After a long journey of reviewing more high end or alternatively less readily available items, I have returned to the mainstream of EDC gear with this review--a single cell AA light. Hope you enjoy it.
We have finally arrived. We have arrived at a point where emitter technology has made it possible to use a single AA cell as a primary EDC light. It has taken a while and there are few lights out there that handle this task well, but one that I really like is the EagleTac D25a.
In reality most people need an EDC light to do three things: walking around at night, close up tasks in the dark, and shining a light towards a source of noise or movement that is well outside arm's reach. This means you need a light that won't wreck your night vision, a light that has good flood and while bright, won't blind you, and a light that can light up an object 50-100 feet away. This translates into a three tiered output of around 0.5-5 lumens on low, 20-40 lumens on medium, and around 80-100 lumens on high. A light that could do that would handle probably 99.9% of all of your EDC tasks. I'd take 200 lumens on high, but that is not strictly necessary and something of a luxury.
The issue with single cell AA lights is that up until very recently the 100 lumen high was not REALLY possible. Some makers might claim 100 lumens or more, but the out the front numbers were significantly less, around 60-70 lumens, which while nice is not quite enough to light up somewhat far away objects. This has to do with the difference between emitter lumens and out the front lumens as well as the beam styles (which don't alter the lumens ratings, a measurement of total light output, but do change how bright our eyes see the light--a tighter beam is seen as brighter, it also throws farther). It also, probably, has to do with makers being a little optimistic, shall we say, in their lumens ratings.
All this being said, I think that the EagleTac D25a series lights represent the first truly capable single cell AA EDC light. Sure other lights had similar outputs (see: Nitecore D11.2), but this is the first (or one of the first) light to conform to the ANSI standard (which is a more rigorously defined measurement, requiring a specified output for a specified time measured from a specified distance). Its ANSI lumens rating is 123 lumens. After 90 seconds it drops down 20% to 98.4 lumens. That makes the D25a light, for the first time I have found, a single cell AA light that, on high, hits an actual lumen rating at my preferred high output. It can do everything I described above and it does it with style--or at least the Ti version does. The single cell AA flashlight is finally up to snuff for the majority of users.
Here is the EagleTac D series product page. There is a CR123a version, a double CR123a light, a 18650 light (that can also run two CR123a batteries), and a double AA version. There are two limited edition versions--Ti versions of both the single cell CR123a and the single cell AA version. All of these lights were released with XPG cells, and many of them now run XML emitters. The difference in output doesn't really make much of a difference, but it does impact the beam type and shape, as the XML is a much bigger emitter than the XPG. The D25c (the CR123a version) and the double AA version will also be released in a clicky this year (the regular version are all twisties). I would imagine the clicky versions will be a bit longer. I got mine from Illumination Gear, and they have the best price I could find on the Internet. They also got me the light in three days and shipping was free. Here is a written review of the D25 18650 version. There are no English language video reviews of the D25a or c. Here are the Amazon reviews for the D25c. It has received an average of 5 stars out of 5 with 3 reviews. Here is my D25a Ti version:
This is a flashlight that hits all sorts of bullet points in its product description. It is really small and compact. It tailstands well. It has a pre-attached clip. It has a simple interface. It has a stainless steel bezel (to prevent marring of the tip of the light). It has well-spaced outputs. In short, EagleTac seems to have perused the Internet and flashlight forums and figured out how to cram in as many features that people want as possible into a single light. The form factor is really the surprising thing here. The D25a is really small, about the same size as my favorite mid priced EDC clicky--the Lumapower Incendio. Here is a picture for size comparison:
Fit and Finish: 1
Okay, lots and lots of features, good output, but the fit and finish is not QUITE there, even on the "special edition" Ti version. The threads on the head are a little sloppy and the pocket clip is attached but off centered. The clip being off-centered does impact the carry a little. A little bit better attention to detail could have resulted in perfect fit and finish. Many of the parts of the light are really quite nice, especially the knurling and the interior of the light's head. The reflector and emitter are really well centered. I will note, though I don't think it is an issue, that this light has some really thin body tube walls.
I have written about this before, but there is a magic ratio between diameter and length and some lights hit it dead on and others do not. It is hard to tell you what the precise ratio is, but the D25a has it. Adding to the great grip is a well placed dip in the pocket clip and nice textured knurling (nice, but not too pointy).
This is one criteria that I am waffling on. Some days I love the compact form factor. Other days I am a little peeved by the crooked pocket clip. Seeing as the pocket clip thing is so cheap and always seems to be an issue with lights in this price range (except the excellent clip on the Incendio), I am wary and gave the light a 1. The clip DOES work. It just leans to the side a bit:
Why is this so hard for companies to get right? I just don't understand it. No friction grip clips. Use either a screw down design or a bolt on clip. Make it simple. Make it sturdy. Make it STRAIGHT. Make sure it does not mess up the ability to tailstand. Done. That is all there is to this. But just about everyone has a problem doing this.
There is a noticeable difference between this light's 100 lumens and other lights that I own that claim to output 100 lumens. Maybe ANSI=honest. This thing is bright, bright, bright, especially for an AA light. Also, I really think the neutral tint here is just about perfect--not to blue not too orange. This is probably the best aspect of the D25a, and well, since its a flashlight the amount and quality of the light coming out is really important.
Runtimes on high, even with the 123 ANSI lumens is 1.2 hours. That is really impressive (even accounting for the 20% drop off after 90 seconds). Low is insane at 50 hours, but again this is becoming par for the course.
Beam Type: 2
The light has a smooth, diffuse flood beam that has a decent hotspot and lots of spill. I will note that this light, with the larger XML emitter seems far worse at throwing than a XPG of similar output. I am not the first to note this, but I am mentioning it because you can still find the XPG versions of this light out there.
Beam Quality: 2
I am quite impressed with the very nice beam on this light. Fearful that the somewhat less than perfect fit and finish would spill over to the beam I was worried that it would be donut-like, but it isn't. Instead you get a nice beam with little to no artifacting, a nice tint in neutral, and a very go circular shape (mine is a little oval, but not too bad at all). Overall, very, very good.
This is the standard three mode with hidden modes twisty. I like it quite a bit. A two or three stage twisty might be my favorite UI, but this is pretty good. I liked it on the Ti Bitz, the Mini Quark, and here. Very nice and well thought out.
Hands Free: 2
GREAT tailstanding light with excellent hands-free use. The clip is also a very good anti-roll device. Awesome all around hands free light.
Overall Score: 18 out of 20
This is a very good EDC light and for fans of AA batteries, this is a must buy. I would opt for the cheaper aluminum version, but if you like a little bling, and who doesn't, the Ti special edition is a nice upgrade. I like the form factor, the performance, and the quality of the beam; all were above par and surprisingly nice. I hate the fact that the clip is screwed up and it seems stunning to me that these companies can master complex LED emitters, but not something as simple as a freakin' pocket clip, but that is still true.
As far as mid priced single cell EDC lights go, this ranks right up there with the Incendio and the Mini Quark 123. I would probably opt for the Incendio still, but if I had sworn off AA batteries, this series would be my choice in the $35-$70 range, which happens to be the sweet spot for the market these days. Great little light, even with the janky pocket clip.