This content originally appeared on Reddit on May 1st, 2021.
The Boring Stuff
I purchased this light from the official product page on the Convoy Aliexpress store. Price at time of writing was $36.50. There are a few emitters available with this light. I chose Osram CULPM1 when I bought mine, but since then Convoy has added SFT40 as an option and that’s a better choice.
|Measurement||Official (mm)||Measured (mm)|
|Body Diameter||not specified||28|
|Length (zoomed in)||135.8||135.25|
|Length (zoomed out)||149.5||149|
What comes in the box?
The box is excellent. Everything here is purposeful and Simon didn’t waste any money on printing or fancy opening mechanisms. It’s just a sturdy, plain cardboard box with a foam insert and a sticker on one end telling you the model & configuration of the light. It’s pretty much the same as the M21C box, but this one came with a thin foam insert on the top in addition to the light-shaped one on the bottom. It came with a lanyard too, which works fine. The lanyard has two different little clasps that let you attach or detach it quickly, and the metal clasp will fit in the lanyard holes on the tailcap if you want to attach it that way. I could have done without the lanyard but I’m sure it’s so cheap that not including it wouldn’t lower the price of the light appreciably.
This is the exact same driver as the Convoy M21C I reviewed here so this section will be the same as it was in that review.
The 8A linear driver used in this light has Convoy’s “12 Mode Group” firmware installed on it. It’s very similar to Toykeeper’s “Biscotti” firmware Convoy has used in the past. It gives you 12 different mode groups to choose from and allows you to enable or disable mode memory.
|off||click||on (mode memory optional)|
|on||half-press||next mode in group|
|on||20+ half presses||configuration mode|
Changing mode groups or the state of mode memory is a little too complicated to get into here, but it’s not hard to figure out and becomes second nature once you’ve done it a couple of times. Check out the official product page if you want more info. I find I like mode group 4 with no memory the best. It goes 1%-20%-100%-strobe-bike flasher-battery check-SOS.
I think this is one of the best commonly available mechanical switch UI’s out there, but there are still a lot of ways it can be improved.
Output & Runtimes
Lumens: The official listed lumen output is 2300 lumens, but I’m sure that is for the SST-40 emitter. I have no way of measuring lumens, but this driver & emitter combo in other convoy lights has been measured around 1400lm by other reviewers. However, Zoomies are less optically efficient so not all of those lumens are making it out the front of the light, especially when the hotspot is zoomed in tight. I don’t find brightness to be lacking at all.
Candela & Throw: With a fresh cell, I measured 185,000 candela (860 meters) using the Ceilingbounce app on my smartphone. The official product pages rates it at 162,000cd and I assume that rating is for this emitter but I can’t be sure. Either way, the throw is great. Since there’s no spill it’s very lightsaber-like too.
100%: Drops to just above 50% relative output after about nine and a half minutes. That output is very stable until about 80 minutes when brightness starts to smoothly drop again. The low voltage warning begins just before the 90 minute mark and the light either shuts off or drops to moonlight just before 110 minutes. Unfortunately I was unable to determine if the light just dropped to a low mode for awhile or just shut completely off.
20%: There’s a very slight stepdown over the first hour, but output is overall very stable for a solid three hours. Then brightness drops slowly over the course of about ten minutes before turning off or dropping to a very low mode.
These tests were performed in a closet with the Ceilingbounce app on my phone. I used a fully charged Molicel P42A for every test.
Overall build quality is quite good. Machining and anodizing are nice. The tailcap threads are great. It’s got a nice heft to it. There’s little to no wobble in the head. My one build-quality gripe is the zoom mechanism threads. When I got the light it felt like there were machining marks in the threads, not gritty but not smooth either. And they squeaked occasionally which was awful. I added some silicone grease and it’s almost entirely eliminated those problems. The zoom mechanism still isn’t anywhere close to as satisfying to use as one of those super cheap generiz zoomies though. They just have a super satisfying snap that twisty-zoomie lights can’t replicate.
Contrary to the official product photos, the tailcap spring did not come bypassed. This is also the case on my Convoy M21C with the same emitter & driver. The spring feels nice and sturdy though, so I don’t have any reason to think it’s not up to the task. I tried to test for brightness differences between the tailcap and using a heavy copper wire, but my setup isn’t consistent enough so the tests were inconclusive. If there is a difference, it’s not a big one.
It feels fine in hand. The heft is nice but the proportions of the head and the body tube feel a little off when holding it.
The switch is just adequate. This one is a reverse clicky, which I don’t usually like. It’s got Convoy’s metal switch boot on it which looks really cool, but I find it’s harder to activate than the wider rubber boot Convoy uses on some other models. It makes it feel pretty mushy compared to those, despite the actual switch under the boot being the same. It’s fine when clicking with the end of your finger but it’s difficult to depress with the pad of my thumb. I wish this light had the same switch boot as most of their other lights like the M1 and M21C. Then I could swap it out for one of the lighted switches or even swap in a forward clicky from mountain electronics. Unfortunately, neither appear to be compatible. I even tried the forward clicky myself and there just isn’t enough room in the Z1. My M21C with the more normal switch boot accepted the forward clicky switch with very little modification.
Update: I eventually was able to fit a forward clicky but it took some work. My eventual solution was to bore out the tailcap hole on a lathe so I could fit a normal rubber switch boot.
Once during my testing I noticed that condensation had formed on the inside of the lens while the light had been on 100% mode. It went away after a couple of minutes. It did affect the beam a bit, but not enough to change its usefulness.
Overall this is a good quality light, especially for a zoomie.
Emitter & Beam
This particular variant of the Z1 comes equipped with an Osram KW CULPM1.TG emitter. I really like this emitter generally and I think it’s a solid choice for this light. It provides a lot of throw with respectable lumen output too, but it also produced a fair bit of heat. It has a rectangular die and you can see it when the light is zoomed out.
The main part of the beam is a very stark white and there’s some distinct yellow around the edge at all zoom levels, which is to be expected with an aspheric lens such as this. When zoomed out there’s a bit of a dark spot in the middle. It’s not bad enough that I noticed it when actually using the light though. There’s some significant artifacting around the hotspot when the light is zoomed in. It’s not a problem at distance, but up close it’s really obvious and a little annoying.
This blows a generic roomie completely out of the water in every way. This shows how LEP-Like the beam is too.
It even competes pretty closely with a decent sized thrower (Convoy M21C with the same emitter & driver) when zoomed in.
Here are several tint comparisons. In real life it’s not quite as warm as in the second photo and not nearly as green as in the third photo. My phone did a lot of color correction and oversaturation in these so I’m not sure how actually useful they are, but they’re fun to look at.
Below is a comparison of several lights on their lowest mode. Z1 is markedly brighter than the rest. I would like to see this improved in future versions to include an actual sub-lumen moonlight mode.
Batteries & Charging
This light officially uses an unprotected 21700 cell. I did most of my testing with unprotected flat top Molicel P42A’s. I did try a 30Q and it worked, but it rattled a lot and jostling the light would cause it to cycle to the next mode. I experienced no such problems with a P42A. There are no forms of charging available with this light, which is a plus in my book. There are no fiddly rubber flaps to deal with.
Update 2021-06-11: I got my hands on a 74mm long protected button top 21700 cell from Xtar and it does not quite fit in the Z1. I suspect the max length you could fit is 72-73mm.
What else is out there on the market that competes with this light?
The Lumintop Zoom 1 is probably the most similar option. It’s a similar size and uses the same cell. It differs in that it has a side switch, integrated charging, and has a white plastic piece around the emitter. That white plastic piece means it gets more light out the front of the light, but it also means there will be spill in the beam. I think one of the most compelling things about the Convoy Z1 is that the inside of the head is all black so you get no spill at all. Unfortunately I can’t find the Zoom 1 actually available for purchase anywhere.
The Sofirn S11C is a commonly recommended zoomable option since it comes from a reputable manufacturer and is so inexpensive (only $12 with a battery!). It’s significantly smaller and doesn’t have nearly as wide of a zoom range as the Z1. It does include USB-C charging, a side switch, a good UI, and a high CRI emitter though.
Last up is the Wowtac A3S. There’s nothing particularly special about it, but it’s available on Amazon for a low price so if you want to try a zoomie and don’t want to wait a month for shipping from China it’s a fine option.
I can’t find any other zoomies that I think would be worth buying.
What I like:
- Compelling price point (particularly the cheaper SST-40 version)
- Good build quality (particularly for a zoomie)
What I have mixed feelings about:
- High lumen output on max, but also high lumen output on lowest mode
- Zooming in general
What I don’t like:
- The switch
- The zoom mechanism threads
- The lowest mode is too high
- No shortcuts in the UI
I bought this light because I wanted to try a zoomie and I wanted to try something with an aspheric lens. This light scratched both of those itches. It has its quirks and a few little things I would change, but overall I think this is the zoomie to buy at the time of writing. Another user here described it as a “poor man’s LEP” and I think that’s an apt description.
Thanks for reading!