Fenix E01 V2.0 and E03R put to the test by Koen van der Jagt
Are there good flashlights out there you can carry while wearing a tailored suit that are also surprisingly bright? You can read all about it in this article!
Recently two baby Fenix flashlighs first saw the light of day, the brand-new E03R and an update of a bestseller, the E01, now called the E01 V2.0. Incredibly compact lights that are smaller than your thumb or little finger. But don't underestimate these minis; they are much more powerful than you might suggest!
Because both newcomers are very different in terms of looks and use I will compare them. Which is easier to use? What is the difference between 100 and 260 lumens? What does the light image look like? You will get an answer to all these questions in this article, as usual accompanied by the necessary visual material.
Both lights come in an identical box that looks great to me. I don't really like the fact that they are blisters; this means you have to open them using scissors or a knife. It was with pain in my heart that I opened the hard plastic. As an enthusiast I prefer to see a box that I can also use to store the light. In addition to the lights the blister contains the manual, a ring to attach it to a key chain, some advertising and the warranty card. In my opinion this is more than enough; you don't really need a lanyard or holster for these types of lights.
As said before these are two completely different lights, making this comparison a lot more fun. The E01 V2.0 has the looks of a classic light but only a lot smaller. I like this timeless design, you can see accents in the design you also come across on many other larger Fenix lights. This light is also available in black or steel blue. The E03R only comes in grey, but it simply looks great on the light. The model is completely different, only its big brother, the WT20R has comparable features. The construction quality and finish is great for both lights. The E03R is slightly more sustainable because it is one complete whole: the light is enhanced with a built-in battery and cannot be opened. The E01 V2.0, however, has a better IP-rating (IP68 against IP66) and can withstand up to 2 metres under water. Fortunately both won't be bothered by quite the downpour or if they are accidentally dropped.
Taste is personal, but I feel that both the angular aspects of the E03R and the round features of the E01 V2.0 are very successful. In addition, both lights are so well constructed they will last for years. Below a couple more photographs that will show you more of the differences!
With the included rings you can attach the light to your bunch of keys. Because of the weight and size you won't notice them, even though the E01 V2.0 won't get in the way if your bunch of keys is a little bigger. I prefer to carry the lights in the coin pocket of my jeans. This has two important reasons for me: I can always quickly use them in all circumstances and, as an enthusiast, I hate traces of use. You will definitely see traces of use if you attach the light to your bunch of keys, but I know there are users who prefer this.
I personally feel that the E01 V2.0 feels better in hand. The model is more ergonomic; the slightly thicker head of the light and back, in addition to the ridged structure of the body provide you with more grip than the smooth E03R. In terms of weight both are fairly similar, the E01 V2.0 is with (eneloop) battery 3 grams heavier than the E03R which weighs only 22 grams. So fairly similar. You can also use them hands free: use the lights as a 'cigarette'!
The controls are different for both lights The E01 V2.0 is the light without the frills: no gadgets, everyone will immediately understand how it works. The E03R is enhanced with multiple electronics: an electronic switch with built-in power check for the battery, a warning function if the battery is about to run out and a feature to protect it from overheating. The E01 V2.0 is also protected from overheating and will, if it becomes too hot, take a step back in terms of output. An advantage of the E01 V2.0 is that long-term users can immediately exchange the battery with a new one; you will need to recharge the E03R first. This is effortless with the USB-C port. You can also charge the E03R with, for instance, a power bank and use the two lowest light modes to make sure that in case of an emergency you have enough light to continue in the dark. On average the E03R will be fully charged in one and a half hour.
Back to how it works! The E01 V2.0 is enhanced with 'twist controls'. You turn the light on by tightening the head of the light after which you can select a mode by loosening the head, and tightening the head again. You can easily do so with one hand when holding the light in your fist and use your index finger and thumb to twist the head. You can, of course, also use two hands. The light does not have a memory function so will always start in the lowest 5 lumen mode. Great as it won't easily disrupt anyone at night if you want to check something. This baby Fenix is easy to use and very effective.
The E03R is enhanced with an electronic switch. It is very small, but because of the ridged structure easy to find in the dark. The switch hardly sticks out over the body, this to make sure you don't accidentally turn on the light (in your pocket, for instance). If you press the button shortly you can see the battery status: green / green flashing / red / red flashing. If the light flashes red it is time to charge it. You can turn the E03R on by holding the button for a small second. The light, like the E01 V2.0 will always start in the lowest light mode. Afterwards you can switch between the four light modes. To turn it off you hold the button a little longer. The E03R will always start in the white light mode but when you continue to hold the switch it will switch to red light, regardless of whether the light is turned on or off. The light will keep using the red light. After shortly clicking the button you can switch to the flashing mode. The advantage of this option it that it is not that blinding in the dark, but it also means you still see enough at a short distance. With the flashing mode you can mark something or make sure people see you during your evening walk.
What are the pros and cons of both controls?
The advantage of the E01 V2.0 is that thanks to the 'twist controls' it won't accidentally turn on. You can carry this size of light with you no matter where you go: on your bunch of keys, or in one of your pockets. In addition, you will never have to look for a switch in the dark: you simply have to turn the head. A disadvantage is that you could accidentally loosen the head of the light. I do, however, have to say that, that has never happened to me.
You can also easily use the E03R with one hand and even switching between modes is faster than with the E01 V2.0. The switch, however, is small, so sometimes you do end up looking for it in the dark. Fenix added ridges to the switch which does make it easier to find. To make sure the light doesn't accidentally turn on you consequently need to double-click to turn on the lock-out function. In this secured mode it will always blink twice until you unlock it again. Because the switch hardly sticks out over the body I never accidentally turned the light on as I carried it in my pocket.
In the highest mode the lights do tend to get quite hot and they also won't last as long. Fortunately both (as mentioned earlier) are protected from overheating and will switch back to a lower mode if they become too hot. I never use the high mode too long: these types of lights are more suited for short-term orientation. They also cool down quickly to make sure you can use the high-mode soon again after cooling down. The E03R will show you the actual battery status with the help of the light in the switch. As such you will always know if your battery is about to run out. The E01 V2.0 is not enhanced with this practical function.
Enough said about the options and the controls, light output is namely also important! Both lights are enhanced with a flat lens that leaves you with an even light image. In addition, the E03R is enhanced with a matt lens to make sure the light spreads out more evenly. Both lights have a cold-white colour, fortunately without the ugly blue inside. I believe that the shade of light of the E01 V2.0 feels a little more pleasant. You won't be shocked to learn that these lights do not have a very large beam distance: they function best in the first few metres and the maximum beam distance (for the E03R) is at 15 metres. So indoor more than enough light and outside enough light to see where you are going.
Against a white backdrop you can easily compare the colour and profile of both lights. As such you can see that the light of the E01 V2.0 is slightly warmer, in the photograph you can tell when you look at the middle of the light. You can also see the effect of the diffused lens of the E03R: the beam will be more evenly spread.
Because both lights won't reach very far I used an indoor location to show you the light modes. These are lights you can carry with you 24/7 and that is why they are also often used inside. The test location is a compact attic, here I will test all light modes of both lights!
In the lowest 5 lumen mode both are fairly similar. This is the light mode you use to find your way through the house without waking anyone!
In the next light mode the E03R has 5 more lumen at its disposal. You can also see the effect of the matt lens: the spot is a little more even and larger!
The next light mode is also the highest mode for the E01 V2.0 while the E03R is enhanced with another light mode. That is why the E03R takes it slow with 80 lumens, while the E01 V2.0 uses its maximum of 100 lumens. In the third light mode the E01 V2.0 is clearly a little stronger than the E03R in terms of output.
Only the E03R has a fourth white light mode, but for the comparison I will once again use the highest mode of the E01 V2.0 as well. In comparison to the E01 V2.0, the E03R has twice as much output and you can tell. This is not only because of the higher battery voltage. Here I also noticed the warmer colour of the E01 V2.0.
The last and, at the same time, lowest mode of the E03R cannot be compared. Especially inside you can easily find your way in the dark while using this mode. Surprisingly enough the red light reaches quite far.
Let's head outside! You will understand that these are mostly lights that are great for the 'first few meters'. Because I already showed you all the light modes inside I will use the highest mode outside. As such we can immediately create a good image of the beam distance of these minis.
The first location is an entrance to a forest. The pole with sign is located about 10 metres away. The E01 V2.0 lights up the path just fine, but the E03R is clearly a lot more powerful, both in terms of the length and the width of the beam.
Another comparison, now inside the forest. The camera is located a little closer this time; that is why these images show you even better how the lights function when you use them to highlight the path in front. Again you can clearly see the difference between the two: the E01 V2.0 works perfectly the first few metres, but the E03R clearly reaches further and will light up more. Not that surprising considering the parameters.
Outside the red light mode is used to make sure others see you, not to see something yourself: you won't reach far with this option. And yet you are perfectly visible as you go for a walk or you can use the flashing function to mark a dangerous spot. And when your rear light fails the E03R will be there to help you out: see below!
Perhaps there are readers who have already made their choice based on this review, but I can personally appreciate both Fenix lights and therefore find it difficult to choose one.
As a keychain flashlight I prefer the E01 V2.0. Mostly due to the twist function and the shape of the light. Thanks to its slim and round shape it won't get in my way and the risk of it accidentally turning on is next to nothing. It will also last longer in terms of battery, has a better grip and you won't quickly be without power because you can easily exchange the battery within seconds.
If I intend to store it in my pocket I would go with the E03R. It has more power and more options, including the practical red (flashing) function. The built-in power check for the battery ensures that you will never be without power. Locking the light might take you a couple seconds, but it is perfectly easy to use. Charging the light is quick and easy as well. The body of this light, however, is smoother and sometimes you might have to look for the switch.
The E03R costs almost twice as much as the E01 V2.0, perhaps that could be what makes you decide in the end. On the other hand, if you are truly unable to choose: you can also get them both and still not break the bank!
Ever since he could walk Koen has been interested in lights, wires and batteries. As a child he was always working with dyno torches, bike lights and electrical boxes. The krypton and halogen lights were replaced by LED lights. A couple of years ago he discovered the ‘professional’ stuff. His first brands were Led Lenser and Fenix. Photography is also one of his hobbies. In addition to nature and meteorology Koen loves to show others what a light can do and what its beam looks like at night. Koen’s reviews can often be found on forums such as candlepowerforums.com and taschenlampen-forum.de. Throughout the years Koen has collected lights in practically any category: from small and compact to enormous powerhouses.