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Review of the Nitecore EC11

Posted by Best Light on

Don’t let the size deceive you; Nitecore's EC11 is an interesting light. Both from the stubby shape and its user-interface, to the red LED it has in addition to the main white led. This light has an overwhelming amount of features; more features than lights bigger in size. For how much of a punch (900 lumens!) the EC11 packs, you will have a moment of surprise when first removing the EC11 from its box.

Nitecore EC11

Physical Traits

Yes, we know already that the light is small, but I’m going to mention it again since it’s so great: This light is small for something capable of outputting 900 lumens! It’s half the size of Nitecore's P12, but just as bright! I’m a huge fan of function over form, and would rather have an ugly light that does its duty well over a great looking light that is a burden to use. I think the EC11 is a mix of both. The first thing that my eyes were drawn too was the anti-rolling machining on the middle of the light. It serves its purpose well and I have no complaints about it. Since they are bumps that are slightly raised from the rest of the body, it really helps with holding onto the light comfortably. The head has a very unaggressive crenelated bezel that I actually love. I’m not at all a fan of them on lights, but it’s executed very well on the EC11. I welcome it.

Instead of a tail switch and a side switch, there’s two side switches on the head. The light has proper deep cooling fins to the left and right of the switch. A negative is that there’s quite a bit of branding on the light: the Nitecore logo above the buttons, the serial number opposite to the Nitecore logo, the model number (EC11) on one side, some pretty unsightly markings on the other, and the Nitecore website on the bottom of the tailcap.

Nitecore EC11

The tailcap has a lanyard hole, and has the only knurl that you’ll find on the EC11. In all honesty, this light is kinda ugly. Some might like the design. It’s short and chunky, but that’s just the nature of this battery typed light. I’m going to be extremely forgiving just because of this one fact: There’s only so many ways that they could have designed a CR123 bodied light and make it look interesting.

Build Quality

As with most lights, the EC11 came flawless out of the box. There were no dings, and no chips anywhere on the body. The lens had absolutely no scratches, and the reflector did not have a single spec of dust.

The light is made up of three individual parts: the head, body, and tailcap. The body is covered with Type III military grade anodization which, as is always with Nitecore, feels fantastic and incredibly tough. It also is tough! I’m tough on my lights, taking them camping and on flights. The anodizing has held up perfectly. All the threads are anodized, which means it is possible to lock-out the the light to prevent parasitic drain from theNitecore EC11 standing electronic buttons.

Let’s start from the bottom up:

As I mentioned earlier, the only knurl on the light is on the tailcap. The biggest function it serves is to unscrew the tailcap to access the battery, and for that the knurl is very well done. The tailcap has some machined designs to it that repeat all the way around, and there’s a lanyard hole on the edge.

The edges to those patterns are not smooth at all. Usually, light manufacturers add a small bezel to any edge to prevent them from feeling sharp. Interestingly, that’s not the case here. The edges don’t feel sharp, but they’re not smooth either. I found that this actually serves a purpose.

When holding onto the light the knurl doesn’t provide any grip, but those edges do. Your hand and fingers “catch” on to those edges, and it makes the light feel grippy. I’m not sure if that was intentional, but it really makes up for the lack of knurl throughout the whole head/body of the light.

There’s not much to say about the body, since it’s a pretty simple piece. The “body” is just a groove that circles all the way around to hold the clip in place. There is much to say about the clip. The pocket clip is phenomenal. It’s a deep-carry clip that effortlessly slides in/out of the pocket, with a fantastic amount of retention. The clip has the ability to be reversed, which is great if you want to make a headlamp out of a ball-cap. The clip on the EC11 is easily one of my favorites out of any light.

The head is the longest part of the light. On the head, the cooling fins have the same grip giving trait that the machining on the tail-cap gives. The fins are not smooth, but not exactly sharp. It really holds on to your hand nicely due to this. The buttons protrude from the rest of the body slightly, which makes them easy to find fairly quickly. They do not click so easily. It takes a firm press to activate them, which is great in that it will help prevent any accidental activation.Nitecore EC11 laying down

As I mentioned earlier, the crenelated bezel is very well done. It's completely smooth to the touch, and as unaggressive as it gets. It comes in handy when I set the light down head first and forget to turn it off. The crenelated bezel lets me see light spilling off to the sides letting me know the light is on. The reflector is an orange peel reflector, not a smooth one. All this means is that the texture resembles that of, well, an orange peel. There’s two LEDs in the EC11: the main white XM-L2 LED, and a red LED. Since the addition of the red LED adds an off-center hole to the reflector, the purpose of the orange peel is to smooth out any artifacts in the beam that could be caused by this hole. It’s worth mentioning that the main LED is perfectly centered.

Nitecore’s lights are known to be premium quality, and the EC11 is no different. The EC11 is beautifully put together.

Battery Size

The EC11 can be used with two battery sizes: CR123A (or it’s rechargeable sibling RCR123A) and 18350.

The EC11 has its full output of 900 lumens only with IMR18350 and RCR123 batteries, so make sure you check out the store for the correct battery. On CR123A batteries, the EC11 does 430 lumens, which is still pretty darn bright.

Runtimes and the brightness differs with both batteries, so check out the specs to learn more.

User Interface/Features

The EC11 is packed with features, settings, and shortcuts. It’s incredible how much Nitecore allows you to do with two buttons. The UI has had an incredible amount of thought put into it to let you use what you need, without being overwhelmed by what you don't need.

Let’s start with the basic operation of the light.

  • The bottom button turns the light on, and the top button switches through the modes moonlight, low, medium, high, and turbo.
  • There’s mode memory, so whatever mode you turn the light off on will be there when you turn it back on.

    Easy, and simple.

    Now for the interesting modes.

    • While off, if you press the mode button once, the red LED turns on. 
    • While off, if you hold the mode button, the light goes into the highest mode.
    • While off, double tapping the mode button instantly puts the light into strobe mode.
    • While off, if you hold the power button, the lowest mode on the main LED turns on.

    This gives you quick access to the modes you need in a pinch.

    While on, if you hold the power button, the light goes into “standby mode” which flashes the red LED once every three seconds. The idea is that when you put the light down in the dark to do other tasks, you place it into this mode to allow you to quickly locate the light in darkness. Since it uses the red LED, it saves considerably more battery as opposed to leaving the regular LED light on and setting it down.

    • When the steady red light is on, holding the mode button puts it in “signaling mode” which blinks the red LED every second.
    • When the light is on, holding the mode button goes into strobe mode.
    • While in strobe mode, holding the mode button goes into beacon mode.
    • When in beacon mode, holding the mode button goes into SOS mode.

    Nitecore EC11 clip

    To prevent the light from accidentally turning on in your pocket/bag, you hold the power and mode button at the same time for over a second to put the light into lockout mode. You could always slightly unscrew the tailcap for a better lockout, as that will prevent any parasitic drain from the buttons.

    A neat feature the light has is that when you insert a battery, the red light will blink out the battery voltage, which takes away the guesswork in how much use you think you have left.

    It seems overwhelming, but the features never get in the way. Learn what you need to use, and the other modes won’t bother you. Thumbs up to Nitecore for such a feature filled, intuitive interface.

    Beam

    I thought the beam pattern would be horrendous due to the hole in the reflector caused by the red LED, but boy was I wrong. You can’t even tell from looking at the beam that there’s another LED inside. The orange peel reflector is incredibly well made to smooth out any artifacts that would be there.

    Nitecore EC11 white beam

    You get 190 meters of throw from a light this small. 190 meters is quite the distance, and it’s unbelievable that such a small light can reach so far. To put the reach into perspective, the Nitecore P12 does 232 meters, and it is much bigger than the EC11! The beam pattern is what I would call the perfect general use beam. The hotspot is tight enough to let you see things in the distance, but big enough to let you see up close. The spill is nice and wide, and the tint is not too blue. The tint is more on the white side of “cool blue.”

    The red LED is also very usable. Once again, I thought that since the LED was not centered, the beam pattern of the red light would be terrible. Wrong! The pattern is so good, and perfect for up close use.

    Nitecore EC11 red beam

    Pros:

    • Small
    • Has a red LED
    • Is 900 lumens
    • Has 190 meters of throw
    • Functional design
    • Incredible amount of modes. Very polished
    • Ability to physically, and electronically lockout
    • Can use two kinds of batteries

    Cons:

    There is parasitic drain, but that is just the nature of electronic switches. Lots of markings. (The logos, website, and serial number) Some could find the light sharp. Runtimes aren’t amazing, but that is the nature of the battery type.

    Honestly, I’m running out of cons and I'm being very picky to squeeze out some negatives. This light is a great light for its size class.

    Who is this light for?

    The light has a great general purpose beam for around the house tasks. The reversible clip, and lightweight size lets you attach it to your hat so you can see hands free, increasing the usability of the light.

    This light is easily a light I would take camping, for the same reasons it’s useful at the house. The beam pattern is wonderful for walking around and setting up camp, hiking, and for spotting things in the distance.

    The red LED brings this lights usability up tremendously. It makes it easier to look for things, or walk around in pitch black without disturbing your eyesight, or others.

    For anyone in aviation, I’d say this light is one of the best to keep in your flight bag, without taking up any space inside the already cramped cockpit thanks to the EC11’s small size. Flying at night comes with the challenge of doing the preflight checklist in the dark. The huge output of this light lets you see any and every crevice on the outside of the plane, without any worry of missing something due to not being able to see. You can check for fuel easily by blasting light into the fuel tank and being certain you have enough! The red LED plays an even bigger part in the cockpit. Being able to check charts and checklists without ruining your precious night-vision is a must, and the EC11’s red LED is fantastic for this purpose. The “standby mode” is simply wonderful and now mandatory for me to quickly and easily locate the light in a cramped and crowded cockpit when I need to get it. This light is MILES above any overpriced junk light you’ll find on a sporty’s magazine, and on the majority of aviation stores.

    Nitecore EC11

    Rating

    I give this EC11 a 5/5.

    The fact that it is compact, bright, premium made, and reaches 190 meters make this light a winner for me. The red LED has become useful in more ways that I can count, and has me wanting my next light to have this feature too. As a 18350/CR123A battery powered light, it is above and beyond what is needed in a light in this size.


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