Flashlight Review: Convoy S2+ 519A
Updated: Jul 30
Convoy is one of my favourite flashlight/torch brands offering high quality flashlights with lots of LED options at budget prices. The hugely popular S2+ has been around for many years, and is regularly updated with new LED options. This review is of the Convoy S2+ with the new high CRI Nichia 519A LED emitters.
Four Convoy S2+ 519A lights were purchased with my own funds. All links in this review are non-affiliate - I do not make any money from links or sales. This review is written from the perspective of a night/light painting photographer.
Construction and Design
The Convoy S2+ is a classic "18650 tube" sized light with a single tail switch. It is 118mm long and 21.4mm diameter throughout the body. The light is of high quality, bearing in mind the US$17-$20 price tag without battery, or US$20-24 with battery. The light arrived in a basic cardboard box, with bubble wrap, and a lanyard. There are no instructions provided, but these are viewable on the product page on Convoy's website. There is no "official" warranty other than the AliExpress 75-Day Buyer Protection, but I've never had any concerns on the rare occasions I've had issues with Convoy lights - Convoy's owner Simon Mao has excellent customer service.
Whilst I primarily use S2+ for illumination purposes during night photography rather than creating light trails, it is compatible with Light Painting Paradise, and Light Painting Brushes systems. If you purchase the optional side clip, it is also compatible with various T8 tube sized light painting systems (Light Painting Tubes, Luminosify, Light Painting King).
The light is in three sections, with the head and tail being able to be unscrewed. There are springs at both ends of the battery tube, though I generally find that only unprotected 18650 batteries reliably fit into the Convoy S2+. I recommend using optional Liitokala 3500mAh 18650 batteries, or Panasonic/Sanyo NCR18650GA, Molicell M35A, Samsung INR18650-35E3, EVE INR18650/33V, or LG MJ1 purchased locally. There is no internal charging, so you will need to use a dedicated Li-ion or Multi-chemistry charger. Convoy also sell a basic Li-ion charger. If you really need USB-C charging, consider the new Convoy S21E 519A.
The S2+ is available in 10 different body colours, of which Black and Grey have both the lowest price and rubber tail switches. The 8 other body colour options have more sensitive metallic tail switches. Different coloured head, battery tube, and tail sections will "lego" together, but be aware that older and newer S2+ versions have different threads and thus compatibility cannot be 100% guaranteed.
The S2+ has lots of options including diffusers (which I use a lot for urbex photography), side clips, and U-shaped tripod mounts. A remote pressure switch is also available (Grey body only) but as I don't use remote pressure switches, I haven't tested it to see if it is suitable for light painting. You can also purchase S2+ components separately, build you own, or swap LED emitters if you have the skills and knowledge - the S2+ is a flashlight modders delight.
User Interface (UI)
Most Convoy S2+ models use the Biscotti or 12-Group user interface, with the older 3/5 mode user interface only being available on selected models. Thus user interface has 12 different mode group options, and the ability to turn mode memory on or off. By default the light is set to group 1 - 0.1%, 1%, 10%, 35%, 100%, strobe, bike flash, battery check, with last mode memory on. I prefer to use mode group 3 - 100%, 35%, 10%, 1%, 0.1%, with last mode memory.
The user interface is nice and simple. Full click is on/off. Half click advances to the next mode.
Changing groups/programming is a bit tricky as it requires 20 (or more) half clicks until the light produces a buzzy flash. A half click enters group selection mode, and the light blinks out the group (e.g. 3 blinks=group 3), and full click saves that group and exits programming. Waiting until the second buzzy flash, and then a full click toggles between last mode memory and having no mode memory.
In recent years, many flashlight UIs have annoyingly (for light painters) removed strobe and sometimes max/turbo mode from the main mode cycle. Thankfully the S2+ has last mode memory for ALL modes. Unfortunately, the strobe is alternating frequency instead of the much preferred constant frequency. This is a shame, as otherwise the S2+ would easily be the best budget flashlight for creating strobe light trails. The bike flash mode creates an interesting pulsed light trail.
Optics, brightness, and runtime
When illuminating things for photography, high colour rendering index (CRI) CRI LED emitters will provide much better colour rendering of the subject. LED panel lights have generally used high CRI LEDs for a few years, but flashlights have been trailing behind. Convoy has always lead the field for LED options. The 90CRI Samsung LH351D was a step in the right direction, and my S2+ emitter of choice for the last year and a half, but had a slight green tint and mediocre R9/Red colour rendering. The 95CRI Luminus SST-20 was fantastic at high power levels, but horribly green on lower power levels. The 95CRI Nichia 219B was much loved by flashlight enthusiasts for its "rosy" tint, but for photography the magenta tint is more of a hindrance. Thankfully, Nichia recently introduced the 519A emitter. This has 95CRI / R9080 colour rendering, relatively high output for 95CRI, and a "perfectly" neutral tint very close to the Black Body Line. Red R9 colour rendering is excellent, making Reds and Browns pop. Just to make things even better, Convoy has the 519A available in an amazing range of colour temperature (CCT) options from 2700k, 3000k, 3500k, 4000k, 4500k, 5000k, and 5700k. (2700k is warm white, 5700k is cool(ish) white).
The tint comparison photo (scroll down) shows that at cool(ish) white 5700k, the Nichia 519A is has a more neutral tint than the slightly green Samsung LH351D. At warm white 2700k, it appears that the Nichia 519A may have a slight magenta tint as opposed to the slight green of the Samsung LH351D. I don't have a light meter to accurately measure tint/DUV. CCT with diffuser on 35% mode was very close to the claimed 2700k and 5700k.
The Nichia 519A emitter is placed in an orange peel reflector, with green anti-reflective lens (which actually reduces some green wavelengths from the beam), and creates a "floody" beam profile with diffuse hotspot. The spill beam angle is 70 degrees. This beam profile is very useful for moving illuminating during long exposure night photography. Combined with a diffuser, the S2+ can illuminate in an omni-directional manner like a light bulb. The 519A version of the S2+ uses a 5A linear driver, which provides considerably higher output and heat than the older 2.8A Convoy S2+ models, and after thermal step down the light runs very hot to touch.
The measured lumens (+/- 10%) in the 5700k version at 30secs was tested as follows:
100% - 1000 lumens.
35% - 490 lumens.
10% - 170 lumens
1% - 15 lumens
0.1% - 1.5 lumen (visually estimated)
Runtime testing was with an ageing unprotected Panasonic NCR18650GA 3500mAh battery. On 100% mode, the light turned on at just over 1000 lumens and gradually declined to 490 lumens over the first 150 seconds. From this point the brightness was stable (within +/-10%) until 80 minutes where the brightness started to decline. Low voltage warning flashes started at 90 minutes. On 35% mode the brightness was stable (within +/-10%) at 470 lumens, with 10 additional minutes of runtime. The stable brightness throughout most of the runtime is excellent for light painting/night photographers who need a stable brightness throughout a long exposure photo, or subsequent attempts at a photo.
The range of brightness levels mean that you can use the Convoy S2+ for illuminating castles on 100% mode, or illuminating the foreground of an astro-photography photo on 0.1% or 1%. mode. There is no visible Pulse Width Modulation (PWM), though my camera phone picked up some waveform rippling.
I did find that the 95CRI/R9080 519A emitter is not quite as bright as the 90CRI/R9050 LH351D emitter, with approximately 20% difference in brightness at some brightness levels. Personally I think the improved tint and CRI (notably improved Red/R9) of the 519A is worth the hit in brightness. If you need more lumens, consider the Convoy S21D.
There are hundreds of configuration options of the Convoy S2+. The reviewed Nichia 519A version is my current favourite for white light illumination due to high CRI, neutral tint, and huge range of CCTs. However, for creating light trails (excusing the alternating frequency strobe) I would recommend the "throwy" CSLNM1 versions available with White, Red, Green, Blue, or Orange-Yellow emitters, optionally with battery. The coloured versions are also good for coloured illumination. These are best used on 35% mode or below, as 100% is pushing the LEDs to their limit. The Clear S2+ XP-L HI (V2 1A, 8*7135) version with old 3/5 mode user interface has a constant frequency 10Hz strobe, but it has to be on for more than 3 seconds for the strobe to be memorised for the subsequent turn on. Convoy even offer Infra Red and Ultraviolet versions of the S2+ (though with less UV options for those who live in the USA due to a silly patent).
The slightly larger 21700 based Convoy S21D 8A 519A flashlight will provide 100% more max lumens, and 60% more sustained lumens, at 100% price increase over the S2+, and is my current flashlight pick for use with backlight scanners. There is even a choice of optics from very floody 60 degrees, to throwy 10 degrees.
The new Convoy S21E, is a slightly larger 21700 based light with side switch (ramping or stepped brightness), and USB-C charging. With the same 519A emitter options, compatible diffusers, and tripod mounts, it is a good alternative to the S2+.
Excellent value for money.
Excellent output for 95CRI.
Industry leading range of colour temperature (CCT) options.
Lots of optional accessories.
Simple user interface.
Last mode memory for all modes (optional).
Good mode brightness spacing.
Stable sustained brightness on 35% mode (or 100% after step down).
No visible PWM.
Alternating frequency strobe.
For illuminating objects during night/light painting photography, the Convoy S2+ 519A is an excellent value for money option. 95CRI will render colours very well, including red and browns, and the output is still bright enough (and stable enough) to light up small to medium sized spaces and buildings. The range of brightness steps are very useful. Diffuser and tripod mount options allow for even more flexibility. It does run hot, so be aware of that!