As I left the 2011 SHOT Show, I found myself seated next to Dave Barnett. Dave had been at the show, but it’s a huge show, so I had never been by his booth. Dave demonstrated his very high quality flashlight to me- I was especially impressed by the intuitive and easy switch between modes by a quick twist of the rear bezel- and when he had a tester available, I reviewed the ZFL-M60 here. I’ve owned a lot of lights in my life, but I like the ElZetta so much I not only bought one for myself, but also ones for several of my closest friends.
When I talked to Dave at the 2013 Show, he said ElZetta would be coming out with a new line of even brighter lights. In late August, Dave emailed to say he had one of the new High Output lights ready to ship. ElZetta has renamed their light to reflect that some of their LED modules are now made by them instead of the Malkoff Devices used on all lights previously. ElZetta offers 5 different tailcap options, as well as 8 degree and 20 degree flood modules and front bezel options. I received the “Charlie” (3 cell) model with a strike bezel and high/low tailcap.
The Charlie HO had the flawless finish and perfect machining on the body that one would expect from a premium light, and that previous ElZettas have all displayed. I of course immediately tested the light beam, and WOW, it was bright! I was interested to see what the differences were, and more importantly, verify that the new HO models are as incredibly tough as the originals.
New compared to old modules.
At a glance, the most obvious difference in the original ElZetta head and the new HO head is the length.
While the strike bezel does add a minor bit more length than the low profile head, the HO unit would obviously be longer even without that extra 1/4″ or so projection. It’s also a wider diameter.
Another difference is that the Malkoff module is a single-piece unit held in place by the bezel cover. In the new HO module, the acrylic lens separates from the bottom of the unit, and is held in place by top bezel ring. The light was obviously ridiculously bright, but I wondered if the different construction would result in less strength.
· Dave told me that the 2-Cell Models produce 650 lumens, while the 3-Cell Models produce 900 lumens. The HO head can be purchased separately, and retrofitted to existing 2 or 3-cell ElZettas. ElZetta has a patent-pending system that allows the HO heads to automatically adjust their output to suit the body they are mounted on. The standard lens can be replaced with a flood lens for $15.
I immediately began using the Charlie on my nightly walks around my neighborhood. On the first night, I spotted a fox slipping into the woods about 90 meters away. I also had the opportunity to compare the new Charlie HO with my favorite ZFL-M60 2 cell. The original ElZetta is extremely bright.
The new Charlie on high is astonishing. I have had custom flashlights pulling 13.5 volts that did not produce a brighter beam, and the perfect optics of the ElZetta really maximize how far your throw extends.
Dave told me that the new HO heads have an even “warmer” tone than the already very nice tone of the M60, and this was clearly true.
I switched the HO head onto my M60 2 cell body and used that as well. I found that I liked the 2 cell HO better for most things, especially in the “splashback” that happens when the high beam is shone on a close surface that is even semi-reflective. While the Charlie can be carried without much inconvenience in the pocket of your jeans, the Bravo is even easier, and the larger front bezel doesn’t add an uncomfortable amount of bulk.
After carrying and using both 2 and 3-cell versions, it was time to do some testing.
I started with the 2 cell body that ElZetta now calls the Bravo. I first replaced the batteries with new Rayovac lithium batteries.
A rifle rest was used to hold the ElZettas during the test.
I tested the HO head on the 2 cell ElZetta body first. I projected the beam 12 feet from my loft onto a section of wall opposite. This is what the beam looked like when first on.
The beam did not noticeably change size or shape for a long time. The light did begin to heat up, with noticeable heat by 20 minutes into the test. At 35 minutes, the light was quite warm, and by an hour of run-time, the 2 cell was hotter than comfortable, but probably not quite hot enough to burn.
At 1 hour, the ElZetta beam appeared to be the same as when first turned on.
The ElZetta was noticeably cooler by an hour and 20 minutes into the test. Probably not coincidentally, the beam was perceptibly dimmer. By 90 minutes, the ElZetta was completely cool.
At 2 hours and 10 minutes, the ElZetta was outshone by my $12 2AA flashlight, so I decided the high output test was done. It is only fair to note that the ElZetta was still capable of illuminating the front door from the loft, which is the longest straight-line distance in the townhouse.
The Charlie test was next. I expected to be able to get a significant amount more burn time, besides being 50% brighter.
15 minutes into the test, the Charlie HO was hot enough that it would probably burn if kept in contact with skin for more than a few seconds.
At 30 minutes, the Charlie HO was too hot to touch for more than a second or two, easily hotter than the 2 cell ever got.
At about 35 minutes in, I was startled to see a quick flicker.
At 40 minutes, I had seen an occasional flicker, and the Charlie was too hot for me to touch for more than a brief instant. At 46 minutes, the light began flickering constantly. This was not a “flash” or strobe, the light was changing in intensity instead of just winking off for an instant. I was about to shut the light off, when (after about a straight minute of flickering), the beam stabilized.
I would have continued the test, but the Charlie began flickering again. I then attempted to turn off the Charlie to avoid potential damage to the unit. I say attempted because the light was so hot that I couldn’t hold onto it for more than the briefest touch! I managed to shut off the light on the 3rd try.
With the run-time test out of the way, I wanted to find a way to really see how tough the new HO modules are. I decided to repeat the freeze test I did with the original ElZetta, but with some modifications.
I used plain tap water this time, so I would get a harder freeze quicker. I filled a plastic container with about 4 inches of water, turned the Charlie on low beam, and placed the container in the freezer.
In 3 hours, the water in the container was mostly frozen.
The water was completely frozen before 2330.
After six more hours in the freezer, the Charlie was still shining, with no apparent diminishment. This was expected, but if the new head was significantly less resilient, what I was about to do next should show it.
I heated a pot of water until it was boiling, and turned the heat off.
Video of the actual test is here, but the short version is that freezing and then dumping the frozen Charlie into boiling water did not break the light.
After the freezing and very rapid temperature change from the boiling water, I am satisfied that the new HO heads are also very hard-use, durable units just as the original M60 units are.
“There ain’t no free lunch”, Heinlein and others said, and I believe this is the case with the new ElZetta HO lights. The original M60 is an absolutely terrific light, and I believe the high/low option is the best overall choice for most people. The new HO options offer an incredible amount of additional light at very minimal cost increase- but is it needed or wanted, and do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages?
I believe the new HO ElZettas definitely do have their place in some toolboxes. They greatly extend the range possible to shine a beam from a light small enough to easily fit into a pocket or on a belt. The heat put out by the Charlie HO when left constantly on will rapidly make the light unusable: fortunately, hand-held tactical lights are rarely left on for more than a couple of minutes at a time, so this should hopefully never be an issue. The downside of the 900+ lumens of the Charlie HO are that it’s so very powerful, light reflects off even some near black surfaces such as asphalt. Near surfaces that are light in color reflect enough to be painful. At the same time, if spotting movement in the dark at more than 50 meters is a goal, I have never seen a better portable light to do it with than the Charlie HO.
My first choice for most situations would be the Bravo 2 cell with low profile bezel and high/low tailcap, or “B133” in the new terminology. This light still has the very useful low beam of the M60, only now it’s even better than the original. For the few times when super light is needed, the high beam on the Bravo is over 2.5 times as bright as the M60, but not so bright that it reflects painfully back from any near surface that is at all reflective. The Bravo is also small enough to easily fit into most pant pockets. If purchased directly from ElZetta, this light will cost you $210, exactly $20 than the original ElZetta in similar configuration.
For those who need or want an extremely bright, sturdy light that is small enough to easily pack or slip in a pocket, the new ElZetta High Output lights are definitely worth a look. They are shipping now from ElZetta.com.