Sofirn C8L Review – Full-Size Budget Tactical Light

Contents

Pricing & Availability

Sofirn sent me this light in exchange for an honest review. Here is the official product page and the Amazon page where you can see current pricing. Use code IQCGAF18 for 20% off from the Sofirn store.

What comes in the box?

The box is typical from Sofirn. It’s plain, thinner cardboard with a small foam pad on the bottom and a bubblewrap sleeve to protect the light. The following items are included in the box:

  • The light itself
  • Battery (inside the light)
  • USB A-to-C cable
  • Lanyard
  • Spare O-rings
  • 18650 spacer
  • User Manual

Design & Construction

C8L takes some inspiration from the tried and true C8 pattern, but adds some really nice changes: a larger body, side switch, charging, and larger cooling fins. There are crenelations in the bezel that allow light to escape when headstanding, but they’re not sharp enough for me to consider it a “strike bezel”.

Build quality is good, as I’ve come to expect from Sofirn. They’re particularly good at making smooth threads and this is no exception. They’re anodized and well lubricated, but they can be a little hard to start due to the high spring tension. There are some flutes cut into the head that will prevent the light from starting to roll, but they’re not deep enough to stop it if it’s already rolling. I can’t find any complaints with the build quality, and nothing seems to be glued in place except for the driver, which is great for modders.

Size & Measurements

Convoy M1 | Convoy M21D | Sofirn C8L | Convoy C8+ | Fireflies E07x Pro

MeasurementMeasured (mm)
Bezel Diameter46.5
Maximum Head Diameter46.5
Length159
Tail Switch Diameter14
Tail Switch Proudness2
Side Switch Diameter8.7
Side Switch Proudness1.3
Lens Diameter43.5
Lens Thickness2.0
Reflector Hole Diameter7.3
Reflector Diameter43.6
Reflector Height32.3
MCPCB Size~23
Body Tube Diameter (internal) 22.0
Body Tube Diameter (maximum)28.0
Body Tube Diameter (mode)28.0
Body Tube Length76.2
Tailcap Diameter28.5
Tailcap Length (not including switch)31.2
Driver Diameter25.4
USB Port Width12.1
USB Port Depth3.2
USB Port Height11
Included Battery Length70.7
Included Battery Diameter21.5

Weight without battery: 174g
Weight with included battery: 241g

User Interface

The UI has two groups: group 1 is fine for general use and group 2 is good for tactical use.

Mode Group 1:

StateActionResult
OffClick or Half-Press TSOn (Mode Memory)
OffHold SS & Click or Half-Press TSEco (Not Memorized)
OffDouble Half-Press TSTurbo (Not Memorized)
OnClick TSOff
OnClick SSCycle Mode (Eco > Low > Med > High)
OnDouble Click SSTurbo (Not Memorized)
OnTriple Click SSStrobe (Not Memorized)
OnHold SS (3+ seconds)Switch Mode Group

Mode Group 2:

StateActionResult
OffClick or Half-Press TSTurbo (No Memory)
OffHold SS & Click or Half-Press TSEco
OffDouble Half-Press TSStrobe
OnClick TSOff
OnClick SSCycle Mode (Turbo > Med)
OnDouble Click SSStrobe (Not Memorized)
OnHold SS (3+ seconds)Switch Mode Group

Mode Group 1 is good for general use with a wider variety of modes. I don’t really like the Turbo shortcut though. One of the main draws to a dual-switch setup like this is the ability for the switches to do two totally separate things: tailswitch for on/off and side switch for changing modes. Adding a Turbo shortcut using only the tailswitch means you can’t use the light for signaling or blinking tasks without it trying to go to Turbo all the time. I do really like the Eco shortcut because that doesn’t get in the way of anything.

Mode Group 2 seems pretty well thought out for tactical use. It always goes to Turbo but still gives you quick access to strobe. Eco and Medium modes are still accessible, which is nice. I find I prefer to use C8L as a dedicated tactical light with this mode group, and use other lights for general purpose use.

Mode Chart

Disclaimer: All measurements taken at turn-on. Lumen measurements were taken on a Texas Ace 3.5″ Lumen Tube. A candela measurement was taken at 10 meters with an Opple Light Master III on the highest brightness, and other candela figures were calculated relative to that. CRI, CCT, & DUV data was taken for each mode from a few feet away at the center of the hotspot with the Opple Light Master and Waveform DUV Calculator. Runtime tests were performed with the Ceilingbounce app on my smartphone. All of these tests were performed with a fully charged included battery unless otherwise specified. I cannot measure moonlight directly, so moonlight readings are calculated based on the brightness relative to the next-lowest mode. None of this is professional equipment, so take all of these measurements with a grain of salt.

Here are the official specs, followed by my own measurements.

Mode Spacing: is fine. There are no weirdly small or large jumps. I like the number of modes too. 5 is the right number of brightness levels.

Runtime

Performance: is good overall. Turbo lasts over 3 minutes before stepdown which is impressive. After thermal stepdown, output is relatively flat on all modes.

LVP: is present and works well.

Thermal regulation: is present and works fine. When actively cooled, output really doesn’t drop dramatically until low voltage stepdowns hit. On Turbo and High modes it gets too hot to hold because Sofirn (like most manufacturers) uses 55C as the thermal ceiling. I wish they would use 45C instead because that’s actually holdable. 55C

Driver & Regulation

C8L uses a single 3.7V cell and a 6V LED, so that means it must be using a boost driver. Boost drivers are typically more efficient and better regulate than most other drivers, so that’s a good thing. The driver does not appear to be easily removable, and it appears to be using a daughter board as well, rather than just being one circular PCB.

Regulation is pretyy good, as you might expect from a boost driver. Battery voltage does not affect output until 3.4V and lower. At that point the cell has very little charge left.

Note: All regulation measurements are taken at turn-on so they do not reflect any thermal or low voltage stepdowns that may occur. A value of 0 indicates low voltage shutoff immediately upon activation.

PWM: No PWM is visible nor audible so it shouldn’t give you any trouble.

Parasitic Drain: The on/off switch is mechanical so there is no parasitic drain.

Emitter & Beam

C8L uses a Cree XHP50.3-HI LED. It’s a quad-die, domeless emitter on a 5050 footprint that can be wired for 6 volts (as configured here) or 12 volts depending on the MCPCB. It sits in a deep, orange peel reflector. The bezel appeared to be lightly glued in but I was able to remove it using some grippy gloves. It’s worth noting that the o-ring for the lens sits between the lens and the reflector, not the lens and the bezel, which is weird. That makes me slightly skeptical of the light’s water resistance rating.

The beam is on the throwy side with a relatively narrow hotspot that smoothly transitions to reasonably bright spill. It’s throwy enough to be useful at range but not so throwy that it’s useless up close. It suits this light well.

You can see in the beamshots below how it doesn’t throw as a Convoy C8+ Osram, but it still throws reasonably well. More importantly, C8L’s bright spill allows you to also see all of your surroundings clearly. That’s not something the C8+ Osram can do.

Sofirn C8L | Convoy C8+ with Osram W1

In the beamshots above, the trees where I’m aiming the hotspot are 175M away. In the beamshots below, the park bench where I’m aiming the hotspot is 42M away.

Sofirn C8L | Convoy C8+ with Osram W1

Switch

C8L has two switches: a forward clicky mechanical tailswitch, and a backlit electronic side switch.

The tail switch sits underneath a plush rubber boot and is easy to disasemble with some snap ring pliers. It’s a surprisingly beefy switch, appearing to be exactly the same as the one used in Convoy’s L6 & L7 models which are much larger and more powerful than this Sofirn. It requires surprisingly little force to actuate and it feels a little cheap in use despite it actually being very high quality.

The side switch has a black plastic boot with a clear window in the center to allow backlighting. It’s got some slop before the click and it feels kind of mushy, but it’s functional. When the light is on, a backlight indicates the battery status through the switch. green means good charge left, red means low charge, flashing red means critically low charge. The backlighting is very bright so you won’t have any trouble seeing it in most lighting conditions.

Carry & Ergonomics

Ergonomically, C8L is pretty good. The beefy switch necessitates a longer body tube so you can get a full grip on the light, which is nice. In a forward grip, my thumb lands perfectly on the side switch. In a reverse grip, there’s plenty of room so my fingers don’t feel crowded. The only grip that isn’t great is a cigar grip because the light’s a little front-heavy and the body tube is cylindrical.

To alleviate this, I designed and 3D-printed a tactical ring (STL download) that drops in between the body tube and tailcap.

The only included carry method is a pretty basic lanyard and that works fine. I found that C8L fits nicely in a Convoy C8 belt holster as well. It’s too big for pants pocket carry but it’s fine in a jacket pocket.

Tailstand: is not possible. The ears on the tailcap are just for lanyard attachment. They don’t extend past the switch for tailstanding.

Batteries & Charging

C8L uses one 21700 battery. A Sofirn-branded 5000mah unprotected flat top cell is included. Button tops will work fine since there are dual-springs. Some protected cells may fit too, but not the super-long ones with a USB port built in. Any non-proprietary 18650 will work fine and a spacer is included. You don’t need particularly high discharge for C8L either, so high-capacity 10A cells should be fine.

A USB-C charging port is built into the side of the light, opposite the button. Sofirn used their awesome large charging port cover here, and I have no concerns about its reliability. C-to-C charging works just fine and it can be used while charging, but only in eco mode by clicking the side switch. Charging took a little over 4 hours and stopped at 4.23V, which is a little high but not dangerous. There is no powerbank function.

Competition

Here are some lights in the same class and how they compare.

Sofirn C8G: basically a predecessor to C8L with a separate charger and worse LED & driver.

Sofirn C8F: floodier, high CRI, triple-LED cousin to C8L with a separate charger

Acebeam L35: basically a more premium C8L with better build quality, more brightness, and a better UI but with a much higher price point.

This section is not comprehensive. If I didn’t include a particular light here, it doesn’t mean it’s bad or doesn’t deserve to be here. I simply cannot list every possible competitor.

Conclusion

I ended up liking C8L even more than I expected. It’s a great budget tactical light with a good UI, great beam profile, good performance, good build quality, and all the included accessories you need to get up and running.

Thanks to Sofirn for sending me this light for review!