This is quite exciting. I got my hands on Imalent’s new MS03 flashlight: this light pumps out 13,000 lumens from a single cell, making it the brightest pocket-sized flashlight in existence. Read on to see what it’s like in real life.
You can buy the light from ImalentStore.com. It’s currently $129.95.
This really is 13,000 lumens. It’s brighter than any other light I own (including multi-cell lights) and just fits in my jeans coin pocket. It definitely delivers on the wow factor. It heats up quickly though and steps down to 2000 lumens, though that’s still brighter than most pocket-sized lights.
About the light
Imalent are well known for pushing LEDs and cells to their limit and also hold the world record for brightest flashlight available with their 100,000 lumen MS18. To put that in perspective, that’s as bright as 125 normal 60W household bulbs. The MS18 is massive though: with 18 LEDs running from 8 cells it weighs almost 2kg (4 pounds).
The MS03 is a pocket-sized MS18. Instead of 18 LEDs it has 3 and instead of 8 cells it has just one. That means it’s a fraction of the weight, weighing in at 117g (4oz). The MS03 has an output of 13,000 lumens, which is still brighter that 16 household bulbs.
Turbo issue and review transparency
In short: turbo works fine!
Skip this section if that’s all you wanted to know. Read on if you want an insight into the thrilling and treacherous world of flashlight reviews.
Red light issue with some samples
Some MS03s have had an issue where the light won’t go to turbo and instead a red warning light comes on. For those lights, this meant the MS03 was only really a 2000lm light, unless you physically unscrewed the tail cap each time. For some people the red light came on consistently and for others it was intermittent.
Some people with later batches haven’t had this issue at all. At least 1 reviewer seems to have the issue with every light Imalent sends.
As flashlight reviewers can make more money from positive reviews, it’s possible that some less honest reviewers are covering up this issue. I can’t prove this either way.
I have some affiliate links to Amazon on other reviews but none on this Imalent MS03 review. So far I’ve made £0 from reviews :-(. I’d like more manufacturers to send me lights for review, so I do have an incentive to be positive about them. Integrity is more important to me at the end of the day though and Imalent didn’t give me any conditions when they sent the MS03, other than sharing a review and linking to their store (that’s not an affiliate link).
I open the box like a child at Christmas, take the protective plastic off the lens, take the plastic blocking the cell, double click for turbo. Oww. That’s bright. I take a second to let my eyes adjust, click for off, double click for turbo. No blinding white light. Just a red indicator light, signalling disappointment.
At this point I think Imalent have given me a faulty light that I’ll need to return. I try again a couple of times, unscrewing the tail cap between each attempt. It consistently red lights, only allowing turbo once each time.
I start the cell charging, just in case the low voltage is causing an issue.
Some reviewers have said that cleaning the light can fix it and give instructions on different cleaning products and techniques. Others have said no amount of cleaning helps. While the cell is charging, I decide to give the end of the body tube (where it’s not anodised) a quick wipe on a bit of cloth, without any cleaning products. If there’s excess grease in the contact then this may clean it up. I put the light aside and forget about it.
A few hours later, I come back to the cell and see that it’s fully charged. Cell goes in. Tail cap screws on. Extra tight, just in case. Double click. Turbo. Click off. Double click. Turbo! Click off. Double click. Turbo again!
That was a few days ago and since then the MS03 has been on turbo lots, trying to recreate the issue and it hasn’t failed once. I’m not sure whether it was the quick wipe that fixed it or if the cell was just very low. Either way, I’d consider my MS03 to be fine.
I have the standard MS03 (cold white) version for review but Imalent have also started to sell an MS03W neutral white version, which they list at 5000K. I’d normally pick a neutral or warm white light.
Imalent MS03 specs
Imalent’s official specs, unless stated otherwise
|Size||36mm head, 27mm body, 110mm length.|
I measured the top of the head at 36.9mm and the fins at the base of the head 42.3mm, both at their widest. The head was 35.5mm at its narrowest.
|Weight||117g without battery. I measured the cell at 74g, putting the total at 191g|
|Waterproof||IPX8 (2 meters)|
|Battery||4000mAh 21700 cell|
|LEDs||3 CREE XHP70.2 LEDs|
The physical light
What’s in the box
Imalent’s packaging is high quality compared to many other lights, with reflective blue text. The box unfolds and has a magnet keeping it closed (IMO they should have put a magnet on the MS03 instead).
In the box you get:
- The flashlight
- proprietary 21700 cell, with USB-C charging
- USB to USB-C cable
- 2 o-rings
Appearance and quality
The MS03 is tiny for a triple XHP70.2 light.
Imalent have gone with fairly smooth knurling on the body and tail – not an aggressive “tactical” feel. It’s enough to grip the tail to loosen it but you might struggle with some gloves.
The anodising appears to be good quality and as with most lights the threads are anodised so you can unscrew the light a just little to break contact.
The MS03 has a thick spring in the tail cap but no spring in the head. The cell is well supported though and shakes and taps don’t make the light lose connection, like some single-spring lights to. There’s no magnet in the tail cap but it looks like there may be enough room to fit a small one in.
Here’s the MS03 along side some other high power lights.
The D4 above is a more standard EDC size for a flashlight. It takes a smaller 18650 cell and is “only” 4300lm. Both the MS03 and NSX3 are multi emitter 21700 lights. For comparison, I’d still consider the BLF Q8 on the right a very bright flashlight at 5000lm.
Comparing the MS03 to other popular pocket rocket lights, the MS03 generally has smaller dimensions and weight than the others.
|Light||Weight (no cell)||Head x body x length (mm)|
|Imalent MS03||117g||36 x 27 x 110|
|Emisar D4 (18650)||70g||30 x 24 x 94|
|Luminctop FW21 Pro||120g||40 x 28 x 102|
|Astrolux EC03||175g||49 x 26 x 126|
|Nightwatch NSX3||167g||41 x 28 x 133|
Carrying and everyday use
The MS03 is the only pocketable light I have that doesn’t come with a pocket clip. Due to the fat head of the MS03 I can see why Imalent didn’t include one.
Without a pocket clip, I’ve had to resort to carrying the MS03 in a pocket. It just fits in my jeans coin pocket but it’s a challenge to get in and out. It easily fits in a normal pocket but without a clip to keep it up it would get scratched by my keys. I’m tempted to order a pocket clip for the Olight M2R Pro to see if it fits well enough.
The MS03 comes with a standard lanyard and 2 holes in the head to attach it to.
A pouch is included in the box, with velcro to keep the light in and to attach the pouch to a belt.
- Click on, click off
- Hold when on to change brightness
- Double click for turbo
- 3 clicks for lock out
- Hold when off for green light
Watch the video to see this in action
The MS03 is an e-switch light that gets the basics right. You could give it to someone who hadn’t used it before and they’d probably turn it off and on fine with a single click each time. Turning on and off happens about a tenth of a second after you let go. This is so the light can register double/triple clicks without triggering a single click first.
Whenever it’s on then the green indicating LED lights up. This is right next to the switch, so you can find it more easily.
Holding the switch while it’s on goes through the 5 main modes, from 130lm to 8000lm. It takes about 1 second to start changing modes and it’s about 1 second between each mode. This feels a little slower than other lights but isn’t sluggish.
The MS03 has mode memory, so when you turn it on then it’ll be in the mode you left it – anywhere from 130lm to 8000lm. Personally I’m not keen on mode memory and much prefer a light always started in the same mode (medium), with shortcuts to other modes. The only way to guarantee you’ll get low mode is to loosen the tail cap for a moment to reset it.
13,000 lumens turbo is just a double click away. This can be activated while it’s off or on. Going from normal modes to turbo doesn’t cycle through off, which some lights do. When the MS03 is in the turbo mode then you can’t get back to normal modes without turning it off first – either with a quick click or holding and letting go. Some lights let you easily toggle between normal and turbo, without turning off, so the MS03 is missing a trick here.
Strobe is fairly well hidden, thankfully. Double click for turbo then double click again to activate strobe. Another double click gets you back to turbo or you can single click for off. I haven’t measured it but strobe looks to be around 10Hz.
Three clicks when off makes the green indicating LED blink 3 times then locks the light out. That means it won’t turn on again until you unlock it, with 3 more clicks. When locked, pressing or holding the switch turns the green indicating LED on. You can also physically lock the light out by turning the tailcap 1/4 turn.
Holding for 3 seconds turns on the green indicating LED, then it stays on. This is useful as an auxiliary light to find the MS03 in the dark. The green indicating LED won’t stay on while the MS03 is locked out though.
The UI is OK in general for an e-switch but is lacking slightly compared to more advanced UIs like Anduril or Narsil. The main issue is that you have to go via the high modes if you want to get back to the lower ones.
The physical button is solid and feels like it will last a long time.
21700 cell with USB-C charging
You’ll need to charge the MS03 lots. Fortunately, the MS03 comes with a 21700 cell with built in USB-C charging.
Most 21700 cells are 21mm diameter and 70mm long (hence their name) but this one includes the USB-C charging circuit, meaning it’s 77.3mm. That’s too long to fit in some chargers, like my XTAR VC4 and XTAR PBS2. It would fit in some chargers but for now I’ll need to rely on the cell’s built in charging.
The cell should last a long time but to replace it (or have spares for more turbo time) costs $39.95. Most standard 21700 cells are under $10. The cell it comes with should last hundreds of charge cycles but I’d like to have a backup and have a spare to be able to use the MS03 whilst one is charging.
Imalent’s 21700 cell is proprietary and the MS03 doesn’t take other cells due to their length. I was planning on trying a flat top 21700 cell with 2 or 3 magnets but as the MS03’s body tube doesn’t unscrew I don’t want to risk them coming off and getting stuck.
Imalent’s cell has a capacity of 4000mAh. Underneath the wrap it could be a Samsung 40T or something similar. Some lower drain 21700 cells are now up to 5000mAh capacity, which would theoretically give an extra 25% run time on lower modes.
Charging the cell
I could only get the cell’s built in charging to pull 1.4A over USB, meaning it take about 3 hours to charge. That’s a reasonable amount but most 21700s will be happy to be charged at 2A, cutting that time in half. If you’re thinking of getting a 21700 charger, make sure it can take 77.3mm cells.
The MS03 has 5 modes in the main cycle plus turbo. Imalent have given the 3 middle modes confusing names.
|Mode||Lumens (spec)||Lumens (measured, approx)||Runtime (spec)|
|Middle low||800||819||3 hours 40 min|
|Middle I||1300||1456||2 hours|
|Middle II||3000, then 2000||2964||1 hour 15 min|
|High||8000, then 2000||7579||1 minute, then 72 minutes|
|Turbo||13,000, then 2000||12766||45 seconds, then 70 minutes|
The modes are very nicely spaced. Cycling from low to high then turbo looks fairly linear to the eye. Note that my measurements above are with amateur equipment and real numbers could be 10% out.
You may have noticed that “low” is 130lm. That’s pretty high for a low mode. Most EDC lights will have a low mode around 1lm or 5 at the most, with some offering sub-lumen modes. These are useful for finding the bathroom at night or reading a book without waking someone. The MS03 isn’t designed for this use case though, especially with it’s mode memory and 8000lm high mode.
13,000 lumens is bright but it doesn’t last long. Imalent openly admit that the MS03 doesn’t stay at 13,000 lumens for very long.
MS03 is an extreme bright flashlight with smallest body, so it is designed to get the turbo output for most two times with fully charged battery within short time, or the battery will become empty within 10 minutes.
If you wish to have more than 10,000 lumens output for long time, you will need a big flashlight like DX80, which can last for 7minutes at 13000lumensImalent
The MS03 is fairly unique in that as well as turbo, the Middle II mode and High mode step down too. The top 3 modes all step down to 2000lm, then last for a bit over an hour.
When the cell gets low (around 3.4V), the red light comes on. When this happens then only the 4 lowest modes (up to 3000lm) are available.
LEDs and Beam
Although the MS03 has a large head for a single cell light, it’s still a triple LED light and doesn’t throw much further than an Emisar D4. The MS03 is all about flood.
I have the cool white MS03 version, which has a very cool white beam, one of the coldest I have. The MS03W on the other hand has a more neutral 5000K beam. If you have the option then I’d recommend the MS03W version.
Here’s the MS03’s beam compared to other multi emitter lights. The MS03 is the floodiest of them all.
The MS03 uses PWM for the low modes.
I can’t notice it by eye but to my camera it’s more visible than some other lights. If your eyes are very sensitive to PWM then you may notice it.
If you look for single cell lights over 6000lm then you won’t find many. Parametrek’s flashlight database only lists 2: the Lumintop FW21 Pro (10,000lm) and Acebeam X10 (7000lm). There’s also the Nightwatch NSX3 (9900lm) that I’ve reviewed, Fireflies E07 (6900lm) and Astrolux EC03 (6700lm).
Imalent’s MS03 is the only one over 10,000lm, albeit only for a few seconds.
There don’t seem to be any other triple XHP70.2 lights with a single cell. Imalent have a first here. There aren’t any quads either, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Imalent come up with a MS04 some day. There’s a few triple XHP70.2 lights, like the 25,000lm Haikelite MT09R but that takes 4 18650 cells and is 5 times the weight. There’s also a few single cell XHP70.2 lights like Zebralight’s SC700d but that’s a quarter as bright as the MS03.
CREE’s XHP50.2 is the closest emitter to their XHP70.2 and the NSX3, EC03 and FW21 Pro all have 3 of them and take a single 21700 cell.
Comparing the NSX3 vs MS03, Turbo is noticeable brighter for a few seconds. Due to its mass, the NSX3 holds turbo for a bit longer than the NSX3 but not by much. One thing that surprised me is how much smaller the MS03 is than the NSX3. The MS03 can easily fit in a jeans pocket and just about replace an 18650 EDC light. That’s not the case with the NSX3, that only comes on the occasional adventure. The MS03 has more useful modes than the NSX3 too, so it’s a more useful all round light.
13,000lm starting a fire
I tried starting a fire with the light just for fun. Lower power lights can do this too but the MS03 created flames very quickly. I guess I should warn you not to try this at home.
- 13,000 lumens turbo!
- Sustains 2000lm for over an hour
- Lightweight and small
- USB-C charging
- No shortcut to low and “low” is more like medium on most lights
- No clip
- Proprietary cell
13,000 lumens is a lot.
From what I can tell, the MS03 is the brightest pocket flashlight in the world (aside from custom built ones). If you want a light to impress people then you can’t go wrong with the Imalent MS03.
It may not be the best all round EDC but it’s still very usable and smaller than I expected.
This light was sent to me by Imalent for review, without any requirement to give a positive rating. Thanks to Imalent for providing the MS03. You can buy the MS03 direct from Imalent at imalentstore.com.