I have 2. A Nebo Tool Redline, and a UF-T20 I modded. The UF currently has an sst40 in it running on a 5A Convoy driver. It used to have a xhp50.2 3v on a fet driver and was ridiculous, around 2800lm. Zoomies are kind of a black hole in the flashlight community, almost like Apple vs. Windows. I personally like them (push-pull my favorites), but a reflector light will give better performance because of light losses. Plus, more moving parts reduces water resistance, the thermal management isn’t always great either.
Not mine. EDCed it quite a while, replaced the (20mm) driver with a 1.4A 1-mode, worked flawlessly all that time, and still does.
This was a bunch of years back, though, before the race-to-the-bottom that ensued. ’501s, ’502s, C8s, ’98s, all were quite good, even the no-name brands. If not a real Cree, then at least a decent Latticebright clone that was damned close. Metal reflectors, glass front, decent switches, the works.
What followed was that RTTB I mentioned, when no-name “beads” became the norm, you’d get plastic reflectors and plastic fronts, crappy switches, thinwall tubes that were more like thick Al foil, etc. Garbage.
The last batch of C8 clones was indeed my last, as it didn’t even pay to make a sow’s purse out of a silk ear anymore.
So today, yeah, they very likely might be garbage, no idea, as I’m not willing to risk it.
Here are some of my recent and/or favorite zoomies.
From left to right:
LED Lenser MT10 - unmodified except for replacing the stock battery with a 20700. This is a well-built zoomie with an extremely good optic. Beam pattern is excellent at all zoom positions. Flood is perfectly even and does not have the slightly brighter edges that some LED Lenser optics feature. Too large for EDC and the body is a bit slippery, but otherwise an excellent zoomie.
Sofirn S11 – this one has the following mods: Emitter swap to Oslon Boost, polished the frosting off the inside of the center section of the TIR, filed off threads on the neck of the body tube to convert zoom action from screw to push-pull, and used a tungsten etcher to scratch knurling underneath the optic retaining ring to prevent it from slipping out. This is a very compact 18650 zoomie with LED Lenser style optic. Throw isn’t the greatest, but otherwise a really nice light. I’m thinking of modding this one further: possibly replacing the driver with an Emisar D4 driver and shortening the body tube by maybe 1.5 cm using Old Lumens’ “human lathe” method. However, one concern with that is that this light is very lightly built. It gets hot even with the stock low-output driver. It might just not have enough mass to be practical with a FET driver even if used for just 10 seconds on turbo.
Modded Generic zoomie – this one was originally a very common 18650 zoomie with a side switch on top and a USB port on the bottom. I found the light to be much too long with the stock 18650 tube so replaced it with an 18350 tube taken from some other light. I also replaced the driver with a FET+1 from Mountain Electronics (Or an Emisar D4… I don’t recall which). Using the original Ramping IOS firmware from early Emisar D4. Emitter is a sliced cool white SST-40 on copper Noctigon. Star is screwed into copper plug that I inserted into the hollow pill. Bypassed springs. This one has impressively wide flood and good throw. However, the entire light is a bit heavy and large for an 18350 light. It’s longer than an Emisar D4 with 18650 tube even though it only uses an 18350.
Wowtac A3S – unmodified head, but replaced the 18650 body tube with an 18350 tube and added a pocket clip. Excellent output, UI and beam pattern. One of the best compact zoomies around in stock configuration. However, I find the head to be too wide for comfortable pocket EDC. Wish they’d made it narrower.
Sipik 58 (mod 2) – the Sipik 58 is an old low-output clicky zoomie. It came out around the same time as the classic Sipik 68, but the 58 featured a weaker emitter and lower output. It was a single-mode zoomie with a plastic aspheric lens running off one AA or 14500. Switch was a simple tailcap clicky. This one is very heavily modded with the following: (1) emitter swap to XPL HI 3D, (2) Star swapped to 16mm copper Notigon with homemade pillar between LED and the star, (3) aspheric lens replaced with LED Lenser style TIR optic, (4) body tube reamed out to provide space for plastic insulating tube and then brass switch-contact tube, (5) switch guts completely replaced with homemade copper pill and electronic switch, (6) driver replaced with Mountain Electronics E-switch FET driver, (7) metal cover glued onto bottom of switch boot, (8) anodizing removed and bare aluminum polished, (9) clip added, (10) copper pill added under star.
Sipik 58 (mod 1) – an earlier attempt at modding the Sipik 58. I’ve been tinkering with this one off and on for the last 8 years. This one is similar to the Mod 2 except for the following: (1) 3 amp driver instead of a FET, (2) Firmware is DrJones Lummodrv e-switch ramping firmware, (3) Uses a glass aspheric lens, (4) slip on clip instead of screw-on, (5) XPL HI 5D emitter on copper Noctigon, (6) also uses an electronic switch in the tailcap but system for getting the switch contact to the tail is slightly different. I added a small plastic reflector around the LED. The reflector is surprisingly useful. It greatly improved the usefulness of the flood mode by adding a wide hotspot. This hotspot becomes an ugly donut around the beam in spot mode, which looks horrible in white-wall hunting but doesn’t actually interfere with the function of the beam for practical use.
On the Road i3 – modded with FET driver and Oslon White 1 emitter. Impressive laser-like throw from a tiny little light. The hotspot is tight enough that my cats will chase it like a laser pointer.
Some lux numbers for these lights *:
Light …………………………………Flood ……………………Spot
LED Lenser MT10 …………….1,680………………………20,300
Sofirn S11 modded …………….1,470………………………16,700
Modded generic zoomie ………1,400………………………27,300
Wowtac A3S with 18350……… 1,330…………………….22,400
Sipik 58 mod 2 …………………… 1,190…………………… 16,800
Sipik 58 mod 1 …………………… 3,220…………………… 16,100
On the Road i3 modded ……… 1,470…………………… 37,100
*Testing methodology - I taped the sensor to my lux meter on the wall near the floor. I then measured out one meter and placed the light on the floor facing the meter. Measurements were taken at turn-on with a fresh cell. I figure my measurement system isn’t very accurate so I also applied an arbitrary modifier by reducing the reported output of every measurement by 30%.
Some of these lights are a work-in-progress. On the Generic Zoomie I plan on replacing the sliced cool white SST-40 with a sliced neutral white 5000K SST40 once my shipment from Mountain Electronics arrives. I also have numerous ideas for shrinking and powering up the S11.
My favorite zoomies are actually the two oldest ones in the above pictures: the two Sipik 58s. They look very classy in bare aluminum and feel great in the hand. They also have surprisingly good beams. The mod 1 with reflector around the LED has the most useful flood beam of all the lights shown above even though it’s only running at 3 amps on a 14500.