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#300456 - 11/29/21 07:54 PM My new EDC Flashlight: Nitecore EC11
amper Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 07/06/02
Posts: 228
Loc: US
Even though I bought myself a new Fenix E12 v2.0 to use as my EDC flashlight earlier this year, and I'm very pleased with it, recently, I decided to look for an EDC light with a red secondary LED to help preserve night vision when I want that, so since my birthday is coming up soon, I went ahead and got one.

My criteria:
1. Must use a common cell type, a single cell, and can preferably use both primary and rechargeable lithium cells (AA/14500, CR123A/16340).
2. Must have one-handed, direct access from off to the lowest brightness mode of the primary LED, regardless of last-used state.
3. Must have one-handed, direct access from off to the red secondary LED, regardless of last-used state.
4. Must have a lockout mechanism to prevent it turning on in my handbag and starting a fire.

In doing a whole bunch of research, the only lights I've been able to find that have all of these features are the Nitecore EC11 (IMR18350/16340/RCR123A/CR123A) and EA11 (14500/AA). Sadly, both of these lights are discontinued, but a few dealers still have a few units of the EC11 in stock, so I ordered one this past weekend before they are all gone, and it arrived today.

The EC11 is pleasantly chunky in the hand, measuring 75 mm x 25.4 mm (about 2.95 in x 1 in). It has a flat, non-magnetic tailcap so it can stand on end, and it uses two forward switches for activation. My hands are not small, but I have no trouble comfortably operating the switches.

I actually think I would have preferred the EA11 because of the more common battery type, and for the fact that when operating on a 1.2 V battery, the "Low" mode is only 17 lumens, compared to 40 lumens for the EC11 operating on a 3.0 V battery, but no one has the EA11 in stock, anymore. Both models output 70 lumens on "Low" with a 3.6 V battery.

The EC11 and EA11 were apparently replaced by the MT10C and MT10A (itself now also discontinued), but the MT series adds a tailswitch, and because of that, no longer has one-handed direct access from off to any of the modes.

I also ordered a Fenix ARB-L16-700UP lithium-ion battery, a 16340 size with a built-in micro-USB charger. Although the EC11 is actually designed for an IMR18350 battery, there are none of these on the market with built-in USB chargers, and I don't want to invest in an external charger. The EC11 comes with a plastic spacer to allow the use of the 16340 or CR123A size batteries.

I'm actually planning on using the Keeppower 3.0 V regulated RCR123A batteries, but the Fenix battery was convenient to order from the same dealer from which I purchased the EC11. The only problem with the Keeppower cells is that they are actually 36 mm long, or 2 mm longer than the spec for a CR123A. Most of the 16340s I've seen, including those sold by Nitecore, are about 35 mm long.

In any case, I charged up the battery and popped it in. I'm pleased to say that the EC11 meets or exceeds my expectations is every regard. In addition to meeting all my criteria, it (and the EA11) also offer one-handed, direct access from off to the brightest primary LED mode, regardless of previous state. They have both electronic and mechanical lockouts (by unscrewing the tail cap to break the circuit).

I have found that the "Ultra-Low" 1 lumen mode (all batteries) is bright enough, even though I am more used to a 4-7 lumen "Low" mode, with the "Med" mode being 30-45 lumens, but the downside of the EC11 is the next brightness level up is a whopping 40-70 lumens (depending on battery). The EA11 is more sensible, at about 17 lumens *if* you use a 1.2 or 1.5 V battery. The EA11 body is also longer than that of the EC11. But, that is my only gripe about either of these lights, other than them also being discontinued.

As a result, they are nearly perfect, and there are no other lights on the market that I think can come this close to being perfect EDC lights.

Since this light will get used frequently, and can be recharged from my cell phone backup battery on the go, I'm not too worried about the measly 700 mAh capacity of the battery, which is about half that of a CR123A primary cell, and 1/4 that of an Energizer L91 lithium AA. CR123As are too expensive where I live, which is what led me to retire my Leatherman Serac S3 several years ago, after moving here, and I have no desire to buy them in bulk via mail-order, when the only thing that I have that actually uses them are my one flashlight (well, now two flashlights).

With the new 16340s/RCR123As, I'm happy to return to that cell size, but my old Leatherman was designed long before those became commonly available, and I don't want to risk destroying it. I will eventually re-home the Serac S3, maybe to my daughter who lives where CR123As can be found more cheaply.

The Fenix E12 v2.0 I bought earlier this year will now go in my backpacking/camping handbag, next to my Fenix HM23 headlamp, since I prefer to use the AA format in the backcountry.

I did not mention earlier than the maximum brightness of the EC11 and EA11 is 900 lumens when using high-discharge rate IMR batteries, because I frankly think that's superfluous, although it is nice to have. That drops to 450 lumens max in the EC11 with a 3.0 V CR123A lithium primary battery, or 160 lumens max in the EA11 when using a 1.2 V NiMH AA. I would never rely on an EDC flashlight for serious duty, but as the saying goes, the best flashlight is the one you have with you when you need a flashlight, and I have been in the outlying situations where I've needed to use my EDC light for searching for lost children or things that unexpectedly go "bump" in the night.

For a utility/EDC flashlight, having the ability to access all three of the most-used modes with a single button press is ideal.

From the "off" state:

A. press the Mode switch: red secondary
B. press and hold the Mode switch: white primary Turbo mode
C. press the On/Off switch: white primary last-used mode
D. press and hold the On/Off switch: white primary Ultra-Low mode

Finally, the EC11 and EA11 have a couple of nifty features: when you activate the electronic lockout, or when you first install a battery, the red secondary will blink out the battery voltage: x blinks for volts, then y blinks for tenths of volts. So, if it blink three times, then 6 times, the battery is at 3.6 V.

But wait! There's more! When the red secondary is one, you can press and hold the Mode button to enter red blinking beacon mode (about 2 Hz), or press and hold the On/Off button to put it in a stand-by mode where the red secondary blinks briefly once per second so it's easy to find if you drop it or set it down and forget where.

If these features appeal to you, you should probably track down one of these models, since, as I said, they are discontinued and will soon be gone.

I have no connection with Nitecore and receive no financial interest for talking about their products. I'm just a happy customer.


Edited by amper (11/29/21 07:59 PM)
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Gemma Seymour (she/her) @gcvrsa

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#300463 - 11/30/21 01:52 PM Re: My new EDC Flashlight: Nitecore EC11 [Re: amper]
Ren Online   content
Addict

Registered: 11/05/07
Posts: 430
Loc: Wales, UK
There is an ongoing debate in flashlight circles over whether red light is actually useful for protecting night vision these days when have lights that can produce sub 1 lumen output for reading maps without any red information washed out.

If was serious about red light think would just get a dedicated red light. Like the Zebralight H502pr, or Exposure Lights XS-Red.

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#300464 - 11/30/21 03:44 PM Re: My new EDC Flashlight: Nitecore EC11 [Re: amper]
hikermor Online   content
Geezer in Chief
Geezer

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 7658
Loc: southern Cal
The main requirement for my lights is that when I press on the button, they respond with light. Everything else is secondary....
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Geezer in Chief

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#300466 - 11/30/21 06:58 PM Re: My new EDC Flashlight: Nitecore EC11 [Re: Ren]
amper Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 07/06/02
Posts: 228
Loc: US
Originally Posted By: Ren
There is an ongoing debate in flashlight circles over whether red light is actually useful for protecting night vision these days when have lights that can produce sub 1 lumen output for reading maps without any red information washed out.

If was serious about red light think would just get a dedicated red light. Like the Zebralight H502pr, or Exposure Lights XS-Red.




I can confidently say that the 0.8 lumen red secondary LED on the EC11 as far better at preserving night vision than the 1 lumen mode on the primary white LED. And reading maps isn't the only thing I want to be able to do in the dark without ruining night adaptation.


Edited by amper (11/30/21 06:59 PM)
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Gemma Seymour (she/her) @gcvrsa

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#300472 - 11/30/21 08:51 PM Re: My new EDC Flashlight: Nitecore EC11 [Re: amper]
haertig Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 03/13/05
Posts: 2306
Loc: Colorado
I like gadgets, but I have decided that flashlight interfaces should be simple rather than complex. That two-button interface on the EC11 is a turn off to me. Two buttons right next to each other, and it doesn't look like you could easily find them by feel alone in the dark.

I have several flashlights that require long push, short push, half push, double click and all kinds of other gyrations. You hand a light like that to someone else who requests temporary use, and they can't figure out how to work it. Even me, as the light owner, have trouble sometimes when I haven't used that particular light in a while, have other lights with different interfaces, and struggle to remember which interface style I am supposed to use. I have one light with an otherwise simple interface - push to turn on low, again for next lighting level, repeat, and finally it cycles back to low to start all over again. That's simple. But I can't tell you how many times a friend has handed me my light back still glowing away, because they couldn't figure out how to turn it off. Push and hold for that operation. But if I accidentally did that on a different flashlight, I'd be flashing SOS or some other stupid thing. Has anyone every intentionally used a flashing SOS function?! If I saw that out in the woods, I'd think "Ha! Another fool that doesn't know how to work their flashlight."

The best interface, for me, is the Fenix PD25. Tail switch for on/off. Separate button up front to cycle through output levels. Remembers last light level. But even that fools some people. They either try to turn it on/off with that forward lighting level button (fail), or they correctly identify the tail switch for on/off and never even realize there is a second button up front to adjust output. But even though not perfect, this Fenix PD25 interface is the best compromise I've run into. People's personal tastes may vary though.

I'm afraid that future iterations will have instructions like "Double-click tail switch, while holding down the front button for 5 seconds, then rapidly twist the head left and right 3 times." That's how you turn it on. But if you want SOS, that's "Click button once."

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#300473 - 11/30/21 11:41 PM Re: My new EDC Flashlight: Nitecore EC11 [Re: amper]
hikermor Online   content
Geezer in Chief
Geezer

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 7658
Loc: southern Cal
The Fenix interface is quite simple compared to Zebralight, which fortunately, can b used in fairly simple manner.
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Geezer in Chief

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#300497 - 12/04/21 10:25 AM Re: My new EDC Flashlight: Nitecore EC11 [Re: haertig]
amper Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 07/06/02
Posts: 228
Loc: US
Originally Posted By: haertig
I like gadgets, but I have decided that flashlight interfaces should be simple rather than complex. That two-button interface on the EC11 is a turn off to me. Two buttons right next to each other, and it doesn't look like you could easily find them by feel alone in the dark.

I have several flashlights that require long push, short push, half push, double click and all kinds of other gyrations. You hand a light like that to someone else who requests temporary use, and they can't figure out how to work it. Even me, as the light owner, have trouble sometimes when I haven't used that particular light in a while, have other lights with different interfaces, and struggle to remember which interface style I am supposed to use. I have one light with an otherwise simple interface - push to turn on low, again for next lighting level, repeat, and finally it cycles back to low to start all over again. That's simple. But I can't tell you how many times a friend has handed me my light back still glowing away, because they couldn't figure out how to turn it off. Push and hold for that operation. But if I accidentally did that on a different flashlight, I'd be flashing SOS or some other stupid thing. Has anyone every intentionally used a flashing SOS function?! If I saw that out in the woods, I'd think "Ha! Another fool that doesn't know how to work their flashlight."

The best interface, for me, is the Fenix PD25. Tail switch for on/off. Separate button up front to cycle through output levels. Remembers last light level. But even that fools some people. They either try to turn it on/off with that forward lighting level button (fail), or they correctly identify the tail switch for on/off and never even realize there is a second button up front to adjust output. But even though not perfect, this Fenix PD25 interface is the best compromise I've run into. People's personal tastes may vary though.

I'm afraid that future iterations will have instructions like "Double-click tail switch, while holding down the front button for 5 seconds, then rapidly twist the head left and right 3 times." That's how you turn it on. But if you want SOS, that's "Click button once."


I assure you, it is very easy to distinguish the two buttons from each other in the dark by feel. Itís even easy to press them both with one thumb to activate or deactivate the electronic lockout mode.

The UI of the EC11 is obviously more complicated that that of my Fenix E12 v2.0, but itís not hard to figure out.

From OFF:
short press the Power button turns on the last used brightness setting.
long press the Power button turns on the Ultra-Low setting.
short press the Mode button turns on the red LED.
long press the Mode button turns on the Turbo setting.
double short press the Mode button turns on the Strobe.

To activate the lockout, turn the flashlight on, then press and hold the Power button and the Mode button (in that order). The light will go off, flash once, then the red LED will blink out the battery voltage

To deactivate the lockout, do the same thing, the light will come on in Ultra-Low mode.

Those are the only operations: short press one, double short press one, long press one, or long press both. This isnít Anduril. laugh
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Gemma Seymour (she/her) @gcvrsa

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#300498 - 12/04/21 10:28 AM Re: My new EDC Flashlight: Nitecore EC11 [Re: amper]
amper Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 07/06/02
Posts: 228
Loc: US
Also, itís worth mentioning that there isnít one best UI for a flashlight. There are better and worse UIs for any given use case. A utility flashlight is not a tactical flashlight and shouldnít be treated as such (and vice versa). Anyone expecting one to do the job of the other is asking for an interface that is likely to get you into deep trouble at the worst possible moment.
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Gemma Seymour (she/her) @gcvrsa

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#300510 - 12/05/21 04:03 PM Re: My new EDC Flashlight: Nitecore EC11 [Re: amper]
hikermor Online   content
Geezer in Chief
Geezer

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 7658
Loc: southern Cal
Geee, I've been interchanging utility and "tactical" lights for decades without notable incidents. The tactical designation is simply a marketing ploy given to heavy, black lights with crenelated bezels.

My tactcal use of lights has mostly involved technical mountain and cave rescue operations, with only occasional criminal activity.

I would certainly agree that one must be familiar with the UI of whatever light you are using or there will be bad results.....
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Geezer in Chief

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#300513 - 12/05/21 11:42 PM Re: My new EDC Flashlight: Nitecore EC11 [Re: amper]
Ren Online   content
Addict

Registered: 11/05/07
Posts: 430
Loc: Wales, UK
I've always thought a tactical light should mean a tail switch with a momentary on and no clicking.

But obviously marketing has muddled the situation somewhat.

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