ZEBRALIGHT REVIEW – 2 Malfunctions in all 4 lights

SYZYGY

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very infrequently, i have noticed strange behavior in my H600w IV. like, the brightness settings are not as expected, or it locks up. it's never been dropped. it's not due to low battery.

i wish i could tell you more, but it always seems to happen when i'm in the middle of something and just need the light to work, and never when i'm motivated to investigate the issue or try to reproduce it. i'm a G6/G7 user btw.

is this a problem? no, but i would not characterize the ZL microcontroller as 100% rock solid and bug free. i wouldn't literally bet my life on the thing.
 

WalkIntoTheLight

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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.

That's an interesting point on adjusting the PID temperature down. As mentioned, I have the "switch off from H1 during cold weather" problem on a couple of my Zebras. I also adjust the PID value lower on all my Zebras when I first get them. I wonder if that might be a contributing factor?

Now that it's cold again, the H1 problem will start occurring. When it does, I'll try reseting the PID back to default values, and see if that helps. I suspect it won't, but it's certainly worth a shot. The fact that yours only started happening after you reprogrammed the PID might just be coincidence, but it's worth checking out.

I've tried the lights with all kinds of different batteries, and it doesn't help. Freezing temps + wind is what makes the problem occur. Texas design company... they obviously don't test cold-weather conditions.


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.

Well, hopefully Zebralight's reliability has improved in the 8 years since that model was sold. I don't think they potted the electronics back then, for example. And, after 8 years, some things may have just loosened.
 

Climb14er

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Three ZL's... First Gen SC600, SC52, SC62. Not one single issue, problem, they're all STOCK UI's, run great. High quality batteries. I like ZL for their lights and as a company.
 

Dave Huck

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ZL AA form factor lights are my first choice for "normal" travel. That being said, with their reputation and price point, I think they're missing a huge opportunity to bring out a line of simpler UI based lights (2 or 3 level twist perhaps?) that would be "Malkoff/Elzetta Lite" (sorry!) at a more affordable price point.
 

elzilcho

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Total of 7 ZLs over the years. One shuts off from high even without cold temps. One had a parasitic drain so bad that it killed 2 batteries down to zero before I figured out what was going on. That one went in the trash. Now a third that might have the shut-off-from-high problem but it's only happened a couple times so far so who knows. The older lights have shown no issues.

Zebralights serve their particular uses and around the house they're fine but I'd never "rely" on one as a primary light.
 

WalkIntoTheLight

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ZL AA form factor lights are my first choice for "normal" travel. That being said, with their reputation and price point, I think they're missing a huge opportunity to bring out a line of simpler UI based lights (2 or 3 level twist perhaps?) that would be "Malkoff/Elzetta Lite" (sorry!) at a more affordable price point.

I believe they're supposed to be designing the "A6", which is a cheaper dumbed-down version. But, it's 18650, not AA. I agree that a dumb AA version would be nice for newbies, but perhaps it would still be too expensive for that target market.
 

Duster1671

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I received a reply from Zebralight. They suggested I check the cell for any dent/deformation on the (+) terminal, clean all the electrical contacts, and try it with a new VTC6 at room temperature.

I'd be surprised if the battery is the issue. It was manufactured in August 2017, but stored properly and cycled 10-15 times at most. But it's possible.

I did some refrigerator tests last night and with this battery, I could cause the malfunction pretty often with the light in the fridge for a few minutes, but then I swapped the battery for another VTC6 I bought at the same time and the light worked correctly out of the fridge. :shrug:
 

WalkIntoTheLight

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I received a reply from Zebralight. They suggested I check the cell for any dent/deformation on the (+) terminal, clean all the electrical contacts, and try it with a new VTC6 at room temperature.

I'd be surprised if the battery is the issue. It was manufactured in August 2017, but stored properly and cycled 10-15 times at most. But it's possible.

I did some refrigerator tests last night and with this battery, I could cause the malfunction pretty often with the light in the fridge for a few minutes, but then I swapped the battery for another VTC6 I bought at the same time and the light worked correctly out of the fridge. :shrug:

I've tried to find a way to reproduce the issue in a freezer, but have always failed. It seems that the light knows I am testing it, and refuses to reproduce the problem when I'm trying to do it.

Last winter, I tried leaving it outside for hours when it was -30C, as well as leaving several batteries to cool down to -30C as well. The light worked fine every time! Grrrrrr. Only a low-drain 18650 laptop cell, cooled down to -30C, showed a "problem", but that was just dropping down to medium output (from high) almost right away. That's totally expected. The frozen 30Q, VTC6, and GA all worked fine on H1.

Of course, the next time I'm using the light on a winter walk, problem shows up when I first turn it on H1. Arrrgh! The good news is that it only happens once, because once the light is warmed up from being on briefly, the problem goes away. This is why I suspect it's the driver, not the battery. Only the driver or emitter could get warmed up that quickly. Maybe it's partly a cold battery issue, but I'm using new cells so what else can I do?

I suppose I could just use the highest H2 mode, which works every time. But, I want the H1 to work every time too! I'm going to reset the PID, or crank it up a bit, and see if that works. It's a long-shot, but worth a try.
 

Duster1671

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My fridge testing is not extensive by any stretch, but I did notice that a few minutes in the fridge produced the issue but a longer time did not. Maybe the issue happens when the driver is cool but not too cool!


Do report your findings when you reset the PID.
 

WalkIntoTheLight

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My fridge testing is not extensive by any stretch, but I did notice that a few minutes in the fridge produced the issue but a longer time did not. Maybe the issue happens when the driver is cool but not too cool!

Hmmmm, perhaps. Mine seems to trigger on a combination of cold + wind. Don't ask me why wind seems to trigger it; I have no idea. But testing in non-windy conditions, even when very cold, doesn't seem to trigger it. When I'm out walking in winter and it's a bit breezy, it occurs quite easily. I can reproduce it quite often when that happens, by leaving it off for a few minutes before trying H1 again.

Maybe you're right and it just has to cool down to some magic temperature. Perhaps their PID controller thinks going from 0C to -1C, is like going from 0C to 255C, and shuts off the light. Okay, probably not that dumb a bug, but perhaps PID is related somehow.
 

huntingcoyote51

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I'm certainly no expert, but on the surface it seems far fetched that nine new Panasonic/Sanyo 18650's all have the same problem. OP, do you have any other suitable 18650's of known quality that you can use to rule out the batteries?

Also, forgive me if I missed it, but what charger are you using? I'm not aware of any modern chargers that don't have built in digital volt meter. Personally, I don't rely on the voltage read out on my charger, but I have a high quality multi meter. Do you have one?

The batteries are not out of the docket yet, but it should be easy to rule them out as the culprit.

I would agree with this too. There's no way that 9 batteries are all failing in the same way at the same time.
 

Robot Mania FU

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This thread is definitely interesting. In all my years of owning zebralights, I've never had one malfunction.....however, all of mine are older gen's except for an h600fc mk IV which also runs flawlessly. I almost always run the red sanyo cells. The big kicker here is I've never touched the PID thermal programming. Also, I don't really think this would make a difference, but on any light with g6/g7 modes, I've always swapped my settings so that the highest output level was on a secondary setting like H2. It seems like a common theme here that there are issues with the H1 setting after touching the PID programming. Are all the people in here with issues leaving the H1 setting on the highest output? I remember while doing research when the high cri h600's came out that there were a few people experiencing an issue that was resolved by swapping the 1568 and 980 lumen levels.
 

WalkIntoTheLight

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All my Zebras have been flawless at normal temperatures. I've only experienced the H1 issue in cold + wind, and I've seen it on all my MkIV lights I've tried. Have you tried your light on a cold winter night? It's not easy to reproduce, conditions have to be just right, but if the weather meets those conditions I can reproduce it every couple of minutes if I leave the light off during that time. -15C and windy seems to be about right, though I've had it happen closer to freezing as well.

Might have something to do with PID. I'll try resetting that the next time I can reproduce it. Also might have something to do with the battery, or the voltage level of the battery (seems easier when the battery gets down to around 3.8v). So, voltage depression (which is quite severe in the cold) could be a major factor. Though the issue is very different than the normal step-down you get when the LVP kicks in.

I'm not sure if swapping the H1/H2 in groups 6 and 7 has anything to do with it. I guess I could try that too.

I've got a H600Fc coming in another week or two. I'll try that one to see if it also has the issue.
 

Stefano

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Interesting what I read on the batteries here.
I left a red Sanyo NCR18650GA (charged) battery inside my H600Fc, after 30/40 days I go to turn on the light, it was dead.
I thought of a light malfunction or an abnormal parasitic discharge.
Then I found out that the battery had dropped to 0.
I reloaded it (with Xtar VC4 it saw it as NimH!) But after a week it returned to zero and died - it was brand new, maybe it had one or two discharge cycles.


It is the first time I see a battery die, this year I saw an Eagletac 3400 mA protected but it was 6 years after the purchase and it was used a lot I hope the faulty Sanyo GA was just bad luck.
Now I have ordered the Samsung 30Q to replace.
 

Fireclaw18

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I love Zebras. They have great size, ergonomics, UI, drivers, and heatsinking. But that said, they do seem to have quality control issues. I've purchased 17 Zebras over the years, and 10 of them have had problems, 8 of which were big enough to seriously detract or destroy the usefulness of the light.

This is a larger failure rate than I've experienced from any manufacturer and makes me hesitant to really depend on my Zebras. I don't really feel comfortable carrying around a Zebra until I've used it for quite awhile and can verify it's not one of the quirky ones.

Here's what I experienced:
SC51 - no problems
SC52 (first run first run preorder) - no problems
SC52w (first run preorder) - turbo supposed to last 1 minute, but typically only lasts 20 seconds even on a fresh high-quality cell. This seriously diminishes the usefulness of the light.
SC62d (first run preorder) - no real problems. Anodizing wasn't quite even, but I don't consider this a defect since in operation the light works fine.
SC62w (first run preorder) - won't stay in turbo for more than 10 seconds even on a fresh cell.
SC63w number 1 (first run preorder) - initially worked fine, but after a couple weeks of light use won't stay in turbo for more than a few seconds. Returned and replaced.
SC63w number 2 - initially worked fine, but after a week of light use won't stay in turbo for more than 10 seconds.
SC80 (first run preorder) - everything works fine except H2 which doesn't work at all.
SC600 (first run preorder) - serious switch problem that caused the switch to activate when just lightly brushed with fingers without depressing the switch at all. This was a known problem with first-run SC600s. Light was returned for warranty repair. Received it 2 months later and it has worked flawlessly ever since.
SC600w III HI (first run preorder) - no problems
SC600 IV Plus (first run preorder) - no problems
H604c - no problems
SC32w (first run preorder) - initially worked fine, but gradually over the course of a couple weeks after purchase the time it would stay in turbo got shorter. After just a few weeks of use, the light won't stay in high for more than 1 second even on a fresh cell. Effectively, the light only has medium and low modes seriously detracting from its usefulness.
SC64w HI number 1 (first run preorder)- when turned on in H1, it occasionally instantly turns off after a second. When that happens the light does not respond to further inputs and the tailcap must be inscrewed to reset it. Problem is occasional. Irritating when it happens, but not common enough to be a big issue. I figure maybe once every 30 activations or so.
SC64w HI number 2 - worked fine for first couple weeks, but then pretty much died. It still reacts to the button, but now won't go above very low no matter what is pressed. Light is unusable.
SC5w (first run preorder) - worked fine for first couple weeks. Then abruptly died. Light still reacts to button presses, but everything is just shifted a lot dimmer. H1 is now about as bright as a bright moonlight and all other modes are dimmer. Light is unusable.

All my Zebras were purchased directly from Zebralight on their website. Most were first run preorders, which could be the cause of my higher than expected failure rate. Preorders don't always have all the kinks worked out. None of them have ever been dropped and except for my H604c, all of them have seen only light use.

I used quality lithium ion cells in all the lights purchased from a reputable dealer (Mountain Electronics), except for the SC5w which used an Eneloop Pro. The problems I experienced weren't due to the cells, which worked fine in many other much higher powered lights from other manufacturers.
 
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SSANDERS

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Wow.

Ya'll have effectively turned me off 100% to ZLs.
I was on the cusp of ordering one to replace my trusty Protac 2Ls and S2R Batons for EDC. Just can't do it now.
 

WalkIntoTheLight

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Yeah, some people seem to have horrible luck with Zebralight. Not sure if they're on a "naughty list" or something. Given their price-tag, I'd expect much better quality control. I get that they're pushing the limits of flashlight design, but that shouldn't come before reliability.

Perhaps I've been lucky, except for my whining about a minor cold-weather issue. I've bought various models over the past 7 years and have liked every one. Still use them all. Overall, I strongly recommend them. I hope the one I've got coming in the mail isn't going to break my winning streak.

OTOH, perhaps the people with bad luck are just due to normal randomness. Someone's got to win a lottery, similarly someone's got to have very bad luck. On the Internet, you're not going to get a lot of content people posting about all their non-problems.
 

Stefano

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I also got lucky with the Zebralight but I almost never bought models that have just come out.
I seem to remember that I bought an H603w when it was just announced, it worked fine except for a bad tint at low levels (I realized later that it's easy to find bad tint with XHP35)


Perhaps to have a certain assurance of reliability it would be good to wait a few months so that the manufacturer can solve any initial problems.
This can happen with lights (of many brands) and also with other objects such as cars.
 
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