Review O light S1
This is a review of the Olight S1 baton torch, based on 6 months of ownership and use.
First a little background on why I bought this torch in the first place and this may neatly be summed up with the maxim that the best torch is the one you have with you.
My game is hunting, not the sort on horseback but the general pursuit of tasty critters with a gun with the general aim being to enjoy time out in the great outdoors and put meat in the larder.
More specifically I am primarily a deer stalker with a fairly major side line in nocturnal pest control. Most of the animals I hunt are crepuscular, meaning most active at dawn and dusk and this entails the more than occasional use of a torch of some form for everything from preparing yourself in the dark for the hunt, to finding the beast in the thickets well into the hours of darkness to gralloching it and finding your way back to the car. This is a general sort of role for a torch and so I exclude torches and lamps for the specialist role of “lamping” or the practice of using a spotlight to find and shoot pests at night.
Over the years I have tried various torches ranging from a venerable 2D Maglite to the latest and greatest from the seemingly infinite number of Chinese LED torch makers in head torch and hand held format.
Once the LED revolution began in earnest, for me the introduction of the Cree XRE LED, to set in the issue of “enough light” became rather moot. The sort of outputs that once dictated multiple D cells or small Lead Acid batteries with the attendant bulk and weight were available from small, light and efficient LED torches running on Lithium Ion batteries.
I did very well with a single mode 2C cell 3W Cree LED hand torch ( actually the Tesco one which was better in terms of output and battery life than a 2D Maglite with LED conversion in addition to being much smaller) and a three mode zoom head torch with the same LED that ran from 3 AAA cells.
The 2C torch was for finding stuff and general distance illumination jobs whilst the head torch was (set to flood) was used for gralloching, orientation and prep work.
Together they added up to a bit of bulk in the pocket and so would tend to live in my hunting backpack. The issue then arose that when actually stalking ( rather than sitting up or some other form of more sedentary hunting ) the backpack is usually left in the car or even just dropped in the woods before the final approach as it will catch branches and twigs when trying to move through the woods. If this happens to be on a late evening hunt the result is that one is left trying to find a camouflaged backpack in the dark, in order to find a torch, find your original position and then find your deer…
The solution presented itself when I asked the question on the forums and was directed to the O light S1. The main attractant from me was the high output from the Cree XML LED in a package about the size of my thumb; the idea being it would always live in my pocket and hopefully perform both the roles described as a function of its many modes.
I ordered the light from Heinnie Haynes and true to form they delivered the next day.
It arrived with a branded CR123A battery and a spare o-ring that doubles as a keeper loop in the box itself, n.b. Do not cut this o ring with one of the many knives in your collection chaps and chapettes!
First impressions are good, the anodising is to a good standard and hasn’t worn appreciably in my pocket over the last six months.
(Tailcap view no clip)
Starting at the opposite of the business end the design of the endcap is very good. The tail cap base is flat with a cut out for a lanyard hole and a fairly powerful magnet integrated in it which lets it stick to ferrous surfaces for hands free use as well as tail-standing on flat surfaces as normal. This is particularly useful when working under the bonnet of a car, the magnet is powerful enough to allow the use of a slip of card to angle it slightly from the perpendicular without it falling off, as well as on to random pieces of farm equipment found in fields and yards. Having gotten used to this feature, I would not like to own a torch for these uses without it. One point to be ware is that the battery is inserted the “wrong way” around from most torches that I have had so far in that the positive button of the battery goes towards the tail cap end rather into the LED end of the torch, it is marked but creatures of habit take note.
The body of the torch is knurled for grip and I haven’t found it at all slippery in use. The torch is activated by a push button on the side which allows you to access it’s modes as well as turn it on and off. It comes with a pocket clip which as it can be rotated to effectively “lock out” the switch, preventing it being accidentally activated in the pocket as well as clipping it to the brim of a suitable hat to turn it into a head torch. This last in my opinion makes this torch for my purposes but more on this anon.
The business end of the torch uses a Total Internal Reflection lens which is a sort of lens that surrounds the LED, notionally making use of more of its light than a conventional reflector or an aspheric lens system due to capturing more of the emitted light in the first place. The latter two lens/reflector systems were designed for incandescent bulbs which are assumed to be point sources of light for design purposes whereas an LED is best thought of as an light emitting area of a chip with a defined forward beam angle of somewhere between 90-125 degrees.
The advantages of a TIR optic are therefore efficiency and beam quality compared to the other approaches mentioned. This is all largely irrelevant to the average user, being more interested in the end result in the dark rather than discussions on theoretical advantages of one design philosophy over another.
Compared to the majority of reflector or aspheric lights I have played with this torch gives a very useful beam for my use. There is a generous central hotspot, this is no thrower, but the raw power of the highest mode lets it punch out far enough for my purposes if need be, good enough to spot a carcass on the grass at 100 yards and giving eye shine much further than that. There is also a nice spill beam which makes the torch work well as a close range “floody” type torch for things like gralloching, especially on the lower power modes so as to avoid being dazzled, especially with the light clipped to a hat brim for hands free use.
There has been an issue with this lens assembly which is directly related to one of the compromises inherent in the design of this torch. The LED used is a Cree XML which dissipates 10W at full power where it is putting out around 1000 lumens. This is a lot of power for to be dissipated by a torch so small and therefore lacking in thermal mass to soak it up. On that note the highest power mode is limited to 500 lumens and even then only for a minute or so before switching down to a working max of around 300 lumens if the literature is to be believed. The relevance of this is to the compound that is used to seal the TIR lens in the front into the body, being some sort of rubbery silicone type material which has degraded already in places, presumably as a result of thermal expansion forcing it out of the gap it is to fill and breaking off with use and storage. Whether this has meaningfully impacted the waterproofing of this torch is unknown at this stage, not been out in any real downpours with it on top of my hat and exposed to the elements yet but a trifle disappointing nonetheless given the otherwise good overall quality of the torch and its non-budget price point.