Update: I added a time-lapse video showing the MC-E doing a rundown test
Update 2: animated GIFs comparing the MC-E to the Seca 700 have been added
I picked up a cheapie MC-E flashlight from DX to play around with. After taking it apart and tightening the pill down, I was actually able to get it to turn on and went for a quick road ride tonight to compare it to some other lights. Unfortunately, I left my camera at work, so beamshots will have to wait until later.
Beam pattern The beam pattern has a large hot spot with a bit of a dark artifact in the middle. The hot spot feathers into a medium-bright corona, and then into a dimmer spill beam.
the full beam pattern, underexposed a little so you can see the corona around the hotspot
the hotspot and corona. this is the part of the beam that's usable for seeing the road.
Build quality The quality of the flashlight is poor compared to any other light I own, especially the lens, which has really poor clarity and must be stopping a significant amount of light. I also had to sand down the end of the tailcap so the switch retaining ring could be fully tightened and still make electrical contact with the battery tube.
low quality rears its ugly head
Reliability I haven't gone for a proper shakedown cruise on rough pavement or off-road, so I don't have any remarks on reliability yet (like, does it randomly switch modes or turn itself off).
MC-E versus Light & Motion Seca 700 (~700 lumens) Aiming the lights out onto pavement and looking at the MC-E's hot spot on HIGH, it appears to be a little brighter than the Seca on half-power. The MC-E's spillbeam is quite a bit dimmer than its hotspot, whereas the Seca specializes in laying down an even sheet of light for a considerable distance. Yes, it's an unfair comparison... the Seca 700 is about 7 times the price of the MC-E flashlight plus batteries and charger
Update: Here are some off-road beamshots of the MC-E and Seca. They were shot with full manual camera settings. They're a bit underexposed, but I think they serve their purpose. The MC-E reminds me of my old NiteRider halogen 12-watt spot beam. Tangentially, this was my first use of the Seca as a helmet light, and it was a pleasure to use
Anyway, based on this test, I guestimate about 350 lumens of effective output from the MC-E on HIGH. When riding on unlighted roadway, I get more reaction time to road hazards with the Seca than the MC-E, partly because the Seca's light is so well distributed, and partly because it simply produces a lot more light and throws it farther.
MC-E versus Olight M20 R2 OP* (~220 lumens out the front**) The MC-E has a larger but much dimmer hotspot than the M20, with brighter spillbeam. As a direct result, the M20 has a major throw advantage, but the transition from the M20's hotspot to the spillbeam is quite abrupt (a characteristic of the M20's reflector design). So as a single bar-mounted light, the MC-E's beam pattern would be better than the M20. Where I find the M20 useful, is as a helmet light to sweep ahead on the sides of the highway for deer, and the M20's beam pattern works pretty well in that role.
MC-E versus Dereelight DBS R2 OP* (~240 lumens out the front**) The DBS is built for throw. Even using the OP reflector, it dominates the MC-E for seeing straight down the road. Riding fast on an unlit road, I was able to see surface details with about twice the reaction time when using the DBS, allowing what I'd consider "adequate" reaction time at speeds below 30mph in full darkness. Turning corners is where the narrow beam of the DBS has a problem, if it doesn't have help from a helmet light or a wider-beam base system, so the MC-E would work better if there were a lot of turning to do, like on a twisty MUP (yuck!). Both lights combined, the DBS and the MC-E, could be a good mix for street/highway riding.
As a standalone light, the DBS is in its element on a dark highway with mostly straight lines of sight, where its crazy-bright hotspot gets spread over hundreds of feet of roadway, while the spill beam covers the immediate foreground without "over-exposing" it. For those who can handle a 260-gram helmet light, the DBS also makes a decent long-range helmet light when mounted in a TwoFish BikeBlock.
MC-E runtime and regulation Here is a time-lapse YouTube video showing the MC-E on High. It begins to lose power after about 1hr 20min.
As a comparison, the M20 can run over 3 hours on high before it starts to give low-battery warning flashes; the Seca 700 runs for 3.5 hours on high with the Race battery, or 5 hours with the Ultra battery; and the DBS runs for about 1.5-1.7 hours.
MC-E levels: high versus "mid" The lower mode on the MC-E I picked is pretty dim. Aimed down enough to get the hotspot on the pavement, it might be a good setting for riding on an unlit MUP without blinding oncoming cyclists who have at least a small light of their own.
* What does "OP" mean? It means "orange peel" texture on the surface of the light's reflector, as opposed to a smooth reflector. OP reflectors don't concentrate the light as much as smooth reflectors, so they don't throw as far, but OP results in a smoother beam.
* What does "out the front" mean? It means the amount of useable light that actually gets out the lens, as opposed to the amount generated right at the emitter itself.