Nitecore MH12SE, initial review

Philip A.

Newly Enlightened
Nov 17, 2018

I recently bought a Nitecore MH12SE. I needed a light with better throw than my EDC for the last 7-8 years, a Fenix UC40UE (exceptional light, I'll post a long-duration review soon).

I work outdoors, in the African bush, several months in the year. A flashlight is a crucial part of my equipment. Every piece of my equipment has to be in "the best" category, and any new item is carefully selected.

My specs sheet for the new light included: roughly the same form factor as the UC40UE, USB rechargeable, and with a SFT40 LED for throw. Preference to a 21700 battery, a single side-switch for all controls, and tail-stand capability.

I'm partial to Fenix, due to their high quality, and the years of good use I've had from several of them. However, in the form factor and luminosity I was looking for, the only choice from Fenix is the PD35R. Dual tail switches for controls, 18650 battery, and no tail-stand capability... I started looking around for something else.

It soon became a choice between the PD35R, and the Nitecore MH12SE. The MH12SE has a On-Off tail switch, a side mode switch, a 21700 battery, and can't stand on its tail. But... Nitecore makes compatible tail caps that can stand. Although I never owned a Nitecore, I've read good reviews of the brand. In the end I decided to take a chance on the quality, and go with the "most ticks on the list": I ordered the Nitecore, together with the NTC2 tailcap.


There are countless reviews out there that will give you all the technical details you can dream of: exact dimensions, measured lumens, candelas, runtimes, etc, and dozens of pictures from all angles. I won't go there, and will just list the essentials.

The MH12SE is a 1" category flashlight, 5.5"/140mm in length, using a 21700 battery, USB C rechargeable, IP68 waterproof, and with the new-ish Luminus SFT40, which has very good throw performances. It has a tail On-Off switch, and a side button for the other controls, with a battery level indicator.

I received the MH12SE and of course immediately went through everything...

Fit and finish are almost on par with Fenix's. A very slight gritty feel when screwing the cap, a "lazier" knurling, but a solid, well manufactured light. The USB C port is behind a deep rubber cover that pivots out of the way (should last long), the tail switch has a very positive click, and the side switch also has a distinct click.


There are five intensity levels, starting with a whopping 1 lumen "moonlight" lowest setting. I actually love this one, it gives you enough light to cruise the house when waking up at 3AM, without blinding you fully awake. Nice. The next up, 45 lumens, is strong enough to be used as a general-purpose flashlight. The MH12SE has a very good throw, so light intensity is higher than other flashlights for the same lumen value. Third setting, at 260 lumens, is enough to give you serious light in a "check out the yard" situation. The high and turbo settings, at 1,050 and 1,800 lumens, give you that long throw (over 400m on turbo) that you need in iffy/tactical situations. Exactly what I was looking for.

The MH12SE is now my new EDC, having dethroned my trusted Fenix UC40UE. I can use it for everything day-to-day, and it will work great as a hunting light and as a weapon light. The throw is simply fantastic for a light this size. The spill is sufficient to have a good view of your surroundings, while being narrow enough to not illuminate your sides in a distracting manner: this is essential for a light that may be used on a gun, or to spot animals or bad guys in the night.

Now... Observations, and a few not-so-good points.

The pocket clip came half-finished... The black finish missed all the inside of the clip's loops. Not a big deal, but that shouldn't have passed through QC.


The NTC2 cap works as advertised, you can stand the light. But it had a spring noticeably longer than the original, and needed a lot of pressure to fit. So much so that I got worried for the integrity of the battery, or other internals. Then, once installed, it flickered once in a while. I swapped the internals with the original tailcap switch, problem solved - but one is not supposed to solve problems on a new part. Sloppy design, sloppy QC?



Above, original tailcap on the left, NTC2 on the right. The internals have already been swapped.

Another niggling thing: there is a noticeable gap between the 21700 battery and the light's body, about 0.5mm. When you hit the light sideways, you can hear the battery moving inside. Bothers me. I wrapped some masking tape around the battery, issue fixed.



One observation, totally irrelevant to quality or function, and one has to really pay attention to even notice it. Nitecore has a funny way to cut the various crenellations, flats, or notches: the bezel has three cuts. The side button/USB port are on a 4 sided part (2 flats/2 notches). The finned collar below that is a six-panels affair. The part near the tail end has 5 flats, and the tail cap is also a 5 notches thing... Of course the 5 flats on the light's body do not line with the 6 finned panels, and a mechanically enclined eye notices that instinctively. Again, totally irrelevant to function and quality.

The polymer holster included with the MH12SE works, but seems to have originally been designed for a slightly narrower light. When you push the MH12SE in, the holster is forced open at the bottom. There are two retention clips holding the light in, so that extra friction at the bottom wouldn't be needed.



A nice touch from Nitecore is the inclusion of a housing permitting to use a 18650 or two CR123 batteries.

All in all, an excellent flashlight, packing an impressive punch in lumens, and an incredible throw for its size. Build quality and finish are top notch. The few nagging points are not deal-breakers for me, but Nitecore should address them because they detract from the sum total of their offering.

I'll post a long-term review in a year or two, when the MH12SE will have stood the test of time and rough use in the field.
Last edited: