Review: Imalent SA04 2*XM-L2 4*AA Variable Tint Flashlight

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Review: Imalent SA04 2*XM-L2 4*AA Variable Tint Flashlight

Imalent SA04 2*XM-L2 4*AA Touch Controlled Flashlight

*Flashlight provided for review courtesy of Imalent

The Imalent brand of lights are produced by Guang Tong Technology HK Intl Limited.  They have set themselves apart form all the other flashlight company's products by specializing in lights with Touch screen interfaces.  Like 'em or hate 'em, the touch screen flashlights they make are truly original and unique in the industry.  The SA04 is a step beyond their usual offerings by incorporating variable tint control, another industry first.  Let's take a closer look at what Imalent's marketing department claims for this newest offering of theirs...

Product Description from Imalent's website



Features:
* Utilizes two Cree XM-L2 LEDs, and two pieces LEDs of each color,
red, green and blue, with a lifetime of up to 50,000 hours
* Multi-functional LCD touch screen display indicate the running level and the remaining power with low-power warning
* Constant current circuit, constant output
* Electronic reverse battery protection
* Effective range of 280 meters
* Intensity : 14800 cd
* Uses 4xAA batteries
* Working voltage: 2.8~8 V
* Optimized deep metal reflector maintains great throw distance and spread with an ideal beam pattern
* Dimensions: 119.5mm (length) x 43mm (head diameter) x 40mm (tail diameter)
* Weight: 208g (battery excluded)
* Aerospace-grade aluminum alloy body
* Military Specification Type III- hard anodized
* Waterproof accords with IPX-8 standard
* Ultra-clear tempered glass lens resists scratches and impacts
* Tail stand capable- can be used as a candle
* Accessories: O-rings, Holster

********************************************************************************

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The Imalent SA04 arrived in a nice retail package.  It didn't feel cheap at all like the box packaging I've seen in some other lights.  Once open the SA04 has a great quality feel.  There were zero flaws in the finish and machining.  It had a solid heft feel to it that said it was built to take some punishment and last.  Working with it the past week or two I can say that feeling hasn't changed at all.  The controls are some of the easiest and most intuitive I've worked with.  Running through them once was all I needed to work confidently through them all.  The touch screen control panel may seem a bit gimmicky to some but it is really easy to operate with one hand in conjunction with the two soft switched on the opposite side of the head.  All controls fall to hand easily.  Being able to easily lockout the screen means no accidental changes in output.  Being able to lock out the soft switches means you can safely pack the SA04 in a bag or jacket pocket without it coming on accidentally..

The thing that sets the SA04 apart from any other light I know of, as well as it's other touch screen siblings, is its adjustable tint beam.  Some have said after hearing about this light that the adjustable tint was something you might play with for a short time then never use again once you find the level of tint that you prefer.  This may be true to a point but it is definitely a useful thing to have.  There are times, especially outdoors where humidity and air conditions may favor a warmer or colder tint for best visibility.  No other light can adjust for those conditions the way the SA04 can and it eliminates the need for carrying more than one light.  Another plus is it eliminates buyer remorse that can come with getting a light that has the wrong tint for you.  It is literally all things to all users.  Imalent can produce one light version instead of creating the same light in different tint versions and not knowing which will sell most.  You like a warmer tint? I have the perfect light for you.  You like a colder tint?  I have the perfect light for you...the same light!

In addition to variable tints in white, the SA04 has two RBG LEDs mounted in the face of the reflector giving you red, green and blue output as well as a red & blue police type strobe.  There are 3 more hidden modes as well - a medium fast strobe, a beacon mode, and an SOS mode.

Output is really nice with the two different tint Cree XM-L2 emitters blending perfectly once the beam hits about 12 inches form the light.  It also runs great on Eneloops/Duraloops and is perfect for those of you who don't care for Li-Ion cells and the extra care they require.  The SA-04 is ideal gifting to non-flashaholics because it give high output while running on regular AA cells as well as rechargeable NiMH cells.

PROS

  • Adjustable tint
  • Great output from moon low all the way to 900+ lumens
  • Excellent machining and anodizing
  • Great knurling and overall feel
  • AR coated lens
  • RBG output
  • Hidden blinky modes
  • Easy to use and remember UI
  • Waterproof
  • Zero visible PWM with CC driver.

CONS

  • Exact output selection can be tricky with touch controls.
  • OTF Output is 15% lower than Imalent's rating (possible emitter lumens).
  • One minor blip in tint control at one particular adjustment level.  Not sure if it's on all or just my example.
  • Holster flap too short for secure closure.  I'm told by Imalent that this will be resolved in the next batch.  Early production samples like mine were measured incorrectly.

PACKAGING

The packaging of the SA04 reminds me of Nitecore lights, not cheap like some lights.  Imalent is doing a good job of meeting the standards of higher quality lights.

Inside the box is a vacuum formed tray that holds the SA04, it's holster, a pair of spare O-rings, a user manual, and a warranty card.

I thought it was a really nice touch that not only is the bag containing the spare O-rings made from a very heavy mil plastic (not like the usual super thing baggies) but it contained a strip of very stiff plastic to help keep the O-rings from being crimped or damaged during packaging and shipping.

The holster is made form a very thick and sturdy feeling Cordura type nylon.  Unfortunately the closing flap on it was too short and just barely closed with about a 1/4" of Velcro overlap.  I questioned Imalent about this and they explained that there was a mishap with a light sample that had been sent to the holster manufacturer.  The sample light was missing it's top cap and the pattern for the holster was subsequently too short.  Imalent is aware of this and it only affects the very first batch.  Subsequent batches will have the correct length closing flap.

Nicely printed user manual and warranty card are included.

BUILD AND FINISH

I was very impressed with the fit and finish of the SA04.  I feel it is comparable to the Sunwayman D40A that I have in machining and finish.  The host is really solid and the alloy has the same hard, tough feel as the D40A.

The SA04 shares the same styling cues as its bigger brother the Imalent DD4R.  Two of the four flats on the body have the Imalent brand name and the model number.  All laser etching is crisp and solid.



The controls for the SA04 are on the other two opposing flats.  The display control panel on one side...

And the power and main mode/display switches on the opposite.

What sets the SA04 apart from every other flashlight on the market is the variable tint.  With one flashlight you can have warm tinted output, cold tinted output, or anywhere in between.  One light literally fits all. 

With the pictures below you can see how this is done.  The two emitters have vastly different tints.  One is cold white and the other warm white.  The touch display that normally controls the level of brightness also controls the tint level.  By pressing the power button for 0.5 seconds the touch display will change to tint mode where sliding the tint scale will split the power between the two LEDs from ratios of 100/0 to 0/100 and dozens of ratios in between.


The SA04 also has several useful RGB modes made possible with two RGB diodes mounted in the face of the reflector.  Pressing the "Mode" button on the display screen cycles through the colored modes - Red, Green, Blue, and finally, a Blue & Red police type strobe.  One more press of the "Mode" button takes you back to regular output.  To switch from an early mode like Red of Green without having to go through the remaining RGB modes, simply give a quick double click of the main power button to return to the main output at the exact brightness you were in before using the RGB.

Let's take a closer look at the body details.  The flats machined into the body keep it from rolling away when placed on it's side.  The fins aid in dispersing the heat out of the body and do a pretty good job.  The two electronic switches on the one flat are the main mode switch  (marked with an "M") and the power switch (marked with the power symbol).  Each switch is covered with a very quality feeling light grey anodized button.

Nice diamond pattern knurling offers good grip without being too aggressive.

The flat base of the tail cap allows for solid tail standing.  The flats machined in the side of the tail cap aid in anti-rolling when on it's side.

The one-piece body accepts the AA cells only from the tail of the light.  The square threads are some of the best I've ever felt in a light.  They are silky smooth with little to no play in them. They are amply greased and the O-ring creates a tight, snug seal against the elements.

Pins in the tail cap locate the springs and contact buttons with the cells in the light ala the Nitecore EA4.

The forward contact board is marked with the "Imalent" name.  Inserting cells is made easy thanks to the slots covering more than 180 degrees around the cells.  Each cell is held in place so you can insert the remaining cells without them falling out of position and getting in the way of each other.

The front of the light has the same great threading quality as the rear of the light.  The aluminum bezel seals tightly to the head.  The AR coated lens does the job well but is one of the thinnest I've seen at 38.85mm x 1.25mm.  The smooth reflectors create a beautifully smooth beam with a bright hotspot blending into a smooth corona before tapering into a smooth, even spill.

The shot below shows the purple tint of the AR coating on the lens.

Waterproofing is legit as well.  Click on high def to watch in HD.

With roughly the same dimensions as the SWM D40A, the Imalent SA04 can't help but be compared to it.

Obviously the SA04 won't have the throw of the larger single reflector on the D40A. The D40A doesn't have custom tint on the fly or RGB LEDs.

The only blemish on the reflector of my sample light is on the non-functional outer face where there is a fine scratch.  Looking in on the two Cree XM-L2 LEDs, it's easy to see which is the cold and which is the warm.  Both emitters are perfectly centered.

PERFORMANCE and UI

The SA04 is a fantastically useful light with a beam focused more on closer range work while providing fantastic output on AA sized Eneloop/Duraloop cells.  The problem with fully variable output like that of the SA04 is measuring anything other than the lowest and highest output.  Without defined preset output levels like a regular "moded" light and data I publish is not comparable to any other SA04, let alone any other light at all.  Therefore I will simply publish the lowest and highest measurable output levels.  I measure OTF lumens in an Integrated Sphere designed for the sole purpose of measuring OTF lumens.  Lux measurements are taken at a distance of 3 meters and converted back to 1 meter.

OTF  Output Measurements:

Tint (Cold/Warm)  :::::::  Lowest  ::::::  Highest
          100/0          :::::::     0.7     ::::::   761.6
          50/50          :::::::     0.06   ::::::   795
          0/100          :::::::     0.6     ::::::   655 

* For comparison sake my SWM D40A puts out 902 OTF lumens

Lux Output Measurements:  I'm not sure how Imalent is measuring their Lux data (14800cd & 280m) but based on my findings it is quite optimistic.  It still lights up the tree line 100yds away from my front door so it's still bright enough for most users.

Tint (Cold/Warm)  ::::::    Lux @ 1m       ::::::    Distance (meters)
          100/0          ::::::     9,120cd          ::::::     191
          50/50          ::::::   10,029cd          ::::::     200.3
          0/100          ::::::     6,666.7cd       ::::::     163.3

Controls:

Pressing the Power button for 0.5 seconds switches the display screen to from Output mode to Tint mode and vice-versa.  Once in Tint mode you will see that the "MODE" button leaves the screen and only the battery meter shows along with the level bars.

With the display showing full bars the tint is full cold.  With only a single bar showing it is full warm.  Obviously each bar signifies a proportional level in between the two extremes.  There are a few steps in each of the bars.  The best way to fine tune the output levels with the resistive touch screen is to use your fingernail.

Switching back to output mode (press Power button for 0.5 seconds) brings you back to the main screen.  Just like the Tint controls, the level of bars shown indicates the level of light output.  There are a few levels in each of the bars and the best way to fine tune the output level (especially for the very lowest levels) is to use your fingernail.

Pressing the "MODE" button at the bottom of the display screen for roughly 0.5 seconds engages the RGB modes and cycles through them until returning you back to regular mode.  To exit the RGB modes and return to regular mode without cycling through all the modes simply double click the main Power button.  You will return to the same output level and tint you were in before switching to RBG mode.

Side by side ceiling shots:

You can see that in NW tint the SA04 has a much brighter spill than the D40A.  In fact it almost completely overwhelms the D40A.  The hotspot on the D40A is much more concentrated than the SA04.  Both lights put out roughly the same amount of lumens but with completely different profiles.

Adjusting the exposure value while comparing each light gives an idea of the difference in spill and hotpot brightness between the two lights.

It's easy to see in the above pictures how much brighter the spill is on the SA04 compared to the D40A.f

Below I'm showing the output of the SA04 compared to the D40A.  Both lights are on their highest output level.

The first photo shows the SA04 in 100% cold 0% warm.  You can see how the overlap in the reflector cups allows the beam to fade out toward the overlap.

The second photo shows the SA04 in 0% cold 100% warm.  The beam appears more yellow than it really is because the wall is painted a darker tan/gold color.  Notice that the beam fades on the opposite side as it does on cold due to the reflector overlap.

The third shows the SA04 with the tint mix at 50% / 50%.  The SA04 does a remarkable job at blending the two tints smoothly.  In less than a foot from the lens the tints blend nicely.

 

Now for a few front shots.  This first photo shows the SA04 beam in 50/50 mode.  Notice the defined center spill with the faded edges on either side.  It's really the only way you can tell that there are two separate beams and tints at work.  It kind of reminds me of a rounded Chevy Bowtie. Smile  Outdoors it's not noticeable.

Next is the SA04 in 100% cold next to the D40A.  The spill on the SA04 is wider than the more focused D40A.  The SA04 is designed more for utility lighting and flood.  It's a perfect indoor light and is great for outdoor walks where throw isn't so important.

Here again is the SA04 in 100% warm next to the D40A.  Remember that this is a tan/gold wall so it looks more yellow than it really is.

The next series of shots are comparing the output of the SA04 to the D40A...

 

Here is a size comparison against several other common lights.  From left to right: Olight S20, Sunwayman D40A, Imalent SA04, Crelant V6CS, and the Fenix TK61

Here is a closer shot with the Convoy S2, Imalent SA40, and Sunwayman D40A.

CONCLUSION

I have to say I am extremely impressed with the little SA04.  Imalent has created a winner here and while the tint control may appear to be a gimmicky feature, it definitely has its uses.  I applaud Imalent for thinking outside the box and originating this new feature, let alone the unique Touch Display interface.  They are really trying hard to make unique products instead of copying other lights feature for feature like so many others do.  Not free of faults (listed in my "Cons" section), the faults it does have or merely niggling little ones in the grand scheme and only detract slightly from my overall opinion of this handy little light.

This is a fantastic light with great output, zero visible PWM, unique features, and excellent build quality.  With great value for the money and the ability to run on any AA alkaline or NiMH cells, the SA04 is the perfect camp light or general household use light.  Perfect for gift giving to others or just to treat yourself, it get a hearty "Mac Approved!".  Keep up the awesome work, Imalent!  I look forward to your future products.

 

Edited by: sb56637 on 09/02/2017 - 11:48
Boro
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Very informative, top notch review.

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Thanks for the review, it looks alike a very interesting light, my first thought, is the screen replaceable, one if the nice things about budget lights is that if a part fails it can be swapped out and parts are readily available.

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excellent review JM!

Would you mind keeping the wrong flashlight?
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gadabout
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Nah, just kidding! Laughing

But I do wonder whether the screen is a potential weak point, especially as it is integral to the UI.

I'm all for innovation and this light has some interesting features but I'm not quite sold on the idea yet.  Of course, it doesn't help that I already have both the EA4 and D40A in neutral tints.

Thanks for the review JM.  I can't see that you mentioned price - any ideas?

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gadabout wrote:

Nah, just kidding! Laughing

But I do wonder whether the screen is a potential weak point, especially as it is integral to the UI.

I'm all for innovation and this light has some interesting features but I'm not quite sold on the idea yet.  Of course, it doesn't help that I already have both the EA4 and D40A in neutral tints.

Thanks for the review JM.  I can't see that you mentioned price - any ideas?

I've seen it as high as $93 and as low as $73 (banggood).
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Great review JM .

Thanks for sharing .

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Quote:
I’ve seen it as high as $93 and as low as $73 (banggood).

I ordered one yesterday after reading Chibi’s review.

Banggood has it $72.99; with the 8% BLF discount it comes to $67.15.

I did some searching for another seller that might have it cheaper… I found an Ebay dealer (with 100% rating); offering a combination of being able to bid; or “buy it now”; or “make an offer”.

He was offering free shipping (just like Banggood does); but from him it’s Priority Mail shipped from the U.S. vs waiting 4-5 weeks for it to come from China.

I asked if he’d match Banggood’s discounted price… he accepted! So I should have one in 2-3 days.

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Thanks for yet another great review, infact so good i decided not to get one and stick to my sunwayman D40Aw.

Great light but way to complex for my needs, that is to flip side to a great review while it show cases the light at it’s best it also shows what it is not suitable for. I really can not see myself EDC’ing this like i do the D40A or LD41 for work.

I will keep an eye on this companies future offerings, a simpler single warm emitter like the D40A would interest me mainly because of the better switches. Touch panel not so much i view that as a weak point as i am a clutz at times.

Once again thanks for the great review.

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Thanks for the well done review.

Nice to see that some manufacturers get their eyes up for tint mixing and also thinking outside the box. Very interesting light. Should be a first buy for many. Would help them a lot to learn a bit about different temperatures and tint. On top of giving them a cool AA light with RGB.

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Hey Johnnymac,

nice to see your review up.

I have a few questions for you though, and some remarks for people who are considering buying one of these.

In my review: http://budgetlightforum.com/node/33027

I wrote about the "throw" not being even as high as your numbers, so I would have a short question first: What does your meter show with the Sunwayman D40A at the same distance?
My measurement was a rough 7150cd, while yours shows over 10000 (quite a bit more, so therefore the question about the D40A)

A few things I noticed, that are noteworthy

1. Mine didnt come with 2x XML2, but 1 XML2 CW and 1 XML WW
2. Mine wasn`t waterproof
3. The prints on your body are much better than on mine
4. your throw numbers are much higher than mine
5. you are right about the holster, its the same as mine, the flap is a little short (so if people want to buy one, and if they want to use the holster, they better ask the seller to double check)
6. It doesnt have a lanyard, nor lanyard attachmen, you didnt mention.

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wolf359 wrote:
Thanks for yet another great review, infact so good i decided not to get one and stick to my sunwayman D40Aw. Great light but way to complex for my needs, that is to flip side to a great review while it show cases the light at it's best it also shows what it is not suitable for. I really can not see myself EDC'ing this like i do the D40A or LD41 for work. I will keep an eye on this companies future offerings, a simpler single warm emitter like the D40A would interest me mainly because of the better switches. Touch panel not so much i view that as a weak point as i am a clutz at times. Once again thanks for the great review.
Thanks for the compliments.  I totally understand where you are coming from. The D40A is, to me, lightning in a bottle.
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ChibiM wrote:

Hey Johnnymac,

nice to see your review up.

I have a few questions for you though, and some remarks for people who are considering buying one of these.

In my review: http://budgetlightforum.com/node/33027

I wrote about the "throw" not being even as high as your numbers, so I would have a short question first: What does your meter show with the Sunwayman D40A at the same distance?
My measurement was a rough 7150cd, while yours shows over 10000 (quite a bit more, so therefore the question about the D40A)

A few things I noticed, that are noteworthy

1. Mine didnt come with 2x XML2, but 1 XML2 CW and 1 XML WW
2. Mine wasn`t waterproof
3. The prints on your body are much better than on mine
4. your throw numbers are much higher than mine
5. you are right about the holster, its the same as mine, the flap is a little short (so if people want to buy one, and if they want to use the holster, they better ask the seller to double check)
6. It doesnt have a lanyard, nor lanyard attachmen, you didnt mention.

Chibi, I will measure the D40A and let you know. I have to say though, with all the differences in our lights it's almost as if you received a poor clone. I am curious what others get from dealers not where you got yours.