Author Topic: Lighten7 Elite S1A Review  (Read 11308 times)

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Offline gearhounds

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Lighten7 Elite S1A Review
« on: October 24, 2012, 05:06:56 PM »


A relative newcomer to the flashlight world, Lighten7 has produced several flashlights in a short period of time. Based in Hong Kong, with an affiliate in Australia, the company advertises a line of lights that were inspired by adventurers from New Zealand and Australia. The idea was to build rugged, durable products that can take the abuse that field use can throw at them. Check out the company link below:

http://lighten7.com/index.html

I, like many, have a strong interest in tactical sized lights; in other words, a light that is bright, and easily belt mounted for fast access. Having reviewed a few of the Lighten7 offerings previously, I was very interested in the most recent addition to the lineup, the Elite S1A. I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a sample unit- thanks to Howard at Lighten7.

The light arrived in a pre-retail shipping box- the finished product will be shipped in a "tool box" style case, as offered with some of the company's other lights.


Along with the light, the usual accompanying items to include spare o-rings, a lanyard with split ring for mounting, removable pocket clip, instruction manual. In addition, the standard retail packaging will include a spare lens, which is a nice extra for any light.


Also in the packaging, a functional holster which does the job. I found that the S1A fits my Surefire V70 holster on my duty belt like it was made for it.


The S1A is a fairly compact tac-light- stats are as follows:

length- 5 1/8"--130mm
width at bezel- 1 1/4"--32.5mm
body width- 1"--25.5mm
weight- 4.3 oz.--120 grams (empty), 5.8 oz.-- 164 grams (with a 18650 battery)
Suggested retail- $79

Two additional kit options will be available as well- one with a charger and single 18650 battery, and a Biker's kit, which will add a rear mounted AAA powered tail light.

The Elite S1A is fairly compact, yet hand filling, even in my largish hands. With practice, I find both switches can be used in tandem.



The S1A compared to a few familiar lights- from left to right: Fenix PD32, Jetbeam ST Cycler, Elite S1A, and Wolf-Eyes Sniper.


With a voltage range of 2.5V- 4.5V, the S1A is powered by a single lithium ion battery only- CR123's are not an option. It is designed to use primarily the 18650, but a 17670 can be used in a pinch. Flat top batteries are supported.


Starting at the head, is a stainless steel bezel, which is just the right profile in my opinion- aggressive enough to be used defensively, but smooth enough that it does not catch on skin or fabric under general use. This bezel differs slightly from that pictured in product images at the home website- it seems a better choice, as it appears to be more user friendly. The lens is clear, and the reflector is lightly textured and glossy. The head assembly is free of fingerprints and manufacturing debris.


The S1A utilizes Cree's familiar powerhouse XM-L emitter, this one a U2 cool white.


The S1A is a dual switch platform; the head assembly includes a side mounted switch, which is utilized to switch modes. It is low profile, and functions smoothly. Take note of the heavy cooling fins, and the industry standard warning of potential excessive heat. 


Rather than housing the electronics in a screw in pill, the head assembly is milled from a single piece of aerospace grade aluminum. In other words, heat from the XM-L emitter is transferred directly to the beefy head of the light in the area of the cooling fins; the head alone is 70 grams, and comprises almost 60% of the lights entire empty mass. The end result is excellent heat sinking and dissipation. The 1 piece construction can be clearly seen in the following link at Lighten7:

http://lighten7.com/products/elite_s1a/s1a.html

The view inside the head at the positive end of the battery- the raised brass post provides good contact, and the S1A incorporates reverse polarity protection, which works as tested.


Threading at both ends on the body tube are generously cut in a trapezoidal profile, and are smooth and anodized, allowing for lock-out if desired. Well lubed o-rings feel snug fitting and provide IPX-8 water resistance, as per the company.


Knurling on the body tube is a diamond pattern, and provides sufficient grip.


Laser etched lettering on the S1A is clean and well centered.


For those wishing to carry the S1A other than in the supplied holster  the removable pocket clip works nicely. The body tube being reversible allows bezel up or down, depending on preference. Having it installed is the only anti-roll option.


The tail cap is milled with a single large slot for mounting the supplied lanyard, and is knurled with a diamond pattern as well. Two side cuts allow for easy access to the rear switch, even with gloves. The switch is a forward clicky with a momentary function with moderate pressure to guard against accidental activation. It is smooth and operates cleanly, and extends slightly past the end of the cap- not a tail stander, but with so much weight at the other end, it wouldn't be practical anyway.


The user interface for the Elite S1A is intuitive and easy to use. For a tac-light, it is just about right, with 3 levels of steady output, and a quickly accesable strobe function. No un-needed extra modes to navigate through- simple and effective. Any time the light is activated, it will be on high. Once clicked on, a press of the side switch will cycle to medium, low, and back to high, in that order. A quick double click of the side switch in any mode gains access to a moderate speed strobe, which is at full brightness, and very disorienting. From strobe, a single side click, or off/on at the tail, and you are back to high. Simple, foolproof, and just what you would expect from a tactical light. Output and runtimes, as per the manufacturer are as follows:

high- 700 lumens/ 1.4 hours
medium- 270 lumens/ 4.5 hours
low- 30 lumens/ 28 hours
strobe- 700 lumens/ 2.8 hours

Time to install a freshly charged 18650, and check current draw values at the tail end. They are as follows:

high- 2.3A
medium- .66A
low- .11A

I was very pleased to find that, as the manufacturer stated, output is controlled via constant current regulation. No PWM, and no detectable circuit whine from the internals.

Upon firing the S1A up to check tint and beam characteristics, I was floored on just how bright this relatively diminutive little tac-light is. It is blistering bright on high, especially in an enclosed environment. In fact, I discovered that in terms of raw output, the S1A is brighter than both the Eagletac M2XC4, and Olight Warrior M21XI as evidenced by a ceiling bounce test.

I was equally impressed on how well the light was able to reach out, given the fairly compact size of the reflector. Clearly, the S1A was not designed to win throw contests, but what it is capable of is impressive. I found the lower modes to be almost perfect for my purposes. Medium mode gives more than ample output for most tasks, and low is sufficient for most close work without blinding the user, even against a white background.

Tint of this sample is the advertised cool white, but not excessively so. A well-defined spot is surrounded by a large, nebulous corona that shifts to an almost warmish tint. Spill from the corona to the outside edge returns to cool white and is very good- no artifacts to speak of. I was surprised to see the tint shift mirrored in the lower modes as well, as one can often expect a greenish tint when the XM-L is under powered.

BEAMSHOTS
All beamshots are labeled

Indoor
to hearth- 6'

low


medium


to hearth- 15'

low


medium


high


to hearth- 25'

low


medium


high


to hearth- 35'

high


Outdoors
Garage white wall-
at 6'

low


medium


at 15'

low


medium


high


at 25'

low


medium


high


at 50'

low


medium


high


at 100'

medium


high


20' to tree

low


medium

 
high


35' to front of house

low


medium


high


50' to front of house


50' to shed closest corner

low


medium


high


CONCLUSIONS

Overall I am very impressed with the Elite S1A in pretty much any category of discussion. Construction is top notch, both from a design and materials standpoint. While not designed as a thrower, the S1A manages to project bright light to a very reasonable distance by brute force. Compared to larger, wider headed tac-lights, what the S1A lacks in throw is more than made up by close to mid-range performance. And letís face it- this is a belt mounted sized light- it's job isn't to reach out to extreme distance; it is to light up as much as possible at closer ranges. I can say from a law enforcement perspective, this is exactly what a belt mounted tac-light should be doing. Extreme range illumination should be left to a true duty light.

At 2.3A pulled at the tail of the light, the XM-L is far from being over driven, and the solid head construction paired with heavy cooling fins really manages heat well. I never felt that the light got all that hot to the touch, which tells me that what heat is produced is rapidly and effectively dissipated. Obviously, this will preserve the XM-L emitter to extend its service life and retain brightness in the long term. Compared to lights with a screw in pill, there is simply no comparison to the ability to remove excess heat from the equation.

UI is easy to pick up, and from a tactical point of view, both practical and sensible. A duty belt mounted tactical light should always turn on in the high mode when activated at any time. Period. Whether doing room searches with frequent momentary switch activation, or lighting up a large group, maximum output each and every time is what is called for. If lower modes/strobe are what is called for, the side switch does a great job of isolating those modes. The ability to switch the light off and immediately back on in high mode is a huge plus in my opinion.

At the suggested price point of $79 the S1A is easily able to compete with lights of its form factor. Add in the more costly and effective construction necessary to create the light and the Elite S1A becomes a better and better bargain. Lighten7 has a real winner with the Elite S1A.

« Last Edit: October 26, 2012, 04:20:12 AM by gearhounds »