Review: Mr.Lite BLF AA-Y4E

Mr.Lite BLF AA-Y4E

Reviewer's Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆


Battery: AA/14500
Switch: Reverse clicky
Modes: 4
LED Type: Cree XR-E Q5
Lens: Collimator (plastic)
Tailstands: Yes
Price Paid: $16.99
From: Manafont
Date Ordered: 25 Oct 2010


  • Well made
  • Smooth threads
  • Very good throw
  • No flashy modes
  • Nice holster and lanyard


  • Needed some repairs to work
  • No mode memory
  • Two low modes are too close together
  • Without lanyard it will roll

Features / Value: ★★★

After hearing a lot about Mr.Lite flashlights and Manafont, forces were brought together for this customized version of the Mr.Lite J4 resulting in the Mr.Lite BLF AA-Y4E. It’s basically a Mr.Lite J4, except the modes were picked by Mr. Admin based on polling results taken here at Budget Light Forum. In order to please those who like a super low Low and those who want a more usable Low, this light has two lows, Moonlight and Low. However the two modes are actually pretty close and the lowest setting is not a true Moonlight mode (less than 1 lumen).

It was fun to get our own light. You can read about the light in this thread and see whether people opted for black, silver, or both in this poll.

Originally the light was to come in retail packaging, but that got messed up and Manafont did a nice job of protecting the light, putting it in its holster then wrapping it and the lanyard in buble wrap, secured in tape, and then the whole thing was in a padded envelope. The holster has a carrying loop, a belt loop with a snap, and a velcro flap to keep the light secured in the holster. The lanyard is paracord with some adjustment beads and a clip with a split ring, but I don't know how I could get that split ring through both holes in the tail of the light. If you only put it through one hole, then it won't tailstand correctly. I may be able to get a slight smaller split ring which might be able to get through both holes.

NOTE: All of the pictures (except the beam shots) can be clicked on to open a version twice as large.

The body tube fits an AA quite well. I could barely fit a flame Trustfire lithium-ion battery, but those batteries run a little long and won't fit at all in a couple of my other lights. The body tube itself is thicker than most lights. I imagine Mr.Lite will be able to use the same head and tail and swap out the body tube for a CR123A or 18650 light. This makes the light more substantial than other AA lights, but in a good way and it still fits fine in a pocket.

The price isn’t too bad for such a well-made customized light that also includes decent pack-ins. It’s worth a couple of dollars just to avoid any strobes.

The LED is a Cree XR-E with a Q5 bin. This is an older LED, but a good one that is still popular in budget lights especially where throw is desired. While a lot of lights have aluminum reflectors, this light has a plastic collimating lens that provides a small hotspot that throws quite well, better than my lights with reflectors. In Medium and High, the light takes a second to ramp up to full brightness, maybe like a slide coming on. It's not a bad effect. In the Low modes I can barely hear some buzzing from the PWM, but I only noticed it after someone else pointed it out. At least it isn't a high-pitched whine.

Build Quality: ★★★☆☆

The build quality of the body is quite good, but I have to really knock the light for not working. It looks good, the light knurling and surface design looks very good, and the body tube itself is very thick. The o-rings were lubed properly and the threads are just butter smooth. The reverse clicky is metal and I’m not crazy about it. It feels like clicking a ball point pen and rattles just a little. I don't see how it could be waterproof so it might defeat the o-rings elsewhere.

Inside the light there is an aluminum pill with a full-size 17mm driver. I’d rather see a brass pill, but aluminum is fine too and my AKOray K-106 has an aluminum pill too. It was no problem backing the pill out (there are notches in the pill so you can get a grip with needle nose pliers) and again the threads are very smooth. The driver on my light was not soldered to the pill so I tried to dislodge the driver and get a picture of it, but there was not enough slack in the leads from the driver to the LED itself and I couldn’t get a good look at the driver without unsoldering the leads. This lens is held in the head of the light by a threaded ring, so it is very secure. But there is no o-ring in front of the lens like lights with flat glass lenses usually have.

In the tail end of the battery compartment there is a piston instead of just a regular spring, which is a nice feature. It is pretty stiff though. The spring mounted to the driver is soldered on in two places and is so solid I was able to unscrew the pill by turning the spring. Here is the spring and the soldering I applied (the foreground blob works, I could never get the longer blob to bridge to the pill) to get a good electrical connection between the pill (which completes the contact between the negative end of the battery via the tail piston and body tube):

Comparison of barrel thicknesses (AKOray K-106, Uniquefire S10, Mr.Lite BLF AA-Y4E, Fenix L1D)

Battery Life: ★★★☆☆

I did a run test using NiMH and then a lithium-ion battery. The way I test, which isn't totally accurate is I measure the battery voltage at rest, and then measure the tail current. I then run the light for 10 minutes, turn it off, and repeat the measurements. During the test the light barely got warm even though there was a pretty good current draw. I got an hour of good light.

Time (hr:min) Battery (V) Moon (mA) Low (mA) Med (mA) High (mA)
0:00 1.490 40 70 410 2040
0:10 1.288 40 60 370 1700
0:20 1.243 40 60 400 1780
0:30 1.222 40 60 380 1750
0:40 1.197 40 60 390 1730
0:50 1.160 40 60 360 1650
1:00 1.041 40 50 320 1200
1:10 0.873 40 50 210 500

On a flame Trustfire 900mAh lithium-ion battery I got 35 minutes of total runtime. The light got warmer, but not hot. I had a hard time getting consistent readings with my meter on High. I'm not sure if that is the driver, but I'll be interested to see Don's runtime graphs to see if there is an oscillation. It probably settles in after a few seconds, so maybe a graph won't show it.

Time (hr:min) Battery (V) Moon (mA) Low (mA) Med (mA) High (mA)
0:00 4.18 20 40 240 1250
0:10 3.91 20 40 240 1060
0:20 3.77 20 40 250 1120
0:30 3.67 20 40 270 1160
0:35 3.48 20 40 280 1330

Light Output: ★★★★★

The light output seems good, but it is hard to make a comparison because this light is geared toward throwing a small concentrated beam while other lights have a more dispersed hotspot. The pictures will bear that out pretty well and the BLF compares quite favorably. First there are some comparisons using a 2000mAh Eneloop NiMH. First I'll compare it with the Fenix L1D which uses the same LED, a Cree XR-E Q5 but has a smooth reflector. In these pictures the lights are 50cm from the wall and the BLF AA-Y4E is always on the left.

First both lights on High, using NiMH batteries, with the exposure at 1/25th second and ISO 100. The L1D has a somewhat neutral tint. The BLF is more of a cool white or maybe outdoor white, though not as blue as it looks here:

Now at 1/200th second:

Now at 1/1600th second. The BLF has a more intense hotspot:

Here is a comparison of both of these lights on their lowest settings, taken at 1/25th second. The Fenix is advertised as being 12 lumens on Low, so the BLF is significantly less than that.

Now to compare the light against the iTP A3 EOS. This light is much smaller, using a AAA battery, and can't concentrate the beam like the L1D. It also has a different LED, a Cree XP-E, but the same brightness bin of Q5. So here are both lights on High with NiMH eneloops at 1/25th second:

Now at 1/200th second you can really see the difference in the beam patterns:

And at 1/1600th second:

Now here are both lights on Low at 1/25th second. The iTP advertises a Low of only 1.5 lumens and I think the Y4E is a little bit higher, so maybe 2-3 lumens:

Here are two more shots comparing Moonlight mode and Low against the A3. This time the photos are taken at 1/5 second to exaggerate the brightness. Here is Moonlight:

Now on Low. There is a distinct difference, but it's not much:

In attempting to get a moonlight mode, they really cranked up the PWM on Low. Here is a time exposure of BLF on the left vs. the original iTP A3 EOS, both on their lowest settings. I was moving both lights pretty fast up and down, but at the same speed, and you can see by the dots being spaced out further with the BLF that its PWM has a lower frequency. The stainless steel AAA Trustfire XP-E F23 has about the same PWM as the iTP. Later models of the A3 really improved the PWM.

Now I will do some comparisons using a lithium-ion battery, fully charged to almost 4.2 volts. First here is the Y4E against my Uniquefire S10 which has a Cree XR-E R2 (should be about 5% brighter than a Q5) running on direct drive off the battery:

Now at 1/200th second:

And at 1/1600th second. The Y4E has a more intense hotspot:

Now to go outdoors. All pictures are taken at a 3.2 second exposure to try to get a picture of how it looks to the eye. The potted plant is 25' from the camera and the lights are pointed at the fence posts which are 120' away. First the Y4E using a fresh Eneloop on Moonlight mode (essentially a control shot; in real life it barely shone light on the plant):

Now on Low, you still can't see anything in the picture:

Now on Medium you can start to make things out:

And on High you can see all the way to the fence posts:

Now here is a comparison of the Fenix using NiMH on Turbo setting, doesn't throw as well:

Now here is the iTP on NiMH at High, can't even see the fence posts:

Swapping in a lithium-ion battery, the brightness and throw go way up. Here is the Y4E on li-ion:

Now here is the direct driven Uniquefire S10 on li-ion:

And the Fenix L1D on li-ion:

Now here's a detail of the fence cropped from the original full-size photo. The first row is the Y4E on NiMH and Li-ion. The second row is the S10 and L1D on li-ion. For throw, this light is hard to beat. In fact, on NiMH the throw is very close to what the other two lights are doing with a li-ion battery:

Summary: ★★★☆☆

This is a pretty decent light, but not outstanding. I have to take off at least a star for the fact that it didn't work correctly without me soldering the driver board. That would take off all 5 stars for people who can't fix a light on their own. The light output is good. The light is geared towards throwing and does that pretty well, but I prefer a little larger hotspot. The metal tail switch is nice, but I'd prefer rubber and would feel more comfortable with it being watertight. The two Low modes being too close kind of make 4 modes pointless and just means you have to click an extra time to get to High. Also I think a light at this price should probably include mode memory. But I do like the fact that it has no flashy modes and that makes me more likely to recommend it to someone as long as I would be available to solder it if necessary.

nice review brted, thanks

I agree with all your points

Can you compare the light output of moonlight vs low mode? I wonder if the meter reading them to be only factor of 2 appart at most is accurate.

My amp meter only reads to the nearest 10mA, plus it isn't RMS, so the PWM could be affecting the values. By eye, the Low is noticeably brighter than Moonlight, but they aren't far off. I'll get some better comparison photos tonight.

I also got mine today and fully agree to your findings. Did you really solder on alu?

Was'nt the LED supposed to be an R2?

I have a remark to the first picture in Light Output (comparison to the L1D).

The BLF looks colder to me than 5000K. I would rather think that L1D is about 5000K

That's what I kind of suspected. A photo with reasonable exposure time would integrate the values in a more predictable way :).

Excellent review brted! Thanks for the exquisite detail and fantastic pics, as we've come to expect from you. Very much appreciated. Frontpage'd and Sticky'd.

So, we learned some things from this first BLF mod. First, we need to space out those first two modes. The problem is that mode #1 didn't go quite as low as I expected (was hoping for 1 lumen), so compared with the specified 6 lumens of mode #2, the difference is almost negligible, and not visible to the naked eye. Maybe for the next mode we can bump up mode #2 to around 12 lumens, and at the same time try to fix that PWM flicker on mode #1. I still wonder if maybe the low PWM frequency might help to give impressive runtime on mode #1, though. I'm currently in the beginning of my own runtime test on mode #1. And as for the DOA issue, that's definitely not acceptable. I would be among those that would give this a 0-star rating if it required removing the pill and soldering it. This is sort of a conflict, because apart from this glaring quality issue, the rest of the quality is actually pretty good, and excellent in some aspects.

I still wonder if maybe the low PWM frequency might help to give impressive runtime on mode #1, though.

Not really. Ideally it's kept as high as the circuit will allow/stablize. Tido in his experiments was doing khz or 10's of khz pwm, but that's with 7135's.

For the next one, it would be best if they could use some variant of Tido's programmable driver. They would be required to show the source given GPL and you can play with it at will.

Well, yes, for optimal light quality for the eyes the frequency should be as high as possible. But for optimal runtime, doesn't low PWM improve runtime, because technically the light is off a lot of the time?

Great review brted!

I'm disappointed that my black BLF light was DOA. I've started the email game but have yet to hear from them. I'll give them a day or 2 before I get PayPal involved but hopefully they will fix the problem before it goes that far.

It's bigger/fatter than all of my 1AA lights except for my Icon Rogue 1. They both look more like an 18650 light than a 1AA light. I also don't like the metal switch which still rattles a bit. I do love our custom modes and the how well it is built. Plus the case and especially the really nice lanyard is a great addition.

Sorry you got a dud. Did you try the live chat support? You just have to catch them online during regular business hours in their time zone.

Thank you for such a detail review. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that mine works out of the box as I have no soldering skills.

I am very impressed with the beam shots and light output from this light. Since the 2 low modes are similar, I think it would be an improvement to drop one of the low modes and make this a 3 mode light.

I haven't yet tried their Live Chat but if they don't respond to my email by tomorrow then I will give it a try.

Has anyone here tried to deal with Manafonts customer service? If so, how did it go? Thanks.

Besides the broken lens, mine also came flickering. The flickering went away when I tightened the flashlight head. It seems that the threads are non-conducting, so the body tube needs to be screwed in enough to touch the pill for it to work.

btw nice review, brted! Thanks.

With PWM there are two main orthogonal parameters involved, frequency and duty cycle. Duty cycle is the ratio of the on time to off time for each cycle. It's largely seperate from the frequency, which is how long each of those cycles are.

So in this case, the cycle time is long-ish (perhaps <200hz since I seem to recall the old A3 is 200hz), and the duty cycle is 40/2000 mA or about 1:50 on/off, or 2%.

The modes are about 100%, 20%, 4%, 2%.

The question brted is working on is to determine whether that 40mA measurement is actually accurate (I suspect it is, but not sure). His meter would've been set to DC amps, which should average out this number (the actual waveform has spikes for the pwm if viewed with an osciloscope), but we want to be sure. A camera shot with exposure time >1/20 exposure or so should do a proper integration.

I added this to the article, but to make it easier, I'm posting the comparison between Moon and Low here too:

Here are two more shots comparing Moonlight mode and Low against the A3. This time the photos are taken at 1/5 second to exaggerate the brightness. Here is Moonlight:

Now on Low. There is a distinct difference, but it's not much:

A shame about the two low modes being so close , still , double the run time in moon mode [ dep on batt ] ...

As for the contact issue ? Driver to pill , or battery tube to pill ... Anyhow , hope mine arrives soon , dont look like it will be till next week now .

Is this a 5000k or not ?

From what our more knowledgeable users say, it sounds like it is. If you measured it with instruments, I imagine there would be variation between samples, but for all practical intents and purposes to the naked human eye, it's a nice neutral color.