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По умолчанию Object/Subject Review: Nitecore Explorer EA2 (In Progress!)

Nitecore has been in the flashlight business for some time, and has been at the edge of lighting technology during most of that time. Nitecore is a sister brand to Jetbeam, both owned by SYSMAX. SYSMAX has always shown an excellency in flashlights with top-of-the-line user interface and operation, and was among the first to use technology like the infinitely variable brightness and the magnetic control ring. Recently, they released the SENS series with unique "Active Dimming Technology", a user interface where the flashlight anticipates the amount of light you need and adjusts itself accordingly. The Explorer series takes the opposite approach, giving the user many options to control two separate emitters using two different buttons.


Thanks to Nitecore for providing the EA2 for review.

I’ll be reviewing the EA2 in two sections: first, I’ll discuss the light objectively (the facts about the light itself), then I’ll discuss the light subjectively (my impressions about the light's performance when used for specific applications). This is a compact light geared a bit more to throw than flood, with the highlight being a complex user interface, so I'll be reviewing it as such. If you have any other specific applications you'd like the light tested for, let me know and I'll see what I can do.

4-Minute Overview

Below is a video "quick overview" you can watch in just a few minutes, if you're not up for reading the full review right now:

[video=youtube_share;gWgyRd59RiU]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gWgyRd59RiU[/video]
This video is available in 720p HD, but defaults to a lower quality. To select the playback quality click the settings button (looks like a gear) after you've started the video.


Objective

Manufacturer's Specifications

Price: $60

• CREE XP-G (R5) LED
• Maximum output of up to 280 lumens
• High efficiency constant current circuit enables maximum run time of up to 150 hours
• 5 brightness levels
• Momentary push-on strobe and SOS modes
• Dual electronic switches ensure very easy user interface
• Secondary red light mode (0.2 lumens)
• Power indicator light also serves as battery voltage indicator (accurate to 0.1V)
• Power indicator light serves as standby indicator light when powered down
• Toughened ultra-clear mineral glass with dual-side anti-reflective coating
• Elaborate alloy reflector is purpose-designed for exceptionally long throw
• Constructed from aero grade aluminum alloy
• HAIII military grade hard-anodized
• Stainless steel bezel retaining ring protects core components from damage
• Detachable two-way anti-rolling clip
• Waterproof in accordance with IPX-8 (2 meters submersible)
• Tail stand function



Packaging




The EA2 comes packaged in this cardboard box with the specs and some pictures printed on it. Inside, the light is held in a plastic form, with various accessories and printed materials underneath.

Construction Quality



The EA2 has a slim profile, even with the abnormally shaped head. Overall it has a solid feel, with no areas that feel weak to me. The anodizing is a black HAIII which should help prevent scratches and chips.



The EA2 can run using two AA alkalines, two L91 lithium primaries, or two AA NiMH rechargeable cells. The EA2 is not approved for use with lithium-ion rechargeable cells. As you can see, it's pretty compact for it's class, being not much bigger than the cells it uses.

Let's take a closer look, starting at the head and working back.



The EA2 uses a Cree XP-G emitter in a smooth reflector, which will maximize the distance that the EA2 can throw it's light. The XP-G is a small emitter which concentrates most of it's light to a tight hotspot, and a smooth reflector keeps light lined up better than a textured one (at the cost of a slightly rougher looking beam pattern). A glass lens protects the emitter and the reflector, and sits behind a stainless steel ring. However, the anodized aluminum of the head extends in crenelations beyond the stainless steel ring, so those crenelations are still vulnerable to chips/scrapes on impact.



The head of the Explorer series lights visually sets them apart from other lights at a quick glance: it has a squarish shape, two buttons, and a red blinking light. These two buttons control all the functions available in the Explorer interface, including both the main emitter and the red indicator light. During standby mode, the indicator will blink intermittently, and while using the main emitter the indicator light will be off. The indicator can also be set to constant off or constant on (see the UI section for more details).

The red indicator LED can be used as a locator beacon, a very dim light, and a battery voltage indicator.

When looking at the light with the head pointing away (middle picture above), the model number is to the right of the buttons, the Nitecore name and website to the left, and the serial number below.



This is a view of the head from the side/back. The sides of the head have small grooves cut in to create a series of cooling fins that dissipate head from the head into the air or your hand. The clip attaches to the back of the head by two phillips head screws, which can be easily removed if you desire.



The body and tail of the EA2 have a spiral knurling pattern, which is also a bit different than you usually see on a light. As you can see, the tail has no button, all of the controls are at the head.

Now, it's time to take the light apart.



Without the use of tools, the EA2 comes apart into two pieces, the head/body and the tail cap. A bright yellow/green o-ring keeps water out of the tail, which adds some additional style to the light. The threads are square cut and anodized, which should mean they'll not wear down very fast at all. They are also very wide, so there isn't room for very many of them, which means it doesn't take many turns to unscrew the tail cap. Because they are anodized, you can unscrew the tail cap just slightly for a full mechanical lockout, preventing the light from turning on.

It's worth noting that on my review sample, the tail is slightly loose and tends to come unscrewed just a little bit when spending time in my pocket, and in that case it won't turn on when I go to activate it, until I re-tighten the tail cap.



When the batteries are inserted, they sit slightly below the end of the body.



In the pictures above, the left is a picture of the positive contact point in the head (at the far end of the body tube), and the right is a picture of the small spring for a negative contact point in the tail cap.



As you can see, the EA2 can stand on either head or tail.


Accessories



The EA2 comes with a manual, a warranty card, a flyer for other lights, a holster, lanyard, spare o-ring, spare switch cover, and gel particle pack.



The EA2 goes in the holster head up, and a velcro flap covers the head. A small "Nitecore" tag is sewn into the side.



Not sure exactly why the lanyard was included, as there are no convenient lanyard attachment points on the EA2, but it is a nicer-than-average lanyard. My best position I've found for the lanyard is on the clip.



Here you can see in included switch cover and spare o-ring.



Also included, tucked into the body of the light, was this little stay-fresh moisture absorbing pack. Not really sure this counts as an accessory, but I thought I'd note it as it's a little out of the ordinary.


Dimensions




User Interface

The Explorer series lights have a complex user interface which uses two buttons to control a variety of functions available for two different emitters, a "MODE" and "ON/OFF" button and a XP-G main and red LED indicator emitter. Additionally, each button can either be quickly pressed, or held for about a second. To describe the user interface, I think it will be easiest to understand if I list what each button does when the light is in a certain state. This light does have mode memory, but it only remembers the four regular brightness settings (High, Medium, Low, Ultra Low). The other modes (Turbo, SOS, Strobe, Red Light) are not remembered.

Electronic Lockout (Main and indicator lights both off)
Press MODE - nothing
Hold MODE - nothing
Press ON/OFF - nothing
Hold ON/OFF - Turn on to last used brightness mode

Standby (Main off, indicator flashing every few seconds)
Press MODE - Red Light mode
Hold MODE - SOS mode
Press ON/OFF - Last used brightness mode
Hold ON/OFF - Strobe mode

On (Main emitter at one of four regular brightnesses in cycle from Ultra Low > Low >Medium > High, indicator light off)
Press MODE - Move to next brightness in cycle
Hold MODE - Turbo mode
Press ON/OFF - Standby mode
Hold ON/OFF - Indicate battery voltage, then Electronic Lockout mode

Turbo (Highest brightness available, will step down to previous brightness after three minutes, indicator light off)
Press MODE - Return to previous brightness
Hold MODE - Return to previous brightness
Press ON/OFF - Standby mode
Hold ON/OFF - Indicate battery voltage, then Electronic Lockout mode

Strobe (Main emitter flashes quickly, indicator light off)
Press MODE - Standby mode
Hold MODE - Standby mode
Press ON/OFF - Standby mode
Hold ON/OFF - Standby mode

SOS (Main emitter switches between high and low pattern [not on and off] to spell SOS in morse code, indicator light off)
Press MODE - Standby mode
Hold MODE - Standby mode
Press ON/OFF - Standby mode
Hold ON/OFF - Standby mode

Red Light (Indicator on constantly, main off)
Press MODE - Standby mode
Hold MODE - SOS mode
Press ON/OFF - Last used brightness mode
Hold ON/OFF - Strobe mode

When showing the battery voltage (happens when you move to electronic lockout), the red indicator light will give two sets of flashes. The first set will correspond to the first digit in the battery voltage, and the second set will correspond to the second digit. So, if the battery voltage is 2.5 volts, the indicator will flash twice, pause, then flash five times.


Action Shots

You can click on any of these shots to see them full size.

Light in Hand



BeamSlice


White Wall (Low, High)
ISO 100, f/3.3, 1/20"






Indoor Shots (Low, High)
ISO 100, f/3.3, 1"






Outdoor Shots (Control, Low, High)
ISO 100, f/3.3, 2.5"








Performance

Submersion: I submerged the EA2 under about a foot of water for an hour, turning the light off and on and using both switches during that time. Afterward, I could find no evidence of water entering the light or affecting it's performance in any way.

Heat: When using High mode, I find the EA2 to get noticeably warm, but not uncomfortably so. Using Turbo mode, the EA2 automatically steps down after about 3 minutes, so heat is not a problem.

PWM: The EA2 does use PWM to regulate the lower levels of brightness. I was not able to see the pulse width modulation by looking at the beam or waving it around at all, I was only able to detect the PWM by viewing the light through my camera set to a very quick exposure.

Drop: I dropped the EA2 from a height of about a meter onto various surfaces (grass, carpet, packed dirt, wood floor) and found no damage to the light's appearance or performance.

Reverse Polarity Protection: I can find no evidence of reverse polarity protection, so make sure you put your batteries in with the positive terminal facing the head.

Over-Discharge Protection: This is not an issue for the EA2 because it does not accept lithium ion batteries. Alkaline and NiMH chemistries can be fully discharged with no problems.

Spectral Analysis


All light that we see as white is actually made up of several different colors put together. The relative intensities of the different colors in the mix are what determine the tint of the white we see. For example, cool white LED's have a lot of blue, and warm white LED's have more red or yellow. This measurement was done on a home made spectrometer. Note: the peak in the 900nm region doesn't really exist, it's a piece of the second-order spectrum that's showing up here because of the high intensity of the light source.

Also, I've included a spectral analysis of the second emitter, the red indicator light on the side.



Output, Current Draw and Runtime


ANSI runtime ratings are the time it takes for a light to fall to 10% of it's original output (counting from 30 seconds after turning the light on). *My estimate for the Low mode run time is calculated from the current draw measured for Low mode and the battery capacity used on the other modes.

The vertical axis of the graphs below represents a relative brightness measurement using a home made light box. The horizontal axis is time in hours:minutes:seconds. Runtimes are stated in hours:minutes:seconds. These graphs may be truncated to show detail.


Note: Turbo mode lasts for about 3 minutes, then steps back down to whichever regular brightness mode you used last. You can re-engage Turbo again after that if you choose. This plot only shows the Turbo mode portion.





Throwing Distance

ANSI FL-1 standard for stating a light's throwing distance is the distance at which the peak beam intensity (usually at the center of the beam) is 0.25 lux. I calculate throwing distance and candela (lux at 1 meter) by measuring peak beam intensity at five different distances and using the formula lux*distance^2=constant.

Peak Beam Intensity: 6223cd
Throw Distance: 158m

As a side note, on my sample of the EA2, I found the peak beam intensity to be slightly outside of the center of the beam.


Subjective Review

Quick break down:

+Slim profile
+Good throw for it's size
+Wide spread of outputs
+Battery voltage indicator
+UI works consistently
+Different style from the norm
+Red light good for low-light applications
+Red light good for finding the light at night
+All buttons at the same spot means you don't need to shift your grip
+Pocket clip allows bezel-up or bezel-down carry

-Tail cap spontaneously unscrews
-No real lanyard attachment point
-Turbo steps down to previous brightness
-UI too complex for my taste

The Explorer series is definitely not like average flashlights at this time. They also represent a stark contrast to Nitecore's other new offering, the SENS series. Where the SENS series aims for elegant simplicity in a light that predicts your needs, the Explorer series aim to give you a wide range of precise control over what exactly your light does, giving you a lot of options.

Overall, I count 7 different modes available on the EA2. Other lights have multiple modes, but the most common solution for incorporating them into a UI is turning a light on and off repeatedly by clicking a tail cap button. Other more advanced lights are starting to implement side switches to control the output and leaving the tail cap button for turning the light on and off. One thing I really like about the EA2 is that both the on/off switch and the mode switch are at the same location, so that you don't have to switch grips to reach the other switch. I also like that you don't have to cycle through all the modes to get to the one you want. I can't think of many things more annoying about a light than a UI that requires me to first pass through a strobe mode when I'm trying to get to low. Instead, on the EA2 the strobe and SOS modes are accessed separately from the regular brightness modes, so there's less chance of activating them on accident.

The drawback to this complex UI is that you have to be pretty familiar with the light in order to be able to actually use it, because it's pretty far from being an intuitive setup. To be comfortable using this light in a real "explorer" type of situation, you're going to have to spend some good quantity time with it first, memorizing what the buttons do in different modes and how to get in/out of the mode you want. However, once you're confident with it, I've found the UI of the EA2 to be very reliable. So, you can count on the EA2 to do what it's supposed to, the only issue is learning what it's supposed to do.

A couple things I want to highlight about the EA2: First, the red indicator LED is extremely handy. I've had several occasions where I'm looking for a light in the middle of the night, and being who I am, I know I have several in whatever room I am in, but I still find myself going to the other room to grab the EA2 because it's so darn easy to find in the dark. Also, the constant-on mode of the red LED is very useful for those times you want to save your night vision or keep from disturbing others. On that note, the second highlight is the wide range in outputs. From the ultra-low to the turbo mode is a pretty impressive range itself, but including the red LED mode makes it even more impressive, and makes this light good for a lot of different situations.

There are also a few things that I don't like about the EA2: First, on my sample, the tail cap tends to unscrew itself while it's in my pocket. It has never come off, but it seems like 1 of every 3 times I go to grab the light from may pocket and turn it on, it won't turn on, and I find I need to tighten the tail cap a bit first. This isn't a huge deal, but it's pretty frustrating to me to not have the light right when I need it. I do carry the light bezel-up (I prefer bezel down for slim lights, but the clip lends itself to the upward orientation) putting the tail cap down in my pocket, so if you carry it tail up it might fare better. The second thing I don't like about the EA2 is that from Turbo mode, when the 3 minutes are up it steps down to the last mode you used, not High mode, which seems counter-intuitive to me. I imagine myself in a situation where I am in the dark, and something happens that causes me to want maximum light as quickly as possible. I whip out the EA2, turn it on, and it comes on in one of four possible brightness modes. But I want max as quickly as possible, so I then hold down the mode button for a second, and viola, max output. I'm happy for 3 minutes using my max brightness, but then suddenly it steps itself down. For most lights with auto-stepdown, no big deal, it's only a slight decrease. On the EA2, it's a 3 in 4 chance for a large or very large decrease in output, leaving me relatively in the dark, with my eyes bright-adapted. I would much prefer if Turbo mode stepped down to High mode every time, instead of the last used brightness.

Overall, the EA2 is a very well put-together light, that combines a lot of features in a generally well thought-out way. If you don't mind memorizing a complex user interface (and don't loan out your lights often), this could be a very good choice. If you're looking for something similar to this but froma different power source, Nitecore has 3 other models in their Explorer series that you can look into.


Long Term Impressions

I'll fill this part in after carrying the light for a while. If nothing get's added here, either I find nothing else worth noting about the light, or I end up not using it often.
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