Flashlight Review: Emisar DT8
Updated: Feb 18
One of my dream flashlights/torches would be a pocketable light with the same brightness as a "Soda Can" sized light such as the iconic BLF Q8. With the release of the Emisar DT8, is it time to stop dreaming?
The Emisar DT8 was purchased with my own funds.
This review is primarily written for night and light painting photographers, but there is plenty of useful information for flashlight enthusiasts.
Design and Construction
Emisar and Noctigon brands from Intl Outdoor are run by flashlight guru Hank Wang, and could be described as a "candy store" for flashlight enthusiasts. The compact, 4,300lm, quad LED Noctigon KR4 and Emisar D4V2/D4SV2 were (up until the DT8) the floody "pocket rocket" kings, with considerably better build quality and sustained brightness performance than the popular Lumintop FW series of lights. The Emisar DT8, with 8 LEDs and a 9A + FET constant current driver looks even more promising in terms of maximum and sustained lumens - let's see how it performs later on in this review!
The DT8 is an unusual looking flashlight, with an 18650 tube body (18350 tube also available), and a "hammerhead like" rectangular head with 8 LEDs. A rectangle is more space efficient than a circle, as is commonly found on flashlights, and thus this design fits in the most LEDs and optics possible into a small space. The light is 97mm long, with a 24mm diameter tube, and a 27x46mm head. Despite the rectangular head, the light is surprisingly compact, with a side profile almost identical to the FW3A. Weight (excluding battery) is 100g. IPX rating is IPX67, so it should be able to withstand a quick drop into water. Due to the rectangular head, this light will not connect with light painting systems, however it is very useful for illuminating night (or other dark places) long exposure photographs.
The DT8 has an illuminated side switch, and the user interface is discussed in the next section. The switch LEDs can easily be hidden by a thumb, and can be disabled if required. The 8 primary LEDs are also joined by 8 RGB auxiliary LEDs. These turn off when the primary LEDs are turned on, and can also be disabled if required. Whilst the rather gimmicky aux LEDs can change colour, and even have a "disco mode" they aren't bright enough for light painting. The battery capacity mode is however very useful - as the battery is discharged the colour changes through the spectrum from purple to red.
The 18650 battery tube unscrews at both the head and tail end. Only flat top unprotected 18650 batteries will fit, which is pretty standard for enthusiast grade flashlights and torches in the last few years. I would recommend using 3000mAh Sony VTC6, LG HG2, or Samsung 30Q batteries. There is no USB charging, though that is common on enthusiast grade flashlights, and I recommend using dedicated chargers anyway.
The DT8 was delivered in a padded cardboard box (which clearly worked as the couriers threw the box into my front yard), and included a spare lens, 2 spare O-rings, and a lanyard. The latter was strange as the light has no lanyard hole. The light is available in either Black, Dark Grey, and Cyan colours. The illuminated side switch is available in either Green, Red, Amber, Cyan, Cool White, and Warm White. A tail magnet and side clip are optional extras. The light will fit in a U-shaped tripod mount and is also compatible with a 22-50mm diffuser.
Below - Size comparison. Left to Right - Emisar DT8 (18650), Lumintop FW1A (18650), Convoy S2+ (18650), Convoy M21C (21700), BLF Q8 (4X18650).
The Emisar DT8 uses the newest version of the open source Anduril user interface, not surprisingly called Anduril 2. This is designed for flashlights with a single e-switch. Anduril has proved to be very popular with flashlight/torch enthusiasts, but many non-flashlight enthusiasts have found it to be too complex and frustrating to use.
Anduril 2 by default places the user in "Simple UI", however out of the box, my DT8 turned on in "Advanced UI". "Simple UI" has limited functionality, with 5 stepped brightness levels (no Turbo mode), battery check, and lockout. Stepped brightness modes are more useful for photographers than ramping, as you can return to a discreet brightness level for consistency. A single click (1C) turns the light on, hold will step up or down through the brightness levels (release on the required level), and 1C to turn off. There is also last mode memory. I found "Simple UI" very easy to use.
10 clicks and hold, brings the user into "Advanced UI". This has a lot more options, with a choice of ramping brightness, or 7 stepped brightness modes +Turbo (accessed by 2 clicks), thermal calibration, momentary mode for any brightness level or strobe setting, control of aux colour LEDs (including turning them off), last mode memory options, configuration of brightness steps and ramp floor/ceiling, plus lots of strobe and effect modes. Strobe modes have adjustable strobe frequency at a fixed strobe brightness (presumably at 120/150 brightness level). However, as the light doesn't connect to any light painting systems, the strobe is probably a bit superfluous to requirements for most users. The Noctigon KR1 SST-40 is probably the best Anduril based light for use with light painting tools, and I plan on testing that light soon. The DT8 can be electronically or mechanically locked out for safety.
The option of "Simple UI" is a big improvement over the original Anduril, and personally I much prefer Anduril 2 over it's predecessor. I had a lot less "incorrect clicking causing chaos" issues than in Anduril 1, though it took me a few attempts to work out thermal configuration despite reading the manual. This resulted in some frustration, and having to perform a factory reset.
There are a few issues I have with the documentation for Anduril 2 in the Emisar DT8, which prevent it from being a "professional class" flashlight for photographers:
Despite Anduril 2 being complex, no printed instructions or diagrams are included with the DT8, and thus users new to Anduril 2 will need to search online for the instructions or diagrams. Implementations of Anduril 2 can be different (e.g. whether Turbo is enabled in "Simple UI", ramping or stepped brightness in "Simple UI", 2C to Turbo enabled, ramp floor/ceiling settings, tint ramping, available strobe modes, etc), and thus even the instructions or diagrams found online might not match the DT8. Manufacturers who sell Anduril 2 lights should provide model specific instructions and diagrams.
There is no documention of the expected brightness and runtime at each regulated brightness step (all steps except for Turbo are regulated). Consumer grades lights from Nitecore, Fenix, Olight, et al publish ANSI/NEMA FL1 charts. Even Fireflies publish a chart for some of their Anduril 2 lights. I'm not expecting a chart for every DT8 emitter option, but certainly a few would be very useful.
The official generic instructions for Anduril 2 are here.
The Anduril custom config code (assumed to use Noctigon KR4 config) is here.
The diagram (made by BLF member Lux-Perpetua) below shows the generic Anduril 2 user interface (note: tint ramp is not available in the DT8).
Beam and Output
The double quad arrangement, allows for 8 LEDs (instead of the usual 3 or 4 in "pocket rocket" lights) to fit into a compact rectangular head. Instead of a reflector, the light has Carclo optics. The choice of LEDs at the time of writing is impressive, with lots of different colour temperatures, and high colour rending (high-CRI) options including:
Cree XP-L HI 2850k, 4000k, 5000k, 6500k - 6,700 lumens.
Luminus SST-20 5000k - 6,500 lumens.
Luminus SST-20 high-CRI 2700k, 4000k - 4,600 lumens.
Luminus SST-20 Deep Red 660nm.
Nichia 219BT high-CRI 3500k, 4500k - ?3,000 lumens.
Nichia E21 very high-CRI 2000k, 2700k, 3500k, 4500k, 5000k - 1,800 lumens.
This list will change over time. Samsung LH351D 90CRI emitters are also currently available as a special order, I wish I had known that when I ordered! Note that there is a US$20 price difference on top of the US$78 base cost between the cheapest SST-20 option and the most expensive XP-L HI option. This review is of the SST-20 5000k option.
The beam profile is interesting. The light can be classed as floody, with a large hotspot. However I didn't like the dark inner spill beam, and I might add D-C-Fix (purchased on a flashlight forum) to the lens to smooth things out more. The beam profile may be different depending on the LED emitter, so this issue might not occur with other emitters. The SST-20 5000k emitter at step 7/7 has a pleasant milky yellow neutral tint. Unfortunately, as the brightness is lowered, the notorious SST-20 green tint is more obvious.
Anduril 2 has 150 possible brightness steps. Steps 1 to 120 are regulated by the 9A driver. Steps 121 to 150 additionally use FET. "Simple UI" has five evenly spaced brightness steps between 10 and 110. "Advanced UI" has seven evenly spaced brightness steps between 10 and 120, or ramping brightness between 3 and 120. Turbo is at 150. I tested the lumen output for each brightness step at 10 seconds, using a fully charged Samsung 30Q 18650 (note: testing was performed via ceiling bounce method in a small white room, and calibrated against 5 other lights of known brightness):
Simple UI (5 steps) - 10lm; 180lm; 600lm; 1,800lm; 2,500lm
Advanced UI (7 steps) - 10lm; 90lm; 310lm; 700lm; 1,700lm; 2,560lm; 3,100lm
Turbo - 6,340lm
Turbo output was close to claimed output and well within +/-10% margins of error. 6,340lm is very impressive from a single 18650. I then performed runtime tests based on the out of the box thermal calibration and 45C max temp, 55C max temp after calibration, and 60C max temp after calibration. I found the most optimal setting to be at 55C (which is the hottest I can comfortably hand-hold) where the minimum brightness after step down from Turbo was 800lm. At 45C and 60C max the minimum brightness after step down from Turbo was 650lm.
The full Turbo runtime test was performed at 55C max temp, handheld, fully charged Samsung 30Q, 20C ambient temperature room, with no cooling. The light stepped down significantly from 6.430lm after 40 seconds, reaching the minimum brightness of 800lm by 4 minutes, and then slowly rising. As the battery voltage dropped, the brightness increased, surpassing 1,000lm at 30 mins, and peaking at 1,750lm at 55 minutes. The light then stepped down in brightness every few minutes after 59 minutes, providing a useable runtime of 72 minutes.
In 5/7 stepped brightness level, the light started off at 1,700lm, dropped to 1,275lm at 80secs, and stabilising at 1,000lm from 7mins. I terminated test at 30 minutes once the brightness started to increase. I would expect the brightness to gradually increase as the battery voltage reduces as per the Turbo test. I would also expect that in cooler, breezy, outdoor locations the sustained brightness could be well above 1,000lm, but with resulting shorter runtimes.
So how does the Emisar DT8 compare with larger flashlights? Caution need to be be taken with some of these review comparisons due to large variations in performance depending on thermal calibration and testing conditions - for example I've seen Emisar D18 sustained brightness tested at anywhere between 500 and 2,000lm with the same emitter! Maximum Turbo output of the Emisar DT8 is higher than all stock "pocket rocket" 18650 flashlights I'm aware of, higher than many "sensible" 21700 lights such as the much larger Convoy M21C/D and Zebralight SC700d, and pretty close to "hotrod" 21700 lights such as the Noctigon K9.3, Fireflies E07X Pro and E12R. It is also brighter than older generation Soda Can lights such as the BLF Q8 and Sofirn SP36, and even the newer Sofirn SP36 Pro (with its included batteries).
Sustained brightness of 1,000lm (step 5/7 or 4/5) is very good compared to other "pocket rocket" 18650 flashlights, with only the FW3X Lume1 giving it a run for the money (and I would much prefer the DT8 with its reverse polarity detection). Compared to larger 21700 lights it is significantly out performed by the larger Convoy M21C/D XHP70.2 and Zebralight SC700d, and to a lesser extent the Fireflies E12R and Noctigon K9.3. Compared to multi-battery Soda Can lights, it is not surprisingly significantly outperformed by the BLF Q8, Fenix LR35R, and Lumintop GT3. Interestingly, sustained brightness performance is comparable to, or possibly even better than the Fireflies ROT66 Gen II and Sofirn SP36 Pro during most of the (shorter) runtime. The high-CRI versions of the DT8 also appear to outperform the Lumecube 2.0 in both maximum, and sustained brightness, though they have very different beam profiles.
Things I liked:
Impressive maximum brightness for the size.
Impressive sustained brightness for the size (after raising temp limit to 55C).
Excellent range of LED emitter options, including high-CRI, and colour temperatures from very warm white to cool white.
Anduril 2 User interface is highly customisable.
Well spaced, stepped brightness levels in "Simple UI".
Aux LEDs can be set to indicate remaining battery voltage.
Can be electronically or mechanically locked out.
Fits in U-shaped tripod mounts.
Compatible 3rd party diffuser.
Reasonable value for money.
Things I didn't like:
Needs to be thermally calibrated for optimal sustained brightness, which can be an exercise in frustration.
Anduril 2 "Advanced UI" is too complex for some users.
No model specific instructions available.
No ANSI/NEMA F1 brightness/runtime chart for regulated brightness steps.
Beam profile with SST-20 is sub-optimal.
SST-20 5000k tint is too green on lower brightness levels.
Relatively short runtime.
The Emisar DT8 is quite possibly the best "pocket rocket" flashlight available in 2021, with an excellent brightness to size ratio. It certainly brings a smile to my face when using it! For short night time outings, I may now be leaving the larger 21700 and Soda Can lights at home. The LED options are impressive, and I can see many flashlight enthusiasts owning multiple versions of the DT8. Users will either love or hate the Anduril 2 user interface, though I prefer the addition of "Simple UI" in Anduril 2.
I highly recommend the Emisar DT8 for:
Flashlight enthusiasts, who will probably purchase every flavour!
Tech savvy night, urbex, and light painting photographers who require a compact, but very bright flashlight for moving or static illumination purposes.
I don't recommend the Emisar DT8 for:
Users who prefer easy to use lights (consider options from Convoy or Fenix instead).
Users who need long runtimes, such as for hiking and camping (consider 21700, 26650, or Soda Can lights instead).
Which options are the best? XP-L HI 4000k, 5000k, and 6500k, or SST-20 5000k options will provide maximum lumens but with low CRI, with the SST-20 option being $20 cheaper but with a green tint at lower brightness levels. SST-20 2700k, and 4000k options are a good compromise between CRI and lumens. Nichia 219BT and E21 will provide very high CRI, but with less lumens. 219BT 4500k is a well regarded emitter for its rosy tint. E21 2000k and 2700k options are beautifully warm. Whilst not currently available other than by special order, the bright 90 CRI LH351D emitters in either 5000k or 5700k would be my pick.
Would I purchase another DT8? I find that the Convoy S2+ LH351D 90CRI models (with diffusers) still fit 95% of my night photography illumination requirements, and cost 1/4 of the price! However, I am still tempted to get a DT8 with LH351D for when I need more lumens. For less efficient, very high-CRI emitters such as the 219B and E21, the DT8 will provide significantly higher maximum and sustained brightness than an S2+. If Emisar made a mule version (very floody with no optics), that would be very useful for photography.
The Emisar DT8 can be purchased directly from Intl Outdoor. (This is a non-affiliate link).
Flashlight / Torch Buying Guide for Light Painting and Night Photographers is here.