direction of the ramp, tighten and loosen again. When the light reaches the level you like, simply tighten the head to memorize that setting. The light always comes back on at whatever level it was previously set to.

This is actually quite a smart design. You don't there's no need to perform a rapid "switch" within a narrow time-window, and you don't need to turn the light off to save the setting. All you have to do is loosen to ramp, tighten to save the setting. Very simple and intuitive. :)

The difference between the Regular and Tactical versions is the Tactical comes with a forward clicky and lacks the strobe/SOS modes. Strobe and SOS are accessed in sequence on the Regular version by soft-pressing the reverse clicky (or click off/on quickly) to advance to strobe and then SOS modes. Strobe is set to 9.5Hz on my sample. Note that while the strobe seems to be set a max brightness, the SOS mode looks a little dimmer to my eye (Strobe/SOS output level is not user-controllable).

UPDATE: I just timed it, and the light will advance to the next mode (i.e. Strobe, SOS, constant-on, etc.) if you turn it off and back on within 5 secs. If you leave it off longer than 5 secs, the light will come back on at constant-on at whatever level you last memorized it at.

Incidentally, ITP has asked me what strobe speed I think would be most useful. My personal preference is for a slow strobe (e.g. 3-5Hz), which is good to signal without overly annoying someone :rolleyes: (e.g. bike light strobes are usually around here). But I'm sure ITP would appreciate getting greater feedback from members here. :poke:

Part II: Comparison Review

For comparisons, I've chosen (from left to right): the ITP C9, NiteCore Extreme, JetBeam Jet-II PRO IBS, Novatac 120P, NiteCore EX10, Fenix P2D.

C9-4.jpg


Comparison Beamshots

All lights are on AW Protected RCR (3.7V). All lights are on max/100%, except for the Jet-II PRO which was accidentally set to Default Hi (which is ~70% of max output). All lights are ~0.5 meters from a white wall.

C9-Beam1.jpg

C9-Beam2.jpg


C9-Beam3.jpg

C9-Beam4.jpg


C9-Beam5.jpg

C9-Beam6.jpg


As you can see, the C9 beam profile is definitely less ringy than the throwy Cree-based lights, like the Spartanian II, Jet-II PRO and NiteCore Extreme above. Note that all lights in the above comparison, expect for the Spartanian, have fully textured reflectors - yet the C9 is definitely one of the least ringy beams. Note as well that the Spartanian, EX10, P2D and C9 all have perfectly round beams with smooth edges.

The overall beam pattern of the C9 is very pleasing, IMO. :) In keeping with the overall width of the reflector/head, this is not an overly throwy light - but the throw is still decent for the size (see below for a throw summary). Spillbeam width is also not as wide as some of the lights in this comparison. Tint is a premium white on my sample.

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 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:

C9-Summary.gif


Throw of the C9 is definitely intermediate to the other lights here - less than the Extreme/Jet-II PRO, but more than the 120P/EX10. Basically, throw seems pretty comparable to the Fenix P2D. In terms of overall output, the C9 max seems fairly close to the EX10, which is nearer the lower range of outputs here (but still plenty bright). See the runtimes below for a more detailed analysis of overall output over time.

Variable Output Ramping

C9-Ramp.gif


As you can see, the C9 ramp is relatively linear and faster than most of the competition. In fact, it is virtually identical to the NiteCore EX10 (with very similar min and max levels). The light flashes 3 times rapidly to let you know when it has reached the end of its ramp (either min or max).

Output/Runtime Comparison:

C9-MaxRCR.gif

C9-HiRCR.gif

C9-MedRCR.gif

C9-LoRCR.gif

C9-MinRCR.gif


C9-MaxPrim.gif

C9-HiPrim.gif

C9-LoPrim.gif


Output/Runtime Pattern:

  • Overall, output/runtime performance of the C9 seems pretty consistent with its continuously-variable competitors on both CR123A and RCR. :)
  • At the higher output levels, output/runtime of the C9 is typically toward the lower end of the range of lights compared here (which are all excellent). However, the C9 pulls away from the pack at the lower levels on both battery types, with typically the best output/runtime efficiency of its class so far. :twothumbs
  • The C9 also has the most consistent linear regulation of all lights tested here. :thumbsup: Most of the other lights are pretty "noisy" in their runs at lower output levels, but the C9 is remarkably consistent The only quirk is a single quick jump in output of ~10% at a variable point during many of the runs :thinking: but otherwise the output is perfectly flat.
  • The C9 features a low voltage warning flash (i.e. all the spikes at the ends of the CR123A traces). This kicks in shortly after the light falls out of regulation, indicating the battery is nearly depleted and should be replaced.

Part III: Preliminary Discussion

This is the second offering by ITP, and it's a very impressive light for the price. The overall design and build are of very high quality, with good consideration of key build features. Similarly, fit and finish is very good (except for the lettering, which ITP assures will be back to at least the high standard of the C6 on the final shipping version). Screw thread action is particularly smooth, and the light has performed consistently and reliably since its arrival. :)

I was particularly impressed by the simple interface (i.e. no potential problems with rapid switching or tail-clicking - just loosen to ramp, tighten to save). Frankly, I'm surprised no one thought of this mechanism before - it's remarkably intuitive - although it does limit the number of extra modes or features you can have. This is why there are no strobe or SOS modes on Tactical version - additional modes can only be added through a tailcap press, and forward clickies are not very convenient for that. Of course, to each his own here ... at the very least, I think ITP has added an interesting new simple-to-use option to the continuously-variable playing field.

I am also very impressed by their decision to go with a common head for 1xCR123A/RCR (C9), 1AA/14500 (C7) and 2AA (C8) bodies - and to promise to make the separate battery tubes available for sale.
:bow: :thanks:

Fenix is the only other major maker to provide this complete CR123A/1xAA/2xAA "lego" flexibility (Olight also offers it between their T10 and T15 models) - but ITP is the first to offer it in a continuously-variable light. Note that the C9 body tube has a built-in tailcap, so you will need to pick up a separate tailcap for use with either the C7 or C8 body (C7/C8 share a common tailcap). ITP has sent off C7/C8 body tubes and a tailcap to me, so I will be able to provide a full review of those lights soon.

The only thing needing improvement in my view is the wrist lanyard, and ITP assures me they are trying to find a better supplier. Due to the design, clips or holsters wouldn't work as well (i.e. because of the rounded body/tail and heatsinking fins, respectively). That being said, I find that Ultrafire 1AA holster works reasonably well (the elastic is looser than the Fenix 1AA pouch, so it's easier to get it in and out).

All in all, a very strong second offering from ITP. Fans of the KISS :kiss: principle will appreciate the circuit design and UI, and both the tactical and regular folk can get what they want. If the 1AA/2AA performance is as good as the 1xCR123A/RCR performance seen here, I think the established makers are going to be facing some serious competition.

Stay tuned ...

UPDATE 8/29/08: My review of the ITP C7 and C8 versions of this light is now up:
ITP C7/C8 Reviews - 1AA and 2AA Continuously-Variable - RUNTIMES, BEAMSHOTS, and more
 
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bhds

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Oops. I re-read your UI description and now see that you already stated that.:eek:
This looks like an interesting light. The tactical without the silly SOS and strobe might make a good replacement for my P2D.
 

selfbuilt

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This looks like an interesting light. The tactical without the silly SOS and strobe might make a good replacement for my P2D.
I just timed it, and the light will advance to the next mode (i.e. Strobe, SOS, constant-on, etc.) if you turn it off and back on within 5 secs. If you leave it off longer than 5 secs, the light will always come back on in constant-on at whatever level you last memorized it at.

The Tactical version will lack strobe and SOS, so it will always come on at your memorized constant-on level. I believe ITP is planning to send me a Tactical version once it is ready, so I will update the review when it gets here.
 

Sgt. LED

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Incredible review as always! Thanks for that........

This light looks fantastic but since I have a very well behaved EX10 I think I'll pass.

When this light comes out with a tailstanding tactical model and an 18650 tube without having to buy it seperatly...... THEN I will buy it ASAP!
 

phosphor

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.....another outstanding review in a long sting of impressive write-ups. Your exhaustive research has been invaluable to many of us....and always makes for interesting reading. As always...thanks ! :thumbsup:

The Tactical version will lack strobe and SOS, so it will always come on at your memorized constant-on level. I believe ITP is planning to send me a Tactical version once it is ready, so I will update the review when it gets here.
I'll look forward to your review; this model interests me, and if doesn't cost too terribly more than the standard C9 I think I'll bite. I've enough lights now with the strobe/SOS feature. I like the idea of a simple, single, adjustable level with momentary on.

- regards
 

DArklite

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Excellent review as always selfbuilt!
I'm really liking the intuitive UI and hope they keep the 9.5z strobe and consistency with the emitter as in the preproduction sample.
 

bhds

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Couple of more questions. :)

1. After changing batteries does the light remember your preset level?

2. What happens if you turn the light on with head not completely tight? Does it start ramping?
 

selfbuilt

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1. After changing batteries does the light remember your preset level?
Yes.

2. What happens if you turn the light on with head not completely tight? Does it start ramping?
Yes, if you turn the light on with the head not completely tight, it will begin a ramp.

In case you ask next, the converse is also similar. If the light was turned off while in the process or ramping (i.e. head loose), and the head was subsequently tightened before turning back on, the light will turn on in constant-on where ever the ramp was stopped when you turned off.

Similarly, if you turn the light off while ramping (head loose) and turn back on with the head still loose, the light will now begin ramping in the opposite direction (i.e. acts as if you had just done a head tighten-loosen switch to reverse the ramp direction). The only exception if is if you hit the max or min while ramping with the head loose - if you turn off/on with the head remaining loose, it doesn't reverse the ramp but just stays at the max or min (you need to do a head twist to start the reverse ramp).
If you turn the light
 

Hitthespot

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Nice Job Selfbuilt. I have to admit that is one sexy looking light, and I do like the platform of being able to choose body/battery type.

Thanks for taking the time.

Bill
 

selfbuilt

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Thanks Bill,

As I mentioned in my C7/C8 review, I find the overall C9 build to be very similar to Olight, but with more rounded styling (and of course, a continuously-variable mechanism :)). And the partially textured reflector should also produce a very similar beam pattern to the early Olights.
 

selfbuilt

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Don't forget that Olight have "lego" action between their T10 and T15
Good point, just added that to the comments in the review. Of course, I don't believe Olight makes a 2AA battery tube available.

FYI, MattK at batteryjunction is working on getting me a few Olights to test (so far, I've only done the first edition T15).
 

Mdinana

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yay! my first useful post! glad to contribute. I did some quick research at home, the AA (NiMH) battery lasted, on high, about 113 minutes. No noticable dimming after the first hour. A rechargable 3.0V C123 dimmed much, much faster, with a much higher heat output. I actually terminated that test to recharge the battery, to ensure that it was fully charged.
Anyway, I'd look forward to one of your reviews, to back up my own empiric observations (plus of course, seeing how primaries work without using my own :twothumbs )
 

Hitthespot

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Thanks Bill,

As I mentioned in my C7/C8 review, I find the overall C9 build to be very similar to Olight, but with more rounded styling (and of course, a continuously-variable mechanism :)). And the partially textured reflector should also produce a very similar beam pattern to the early Olights.

I have a Nitecore Infinity and the UI is tempermental at best. The continuously -variable mechanism just sounds perfect and you did a good job of explaning it!

One question, how is the max output compared to a NDI or say a Fenix P2D at 180 lumens?
 
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