Nitecore Chameleon Series CR6 CG6 CB6 (XP-G2, XP-E, 5mm - 18650) Review: BEAMS, RUN+

selfbuilt

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Warning: pic heavy, as usual. :whistle:

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Nitecore has sent me three members of their new "Chameleon" series. This is an interesting series of lights for those of you who like a variety of color options.

All versions are capable of providing white light (through the primary XP-G2 emitter) and low output red, green, and blue light (through a secondary pair of 5mm LEDs). Where the models differ is in the choice of second primary XP-E emitter – you can get dedicated red (CR6 model), green (CG6), blue (CB6), ultra-violet (CU6) or infra-red (CI6). I have the first three here for review (i.e., the visible spectrum RGB models).

Obviously, that's going to make for a lot of comparisons. :sweat: Best get started ….

Manufacturer Reported Specifications:
(note: as always, these are simply what the manufacturer provides – scroll down to see my actual testing results).

  • Featuring five individual light sources: two main LEDs plus secondary red, green and blue LEDs.
  • Four selectable modes of output (red, green, blue and white)
  • All models: White light mode is powered by a premium CREE XP-G2 (R5) LED, providing up to 440 lumens of output
  • Up to 400 hours runtime on low
  • CR6: Red light mode powered by CREE XP-E (R2) LED, providing up to 120 lumens of output
  • CG6: Green light mode powered by CREE XP-E (G2) LED, providing up to 185 lumens of output
  • CB6: Blue light mode powered by CREE XP-E (D4) LED, providing up to 35 lumens of output
  • Dual side switches offer increased control of color modes
  • Purpose-designed for law enforcement, hunting and tactical applications
  • Integrated “Precision Digital Optics Technology” provides extreme reflector performance
  • Equipped with a unique multi-colored (red, green and blue) signaling mode
  • Dual side switches control white and colored LEDs independently.
  • Side switch features integrated power indicator light for dis playing remaining battery power (patented)
  • Instant-start - enter turbo mode directly
  • Physical reverse polarity protection mechanism (patented)
  • Stainless steel titanium-plated clip
  • Stainless steel retaining ring protects the core components from damage
  • Toughened ultra-clear mineral glass with anti-reflective coating
  • Constructed from aero-grade aluminum alloy
  • HAIII military grade hard-anodized finish
  • Waterproof in accordance with IPX-8 (two meters submersible)
  • Impact resistant to 1.5 meters
  • Tail stand capability
  • Dimensions: Length: 143mm (5.63”), Head Diameter: 40mm (1.57”), Tail Diameter: 25.4mm (1”)
  • Weight: 138grams (4.87oz)(without battery)
  • Accessories: Quality holster, clip, tactical ring, lanyard, spare tail cap, spare O-ring
  • MSRP: ~$70
Cx6004.jpg

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Packaging is consistent across the line, although I note they have adjusted the colors a bit to try and make it clearer which dedicated color model you are getting. Clear specs are printed on the outside of the boxes. Inside, included with the light are spare O-rings, extra switch boot cover, basic lanyard, holster with Velcro flap, pocket clip, grip ring, warranty card and manual. The manual is common to the RGB series (i.e., gives stats for all three models).

Cx6064.jpg

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From left to right: Nitecore Protected 18650 2300mAh; Nitecore P12, Chameleon CG6, CR6 (with clip), SRT7, MH25; Foursevens MMX Burst.

All dimensions directly measured, and given with no batteries installed:

Nitecore Chameleon CR6/CG6/CB6: Weight: 156.3g, Length: 143.4mm, Width (bezel): 40.1mm
Sunwayman V25C: Weight: 117.3g, Length: 134.9mm, Width (bezel): 32.1mm
Foursevens MMX: Weight 145.8g, Length: 153.3mm, Width (bezel): 38.7mm Skilhunt S2: Weight: 133.0g, Length 153.0mm, Width: 36.0mm
Olight M22: Weight: 148.4g, Length: 144.8mm, Width: 41.2mm (bezel)
Olight M21: Weight 119.5g, Length 145.2mm, Width 38.5mm (bezel)
Eagletac G25C2-II (stock): Weight 141.0g, Length: 150.6mm, Width: 39.6mm
Eagletac TX25C2: Weight 93.6g, Length: 120.4mm, Width (bezel): 31.6mm
Klarus XT11: Weight 133.0g, Length: 148.8, Width (bezel) 35.0mm
Nitecore MH25: Weight: 145.4g, Length: 160mm, Width (bezel): 40.0m

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Flashlight anodizing is a matte black, like most recent Nitecore lights. No anodizing chips on my samples, quality looks good. Labels are bright white, clearly legible against the dark background. All models have identical styling with knurling across the tailcap and the body. Note that knurling is not particularly aggressive, and doesn't provide that much extra grip. But with the various styling elements, I would say grip is pretty good.

All models have a spring-mounted contact plate in the head, with a physical reverse polarity feature. This means that flat-top cells can't be used in the light, only those with small button tops. The extra spring should make for pretty good recoil resistance (i.e., contact shouldn't cut-out under rapid shifts).

All lights come with the same removable pocket clip, which is of a fairly standard clip-on variety (i.e., similar to the earlier Nitecore lights). One comment here is that it may be a hard to clip unto a belt in the head-down orientation (due to the relatively wide head compared to the body). But you can install the clip in a head-up orientation as well.

The removable grip ring is made of plastic, and spins freely on the light. It is only when you have the tailcap fully screwed down that it is held in place.

Screw threads are standard triangular cut, and seem of good quality. They are also anodized at the tail region for lock-out. Rear tail switch is a forward clicky, with traditional feel.

Lights can tailstand, but may be a bit wobbly (due to the partial raised areas for the lanyard attachment on the tailcap).

There are two secondary electronic control switches in the head, labeled "WHITE" and "COLOR". These allow independent control of the white and colored emitters, respectively (see my User Interface section below for more info). Note that similar to some other Nitecore lights, there is blue LED under the switches that will illuminate to warn you when the batteries are running low (located in the middle, between the switches).

Let's take a look at the emitters …

CR6:
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CG6/CB6:
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The main emitters sit it two over-lapping wells (both smooth finish, and fairly shallow). On one side is the main XP-G2 white emitter, on the other is the dedicated colored XP-E emitter. The CB6/CG6 look the same, as these colored XP-Es don't look visibly different when the power is off. The red XP-E on the CR6 has a noticeable red dome.

Outside of the main emitter wells, there are two secondary 5mm LED. These are capable of producing red, green, and blue light (although at a single, much lower output than the single dedicated colored emitter). Expect to see considerable beam artifacts on these 5mm LEDs, as usual.

As you might expect, the overlapping wells for the two primary emitters should have an interesting effect on the beam profile. Scroll down for beamshots and a discussion.

And now for some shots with the primary emitters turned on at their lowest settings ….

CR6/CG6/CB6 White XP-G2:
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CR6 Red XP-E:
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CG6 Green XP-E:
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CB6 Blue XP-E:
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You may be wondering what the specific wavelengths are for the dedicated XP-E colored emitters. Although Nitecore doesn't provide this in their specs, they do give the bin information for each emitter (Red R2, Green G2, and Blue D4). According to the Cree XP Family Binning document, that should mean the red is 620-625nm, the green is 520-525nm, and the "royal blue" would be between 455 to 460nm. Note that there are also infrared and ultraviolet versions (CI6 and CU6, respectively) that I have not tested.

And now the 5mm LEDs:

CR6/CG5/CB6 Red 5mm:
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CR6/CG5/CB6 Green 5mm:
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CR6/CG5/CB6 Blue 5mm:
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Scroll down for some standardized beamshots showing the beam patterns of all these emitters. :wave:

User Interface

Turn the light on by forward tailcap clicky - press and release for momentary on, click for locked on.

Emitter choice and output mode level are controlled by the two electronic side switches in the head. The light has mode memory and comes back on in whatever level you last left it.

Click the left-mode WHITE button to activate the XP-G2 white output modes. Mode sequence is Lower > Lo > Med > Hi > Turbo, in repeating sequence.

Click the right-mode COLOR button to activate the colored XP-E and colored 5mm emitters. Mode sequence is XP-E Lo > XP-E Med > XP-E Hi > 5mm Red > 5mm Green > 5mm Blue, in repeating sequence.

Press and hold either mode switch to activate the blinking modes for those emitters. For the WHITE button, that will give a high frequency Strobe mode. Press and hold again for Beacon mode. Press and hold again for SOS mode. Click at any time to return to the constant output modes. Note there is mode memory for the Strobe mode only (otherwise, the constant output mode is memorized).

For the COLOR button, press and hold for "police strobe" (i.e., alternating red and blue blinking of the 5mm emitters). Note that is may not be permissible for you to use this sort of strobe publicly in your local area (i.e., a lot of municipalities have restrictions on the use of emergency signals, and may not have much of a sense of humor about attempts to imitate police officers). There is no mode memory here.

Finally, there is an option to jump to Turbo white output from off, regardless of the memorized state. Simply hold down the WHITE secondary button when you click on at the tailcap.

Note as well that there is a low voltage indicator located underneath the side switches. This functions to alert you as the cells are running low, and worked on both 18650 and CR123A in my testing.

Video:

For information on the light, including the build and user interface, please see my video overview:



Video was recorded in 720p, but YouTube typically defaults to 360p. Once the video is running, you can click on the configuration settings icon and select the higher 480p to 720p options. You can also run full-screen.

As with all my videos, I recommend you have annotations turned on. I commonly update the commentary with additional information or clarifications before publicly releasing the video.

PWM/Strobe

The Chameleon series lights are current-controlled, on all levels (i.e., no PWM). 

That said, I did detect some consistent high-frequency noise on Lo/Med/Hi of the white XP-G2 (but not the Lower/Turbo), as well as the all three modes of the colored XP-E (Lo/Med/Hi).

Noise:
CG6-Noise.gif


In all cases, this signal had a consistent 4kHz frequency. At NO point did this signal become visible (i.e., you cannot see it by eye, even when shining on a fan). Again, it is most definitely not PWM, and I doubt anyone will be able to detect this without an oscilloscope. But consistent with my review standards, I report on anything that I can measure.

Rest assured, it is not visible, and not a concern in actual use.

Strobe
CG6-Strobe.gif


The strobe is a fairly typical fast "tactical" strobe, but with a variable frequency of 11-13 Hz. You will also notice above that the duty cycle is not a consistent 50%, as on most lights (i.e., the Chameleon series strobe is "on" less than half the time, and is again slightly variable).

Beacon:
CG6-Beacon.gif


Beacon is a one second flash of Hi output, repeated every ~2.1 secs.

SOS:
CG6-SOS.gif


SOS mode is a fairly typical SOS sequence.

Standby Drain:

Due to the physical clicky switch in the tailcap, there is no standby drain on the Chameleon series.

Beamshots:

For white-wall beamshots below, all lights are on Max output on an AW protected 18650 battery. Unless specified otherwieser, all lights are about ~0.75 meter from a white wall (with the camera ~1.25 meters back from the wall). Automatic white balance on the camera, to minimize tint differences.

Let's start with a comparison of the XP-G2 white emitter on all three models:

CR6-White-Beam001.jpg
CG6-White-Beam001.jpg

CB6-White-Beam001.jpg


CR6-White-Beam003.jpg
CG6-White-Beam003.jpg

CB6-White-Beam003.jpg


As you can see, there's no real difference between my three samples – as you would expect given the common specs.

But you may have noticed something odd about the spillbeam. Let's take a pic with the camera further back:

CR6-wide-Beam002.jpg


As you can see, there is an elongate spill into a small "bubble" just above the main spillbeam in the photo above. This is due to some of the white light emitted by the XP-G2 being picked up in the reflector around the red XP-E emitter on the sample above.

As you can see, the matching effect occurs if you activate the red emitter:

CR6-wide-Beam001.jpg


This is an unavoidable effect of the overlapping emitter design for the two primary emitters. However, in real life, it is not so noticeable as it only effects the spill.

Let's continue with our comparisons ...

White wall beamshot comparisons (XP-G2 emitter):

CR6-White-Beam001.jpg
MT2C-Beam001.jpg

MT25-Beam001.jpg
S20-2013-Beam001.jpg


CR6-White-Beam002.jpg
MT2C-Beam002.jpg

MT25-Beam002.jpg
S20-2013-Beam002.jpg


CR6-White-Beam003.jpg
MT2C-Beam003.jpg

MT25-Beam003.jpg
S20-2013-Beam003.jpg


CR6-White-Beam004.jpg
MT2C-Beam004.jpg

MT25-Beam004.jpg
S20-2013-Beam004.jpg


Beam profile is about what you would expect for a XP-G2 white emitter, with a relatively small reflector well. Overall pattern is not that different from the MT2C.

XP-E R/G/B emitters on CR6/CG6/CB6:

Note: At this close-range, my camera is over-saturated at long exposures. In real life, the beams are a consistently solid color. Also, the beam tints are somewhat off here, due to the automatic white balance and saturation settings of my camera. Please don't rely on them for tint estimation.

CR6-Red-Beam001.jpg
CG6-Green-Beam001.jpg

CB6-Blue-Beam001.jpg


CR6-Red-Beam002.jpg
CG6-Green-Beam002.jpg

CB6-Blue-Beam002.jpg


CR6-Red-Beam003.jpg
CG6-Green-Beam003.jpg

CB6-Blue-Beam003.jpg


Again, the saturation levels above are all off - all three colors are rich, bright and vibrant in real life.

Also - as previously mentioned - Nitecore provides bin information for each emitter (Red R2, Green G2, and Blue D4), so you can track down the specific wavelengths. According to the Cree XP Family Binning document, that should mean the red is 620-625nm, the green is 520-525nm, and the "royal blue" would be between 455 to 460nm.

Nitecore output specs are consistent with the Cree product information .... but an interesting point to note above: while the blue beam of the CB6 looks brighter than the other two colors with the camera, all light meters (and the Cree/Nitecore specs) report much lower values for the blue XP-E. :shrug: As you will see in my detailed tables below, my calibrated lightbox sensor is reasonably consistent with the Nitecore/Cree specs (and reports much lower output levels on blue). But my NIST-certified lux meter gives ridiculously low values for throw and ceiling bounce on blue, so I have opted not to present them below.

This is a good point to keep in mind – light meters are not equally sensitive across the spectrum of colors. :whistle:

5mm R/G/B emitters:

Note: I am using a longer exposure here, to show you the beam profiles better. The 5mm emitters are much dimmer than the XP-E emitters shown above.

CB6-5mmRed-Beam001.jpg
CB6-5mmGreen-Beam001.jpg

CB6-5mmBlue-Beam001.jpg


CB6-5mmRed-Beam002.jpg
CB6-5mmGreen-Beam002.jpg

CB6-5mmBlue-Beam002.jpg


As expected, the 5mm LEDs have a lot of artifacts. You can also see they have a relative positioning difference (i.e., the red is in the center of the frame, the green is on the right, and the blue is on the left). This likely reflects the positioning of the die sources in the emitters.

Testing Method:

All my output numbers are relative for my home-made light box setup, as described on my flashlightreviews.ca website. 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 any extended run Lo/Min modes (i.e. >12 hours) which are done without cooling.

I have devised a method for converting my lightbox relative output values (ROV) to estimated Lumens. See my How to convert Selfbuilt's Lightbox values to Lumens thread for more info.

Throw/Output Summary Chart:

My summary tables are reported in a manner consistent with the ANSI FL-1 standard for flashlight testing. Please see http://www.flashlightreviews.ca/FL1.htm for a discussion, and a description of all the terms used in these tables. Effective July 2012, I have updated all my Peak Intensity/Beam Distance measures with a NIST-certified Extech EA31 lightmeter (orange highlights).

CR6-CG6-CB6-FL1-Summary1.gif


CR6-CG6-CB6-FL1-Summary2.gif


CR6-CG6-CB6-FL1-Summary3.gif


As I mentioned previously, light meters are not equally sensitive across the color spectrum. Consistent with Nitecore specs, my lightbox sensor gives lower output readings for the blue XP-E, compare to red or green. My NIST-certified lux meter gave ridiculously low values, so I didn't bother presenting them above. In real life, I don't find much of an actual output difference between the 3 colored models … but that's hard to quantify, obviously. The wall beamshot photos earlier in this review probably give the best indication of what to expect.

Let's see how all the output levels do, against the Nitecore specs:

CR6-CG6-CB6-WhiteLumens.gif


CR6-CG6-CB6-ColourLumens.gif


I have pretty good concordance between my calibrated lumen estimates (from my lightbox) and the official Nitecore specs. :)

Output/Runtime Graphs:

Let's start with the comparison of the main emitters:

CR6-CG6-CB6-Runtimes.gif


Again, take the relative output levels of the colored XP-E samples on the 3 models with a grain of salt – I tend not to trust the sensitivity of any light sensor for such widely separate and defined wavelengths.

But the above graph does give you an idea of what to expect for runtime and regulation. As you can see, there is a variable period of flat regulation in all cases, followed by a very gradual drop-off.

And now the XP-G2 white emitter against the competition:

CR6-Hi18650.gif

CR6-Med18650.gif

CR6-Lo18650.gif


No surprises on 18650 - this is what you would expect for a good current-controlled XP-G2 light with defined levels. :wave:

CR6-HiRCR.gif


CR6-HiCR123A.gif


There is an interesting slight step-down on both 2xRCR and 2xCR123A over time. But again, it is gradual enough that you would not be able to notice it in real life. Overall efficiency remains excellent for the class.

Potential Issues

Due to the overlapping well design for the two primary emitters, there is always going to be a smaller secondary spillbeam when using either emitter. It is not an issue in real life though, as spillbeam output drops off rapidly with distance (i.e., you won't notice it).

The 5mm emitters have considerable artifacts (as expected for this class).

Pocket clip is pretty basic, and not very useful as a clip in the head-down confirguation (given the fat head of the Chameleon series). Does help as an anti-roll device, though.

Flat-top cells can't be used in the light.

Preliminary Observations

It is interesting to see the increasingly sophisticated addition of colored XP-E emitters to mainstream lights. In the case of the Chameleon series from Nitecore, you get traditional high-output white (through the main XP-G2 emitter), with low output red, green and blue (through the 5mm emitters) in all models. What differs is the dedicated specific-color XP-E emitter, which gives you relatively higher output red (CR6 model), green (CG6), blue (CB6), infrared (CI6) or ultraviolet (CU6). :sweat:

Overall build of the Chameleon series reminds me of a cross between the consumer MT-series, the tactical SRT-series and the common battery EA-series lights that I've review recently. Physically, the appearance looks a lot like the earlier Nitecore lights – with the general MT-series styling, but the SRT-series spring-mounted contact disc in the head (to help maintain contact during recoil). You also get the blue LED low-voltage warning sensor under the electronic switches, like on the EA-series lights. The Chameleon lights are certainly solid lights, likely to hold up well to regular use. :thumbsup:

Despite the relatively large size of the head, don't expect a huge amount of throw here – the individual reflector wells are not that large. And despite the slightly quirky smaller secondary spillbeam when using either of the main two emitters (due to their overlapping well), beam pattern is good for both main emitters. The 5mm emitters are really just meant for local flood applications.

Performance was excellent across the class, with very good output/runtime efficiency on all batteries – on both the white XP-G2 emitter and colored XP-Es. Regulation pattern was generally flat, and again quite consistent across models and emitters. This demonstrates a good current-control circuit in there. :)

The interface is serviceable, with separate switches for the white and colored emitters. That said, I didn't really like having to cycle through all the various 5mm modes to get back to the main colored emitter levels. But I do like the range and spacing of output modes overall. And there are a few thoughtful touches, like the ability to jump to max output from off (regardless of the memorized level), and the ability to memorize strobe (for those of you who like that sort of thing). ;)

Nitecore has been experimenting with adding colored 5mm LEDs to their lights recently (e.g., the SRT-series), but this is the first time I've seen them add quality colored XP-E emitters. :eek:oo: If you are in the market for a versatile light with a wide range of colored outputs, a member of the Chameleon series may fit the bill.

----

Chameleon CR6, CG6, CB6 provided by Nitecore for review.
 
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kj2

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Re: Nitecore Chameleon Series CR6 CG6 CB6 (XM-L2, XP-E, 5mm - 18650) Review: BEAMS, R

Thanks for the review :)
Would buy this light instant if it didn't have that stupid physical reverse polarity, Nitecore uses.
 

Ryp

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Re: Nitecore Chameleon Series CR6 CG6 CB6 (XM-L2, XP-E, 5mm - 18650) Review: BEAMS, R

Thanks for the review!
 

gkbain

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Re: Nitecore Chameleon Series CR6 CG6 CB6 (XM-L2, XP-E, 5mm - 18650) Review: BEAMS, R

Another great review. Thanks!
 

selfbuilt

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Re: Nitecore Chameleon Series CR6 CG6 CB6 (XM-L2, XP-E, 5mm - 18650) Review: BEAMS, R

Would buy this light instant if it didn't have that stupid physical reverse polarity, Nitecore uses.
Well, I suppose you could try filing down the plastic surround. Or for that matter, the whole extra contact piece could probably just be cut off and the spring underneath tappered slightly to prevent any sharp bits sticking out. I don't know how well that would work ... and only for those willing to do a little warranty-invalidating self-surgery, of course. ;)
 

hikanio

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I just wonder what LED Nitecore uses for the UV Version, that is said to have a 3W 365nm LED.
So far I couldn't find any LED from Cree with 365nm output, so do you have any idea what they are using here?

Hopefully they use a Nichia LED which is still the best 365nm LED...

Cheers
Rainer
 

selfbuilt

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I just wonder what LED Nitecore uses for the UV Version, that is said to have a 3W 365nm LED.
So far I couldn't find any LED from Cree with 365nm output, so do you have any idea what they are using here?
I don't know, you'd have to ask Nitecore for more details. I am not personally familiar with UV lamp makers.
 

hikanio

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I just received my CU6 and the first comparison to a cheap 3W 395-405nm emitter shows quite a difference:

The good news is, that it is definitely a shorter wavelength and only a very small amount visible light (pale blueish) is generated while the cheap one emits quite a wall of violet light.
The not so good news is, that the UV output that causes white paper and other surfaces to fluorescense intensely, seems to be much lower. Although the CU6 UV output is more focused, the amount of fluorescent light by all the surfaces I have tested so far seems to be lower.

And I still cannot identify the emitter although I took a closer look at it under a microscope.
No answer from Nitecore so far.

This is how the CU6 UV Emitter looks:

2014-02-05%2013.04.06.jpg
 
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zs&tas

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that took some reading, well done SB. i cant see any mention of the side switches lighting up or when or why this happens ?
 

selfbuilt

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that took some reading, well done SB. i cant see any mention of the side switches lighting up or when or why this happens ?
Yes, it is a long review - I mention the LED under the switches at the end of the build section (right before the pics of the main emitters). These come on as the batteries run down. I don't have exact measures as to when.
 

zs&tas

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Yes, it is a long review - I mention the LED under the switches at the end of the build section (right before the pics of the main emitters). These come on as the batteries run down. I don't have exact measures as to when.

:shakehead didnt see that sorry ! thanks.
 

hikanio

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selfbuilt

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On a German forum somebody has found an interesting "ultra low" mode that can be switched on as follows:

- Switch on with tails switch while holding the right "Color" button.
- Press the left "White" button once

The white LED now lights up at an extremely low "firefly" level.
Confirmed, that works on all my samples as well.

The output level is indeed ridiculously low. I don't have a calibration that low for my lightbox, as it reads <0.01 lumens. You can stare into the beam quite comfortably.

FYI, there is also mode memory for this level - if you turn the light off and back on by the tailswitch, it returns to it. So this means that you can set it up in advance. Cool find, thanks for sharing!
 

RI Chevy

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Awesome and very detailed review. Thank you for doing this for us. I am still awaiting for a little more information on the CU6 as well.
 

Richwouldnt

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IIRC blue light makes blood stand out very well against grass at night or under poor light conditions, aiding in blood trail tracking for hunters or certain police and S&R tracking occasions.
 
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