Cree Q5 Twin Zoom Test

We picked these up from ebay for £15 a pair including postage which seems like excellent value for two lights.  They are powered by either 3AAA batteries or a special 18650 rechargeable battery. These custom batteries can be purchased widely on the internet and normally come in at around £8 for a pair including charger.  Battery capacity is pretty similar between the two with a stated 3000mah for the 18650 and around 3600 for the three AAAs.  Remember, alkaline batteries tend to be better at low-discharge uses and aren’t as good for high-drain purposes so you would expect the rechargeable batteries to have an advantage in terms of raw power.

On the bike these lights are attached to a clamped housing which allows for reasonably easy removal when you park your bike up. Having a twin-light setup with these zoomable torches actually offers quite a bit of flexibility so you can have a wide flood as well as a more focussed beam to spot carriageway hazards.  As the batteries in located internally there’s no wires going to a battery pack but the bulky clamps do spoil the look a little.  The construction is very sound with milled aluminium and a firm rubber switch doing the job well.  Whether they are entirely waterproof is difficult to tell but the seals look like they will do a good job, even if you accidentally submerge them.

You have a choice of three modes, high, low and strobe. We wouldn’t recommend using a strobe light on the front unless you are running very low on battery as it can be distracting to other road users.  As these were the lowest powered lights on test we used the high setting at all times during testing.

We tested the run-time of both the AAA combination and the 18650 rechargeable and were surprised by the results. The AAA units, although offering a lower output, kept going and going with a total useful life of around 6 hours.  The 18650 units burned very brightly but were more or less finished after an hour and 15 minutes.  This was quite a surprise given the stated capacities as the results suggest the alkaline batteries were four times more efficient than the rechargeables. The light output was quite a bit lower for the first hour but after that point the alkaline AAAs continued at a similar level of brightness and the 18650s went off a cliff.

We tested the lights using both a wide beam and medium beam against a white background at 3m in darkness.  Our camera settings were ISO 100, f/8 and 1/5th second shutter speed.

Board_CreeQ5_Mid_18650Mid Beam 18650
Board_CreeQ5_Mid_AAAMid Beam AAA


Board_CreeQ5_Wide_18650Wide Beam 18650
Board_CreeQ5_Wide_AAAWide Beam AAA

As you can see there is quite a big difference in brightness between the two types of battery but our medium sized beam (approximately 1.2m wide at 3m) offered a good level of light and is find for urban cycling when the torch is pointed into the near distance.  The wide beam is much less useful at lighting the road environment but may suffice for well-lit cycle paths.

Bike_CreeT6_LowMid Beam 18650
Bike_CreeT6_HighMid Beam AAA


Bike_CreeQ5_Wide_AAAWide Beam 18650
Bike_CreeQ5_Wide_18650Wide Beam AAA

Comparing results against the Cree T6 unit is interesting.  The T6 offers a wider beam but on low power the amount of light is similar to the Q5 when running a 18650 battery.  This is not as easy to see on the whiteboard tests due to the different beam pattern on the T6 but you can see it more clearly on the bike images.  The beam pattern on the Q5 is quite even which shows the lens and reflector are doing a good job of evenly dispersing the light from the emitter. Drop-off from the beam centre is reasonably even which is what you would expect from most lights.