ROUNDUP Review - Lensed Zoomable 14500/AA Cheap Flashlights

UnknownVT

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I've long been interested in lensed lights - all the way back to the Dorcy 1AAA days
when I discovered/realized the beam was very even, and allowed me to see better - especially for things like reading.
Please see: A Classic Revisited - Dorcy 1AAA

SK68_QP2LX_npr170116.jpg


These days most lensed lights are actually zooming or focusable.

I looked at ones that were single AA and capable of running 14500 lithium-ion rechargeable
- since AA is only 1.2-1.5V the light has to have a boost circuit, and ones with "modes" has to have some form of driver, so the 14500 li-ion wouldn't just be direct drive.

On eBay they are cheap enough - I ended up with a number of them.

Line-up and sizes -
Zoom14500AASz170116.jpg

left to right: AA battery; 4Sevens QP2L-X (with burst mode 780 lumens); No Name Zoom 14500/AA 3 mode; SkyWolfEye E527; SkyWolfEye E502; UltraFire SK68; Probe Shiny; SupWildFire; and not a single AA but 3xAAA Dollar Tree Telescoping Flashlight.

All 6 lights (except the 4Sevens and $ Tree) cost less than $15 total - with some below $2.00 shipped.

They all can run 14500 lithium-ion rechargeable and regular AA NiMH, all have convex lens to zoom the beam.
Lots of commonality....

Heads -
SK68Hd170116.jpg

UltraFire SK68

SupWildFireHd170116.jpg

SupWildFire

Under the lens -
SK68LED170116.jpg

UltraFire SK68

SupWildFireLED170116.jpg

SupWildFire

LED die -
SK68LED2die170116.jpg

UltraFire SK68

SupWildFireLEDdie170116.jpg

SupWildFire

When the lens head is pulled all the way back in the beam is a circle and reasonably wide - actually very useful -
it's like a very even flood beam - as in the newspaper shot above.

All the lights have 3 Modes High>Low>Strobe -all except the SupWildFire do not have any memory or reset - so the next mode comes up when turning on even after several days...
The SupWildFire is superior in that it resets the modes so after a few seconds of off, it turns on, on High.

All the lows are done by PWM (pulse width modulation)

Let's look at the lights individually -
First the ubiquitous or infamous
UltraFire SK68
-
SK68_170116.jpg

SK68 has become almost a generic name for this flashlight which may or may not be UltraFire
(it's ironic that there are probably knock-offs of the UltraFire SK68 - and UltraFire is not exactly a well respected name!)

The silver is a recent purchase @ under $3; blue bought over 4 years ago @ under $4.
Showing the silver with head parked in widest position and blue at max extended zoom.

vs 780 Lumens 4Sevens Quark Burst Mode QP2L-X.
SK68_QP2LX_mx170116.jpg
SK68_QP2LX_mx2U170116.jpg

SK68 obviously is not as bright as the 780 lumens burst QP2L-X - but it is still showing quite well -

how about the next mode down of the QP2L-X - "High" at 300 lumens?
SK68_QP2LX_hi170116.jpg
SK68_QP2LX_hi2U170116.jpg

it's hard to make a call because of the different beams - but I think the brightness is comparable - the QP2L-X has a brighter hotspot but the SK68 has more even/uniform bright beam...

This is not bad at all for a $2 flashlight...

What happens when the light is zoomed to a tighter spot?

At the tightest zoom the beam is focused to show the LED die:
SK68_Zm170116.jpg

Underexposed to show the structure of the beam.

This tightest zoom is very bright and throws very well -
compared to the 780 Lumens 4Sevens Quark Burst Mode QP2L-X
SK68_QP2L_Zm170116.jpg
SK68_QP2L_Zm2U170116.jpg

these beam shots can't quite convey how bright the tightest focus spot is...

but this shot may help understand how bright the tightest zoom spot is -
SK68_Zm_QP2LXHs170116.jpg

this is the SK68 tightest focus spot shone on the hotspot of the QP2L-X @ 780 lumens burst mode.

So the throw of this little single AA/4500 light punches way above its weight class.

Next up is the
SupWildFire -
SupWildFire170116.jpg

I got this light because Amazon's best selling Tactical flashlight at the time was the J5 Tactical V1-PRO 300 Lumen -
although this SupWildFire is not the same name/brand it looked very much like all the pics on Amazon.

vs. UltraFire SK68
SK68_SupWF170116.jpg
SK68_SupWF2U170116.jpg

comparable - although it may look to be about even - I think SupWildFire may just have it because of its wider beam?

The SupWildFire can also be zoomed/focused tightly -
vs. 780 lumens burst mode 4Sevens QP2L-X
SupWF_QP2L_Zm170116.jpg
SupWF_QP2L_Zm2U170116.jpg

so its throw when tightly focused is also great (as would all the other lights in this review)

Tightest Zoom compared with UltraFire SK68
SK68_SupWF_Zm170116.jpg
SK68_SupWF_Zm2U170116.jpg

The SupWildFire and UltraFire SK68 are pretty comparable - although I suspect the SupWildFire might be by measurement a bit brighter - but not that I have noticed in actual usage.

BUT don't these run on AA batteries?

Since I have more than one of the SK68 and SupWildFire I can compare them using NiMH and 14500
UltraFire SK68 using IMR14500 and NiMH (eneloop)
SK68_IMR_NiMH170116.jpg
SK68_IMR_NiMH2U170116.jpg

Low on 14500 is about the same as NiMH on High.

SupWildFire -
SupWF_IMR_NiMH170116.jpg
SupWF_IMR_NiMH2U170116.jpg

again high on NiMH is about the same as low on 14500.

Visually these are comparable -
however, remember the low uses PWM so may affect the photos.

I'll use the UltraFire SK68 as a sort of benchmark to compare all the other lights -

no name zoomable 14500/AA -
Zoom14500AA170116.jpg



vs UltraFire SK68
SK68_NoName170116.jpg
SK68_NoName2U170116.jpg

comparable - although the SK68 may just be a bit brighter? -
again can't really see it in use.

This no name actaully is my favorite - mainly because of its form factor - it is easily pocketable.
But beware it is harder to find, and there are versions with single mode -
I actually use a single mode one, and only on NiMH - carrying around the house
as I find the even beam and moderate brightness is very useful.

SkyWolfEye E527 -
SkyWolfEye1_170116.jpg


vs. UltraFire SK68
SK68_SkyE527170116.jpg
SK68_SkyE527_2U170116.jpg

looks about the same performance as the no name - so why the no name? because this SkyWolfEye is noticeably longer and there is no clip.

SkyWolfEye E502 -
SkyWolfEye2_170116.jpg


vs. UltraFire SK68 -
SK68_SkyE502_170116.jpg
SK68_SkyE502_2U170116.jpg

again comparable...

Probe Shiny -
ProbeShiny170116.jpg

This one's slightly different in turning that gold ring to zoom.
Also notice that very aggressive saw tooth pattern on the bezel - making it very uncomfortable to pocket carry and handle.

vs. UltraFire SK68
SK68_ProbeS170116.jpg
SK68_ProbeS2U170116.jpg

pretty much comparable again....

So these 6 flashlights are pretty comparable - it almost can be down to the looks or style.

I still like the ubiquitous UltraFire SK68 most as a flashlight, followed closely by the SupWildFire because it resets its mode.

Having said that, the one I use the most is the no name, but in a single mode and only on NiMH.


OK what about that Dollar Tree telescoping light?
Tree3AAAfocus170116.jpg

These do come in colors, but for some reason when I first saw them, reminded me of the SureFire G2!

Running on 3xAAA this is probably direct drive via a resistor?
vs. UltraFire SK68
SK68Lo_Tree170116.jpg
SK68Lo_Tree2U170116.jpg

not very bright - about the same as the SK68 on low using NiMH -
but it is more than adequate for seeing way round the house, and for examining things when more light is needed
and that lensed even beam is superior to other flashlights.

It's a bargain for a buck!

EDIT to ADD -
Interesting, I just received another UltraFire SK68 (in black) and this new one resets the mode after being Off for a period.
Whereas my two other samples - 4 years and about a week old both will go to next mode after being Off for almost any length of time.

CORRECTION -
Some of these cheapie 14500/AA zoomable flashlights will eventually reset back to default High - "eventually" is the operative word -
some do it within a very timely period like the SupWildFire -
others will eventually do it sometimes it taking several hours.

2 lights actually have last memory mode - the Probe Shiny (the one with the sawtooth bezel) and the SkyWolfEye E527 (the green/gray).

Sorry for my mistake.
 
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UnknownVT

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Realize this has had pitiful amount of interest.

Pity (ha-ha! pun-ny) because most of us regard a <$20 flashlight as "budget" -
yet most of these zoomable 14500/AA lights were <$2! - 1/10th the cost of a budget light
in fact all the cheapie lights totaled less than the price for a single budget light...

Still there are disadvantages - with the exception of a few, most of the lights have close to no/next mode memory -
the ones that do reset back to default High sometimes take a long time to do the reset - so much that I thought they had no/next mode memory.

However most of these can be "cured"!

Thanks to Lynx_Arc (in this thread) showed how to fix the no/next mode memory

I did this on the SkyWolfEye E502 -
SkyWolfEye2_170116.jpg


The light was pretty easy to disassemble -
SkyWolfEyeE502Disassm_170128.jpg

1) unscrew bezel
2) use rubber gloves (or sheet) pinch both the outer head part, and the inside edge of the pill and unscrew (this works for most - I do have some where the pill is very tight)
3) pry/lever the board from the pill -

SkyWolfEyeE502BdPt_170128.jpg

4) look for the capacitor - shown with red arrow.
5) use pencil and draw firm line between the two solder terminals the line must make good connection between the two solder terminals, so draw right on/over those points.

So far I have done 3 lights and found 4 lines is about right - light will reset back to default High in less than 4-5secs which is workable.

To me these lights are now "worth" more because of this simple pencil mod.
 
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LightObsession

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Messages
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The Coast HX5 is the AA focusing light that I carry. It's about $20 retail. I like the beam quality in both the spot and flood settings. It has a reversible clip that works quite well.
 

UnknownVT

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Messages
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The Coast HX5 is the AA focusing light that I carry. It's about $20 retail. I like the beam quality in both the spot and flood settings. It has a reversible clip that works quite well.
Thank you for the suggestion - yours is the second suggesting Coast -
Coast HP1
Seems like Coast is one of the few named manufacturers that produces lensed focusing flashlights.

Thank you.
 

LED J

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Feb 8, 2017
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In addition to the other Coast lights mentioned, the Coast HP5 (not the more expensive HP5R) is worth a look.

it is no longer on the Coast website but still easy to find under $30. It does not support 14500 but is a single AA with a nice versatile lens with a good beam pattern. I have 2 and for certain things prefer it to my various Fenix lights. The biggest downside if this matters, is no tail stand.
 

Fireclaw18

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Coast lights use a 2-element LED Lenser style lighthouse optic instead of an aspheric lens. The optic is a single piece of optical acrylic with a large pocket in the center for the LED. The outer portion of the optic is a TIR reflector capturing light coming from the sides of the LED. The center of the optic is a small aspheric lens.

LED Lenser style optics wrap around the LED in both flood and spot positions so there is no loss of lumens cycling to spot mode like with a typical aspheric.

Unfortunately, Coast chose to have 2 different focal points for the two elements of the optic. In flood mode, you get a wide even circle of light. in spot mode you get something that resembles a conventional flashlight beam... a small hotspot surrounded by spill. The biggest downside is because both elements don't have the same focal point, the hotspot isn't very bright, so throw isn't very good. A Sipik 68 will easily outthrow a Coast HP1.

In contrast, LED Lensers have better throw than Coast lights because LED Lenser chose to have the same focal length for both elements.
 

LightObsession

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Unfortunately, Coast chose to have 2 different focal points for the two elements of the optic. In flood mode, you get a wide even circle of light. in spot mode you get something that resembles a conventional flashlight beam... a small hotspot surrounded by spill. The biggest downside is because both elements don't have the same focal point, the hotspot isn't very bright, so throw isn't very good. A Sipik 68 will easily outthrow a Coast HP1.

In contrast, LED Lensers have better throw than Coast lights because LED Lenser chose to have the same focal length for both elements.

Some Coast lights have a Zoom beam pattern that's spot + spill (H5X) and some have a Zoom beam that's the shape of the LED die w/o spill (HP3). They're not all the same.
 

UnknownVT

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Messages
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In addition to the other Coast lights mentioned, the Coast HP5 (not the more expensive HP5R) is worth a look.

it is no longer on the Coast website but still easy to find under $30. It does not support 14500 but is a single AA with a nice versatile lens with a good beam pattern. I have 2 and for certain things prefer it to my various Fenix lights. The biggest downside if this matters, is no tail stand.

Coast lights use a 2-element LED Lenser style lighthouse optic instead of an aspheric lens. The optic is a single piece of optical acrylic with a large pocket in the center for the LED. The outer portion of the optic is a TIR reflector capturing light coming from the sides of the LED. The center of the optic is a small aspheric lens.

LED Lenser style optics wrap around the LED in both flood and spot positions so there is no loss of lumens cycling to spot mode like with a typical aspheric.

Unfortunately, Coast chose to have 2 different focal points for the two elements of the optic. In flood mode, you get a wide even circle of light. in spot mode you get something that resembles a conventional flashlight beam... a small hotspot surrounded by spill. The biggest downside is because both elements don't have the same focal point, the hotspot isn't very bright, so throw isn't very good. A Sipik 68 will easily outthrow a Coast HP1.

In contrast, LED Lensers have better throw than Coast lights because LED Lenser chose to have the same focal length for both elements.

Some Coast lights have a Zoom beam pattern that's spot + spill (H5X) and some have a Zoom beam that's the shape of the LED die w/o spill (HP3). They're not all the same.

Thank you so much for that input. Very interesting I'll have to look at some of the Coast and LED Lenser 1xAA lights.

Not to take anything away from those suggestions -
I find it simply mind boggling that these cheap zoomable/lensed 1xAA/14500 flashlights are <$2 delivered -
can't see how they can do it -
of course I'm not one to look a gift horse... even with a focusable flashlight!

Very crude and unscientific look-see -
tree that's easily 150metres (~164yards) away
the focused (tightest/most concentrated) spot on High is easily discernible at the tree top -
I'm impressed that a <$2 flashlight on 14500 Li-Ion battery can even do that.

Re: light loss etc - these days LEDs are so efficient and bright -
on 14500 these cheap lensed flashlights are too bright for general usage on High for me (I have to use Low most of the time)
of course light loss and efficiency matters - but High on 14500 the light is kind of "abundant" and some loss is kind of acceptable to me -
especially when the focus/zoom on High still manages to throw a very long way, for such modestly (read cheap) priced lights.

Thank you.
 
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Fireclaw18

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Incidentally, these cheap zoomable aspherics make great modding hosts. They are dirt cheap so if you screw one up it's no big loss.

Some suggestions:
(1) Driver & LED replacement - Replace the LED with an XPL HI, install a custom 15mm FET driver from Mountain Electronics, and perform a spring bypass at the tailcap switch for a massive increase to output. Run it on a high quality IMR 14500.

(2) Remove beam artifacts - sometimes cheap aspherics will have ugly rings around the outside of the beam. These are caused by reflections off the inside of the head. Blacken those surfaces to reduce these reflections. A sharpie will work, or you can use high temperature black paint from your local autoshop.

(3) Widen the flood beam - many cheap zoomies have a very narrow floodbeam. This is usually caused by a design defect that doesn't allow the lens to retract far enough. For the maximum width floodbeam the back of the aspheric lens should retract to within 1mm of the top of the LED dome. Using a flat-domed LED is even better since there is less sticking up and the lens can retract further. Even a couple mm further retract could result in a 10 or 20 degree wider floodbeam. It makes an enormous difference.

Fixing this is relatively simple and can often be done in about half an hour with a handfile. The idea is to file off what is blocking the bezel from retracting far enough. This could involve filing the back of the bezel, the top of the pill or even part of the body. However, before filing, think very carefully about what you intend to file and what the likely effect will be. Filing off the wrong thing could destroy the host.
 

lumen aeternum

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SkyWolfEye2_170116.jpg


The light was pretty easy to disassemble -

1) unscrew bezel
2) use rubber gloves (or sheet) pinch both the outer head part, and the inside edge of the pill and unscrew (this works for most - I do have some where the pill is very tight)
3) pry/lever the board from the pill -

SkyWolfEyeE502BdPt_170128.jpg

4) look for the capacitor - shown with red arrow.
5) use pencil and draw firm line between the two solder terminals the line must make good connection between the two solder terminals, so draw right on/over those points.

So far I have done 3 lights and found 4 lines is about right - light will reset back to default High in less than 4-5secs which is workable.

To me these lights are now "worth" more because of this simple pencil mod.

re 5) -- you meant to say to short the capacitor by connecting its two terminals? Or do you mean to say to connect the visible + marked terminal to something else?
 

UnknownVT

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Messages
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re 5) -- you meant to say to short the capacitor by connecting its two terminals? Or do you mean to say to connect the visible + marked terminal to something else?
Yes, short the capacitor by drawing graphite pencil line(s) between its terminals -
the graphite pencil line(s) are conductive but somewhat resistive -
so in effect the combination forms an R-C (resistor-capacitor) circuit - which is a timer.

The line(s) allow the capacitor to discharge faster - eliminating the next mode memory.

Pic -
SkyWolfEyeTLY-6501goldBoard170303.jpg

showing pencil lines between the capacitor terminals (note the good overlap of lines on the terminals for good contact)
(this is actually from a cheapo 18650 flashlight - but the components are basically the same.)

Too much/thick a pencil line may actually short out the capacitor and could stop the modes altogether.

It is very easy to start again by simply erasing the pencil line(s)
 

Bdm82

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Yes, short the capacitor by drawing graphite pencil line(s) between its terminals -
the graphite pencil line(s) are conductive but somewhat resistive -
so in effect the combination forms an R-C (resistor-capacitor) circuit - which is a timer.

The line(s) allow the capacitor to discharge faster - eliminating the next mode memory.

Pic -
SkyWolfEyeTLY-6501goldBoard170303.jpg

showing pencil lines between the capacitor terminals (note the good overlap of lines on the terminals for good contact)
(this is actually from a cheapo 18650 flashlight - but the components are basically the same.)

Too much/thick a pencil line may actually short out the capacitor and could stop the modes altogether.

It is very easy to start again by simply erasing the pencil line(s)
This has to be the most Macgyver-esque flashlight mod I've ever seen. I love it, but still...
 

UnknownVT

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Messages
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This has to be the most Macgyver-esque flashlight mod I've ever seen. I love it, but still...
I was told about this "mod" by Lynx_Arc (in this thread) on how to fix the no/next mode memory,
who said he got it off some forum himself.

Very (!) interesting thread!
Thanks!
most of these flashlights are < $2 - that's 1/10th the cost of what we normally think of as a "budget" flashlight at around $20!
I realize they don't match the quality of more "serious" flashlights -
but they are surprisingly good,
and I actually choose to use them instead of some of my more premium lights,
just because of the even lighting, zoomability, and flexibility in using any AA sized batteries including Li-Ion rechargeable..

The mod is so simple, cost zero$,
and almost fool-proof (well, I've now done over 6!)
 
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