SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone - UPDATED

selfbuilt

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This is a quick review of the new “MRV-clone” light, the 18650-only Smartfire V-68C Q5. The body design appears to be a knock-off of the MRV, but with some important differences. I got mine from Kai Domain, but I know DX also sells it.

For a detailed comparison to all the other thrower lights in my collection, please see:
Thrower review: DBS, Spear, MRV, Tiablo, Regal & clones: THROW, RUNTIMES, BEAMSHOTS!

UPDATE 2/7/08: After isolating the contacts around the emitter pill, the "flickering" issue in my low mode and strobe modes has been resolved. This is the minimum required fix for all users of this light - failure to do so could result in shorting out the emitter fairly quickly (including upon initial activation!). Buyer beware ...

The contenders:

On the left, the Smartfire V-68C, on the right, Lumapower MRV (2nd Gen),

V68C-1.jpg


Weight:
Lumapower MRV: 195g
Smartfire V-68C: 137g

As you can see from the non-battery weights, the light is not going to be as substantial as a MRV.

I’ve saved beamshots for the end, after the discussion of build quality.

Measurement Method:Throw values are the square-root of Lux measurements taken at 1m using a light meter. Note that my lightmeter tends to report lower absolute values than most, but I have verified it is linearly responsive over the range of intensities in question.

Smartfire V-68C “Q5” (18650-only) Throw Lux @ one meter:
  • 18650 x 1 on high with stock lens: 15,000 Lux
  • 18650 x 1 on high with MRV lens: 16,300 Lux
  • 18650 x 1 on high with UCL-AR lens: 17,000 Lux
  • 18650 x 1 on low: 6,000 Lux
MRV 1st Generation with DX Cree Q5 WG mod - Q5 Throw Lux @ one meter:
  • 18650 x 1 on high: 11,800 Lux
  • 18650 x 1 on low: 8,500 Lux
  • CR123A x 2 on high: 18,200 Lux
  • CR123A x 2 on low: 8,500 Lux
Dereelight DBS 3-Stage - Q4 (18650-only) Throw Lux @ one meter:
  • 18650 x 1 on high: 21,200 Lux
  • 18650 x 1 on medium: 10,500 Lux
  • 18650 x 1 on low: 1,830 Lux
DX WF-600 (18650-only) - Q2 Throw Lux @ one meter:
  • 18650 x 1 on high: 16,300 Lux
  • 18650 x 1 on low: 3,600 Lux
Throw observation:
  • At first glance, the V-68C throws the same as the Q2 WF-600 on 18650 on Hi - despite the Q5 label on the V-68C. :thinking: However, I believe this light does indeed contain a Q4 or Q5 emitter (scroll down to build quality for a discussion).
  • Throw improves with a better quality lens (see my discussion in post #36 here).

Runtimes:
Runtimes charts are slightly different from my other reviews - since my home-made milk carton lightbox doesn't accurately capture overall output on these intense throwers, I have adjusted all my relative output numbers to initial throw (measured as the squareroot of Lux @1m). This allows you to directly compare the relative throw of each light over time on the graphs below (although you can't directly compare these graphs with my other reviews).

V68C-Hi.gif


Runtime observation:
  • Again, the V-68C performs exactly the same as the Q2 WF-600 on 18650 on Hi. And again, see below for a potential explanation why.

Build Quality:

Let’s start at the top, the source of the throw problem: the V-68C (left) lacks an o-ring around the lens in the bezel.

EDIT: You can solve this problem with a 40mm x 1.5mm o-ring available from oringsusa.com. Once you add the o-ring, waterproofness should be halfway decent.

V68C-2.jpg


The light seems to use a similar-size reflector as the MRV, and the head/bezel has the exact same dimensions. But since the o-ring is missing, the reflector “wobbles” loosely inside the head unless you have it screwed all the way tight against the body so that the actual emitter seems to be holding the reflector firmly in place. This is obviously a huge potential problem, since if the aluminum reflector touches the Cree contacts you could short the emitter. :ohgeez:

Are the contacts protected? Let’s take a look under the hood.

V68C-3.jpg


Note that I have not removed anything – this is exactly what you see when you unscrew the head (i.e. unlike the MRV, there is no plastic insulating disk around the emitter). And that’s got to be one of the worse soldering jobs I’ve seen in awhile – note the bare exposed copper wiring at the –‘ve terminal. :green: So why is the light not completely shorting out in my sample? Simple reason – the reflector is not screwing down quite far enough to touch the contacts, even with the bezel fully tightened.

EDIT: On further testing, it seems I was getting some shorting across the contacts initially. This was manifesting as a "flicker" on my low mode and strobe modes that was immediately resolved when I isolated the contacts from the reflector with some kapton tape.

In any case, the emitter is not properly focused within the reflector, leading to reduced throw. :duh2: My measurements of overall output tell me the light is putting out more than my Q2-based lights – but throw @1m is no better than a Q2. See Beamshots below for a fuller depiction of the problem.

How about the further down the body? Here’s a shot of the contact board in the head (looking down the battery tube, since there’s no heatsink to unscrew). Hard to see, but there’s a rather messy soldering job in there.

V68C-4.jpg


And here are the tailcap threads. A bit messy, but they are anodized allowing tailcap lockout.

V68C-5.jpg


And finally the switch mechanism:

V68C-6.jpg


FYI, either my switch is unreliable or the emitter is shorting out on the reflector, as occasionally the light wouldn’t come on in my early testing - only flicker once upon pressing the switch and then go off.

I haven’t bother taking any additional body pics, but the type II anodizing is chipped off in numerous places along a lot of the edges of my sample, showing bare aluminum. The lettering is clear (although there is too much of it – every flat surface has writing on it).

Beamshots:

Quick and dirty comparison at ~1 meter from a wall, to show you the different overall spillbeam patterns. V-68C on the left (on 18650), Lumapower MRV Q2 (on primaries) on the right, both on Hi.

V68C-beam1.jpg

V68C-beam2.jpg

V68C-beam3.jpg

V68C-beam4.jpg


As you can see, beam profile is similar, but with a slightly wider hotspot and more defined corona on the V-68C. But that's not a good thing, as you'll see in the next couple of pics chosen to show you the effect of the de-focused reflector. These are taken close up at ~0.3 meters from the wall, on Low, to better show the hotspot.

V68C-beam5.jpg

V68C-beam6.jpg


As you can see, the reflector isn't properly focussed, even when screwed down all the way. :sigh:

User Interface
  • According to Kai's website, it's supposed to Hi - Lo - Strobe - SOS - off, accessed by clicking the switch in sequence. In fact, mine is Hi - Lo - slow strobe (2.5Hz) - medium strobe (5Hz) - off, with no SOS mode
  • Light uses PWM for low mode, at a fairly high frequency of 467 Hz. But my light originally had a horrible low freq flicker on the low mode, separate from PWM pulsing. :green: It seemed to be due to a shorting issue, as once I isolated the pill from the aluminum reflector the problem disappeared.
  • The strobe modes are also very unsual - at first, they struck me as "reverse strobes" (i.e. rather being in "off" mode most of the time and flashing "on" for brief periods - like most lights - these strobes seemed to be "on" most of the time with a partial dimming "off" during the strobe sequence). However, after isolating the contacts from the reflector, this effect has gone away. :sweat:
  • Instead, I now realize that the duty cycle is exactly 50:50 on/off for both of the strobe modes (i.e. light is on half the time, off half the time). This is an unsual strobe mode, and not likely to lead to signficant improvement in runtime.
  • There is no memory mode as such. If you wait more than 2 secs between clicks, light will revert to Hi mode.

Conclusions:
  • I cannot recommend this light for someone looking for a turn-key solution to work well out of the box - it's going to require some effort to turn it into a useful light.
  • Most important fix is to isolate the contacts around the emitter pill. My light had noticeable flickering issues on low and strobe modes that disappeared once this was corrected. Note that at least one user has reported frying his emitter on first use, due to a contact issue. :thumbsdow
  • Adding a lens o-ring would be a good second step. The 40 MM X 1.5 MM BN70 from oringusa.com is a good fit.
  • You might also want to replace the lens with a UCL AR-coated one for improved light transmission. The 41.8mm UCL lens from flashlightlens.com is a perfect fit (it was developed for the MRV), and adds an additional ~2000 lux to the peak throw in my testing (i.e. UCL produces 17,000 lux @1m, compared to stock 15,000 lux).
  • Replacing the circuit board might also be a good idea (if you can access it - I haven't tried). The two low freq strobe modes may not be very useful for most.
  • Emitter is not well focussed in the reflector, as compared to the MRV lights on which this is based. The result is a slight-to-severe "donut" effect in the center, depending on your sample.
  • Rear clicky doesn't seem very reliable in my sample.
  • The body has a lot of superficial nicks, but does come with anodized tailcap threads (useful feature).
  • Heatsinking is a big unknown (can't access it separately), but we can expect it to be nowhere near the capabilities of the excellent (and heavy) MRV heatsink.
As shipped, I'm afraid this light needs a little more work before it is ready for prime time. :candle:

But after isolating the contacts, replacing the lens and adding a lens o-ring, it is not a bad inexpensive thrower light. However, it remains to be seen if the heatsinking is adequate over a prolonged period of time.
 
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selfbuilt

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Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

I see Ernie has beat me to the punch: his V-68C review here.

Note that his light seems to have a similar build, but a different circuit.
 

woodrow

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Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

Wow, those wonderful Chinese... no copyright or patent infringement rules apparently.

Thanks for the review. It was very hard for me to spend the money for my MRV SE when there were so many other great throw lights out there for less. This one appears not to be one of them though.
 

ace0001a

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Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

Wow, those wonderful Chinese... no copyright or patent infringement rules apparently.

Thanks for the review. It was very hard for me to spend the money for my MRV SE when there were so many other great throw lights out there for less. This one appears not to be one of them though.

And yet the Lumapower is also a Chinese light. :naughty:
 

selfbuilt

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Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

Nice job as always, selfbuilt. :thumbsup:
My pleasure ... not a lot of time these days, but I thought it was important to get this review up. I imagine a lot of people will be attracted to the price tag of this light, but they need to realize what they are in for.

I'm hoping to fix up a number of the problems with this light, and see if I can't turn it into something half-way decent. But I've got a couple of higher end lights in the review pipeline right now. :grin2:
 

Pathlight

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Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

Hi Selfbuilt,

Thanks for your review. Hope you get those problems fixed & retested, soon
as you can. I plan to buy this light or the WF-600; which seems to be a bet-ter light; & a little brighter (with a Q2 bulb). I like both, but the V-68C is 3 oz.
lighter & a little smaller. Which is important to me. With a Q5 it should be br-
ighter than the WF-600. I really like your reviews. Wish I had more time and
money to expand my hobby. Happy New Year. Gordon
 

bspofford

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Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

I ordered a couple and fried the emitter when I first turned it on. I looked under the hood and found that the MRV-style reflector shorted out the emitter. I put an insulator ring over the second, and it is bright and has a nice tint. Anybody know where I can find a GITD or other MRV-size o-ring?
 

Rzr800

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Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

I ordered a couple and fried the emitter when I first turned it on. I looked under the hood and found that the MRV-style reflector shorted out the emitter. I put an insulator ring over the second, and it is bright and has a nice tint. Anybody know where I can find a GITD or other MRV-size o-ring?

Mine isn't here; yet should I (obviously) find an o-ring somewhere also before the same thing happens? (not really certain how to prevent this otherwise). Also, are these o-rings something special material or shape-wise that can't be found at the local indutrial supply house?

Thanks for the heads up, bspofford.
 
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selfbuilt

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Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

Mine isn't here; yet should I (obviously) find an o-ring somewhere also before the same thing happens? (not really certain how to prevent this otherwise). Also, are these o-rings something special material or shape-wise that can't be found at the local indutrial supply house?
Not sure where to find the right o-ring size (should be ~42mm, but I haven't double-checked). If anyone knows of a source, I'm sure we'd all be happy to hear it.

But it is more critical to insulate the contacts around the emitter. I use kapton tape ("kaptan" at DX), which is heat-resistant. But you could try the clear plastic cover from a microwave dinner - I remember StefanFS using that in one of his D-mini mods (just cut a small round hole the right size to fit snugly around the emitter ring).
 

ernsanada

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Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

My V-68C came with a plastic cover for the emitter. It fits loose not secured. Once the bezel lens is screwed down the pressure from the reflector holds it down.

You maybe able to cut something similar to this.

V68C002Small.jpg


V68C001Small.jpg
 

asturianin

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Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

Thanks for all this information, great job!!
 

Marlite

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Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

Wow, those wonderful Chinese... no copyright or patent infringement rules apparently.

Woodrow
You got that right. They have the Wild, Wild East. The D-Mini and MRV which we both have, started the Pocket Rockets and Throw Monsters. The blatant counterfeit even uses the shortened name "Lpower MRV (type)" adds nothing but cheapness and the clones find willing buyers. Lumapower, JetBeam, Fenix and Surefire and others get also get copied.

It's curious, when a guy spends $30.00 or $40.00 to upgrade a clone light and is still not happy and tries to sell it. Yup, finally sells for around the price he paid originally.
Also, our members so, demanding of perfection often help the better makers improve their offerings. Paradoxical?
It reminds me of the old saw, my manual arts teacher taught us long ago when a burger was 15 cents and value was king:

There is scarcely anything in the world that another man cannot make worse and sell a little more cheaply.
The person who buys on price alone is this man's lawful prey.
John Ruskin

Happy New Year CPF
marlite

P.S. Thanks again Selfbuilt, you brighten our days, err um nights with wise words. Kudos to you!

 
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selfbuilt

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Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

My V-68C came with a plastic cover for the emitter. It fits loose not secured. Once the bezel lens is screwed down the pressure from the reflector holds it down.
Thanks Ernie, glad to hear your's came with one. But I suspect a lot will be like mine and bspofford's - at high risk of shorting out.

It's certainly an easy fix to fasten some sort of heat-resistant plastic or tape over the contacts. I would recommend anyone who has bought one of these to check under the reflector before you try to turn it on for the first time - you don't want to fry the emitter! :sweat:
 

asturianin

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Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

So, do you think that dealextreme`s version is a good purchase? It looks nice, Q5 cree, multiple modes, good prize... or would it have any problem, like kaidomain´s one?
 

selfbuilt

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Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

So, do you think that dealextreme`s version is a good purchase? It looks nice, Q5 cree, multiple modes, good prize... or would it have any problem, like kaidomain´s one?
Typically, DX and Kai use the same suppliers, so there's no guarantee one will be better than the other.

Whichever one you get, I would just recommend looking under the reflector before turning it on to make sure the contacts are protected.
 

TITAN1833

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Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

Hi guys have a look here for O-RINGS.
Scroll down on page two you will find 42.5 there.
http://www.oringsusa.com/catalog/index.php?cPath=488&osCsid=412753b8b73acba3ce70a327689c8ae1

Not sure where to find the right o-ring size (should be ~42mm, but I haven't double-checked). If anyone knows of a source, I'm sure we'd all be happy to hear it.

But it is more critical to insulate the contacts around the emitter. I use kapton tape ("kaptan" at DX), which is heat-resistant. But you could try the clear plastic cover from a microwave dinner - I remember StefanFS using that in one of his D-mini mods (just cut a small round hole the right size to fit snugly around the emitter ring).
 
Last edited:

selfbuilt

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Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

Hi guys have a look here for O-RINGS.
Scroll down on page two you will find 42.5 there.
http://www.oringsusa.com/catalog/index.php?cPath=488&osCsid=412753b8b73acba3ce70a327689c8ae1
Thanks Titan ... I've measured the lens, it is is definitely less than 42mm (closer to 41mm). Also, I suspect the thinner ones will work better (more than ~1.5mm thickness, and I doubt they will fit under the lip).

I've just placed an order for a number of different sizes, and will post my results here once I receive them. Hopefully one of them will fit well!
 

Stereodude

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Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

Which way does the reflector need to move to properly focus the light?

I wonder why different people are getting seemingly different lights. :thinking:
 

ernsanada

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Re: SmartFire V-68C "Q5" MRV-clone

Which way does the reflector need to move to properly focus the light?

I wonder why different people are getting seemingly different lights. :thinking:


I noticed on my MRV the Cree sits higher in the reflector. The MRV reflector works with the clone. THe beam quality with the MRV reflector is better. My clone has a large ring which is off center. The MRV reflector straightens out the ring.

I tried shaving down the reflector to see if I could get the Cree to sit higher in the reflector. The MRV reflector looks thinner where the Cree comes through the reflector. Shaving down the reflector did not help. I did shave down the reflector to the same thickness as the MRV reflector.
 
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