Monday, March 26, 2012

Selector Ring Pocket Rockets

Two flashlights that have recently been released caught my attention.  Both use a magnetic selector ring to both turn on the light and control output.  Neither light has a clicky and thus the UI is very simple AND the lights are smaller than average.  These lights are the Sunwayman M11R U2 (aka Mr. Elfin) and the JetBeam RRT01.  

Sunwayman, a relatively recent arrival on these shores, has produced a dizzying array of flashlights in the past 18 months.  Many of their more mainstream models are equipped with a magnetic control ring allowing for highly variable outputs.  But like many newcomers their arrivals were tainted with missteps.  In particular, people hated the Sunwayman friction grip pocket clips.  They were supposedly flimsy (I say supposedly because I have never used one).  People also disliked the clicky tailcap.  But the mag ring is a great idea, and great ideas never truly die.

So for their second generation EDC light, the M11R U2, Sunwayman radically improved the clip design and did away with the clicky.  The end result is a much smaller more secure light.  Here is a picture:

The clip appears to be really well built and has two mechanical attachment points.  The deep carry design reminds me of the Buck Vantage clip and that is one of my all time favorites.  The mag ring only UI is also a step up, in my opinion, allowing for simple, one-handed use.  Simply twist to turn on and twist more for more light.  I think I have seen that before and I liked it then.  

The light comes in three colors--dark gray, natural HA, and tan.  Tan is pretty snazzy.  All accept a variety of battery chemistries as well as higher output rechargeables.  With primaries it tops out at 180 lumens.  With these high output rechargeables it hits 230 lumens.  Not bad, but not a screamer like the Incendio or the Jetbeam RRT-0.

Speaking of screamers, JetBeam has also jumped on the selector ring only mini EDC light bandwagon with the release of the RRT-01.  Here is a look at the light:

The JetBeam does boast a higher output, hitting 500 lumens, but again only with special batteries and only for a few minutes. 

By the way, if there is anyone out there that is crazy, I would LOVE to see a YouTube video where you run your light on high until is melts or bursts into flames.  Of course only do this if you know what you are doing and can control the resulting inferno that will almost assuredly occur.  Maybe Neptune Knives would like to utterly abuse flashlights as well. 

The JetBeam light is a little bigger, roughly half a centimeter longer.  It also has a bolted on clip, which, if you have an eagle eye you might recognize as it is a McGimzo clip (which appears on the Nitecore EX11, Nitecore being another JetBeam brand of lights).  This light, like the Sunwayman, has the virtue of being utterly simple to control and turn on and being tiny, tiny, tiny.  By comparison my favorite light in this market segment, the Incendio XML, is 7.9 centimeters long and is widely considered the smallest clicky light available running CR123a batteries. 

Both lights look promising.  They also both fill the demand caused by the complete lack of HDS Rotaries.  Henry seems to be backed up until the End Times (at which point you will REALLY need that light) as do all of his retailers.  Into the breach come these two very capable lights.  Both are cheaper than the HDS Rotary and both probably aren't as robustly built, but both are smaller, easier to use, and brighter.  This is a lesson every small gear maker needs to learn--wait too long and the market will pass you by.  I am sure people will still be lining up to buy the Rotaries, but it seems like nothing other than poor planning and business management that HDS is so far behind demand.   

Sunwayman has agreed to send me a M11R for testing and review (thanks Elaine!).  I will see if I can get JetBeam to do the same.  Both lights, given their size, features, and price, could replace the Incendio as my light of choice in the most competitive market segment in flashlights--the sub-$100, single cell CR123a market.  As I have said many, many times--it is a good time to be a flashaholic.   


  1. I love my Incendio, but that Sunwayman looks hot. It has a lanyard hole! 500 lumen flashlight is good enough, right? I guess I'll find out when I read your upcoming Sunwayman review.

  2. Great site and can't wait for your review of the sunwayman.

  3. Very cool that you're getting a M11R for review.

    A guy I know showed me a Sunwayman with the selector ring. It is a cool way to approach the question of pocket flashlight UI.

    I hope you'll discuss whether the ring control is secure. Does it slip between modes or get turned on in the pocket, etc. I think I would want it to be fairly stiff.

  4. Who disliked the clicky tailcap?

  5. I've been toting a natural gray Sunwayman M11R for two weeks. I'm looking forward to your review so I can compare impressions.

    The light is elegantly shaped and has good fit and finish. It has a wonderful pocket clip. The outputs are interesting: I use normal 123 primaries and with them the low is WAY low, a "moonlight" of less than 1 lumen. (I gather that the outputs differ with rechargeables.) Beam is floody, cool white, and exhibits some artifacting. The light tailstands perfectly.

    I am curious what you will think of the M11R's UI. I rate it a 1 out of 2. I like the idea of the selector ring, it is intuitive and gives you instant access to the highest mode if you need it (self-defense, an unknown rustling in the trees, etc.). But I wish the ring had stronger detents, more of a knuckly feel that clicks into place and is resistant to being switched unless the ring is deliberately turned. As it is, I think the ring turns too easily. Modes occasionally switch inadvertently when I am handling the light. Other times I get "lost" between modes.

    Good light, probably rate it circa 16-17 out of 20.

  6. One addendum re: UI.

    Yesterday after sitting down and moving around on the kitchen floor (picking up baby toys etc.) I found the M11R selector ring had jostled on into low mode. The light was still clipped to my back pants pocket.