Zebralight SC700d Review – I get it now

This content originally appeared on Reddit on June 13, 2021.

The Boring Stuff

This light was generously lent to me for review by u/natsac4. Many thanks! Here is the official produce page on Zebralight’s website, where it costs $119. There are only two versions of this light, the SC700d (seen here) and the SC700Fd which appears to be identical except for having a frosted lens. Below are the official specs.

What comes in the box?

The light comes in a plain cardboard box with an insert to hold the light securely. It also includes the manual, clip, and two spare o-rings. Including two is a nice touch because the light only has one you would ever conceivably need to replace.

Size & Dimensions

MeasurementOfficial (mm)Measured (mm)
Head/Bezel Diameter38.138.1
Length106106.8
Body Diameter (on knurling)2827.1
Tailcap DiameterNot specified28
Clip Slot DiameterNot specified24.2
Clip Slot WidthNot specified4.1
Bezel Inside DiameterNot specified30.5
Protrusion from pocketNot specified8

User Interface

This light uses the normal Zebralight user interface. Here’s the basics of the UI as it comes out of the box. I’m not going to get into re-programming here, but u/natsac4 recently made an excellent post about it. Overall, it’s fine once you spend 15 minutes reprogramming it. As with any e-switch light, Anduril would make the SC700d significantly better.

StateActionResult
OffClickHigh (sub-mode memory)
OffDouble-clickMedium (sub-mode memory)
OffShort-HoldLow (sub-mode memory)
OffLong-holdLow, then cycle main mode
OffTriple-clickBlinkies (sub-mode memory)
OffQuad-clickBattery check
OnClickOff
OnDouble-clickCycle sub-mode
OnHoldCycle main mode

This UI is very much a mixed bag. Out of the box it stinks. Double-click for the medium and single-click for high is opposite of how most other e-switch lights work. That’s something you could get used to if this were your only light though. What I can’t get used to is the brief flash of 3000 lumens when I want to go to the 200 lumen medium mode. During a double click, the first click turns on high immediately and it stays on until the second click. I can’t imagine how Zebralight thought this was a good idea when they designed the light.

The idea of sub-modes is novel. I think I generally would prefer to just have a couple more “main” modes (moonlight-low-medium-high-turbo), but the sub-modes are something I could live with.

One of the things I do love about the UI is that there is no main-mode memory and it uses shortcuts instead. The highest mode, a medium mode, and the lowest mode are the three most-used modes on any of my lights so having direct quick access from off to any of those three modes is great. I configure all my Anduril lights to work this way and it’s great.

The UI does include two other mode groups besides the default one, and they can be completely customized, so I set one up so that a single click goes to medium and a double click goes to the highest mode, just like most other e-switch lights. That made the UI perfectly usable day-to-day, it just took 15-20 minutes of studying the manual and experimenting with the programming. I also lowered the lowest mode to the ultra-low 0.04 lumen mode which is very impressive. More on that in the emitter & beam section.

Regulation

Battery VoltageMeasured Relative Output (%)Lumens (Estimated)
4.151003000
3.8902700
3.19782340
2.8167 (for a few seconds)2010

Regulation is pretty solid. Being able to put out 2/3 of the light’s max brightness on a 2.8V cell is very impressive, though the light does begin its low voltage stepdown a few seconds after you turn it on with a cell that low. As you’ll see in the runtime graphs next, the runtime regulation is top notch as well.

Runtime & Throw

Runtime & Throw

These runtime tests were performed with the Ceilingbounce app on my smartphone inside a white cardboard box. I don’t have a way of measuring lumens so I’m assuming that peak output is the advertised output for that mode, and measuring relative output from there. These test were performed with the default mode group. These are not actively cooled runtimes, so if you’re coming from Zeroair’s review and seeing a lower sustained output here, that’s why.

High 1: Output drops in a few steps over the course of about 6 minutes. After that there is some minor fluctuation, but eventually settles to a stable 950 lumens or so and it stays there until just before the two hour mark, where it makes a couple of significant drops and lands on moonlight mode. Moonlight mode then lasts a whopping ten and a half hours. While this is impressive, I would have liked to see a few extra minutes of sustained output with an hour or two of moonlight mode.

High 2: Looks basically like High 1 but without the turbo output and with a little more runtime. I stopped the test once the light dropped to moonlight.

Medium 1: A perfectly stable 192 lumens (estimated) for nearly seven and a half hours before dropping sharply to moonlight mode where I ended the test.

Medium 2: I started a test for medium 2, but by the 50 hour mark I was wondering when it would end, so I measured cell voltage and it was still at 3.75v, so I stopped the test. It too was perfectly flat, and I have no doubt it would have run for four or five days at that 25 lumen level.

This is exactly the kind of line I like to see in a runtime graph. I want my lights to drop to a sustainable brightness and then stay there for as long as they can. I like the hard drop at the end of the full-power runtime too. It makes it very clear that your light is running low on power, rather than slowly decreasing brightness over the course of the light’s runtime. I wouldn’t have minded a couple blinks as a low voltage warning starting a few minutes before the stepdown though.

Candela & Throw: Using the Ceilingbounce app on my phone, I measured 14,000 candela (237 meters of throw).

Emitter & Beam

The SC700d uses a big, bright, beautiful, high CRI, 5000K Cree XHP70.2 emitter. This is the only light I am aware of that uses this emitter, which is neat. The XHP70.2 honestly looks great and works really well in this light. I think it would also be cool to have the option of a 4000K GT-FC40 for a warmer color temp and less tint shift, and something throwy like a XHP35-HI paired with a smooth reflector for some really nice throw.

This light is incredible outdoors. It’s floody but it’s also bright enough that you get some good range out of it too. The sustained output is awesome and I never felt that I was lacking brightness because the light couldn’t handle it thermally. The hotspot is nice and wide, similar to the Emisar D4V2, but unlike the D4V2 you get nice, bright, wide spill. It’s like a wall of light. Thanks to u/bullstrongdvm who brought his TC20 to the North Texas flashlight meetup last night, I was able to get a comparison beamshot between these two very similar lights. The beams are virtually identical.

It’s pretty nice indoors as well. I wouldn’t have minded a warmer color temperature but the 5000K is pretty nice. There’s definitely some tint shift, but its perfectly acceptable and you don’t notice unless you’re white-wall-hunting. This shot above is from less than 1 meter away from the wall and it really shows just how wide the spill is. This light made me miss having spill when I use my D4V2.

Here’s another shot illustrating the minor tint shift and just how wide that spill is. The colors in this and the next photo are fairly over-saturated so take them with a grain of salt.

The moonlight on this thing gets down to an insane 0.04 lumens. Above you can see it compared to a few other lights, in dim lighting on the left, and shining straight into my phone’s camera with a bright sky in the background. These photos don’t do the dim-ness justice. Also, check out the specks in the phosphor in that bottom left photo!

Build & Ergonomics

The SC700d’s build is phenomenal. It’s got the highest quality anodizing I’ve ever felt. It feels solid and well put together. Its also a fairly attractive light, which can’t be said for ZL’s entire lineup (looking at you SC64’s).

The switch is tactile and clicky. It’s set down in a thumb recess that does a great job protecting it from accidental activation while also making it easy to find and easy to click.

Ergonomically it’s pretty nice in-hand. I’ve got big hands so it felt a little small for me, but for most people I think it’ll be perfect. My fingers rest in the grooves on the side and in the pocket clip groove comfortably. The knurling is perfect. It’s very comfortable to hold and use. On the brightest modes it got a little too hot to hold, but you can adjust the thermal limit. Fortunately, that’s something you only have to mess with once because programming on this light is incredibly un-intuitive.

It sits nicely in the pocket. The clip carries plenty deep but it’s still easy to access. The head might be a little big for some people but it didn’t bother me. The body tube is the same diameter as an Emisar D4V2 head so the fact that the SC700d takes a 21700 cell does not make it too big for EDC. It’s not very heavy either. I do think it would have been cool to see one of Zebralight’s screw-on clips from the SC64 series here. I also would have liked to see a strong magnet built into the tailcap.

Batteries & Charging

The SC700d accepts one unprotected flat top 21700 cell. It’s pictured above with the Samsung 40T available from Zebralight. There are no big springs on the head or tail ends of the battery tube like you might be used to seeing. Instead there are several spring-loaded pins. They aren’t very forgiving when it comes to length, which is why you have to use an unprotected flat top, but they’ll provide lower resistance than a spring would. There’s no battery status indicator, but 4 clicks from off will blink 1-4 times to indicate battery charge level, which is nice. No battery or charger are included which is nice for users that already have those things. If you have to buy them separately, spending $20 on them elsewhere isn’t a huge deal if you’re already spending $120 on the light. I used Molicel P42A’s for all my testing.

Competition

Sofirn IF25A 4000K: Same kind of battery, similar size, similar output, four smaller & warmer emitters instead of one big one, TIR optics so way less spill, better Anduril UI, no pocket clip included though (available separately), lower efficiency & sustained output, probably higher lowest mode, indicating switch, battery & integrated USB-C charging included for one third of the SC700d’s cost.

Sofirn SP35: Lower turbo output, lower CRI, similar sustained output but with wacky temp regulation, similar single-emitter setup, same battery type, magnetic tailcap available, great regulation, higher lowest mode (but still acceptable), indicating switch, bidirectional clip, battery & integrated USB-C charging included for one third of the SC700d’s cost.

Thrunite T2: Same battery type, same emitter, lower CRI, higher turbo output, similar sustained output, multiple colors, bidirectional clip, narrower head, floodier beam, inicating switch, battery & integrated USB-C charging included for a little over half the price of the SC700d.

Acebeam EC65 219C: Same kind of battery, narrower head, lower turbo and sustained output, marginally lower efficiency, similarly good regulation, uses a standard optic so customizing beam profile is a possibility, battery & integrated USB-C charging included at a similar price to the SC700d, tripod thread in the side of the head, indicator LED, significantly brighter lowest mode

Conclusion

Tl;Dr: I really like this light and I’m starting to see why Zebralights are so popular.

For a long time I haven’t had much interest in Zebralights. I thought they were overpriced, had a weird UI, and were pretty ugly. After using this light for awhile, now I get it. The brightness is great, the beam is great, the form factor is great, the build quality is great, the brightness is great, the runtime is great, the regulation is great, overall it’s great. The only “problems” I can find are mostly just nitpicks. The UI out of the box is terrible, but you can reprogram it to make it perfectly usable. The tint shift is there but you don’t notice it in normal use. I wouldn’t mind if it also came in black. The only thing I really think is a legitimate issue is the price. It’s just expensive. Either of the two Sofirn’s I mentioned in the competition section would get you 90% of the features of the SC700d, but at 1/3 the price. If money is no object though, the SC700d is pretty impossible to beat.

If you want to see all the photos in this review in their original quality, here’s an imgur album.

Thanks again for u/natsac4 for lending me this light to review!

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