I decided to improve my UltraFire HD2011. The goals were better tint, higher CRI, better modes and mode spacing, no visible PWM, and a better interface.
Unlike my previous two mods, this will be a much shorter post. I simply wanted to get the mod done and didn’t take any pictures.
Before the mod:
A couple holiday seasons ago, I tried out Wallbuys for the first time. They were new and doing some good holiday sales. I picked up a few lights, one of which was an UltraFire HD2011. It’s a lot like a cheaper version of a Convoy S2, but this was about a month or two before the Convoy lights were available. I think this was only $8, which was pretty cheap for a half-decent 1x18650 cigar/tube light.
As it was sold, the HD2011 had a really cool white (blueish) XM-L, probably around 7500K tint, with slow PWM and poor mode spacing. I measured it with my only-sort-of-calibrated light box today before starting the mod, and I got the following: (BTW, the modes go in this order)
- High (100%): 612 lm
- Med (~59%): 358 lm
- Low (~18%): 109 lm
- Strobe: ??? lm
- SOS: ??? lm
The default driver had mode memory, so it required going through strobe and SOS to get from low to high. However, at least it didn’t have *next* mode memory. I could leave it on low and have it always start there if desired. The beam was nicely floody though, thanks to a really shallow OP reflector. And if desired, the bezel could be removed to run it in mule mode with a full 180 degree beam.
Mods / After:
The mods I did were:
- Replace the driver with a Qlite, 4x7135 380mA (1.52A total), with standard NLITE firmware.
- Solder driver option stars 2 and 4, to give it 4-modes with no mode memory.
- Replace the 0* tint XM-L with a Nichia 219B 4500K 92CRI emitter.
After finishing, I measured the following levels:
- Moon (~1%): 3.34 lm … Not really a proper “moon” level, but still useful.
- Low (5%): 17.9 lm
- Med (30%): 134 lm
- High (100%): 403 lm
I did both sets of measurements with a protected Panasonic 3100mAh NCR18650A, so it probably wasn’t the absolute highest output it can produce. I only had the battery about 90% full, too.
The HD2011 host:
In this particular host, there cannot be any 7135 chips on the battery side of the driver, because they would prevent the driver retaining ring from touching the negative contact area.
Another thing about this host is that its MCPCB shelf isn’t flat. It dips down in the center. So, I ended up using a lot of Arctic Alumina and I’m glad I didn’t attempt to drive the emitter any harder. Also, the stock light has the MCPCB glued into place with thermal adhesive, so it was a bit of a pain getting that and all the glue off.
After finishing this mod, the front-most part of the head doesn’t want to screw down all the way. There’s just enough of a gap for my fingernail. I’m not sure why, but I suspect it may simply be the extra thickness of the Noctigon compared to the original MCPCB. So, I should probably replace the missing O-ring in the host…
The original emitter isolation/centering sheet (butterfly style) proved useful for the new, smaller emitter. It’s just rotated 45 degrees off from how it would normally be, which keeps the reflector from shorting anything and helps keep the emitter centered (only the corners of the emitter touch the centering ring).
This host does not tail-stand well. The switch cap sticks out too far and makes it wobbly.
Soldering the option stars to the outer ring is hard! I’m probably missing something obvious, but I made rather a mess and had to clean it up with solder wick then start over. It still is pretty messy, but at least I got it to work. Anyone got any tips on how to do this?
The beam has a significantly smaller hotspot now, but that’s to be expected when putting in an emitter half the size of the original. This also means it probably has higher lux than the original, though I didn’t measure that first so I’m not sure. (2/3rds the lumens, 1/2 the emitter size, so maybe 4/3rds the original lux?) I’m considering adding DC-Fix to make the hotspot wide enough for biking.
This light now has the coolest tint I’ve ever seen on a Nichia 219. I bought two identical emitters from RMM, but in this host it looks a lot less warm than in my Convoy S7-219B. And quite a bit cooler than a L3 L10-219. I don’t have a way to measure tint, but visually it looks like maybe 4400K for the L3 L10-219, 4800K for the S7-219B, and 5100K for the HD2011-219B. It’s still a nice, pleasant white, but it’s colder than I expected. Also brighter, considering my S7-219B only gets about 270 lm on high and this one gets 400 lm.
The cooler tint might be partly due to being driven at 1.52A (the S7-219B is driven at 1.4A, and the L3 L10-219 is much much lower), and might be due to using only a reflector instead of having DC-Fix smoothing out the tint variance across the beam, and it’s possible this batch might be 5000K tint emitters instead of 4500K. Or it could just be the normal variation within a single tint bin.
NLITE firmware / Interface:
The NLITE “moon” mode isn’t really a true moon mode. It’s about 3 lumens, with this setup. I consider moon to be under a lumen. However, 3 lumens is still a very useful level.
On-time memory with no mode memory is a little weird at first. It’s nice having it start in the lowest level each time, but if you want to bump up from “low” to “medium”, it means half-pressing the switch three times (moon, low, med). However, this becomes pretty intuitive after a while, and I like it a lot better than on-time memory with memory.
The interface is simple. No matter where the light is set now, tap (half-press) the switch a consistent number of times to reach a new mode:
- For mode 1 (3lm), tap once.
- For mode 2 (18lm), tap twice.
- For mode 3 (134lm), tap 3 times.
- For mode 4 (403lm), tap 4 times.
And if the light was off when you started, make the first tap a full click instead.
It’s still day time, so… I haven’t had time to really use this yet and see how I like it. More thoughts later, perhaps. It’s definitely a lot nicer than the original light was, at least.
Update: Pictures, etc
Although I didn’t take pictures during the mod, I did take some pictures afterward… and made a couple more changes too.
Here is our lovely host, the cheap tube light:
On the other side, it proudly advertises that it has a Cree XM-L T6 inside. Heh. We’ll fix that.
(actually, I’m not sure how to remove the printed label without damaging the ano… but it’s what’s inside that counts, right?)
Installing a new emitter star was really easy. It dropped right in. Here it is after fixing everything in place:
One weird thing was the process of trying to get the centering ring / spacer installed. It turns out that the spacer was most useful when I rotated it 45 degrees or so. This not only made it easier to make sure things were centered (since the edges were closer to the corners of the emitter), but it also nestled up against the solder beads to prevent it from turning while I tightened the reflector.
And about that reflector, this is what it looks like with the front end assembled. The diagonal centering ring looks a little odd, but it works well enough.
On the other side of the pill, the driver retaining ring really got in the way. Even after removing all the 7135 chips on this side, the driver still barely fit. I was worried the ring would short something, but fortunately it all works fine. I did have to use solder wick to clean up any extra solder near the outer edge of the board though, to make things fit properly. I think the solder on the two stars I bridged might actually be the only thing keeping the retaining ring from shorting the two other stars.
Now, everything was working, but it still had a couple issues. First, it doesn’t tailstand well since the button sticks out. It looks more like The Leaning Torch of Pisa:
I tried to remove a bit of thickness from the nub inside the rubber switch cover… but it didn’t help. The button is simply rounded; the switch isn’t keeping it pressed out. So, now I have a couple millimeters of dead space before the switch cover touches the switch itself, and then a couple more millimeters between there and when the switch clicks. I’ll probably look for a different switch boot in case I can find a flat or thinner one.
Update: Later in the day, CRX gave me a solution. I managed to find a suitable O-ring, stolen from an ancient old incandescent light I had laying around. It’s labelled “Super MityLite ™ LMX” and it came with a pocket knife. I received two sets for free a long time ago; I forget why. The specs on the light are hideous, but then… it is a model from all the way back in 1980:
- Power source: 2xAAA alkaline
- Lumens: 7
- Watts: 1.11
- Runtime per charge: 2 hours
- Bulb lifetime: 20 hours
And, of course, the donor light doesn’t even work.
So, back to this century, the switch boot no longer interferes with tail-standing after doing this to it:
Also, I glued back on the cut-off bit of “nipple” from the inside of the button, to reduce the dead zone before it contacts the actual switch.
This boot mod did affect the battery tolerance, unfortunately. My extra-long protected Panasonic cells no longer work. They technically fit, but I think something must be shorting or not connecting right because it’s too long. However, some slightly shorter protected cells work, and all my unprotected cells work too.
The next thing which needed some improvement was the beam. Honestly, it was a nice beam pattern, but it was throwier than I wanted and it seemed like the hotspot and spill were slightly different tints. Not great on a high-CRI light. So, I added some DC-Fix.
I tried to get the lens out, but it’s sitting on a shelf in the head and is held in by an extremely tight retaining ring. I tried and tried to unscrew the ring, but couldn’t get it to budge… and I scratched up the anodizing in the process. So, I resorted to just sticking something onto the exposed part of the lens.
The first thing I tried as a cutting template was the bezel of my T10T, since it seemed about right. But it ended up just a little too small, and the resulting beam had some really annoying artifacts around the edges where the light escaped untouched at the edge of the lens.
Then I found something better. For this light, the best cutting template was a Canadian dime. It was almost perfect:
No more beam artifacts. And a close-up shot shows the fit was indeed very, very close:
Here is a view with the light turned on:
Now the beam is much smoother and floodier, so it’s nicer up close and can be used for biking. It also fixed the tint difference between spot and spill, and the tint looks slightly warmer overall (maybe 50K or 100K warmer) — closer to my other Nichia 219B light, but still colder.
I re-measured the lumens after adding DC-Fix:
- Moon (~1): 3.26 lm (2.4 loss)
- Low (5): 17.1 lm (4.4 loss)
- Med (30): 124 lm (7 loss)
- High (100): 379 lm (6 loss)
This was not a terribly well-controlled, careful measurement. I think it’s accurate enough to show that the total lumen output decreased by less than what a human can perceive though. Any perceived difference in brightness is due to the shape of the beam, not the total amount of light coming out.
In any case, I’m pretty happy with the results. Now I just need to
find a flatter/thinner button, replace a missing O-ring, and maybe drill holes so I can add a clip.
I fixed the tail-standing issue, added missing O-rings, and lubed up all the threads and O-rings. Now all it needs is a clip.