Got a new toy a couple of weeks back, the Nitecore EX10 flashlight. It is an interesting concept, using a piston inside the flashlight for the switching mechanism, which supposedly increases switching reliability and durability and also makes the negative current flow inside the flashlight instead of outside like most flashlights. I don’t know enough about electronics to really know why that makes a difference, so maybe Ainsley can pipe up and enlighten us. The version I bought uses a CR123 battery, but there is also the D10, which uses a AA battery. The EX10 was extremely well made and a nice little light, but the short version is that I sold it last night.
The long version is issues with the interface and the piston switching. If I weren’t such a flashlight snob, I would probably be elated with a light like this. It is light years (tee hee) ahead of anything you will find in any retail store in the US, both in terms of technology and quality. The LED is a CREE Q5, one of the brightest and most efficient on the market, at least in size and heat generation terms that a pocket flashlight can handle. The body is covered in knurling, which gave me a solid grip on the light, even when wet. The LED was perfectly centered, and the beam had a nice, smooth quality that was awfully close to neutral while. The Nitecore Defender Infinity is easily my favorite small flashlight with its very smart and elegant interface, and the Raidfire Spear by the same company is a work of art.
So, why did I sell it? Let’s talk about the piston first. The piston is a sleeve running on the inside of the light’s body, with room for the battery and spring on the inside. Depressing the piston (feels like a metal button) felt nice and solid, if a little stiff. The problem was that I didn’t feel any solid tactile feedback when the piston was fully depressed, like you would normally feel with a switch. Often I would press the piston, the light would momentarily come on, but would not stay on. I guess I did not press it all the way in hard enough, which was weird, since one of the selling points of the light was that the light turns on [i]after[/i] the piston makes contact, which meant that I was making contact. Maybe I have epilepsy and was rapidly turning it on and then right back off. If I made a point to carefully and fully depress the piston with a perfect press, it worked fine, but that is not something I want to have to do on a $60 flashlight. You could also use the light as a twisty, twisting the head to turn the light on and off, but I personally prefer clickies.
On to the interface. If I pay $10 for a flashlight, I do not expect multiple modes or user controlled output. If I pay $60 for a flashlight using the latest technology and best engineering Asia has to offer, I expect instant access to a usable low and the highest the light will go, at least. You can define the output, but you have to hold the piston down and let it go from low to high or high to low, releasing the piston when it is at the level you desire. Not a bad solution, especially since it is similar to the one the NDI uses and I like so much. The problem comes in when you want to instantly switch to the highest high. You can, but it takes a couple of presses. Not a bad feature, but then you have just lost the defined level you just set. You have to use the ramping feature to go back to your desired level. You can switch to a low low with a couple more presses, but it is such a low level that it is basically worthless unless you are in a survival situation where every second of light matters. I am more often in a situation where I need to see my plants at night in my backyard, so not being able to light up more than 2″ in front of me without some ramping is a pain. If you could set the instant access levels, I would have no complaints, but you can’t. What frustrates me most is that the same company did such a great job with the interface on the NDI that I was expecting something similar on this one.
My EDC light, a Liteflux LF2 has spoiled me since I can customize the levels and easily access them. Liteflux does have a new piston driven light out called the LF5XT, so that might have to be my next purchase.
Like I said, EX10 is not a bad light by any means, but there are better ones out there for my needs. If you want a reliable light (my issues notwithstanding) that is extremely well made and durable, with an easy to access high and very low low, the EX10/DX10 might be the way to go. Otherwise, there are better flashlights out there for your money.