Sofirn SF13 2×AA - First Impressions

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Phlogiston
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Sofirn SF13 2×AA - First Impressions

I bought two Sofirn SF13 lights during the recent AliExpress anniversary sale. I’m not set up for in-depth reviews, but I haven’t seen much comment on this model, so I thought I’d post my first impressions.

Please note that my units are the new model with a 420 lumen turbo level. There is an older version with a 320 lumen turbo level and lower mode levels across the board.

Here’s a photo from Sofirn and a link to their AliExpress page:

https://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/Sofirn-SF13-New-Version-LED-Fla...

Build

The SF13 is a 2×AA light, so the length is about what you’d expect at 155mm. It’s 22.5mm diameter at the head, 21mm at the tail (tapering slightly to about 19.5mm at the rearmost point) and about 18mm at the thinnest point. This allows for a tube thickness of about 1.25mm, so it’s nice and solid.

The light is built in three sections: head, battery tube and tailcap. The threads are square and anodised at both ends, so the light can be mechanically locked out. There are O-ring seals at both head and tail.

There’s enough room in the tube for two white Eneloops to go in easily, with a bit of rattle if you shake the light hard. However, there’s no flicker and no unintended mode changes. The driver board has physical reverse polarity protection, taking advantage of the fact that consumer AA cells always have button tops.

The all-aluminium structure is black anodised. I saw one tiny nick in the anodising on one of the heatsink fins, but no other defects. There is knurling, but it’s not very aggressive. It looks to me as if they made criss-cross vertical cuts into a flat surface to get flat-topped diamond knurls. I’d prefer something grippier, but I should warn you that my favourite knurling is on the Astrolux S41S, which would probably double as a wood file Smile

The light is supplied with 2 spare O-rings and a reasonably sturdy clip, which is pre-attached and appears to be made from stainless steel. The clip only mounts in one place, giving head down carry with about 35mm protruding from a pocket, so no deep carry. The battery tube is not reversible – the threads are a different diameter and have a different number of turns at each end – so there’s no chance of getting head up carry that way, either.

No lanyard is included, but there is a lanyard attachment hole at the tail.

Due to the protruding tail switch boot, the SF13 does not tailstand.

Although the tailcap has raised sections on either side of the switch boot, these are only there to provide a place for the lanyard hole. They don’t guard the switch and it is perfectly possible to turn the light on and off by pressing it onto a flat surface.

Operation

The light has a reverse clicky tail switch and mode memory, so it’s the usual click on, half click to advance to the next mode and click off. Mode changes are strangely slow – the light stays off for about 1 second after you let the switch back up – but I am getting used to it. The mode sequence is Low – Medium – High – Turbo, then back to Low and repeating from there.

Half-pressing again during that 1 second pause gets you into strobe mode, which I estimate at about 4Hz. A half-press in strobe mode takes you back to the mode you were in before activating the strobe.

Modes and Output Levels

Manufacturer mode specs from the manual are as follows:

  • Low: 8 lumens for 26h 06m.
  • Medium: 55 lumens for 3h 46m.
  • High: 196 lumens for 1h 04m.
  • Turbo: 420 lumens for 28m.

Turbo steps down to High after 3 minutes, so that 28 minutes is what you’d get if you kept bumping it back up and didn’t worry about overheating the light. I wouldn’t advise that under normal circumstances, because the 3 minute step down is a good design choice here, allowing the light to get disconcertingly warm to the touch – I tested this at 21°C room temperature – but not dangerously hot.

Strangely, strobe is specified at 420 lumens for 28 minutes, just like turbo, when I’d expect longer, given that the light is off and presumably using less power between flashes.

Comparison with Other Lights

I don’t have any optical measurement equipment, but I compared the following lights by eye:

  • SF13 (5500K Cree XP-G2).
  • Nitecore MT06MD (5000K 90+ CRI Nichia 219B).
  • Convoy S2+ (5000K Cree XM-L2).
  • Fenix UC35 (6500K Cree XM-L2).

Beam Profile

The SF13’s beam profile is general purpose, leaning slightly to the throwy side, courtesy of its smooth reflector and XP-G2 LED. There’s a clear hotspot; at any range more than a foot or so, it transitions smoothly through the corona into the spill. I couldn’t see any rings or artefacts in the beam.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the SF13 was a bit throwier than its 75m specification; the beam is slightly tighter than my Fenix UC35.

Edit: Sivy has provided a nice beamshot comparison with the BLF A6. You can find it here in Sivy’s post.

Lumen Levels

The four lights I chose for the comparison have many modes with similar lumen levels, so I tried corresponding modes side by side.

I don’t believe the SF13’s specified 8 lumen Low; I’m sure it’s brighter than that. It looks more like 15 or 20 lumens to me. I actually prefer that level, but other people might not.

However, the SF13’s Medium, High and Turbo modes appear to be “about the same” as the corresponding modes on the other lights, so there’s a decent chance that the Sofirn lumen specs bear some resemblance to reality.

Colour Temperature, Tint and CRI

Sofirn specify the SF13 as having a colour temperature between 5350K and 5700K. It looks cooler than the two 5000K lights, but warmer than the 6500K UC35, so I’d say that the SF13 meets its specification there.

I was unable to reliably discern any tint shift away from pure white. The SF13 looks green compared to the MT06MD’s Nichia LED, but pure white compared to the other two lights.

The SF13’s XP-G2 is definitely a low CRI LED, though. That was clear to see when comparing it to the 90+ CRI Nichia in the MT06MD.

Some Comments on the Manual

I noticed some oddities in the manual. For example, it has English and German sections, but the German part is for the Sofirn SP10A, a completely different light.

The manual also specifies “IPX-7” in one place and “IPX-8” in another, so that’s something to bear in mind. IPX7 is submersible, but only to negligible depth, whereas IPX-8 is submersible to at least 2 metres for 30 minutes. Call it the difference between dropping it in a 2-inch puddle versus dropping it in the deep end of a swimming pool.

Finally, the manual says “protected cells are highly recommended” and “900mAh protected AA Alkaline battery used in test.” Your guess is as good as mine, especially given that the SF13’s specified working voltage of 1.6V to 3.2V only supports 2×1.2V NiMH or 2×1.5V alkaline cells. According to the specification, 3.7V Li-Ion cells would fry it, protected or not.

Unusually for a modern light, the manual recommends alkaline cells over NiMH, but I only use Eneloop NiMH, so that’s what I tried it with, and the light works fine on those.

Single-Cell Operation

Although the manual specifies a minimum working voltage of 1.6V, my units do run on one NiMH cell and a short-circuit AA spacer. They flash slowly (at about 0.5Hz) when first turned on, which I presume to be a warning state. Half-pressing stops the flashing, but even then, the lights only do Low and Medium output levels, with a small step up to High and practically no extra output in Turbo.

In addition, they occasionally fail to change mode when half-pressing the switch, so the low voltage is probably at the limit of what the driver can tolerate. This raises the possibility that other samples of the SF13 might misbehave more or just not work at all in single-cell operation.

I ran one of these lights at High for as long as the single NiMH would hold out, and it managed at least 40 minutes at the reduced High level, which is not bad! It then stepped down to Low and continued to run, gradually fading. I stopped the test about 10 minutes later when the output was clearly well below the normal low level, at which point the cell was down to about 0.88V. The light could still be switched on at that level, too.

Incidentally, the fact that the SF13 can run on a single cell makes me wonder whether the low voltage protection specified in the manual is actually present or not. I haven’t seen any evidence of it, put it that way.

Running two cells down to the dregs would definitely risk reverse-charging one of them, and you wouldn’t get much warning, either.

Modding

I haven’t taken these lights completely to pieces yet, but mod potential looks good.

I’ve had the bezel off – it’s immediately removable by hand – so there’s easy access to the lens, reflector and LED. There’s a circle-section O-ring between the bezel and the head, with a flat rectangle-section O-ring between the lens and the bezel.

I haven’t looked to see what the MCPCB is made of, or what it’s sitting on, because I’d have to desolder it, and I’m not ready to do that yet.

The driver and tail switch board have securing rings, so they’re pretty easy to get at. You’ll need something like circlip pliers, though, because the rings have half-circle cutouts on the inner circumference, not holes that you could put tweezers in. Tweezers would just slip out of the cutouts.

Conclusion

I’m quite happy with these lights for the USD $9 each I paid for them (current price about USD $10.50), despite the slightly irritating slow mode changes. They’re perfectly serviceable as general household utility lights.

Questions are welcome, but I’m legally blind, so photography is awkward. I’m not planning to provide beamshots, LED closeups or anything like that.

Edit: Sivy has provided a nice beamshot comparison with the BLF A6. You can find it here in Sivy’s post.

Edited by: Phlogiston on 04/18/2018 - 20:13
kyfishguy
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“Incidentally, the fact that the SF13 can run on a single cell makes me wonder whether the low voltage protection specified in the manual is actually present or not. I haven’t seen any evidence of it, put it that way.”

I’ve got the older version from a “buy this get that free” special on Amazon. It got some pretty thorough use in the laboratory this winter and it does indeed have at least a low voltage warning. Might be the flashing you observed with one cell use.

Phlogiston
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That’s interesting to know – thanks for telling us about it.

It may be that I’ve bypassed some of the light’s low voltage handling by jumping straight to 1.2V – 1.3V as I did with that experiment. I should do a full run from newly charged cells right down to nothing and see what happens.

Sivy
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I got one of these in the Aliexpress sale ,good price , but still good at the regular price.

I also found a couple of the things you mention needed changing , A clip I had hanging around from another project fitted and made it carry slightly deeper in the pocket.

I got it to tail stand by fitting a nylon washer/spacer in the tail cap before all the switch/button parts effectively lowering the whole assembly below the tailcap raised sections and allowing it to tail stand quite stably.

See link and picture….

https://m.banggood.com/Stainless-Steel-Flashlight-Belt-Pocket-Clip-for-U...


Tail standing and slightly deeper clip

Also I think it must throw slightly better than the specs suggest, see wall beam shot of it on right with a BLFA6 on left , I think I read A6s throw to about 150m


BLF a6 left , Sofirn SF13 Right.

Phlogiston
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That beamshot is perfect – it shows exactly the tight-hotspot effect I was trying to describe. I’ve added a cross-reference to my original post.

Thank you Thumbs Up

When I looked at the large version of your image, I was interested to see that both lights seem to have similar PWM effects.

Sivy
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Don’t think either has PWM as they are both on there high mode which generally won’t have PWM.

Are you talking about the up and down strips on the image? ……. That is a pattern in the wallpaper on the wall I pointed the lights at for the picture Wink

In hindsight a bad choice of wall!

Phlogiston
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Sivy wrote:
Don’t think either has PWM as they are both on there high mode which generally won’t have PWM.

Are you talking about the up and down strips on the image? ……. That is a pattern in the wallpaper on the wall I pointed the lights at for the picture Wink

That’s the effect I was talking about, yes! Got a good laugh out of that, it really does look just like PWM to me Beer
Hellie112
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“I’ve had the bezel off – it’s immediately removable by hand. …. I haven’t looked to see what the MCPCB is made of, or what it’s sitting on, because I’d have to desolder it, and I’m not ready to do that yet. “

I bought the flashlight during the flash sale on Aliexpress for $8.67. The unit I received had the bezil glued tight (but with a monkey wrench it was easily removable). The driver itself was also glued in but a pair of pliers did the trick. The leads on the drivers are long and the driver itself is coated in a red plastic like material. I really like the flashlight driver ( the mode spacing and double click for strobe) So I order a second one after the flash sale for 9.37 (still a great price). I will only replace the led to a warmer tint.

SIGShooter
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I bought one in December and mine has a definite greenish tint to it. Other than that I like it and have it in one of my cars where the green tint doesn’t bother me Smile

PHeller
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Anything out there similar to this but a little less tactical and a little more warm/white?

Seems like Nitecore is the only other option and they are pretty much identical. UltraFire UF-SET9, Nicron 3W are cool but are older models compared to the 450LM Sofirn SF13 v3.

Marc E
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Eagtac D25A2 clicky has neutral options but it’s a lot more expensive.

PHeller
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I found two others that look interesting, but again are dated, the 4Sevens Quark Mini 2AA and the Lumapower Connexion X2 2xAA. Both have a more streamlined look to them and not quite as tacticool.

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I actually have 4 of these in which I have put a 3500K SST-20 in one and a Luxeon V2 In another. Other 2 are still stock. The V2 is wonderful. Great little lights.

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I guess the MCPCB on these is ∅16mm, doesn't it? 

 

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Barkuti wrote:

I guess the MCPCB on these is ∅16mm, doesn't it? 

 

Yes, it is smile

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I just received mine in the mail today. For the record, it’s the first light I’ve ever bought online, and it’s the latest version of the Cree LED I’ve had any experience with. Other than this one, my best 3 lights are an Energizer 2AA with a Luxeon Rebel at 130 lumens, a no-name spotlight that runs on 4AA and uses a Cree XR-E and puts out 220 lumens, and a Nebo Redline 3AAA that has a Cree XR-E that claims 220 lumens, but I have my doubts about that. I did side by side comparisons between the Sofirn and the Energizer since they’re most similar.

The brightness of the Sofirn is said to be 420 lumens, which may or may not be accurate. My eyes thought it wasn’t that bright, but it’s possible. Hard to tell for sure. I think distance and other circumstances make it easier/harder to tell. Definitely greener than expected, as SIGshooter mentioned.

The overall build quality is really nice, and far beyond anything I’m used to seeing in brick and mortar stores at similar prices (I paid $9.60 for the Sofirn, $22 for the Energizer and $25 for the Nebo many years ago). The pocket clip is rather shallow, but seems strong enough to hold it in place.

The shipping time was something I was impressed with. I was expecting to wait around a month, or even 45 days to get it, but I ordered it on Feb. 9th, and got it today, which is the 23rd. That’s exactly 2 weeks. The latest tracking info. showed yesterday that it was going to come on Monday, so I was surprised to find it in my mailbox today (Saturday).

Now it’s becoming a habit to see what else Sofirn has to offer. Their prices seem almost too good to be true. The Sofirn SF13 reminds me most of the old Quark 2AA tactical that used to cost $78, and wasn’t anywhere near 420 lumens.

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@LEDlove, can you open up the head without any tools?

I would like to know, thank you.

My very own high current Beryllium Copper springs: http://budgetlightforum.com/node/64047
Liitokala Aliexpress Stores Battery Fraud: http://budgetlightforum.com/node/60547

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BlueSwordM wrote:
@LEDlove, can you open up the head without any tools?

I would like to know, thank you.

I’ve tried, but haven’t been able to by hand. The head itself unscrews from the body easily enough, but the head itself doesn’t disassemble. I’ve heard it can be done if enough force is applied with a wrench. I haven’t tried that.

SIGShooter
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The head of my SF13 appears to be glued on. And the SP10 V2 I bought this past December is also glued. What a pain Sad

LEDlove
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SIGShooter wrote:
The head of my SF13 appears to be glued on. And the SP10 V2 I bought this past December is also glued. What a pain Sad

The instructions of my SF13 says that it’s glued on and that opening up the head could void the warranty. Probably not worth taking a chance on messing anything up by opening it, although I notice while looking at the LED from the outside using a strong magnifier, there’s a speck of dirt on the LED dome that I wish I could wipe off.

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LEDlove wrote:
The Sofirn SF13 reminds me most of the old Quark 2AA tactical that used to cost $78, and wasn’t anywhere near 420 lumens.

Ah, yes, the same Quarks I have 2 of but never use because of the green beam… Facepalm

09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0

SIGShooter
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LEDlove wrote:
SIGShooter wrote:
The head of my SF13 appears to be glued on. And the SP10 V2 I bought this past December is also glued. What a pain Sad

The instructions of my SF13 says that it’s glued on and that opening up the head could void the warranty. Probably not worth taking a chance on messing anything up by opening it, although I notice while looking at the LED from the outside using a strong magnifier, there’s a speck of dirt on the LED dome that I wish I could wipe off.

I don’t think that voiding warranties bother many on BLF Silly

The problem with gluing the head is that one can’t change the led, say for example to get rid of the green tint, or even replacing the lens if it cracks at some point. My SP10 has some sort of film on the inside of the lens but I can’t easily get to it because of the glue Crying

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The second unit I received had more glue inside and was a lot harder to open. I changed the led but not because of green tint (I had ordered the 320lm version). Did you guys order the “420 lm” version?

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I would tell Sofirn to stick the glue up their arses and nowhere else. I generally don't care about warranties, and much less when the potential ship back cost is a real hurdle.

 

Hellie112
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I only care about warranty when I light was more than 100€ . But then again I don’t own much expensive lights. I buy lights mostly for looks and other properties like (what size drivers/leds it takes). Most lights I buy gets the a led and driver change anyways. And this glue crap really sucks because there is a larger change I damage the body.

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There are ways to remove glue: gasoline, turpentine, white spirit, etc. Unfortunately these spirits will also damage o-rings, for example. I know this by experience (ThorFire TA13). I later opened the head of its almost twin sister Sofirn SF30 (different head design) by submerging the head upside down the essential required height for the lens. Unfortunately once more, I have to admit the aspheric lens in my TA13 is all superficially cracked on its backside now, and I have not hammered it (my nephew gave it a few forceful pumping hits on the head's zooming mechanism, though). Not sure if this last mishap has something to do with the white spirit bath it once had (I bathed it for 2 or 3 days).

By the way, Sofirn has switched to the original ThorFire TA13 design:

 

https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Sofirn-SF30A-blablabla-bullshit-LoL/32829068272.html

The torch takes 21700 cells.

 

Wink 

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Hellie112 wrote:
The second unit I received had more glue inside and was a lot harder to open. I changed the led but not because of green tint (I had ordered the 320lm version). * Did you guys order the “420 lm” version?*

Yes, the one I received 2 days ago is the 420 lumen version.
I have no way to know for sure exactly how many lumens I’m getting, but the “high” level on mine is said to be 196 lumens, which look to me to be exactly the same as my Energizer with a Luxeon Rebel at 130 lumens. The “turbo” level is brighter, but I’m not sure it’s 420 lumens.

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Can anyone confirm the manufacturer’s runtimes ? They just don’t seem right.

Do they really mean a “900mAh Alkaline AA”? Not 1900 (which would be expected out of a typical Alkaline)? Either they _did _test with 900mAh cells and runtime with normal cells or Eneloops should be twice as long (probably not on Turbo), or they really meant 1900mAh and the driver is horribly inefficient – something I don’t expect with a 2xAA light.

I’d really like to know, because that would mess up an otherwise pretty nice light.

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kikkoman wrote:
Can anyone confirm the manufacturer’s runtimes ? They just don’t seem right.

Do they really mean a “900mAh Alkaline AA”? Not 1900 (which would be expected out of a typical Alkaline)? Either they _did _test with 900mAh cells and runtime with normal cells or Eneloops should be twice as long (probably not on Turbo), or they really meant 1900mAh and the driver is horribly inefficient – something I don’t expect with a 2xAA light.

I’d really like to know, because that would mess up an otherwise pretty nice light.

I think there may be plenty of inaccuracies in their figures considering how their instruction manual reads. Lots of mistakes in translations makes the manual kind of amusing. In mine, it seems to state that the flashlight was used in a rainstorm when referring referring to the waterproofing. As for their runtime figures, it was noted earlier that the 8 lumen low level was probably closer to 15 or 20 lumens. For the record, I wondered about that 900mah figure as well. That’s more like what you’d get from a AAA battery.

All in all, for the price they are charging, it’s really nice. Far better than anything I’ve seen in stores for the same price, or even more. It’s what caused me to make my very first online purchase of a flashlight.

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Remember they used protected  AA alkaline battery. Protected and a single one LoL.

Jokes aside, alkaline cells are a really poor choice for anything remotely high drain. At 0.5A an AA alkaline will already deliver less than half of its peak capacity and if you go even higher they'll plummet in a flash. Maybe this is why they say “900mAh Big Smile alkaline”.

 

Cheers Party 

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Looks a good bit like the Zanflare F2.

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