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Gear talk: the Sofirn BLF LT1 2.0 Lantern

Sofirn BLF LT1 2.0 lantern
Sofirn BLF LT1 2.0 lantern

Suitable for base camps, car camping, emergencies and home use, the Sofirn BLF LT1 2.0 Lantern is compact, efficient and well-priced. In short, it is possibly the best battery powered lantern currently available.

This lantern came out of the desire of one man, Canadian Dennis Barrett, better known as DBSAR on some forums or DBSARlight on YouTube. His intention seemed simple- to create the best affordable lantern that he could. It took some time. The original production LT1 was the result of over three years of development. Following his initial thoughts and designs, DBSAR worked with both a team on the Budget Light Forum (BLF) and engineers at Chinese manufacturer Sofirn to come up with a viable product. Sofirn (Shenzhenshi Jinba Technology Co. Ltd.) began as an OEM provider in 2010 and moved to branding their own manufactured products in 2016. They built a reputation for being willing to work with the light and lantern community and were possibly an obvious choice of manufacture for the Sofirn LT1 lantern and successor models and generations.

“the plan is to build a lantern than can fit in a coat pocket, produce the light of a 60 watt light bulb, have good high CRI tint, and run for several nights of use on high, (Or for weeks on lower modes) without the need of recharging the batteries, be durable, solid, compact, useful when needed, and do what a lantern is supposed to do… and be open to further modding”

DBSAR- ‘That Canadian flashlight guy & Lantern Guru’

Sir Alec Issigonis said that “a camel is a horse designed by committee”. With so many people trying to include their wishlist in the design of this lantern, there was a real chance that the LT1 might have ended up a camel. It didn’t. The Sofirn BLF LT1 immediately gathered plaudits following release to the general market in 2019/20. That isn’t to say it couldn’t be improved. Following feedback from a wider and more generalist user base, an improved lantern with much altered User Interface was released in 2022. This is the lantern I look at here, the Sofirn 2.0 BLF LT1 Lantern. This second generation release is now amongst the best, possibly is the best, battery powered lantern on the market. There are periodic updates to the model, mine is the Sofirn BLF LT1 Anduril 2.0 with v5 driver..

There are eight Samsung LH351D LEDs installed, four neutral white 5000K 90CRI and four warm white 2700K 90CRI. The lantern provides a smooth 360° light with no artefacts. It has full range tint ramping, linked to intensity.

The brightness of this lantern is a debatable point. Light is emitted through a diffuser and lumen can be smooth ramped or step ramped. The warmth of the white light can also be changed. Sofirn advertise the LT1 as delivering 700-800lm on high, though it is probably nearer 600lm. It will also automatically step down in intensity if it gets hot, though it has been designed to run at all possible selected intensities and it is only exceptional conditions that would cause a stepping down. There is a good amount of prominent knurling around the bottom half part of the lantern where the batteries are held. Also knurling below the diffuser on the top half of the lantern. This makes twisting the battery holding base on and off easier. The diffuser is a hard translucent plastic. There is a bail, or hanger, on the top of the lantern. This can be folded closed if not required or used to hang the lantern from a branch or hook, or you could fix a cordage wrist loop to it.

Though not essential, a small camera tripod can be used to improve stability
Though not essential, a camera tripod can be used to improve stability

The lantern is HAIII anodised aluminium. Hardcoat Anodise Type III is done under exacting process conditions that result in a harder, denser, thicker, and more abrasion resistant coating. Various colours are available- black, auburn, green and orange. The lantern is robust and compact. The LT1 could easily have been twice the size that it is and is a surprisingly compact unit. Despite this, the LT1 is not at all suited for lightweight backpacking. It would excel for base camping and car camping. It could suit a boat, canoe or motorbike set-up too. Where it excels however is for emergency power outages and home and garden use. The power on/mode button remains back-lit when off (with a very low power draw) which means that the lantern can easily be located in the event of a power cut. This can be permanently switched off if preferred. The lantern is designed to tail stand. Which has given us one of the few faults in this lantern- it has a quite narrow footprint and could potentially be toppled by the careless. To offset that, there is a universal 1/4″ mount in the base and side so it could be mounted on a camera tripod or similar if wished.

LT1 lantern has a quarter inch screw mount in both base and side
LT1 lantern has a 1/4″ screw mount in both base and side
Screw thread for two parts of thelantern are well machined, lubricated, with an a large O-ring at the join
Screw thread for two parts of the lantern are well machined and well lubricated, with a large O-ring at the join
There is one button to access all lantern modes
There is one back-lit button to access all modes. Laser etched BLF LT1 name is below this
Quarter inch screw thread in base for mounting on a tripod
1/4″ screw thread in base for mounting on a tripod

Large O-rings are used to seal the joins from water ingress (spares are included) and a well made and seated flippable rubber cover protects the USB-C port when not being used. Make sure to properly push this in and seat it properly when not open. When opening, full the flap open, then swivel it round out of the way. This prevents it tearing off, though a spare cover is included with the lantern. The LT1 is IPX7 and waterproof to around a meter. It can confidently be used in the rain. There is one soft, silicone button to access all lantern modes. This sits proud on the side and flashes blue when charging, steady blue when charged. When disconnected, it shows orange while it still has power. A spare button is included with the lantern.

Folding bail for hanging or carrying
Folding bail for hanging or carrying
Battery compartment for one to four 18650 cells
Double springs in battery compartment. Lantern can run on one to four 18650 cells
Flippable rubber cover to USB-C port. O-rings are used to seal other parts of the lantern. LT1 is IPX7
Flippable rubber cover to USB-C port. O-rings are used to protect other parts of the LT1 from water ingress

When purchased, the Sofirn BLF LT1 2.0 lantern comes with spare O-rings, including a pretty pointless one for around the top. There is also a spare mode button and spare USB port cover. LT1 comes with one metre USB-A / USB-C charge cable and a User Manual (printed in miniscule text). It can also be ordered as a good value ready-to-go kit with four good quality, unprotected, button top, Sofirn 18650 batteries.

  • Height: 176mm
  • Diameter (maximum, at top): 68mm
  • Diameter (maximum, across base): 52mm
  • Weight (with four batteries): 641g
  • Weight (with no batteries): 453g
What comes with the LT1 on purchase
What comes with the LT1 on purchase
The LTR lantern can be purchased with four Sofirn rechargeable 3000mAh 18650 batteries
The LT1 lantern can be purchased with four Sofirn rechargeable 3000mAh 18650 batteries

Run times are impressive, obviously partly down to it’s four 3000mAh 18650 Li-Ion batteries. Larger capacity button top 18650 batteries could be used instead. On the brightest of its five stepped settings, it will run for over nine hours. Mid-level, for around 24 hours, at it’s lowest, ‘moonlight’, brightness, it’ll run for a month.

Batteries can be charged external to the lantern if wished, however there is no need for that as they can also be charged via a USB-C inlet port. There is no need to use the supplied USB-A to USB-C cable, a USB-C to USB-C cable could be used instead, and the lantern will take a 5v/2A-3A input. It is worth noting that the lantern can also be operated with just a single 18650 battery installed, or two, or three, or from a powerbank, solar charger, or charged in five hours from the mains.

The standard cost of a version 2.0 LT1 on AliExpress in 2022 was £77.23 or £89.48 with four 18650 batteries. There are occasional promotions and Three Points of the Compass got a 38% discount, paying £55.48 for lantern and batteries. An additional online coupon reduced this a further £2.51. Shipping to the UK was included. To this I had to add £10.59 tax. This meant a total cost of £63.56.

LT1 can also be used as a powerbank, though not all devices will recognise it
LT1 can also be used as a powerbank, though not all devices will recognise it

Anduril User Interface:

Though not an essential step, the LT1 can be configured by the user. Fortunately it will remember settings as it can be very complicated to configure. Access to and consulting the flow-diagram user instructions is an almost essential element of configuring this lantern. Once done however, it is simple one button operation. If you simply cannot be bothered with configuring the lantern, then it can be used from boxed delivery as a simple on/off lantern with the ability to move up and down the brightness levels.

Sofirn include a BLF LT1 User Manual with the lantern on purchase, however it is quite small and while the text is just about readable, the flow chart is absolutely tiny and unusable. If it helps, I have included the Anduril 2.0 flow chart below. Don’t be too frightened by it! Alternatively, there is a much simplified wallet guide available that could be printed out and laminated.

Anduril 2.0 flow chart
Anduril 2.0 flow chart. 1C=1 click, 2C=2 clicks, 3C=3 clicks and so on. 1H= 1 click and hold, 2H= click, click and hold, 3H=click, click, click and hold, and so on

Despite having a default Simple mode, the LT1 lantern incorporates a complex User Interface (UI). This is now Anduril 2, developed by Toykeeper, a member of the Budget Light Forum. In July 2020, ToyKeeper, posted on BudgetLightForum about work on Anduril 2: her proposed major rewrite of the Anduril 1 firmware. The LT1 lantern probably has too many features to go into here, certainly not in depth. Many of the modes have to be looked for and are more intended for enthusiasts. Take some time with the Anduril instructions and it is possible to work through the lantern modes, configure it as you would prefer, it will then remember those settings and you can then go back into ‘Simple’ mode and never bother the Advanced possibilities again.

Cold light, low
Neutral white, low

Anduril is an open-source firmware for flashlights, distributed under the terms of the GPL v3. User Toykeeper carried out a major rewrite that introduced a less complicated ‘Simple’ mode that removed many of the more complicated features, while still providing access to the Advanced modes for those who wish to play and configure lights to their precise wishes. I have mine so that it shows a warm light on low and as it ramps up, it becomes more neutral. I also prefer the auxiliary back-light in the button turned off, or at least down. I also prefer smooth ramping to stepped.

Warm light, low
Warm white, low

Be aware, it is easy to get lost in this system. Mis-count, or hold the button when you shouldn’t and you can be sent off into a rabbit warren. Thankfully there is an easy way to return to the default settings should you get lost in the mire. Simply unscrew the battery compartment, hold the mode button down, and screw the base back on. When the light blinks, it is back to factory default.

From the Simple and Advanced User Interfaces offered, all modes are found by clicking, or clicking and holding the sole operator button. It is a pretty amazing what Toykeeper has managed to do with her operating system even if I doubt that I will access more than a fraction of the available modes. At the very least, most users will wish to choose either warm or cooler tints, or anywhere between. Other than SOS and beacon modes, there are also fun modes- candle, lightening storm, tactical strobe, party strobe and bike flasher.

Link to downloadable Anduril 2.0 PDF, or for those who prefer text to diagrams: manual to Anduril 2. Be aware that changes are periodically made to this lanterns UI and an LT1 can be shipped with some differences or additions. An online search easily finds a later version if there is one.

This has been part of a series of blogs looking at small lanterns suited for lightweight backpacking, or for use in the home and elsewhere:

14 replies »

  1. Programable lights – rocket science.
    It is one of those questions that fuels the ‘do the designers of these things actual use them’ debate? The question being why start brightest?
    The other torch question is why do so few headlights with a red led mode have a separate switch for it? Or red first as the point is to preserve night vision.

    Liked by 1 person

    • All fair comment. The reason why it is second generation almost anything that eventually corrects the glaring faults, and too frequently annoyingly adds grams and bulk as a result

      Like

    • By default it remembers the last brightness you left it in, and comes back on at that same brightness. The mode configuration options are complicated but they are not something you would normally change after the initial setup. Imagine ordering a custom light where there are a lot of options to choose from. Once you make these choices the light is set up the way you specify, and you leave it that way and use it. The Anduril firmware is similar except you do the initial customization yourself, and re-do it later if you wish to, but it is not something you would normally play around with while using the light. You would do it right after buying the light, sitting at home with the manual in front of you.

      Also, if the available options still aren’t to your liking, the software itself can be customized. That is a bigger operation, but it is doable in principle. Ask on BLF (budgetlightforums.com) if you want more info..

      Like

      • Thanks Paul, I had mentioned most of what you say. One thing I never mentioned is the ability for the lantern to not default to a previous setting. A quick double click puts it straight into ‘turbo’ mode. Switching off and a single click, returns it to the earlier setting you had it on.
        (Correct address for BLF is budgetlightforum.com )

        Like

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