Ember 18 (No Warranty)
The Ember is probably the lowest cost budget light in this category, and offers outstanding value for the properties. Lightweight and smaller than the M1, but retains good heatsinking. While not quite up to the M1, it still gives a decent throw range for a single cell light of this form factor, and even spill pattern from the newest XM-L2 CREE neutral white emitter. The T5 bin ensures a high Color Rendition Index (CRI) value of 80. Stock is limited on these (see note below) and we can keep the price low by not offering a warranty (however light is tested and guaranteed to be as advertised for spec, and not to arrive DOA or it will be preplaced).
Ember18-1 $29.95: Driven at 1.6 amps this configuration will deliver about 700 lumens without getting too hot. Because a driver can deliver 1.6 amps more efficently than 3, this is also the best driver if battery life is a major concern, and should give you up to 2 hours on high, and 5 hours on medium. This configuration is good as a general purpose EDC light and for use indoors. The T5 emitter gives more lumens and a longer throw at the expense of a reduced CRI value.
Ember 18-2 $34.95: Driven hard at 3amps this light is intended to be used outdoors when switched to high for more than 5 minutes at a time, because it will get hot without airflow to cool it. It can be switched to medium or low when it gets too hot. It will deliver about 1000 lumens on high for about an hour, and run for 3 hours on medium and over 5 hours on low. This light would be well suited for helmet or handlebar mount for mountain biking or side headband mount for ski descents, or for night hiking in areas of potential human-wildlife conflict.
Background on this light...
We stumbled across this light in a review about building flashlights. The reviewer noted that this flashlight was a solid host suitable for doing modifications to. It looks like the original Chinese manufacturer decided to copy a well known name brand in order to sell lots of counterfeit lights. However, their mistake appears to be putting an anemic and purple tint XP-G emitter in it, (probably the same emitter the Petzl NAOS has in it!). Now a couple of years down the road no-one is buying that light as it is obsolete, so they are selling the remaing stock off cheap (at about $8.50). We bought a few samples and tried gutting the XP-G and putting XM-L2 emitters in them and did some testing. The results wer surprisingly good. The reflector is not what you're going to get from a $100.00 light, and the lens is probably not anti-reflective coated for better light transmission efficiency, but it will outperform any of the lights you currently will find on the wall at your favourite Equipment Store for 6X the price.
Our cost for the parts for this light is around $18. So we decided to charge $12.50 for our labour and forget the profit margin. As it takes about 15 minutes to install the emitter and driver, that means we're getting paid $50.00/hr for our effort if you buy this light. Our main goal at the moment is to get our lights onto the landscape in the hands of specialists. If the light fails, it is easy to fix by replacing the emitter or driver, but do not expect a warranty for this product at this price.
If you have not upgraded the LED flashlight that sits in the top flap of your pack for the past year or two, then that light is probably an XP-G, this unit is a good choice for an inexpensive upgrade.