DBSAR Lantern Mini-Review: -Zanflare T1 (UPDATE: Second T1 failed!

- Ok so i have this lantern now since the end of July to test & use it, & give my views on it in this mini-review & thoughts on this lantern.

UPDATES: read my last two posts about the first one failed after a mod attempt, then a second factory T1 a friend had failing. ( Posts # 161 and #162)

For a stock factory lantern i give it a 7/10 rating, which is not bad compared to the majority of LED lanterns we see in stores, especially in this price range, (but one hazardous flaw was found recently)

First the Zanflare T1 specs:

- Maximum lumens: 350LM

- Minimum lumens output: 3LM

- LEDs: SMD2835 (surface mount diodes)

- LED count: 82

- Power rating: 4.5W

- Light output colors: white - warm white - red (tint-ramping between C/W & W/W LEDs)

- Color CCT range: 2700K – 6500K

- Touch the top metal tab/switch to adjust brightness, tint ranges, and change over between tints.

- Memory & reverse polarity protection.

- Low battery indicator.

- Support USB Micro charging

- bottom battery cap has magnet for holding to flat metal surfaces.

  • has hanger handle for hanging from a hook

Will make this review simple & short to express its positive points & negative points.

>> The good points:

- Tint ramping feature between 2700K to 6500K

- very compact.

- light weight

- low cost

- no visible PWM

- charging feature

- easy to turn on

- smooth light output

- magnetic base & hanging handle adds mounting versatility.

  • Comes with 2600mah 18650 cell

>> The bad points:

- the tube the battery is in, gets really HOT when running on high, because this tube is the heat sink for the LEDs! ( could possibility be very dangerous as to over heat the cell to the point of thermal run-away and a catastrophic fire/explosion hazard if a weak, damaged, or un-branded/unknown 18650 cell is used!

- finicky touch switch, (sometimes to sensitive, and sometimes not at all.

- no lock-out ability (light can be accidentally turned on in a back pack to easy. if the top touches something metal or wet with water it turns on.)

- annoying to turn off (only with the bottom button either by holding for 3 seconds or cycling through the red modes.

- low run times on maximum. (i got no more than 2.5 hours out of this lantern on its maximum mode in my tests with the cell included. (with a 3600mah cell i got closer to 3.7 hours.

- small parasitic drain. ( i noticed the cell voltage slowly dropping over the time with the battery left in it.

- nearly impossible to take apart with out breaking it… (to mod in a lock-out switch)

  • wonky UI. (as others have mentioned the ramping is a bit to fast, hard to set, no mode options, red only has one brightness and a not-necessary SOS mode in a lantern.

- Zanflare can improve some of the things i mentioned to make it a much better lantern. If they made the center battery tube big enough to handle a 26650 then the run times would greatly improve with a good 6000mah cell. The top touch-button has to go. It’s to sensitive at times, and others it don’t work at all it seems unless your finger is moistened or tough it several times. It would accidentally turn on in nearly every test scenario i did with it, (even place it in a sock, and could still turn it on through the sock by pressing it onto something metal or with my finger. it needs a lock-out, (as in anodized battery cap threads to lock it out,. or a mechanical switch on the bottom. Changing that to a electronic booted-switch would be a much better improvement.
Turning it off also could be made easier if it had a simple electronic button on the lower side to press to simply shut it off quickly. While on maximum mode its noticeably not as bright as the BLF LT1 V2 lantern prototype in its current configuration, but its brighter than most other low-cost lanterns in its class range & size. I have read some other reports that the touch switch have failed to work completely, which is another reason Zanflare should change that ti a more reliable electronic switch/button. As gadabout mentioned below the UI can be much improved. Ramping is a bit to fast, hard to set, no mode options, (only ramping) red only has one brightness and a not-necessary SOS mode in a lantern.
EDIT: - the tube the battery is in, gets really HOT when running on high, because this tube is the heat sink for the LEDs (This could possibility be very dangerous, as to over heat a cheaper, older, damaged, or unknown cell to the point of thermal run-away and a catastrophic fire/explosion hazard. (they should have designed the lantern with a separate heat sink “sleeve” with an air space around the battery tube to allow the tube to stay cooler, or even a more major step-down thermal sensor on the battery tube.

- Overall i like the Zanflare T1, its much better designed & performed better with better features than most other generic lanterns i have tested and owned that are even larger or cost more. If Zanflare was listening, and made those few changes i mentioned above, they would have one of the best small lanterns on the market today. :slight_smile:

- DBSARlight

I’d throw in a “non-intuitive UI” among the negatives. :smiley:

Other than that, I really like it. I wouldn’t consider it a tent-lantern so much as a table-lantern. It looks a little too “refined” to stick in a dirty stinky ol’ tent. On a table, it looks quite at home. Umm, literally.

Just searched it, and fouind that Gearbest has it on Promo for $16.99 for the next ten days. No free shipping though. Shipping is extra.

Thanks for your perspective on this lantern Den.

I bought a couple in the first group buy and have been very impressed with them. Long-term reliability remains to be seen…. The rubber USB port cover has already broken off mine. Actually, I think the cover is fixed too close to the port and does not easily fold out of the way, which is likely why it broke off after several uses.

I also have a Fenix CL25R which has been a great and durable performer - especially after I replaced the OEM cell for a 3400 Panny. Initially I got it for camping but I’ve found a multitude of uses for it ever since.

Like you guys, I find the UI on the Zanflare to be a bit of a pain. The brightness ramping is just a little too fast to get any kind of fine control (more so at the low end) and it may take repeated attempts to find a suitable level if you want something other than full high or minimum settings.
Regarding the lack of lockout - I’ve seen comments about putting a plastic “disc” under the battery cap to prevent accidental activation but I don’t know how the tailcap would stand up to repeated use. Frankly there isn’t much thread there and without anodizing, I fear they would wear quickly if the lantern was locked out this way on a regular basis.

As a lantern to throw in a camping kit for a backpacking or canoeing trip, I’d turn first to my Fenix. It too can be charged from a small solar panel. Having said that, I’ll probably take both on any vehicle-based trip.

Unlike the Fenix, which can only be run at the 2 lowest settings while charging, the Zanflare seems to support all output levels, at least while the cell is physically installed. Mine actually gets a little brighter if I plug it into a power source while on High. If you ever have need to pull the cell for another light, it will run with no cell fitted but output seems to “jump” a bit while ramping and is possibly not as bright.

As an occasional room light or table light, it looks less “industrial” than the Fenix (if that kind of thing matters to you). For an under-bonnet or under-vehicle work light, kids night light, off-grid cabin light, detachable porch light and a multitude of other possible scenarios, I think the Zanflare T1 is a fantastic unit for the price.

Of course, like many of us here, I eagerly await the upcoming BLF lantern under whatever naming convention is finally chosen.

I’ve got a nice tent - not dirty nor stinky. The T1 lantern suits it just fine. :slight_smile:

Glamping, eh? :smiley:

Well, that’s the only tent I know that’s perfectly Shipshape and Bristol Fashion

I agree on the UI, it can use some better programming. as it only has ramping its near impossible to test run times other than on maximum mode. red is only one brightness along with the usual un-needed SOS, (especially in a lantern)

I was told about that sale earlier. Its still a really good sale price for this little lantern considering it comes with the battery.

Out of stock again.
AU$23.66 plus $5.48 shipping. Add another 10% for GST since July 1 we pay 10% GST on ALL imports (previously was only over $1,000)
Bargains are getting harder to find.

EDIT: – IMPORTANT TO ANYONE WHO OWNS THIS ZANFLARE T1 LANTERN - critical possible fire or damage hazard discovered from testing if you use a cheap, older, damaged, laptop—pull, or unknown wrapped cell.

the tube the battery is in, gets HOT when running on high, because this tube is the heat sink for the LEDs. (This could possibility be very dangerous, as to over heat a older or damaged cell to the point of thermal run-away and a catastrophic fire/explosion hazard if a bad or damaged 18650 cell is used. (they should have designed the lantern with a separate heat sink “sleeve” with an air space around the battery tube to allow the tube to stay cooler, or lower the maximum amps, or add a thermal-sensor to step the lantern down when it reaches 45 ~ 50 degrees C in the battery tube/heatsink.

- was testing runtimes with an older, weaker cell, and discovered the cell began to emit that “sweet smell of death” as it was getting so hot in the T1 lantern on maximum mode after 1 hour running with that battery tube being the LEDs’ heatsink. (-i just quickly grabbed a glove put the hot, gassing cell outdoors in case it began to fully vent .

This photo shows how the LED strip-board is directly contacting the center aluminum post that contains the battery. >>


What kind of heatsink design is this?

Oh. Probably cost cutting to get the price down for the lantern.

How hot does the tube get? As long as it does not exceed 50°C, there is no safety problem, only the cell’s cycle life will be affected.

my previous test was with the factor included cell, so i was running it tonight with a 3000mah cell to test run times, and it got really hot. ( i could not put my finger in the tube it was so hot) when i took the bottom cap off the tube & cap was really, really hot, and from a photo i seen they use that tube as the heat sink for the LEDs! - a very, very dangerous design…

i ran it for another 20 minutes with the original 2600mah cell, then measured the inside surface of the battery tube at 67 degrees Celsius. (on maximum mode in W/W which i measured at 0.89 amps on the tail cap. (the cool white mode on max pulls 1.02 amps.)

Oh crap.

I would ask for a refund ASAP. That is a very dangerous design.

This would have not happened if they had put a least a small aluminium plate.

Now I know why it was too cheap. That’s because it is too cheap.

No one should be jumping on the bandwagon until they get all the facts first.

We need to hear from the manufacturer about their thermal limit tests. It’s possible DBSAR has a malfunctioning unit. Probably not, but we need to gather up all the facts and data before condemning a product.

It is actually not that bad of a design seeing as most flashlights are made similarly. If you leave a flashlight running long enough the heat near the LED will travel down through the length of the battery tube and it will heat up the battery just the same. I guess the big difference between a flashlight and this lantern is that one has an exposed battery tube so that the surrounding air can pull heat away from it. The lantern doesn’t have any way to circulate the air around it’s battery tube.

It’s quite possible that this entire situation can be fixed/corrected by using a simple insulating sleeve around the inner battery tube to prevent a battery from touching the metal walls and absorbing that heat.

A long-term solution would be for the driver design to be tweaked to step down the brightness at a certain temperature.

That link is taking me back to post #11.

Not to be deliberately contrary but I’m doing a test at the moment with the OEM cell.
So far I’ve run the light for 65 mins on MAX WW. The battery is no more than mildly warm and the inside of the battery tube is the same.

The lantern is hanging by the metal handle and nothing is touching the tailcap to act as a heatsink.

However, ambient temp here (winter) is only 14C (57F) today. What might happen over our 40C (104F) summers is anyone’s guess.

Obviously more testing to be done. I just kicked it to MAX CW about 10 mins ago.
A spot check reveals the resting voltage (straight out of lantern) is only 3.60V so it may be a bit pointless to continue without a recharge, but I’ll let it go for now.
I will try again with a freshly charged Panny 3400 or similar when the current cell cuts out.

With the greatest respect Den is it possible you have a higher ambient there or perhaps as JasonWW suggested, there may be some variation between batches or perhaps even a faulty unit?

With so many of these having been sold through the group buys, I hope a few other users can run some tests and report back too.

EDIT: Sorry, but I can only give subjective temps at present as my IR thermometer is elsewhere.

I have never had any flashlight (factory or modified) heat a battery as hot as this in my T1 did last night. The LEDs are in direct contact with the battery tube wall, (no flashlight does this.) this is the first time i have any light heat the cell up so hot to the point it began to gas. (the sweet smell before it begins its thermal runaway and vent.) I’m not condemning this light, i’m expressing a potential dangerous design flaw if consumers use a damaged or old cell in such a design where the battery tube is “directly” heated by the LEDs at high modes,
which i will stand by my decision is a very bad, flawed design to do that in the first place. (same scenario as lighting a propane camp stove that rests on its propane tank that feeds it)
Its ok for most if us who are experienced with LithiumIon cells and its characteristics and limitations, but this is a potential safety issue to the un-trained public. from past experience I testing cells to the point of venting flames, i know the warning smell all to well before a LiIon goes nuclear. Lithium Ion becomes unstable at high temps, and the potential with this design exposes that risk. I heated a running flashlight with a 18650 cell in it to the point of it exploding. (see my video from a few years back) the design of this light as a flaw that needs to be addressed, as its using the LEDs to heat the battery tube directly. Zanflare can easily fix this issue in a few ways, one is like you said is to tweat it down to a maximum of 0.65 amps draw, ( i did just that after with my T1 using a amp meter and ramped it down to 0.66 amps ( about 80% from max on the W/W mode) and the battery tube stabilized at a 55 to 57 degree temperature after 40 minutes. ( still to hot for my thoughts, but less than running on maximum.) another fix is to have a “shell tube” outside the battery tube for the LEDs to contact, leaving an air-gap from the LEDs and the battery center tube, preventing the conduction of heat to the battery.
in reality no flashlights i ever seen has hot running LEDs all around the sides of the battery tube/body in direct contact with it. Also, nobody is going to walk around, holding a modded flashlight that manages to conduct enough heat to the battery body for a hour or more continuously. Lets get realistic here… Metal at 65+ decrees C is very uncomfortable and nearly impossible to hold in a bare hand for more than a few seconds, let alone a hour. In this case of a lantern, it can sit there on a table or hanging in a warm tent, for a couple hours getting hot, cooking the cell at temperatures beyond what we can endure for a few seconds on a bare hand. There are reasons why Tesla liquid cools their massive 18650 cell banks… this cell chemistry is not stable, nor safe at extreme temperatures for long periods of time.

I will perform another test tomorrow or next week using the factory cell and my temp-meter at the maximum modes, (but will do this in the garage this time.) when i did the test last night with the cell over heating, the temperature inside the tube was to hot to put a finger in. I did a test after only running it at roughly 80% with the factory cell, and got a 67 degree Celsius in the tube. (higher than i care to continue using it continuously at that temp or higher.