Rodney Campbell's Blog

Review: Nitecore EA4 (Pioneer) 860 Lumem Torch…

by on Apr.03, 2013, under Life, Photography

I’d been on the lookout for a powerful handheld torch to use for larger scale light painting (buildings, trees, mountains :), etc) for a while now. With the rapid advances in LED technology very powerful and compact models are becoming more readily available for lower and lower prices.

I had a few criteria in mind:
– I wanted a relatively small, light and compact torch – something I could just leave in my camera bag
– I’d rather it run on “standard” rechargeable batteries (AA or AAA) and not use the advanced rechargeable Li-ion batteries found in many higher powered torches (e.g. 14500 and 18650)
– high power (500+ lumens)
– preferably a warm white beam rather than cool
– a zoom head would be nice but is unlikely on any high powered models

I already had a few smaller AA powered LED torches – e.g. a 4 x AA Fenix HP-10 headlamp (225 lumens) and a few small single AA powered 120 lumen zoomable torches.

Nitecore had recently released their new EA4 model and it was getting mostly rave reviews on the various forums (e.g. candlepower) and when FastTech announced a super special price I jumped on board.

I ordered the Neutral White version from FastTech for the princely sum of $46.90 which is insanely cheap for a torch of this power.

Battery: 4 x AA
LED Type: Cree XM-L U2
Switch: Side
Modes: 8 [Micro (65lm 22hr), Low (135lm 11hr), Medium (300lm 4hr30min), High (550lm 2hr), Turbo (860lm 1hr45min), Strobe, SOS, Beacon]
Throw: 283 metres
Weight: 159g (without batteries)
Dimensions: A tiny 117mm long with a diameter of 40mm
Waterproof: IPX-8 (2m submersible)

The overall quality of the torch is very nice – it is solidly built, nice anodised finish and it feels good in the hand. It is a very compact torch for the power it generates – I’d expect it’s currently the smallest 860 lumen torch available. Given it’s diminutive size it weighs more than it looks but it certainly isn’t heavy.

The user interface leaves a lot to be desired. Nitecore touts this as a feature with it’s “innovative single button two-stage switch offering a user friendly interface”. It may be a nice concept but it is a lot more complicated than it really needs to be. 1 click, 1 half click, 2 clicks in 1 second, hold down for 1 second, to access different modes and functions.

But that’s only the start of it — the 8 brightness levels are grouped into 3 operating modes (Daily, Search, Special) with various switching/cycling options, and there are 2 ON states, 2 OFF states, as well as a dual-purpose power indicator light integrated into the button.

Once you start to use the flashlight, you soon realise that the interface is anything but user-friendly. Some of the challenges include…
– how do I activate Turbo again?
– was that half, single or double-click?
– why does the button keep flashing at me?
– now that it’s locked, how do I turn this bloody thing on?

Anyway, a helpful forum soul created a colour-coded Quick Reference Guide as printable PDF’s:

Nitecore EA4 Quick Reference Guide – A4
Nitecore EA4 Quick Reference Guide – Letter

The user interface is probably the only real con of this torch – everything else is awesome

– it uses AA batteries
– a power pack in a small and light package
– has a smooth deep reflector
– very bright and a very nice hotspot
– has a long throw distance
– it can stand on it’s tail
– a neutral white version is available
– good quality build and finish

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