ZEBRALIGHT REVIEW – 2 Malfunctions in all 4 lights

Outdoorsman5

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Fireclaw18

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Another possibility is a bad ground connection between the driver and the body.

Over the last 5+ years I've owned something like 10+ Zebralights. 60-70% of them were defective and had early failures with light use. The most frequent problem, which occurred with several lights, is that the lights won't stay in H1.

The problem tends to get progressively worse. When purchased, the lights would stay in H1 for almost as long as rated for. But after 1-2 weeks of light use that time had shortened drastically. My worst light for this is my SC32W which won't stay in H1 for more than 1-2 seconds, even on a fresh top-quality IMR cell from a reliable seller that works just fine in much higher-current lights from other manufacturers.
 

Hugh Johnson

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Thanks for the info(again), my bad. Video wise, probably easiest to upload to youtube, then link it here with the video link(will appear as a screen).I dont have a latest ZL yet, i tend to wait a while(late to the party so to speak). So i will wait longer till any potential gremlins are ironed out. I do have a couple of ZL's with the new UI, but these are AA fed(sc5c and sc53w). So far no issue, or nay i have noticed and both have been programmed.

Good to know. I'm cross shopping the SC5w II vs. SC53w.
 
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Outdoorsman5

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OP here,

I'm updating this thread for anyone who might care. After returning the first of the 4 defective lights (SC600w MkIII HI) to Zebralight for the THIRD time, it was finally returned to me. IT STILL HAS THE EXACT SAME DEFECT (cuts out randomly & abruptly from max.) It behaved this way multiple times this weekend on a freshly charged battery and one partially depleted battery...I didn't feel the need to test it with any of the rest of my 18650's all bought from zebralight.

Out of the remaining 3 defective lights that I bought more recently, I was able to return 2 of them for a refund, but the fourth light was not allowed (I was outside of the 30 day window a bit - my fault, but I did not know the light was defective until it was too freaking late.) They returned it to me, and it also STILL HAS THE EXACT SAME DEFECTS (cuts out randomly & abruptly from max AND mode skips and/or sticks when programming G6 & G7 making G6 & G7 useless. The new UI WAS THE BIGGER REASON I WANTED THE NEW LIGHTS.) This time no further solutions were offered by Zebralight ------------- so I give up...they win & can keep the stupid money.

For 18 months I've given them the benefit of the doubt, and believed they would fix the problem. They have not. To reward them for their lack of effort with me, I have written "One Star" reviews on their website for each light. Will I really change anything - I doubt it. Are defective flashlights really this important - No. I have a feeling Zebralight has a widespread problem on their hands since I received 4 defective lights in a row over the course of 18 months, but will I ever get the truth - I doubt it.

By the way, I still really love the rest of my older non-defective zebralights. My son & I just took our Scout Troop caving last month. My son had the H600 & I had the H600w MkII on our helmets, and SC62w in our pockets. We are heading for summer camp next month for a week and will have nothing but zebralights with us.

I'm not trying to hate on them, but ZL has been failing miserably with me. Maybe ZL is getting too big for their britches to care; I honestly can't tell. I hope this thread helps someone. I also hope Zebralight takes notice.
 

Fireclaw18

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I do wonder if the problem is the Panasonic GA batteries.

How about trying some quality high-drain IMR batteries? I recommend Samsung 30Q or Sony VTC5a or VTC6. Best purchased from a reliable supplier like Mountain Electronics.

Perhaps the problem is the GA batteries Zebralight sells just aren't cut out for these higher powered lights.
 

Outdoorsman5

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I do wonder if the problem is the Panasonic GA batteries.

How about trying some quality high-drain IMR batteries? I recommend Samsung 30Q or Sony VTC5a or VTC6. Best purchased from a reliable supplier like Mountain Electronics.

Perhaps the problem is the GA batteries Zebralight sells just aren't cut out for these higher powered lights.

I've wondered the same Fireclaw regarding the lights abruptly cutting off. It doesn't make sense though that the battery would affect the other malfunctions I'm having with the UI (mode skipping or sticking - see videos I posted on the previous page for a demonstration.) Since I use H1 the most outdoors, it'd be worth it to me to get the Samsung 30Q or Sony VTC5a or VTC6 bats. Will all three fit in the SC600w MkIV HI?? Thanks man.
 

Fireclaw18

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I've wondered the same Fireclaw regarding the lights abruptly cutting off. It doesn't make sense though that the battery would affect the other malfunctions I'm having with the UI (mode skipping or sticking - see videos I posted on the previous page for a demonstration.) Since I use H1 the most outdoors, it'd be worth it to me to get the Samsung 30Q or Sony VTC5a or VTC6 bats. Will all three fit in the SC600w MkIV HI?? Thanks man.
Yes all three fit in the SC600 Mk IV and SC64. Make sure to purchase the flat-top versions of the cells.
 

WalkIntoTheLight

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I've wondered the same Fireclaw regarding the lights abruptly cutting off. It doesn't make sense though that the battery would affect the other malfunctions I'm having with the UI (mode skipping or sticking - see videos I posted on the previous page for a demonstration.) Since I use H1 the most outdoors, it'd be worth it to me to get the Samsung 30Q or Sony VTC5a or VTC6 bats. Will all three fit in the SC600w MkIV HI?? Thanks man.

Yes, I've used the GA, 30Q, and VTC6 in my SC600w MkIV HI. They all fit fine. I'm not betting it will fix your problem, but perhaps it's worth a try.
 

xevious

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Thanks Fireclaw and WalkIntoTheLight. I just ordered some VTC6's to see what happens. At $6 each, it's worth a shot.
Can you let us know what happened?

Frankly, I'm totally shocked by what had been reported here... the number of defects encountered, in testimony by at least 2 people. I'm completely baffled, as Zebralight has such a great reputation.

My thought about this in terms of the troubleshooting... is that they should offer the OP to pay for shipping of the charger and cells, and the lights. Their QC team should then use them to attempt replication. This way ALL components in the operation are in their hands, to eliminate any ambiguity. They really need to know what's going on here.

I've had one Zebralight thus far, and have enjoyed it -- very, very reliable SC52w. And it has led me to want another Zebralight (an 18650 model). Now? I'm fearful of the "defect lottery".

Btw, if it is indeed the batteries... the very batteries Zebralight provided... it raises questions about how it could possibly manifest the problem, as many different cells were tried with the same result. It would suggest that there's a programming fault in the firmware that is tripped under certain battery response circumstances. On Zebralight's side, I wonder if their QC team didn't spend enough time testing AND... seeing absolutely no problem, sent back the original lights instead of new ones (because... can't resell these since they're used!).
 
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SubLGT

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...For 18 months I've given them the benefit of the doubt, and believed they would fix the problem. They have not. To reward them for their lack of effort with me, I have written "One Star" reviews on their website for each light...

They deserve it. Along with the tint lottery, there is also the "defect lottery" as "xevious" mentions. AT CPF, Zebralight seems to get a free pass on quality shortcomings and poor customer service, but a company like Armytek gets bashed for the same thing. :shrug: (I own both Armytek and Zebralight flashlights).
 

mlot51

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I have the 600w MKIII HI and experienced the same problem, the light "shuts off" on high occasionally. Oddly, the light actually wasn't shutting off I think...it was still in high mode because a double click kicked on the next lowest programmed high mode and with another double click the light would kick back up to the highest mode and work normally. The light went back to ZL three times, each time coming back with a new Sanyo 18650GA and still not working right. I agree with the comment above regarding the 10A of the GA possibly not being enough in these lights. The problem was consistent using all 4 18650GA I have. These cells all functioned fine in my SC64w though. The solution for me was switching to the Samsung 25r 20A or the Sony VTC6 30A. The 600w MKIII HI works fine using these higher amp cells, at least in my case.
 
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WalkIntoTheLight

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I have the 600w MKIII HI and experienced the same problem, the light "shuts off" on high occasionally. Oddly, the light actually wasn't shutting off I think...it was still in high mode because a double click kicked on the next lowest programmed high mode and with another double click the light would kick back up to the highest mode and work normally. The light went back to ZL three times, each time coming back with a new Sanyo 18650GA and still not working right. I agree with the comment above regarding the 10A of the GA possibly not being enough in these lights. The problem was consistent using all 4 18650GA I have. These cells all functioned fine in my SC64w though. The solution for me was switching to the Samsung 25r 20A or the Sony VTC6 30A. The 600w MKIII HI works fine using these higher amp cells, at least in my case.

Was this problem in cold weather? I have the same issue with a couple of my Zebras, but only in temperatures around -10C or colder. The light has to be off for awhile, and cooled down to below freezing, for the problem to occur. Only happens if I try to turn it on in H1. Once it warms up a touch, no issues. I always suspected the light, but it could be the batteries, since there is a significant initial voltage sag at those temperatures.
 

mlot51

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Was this problem in cold weather? I have the same issue with a couple of my Zebras, but only in temperatures around -10C or colder. The light has to be off for awhile, and cooled down to below freezing, for the problem to occur. Only happens if I try to turn it on in H1. Once it warms up a touch, no issues. I always suspected the light, but it could be the batteries, since there is a significant initial voltage sag at those temperatures.

Cold weather didn't seem to matter. I live in New England so the light has had some time in the cold but I don't store it in the car or outside and it rarely gets below -0 F where I am. It would malfunction in warmer temperatures too, sometimes just playing with it around the house. The higher amp cells (20a/30a) seem to work fine no matter the weather. Im running the Sony VTC6 in it now and I haven't seen the malfunction since ditching the GA's.
 

xevious

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Was this problem in cold weather? I have the same issue with a couple of my Zebras, but only in temperatures around -10C or colder. The light has to be off for awhile, and cooled down to below freezing, for the problem to occur. Only happens if I try to turn it on in H1. Once it warms up a touch, no issues. I always suspected the light, but it could be the batteries, since there is a significant initial voltage sag at those temperatures.
I tried this with my SC52w... left it out in the deep cold at night for a few hours (with battery inside), then brought it in to test out. Worked A-OK. But this is an early AA light, so whatever is tripping up the SC64 and SC600 must be due to newer firmware/hardware.
 

WalkIntoTheLight

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I tried this with my SC52w... left it out in the deep cold at night for a few hours (with battery inside), then brought it in to test out. Worked A-OK. But this is an early AA light, so whatever is tripping up the SC64 and SC600 must be due to newer firmware/hardware.

Yeah, I've never had any cold-weather issue with my AA Zebralights. They all work fine. Different battery chemistry, different boost-driver design.
 

tonkem

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I have experienced what the OP is mentioning about turning the light on in H1(max) on my Sc62, and it immediately steps down. The remedy has been just unscrew the tailcap for a second and screw back in, and works again. While it is annoying, the light is too old to be worth fixing, and still works fine otherwise. I have the SC63, SC600F MKIII, and SC600 MKIII all using the Sanyo RED cells without issue in all but the SC62. I also have 3 H600's I, II and III models, all of which do not display this one issue. It would seem to me to be something to do with the light itself, since my SC62 is the only light among all of my 18650 Zebralights the exhibits this behavior. I also have several Sc52's that work as they should using both the AA and 14500 batteries.
 

Duster1671

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Bumping this thread to report that I'm having the same issue with the light turning off shortly after coming on to H1 in a SC600w Mk IV HI. I bought the light about a month ago and it worked flawlessly until just recently where the problem started. I've been able to reproduce it a half-dozen times already using unprotected flat top VTC6 batteries. The only thing noteworthy is that I recently ran the light on H1 for 10 minutes or so, adjusted the PID temperature down 2 degrees, and then ran it for another 10 minutes on H1. The next day the malfunctions started.

I submitted a ticket to Zebralight describing the problem, but I'm not sure what they'll say if this is still a problem over a year later. Has anyone found anything that works aside from switching to a higher drain cell? I'm already using VTC6s.
 

spoonrobot

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I have the same issue with a H600w MkIV I purchased in Feb 2019 - I use it as a helmet light and did not have the issue the first 3-4 months or so. Only started happening after it had been in use for a few dozen hours. I've used both Rofis brand 3400 protected 18650 cells as well as Sanyo NCR18650GA 3450mAh 10A cells and it malfunctions with both.

Originally I thought it was a length issue but using magnets on the NCR cells still had the problem manifest. It doesn't happen often - maybe 2 times a week on 7 hours of use average. But it is annoying.
 

RetroTechie

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Concerning ZL reliability issues: I recently had an SC51w (1x AA) die on me for no apparent reason. To be precise: it took a fall, from about 1m high onto my shoe, :) and into a cat litter box. Silly but not something that would have generated high G forces.

From then on, it acted up badly. Under test, it would sometimes work when subjected to a tailcap current measurement. But not when tailcap itself was screwed on. Most of the time: nothing happening. Or some strange strobe / pwm type output. A contact problem with the spring or pcb in the tailcap? Multimeter confirmed not. I even tried grinding down the rim of the tailcap slightly to have the pcb contact the body before screwed on completely. All to no effect. It appeared to me like somehow the controller inside didn't get reset properly. Or its internal program memory / EEPROM was failing. Or something like that. No visible damage to driver or body besides a tiny bit of corrosion around the side switch. This is all with a known good, quality NiMH in it (I did try other batteries). In the end I gave up and pulled it apart. :( Rubber boot on the switch was destroyed, one of the press-fit rings went missing, conclusion: impossible to repair. Shipping to ZL was out of the question since back & forth from NL <-> US is way more expensive than what I originally paid for it (2nd hand, € 20). LED is fine. Possibly I'll re-use the parts & convert to a 1-mode, 14500 powered light that lights up when battery is inserted.

I liked this light a lot: compact, top notch quality of the anodized finish, UI (although I dislike the programmable sub-levels as they'd accidentally be undone sometimes. Just pick well chosen fixed modes & be done with it please), LED tint, and efficiency. Hardly ever took it outside, never dropped it before (to be fair: dunno about previous owner. But no reason to suggest he abused it either). Never had a Li-ion in it since I read manuals & prefer to stick to specs... :)

Bottom line: despite really LIKING the one ZebraLight I ever owned, I'd be hesitant to recommend buying one to others. For myself, unlikely to buy another ZL any time soon. The price point of ZebraLights demands better reliability than what I've seen for myself. Which is a shame since like said, they appear really well built with many good things to say about them. Of course this is just my humble opinion based on very limited experience. :thinking:
 

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