Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Lighten7 Elite S1A Review

Lighten7 is still a relatively obscure company in the flashlight industry but they are working on changing that with some new products with the latest being their compact powerhouse, the Elite S1A:

With 700 decently regulated lumens on tap and a pretty compact form, this should be a consideration for those looking to EDC 18650-sized lights. Let's see how it fares in that regard... 

MFG SPECSMSRP (USD): $79 (non-kit version in this review)
• Premium CREE XM-L U2 LED emitter
• Maximum output at 700 lumens with max. runtime over 28 hours
• Powered by 1x18650 Li-ion battery (Kit set bundles battery and charger)
• Easy access side switch for output modes change and strobe, momentary-on at tail switch
• Advanced driver provides constant current discharge, reverse polarity protection, low voltage warning 
• All-in-one circuit room structure enhances heat conduction and dissipation 
• Aerospace class aluminum alloy with military class type III hard anodized body 
• Stainless steel strike bezel adds protection capabilities
• Textured reflector to balance the beam spread and distance with armored lens 
• Compact design for everyday carry and all kind of outdoor activities

PACKAGING / CONTENTSThe S1A arrived in their Eco Packaging (kit versions get a presentation case):

Accessories included are:
- 2 x o-ring's
- lanyard
- holster
- tailclip
- spare lens (& corresponding o-ring)
- user manual

CONDENSED VIDEO SUMMARY Here is a quick high-level video summary of the S1A while while I work on fleshing out this review:

DESIGN / FEATURESThe S1A features a removable SS bezel that allows one to easily note if the S1A is on when stood bezel down:
While it's easily removable and allows access to the lens and o-ring behind it, the reflector seems to be glued down and not removable.

The lens doesn't feature any AR coating:
The XM-L U2 emitter sits perfectly centered in the reflector, albet, given it's textured, it's not as critical as with a smooth reflector.

These heat-sinking fins do a pretty good job of shedding heat from the light:
The electronic side-switch is situated just past it; it's only operable when the rear main switch is on. 

The battery tube features two flat-sides with the company's name engraved on one and the model on the other: 
The texture is pretty smooth (as is the anodizing) and doesn't contribute at all to the grip.

Here's the S1A diassembled into its three main parts:

There is a raised point under the head allowing the use of flat-top cells; the tailcap features two raised "guards" as well as an oblong attachment point for the included lanyard:
The rubber tailcap cover however protrudes past the guards rendering it unable to tail stand; one could possibly replace it using needle-nose pliers to dissasemble the tail switch.

L to R: RediLast 3100 | XENO S3A | Lighten7 Elite S1A | Sunwayman T20C | XENO G10v2 | XTAR TZ20 | FoxFury Rook CheckMate | Niwalker 550N3 | ThruNite TN11S | Crelant V9-T6 | Lighten7 Elite M1A | Lighten7 Elite M1B

As can be seen in the pic above, the S1A ranks as one of the most compact 1x18650 sized lights in my collection with only XENO's ultra-compact S3A being smaller.

When gripped w/my left-hand and with my thumb positioned between the two raised tailcap guards, my pinky conveniently falls on the side-switch allowing me one-handed access to both switches (not the case with my right-hand though):
Regardless if held overhand or underhand, the S1A feels great in my medium-sized hand but could likely be on the smaller side for those w/large hands.

FIT & FINISHLighten7 looks to have stepped up the QC since their initial launch in which the three lights I reviewed from their first production run all had minor issues. I'm delighted to report that none cropped up with the S1A during my time testing it thus far.

The SS bezel is properly deburred with no sharp edges (this was a common problem with the other three):
The side-switch could stand to be just a bit more crisp but that's really more a personal preference than QC issue. Also, I found it a little too easy to engage strobe when cycling through mode changes, I would like to see the double-click timing shortened up a little.

The HA-III finish is interesting in that it's a glossy and while I personally prefer matte, regardless, it was flawless and evenly matched across all parts:

Note: Flash was intentionally used in this shot to highlight any mismatching but none was found.

There were none missing in the grooves of the texture, around sharp edges or within the heat fin areas (these are common issues found on poor anodizing process):

All engravings are also nice and sharp with no blotchiness (although the concrete finish may give it that apperance):
The rear forward-clicky switch provides a nice tactile feedback.

As mentioned, overall, I have yet to find any significant issues but I'll report back long-term on how the S1A holds up.

UIThe tailcap switch acts as the master on/off (ie: when off, side-switch is non-functional) and is a forward-clicky thus can be used for momentary activation. Because it's not used to change output levels or to activate strobe it can be used for signaling purposes without fear of changing levels or accidental strobe activation.

When clicked on, the S1A will always default to High level. With the S1A on, depressing the side-switch will cycle to the next level and always in this order: H > M > L (repeat). Strobe can be activated at any time by double-clicking the side-switch although I did find that the duration to activate it is a bit long thus sometimes it misinterpreted my quick cycling as an intent to activate strobe. I would like to see this tightened up a bit so that it takes two very quick presses to activate strobe. Also, another quirk is that the two quick-presses will actally cause it to cycle to the next mode on the first press and then activate strobe. So if on H, it'll activate M first and then Strobe.

Overall, the three levels are well spaced, although I personally would've preferred a lower low (say around 5lms or less vs. the current 30lms).

BEAMSHOTSIndoors (5m)



For details of the above indoor shots and comparo vs. many other lights, please check Epic Indoor Shots Trilogy

RUNTIMEThe relevant battery stats are provided above each runtime graph along with: 
- Voltage of the battery at the start and end of the test
- Current draw
- Actual runtime using ANSI FL1 (first in HR and then in M so for the RL3100 on High, read this as 1.4hrs or 83min)
- NEW (as of May 2012): Lumens measured on my PVC LMD @ 30 seconds
- Also for High, captured the temperature: ambient, the head/fins at start and the max it reached (fan was used for all bats)

NOTE: The strange temp line is due to incorrect setting on DMM at start so I only caught the latter portion of the run. Will update chart w/other runs and correct temp graphs but ultimately, the important bit is the max temp reached. 

While not table-top flat, the S1A runs pretty well regulated for such a compact light and given the output, there is a bit of heat involved with max temp reached of nearly 112F. I was able to match the runtime of 1.4hrs using a RL3100.

NEW 10/23: Wrapped up runtime w/AW2600 and IMR and took tailcap current measurements. At 2.2A+ draw, this is the hardest driven light in their lineup that I've tested and the 700+ lumens is wholly realistic. I unfortunately didn' log the IMR temp reading but it was pretty much inline w/the other two cells.


turboBB-licious- excellent build quality
- decently regulated output that averages > 680lms over the first hour (with RL3100 or AW2600)
- reasonably compact for an 18650-sized light

turboBB-cautious- not compatible with 18700 cells (or any cell longer than 69mm)
- side-switch a little trigger happy to invoke strobe when cycling through output levels
- might be slippery to hold given the smooth finish and lack of agressive texturing

turboBB-wishes- tightening of timing for double-clicking to invoke strobe

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