Review: UniqueFire F12-A

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JohnnyMac
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Review: UniqueFire F12-A

UniqueFire F12-A

Specifications from Website

BrandUniqueFire
ModelF12A
Emitter TypeCREE U2
Brightness / Lumens1400 Lumens
Power12W
Bulb Quantity1
Light ColorWhite
Lightbulb / LED Lifespan100000 hours
Modes5
Mode ArrangementHi > Mid > Lo > Strobe > SOS
Lighting Distance150m
Battery Configuration1 x 14500 batteries (not included)
Input Voltage3.7 - 4.2V
Runtime1 - 2 hours
Switch TypeClicky / Clickie
Switch LocationTail - cap
LensConvex Lens
ReflectorAluminum Smooth / SMO Reflector
MaterialAerospace aluminum alloy
ColorBlack (Silver clip)
Dimensions4.45" x 1.06" x 0.87" / (11.3x 2.7 x 2.2) cm (L x Head Dia.x Body Dia.)
Weight117g / 4.13oz
ClipYes
WaterproofYes
LanyardNo

My Specs:

Flashlight type:             Flood-to-Throw (twisty)
Materials:                     Aluminum body.  Stainless Steel bezel & tail
Cell type:                     14500 only
Modes:                         5  (H-M-L-S-SOS)
Tail draw:                     High:       1.37A
                                   Medium:     .68A
                                   Low:          .42A
Lens:                           Aspheric (plastic)
Lens OD/ID/Thickness:   22.83mm/20.91mm/8mm
Driver:                         TF 1110
Driver diameter:            16mm
Emitter:                        Cree XM-L U2
MCPCB diameter:           16mm
Pill (DxH):                     Brass  (22.26mm x 12.43mm) 
Head width:                  28.28mm
Body width:                  20.86mm
Tail width:                    23.48mm
Length (flood):              108.23mm
Length (zoom):              118.22mm
Switch Boot diameter:     14mm
Waterproof:                   Yes (shallow depth)
Tailstand:                      Yes, but wobbly due to boot
Pocket Clip:                   Yes (Stainless)
Lanyard:                        No

Disclaimer:  Light was provided for review by Tmart.

 

The UniqueFire F12-A is the newest FTT light from UniqueFire and shares basic design elements with the TrustFire Z8 that I reviewed a couple months ago.  I asked Tmart if they would consider sending me the F12-A to review since it has so much in common with the Z8 that I had purchased.  To my surprise they were more than willing and have been very patient with my delays in getting this review done.  Before anyone asks, nothing from the Z8 host is interchangeable with the F12.

PROS:

  • Solid construction.  Very heavy and well machined.
  • Attractive design.
  • Even anodization.
  • Good thermal management.
  • XM-L U2 emitter.
  • Pocket clip
CONS:
  • Butt-ugly (literally) switch boot!
  • 14500 only.
  • Clip is difficult to use one-handed.
  • Not much difference between medium and low modes.
  • Usual FTT lens rings & artifacts.

Let's start off with some photos of the light itself.  As we go I will comment on the photo material as I usually do.


The light arrived with a couple of scratches in the ano at the base of the head.  looks like the outer head was dropped during assembly and scuffed the aluminum.  Very minor and if I had paid full price for it it would annoy me but be livable.

 
Knurling on head is not super grippy but provides enough grip to allow for one-handed zooming.  Machining is overall clean.  Body is very thick and should provide much better thermal management than the stainless body of the Z8.

 
The lens diameter is larger than the lens on the Z8.  It is also a traditional FTT lens, unlike the Z8 and, as such, has the usual artifacts and rings of most other FTT lights (except the Z8).

 
Etching on the head reminds you that the emitter inside is a Cree U2.  As you will see in the later photos, the U2 doesn't make much difference in output at 1.4A but if you are into that stuff then here ya' go.

 
The F12-A comes with a sturdy tail clip. It holds well but is not easy to clip on with one hand.  The downward bend on the tip aligns closely with one of the body ribs making it difficult to clip into a jeans pocket, or especially a belt, without using two hands.  I'm not a big fan of clips on my lights but at least this one can be easily removed by unscrewing two small bolts.

 
Here you can see the 2 small screws holding the clip onto the light.  Unfortunately, the screw closest to the head sticks out on the inside of the light.  If you remove the clip you would need to put the screw in it or risk water entry at the rear of the light from the empty hole. 

 
Well, if there is an elephant in this light's room, it's this damned tail cap boot. The only other line of lights I've seen use this boot are the Fierre torches that DX sells.  Looks like a cat's raw asshole.  When clicking it I can't help but feel like I'm fingering a starfish on a blown out pink sock.  Eww!  Fortunately it's replaceable and aside from its horrific looks, it sticks out past the tail crown and makes tail-standing impossible on all but the smoothest, level surfaces.  Even then it's wobbly and unstable.  You'll want to swap out the boot anyway.  If you plan on getting this light, be sure to order a pack of 14mm switch boots if you don't already have them.

 
Threading on the entire light is clean and well done.  The Stainless bezel is heavy and sturdy.

 
Between the lens and the bezel, the o-ring provides ample water resistance to keep the light dry inside at least in shallow depths.  Like the Z8, this is one of the few FTT torches that you can use in the rain or on a boat and not worry about water shorting it out.

 
The lens is a standard FTT lens and is unlike the lens in the Z8.  While larger in diameter than the one in the Z8, this light doesn't have a larger flood or smaller throw.  In fact if anything the Z8 has a slightly smaller die image in throw mode in spite of its smaller lens.

 
The emitter is well centered and protected by the plastic insulator.

 
Threaded aluminum retaining ring holds the lens at a set distance from the emitter.  Removing the retaining ring allows the outer head to be removed from the rear of the light. 

 

 
Head retaining ring removed.  Again, very clean threads. 

 

 
Hear you see the outer head removed.  At the base here you can see the o-ring that sits inside the head and provides a watertight seal as well as the resistance to keep the head in the focus you choose without being too tight to work one-handed.

 
Here you see the anodized threading that controls focus function.  The pill threads into the body.

 
The pill is threaded only halfway down, unlike the Z8 pill which is fully threaded for maximum thermal contact.  In spite of this, the F12-A more than makes up for thermal management with the better heat conduction of its thick aluminum body.

 
The emitter is attached with thermal epoxy for good heat management. 

 
The driver is held in place with a threaded retaining ring made of brass. 

 
All soldering joints appear to be well done. 

 
The driver's only marking are "TF 1110" and I've not seen it before.  It looks to me that UniqueFire is using a TrustFire driver in the F12-A/B.

 
Here is the inner face of the driver. While not a boost driver, it is regulated as the light only draws 1.37A on high from either an IMR or a TF Flame cell.  Regular AA/NiMH need not apply.

 
Here is a peek at the body where the pill threads in.  Not the very heavy walled tube. 

 

 
Moving down to the tail you will see the brass spring cap.  The cap, spring and switch are held in place with a threaded nylon retaining ring. 

 
Threading in the stainless steel tail is clean and well machined. 

 
Here are the switch internals.  The switch itself in incredibly tiny. 

 
Here you can see just how small the switch is.  Not sure it would hold up if the light was driven at 3A. 

 
With the internals removed you should be able to get to the boot but nope...still another piece in there to unscrew.  Unfortunately you can't get to it without removing everything else in the switch first.  Not a problem when disassembling it but when putting it all back together it can be tough.

 
Here is the outer shell of the switch insert.  The only way to remove it is via the holes in its base after removing the other switch components.

 
Ugh!  Now that you can access the boot you can toss it and replace it with something a little more tasteful and a little less disturbing. 

  
Here is what the tail looks like without the switch components.  Note the clip screw protruding into the switch cavity. 

  
Here you can see the difference in size between the UniqueFire F12-A and the TrustFire Z8.  Holding them both, the Z8 feels tiny and far more pocketable in comparison.

 

 

 
The F12-A has a much larger head and lens diameter than the Z8 

 
In spite of its smaller lens diameter, the unique design of its lens allows the Z8 to cast a smaller die image than the F12-A

 
In flood mode the Z8 is just a hair brighter to my eyes in the spill while still having a far brighter center spot.  The F12 has a more even flood but still has the rings and artifacts of the other FTT lights out there.

 

Conclusion:

The UniqueFire F12-A (and it's 16340 sized twin, the F12-B) are great lights on their own merit.  Far more solid and durable in build and of better quality than other FTT lights I've used.  Being underdriven XM-L lights, they won't have as small a hotspot as an SK-68 and may not throw as far but still provide more overall light.  Build quality is not as good as the TrustFire Z8 and aside from it's superior thermal management, I'd still take the Z8 over it.  

It's a close call but if you plan on running it on high for decent stretches you would want the F12.  If small pocket size is a priority then the Z8 is the better choice.  If you just like FTT zoomers then you can't go wrong with either of them.  Get both - they're cheap enough.  Sure they are 2 to 3 times the price of an SK68 but they are built much better.  Compared to the F12-A & the Z8, anything else just feels like a cheap toy.

Final recommendation:

It's a compact XM-L zoomer.  If you aren't going to whine about it not throwing as far as a Sipik SK68 then maybe you are man enough for it.  It's solid, handles heat well, and is well made.  While not as refined as the exquisite TrustFire Z8, it's still a great light on it's own merits.  I still give it my stamp of approval.

Mac-Approved!

 

Edited by: sb56637 on 08/26/2014 - 17:06
jacktheclipper
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Only 41 pictures ?

Come on .

Tecmo
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can you switch out tailcaps between these lights?

Chicago X
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That pink button looks like something you'd find after lifting the tail of a cat in heat, after a long (and busy) night out.

http://wardogsmakingithome.org/index.html

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jacktheclipper
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starfish

Laughing

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lmao@chicago. I just threw up in my mouth a little.

Dang, that little light looks very nice!

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Chicago X wrote:

That pink button looks like something you'd find after lifting the tail of a cat in heat, after a long (and busy) night out.

Daaaaaaayum!! CX,that's crazy funny,jokes aside,cool light and slick looking.I might just buy this light sans the cat-butt switch.
Sharpthangs
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I had forgotten how horrendous that tailcap was.

On my F12B (the 2×16340 version), I ordered THESE to go with it. Fit perfectly on mine.

I have been EDC’ing the F12B since I got it, and I am anxious to hear your thoughts on this one.

I finally broke down and got my first 14500 light, and may have to complete the set.

My only real complaint was the purplish tint of the emitter.

Great photos, as usual. Hope the knee is doing well.

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What was the brand of light that used the cat butthole tailcap? Something like Fierie or FierieFire. FannyFire would be about right.

Piers said " ....but who wants enough light, when you have the option for far too much "

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Yeah, like I said once before in a brief impression after receiving this light, it feels like I'm fingering a starfish on a blown out pink sock (if you know what I mean Wink ).  Truly weird tailcap assembly on this light. Now that I have the pics I need to replace the rubber boot with something a little less...erotic...in a really disturbing, skeevy way.

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Review completed

sb56637
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Thanks very much for the detailed review with all the photos! Well done. Frontpage’d and Sticky’d.

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Nice review, nice light. It looks like an HDS clone. Tempting.

Keith

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Thank you for the review JohnnyMac.

This does not sound like a winner to me. Nothing like your Z8.

~ Ledsmoke ~

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Another awesome review and pics Johnny! 

 

Glad you're feeling better. 

 

 

Don wrote:

"But as I said long ago, you are more likely to be killed by a dead fish dropped by a seagull in the Sahara Desert than by a lithium ion

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Nice review JohnnyMac! Thanks! I've had this F12-A a few months and desperately need to replace that button. I bought this for the looks and the "U2", thinking it would be a pocket rocket, but no way, glad you revealed the cause - 1.4 amps. Wonder if Eric could do up a nice driver for this thing because I really like the look and feel of this light. Stock, it's brighter than my Romisen RC-29 or Sipik Sk68, which isn't saying much, I realize.

Questions:

JohnnyMac: for the outer shell of the switch insert shown above with the 2 holes, mine came without any holes. Did you drill those or did it come that way? They look hand drilled, just wondering. I think I'll have to go ahead and drill them - not sure how else to get it apart to replace that butt ugly tailcap boot.

Sharpthangs (or JohnnyMac): will the replacement tailcap boot/button from manafont (link above) allow the light to tail stand?

 

 

Chicago X
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Very nice pics !

JohnnyMac, do any of the parts (tailcap, body) from the Z8 fit on the F12-A ?  

http://wardogsmakingithome.org/index.html

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Tom E.

Unfortunately, the new GITD boots don’t really change the wobbly tailstanding on my F-12B.

I’m with you, a driver change would make this top shelf.

I really like the clip, and it just feels solid.

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Unfortunately, the new GITD boots don’t really change the wobbly tailstanding on my F-12B.

I’m with you, a driver change would make this top shelf.

I really like the clip, and it just feels solid.

Hi - that's ashame - I may try another boot then, but these look ok and there's a bunch of them. when you changed out the boot, did yours have the drilled out holes in the switch insert? Also, I looked at the driver board in mine and it's a different board - looks like same chips, different layout, and exposed copper around a lot of the edge. It's still a TF board though, but a different # - couldn't quite make it out.

 I ordered mine at manafont, got by July 27th. Maybe mine is an older batch. Mode switching is really annoying because up until 1-2 minutes with it off, turn it on and it's to the next mode. That state is usually 1-2 seconds, not minutes. This is another big reason for a driver upgrade for me.

 

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Chicago X wrote:

Very nice pics !

JohnnyMac, do any of the parts (tailcap, body) from the Z8 fit on the F12-A ?  

Nothing except the switch boot are interchangeable. Threading is completely different.
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Sharpthangs wrote:
Tom E. Unfortunately, the new GITD boots don't really change the wobbly tailstanding on my F-12B. I'm with you, a driver change would make this top shelf. I really like the clip, and it just feels solid.
I installed a blue 14x6mm boot from CNQG and it is very much recessed. It really transforms this light into a solid tail stander (unlike the Z8's narrow tail) and makes the light an all around winner in looks and feel.
JohnnyMac
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Tom E wrote:

Nice review JohnnyMac! Thanks! I've had this F12-A a few months and desperately need to replace that button. I bought this for the looks and the "U2", thinking it would be a pocket rocket, but no way, glad you revealed the cause - 1.4 amps. Wonder if Eric could do up a nice driver for this thing because I really like the look and feel of this light. Stock, it's brighter than my Romisen RC-29 or Sipik Sk68, which isn't saying much, I realize.

Questions:

JohnnyMac: for the outer shell of the switch insert shown above with the 2 holes, mine came without any holes. Did you drill those or did it come that way? They look hand drilled, just wondering. I think I'll have to go ahead and drill them - not sure how else to get it apart to replace that butt ugly tailcap boot.

Sharpthangs (or JohnnyMac): will the replacement tailcap boot/button from manafont (link above) allow the light to tail stand?

 

 

Tom, mine had the holes already in it. If yours does not have them you should just drill them yourself. The plastic is at least 1/4" on mine so feel free to go 1/8" deep.

As for a new switch boot, one that is 14x6mm will fit perfect and allow solid standing. The normal 14x8mm caps may stick out a hair and keep it wobbly. I got mine from CNQG.

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Thanks guys! Ordered the 14x6's from CNQ, plus a few other things. For $22 in items, the shipping w/tracking was $11 but still a good deal. There discount prices seem very good. I have this light and two others (SmallSun ZY-T624, UF NH-T60) that seem to have a need for a driver update. Maybe I'll try contacting E1320 (Erik) if he woud be interested in doing all 3.

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Tom E.

Let us know how that goes. Would be very interested in that myself.

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If it works out, I'll send you one because it comes with 5 pieces. Cheaper and will save you time.

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Wow, Tom E.

Was really talking about the driver upgrade, but many, many thanks.

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 Oh, ok, yes the driver updates. I can't expect Erik to do this - I never dealt with him before, so I would want to politely ask - maybe the time/effort isn't worth it for these lights (too small, unusual sizes, never worked with them before, etc.) or maybe the cost is too crazy for these budget lights, not sure. Guess it can't hurt to politely ask - certainly don't want to be a burden to him - he's done some great things here on BLF...

 But I'm serious about sending you the tailcap boot - actually JohnnyMac already confirmed it worked out well on this light. You can PM me - probably will be 2-4 weeks before I receive the order.

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Great review!

Btw. I cant find 14x6mm boots on CNQG..

 

Oh, and if anyone is interested, the switch kinda handles 3A. I put a 2.8A driver in my Z8 (which is using the same switch) and the switch limits the current to about 2.6A. I think thats fine.

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Here it is:  http://www.cnqualitygoods.com/goods.php?id=1422

 wish I could get my own text on this link - can't figure it out...

 

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NightCrawl - the 2.6 amps sounds great! Interested in doing the same. Could you provide info/link on that driver? I took mine all apart and I think I could replace the driver board - I've done some soldering but can get help if I need it.

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Thanks for the link. Smile

 

I used this driver: http://www.cnqualitygoods.com/goods.php?id=1298

this will also work: http://www.kaidomain.com/Product/Details.S020073

 

I dont know the driver size of this light, but the Z8 uses a 15mm board. So I had to make the driver smaller and the brass ring wider until it fit.

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