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Convoy L8 review: flashlight test
Convoy L8 specifications
|Max. Beam intensity / distance
|1*26800 / 1*26980
|4 + ramping + tactical
Convoy is a brand that needs no introduction to the flashlight community. With great products at equally great prices, Simon, the man behind the Convoy, keeps on making hits.
Today in my hands I have the Convoy L8, the latest light of his to use the SBT90.2 emitter, after the 4x18A, 3x21A, and the L7. This fits the traditional “thrower” profile a bit better than the L7, which is somewhat of a behemoth being 2×26650 cells in parallel, and the others being soda-can style lights.
It also brings Convoy’s first 26800-native light, which is a cell that’s proving to be immensely popular for the added runtime and current capability it brings over the 26650.
I’ve got a Lumintop GT90 that well and truly fills the SBT90.2 niche, but I’m very excited to see how this light measures up in a far more compact form.
The packaging for the Convoy L8 is fairly barebones, as with a lot of Convoy lights – but let’s be honest, we don’t need a lot.
Opening up the box, I find:
- The Convoy L8 itself
- Nestled inside, the QB26800 cell
- Extra wrapping on the tailcap spring to ensure no electrical contact, plus to stop the cell rattling
- A USB-C to USB-A cable
That’s it! No other accessories, no manual. Very standard fare for Convoy. This isn’t really a positive or a negative – more just an observation.
The only thing that I think would have been a nice extra would potentially be some kind of adapter for a 21700 as seen in something like the Nightwatch NSX4, but it’s not necessary.
Flashlight in use
As someone with fairly large hands, the L8 fits very nicely in my hand when held in probably the only way it can be held for any length of time; the underhanded grip. With my thumb resting on the button, the battery tube fills my palm, leaving all the parts that are going to get hot untouched.
The e-switch isn’t the “clickiest” one I’ve felt, but there’s fairly solid feedback from it. There’s no indicator light when you click it though, but that’s not really necessary given your thumb will be on top of it anyway.
This isn’t a light that’s going to fit into a pocket easily, so unless you’ve got a large pocket, it’s best to pop it in a bag of some kind to take it anywhere.
With the design of the fins, there’s a little bit of variance around the body, but it’s not sufficient to stop it from rolling away if placed on a non-level surface. In testing, it rolled freely on a slight incline, with a whole lot of clunking as the different edges came into contact with the surface, but not enough to stop it moving.
Due to the large base, you can freely tail-stand this light and shine the light to the heavens above – this will make for either some fantastic photos, or a beacon for others to find.
There’s notches on either side of the tailcap for a lanyard, but one is not provided. BYO on this one!
Build Quality, and Warranty
The Convoy L8 is of the quality I’ve come to expect from Convoy. The anodisation on the light is impeccable, with no markings visible to my inspection, with a lovely satin finish.
The tailcap threads are very smooth and square-cut, and are anodised, giving the ability to lock the light out with a twist of the tailcap. On that note, the thickness of the tube is incredible – the contact is 2.6mm wide, which is considerably thicker than other lights. As an example, the Convoy M21F tube contact is 0.7mm wide.
The knurling, or should I say design, around the battery tube is a very comfortable one. With no sharp edges, it’s definitely more for aesthetics than grip, but that’s perfectly okay. The light lends itself to not needing something particularly grippy due to its sheer size.
The only issue I had is a spec of dust or similar on the reflector when I received it. This doesn’t affect the beam in any way, but is a bit annoying to look at for someone as particular as myself. When I get my hands on a photography blower bulb, I’ll be removing it. Note – never wipe down a reflector or touch it! You’ll never get it as clean again as it was.
As for warranty – while there’s no warranty explicitly mentioned, contacting Simon at the Convoy store is the best idea in the event of mishap, as he’s very responsive. He’ll work out how to make things right.
One other thing – the below image is with the head sitting on the tailcap, with no body tube. Now obviously this doesn’t work due to the threads – but it could be quite a hilarious light with a 26350!
LED, Lens, Bezel, Beam, and Reflector
As mentioned in the introduction, the emitter chosen for the L8 is the Luminus SBT90.2. This variant has a CCT of 5700K, and is well known for putting out a whole lot of light, and taking a whole lot of current – or just generally being an absolute beast of an emitter.
To me, with my sometimes borderline-megalomania, this is fantastic.
Resting above it is quite a large smooth reflector, which is going to give us a smaller hotspot than using an OP reflector. Again, this is great for the emitter at hand, and the size reflector, as this thing is designed to throw.
One minor (or major, depending on how particular you are) issue though – there’s a large speck of dust on my reflector! I’ll have to open it up and hit it with compressed air from a distance to dislodge it. Annoying, but it really doesn’t make any difference to the performance.
There’s crenulations on the bezel, which means light can leak out when facing it downwards. That said, it’s probably not a great idea to do this at high brightnesses due to the sheer amount of heat that will then be transferred directly into the surface of whatever you’re pointing it down at.
There’s a light green AR coating which is interesting given that I’m used to seeing purple AR coating on Convoy lights. From what I’ve been able to tell from other discussions, this is having the benefit of making the hotspot not as green as other lights with the purple AR coating – along with not having that purple ring around the outside of the corona. Perhaps something to be looked into for all lights?
The hotspot is quite uniform, with a large spill around it, so this is still very usable instead of just being a toy like an LEP, or a pencil beam, like a light using an Osram CSLNM1.
As with all SBT90.2 lights, the L8 is designed for long range. It’s definitely possible to put this emitter into an EDC light, but in my opinion, it would be a waste given the beam profile.
Due to the intensity of the light, I’ve had some problems getting a good reading with my Colormunki as saturating the sensor is quite easy to do. The simple solution is to move further away, but that’s only possible up to a certain limit while indoors! As such, I’ve measured all modes that I can feasibly do. Unless someone knows of another method…
Dimensions and size comparison
- Length: 191 mm / 7.52 inches
- Head diameter: 81 mm / 3.19 inches
- Body diameter: 35.5 mm / 1.4 inches
- Without cell in 26800 configuration: 466.2 grams / 1.03 lb / 16.44 oz.
- With included QB26800 cell: 583 grams / 1.29 lb / 20.64 oz.
- 26980 extension piece separately: 15.6 grams / 0.55 oz.
Pic 1: Lumintop GT90, Convoy L8, Lumintop X9L
Pic 1: Astrolux FT03, Convoy L8, Convoy L21A
Driver & User Interface:
Another day, another custom Convoy driver – but that’s fine. This is definitely made specifically for this light, and with good reason.
The L8’s UI has more modes than are itemised on the item page. I’ve contrasted and compared with the UI of the Convoy M21F which I’m also reviewing, which fleshes out all the options. This means that if you’re just reading the L8 item page, you’re missing a number of functions. I’ll detail them below.
There’s no shortcut to Low though, which is annoying, especially when I was taking beamshots. Trying to find the same spot to stand in for different lights and then blinding myself with High wasn’t great for my eyes.
- Single-click: Turn on.
- Double click: Turbo (100%) mode.
- 3 clicks: Strobe
- 4 clicks: Tactical mode (100% when held). Click four times again or disconnect the battery to disable.
- 5 clicks: Voltage readout.
- 6 clicks: Change between ramping and stepped mode.
- 10 clicks: Lockout.
- Press and Hold: Ramp up or down, or step upwards through the modes (1, 10, 40, and 100%).
- 1 click: Turn off.
- Double click: Turbo (100%) mode.
- 3 clicks: Strobe.
- 5 clicks: Voltage readout.
- 6 clicks: Change between ramping and stepped mode
- In both ramp and stepped mode, the L8 has mode memory.
- To Turbo: 2 clicks from anywhere
- To Strobe: 3 clicks from anywhere
Low voltage warning:
- The indicator LED behind the switch will flash red when the cell voltage drops below 3V.
- Strobe is activated by clicking three times.
- Activate lockout mode by clicking 10 times from off, or slightly unscrewing the tailcap.
- No PWM visible to my eye. Looking at it through my phone’s camera, there’s PWM anywhere between the bottom and top of the ramp, but not at the ends – but this isn’t an issue as previously mentioned.
Additional info on the UI:
- It’s mentioned that the driver can handle 25A – and that’s a fair chunk of power. Let’s see if it gets near that.
Batteries & Charging
Out of the box, the light is set up in a configuration to support a 26980 cell, but I have only seen the one available on AliExpress. Removing the second smaller piece of the body tube brings it back to being a 26800 light, which fits the cell provided with it.
The QB26800 is becoming a fan favourite in the community – rated at 6800mAh, with a maximum continuous discharge of 30A, this cell is perfect to throw at the SBT90.2.
It can be charged in the light itself via the inbuilt USB-C charging, or in an external charger if you so desire, and have one that it fits (or hack yours up like it seems so many are doing lately). Given that both my Vapcell S4+ and the onboard charging are both rated at 3A, removing the cell for a faster charge isn’t really going to get you anywhere.
When charging, the switch backlight comes on red, which gives it a very “Eye of Sauron” look. I feel like it might not be intentional, but it’s very cool nonetheless.
I drained the battery in a runtime, and then hooked up the light to a HyperJuice battery pack with an RD UM25C and TC66C for testing. Readings were:
- USB-A to C with included cable: 3.16A, 15.57W
- USB-C to C with Apple USB-C Charging cable: 2.9A, 14.45W
That seems to be outside USB-A spec, so that’s quite interesting!
You could probably fit a 21700 in here if you really wanted – but you would have to make some kind of adapter to support it and provide another 10mm of length. Given that the light comes with the 26800 cell, I feel there’s no point.
For my readings, I use the following:
Lux Meter: For lumen readings and runtimes, an Adafruit TSL2591 connected to a Raspberry Pi running Ubuntu, using RuTiTe by bmengineer in a custom sphere. A UNI-T UT383S is used for candela readings.
DMM: UNI-T UT139C and UNI-T UT210E – 16AWG wire is used directly into the 139C via some banana plugs and 8AWG wire in a loop for the UNI-T. The DMM I use depends on how high the expected current will be – I use the 139C for <10A, and the 210E for >10A.
Lumen measurements (for each mode)
The output of the Convoy L8 was tested using the included cell in the four levels of stepped mode, as well as the top and bottom of ramped mode. After each test I left the light to cool (particularly for the higher modes) while recharging the cell via USB to ensure consistency.
|Amps at start
|@ turn on
The top and bottom of the ramping mode appear to line up with modes 4 and 1 respectively – or at least within a few lumens, which can be accounted for by having the light sitting slightly off-centre on the lumen sphere platform.
I like it. No confusion about what’s going to get higher or lower output, just lowest, highest, and two in between.
While the output falls far below what’s mentioned on the product page, it is mentioned that the number there is a theoretical limit and not a tested number.
During the first runtime I performed (top of ramp), there was a distinct pop noise about 3 minutes into the run. I looked over at my sphere, and there wasn’t smoke coming out of anything, so no fire, thankfully. I strongly suspect it was the charge cover popping off with the expansion of air due to heat.
That being considered, my graph for the max-output runtime is a bit different to others I’ve seen of the L8, with my light not doing a hard drop at a little over an hour, and having a few stepdowns before going to the long slow ramp down. This may be due to other runtimes being done with cooling, whereas mine is static (light on platform in ambient room temperature). We finally see a drop to 4 lumens at 1:51, at which point I terminated the run. The cell measured 3.1V at this point.
Lower modes also performed adequately, but there’s no benchmark or advertised outputs to go off – so the results will speak for themselves.
Given that this light is a long-range light, I’ve tested all modes at 10m, and steps 3 and 4 at 15m. Each reading is taken three times, and the results averaged.
These readings are taken at 30 seconds, to give a good feel of how the light will settle in (ie. worst-case scenario after turning it on for a quick look around).
|Mode 3 (15m)
|Mode 4 (15m)
A fun thing to note – Mode 2 on the L8 throws further than the highest mode on the SFT40 M21F!
Because Mode 4 drops off fairly fast, I’ve added an instant value for that too:
|Mode 4 (15m Instant)
In all my testing of Mode 4, even at 30s, the Convoy L8 throws further than rated!
Shots taken pointing at the light pole in the distance (around 150m).
Disclaimer: This flashlight was sent to me for review at no cost by Convoy. I have not been paid to review, nor have I been holding back on problems or defects.
- HAHAHA POWERRRR
- Easy-to-use UI
- Great to have an odd cell size included
- Currently-uncommon battery size means only charging it in light unless you’ve got a setup for it
- Superfluous 26980 extension tube – cells are even harder to get than 26800
Explanation on star ratings:
1: Avoid: my phone flashlight would be a better choice – 2: Poor: significant defect or issues; almost unusable – 3: Average: some defects or issues; but still usable 4: Good: recommended (minor issues) – 5: Great: highly recommended
5 stars: ★★★★★
This has been one of the most satisfying lights I’ve used in a long while.
A ton of output, easy UI, longer than average runtimes, and in a form that’s quite easy to hold – perhaps the Noctigon K1 comes close on this, but it’s significantly more expensive, and the 21700 to really stretch the SBT90.2 is 33% less capacity or so.
I’ve been picking this up when going outside at night more often, purely to shoot it at the sky, even if I’m just putting the bins out.
Five stars. Value for money on the L8 is just insane. If you’re after a thrower and want something to show off but don’t feel like spending big on the Lumintop GT range, this is your light.