Imalent MS06 review
Imalent – a brand long known for high output lights, the makers of the first commercially available 100,000 lumen light (the MS18), and all-round heavy hitter in the flashlight game. I’ve had my eye on their lights for quite some time for that first reason – they put out an absolute ton of light, CRI and CCT be damned.
After reading our own Pieter’s MS03 review, I was even more intrigued – 13,000 lumens in that? How? What horrible science has been done to make that one happen?
Then came a knock knock on my metaphorical/virtual door – the Imalent MS06 was coming out, it was effectively the MS03 times two, and would I like to review it?
Why yes, I do often fantasise about holding a sun in my hands while cackling maniacally. I do wonder what it’s like to go head-to-head with overhead lights in car parks and win. And yes, I do want to see just how toasty this thing gets.
Let’s do this!
First – this is a phenomenally glossy box, and as such is ridiculously hard to photograph correctly on a white field. It’s probably possible, but my photography skills probably need some work first! Please also disregard any fingerprints on the box…
The MS06 comes inside a very impressive retail box. Behind a shiny exterior slip, the box within has the same imagery, but then flips open to reveal the goods inside.
Inside the box I find:
- The Imalent MS06 itself
- Inside, 3* protected Imalent-branded 21700 button-top cells
- A holster
- Magnetic USB charging cable
- A bag containing:
- 2 O-rings
- User manual
The package has everything you need to get up and running with this light, which is always appreciated. Having a holster included in the package is great, as there’s not really a good way to carry it outside either a holster or some kind of EDC pouch.
I can’t think of much that I’m left wanting for in this package that would make it any better. The only change I would make is for the USB charging cable to be a little longer.
First things first – this light is CHONK.
There’s only one way to hold this light if you don’t want RSI, and that’s an underhand hold. As it weighs over half a kilogram, holding it up in a tactical hold is going to become annoying real fast.
By and large, the MS06 is quite smooth. The knurling on the body isn’t aggressive, and the raised squares themselves will provide more grip. The heat sinking fins are a right-angle cut, and can dig in a little, but not painfully so. That said, you won’t want your hand on them for very long, anyway…
Placing the MS06 down, it will roll until it hits the ‘ears’ on each side of the heat sinking fins. Thankfully at that point it seems to stop, even when I give the light a bit of a shove to try and roll it harder.
There’s only one button on it, and it’s an e-switch under a metal cap. The button itself sits very slightly proud of the body, and has a resonating click when pressing it. The activation force is quite low though, so that’s something to be aware of – I’d strongly recommend locking the light out, as you don’t want a bunch of XHP70.2s setting whatever you have it in on fire.
I haven’t fully worked out how the lanyard is meant to be used yet. I can attach it on one end, but then the other end hangs free, and if I put my hand through it, it’s moderately uncomfortable on the wrist due to the fabric being quite thin. The “knotted” part of the lanyard does slide up and down though, so that may have something to do with it.
There’s probably a way to get it all attached that I’m just not able to work out; ropes and knots have never been my thing.
Tailstanding: Oh yeah. With a nice flat base, this thing was made for tail standing.
Build quality, threads, o-rings, ano, etc
Everything I’ve seen of Imalent leads me to believe that they don’t skimp on details, and the MS06 gives very little exception to this. All the aluminum is quite thick, the anodisation appears flawless, and there’s a definitive hefty feeling to the light.
There’s only one accessible o-ring, and that’s below the threads on the battery tube. This should be more than sufficient, as the head appears to be sealed up tight, and the button most likely has a rubber membrane surrounding it.
As previously mentioned, the majority of the grip on the light actually comes from the ‘squares’ of knurling, as the knurling itself is fairly smooth. I don’t see this as being an issue though, as this isn’t a light you’d likely be moving fast with, so grip wouldn’t be as paramount.
The holster in the package comes very well tucked together, but unfolds to a normal size holster. It has a plastic buckle on the back for attaching to things like s-biners, a velcro flap to quickly attach it to a belt, as well as a loop underneath that for if you want to attach it to a belt in a bit more of a semi-permanent manner, by looping the belt through it.
One particular thing of note regarding the light – the lubrication on the threads felt somewhat sticky initially, and the battery tube rattled while connecting and disconnecting it from the head.
I also encountered the issue that others have encountered where the indicator light will flash red after entering turbo, and then will not re-enter turbo again until after the battery tube has been unscrewed and reseated.
Both of these issues were resolved at least in the interim by using a citrus-based cleaner on a cloth; I cleaned the threads on both the head and the body with this, as well as cleaning all the contacts (springs, tube end, driver contacts). This removed all the existing lubrication and residue; I then applied some Nitecore grease I have to the threads. The threads immediately felt far smoother, the rattling was gone, and the red-light-flashing issue disappeared. It has come back once or twice during all testing, as I’ve removed the battery tube quite a number of times now. I might just not be putting the tube back on firmly enough.
Perhaps I’ve just got the worst of a batch, but it’s something of note.
LED, lens, bezel, reflector
The emitter chosen is a very common one for Imalent – the Cree XHP70.2 in 6500K. This makes sure that the light can punch out a whole bunch of lumens, and is somewhat of a calling-card for Imalent. Not that there’s a problem with that, of course – it’s fun for consistency.
There’s a smooth custom reflector surrounding the emitters; the reflectors on the outside are deeper than the one in the middle, but that gives the outer emitters more throw, and allows the central emitter to flood more to even out the beam.
The bezel is flat, but there’s a few crenelations around it; it appears that there’s an inner and outer part to it. The inner part holds the lens in, and my guess is that it’s screwed in place. The outer part is the body of the light itself. Both parts sit at very close to the same height, with the inner ring only a fraction of a millimetre more protruding.
The beam profile has an intense hotspot, but the spill is still quite bright and very usable in the dark. Further out from that is the usual ‘petal’ arrangement that I’ve come to expect (and quite enjoy) from a multi-emitter reflector.
Dimensions and weight
Length: 119mm (4.69”)
Head diameter: 56mm (2.2”)
Body diameter: 51mm (2.01”)
Weight: 364g (0.8 pounds)
Weight with cells: 579.2g (1.28 pounds)
Compared to other lights:
- BLFQ8, Imalent MS06, Astrolux MF01
- Sofirn BLF SP63, Imalent MS06, Astrolux MF01 Mini
UI and driver
Imalent’s UI is a nice and simple one – click to turn on/off, and hold to change modes. There’s a few extra things in there, but it’s a fairly familiar setup.
The driver, like most other things on this light, is glued in – there’s no easy way of getting in to take a look.
- Middle Low
- Middle I
- Middle II
- Press and Hold for:
- 1 second: Low mode
- 3 seconds: Enable/Disable indicator light below button
- Single click: Memory mode
- Double click: Turbo
- Triple click: Low mode
- 4x click: Lockout mode
- Press and Hold: Cycle modes (Low/Middle Low/Middle I/Middle II/High)
- Single click: Turn off
- Double click: Turbo
- Triple click: Low mode
- When turning on, the MS06 will re-enter the last mode it was in, except for Turbo or Strobe.
Low voltage warning:
- When the batteries are below 3V, the indicator light will flash twice per second.
- You can activate strobe by entering Turbo mode (double click), and double clicking again. Press the button once to exit strobe mode.
- When clicking four times from off, the indicator light will flash three times, and then enter lockout mode. In this mode, the indicator light will light up when the button is pressed. To unlock the light, click four times again, or disconnect and reconnect the battery tube.
- There’s PWM I can see with my camera, but not with my eyes. So while it’s there, it’s not an issue at all.
Ideally I’d like to see that indicator light on/off mode changed – holding from off should enter Low mode automatically, and then advance through modes if the button is held down. Moving the indicator light on/off to something like six clicks wouldn’t be terrible – it’s out of the way, but not too hard to do if you want.
Batteries and charging
As with most of the ‘soda can’ lights, the MS06 requires button-top cells, but differentiates in that is uses 21700 cells for extra power and runtime. The three cells that the MS06 comes with are Imalent-branded, model number MRB-217P40S. There’s not a whole lot of information out there on the internet about them, but they appear to be a non-USB-rechargeable version of the cell found in the MS03, the MRB-217P40.
It’s not explicitly stated on the cells or on the store page what the current draw of the cells are, but in the manual there’s reference to installing a 35A cell, and then tightening the tube. I’m going to assume that it’s a direct copy from the MS03 manual, because it specifically says to “Install one high drain (35A) 21700 rechargeable Li-ion battery”, and not three. It then immediately goes on to discuss three batteries in the charging section.
In the package is a USB charging cable with magnetic connection; this is placed over the charging pins and sticks down quite well. It’s around 51cm total length (end of USB connector to end of magnetic connector). I’d like to see it be a little longer though, maybe 1m, but that’s just me.
Charging the cells in the light via the USB cable with magnetic connection, I get between 1.6 and 1.8A for most of the charging cycle. Pulling the cells out (somewhat of an arduous process) and putting them in my Vapcell S4+, they all happily charge at 2.5A each – so the rate is significantly different.
1.8A in light, or 7.5A in a charger… Tough choice.
It’s just less than seven full rotations of the battery tube to remove, though, so if you’ve got a decent multi-bay charger and are prepared to unscrew and rescrew the body tube, that’s a much faster way of doing things.
For my readings, I use the following:
Lux Meter: For lumen readings and runtimes, an Adafruit TSL2591 connected to a Raspberry Pi running Ubuntu, using RuTiTe by bmengineer in a custom sphere (build document coming soon, when I have some more time). A UNI-T UT383S is used for candela readings. An Adafruit MCP9808 rounds out the list for temperature monitoring.
That said – I’ve had issues with high-lumen lights in my sphere, so I’ve gone back to the UT383S for some measurements, and extrapolated backwards based on ratios between the UT383S and the TSL2591.
DMM: Fluke 87 (original series!) and UNI-T UT210E – 16AWG wire is used directly into the Fluke via some banana plugs, and 8AWG wire in a loop for the UNI-T. The DMM I use depends on how high the expected current will be – I use the Fluke for <10A, and the UT210E for >10A.
I’ll be using the included Imalent cells, as I don’t have anything else that fits, or at least not three matching cells, anyway.
This is enormously difficult to test. The nature of this light means that I’d ordinarily try and take the tailcap off the light and do it that way – that’s how I did it on the SP36 review. This light is glued tight though, so I have to come up with some pretty… interesting methods to get results. I got a copper core from an old Intel heatsink and cleaned it up for best transmission, put a solder blob in the dip of it for best contact to the positive terminal, then sat it on the positive ring on the driver – it’s almost a perfect fit.
An 8AWG cable was then run from the negative terminal of the cell to the negative terminal on the driver through the UT210E, ensuring no shorts.
Running current from one cell through my UT210E, I get:
- Low: 439mA
- Middle Low: 1.66A
- Middle I: 4.06A
- Middle II: 7.44A
- High: 10A
- Turbo: 60A
Hang on. A few things here – 60 Amps?? Really?
I don’t know exactly what’s going on here, but that’s what my DMM is telling me. Assuming that’s spread between the batteries, we’re still talking an awful lot of wattage to the light. I expected that with the XHP70.2s, but wow that’s an awful lot of current.
One day RDTech will make a bench power supply that can do a stupid amount of current; until then, I’ll just have to scratch my head and be confused.
It’s also interesting that between Middle II and High, I only measure another 33% current, but the output of the two levels is more than 33% difference.
As expected, there’s a huge surge of light, then it drops down in just over sixty seconds to something a bit more sustainable. It then continues at a bit over 2000 lumens until the two hour mark, and then fairly rapidly drops off to zero. Even with 12,000mAh behind it, this is fairly unsurprising – the sheet output needed for this light in turbo is incredible.
The temperature readings are another interesting thing though. I have Kapton tape over the sensor itself so that it doesn’t scratch any lights, so this may be part of the lower rise in temperature there vs what I thought it would be. This thing gets HOT. I touched the heat sinking fins at 70 minutes for some unknown reason, and I now have a lovely smooth line on my finger where my fingerprint used to be. Not fun. For this reason, I have the image of me holding it in a firefighter’s glove, and it’s still quite warm through that. The temperature stays up, even quite a while after the light is off.
Err… Even stranger. I get a drop off, and then it holds a higher temp before throttling down again, but to a higher “low” than the turbo run – but ends sooner, presumably because of the higher output in that “interim” zone up to the 10 minute mark. Temperature ends up higher as a result of this. I ran this twice to confirm, and results were almost identical.
Lumen measurements (for each mode)
This was a fun one. My sphere has quite a bit of trouble with higher lumens, as it illuminates like crazy, and my lux meter gets saturated. I’ve put an ND filter over my sensor though, recalibrated, and then run three tests and averaged, and I get:
- Low: 320 lm
- Middle Low: 1135 lm
- Middle I: 2424 lm
- Middle II: 3908 lm
- High: 8115 lm
- Turbo: 20479 lm
So there’s a bit of a range of my readings vs what’s in the manual. I read “Low” as far higher than the 200 lumens expected, most of the rest of the modes are within 10%, and then I’m about 4500 lumens short on Turbo.
It’s entirely possible my readings are out due to not having equipment that can really handle this kind of light; even researching into (very) expensive integrating spheres, I was only able to find some that can read up to ~15,000 lumens – for the price of a used car, though. Imalent lights are definitely in a class of their own.
- Indoors 5m: 2013 lux = 50325 cd = 448.67 m throw
- Outdoors 10m: 520 lux = 52000 cd = 456.07 m throw
Again, lower than expected, but when we’re talking a wall of light like this, distinguishing between 456m and 513m is going to be difficult, so it’s a moot point.
- BLF Q8 with SST20 4000K, Imalent MS06, Astrolux MF01 Mini with 219b sw45k
- Sofirn SP36 LH351D 5000K, Imalent MS06, Astrolux MF01 with 219c 5000K
- Outdoor shot – tree is ~190m away. EVERYTHING lights up.
- All modes from Low through to Turbo – all at ¼ sec, f20, ISO200, 5200K WB.
Pros and Cons
- Full kit, ready to go
- Absolute ton of light
- Shortcuts to Low and Turbo
- Included holster is a very good idea for transport
- Cool white only (at time of review)
- Not quite enough thermal mass to deal with the heat
- Some issues with “red light” syndrome
This light is just incredible. High output, high heat, high drain, high everything. Low is 320 lumens, and even if it was meant to only be 200, that’s stil so far from “low” it’s not funny (my favourite headlamp only goes to 276 at absolute most!). That said, this light isn’t for that kind of situation, it’s for when you absolutely positively need to light up everything in sight.
There’s a few issues though; that “red light” syndrome rearing its head more than once is quite frustrating, but if I always charged through the USB cable, it wouldn’t be a problem. It’s still there though, so that’s annoying. The tube removal is also an unnecessarily long process, and getting it to sit right again without the above issues with turbo can be frustrating, along with the odd button placement.
This is so close to being the ultimate ‘soda can’ light, but the few small quibbles I have with it bring it down. I give the MS06 four stars – if the tube were easier to remove and put back with no issues, and the head were a little longer with more heat sinking (which would also resolve the button location), I’d have no hesitation scoring it higher.