NOTE: Before I get into the review, I want to explain how I came to own this light. A few years ago I decided to circle back to Nitecore and see if they were making anything worth considering. I purchase the EC-11. It was the first and so far only product to be a complete failure. I returned the original light and the replacement had the same problem. I bought a series of new batteries, hoping that would fix the problem. I even upgraded by battery charger. Nothing worked. I published the review to warn folks and moved on. Then, about two months ago, someone from Nitecore’s American distributor reached out to me. They wanted to try to make things right. After a bit of time, they sent me this light for review, free of charge to make up for the hassle I experienced last time. This is the first time in nearly 9 years that a company has gone this far out of their way to fix things. For that alone, I appreciate Nitecore’s efforts, and it is a sign that they take customer service seriously.
My gear obsession was kicked into high gear many years ago with the release of the Nitecore D10 and EX10. These two lights, one a 1xCR123a and the other a 1xAA, were state of the art. Both used Don McLeish’s piston drive system to complete the circuit and power the light. Both were svelte. And both did a good job lighting stuff up. I got the EX10 with an Osram Golden Dragon emitter for my birthday and I was just elated. Alas the pocket clip was virtually impossible to fix when a screw stripped and I moved on. Still, that light was a high watermark at the time, a sign that the flashlight market was thriving and capable of taking cues from custom makers.
In many ways, comparing those lights to this light shows you where the production flashlight market has gone in recent years. This light, despite running the same power source, a 1xCR123a, is much larger. The clip is a friction fit clip. And the output lacks both a mode memory and a moonlight low. The high is screaming bright, of course, but in terms of functionality and usefulness, this is something that seems out of step. It is one of the few EDC lights with a tailswitch/paddle set up, and I like that input method quite a bit, but a lot of modern features are missing. This is by no means a bad light, but it is not a modern one.
Here is the product page. The P05 is the closest thing I could find in the Nitecore line up that passes for a traditional EDC light, though they do make a few USB charged keychain models, too. Here is a written review (I am not sure what a self defense light is). There is no English video review (here is a German-language one). As was mentioned above, the review sample was provided to me by Nitecore’s American distributor. The only string attached was they wanted a review within a month of sending the light, so I obliged. You can find the P05 at Amazon here. Here is the review sample:
Twitter Review Summary: Curse you Lumens Arms race and ANSI standardization.
A few years ago flashlight companies agreed to standardize how lumens are measured. The result was supposed to be a consumer-friendly apples to apples comparison of flashlights. The actual result was awful for consumers. Instead of worrying about usefulness, ease of carry, or other features, flashlight companies poured all of their time and energy into making ever brighter lights. The Lumens Arms race has been terrible for consumers. Production flashlights, despite the higher highs, are, in many ways, worse than they were before the ANSI standardization. Nothing matters other than that number you can stick on your light’s box (“it’s right there...on the box...”), and as a result, everything other than that number has taken a hit.
The P05’s design is a perfect example of this widespread illness. First, the light is positively huge, given the format. This light is as big as the HDS Rotary but no where near as solidly built. Second, the light’s reflector is in the midst of an identity crisis—is this a throw light or a flood light? Finally, the clip and body tube are dreadful. The clip, as is tradition here for friction clips, was removed and tossed. One would expect for a light this big that there be a charging port, but again, it seems as though Nitecore’s design team didn’t really care. Feature after feature indicates that nothing mattered other than lumens and the light suffers gravely for the inattention.
The performance ratios are not good. Weight:lumens is 170.37 (2.7 ounces, weight with battery, compared to 460 lumens). The best total lumens output (the most lumens for the longest time) is found on high and is 13,800 (460 lumens for 30 minutes).
Fit and Finish: 2
The P05’s finish is quite nice. The anodizing is even, the threading is quite nice, and the surfaces are cleanly machined. The one stand out here is the tailswitch and paddle. These have a very nice feel to them, snappy and responsive with excellent tactile feedback. If the goal was to make a light you can operate blind, the fit and finish of the tail assembly goes a long way towards making that possible.
While it doesn’t need to be as big as it is the P05’s size, diameter, and machining has one positive attribute—it makes the light GREAT in the hand. As you can see below, it nicely spans a medium sized palm and still gives you plenty of room for both the front end to poke out and the tail cap assembly to be readily accessible. This is a very good light in the hand. That said, smaller lights that are well designed can be just as good in the hand, so while size works here, its a penalty in other aspects of the light.
As good as it is in the hand, its positively awful in the pocket. The friction fit clip, of course, pops off—that is what they are designed to do. But the lights size and weight also present problems. In the end, carrying this light in the pocket as an EDC torch is basically like walking around with a roll of quarters all day. In cargo shorts, you can stow it in one of the lower pockets so you don’t feel it all of the time, but if you start moving its instantly noticeable.
Of course the light is plenty bright. Given the relentless focus on lumens that what you’d expect. The problem is the low is also very bright (60 lumens), which is a distinctly bad thing. Compared to something like the Reylight Ti Lan (review coming soon) or the HDS Rotary, the low is a joke. A few years ago before flashlight manufacturers realized the utility of a moonlight low, every light was like the P05, but now this is just unacceptable. 47s, oLight, Fenix, Klarus, heck even Surefire have gotten on board the “moonlight low” train. Its time for Nitecore to get on as well.
Runtimes are fine on aren’t great 460 lumens for 60 minutes is below par, but not that bad. Modern lights that aren’t hotrodding anything always okay here. That said, the lack of a moonlight low removes the P05 from the “months” club. Zebralight and oLight’s S series both can go for a month or more on moonlight low. I could imagine a survival or wilderness use where that moonlight low with a month of runtime is a huge advantage. And given the lights that have this feature as also just as bright as this one there is, apparently, no trade off cost in terms of light design or performance.
Beam Type: 1
The deep reflector takes up a lot of space in the body tube and you would think that would give you a real, throwy light. Unfortunately that is not the case. It does better than the pancaked optic in the S1R, but that’s a light that is very clearly flood-focused. The P05 is in the weird place of being neither fish nor fowl. Its not as good as a flood focused light and not as useful as a throw focused light. Personally, if a flashlight company is going for this balance, they should mimic the output from Surefire lights—tight hotspot with a very weak but clean and consistent spill. This light just doesn’t work all that well here.
Beam Quality: 1
While not outrageous, like a MiniMag or something of the sort, the beam on the P05 leaves much to be desired. Again I just think this is a place where the light is outdated, not necessarily bad. With TIR optics everywhere and really good beams coming out of $20 lights like the UltraTac K18, a light this size that costs as much as the P05 does, can’t have anything less than a brilliant beam and it doesn’t. Its not bad, but it is below par for lights in 2018.
Ah, the one place where the P05 comes out a huge winner. I absolutely love the clicky/paddle set up and I can see why some companies use it on basically every light. This isn’t my first light with this set up, but it is my first review with this set up and it is damn near brilliant. In many ways, my obsession with gear is really an obsession with design and so when I see something new, especially a new take on something as old as a tailswitch its exciting. It makes me wonder what people though the first time they saw a cantilever chair, what with its two front legs and no back legs. This isn’t quite as striking or innovative as that, but it is very impressive. I know its just two switches side by side, but the paddle itself makes a huge difference. The tactile guidance provided by the difference in feel between the two switches is a big deal and great for thoughtlessly switching between outputs.
Two small criticisms here that are not enough to warrant a full point deduction given how awesome the clicky/paddle set up is—first there is no mode memory and second the light comes on in high. If a maker chooses to omit a mode memory then the light absolutely has to come on in low or every time you use the light to go to the bathroom or check on a bump in the middle of the night you will wake everyone up. Not a good thing.
Hands Free: 0
The light is really too big to use something other than your hands to hold it and it can’t tailstand. It does an okay job of not rolling away, but not a GREAT job. It just kinda rolls away slowly.
Overall Score: 9 out of 20
This is not a bad flashlight. Its just not a good one either. On a site where, by in large, I pick what I am at least passingly interested in to review, a score like 9/20 looks bad. Compared to the MiniMag or, even worse, the extruded tube that Duracell sells as a way to sell batteries, this is a revelation. Compared to the state of the art light today, this is not great. Compared to the state of the art light from five years ago, its still not all that competitive. The clicky/paddle set up is great, no doubt, but the rest of the light is just not there. This is simply way too big a foot print in a world where EDC production lights are the size of the S1 (or heck, now, even smaller). Other than emitter, I would take the EX10 or D10 over this light any day of the week. Even considering the emitter, I would still probably take the EX10 or D10. This light worked flawlessly, but given the competition, though that is an improvement over the prior Nitecore I reviewed, its not enough. An EX10 or D10 with an upgraded emitter, better clip, and a charging port would be the best light on the market and in a market still searching for the king of the hill, Nitecore, like everyone else, has a huge opportunity. Its only a matter of time before someone takes the crown.
Nitecore has other lights that are more modern and the fact that their NA distributor circled back after all these months is a sign that they care. I wouldn’t buy the P05, but I would consider other Nitecore lights.
Given that the Surefire Titan Plus, the oLight S1R, the Reylight Lan Ti, the Klarus Mi1C, and a host of other really good lights are on the market, have better features, and have some special plus factor, its hard to see the P05 as competitive in the top echelon of lights. Compared to something like the MiniMag the P05 is excellent, but if you are buying a Nitecore you are probably aware of the fact that there are other better lights out there.