This review was using 3 Convoy S2+ Desert Tan flashlights, one purchased by myself (yes, thats a rarity), directly from Shenzhen Convoy Flashlight store on AliExpress, and two purchased from GearBest using a gift card won in a giveaway.
The Convoy S2+ is a budget 18650 tube light, which is very popular with flashlight enthusiasts. The S2+ Desert Tan is the evolution of the Convoy S2 and S2+. Changes include AR glass, DTP copper star, Biscotti firmware/user interface if purchased from Convoy’s AliExpress store (otherwise 3/5 Mode), smooth (SMO) reflector (instead of orange peel (OP)), and Cree XP-L HI emitter (instead of Cree XM-L2). The Desert Tan model is also known as Sandy Brown or Sand model depending on the retailer.
The reviewed lights have 8x7135 chips for maximum output (2.8A current), and cool white V2-1A and warm white U4-7A LED emitter. The S2+ Desert Tan is also available with more neutral white U6-3A or U6-4C emitters, or with 3, 4, or 6x 7125 chips. GearBest and Banggood only stock the most powerful 8*7135 version. For some odd reason Convoy’s AliExpress does not sell the U4-7A option. The choice of tints and power is a bonus, but can also be confusing to consumers. Personally, I think Convoy should drop the 3 and 6x 7135 versions.
The Desert Tan S2+ is marginally longer than previous S2+ models. Construction quality of Convoy’s is usually very good for the price. Unfortunately the first Desert Tan S2+ send to me from Convoy was defective (driver issue), and a replacement was sent after some troubleshooting. The two from GearBest worked perfectly. With the S2+ Desert Tan, a clip is included as standard, and this can be used the normal way around, or reverse (for use on caps for example). A lanyard is included, which is much higher quality than lanyards with previous S2+s I’ve purchased.
There is a black metallic tail switch. Personally, I prefer the rubber tail switch as found on the Black S2+, but my opinion may change as I get more used to it.
The battery tube has springs at both ends, so accepts button, raised, and flat top batteries. The tube was bored slightly wider than some of my older S2+, and protected Sanyo GA cells (18.65mm x 67.3mm) fitted OK.
A diffuser, headband, holster, and magnet are optional accessories for the S2+ that can be purchased from Convoy. This is a great range of accessories from a budget manufacturer!
The Convoy S2+ Desert Tan is available with different user interfaces depending on the retailer. The version from Convoy’s AliExpress store has the new Biscotti user interface. The version from GearBest had the old 3/5 mode user interface (as does the version from Banggood and FastTech).
The new Biscotti firmware is massive improvement over the previous user interface on the S2+. Options included or excluded from some mode groups include moonlight, strobe, bike flashing, SOS, battery check, various mode spacings, increasing or decreasing brightness order, and memory on or off. The mode groups are as follows:
1 0.1, 1, 10, 35, 100%, strobe, biking, battery-check
2 0.1, 1, 10, 35, 100%
3 100, 35, 10, 1, 0.1%
4 1, 20, 100%, strobe, biking, battery-check, SOS
5 1, 20, 100%
6 100, 20, 1%
7 0.1, 1, 10, 50, strobe, biking, battery-check, SOS
8 0.1, 1, 10, 50
9 50, 10, 1, 0.1
10 1, 10, 35, 100
11 100, 20, strobe
12 100% only
Changing mode groups and turning memory on/off is fairly easy process, starting with 10 taps to enter configuration mode. To change mode groups, a half press during the first “fuzzy” flash will be followed by flashes donating the mode group. Turning the light off after the relevant flash (e.g. click after two flashes for group 2) chooses that mode group. A half press after the second fuzzy flash toggles memory mode on or off. I managed to stuff it up a few times before I learnt to tap the button instead of a full click, but after a few tries it is very easy to change modes.
Full click turns the light on and off. To advanced to the next mode requires a tap, rather than a full click. I really like this user interface, as there are so many options, and it is still easy to use. I currently have mine set on mode group 1 - 0.1, 1, 10, 35, 100%, strobe, bike, battery check - with memory on. For light painting photography, this is useful as I can turn the light on in any memorised mode including strobe.
Unfortunately, the strobe in Biscotti was changed from the previous 10Hz strobe with 50% on/off, to a varying 8/16Hz frequency strobe which is only on 33% of the time. Whilst this strobe is quite annoying if you were on the receiving end of it, it is poor for light painting photography which is an increasing market segment for flashlight purchases. This unfortunately means I can no longer recommend the S2+ with Biscotti to fellow light painters. If anyone thinks that the light painting market is insignificant, lets just say that more than 4000 models of a competitors light have sold just on the recommendations of one photographer!
The S2+ Desert Tan purchased from GearBest has the older 3/5 mode user interface. This has the modes 5, 40, 100, strobe, bike flash. A full press turns the light on/off, and a tap changes modes. There is a 10 second timer for memory to activate, which is quite annoying. The strobe is 10Hz with 50 on/off which is perfect for light painting photography.
Warm white with 10Hz strobe, cool white with 8/16Hz strobe.
Output and beam
The previous versions (Black, Grey, Blue, Green, and Red) of the Convoy S2+ had a Cree XM-L2 emitter and orange peel (OP) reflector. This created a pretty much perfect floody beam, with a wide hotspot. The Desert Tan S2+ is different, with a Cree XP-L HI emitter, and smooth (SMO) reflector. This creates for a beam profile balanced between flood and throw, with a smaller and more intense hotspot. I would estimate the lux to be approximately 14,000 candela (cd). For light painters such as myself, this is much better for illuminating tubes and light swords.
The lumen output is similar to the XM-L2 based S2+ at around 850 lumens @30 seconds. The output declines gradually, with no sudden brightness step downs as on many other 18650 tube lights. I personally prefer the lack of automatic stepdown, however the downside of this is that the user needs to be responsible for manually stepping down the brightness when the light starts to get too hot. This light should never be left alone on 100% power! A 50% maximum mode can be selected if you are loaning the light to someone without any common sense. For added safety, turning the tail cap will lock out the light when not in use. Having 3 young kids in my house, I always lock out my li-ion lights when not in use.
The S2+ uses PWM, however it is so fast that it could not be detected in video or on long exposure photos. CRI appears to be in the usual >70CRI category - good enough for most tasks.
XM-L2/OP (left) vs XP-L HI/SMO (right)
7A (left) vs 1A (right) tints (note: 1A is not as blue in reality but almost pure white)
Things I like:
-Good build quality, and genuine Cree LED.
-Good output (lumens) for all 8*7135 models.
-Very good peak beam intensity (lux/candela per lumens) for this class of light.
No annoying step down in brightness but requires common sense to avoid excessive heat!
-Accepts most flat and button top 18650 batteries (but not very long or wide protected 18650s).
-Choice of cool, neutral, and warm white tints.
-Excellent range of accessories.
Things that depend on the model:
Biscotti User Interface Excellent configurable user interface, moonlight mode, low voltage protection, but disappointing 8/16Hz strobe.
3/5 Mode User Interface Average user interface (10sec timer for memory is annoying), no moonlight mode, but great 10Hz strobe.
Things I don’t like:
-No USB charging (I’m being extremely picky at this price point!)
-No momentary functionality
-No manual (instructions available online)
Very confusing range of different S2+ models and options the XP-L HI/SMO version should have used a different model name
The Convoy S2+ Desert Tan is almost definitely the best value for money 18650 tube light on the market. The XP-L HI/SMO based Desert Tan model is well balanced between flood and throw, and compliments the floody XM-L2/OP based models. Unfortunately, the new strobe in Biscotti is a step backwards for some users (there was nothing wrong with the 10Hz strobe in the 3/5 mode user interface) and this means that I cannot recommend Biscotti based Convoy lights to my photography peers. The confusing range of options makes the Convoy S2+ less popular to the consumer (rather than enthusiast) market than it should be. A version of the Convoy S2+ with USB charging and 8*7135 would increase appeal to the consumer market as well.