Sipik SK68 (AKA Cree Q5 Adjustable Torch)
Reviewer's Overall Rating: ★★★★★
|Battery:||1x AA, 1x14500|
|LED Type:||Cree XR-E Q5|
|Date Ordered:||Nov 12, 10|
- Excellent output
- Very good build quality
- Takes both AA and 14500 batteries
- Great throw
- Came somewhat dirty
- Single mode only
- Little to no flood
- Some may consider it ugly
- Very poor battery door
Features / Value: ★★★★☆
Thought I'd try my hand at a review, so here goes.
Bought this particular light off of eBay for a grand total of $8.50, under the heading "Cree Q5 Adjustable Torch". It's a single mode, flood-to-throw light with a reverse clicky, and the particular model I got was branded Sipik Sk68, though I've seen it called a number of different things. The light came with a particularly poor sheath, but a little bit of sewing and some judicious burning helped that out a little. While I have no way of determining the output bin of the emitter, the LED itself is a Cree XR-E, using the newer EZ900 die.
Picture of the emitter
Aluminium pill showing the emitter - the white plastic ring is a retaining ring for the aluminium reflector
Pill showing the driver back side - electrical contact is very good
The lens on the flashlight is a collimating-type lens - this gives a very uniform, ring-free beam, but this type of lens also severely limits the flood capability of the flashlight - it is a thrower first and foremost. It should be noted that since the light tailstands readily you can remove the upper bezel and lens assembly to use the light as a candle.
I am unsure of the level of anodizing, but in ~1 1/2 months of usage, it shows only very faint scratching.
The light is rather obviously modeled after the Nitecore Extreme and while some may find this look rather ugly, the copied design actually serves a very, very useful function when using the light beyond the knurling for grip. I'll get more in to this in the output section. The bezel is a three-pronged "assault" type bezel. It looks kind of stupid, honestly, but the the bezel isn't so aggressive as to affect the light output.
Crenellated bezel with collimating lens.
I'm going to take off one star here as it's only a single mode and not multi-mode.
Build Quality: ★★★☆☆
Build quality is generally very good, with lightly lubricated, very well cut and clean threads, o-rings at all the major junction points, good and even anodizing and a well-centered emitter. The light as it came was electrically and mechanically sound with no issues surrounding flickering or contact. However, there are a couple of extremely annoying issues that you need to be aware of with is particular light.
1. Pocket clip. The pocket clip is very strong, and holds in the pocket very well. The downside to the way this particular light was constructed is that the screws that hold the pocket clip on are tapped right through the threads for the rear battery hatch, and as such you cannot remove the clip without affecting the sealing/waterproofing of the light. This may be an issue for you if for example, you want to carry the light in a watch pocket or a small vest pocket. The clip also cannot be reversed.
Rear threading showing the clip screws tapped straight through.
2. Rear tailcap. This thing is TERRIBLE. On the original light, the rear tailcap was extremely short, and had no knurling or grip. The spring tension on the battery spring is very high and the o-rings very tight, making it kind of a chore to screw/unscrew the tailcap to replace the battery. Fortunately, I was able to replace the hatch from another junk flashlight I had laying around, and it's no longer an issue. Unfortunately I tossed the original cap and don't have a picture of it. The light was capable of tailstanding with the original cap.
Other than that the light came a little bit dirty, with fingerprints and dust on the lens which were, thankfully enough, easy to clean off.
Battery Life: ★★★☆☆
Battery life is fairly mediocre with both AA and 14500 batteries. Since the light takes both, I'll split up life and current draw into two categories.
Rayovac "Hybrid" LSD NiMH 2100mAh NiMH
Tailcap Current Draw: 1.98A
Battery Life to Off: Approx. 1 hour, 12 minutes
Eneloop LSD NiMH 2000mAh NiMH
Tailcap Current Draw: 2.01A
Battery Life to Off: Approx. 1 hour, 2 minutes
Draw and battery life was very similar on two different sets LSD NiMH batteries. I should note that the Rayovac batteries have a slightly high mAh rating, with a similar nominal voltage (1.225V). Once the output hits 50%, the light tends to die very, very quickly. The last 10-12 minutes of each of the above showed the typical rapid decline in output.
"Trustfire" Grey Protected 14500, measured capacity 725mAh
Tailcap Current Draw: .97A
Battery Life to Off: Approx. 46 minutes
Battery life in this case was measured to absolute off - in this case the battery tripped the protection circuit after 46 minutes, which was a complete shutoff with no output decline.
Light Output: ★★★★★
Okay, the strength of this light is the output - if you want a pocket-size dedicated thrower, this is the ticket, especially when fed decent lithium-ion rechargeable batteries. While I don't have the equipment necessary to measure actual output, a number of members at CPF measured the absolute output of the light at ~80 lumens with AA NiMHs, and close to 160 lumens using a quality 14500 battery. Very, very nice from a single-AA cell sized light that cost less than $10. With the collimating lens installed, at full throw this light can put out a noticeable spot at ~150 metres or so, even with ambient lighting.
There are of course other points in terms of light output, and they're all good as well.
Beam quality is very nice - collimating lenses tend to produce very even, very uniform flood profiles, though with small spots and very well defined edges - this is certainly the case with this light. The output is very nice and even at full spot. At full zoom the beam tends to be a bit ringy, but this is hardly noticeable.
Beam at full flood
Beam at full zoom.
As to the tint, I'm not sure if I lucked out, but the tint on my particular model is a very nice neutral white with a slight tendency towards warm, even when fed a 14500. There are no traces of purple, blue or green to be found.
After about 8 minutes of continuous usage, the light will get noticeable warm, however it never really turns in to a hand-burner - I think that the copied Nitecore design is actually helping out here - there are a number of molded aluminium "fins" in the body where the pill screws in to the battery tube, and they provide a significantly greater surface area and thus greater heatsinking capability.
To be honest, I though a lot about this light was fairly mediocre - decent build quality (with a few caveats), good price, decent feature set, okay battery life. However, my opinion of this light and it's capabilities as a dedicated thrower changed drastically once I got my hands on and fed the light a reasonable quality lithium-ion battery. For the price (and the light tends to go on sale for $8.50-9.50 on eBay regularly) it's a heckuva deal, and a great mini searchlight when it's all put together.