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SA04 review

Imalent SA04 2xXM-L2 4xAA Touch Controlled Flashlight

http://www.candlepowerforums.com/vb/showthread.php?388323-Imalent-SA04-2*XM-L2-4*AA-Touch-Controlled-Flashlight&p=4480900#post4480900

SA04 review made on CPF by JohnnyMac on 2014 07 28


[Review] Imalent SA04

http://www.taschenlampen-forum.de/taschenlampen/35436-review-imalent-sa04.html

SA04 review made in German by LPS on Aug.13th, 2014


ReviewTheLight: Imalent SA04 (Adjustable Tint & Brightness, + RGB!)

 http://www.candlepowerforums.com/vb/showthread.php?389261-ReviewTheLight-Imalent-SA04-(Adjustable-Tint-amp-Brightness-RGB!)&p=4494029&viewfull=1#post4494029

SA04 review made in English by ReviewTheLight on Aug 30th, 2014


Imalent aprroves flashlight launched just with several innovations, SA04 is amazing for its small size and multifunctions, and the experts like it and

 recomment it to everyone.

 

Overall, the SA04 is certainly a unique light, and I'm impressed with the way that Imalent has included so many features in such a compact form,

 and managed to keep them all working smoothly! There is no other light I know that can do what this one can, so if the variable tint, variable

 brightness, and RGB options look good to you, then this is

 the light you want!   —by Bigmac CPF

CONS

· Exact output selection can be tricky with touch controls.

· OTF Output is 15% lower than Imalent's rating (possible emitter lumens).

· One minor blip in tint control at one particular adjustment level. Not sure if it's on all or just my example.

· Holster flap too short for secure closure. I'm told by Imalent that this will be resolved in the next batch. Early production samples like mine were

 measured incorrectly.

—by Johnny Mac CPF

Mein Fazit:

Eine hochwertige, sehr innovative Lampe, die zwar noch kleinere Kinderkrankheiten hat (hatte), welche nach Rücksprache mit Imalent aber sehr

unkompliziert und schnell behoben wurden. Ich würde sie bedenkenlos weiterempfehlen. —by Lps TLF.de

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Objective


Manufacturer's Specifications


Price: 93 USD


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Product Manual                                                 Dimensions

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Plus, here's a few shots with some good detail.

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User Interface

The SA04 has four emitters controlled by two physical buttons and a touch screen. It is capable of producing a wide range of tints for it's main beam by adjusting the outputs of the cool and warm emitter. The main beam overall brightness can be adjusted, and it can also be set to Strobe, Beacon, or SOS (all brightness and tint adjustable). It also has Red, Blue, and Green modes (not flashy or adjustable). To discuss the UI in detail here would be tedious and redundant, so instead of typing the whole thing I refer you to the video at the beginning of the review.



Action Shots


You can click on any of these shots to see them full size.


Tint Shifting (Many arbitrary positions)

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Light in Hand

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MugShot

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BeamSlice

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White Wall

ISO 100, f/3.5, 1/20" 

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When very close to the target, you can see the separate beams and their convergence.

For a cool, neutral, and warm tint I took a shot of the max and min brightness, and two arbitrary medium brightnesses in between.


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Indoor Shots

ISO 100, f/3.5, 1"

For a cool, neutral, and warm tint I took a shot of the max and min brightness, and two arbitrary medium brightnesses in between.

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Outdoor Shots

ISO 100, f/3.5, 2.5"

For a cool, neutral, and warm tint I took a shot of the max and min brightness, and two arbitrary medium brightnesses in between.

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Performance


Submersion: Imalent claims IPX-8, but the switches and screen make me nervous, so I have not yet tested this claim.


Heat: The SA04 steps down in brightness after about 3 minutes, so heat is not an issue.


PWM: I detected no PWM on any output level of any emitter of the SA04.


Drop: I dropped the SA04 from about a meter onto various surfaces (including grass, carpet, dirt, and hard wood), and found no cosmetic or functional damage. However, I do recommend care because it seems a fall on a bad angle could crack the screen.


Reverse Polarity Protection: The SA04 claims reverse polarity protection, so I inserted the batteries backwards and tried to turn the light on, then corrected the batteries and the SA04 resumed normal function with no evidence of damage.


Over-Discharge Protection: The SA04 has a battery level indicator on the screen, which displays a decreasing number of bars then begins to flash when the battery level drops, and this is your cue to change the batteries.



Spectral Analysis


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All light that we see as white is actually made up of several different colors put together. The relative intensities of the different colors in the mix are what determine the tint of the white we see. For example, cool white LED's have a lot of blue, and warm white LED's have more red or yellow. This measurement was done on a home made spectrometer. The plot below the picture is corrected for the spectral sensitivity of the human eye. Note: the peak in the 900nm region doesn't really exist, it's a piece of the second-order spectrum that's showing up here because of the high intensity of the light source. 

The colored emitters:

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Additionally, I've included the comparison of the maximally cool, maximally warm, and even (neutral) balance alongside the colored modes. Remember that many tints in between the extremes can also be achieved:

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I apologize for the misleading color coding, the spectrometer software picks the line colors without asking my opinion SA04 review

Output and Runtime


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ANSI FL-1 runtime ratings are the time it takes for a light to fall to 10% of it's original output (counting from 30 seconds after turning the light on). 

The vertical axis of the graphs below represents a relative brightness measurement using a home made light box. The horizontal axis is time in hours:minutes:seconds. Runtimes are stated in hours:minutes:seconds. These graphs may be truncated to show detail.

As you can see in the chart above and in the graphs below, the max cool mode can get brighter than the max warm mode, and the max both mode is not the sum of the two. Most likely there is some maximum current the circuitry can provide, and of course the cool emitter is more efficient with that current so it is brighter when receiving max current. When the emitters are balanced, they likely both receive about half of the max current, and operate a bit more efficiently than then would at higher currents, thus giving a brightness greater than either one singly, but not the sum of the two.

Mode Comparison


Max Cool
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Max Both
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Max Warm
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Throwing Distance

ANSI FL-1 standard for stating a light's throwing distance is the distance at which the peak beam intensity (usually at the center of the beam) is 0.25 lux. I calculate throwing distance and candela (lux at 1 meter) by measuring peak beam intensity at five different distances and using the formula lux*distance^2=constant.


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If you take the time to calculate that the ratios here don't quite match up with the ratios of the lumen outputs, good job you SA04 review. I believe that the two separate beams were not quite joined up at the distances I measured for the throw, and I expect the ratios would match better if I were able to measure the throw at a longer distance.


Subjective Review

Quick break down:


+ Variable tint
+ R, G, B beams
+ High brightness
+ Variable brightness
+ Large tint range
+ Large brightness range
+ Touch screen
+ Compact
+ Powered by common AA's
+ Dual front beams converge nicely

- RGB beams ringy
- UI takes time to learn
- Jumpy regulation

As far as I know, this flashlight is truly one of a kind. Not only does it use a touch screen to control it's many output options, but I can't think of any other light that effectively has a variable tint main beam. It isn't too uncommon for a light to have multiple emitters, sometimes of differing tints, but here Imalent has designed them so that two emitters of very different tints contribute to the same beam, and the relative brightness of the two emitters is adjustable so that the combined beam can have the a tint anywhere in between the two. The cool beam is very cool, not quite where I would call bluish but very close. The warm beam is extremely warm, probably one of the warmest I own, and certainly warmer than many incandescents. I usually put the slider about halfway between the midpoint and the fully warm end, giving a beam that's a bit warmer than what I consider neutral. 

Many of us are familiar with variable brightness flashlights. Almost all high-end modern flashlights have multiple brightness levels to choose from, and there are now many options for lights with "infinitely variable brightness" - so many brightness levels that the transition between them appears smooth and stepless. The biggest contributor to the usefulness of an infinitely variable brightness light is it's user interface. I've already covered the SA04 interface in detail in the video review, so I won't re-hash how it works, but I do want to make some comments. Until now, there have just been two ways to adjust infinitely variable brightness that I can think of. The first was done by holding a button, and the light would ramp up or down, and you'd give a signal to stop when you wanted, kind of like playing a slot machine SA04 review. Obviously not them most convenient method for controlling infinite brightness. Then, we saw the magnetic control ring, which allowed a user to rotate a physical ring in either direction to increase or decrease the brightness at will. This was an infinitely superior method of controlling infinite brightness, because the user was given complete control to fine tune to the desired output, and you never had to pass through settings too bright on your way to a dim setting, or vice versa. Now, we're seeing control of infinite brightness using a touch screen, similar to what many of us are familiar with on our modern phones or tables, but on a smaller scale. There are quite a few advantages and disadvantages of the touch screen interface, and because I see the control ring as it's main competitor, I'll focus on that comparison. First, the control ring has the advantage of being easier to manipulate with gloves or cold/wet fingers, etc., being a physical mechanism. The control ring also is more intuitive for the same reason, an so far has been easier for me to use without really thinking about it. The touch screen has the advantage of giving visual indication of the chosen output level, and also requires no moving parts. I am very curios to see how the screen holds up under long term use and abuse, but so far it has survived my drop test, and of my three Imalent light's I've tested, only one has a small scratch on the screen from being in my bag with other objects. It seems to me that the screen will be more resistant to things like dirt and grit, where the ring would be more resistant to impacts. I've never yet had a failure of a control ring on any of my lights, but I've read several reports of such, so we'll see how well the touch screen holds up in comparison over the long term. Next, so far the control ring has the advantage of smoothness of control, as the touch screen can make the output a bit jumpy due to my large fingers and it's relatively small size. In the end though, the biggest possible advantage and disadvantage of the touch screen is going to be it's versatility. So far, Imalent has used the screen to adjust infinitely variable brightness, make mode changes, and display the battery level. However, there are potentially many more was of implementing the screen to display various information, control various functions, etc. Depending on how well these functions are implemented (or not), the screen has the potential for surpassing usefulness, as we've seen in the area of mobile phones. 

So, for the SA04 in particular, the interface is a bit tricky to get used to, as I expected for it's combination of two physical buttons with a touch screen that has a brightness slider and another on-screen button. However, once you practice with it a bit, it gets pretty comfortable, and I wouldn't hesitate to use it in a high pressure situation. If desired, you can choose the tint you like best and from then on it can be easily used only as an adjustable brightness light, and you can ignore the extra emitters and flashy modes without much fear of activating them by accident, which I consider to be an important feature. I found that after testing, I mostly left it on the same tint setting and rarely fiddled with it much, though I did have a few situations where I switched from my warm-ish setting to neutral to get maximum brightness for seeing something far away. This light has opened up some fun possibilities for testing my tint preferences and the usefulness of various tints for different tasks.

As I touched on earlier, the tint range for the SA04 is great, and I don't think I'd ever need a warmer or cooler beam than is available. In addition, the brightness range is excellent, reaching from about 0.1 lumens to almost 900 lumens. In my testing it didn't quite reach the claimed 930 lumens, but at this brightness that small of a lumen difference is very hard to see, so I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything. This does bing up one of the negatives though, and that's the jumpy regulation pattern. I understand the initial 3 minute stepdown, this is a standard feature for many high brightness lights, and is pretty understandable when using AA's instead of lithium ion batteries. However, after the stepdown the brightness is rather erratic. There is an attempt at regulation, which I appreciate, but I'd like to see some of the smarts used to design the rest of this light and have them work out some flat regulation patterns SA04 review.

The only other bigger improvement I'd like to see is with the RGB emitters. I can't see what's going on inside the head and how much of the space is filled with electronics and such for all the modes and the touch screen, but looking from the outside, the RGB emitters are just mounted on a flat portion of the reflector. I'll put the picture here again for reference: 
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I'd like to see the RGB emitters set down a bit further into the surface of the reflector, and that flat portion made into a small parabolic reflector for each, or possibly covered with a soft diffuser. As it is, the RBG beams a very ringy, and it looks like there is room in the head to fix that. Most RGB beams I've seen on other lights are very ringy as well, but with the extra room here in the reflector surface I think the SA04 has room to smooth them out.

The other points to mention are that this light is pretty compact, even with all it's extra features, and it uses four AA batteries, which are very common and easy to find. The overall construction of the SA04 seems very solid, and the style is appealing. It's heat dissipation fins are a bit shallow, but with the 3 minute stepdown heat is never a problem.

Overall, the SA04 is certainly a unique light, and I'm impressed with the way that Imalent has included so many features in such a compact form, and managed to keep them all working smoothly! There is no other light I know that can do what this one can, so if the variable tint, variable brightness, and RGB options look good to you, then this is the light you want!


 


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