Review: Lighten7 Max L2A (XM-L | 2 x 18650)

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turboBB
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Review: Lighten7 Max L2A (XM-L | 2 x 18650)

Lighten7 is a newly established flashlight manufacturer and this is the first review of their products which will cover the Max L2A, the "big gun" in their line up. Let's see how well it stacks up to existing competition:

 

 

MFG SPECS
MSRP: $119 USD

 

PACKAGING & ACCESSORIES

The L2A arrived in a printed cardboard box w/a plastic cut-out window that partially displays the light:

The light was cushioned by ample foam that should provide good protection in transit:

Additional accessories/ items included were:
1 x lanyard
2 x large clear O-ring
4 x small black o-ring
Instruction manual

 

DESIGN / FEATURES

Starting at the head, there is a solid SS crenelated bezel (with a clear O-ring around it) that is removable allowing access to the lens, OP reflector and LED:

The lens is supposed to feature double-sided AR coating but this sample didn't. Lighten7 has mentioned that the samples I've received were literally from the very first batches from the factory and they noted some minor QA issues that didn't meet their specs that they are working to rectify. I'll be noting those throughout the review:

Note: scratches seen on right picture are from table and not lens itself.

The reflector is easily removed and allows access to the LED and "pill" (which looks like it can be removed but I didn't try to). While the wires are exposed, the diameter of the base of the reflector is just small enough so as not to cause a short but it wouldn't have hurt to see a cover or insulation over these wires:

With the reflector back in place, I noted that the LED is perfectly centered:

However achieving that is a little tricky as one must simply drop the reflector back in place taking care not to damage the XM-L's dome and then center the inner diamter of the reflector's base around the LED's PCB. There is no actual centering plastic like on certain lights. I've brought this to Lighten7's attention and they will be addressing w/future releases.

A textured band right aft of the bezel offers decent grip which is useful when twisting the head. There are a total of four fluted channels that star as the main design element. The edges are fairly sharp but these channels are recessed enough so as not to be an issue:

The three cooling fins help with heat dissapation but the L2A is modestly driven and doesn't really get too hot.

There is a spring for the positive battery contact allowing the use of flat-top cells:

The three diodes soldered to it in parallel serve as the reverse polarity protection.

The (non-square-cut) threads on both ends of the battery tube are identical and thus the tube can be installed in either direction:

They are however anodized thus allowing lock-out at either the head or tail-cap. The double o-rings on both ends of the tube should help the L2A meet its IP68 water resistance rating (although no depth is mentioned).

In direct contrast to the head and tail, the texturing on the tube is mild and doesn't really offer much grip:

The tube had no problems accomodating my shortest cells (AW IMR 1600's) and longest; XTAR18700 batteries (69.4mm each) although it was a slightly tight fit when screwing back on the tailcap:
  
Given there is some room in the tube to accomodate larger diameter batteries, I was able to induce some rattle with my thinner batteries.

There are three textured bands around the tailcap that features as design elements and greatly aid grip:

The rubber tail cap cover conceals a reverse-clicky and protrudes ever so slightly past the tailcap guards, however this doesn't cause any problems with tailstanding since the light is heavy enough to counter the protrusion:

Finishing up the tail cap, there are two attachment points with which one can thread the included lanyard through. While the loop on the landyard seems sturdy enough, the plastic quick disconnect doesn't inspire too much confidence, I also had a heckuva hard time disconnecting it (but more on that later):

Note: lanyard in pic on right is shown as an example only, it isn't included w/the L2A

A true lanyard would've been preferred and actually expected for what can be construed as the flagship in their current product line.

 

SIZE & HANDLING

L to R: RediLast 3100 | Lighten7 Elite M1A | Lighten7 Elite M1B | Lighten7 Max L2A | Klarus XT20 | ThruNite TN11 | Sunwayman T40CS

The L2A is relatively compact compared to the other 2 x 18650 sized lights in my collection. However, as with lights in this size that don't feature a side-switch, one would need to use an overhand grip if access to mode changes is desired during use. This can create a slight imbalance especially for those with smaller hands.

 

FIT & FINISH
As previously mentioned, Lighten7 had disclosed that there would be some minor QC issues with the early production samples they sent to me. Aside from the aforementioned missing double-sided AR coating on the lens, some other ones I noticed are that the threads only had a modicum of grease applied. I gave it a quick cleaning and applied some nano-oil and found the threading action to be very smooth.

 I also noticed that the while the edges of the laser engraving are nice and sharp, the lettering does suffer from some splotchiness in certain areas where it looks like the white parts are darker:

This seems to be a common problem that afflicts etchings done by CO2 laser systems on certain dark colors (although I'm not sure if that is what was used for engraving).

In spite of the minor aforementioned issues, the overall quality of the L2A is very good. The edges are all nice and sharp around the bezel:

 The anodizing is flawless and evenly matched between the head, body and tail:

While I didn't discover any missing application between the texture I did note there were lighter areas in the corners within the cooling fins (noticeable in pic above although some of the lighter shades is dust).

Now about that quick-disconnect on the lanyard I mentioned having a hard time w/earlier, overall it looks rather flimsy but I did test its strength by simulating letting the L2A fall out of my hand over the bed and it kept the light in place. I couldn't easily disengage it as the tabs on the outer "shell" do not line up perfectly w/the grooves:

These must be lined up perfectly in order to depress the inner tabs (the boat anchor looking plastic pice on the left side of the right pic) in order to disengage it. However, this is really a nitpick about the accessory and not the L2A itself.

Overall, the L2A is a very solid light and just slightly rough around the edges. With that all said, when Lighten7 addresses these minor issues, I'd be inclined to bump the quality up to excellent and rank it amongst the best in my collection.

 

UI

There are a total of 5 modes: High, Medium, Low, Dim & Strobe. There is no memory (after 5 seconds) so the L2A will always come on in High and the other modes are cycled through in sequential order. The reverse clicky doesn't allow for momentary use so something to keep in mind should that be an important feature to you.

 

MEASURED PERFORMANCE

As part of my new standards for my reviews, I measure the performance on my PVC LMD by first calibrating the sensor's positon w/a Xeno G10v2 (immediately perfectly regulated in med. mode) to get around 158 (quoted ANSI value):

Then took measurements for the L2A on all 3 levels @ 31 seconds (to conform to ANSI FL1) on 2 x RL3100 w/ambient temp @74F (23.3C). Lighten7 is not yet using ANSI lumens but has quoted the following values:

High (800), Medium (500), Low (350), Dim (90)

High - 826lms | 19340 lux @ 1m (~278 calc. beam distance)


Med - 412lms | Low - 194lms | Dim - 23lms

Beyond High, I wasn't able to match up the values. However, I actually much prefer these values and setting as I feel they are nicely spaced apart @ 100% | 50% | 25% | 3%. Will check in w/Lighten7 on this discrepancy.


BEAMSHOTS

 

Beam Angle

I intentionally edited the shadows and contrast for these pics (not color corrected) to help visiualize the beam profile:
L: Full beam ~76 deg. | R: Hot Spot ~20 deg


Indoors (5m)

High


Med

Low

Dim

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

 

WHITEWALL HUNTING

Shutter speeds clockwise from top left: 1/25, 1/100, 1/800, 1/1600 (@ f2.9 on AWB). Light is ~.4m to wall / camera ~.59m:

 

As can be seen, there are some minor artifacts around the outer edge of the beam which is caused by the SS bezel. However, owing to the OP reflector, overall beam profile is nice and smooth.


RUNTIME

The 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 as taken right before the test
- Actual runtime using ANSI FL1 (first in HR and then in M so for the RDLST read this as 2.1 Hrs OR 128 Min)
- Also captured the temperature: ambient, the head at start and the max it reached (fan was used w/all bats)

After a slight initial drop, the L2A runs in near perfect table top flat regulation. I was able to just slightly exceed the quoted runtime (1.9hrs vs. 18hrs) on High using two older AW2600's that have now gone through many deep discharge cycles. As can be seen above, the L2A really doesn't get all that warm as its moderately driven @ 1.2A.

 

MORE TO COME...

Edited by: sb56637 on 08/26/2014 - 17:21
Kokopelli
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Thanks for this very informative review. It looks like a nice and smooth light, with some reseblance to my Shadow TC6 but maybe with better build quality. >$100 is a bit high though. I would like to give $80 at most for a better quality 2x18650 light with a new brand, still $30 higher than a TC6. 

Hikelite
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Kokopelli wrote:

.......with some reseblance to my Shadow TC6 but maybe with better build quality. >$100 is a bit high though. .....

Number of threads, knurling, the way the pill sits, anodized threads, double o-rings, tailcap appears identical to the Shadow TC6 MarkI. Even the small "waves" that you can see on the head from the machining can be seen on some TC6 specimens. I do not think this light is better quality than the Shadow TC6.

The only problem with Shadow is quality control, otherwise the "standard" built quality is very good.

turboBB
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All, I've fleshed out the review a bit more.

Thx guys and oh wow, I've seen the TC6 before but didn't make the connection until Hikelite broke it out like that. I don't have a TC6 to compare the L2A with but I do have 2 x Shodow JM-07 Pro's and the L2A in spite of the minor issues cited in the review, is still much better overall. Again, this is based solely on the samples I have.

Cheers,
Tim

Foy
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I can see why you get so many nice lights to review.  Great job.

About the TC6 - I have a TC6 on the way (shipped a few days ago from IO) and while I can't comment on that particular Shadow (yet) if it's like the other three Shadows I have, the quality certainly isn't standard or even good.  It is superb and in the case of the VG-20, nigh onto to spectacular.  If the L2A even appraoches the quality I've seen so far from Shadow, it is one hell of a light.  Which, of course, brings us to price.

If the TC6 is indeed 800 lumens, I'd say Lighten7 has a tough row to hoe at $119.  The TC6 has dual o-rings at both ends as well as brass (copper?) contact rings pressed at each tube end.  Obviously I haven't held either light but on paper (and based on the stunning quality I've experienced so far) the TC6 makes a compelling argument at $49.90.

 

weshallseeFoy

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turboBB
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All, indoor shots now added.

Thx Foy!  I suppose price is always just part of the equation.  I'm not as versed w/the Shadow lights and don't really know much about the company since the web address printed on the light isn't even accessible and an internet search doesn't root out who is the parent company that is producing these. As such, for any service issues, I'd imagine you'd have to deal with the dealer directly and of course the length would vary for each.

For Lighten7, from what I know, they offer two years warranty on parts and labor for their products. Of course at the price point, one could argue that you can get two (and a half) TC6's but a counter argument could be would you rather have one BMW or 2.5 Hondas?  One Omega or 2.5 Hamilton's, etc. etc.  There are merits to each side but in the end, I suppose it's horses for courses and what suits ones' needs/desires.

Aside from the price, quality and design would be the features.  While the L2A is rather straight forward in that regard, the other two I have in the queue for review at least offer something I don't think Shadow currently does in the form of multi-output control ring (please correct if wrong).

Again, I have no exposure to Shadow beyond the two I have and as for Lighten7, they are still brand new and unestablished so your ending was quite apropo (as it usally is)...

we shall see =o)

bose301s
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I have also seen the TC6 compared to the JETBeam BC40 and if the L2A is also similar to that then even the BC40 is cheaper at ~$70 now. I can sing nothing but praise for the BC40, I got it for Christmas and it is a great light, bright, well built and feels great in the hand, just an overall great light IMO.

Foy
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Well, of course 1 BMW is better than 3 Hondas (at least I think so) but unfortunately, I have a one-Honda wallet.  (actually, half a Volkswagen)  And I have to agree; if someone is willing to stand behind a light, that adds real value.  These lights, just like Surefire, have their place in the market.

 

Foy

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