Monday, April 22, 2013

Surefire EB1 Review

Total Internal Reflection is an optical property that has long been known, studied, and mathematically defined.  Here is the wikipedia page on the topic.  In total dummy terms (those being the only ones I can understand when it comes to advanced optics), total internal reflection, for purposes relevant to this review, occurs when light strikes the boundary of a normally transparent material at an angle insufficient to let the light pass through.  Here is a good example.  Viewing water a certain angle results in it being transparent, you can look right through it.  But viewing at a different angle, makes the water's surface function like a mirror--you can't see beyond it and it is totally reflective.  This is Total Internal Reflection.  Normally this occurs when you are looking at the boundary of water at a very acute angle, such as when you are in water, looking up towards the air.  Here is an image that best demonstrates this phenomenon:

When I explain it, it sounds weird, but when you see the image you know EXACTLY what I am talking about.  Total Internal Reflection or TIR is something we all have experience with, but it has just made its way into the world of flashlights. 

Surefire is a brand that while not on the bleeding edge of emitters, is constantly pushing the boundaries of flashlights in other, and in my opinion, more meaningful ways.  Which would you rather have: a DX flashlight that says it is "500 lumens!" or the amazing throw/flood array of the Surefire A2 Aviator?  If you read this site, the answer is a no-brainer.  Likewise, the time and energy they spend in perfecting the reflector and beam pattern greatly outweighs the need for a new, new, double new emitter (see here for more on why you don't need the newest, latest, and greatest).  All of this is a very long lead in to say that the move towards the TIR optics in Surefire's newest lights is yet another example of quality over quantity at Surefire and one of the reasons why, even in the hyper competitive flashlight market today, Surefire still stands out.  The EB1, the TIR upgrade to the E1B, is an evolutionary step, but a very big one.  Reviewing this light, with such new and powerful technology, is a daunting task and something that took me quite a while to do.  In the end I was convinced that this is the way things should go.  Production lights with TIR produce beams very much like the finest, high end, perfectly tuned, custom lights at a fraction of the cost.  They are not QUITE as good as a Haiku, but they are awful damn close.  The future of production lights is, without question, TIR optics.

Here is the product page, with specs, for the EB1.  The heads are compatible with the E series, but the tailcaps are not.  Additionally there are two models, one with a shrouded tailcap and the other without.  I reviewed the shrouded tailcap version.  Here is a written review.  Here is a video review. Here is a link to Blade HQ, where you can find the Surefire EB1, and all proceeds benefit the site when you purchase things through this link:

Blade HQ

Finally, here is the review sample Blade HQ sent me:

Design: 2

Surefire's designs have always been stout and tactical and the EB1 is that, but to a lesser degree than any other Surefire.  It has the muted functionality more closely related, aesthetically speaking, to a Dauntless than the Klingon lights found elsewhere in the Surefire line up.  The muted aesthetics appeal to me a great deal and the overall robust feel has not been diminished in the least.  This is a light that looks and feels bombproof because it is.  It is easily ranks as one of the best 1xCR123a production lights on the market in terms of design.  The shrouded tailcap has issues, but the clip, the bezel, and the clicky are all absolutely first rate.  Surefire designs again lap the field.  

The TIR head is a weighty and relatively big.  This makes the EB1 a very big light for the 1x CR123a class of lights.  The head is also large in diameter, another way in which this light is bigger than normal.  I prefer much smaller lights, but I can see why folks like this size (it is roughly the same size as the HDS, which is also a very large single cell light).  There is a moderate size difference between this light and a 2xCR123a light, but the body is not so small that it is hard to manipulate or use.  Here is a size comparison between a standard Mag Light 2xAA and the EB1:


Weight:lumens is 60.60.  Total lumens output is 260 (200 lumens on high for 1.3 hours).  High mode actually gives you the greatest number here, something that is unusual.  

Fit and Finish: 2

Surefire's designs are stout and their fit and finish is equally impressive.  This is an immaculately well made light.  The emitter and the entire TIR unit is beautifully finished with amazingly clear optics.  The anodizing is incredibly thick.  The clip is sturdy.  All of the lines are evenly cut and the lettering is clean and without chipping, color bleed, or mis-stamping.  The rubber boot on the clicky is thick and well textured.  There is nothing on this light that turned out poorly and the consistently high level of fit and finish on the Surefire products I have owned over the years proves to me this is not a fluke.  Surefire NAILS fit and finish. 

Grip: 2

With the larger body tube and the raised tailcap and head, the EB1 is amazing in the hand.  These are the advantages of a bigger body.  Reviewing this at the same time that I had the Aeon Mk. II made this comparison pretty stark.  The clip also aids in grip as well.  Finally, in a great ergonomic move, the clicky is easily reached from the normal position your hand would be in when holding this light.  Overall, great grip.

Carry: 1

On the flip side of the larger than normal body, this light does not carry anywhere nearly as nice as other more traditionally sized 1xCR123a.  Compared to an ultra compact light like the Aeon Mk. II, the EB1 is huge (but almost all lights are huge compared to the Mk. II).  Additionally the TIR head is very heavy for its size, making the light both heavy and very unbalanced in your pocket.  On its own, the light would get a 0 here.  There are quite a few 2xCR123a or 18650 lights that aren't much larger.

However, this is the superior pocket clip on the market for flashlights.  Even the vaunted McGizmo clip, an old personal favorite, pales in comparison to the utility and versatility of the two way Surefire clip.  Here it is, in all its glory:


Output: 2

Alright, the high is not the best in the world, on paper.  200 lumens is sort of yawn inducing in the current marketplace.  But the TIR head really makes that 200 lumens AMAZING.  It really punches above its weight and another example of why lumens counts aren't that important.  It held its own quite easily against my MAG-TAC which is rated at 320 lumens. 

Runtime: 1

My beef here is not with the high, which is fine at 1.3 hours, but the low.  At 5 lumens we need more than 40 hours of runtime.  My Aeon, which is cheaper in the AL version, runs for 40 hours at 30 lumens.  The Mk. II on 3-5 lumens will run for days.  This is just a matter of tuning the emitter and current regulator.  Surefire, get on that.  I want to see something like 80 hours at 5 lumens or 120 hours at 2-3 lumens.  That would work well and make the runtimes equivalent to the best lights on the market and equal in quality to other aspects of this extraordinary flashlight.  I have noticed that a lot of folks with light meters have found the regulation on this light to be lacking, but I did not have the chance to figure out if this was the case.  It worked fine for me, a little short, but fine.

Beam Type: 2

TIR destroys the old beam type paradigm of flood v. throw.  It used to be that on EDC lights I liked floody beam types as I was more likely use the light up close than spotting stuff in the distance.  But here, the TIR gives you a good hotspot and excellent spill.  You can use the light to throw and to flood.  The hotspot is very intense, but the spill is excellent.  The bar has been raised by this:


TIR is a winner and the beam type is custom amazing.  

Beam Quality: 2

No artifacts, no dark patches or rings, again the TIR kills it.  This light's output looks like the Haiku's and the price tag is less than half of Don's jewel.  I love this beam.  The tint, a concern during the first wave of EB1 releases, is, to my eyes wonderful.  It is not Hi-CRI, but it is pretty darn neutral.  Here are some beam shots.






Note the distinct hotspot and lack of artifacts.  The colors are rendered very well, with the red bodies of the Bessey Revo clamps (upper right) popping.  Additionally, the white scale is good, as the true white of the pegboard is distinct from the off white of the band saw body (upper left).  The spill is good, even though in the low picture it seems non-existent.  It is so faint it is hard for my cheapo camera to pick up, but it is definitely there in person.  

UI: 2

The dead simple clicky is very nice.  The UI is great, but be aware this is a tactical set up (high first).  I am biased against this, but I recognize that if you are in the market for a Surefire, the tactical set up is probably what you are looking for.  Given its intended use I am not going to dock it a point for the high first set up as everything else is very easy to access and requires zero amount of Morse code-like bullshit.  

Hands Free: 1


D'oh!  Surefire, seriously, how did you miss this?  Why bother with the shrouded tailcap if you aren't going to make it be able to tailstand with ease?  I know the company has a heritage of tactical lights which eschew tailstanding in favor of easy access clickies, but if they are going to make the effort to offer a different tailcap, make it work.  The clip is an excellent anti-roll device though and the light works well in the teeth or on a cap (thanks to the awesome two-way clip), so the net is a 1. 

Overall Score: 17 out of 20

One concern or problem with my scoring system, like all scoring systems, is that a fix upper limit does not accurately reflect something that is truly and distinctly great.  This is a product that demonstrates that problem perfectly.  The EB1 is not just a good light, it is one of the best 1xCR123a lights in the world, production or custom.  It hangs in there with my Haiku in terms of beam quality and that is something I just couldn't believe.  TIR is the future and the beam here is so brilliant, so well-balanced, and so good at throw that this light sets a new standard.  In the same way that the Eiger set a new standard for versatility in production lights, the EB1 sets a new standard for beam quality and beam type.  The old scoring method for beam type--a balance between flood and throw--is completely thrown off here.  The TIR allows the EB1 to do good on close up work and still hit treetops a 100 yards away with ease.  This is a 17, but one of the best products I have ever reviewed.  It is a quirk in the scoring system, but having a score and text allows me to account for those quirks.  If you are in the market for a 1xCR123a light, this has GOT to be something you consider.  Using it will change the way you look at lights.  


  1. Pardon me if I missed it, but did you actually include what the runtime on low is? You say "at 5 lumens we need more than 40 hours of runtime," which implies that it's less than 40 hours. But do you have the actual numbers on hand?

    1. Surefire claims the runtime is 40 hours. CPF testing bears this out. Compared to the 40 hours out of the Aeon Mk. I at 30 lumens, the runtime on the low of 5 lumens is kinda stinky.

    2. Surefire is a brand that while not on the bleeding edge of emitters, is constantly pushing the boundaries of flashlights in other, and in my opinion, more meaningful ways.
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  2. 200 lumens is all well and good for an hour and a third, but my personal test is "will it stay on long enough to change a flat tire?" I figure 40 lumens is plenty for that basic task, based on my assorted inexpensive flashlights. I also consider two hours the longest walk I'd undertake at night, so that is in the picture for me. The idea of 3-5 lumens or "moonlight" for a huge number of hours is appealing too, for power outages and camping. So which light overall that you've reviewed does that? I keep flashlights in the consoles of my cars/trucks, and I am not interested in putting $100 or even $50 lights all over the place. So my constraints are very different from those of "tactical" torchbearers. Maybe it is time for a chart displaying your comparative results? Or does somebody already have good ones? I'm asking instead of Googling because I figure your results would be more carefully considered for quality.

  3. Thank you for the detailed review. I have to point out that your statement "Total Internal Reflection or TIR is something we all have experience with, but it has just made its way into the world of flashlights" is inaccurate, though. SF and some other flashlight manufacturers have been using TIR in their lights since the last decade :) Also, I believe the EB1 will out-throw the Haiku by quite a bit! Anyway, thanks again for the work in producing this review, have an EB1T on the way, really looking forward to it!

  4. I will note one thing, these lights are tough! I've owned an older model without the shrouded tailcap for several years. For some reason unbeknownst to me I seem to get clumsy every time I use this light. It has been dropped so many times on concrete and in dirt it has scratches in the finish and a couple of chunks knocked out of the aluminum housing. But it has never failed me. Concerning the clip, it really comes into its own by securing the light to the bill of a baseball cap when you need to work hands free.

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