ReviewTheLight: Nitecore EA41 Pioneer

Bigmac_79

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Nitecore has earned a reputation of being one of the most adventurous brands in the high-end flashlight business, often being one of the first to try out a new technology. However, in the Pioneer they show they remember to continue to provide high quality lights of a more basic style. The EA4 was a 4xAA driven light with a brightness to rival lithium ion powered lights. The EA41 is an upgrade to the EA4, keeping the same high brightness and common power source, but adding a very low brightness level and a new double-button user interface.


Thanks to Nitecore for providing the EA41 for review.


I’ll be reviewing the EA41 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). 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.

Video Review

Below is a video review of the EA41. Due to my old image hosting site closing down, I've got new restrictions on image uploads and have replaced the "Construction" section of my reviews with a more detailed video review.

This video is available in 1080p 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.


Objective

Manufacturer's Specifications

Price: 75 USD




Product Manual




Dimensions




Plus, here's a few shots with some good detail. (Click to enlarge)










User Interface

The EA41 has an upgraded interface from the EA4, using a dual-button system on the side instead of a single button, to control the 5 brightness and 3 flashy modes.

The switch has two buttons, one near the rear marked with the universal symbol for power on/off, and the other near the head marked with four lines to indicate mode changing. When the light is off, you can:
-click the power button to turn it on in the last used brightness mode (flashy modes not memorized),
-hold the power button to turn it on in Micro mode,
-hold the mode button to turn it on in Turbo mode, or
-click the mode button to check the battery level (1, 2, or 3 blue flashes, 3 being high charge and 1 being low charge).

When the light is on, you can:
-click the power button to turn the light off,
-click the mode button to advance to the next brightness mode in the sequence Micro -> Low -> Medium -> High -> Turbo,
-hold the mode button to activate the flashy mode or advance to the next flashy mode in the sequence Strobe -> Beacon -> SOS, or
-hold both the power and mode buttons to activate the electronic lockout (the light will not respond to button presses again until both buttons are held again).

Note: The power indication on the EA41 does not give an exact voltage reading like the EA4 did, but rather a rough low, medium, or high indication with 1, 2, or 3 flashes of the blue LED under the switch.


Action Shots

You can click on any of these shots to see them full size.

Light in Hand


BeamSlice


MugShot


White Wall
ISO 100, f/3.5, 1/20"


Indoor Shots
ISO 100, f/3.5, 1"


Outdoor Shots

ISO 100, f/3.5, 2.5"


Long-Range Shots

ISO 100, f/3.5, 5"



Performance

Submersion: I submersed the EA41 under a foot of water for about an hour, clicking the switch several times. I found no evidence of water entering or damaging the light.

Heat: The EA41 starts warming up quickly, but it's decreasing in output up until it levels out at a lower output at around 10 minutes. At 15 minutes it's noticeably hot, but cools off after a few more minutes of the lower output.

PWM: I was not able to detect pulse width modulation on any mode of the EA41.

Drop: I dropped the EA41 from about a meter onto various surfaces (including grass, carpet, dirt, and hard wood), and found no cosmetic or functional damage.

Reverse Polarity Protection: The EA41 claims reverse polarity protection, so I first tried inserting all 4 of the batteries backwards, and then only 1 of the batteries backwards, and in both cases the light was able to resume normal function when the batteries were corrected. In addition, the inside of the battery slots are clearly marked, and the springs follow the convention of the spring touching the negative battery terminal.

Over-Discharge Protection: This is not an issue for AA powered lights, but the light beneath the switch does begin flashing when the battery power gets low.


Spectral Analysis


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

***Updated Turbo output from second review sample.***

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.

Mode Comparison


Turbo


***Updated chart of the first few minutes of Turbo, based on a second review sample. The rest of the plot carries the same shape as what you see above.***


High



Throwing Distance

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.




Subjective Review

Quick break down:

+ High brightness for AA power
+ Common battery
+ Compact
+ Pretty good throw
+ Very well regulated
+ Dual-button UI
+ Real Micro mode
+ Instant access to Micro or Turbo from Off
+ Solid battery compartment (no carrier)
+ Can tailstand, even with lanyard
+ Upgraded switch cover material
+ Blue LED power indicator under switch

- Doesn't reach 960 lumens
- Voltage indicator downgrade
- Loss of momentary on mode (thanks __philippe)

Nitecore's EA41 Pioneer is a great upgrade to the EA4, and overall a great AA powered light. When Nitecore first released the EA4, they soon started to get complaints that the switch cover material malformed when left in a hot area (such as a closed car in the sun). Apparently the buildup of heat in the light from the sun caused the material to become malleable, and at the same time the pressure inside the light increased as the air heated and expanded, which caused the switch cover to sort of bubble out. Nitecore quickly released a new version with an updated switch cover material (and I believe replaced those with the bad material that had malformed), but now they've further improved it, and made enough other changes to warrant giving the light an upgraded name, the EA41.

The first thing you'll notice if you compare the two, is that the switch on the EA41 has two buttons, a power and a mode button (see the User Interface section or the Video for a detailed description of the UI). The thing I want to highlight here is that it's a lot easier to get the mode you want now, and I especially like that when the light is off you can choose to go to the brightness mode you used last, or you can go straight to Turbo (max brightness) or to Micro (minimum brightness). For me, the straight to Micro is really great, because I never remember what mode I left it in, and I hate to turn on a flashlight and have it be brighter than I want, temporarily hurting my night vision.

Speaking of the Micro mode, I love that it's down to about 1 lumen now. In the EA4, "Micro" was about 65 lumens, which was just ridiculous, and not usable at all when you wanted to preserve night vision. This also means that the max runtime has gone from 22 hours up to 400 (not tested by me). 1 lumen isn't going to satisfy the "low mode purists", who would be more comfortable at around .01 lumens--and I sympathize, but for the average user 1 lumen is going to be great for getting around a house or low light area at night without loosing night vision or attracting too much attention.

Unfortunately, the Turbo mode is a bit disappointing. I've run the test several times, and each time get about 800 lumens on Turbo, which is only a few lumens higher than what I got for the EA4. I'm not sure if Nitecore tested this number, or just calculated it from spec sheets. Here's what I could find: the EA4 had an XM-L emitter with a U2 bin, and the EA41 has an XM-L2 emitter with a T6 bin. Now, the Cree datasheets claim that "The XLamp® XM-L2 LED builds on the unprecedented performance of the original XM-L, increasing lumen output up to 20%" (XM-L2 Datasheet). So, it seems you might just multiply the previous output of a light that upgraded from XM-L to XM-L2 by 1.2 to get it's new output. However, when you take into account the different bins used it becomes a bit more complicated. Cree states an minimum output (at 700mA and 25 C) of 300 lumens for an XM-L U2 (see the XM-L Datasheet) and 318 lumens for and XM-L2 T6, which is only about a 6% increase in brightness. In this case, assuming both the EA41 and the EA4 drive Turbo at the same current, the output range covered by a single bin could easily account for the identical brightness I measured (if I had an EA4 with a brighter than average XM-L U2 and a dimmer than average XM-L2 T6). Whatever the explanation, the EA41 is still going to be on average more efficient than the EA4, but I do wish they had actually upped the brightness more.

The only other negative I have it a bit nitpicky, and that's the voltage indication downgrade. In the EA4, it would tell you the exact voltage of the batteries using a flash sequence, but in the EA41 it just gives 1, 2, or 3 flashes. I preferred the exact voltage reading, but I suppose the new way is simpler, which I must admit does fit with the nature of this light. The EA41 runs on 4xAA and is pretty compact, which makes it a good light for people who may not be intense about their flashlights but still want an intense flashlight (more on that later). In that case, the 1, 2, or 3 flashes makes sense, because you don't have to know what the max or min voltages should be.

Next, on to some of the positives. The reflector is fairly large, so it's got pretty good throw for such a compact light, but the head maintains the same diameter as the rest of the body, so it doesn't feel weird or awkward to hold or carry. The smooth design also contributes to it's ability to throw farther. The beam is nice and smooth, with the good hotspot and a smooth transition to the spill. The battery compartment is a set of slots drilled into a solid body, which does add a bit of weight, but is much more sturdy and easy to use than a battery carrier. It's clearly marked so you know which way the batteries are supposed to go, and a set of notches also let you find the correct battery orientation in the dark. It's even got reverse polarity protection in case you insert a battery incorrectly, which I checked, and is pretty impressive for a multi-celled light.

Most of all, the battery choice is what sets this light apart. Most high-end flashlights are driven by lithium ion batteries, which provide a lot of power. However, AA batteries are still the kings of the consumer world, and people not dedicated enough to flashlights to buy special batteries and charges will still want lights powered by AA's. The EA41 is a high end and high brightness light that can compete with lithium ion powered lights and still use batteries that everybody has on hand. This does mean it's not as compact as a similar-brightness 18650 powered light, but the extra size is packed into the body, so that it doesn't really seam bulkier than other lights with similar sized reflectors. This means the EA41 is going to be great for people who want a high-end flashlight without getting into high-end batteries.

Finally, I'll mention again the switch cover material. As I said, the first run of the EA4's had trouble with this, but it was soon corrected. The material on the EA41 is visually different than that on either the original EA4 or it's replacement, and seems stiffer to me. I've been leaving it out in my car during the day, and so far there isn't any hint of malformation.

Overall, the EA41 Pioneer performs very well. I especially appreciate the upgraded interface and the change to a really low Micro mode, though I wish there was a corresponding increase in Turbo. With it's common battery type and compact size, as I said earlier, this is an excellent choice for someone who wants an intense flashlight without their having to be intense about flashlights.


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.

8.7.14 - Nitecore sent me a second sample of the EA41, because the first one could only get up to 800 lumens instead of the claimed 900 (very unusual for Nitecore in my experience). Not sure what was wrong with the first one, but the second one hit 900 lumens no problem, and was at 893 by the 30 second mark. You can see the data in the Performance section above.
 
Last edited:

lumenjunkie00

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If this light only hits 800 of its claimed 960 lumens I won't even be unboxing mine ill just be shipping it right back and getting the D40A. Thanks for the review.
 

markr6

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Personally I can't tell much difference between 800lm and 960lm, so if they come out with a NW version, I'll buy one. But a lie is still a lie, so I'm not defending Nitecore, just saying it looks like a nice upgrade to the EA4.
 

Bigmac_79

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Yes, I've asked Nitecore about the max output, and I'll be checking it one more time tonight. I agree with markr6 that it's not really a difference you'll be able to notice, but of course it's up to you what light you want ;)
 

markr6

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A true low on the EA41 vs. momentary on the EA4? Tough decision. But I think in the end the access to both high and low from off is a huge selling point.
 

Derek Dean

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Mighty fine review, Bigmac 79. Love the spectrograph. I'm curious, how does one go about making a home made spectrometer?
 

Bigmac_79

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A true low on the EA41 vs. momentary on the EA4? Tough decision. But I think in the end the access to both high and low from off is a huge selling point.

I agree, the instant access to max and min outputs and the true low are probably the strongest aspects of the EA41.
 

Bigmac_79

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Mighty fine review, Bigmac 79. Love the spectrograph. I'm curious, how does one go about making a home made spectrometer?

Thanks Derek Dean! Glad you like the spectrograph, they are always fun to do--my 3 year old especially loves to "help" me with that part ;). I'll shoot you a PM with some details about it so that the thread stays on topic and the mods stay happy ;)
 

__philippe

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Nice EA41 review, thanks Bigmac_79.

May I suggest adding the following item in the Subjective Review "minus" section ?


  • Lacks the momentary lighting function available in the EA4

__philippe
 

Bigmac_79

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Nice EA41 review, thanks Bigmac_79.

May I suggest adding the following item in the Subjective Review "minus" section ?


  • Lacks the momentary lighting function available in the EA4

__philippe

Yes, that's a good idea, thanks ;)
 

Bigmac_79

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An update on the max output, I've spoken with Nitecore and they're pretty confident that the EA41 should be reaching the full 960 lumens, so they've mentioned sending me a new sample to test in case there is just something wrong with this one. That's certainly possible, and has happened with reviews I've done for other brands in the past. If they do, I'll re-test the output and post the results here.
 

lumenjunkie00

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An update on the max output, I've spoken with Nitecore and they're pretty confident that the EA41 should be reaching the full 960 lumens, so they've mentioned sending me a new sample to test in case there is just something wrong with this one. That's certainly possible, and has happened with reviews I've done for other brands in the past. If they do, I'll re-test the output and post the results here.

Awesome, thank you.
 

Fumer Tue

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An update on the max output, I've spoken with Nitecore and they're pretty confident that the EA41 should be reaching the full 960 lumens, so they've mentioned sending me a new sample to test in case there is just something wrong with this one. That's certainly possible, and has happened with reviews I've done for other brands in the past. If they do, I'll re-test the output and post the results here.


Other lights use the same LED work just fine. Got me wondering what can possibly go wrong. Look forward to your new review. Thanks man :twothumbs
 

Jmolli

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I recently purchased a Nitecore EA41. It was delivered a few days ago. Time will tell, but it seems very well made and throws an amazing amount of light. I paired it with some Ultimate Lithium AA's. It will basically be a drawer light. I'm hoping that with these batteries, when I do need to use it any time over the next 10+ years, it will still have a charge. Unlike alkalines, which always seem to be dead, when you have a power outage.

The one thing that could be improved on the EA41 is the usability of the power and mode buttons. They are quite small and close together making them difficult to use with the pad of your thumb, which rests naturally on the buttons as you grip the light. Instead, you have to use the tip of your thumb to work them. Not a deal breaker, but someone with bigger hands may find it difficult to click through the various modes without inadvertently hitting the power button. I do like the one touch functionality that gets you to low and turbo from off.​
 

Bigmac_79

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Ok, I've received the second sample from Nitecore and it's output is up to what's expected (893 lumens at 30 sec), you can see the data updated in the review above. :thumbsup:
 

Fumer Tue

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NitecoreEA41PioneerTurbo2ndSample.png

Finally an update. NEAT!:thumbsup:
 

Bigmac_79

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Good review. :thumbsup:

Will this light have the same button issue like the older model?

Thanks! So far, the EA41 has spent a few hot days out in my car and had no issues with the rubber switch cover material (that was what triggered the problem in the first EA4). It's visibly a different material, and I know Nitecore corrected the problem in the EA4, so I don't anticipate any trouble from it in the EA41.

Sent from my HTC One using Candlepowerforums mobile app
 

markr6

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I still don't believe heat to be the real cause of the ballooning, but definitely shouldn't be a problem for this new model. Some reports of ballooning happened in room temps indoors. And I left both of my EA4 lights in my car last summer to test...easily over 120° for 6+ hours (both a very early model and newer model) without any problems.
 
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