Nitecore MT21C Review (90° Adjustable Head)


The MT21C is the first 90° adjustable head flashlight from Nitecore.

Probably the most unique features for the Nitecore MT21C are the above-mentioned and lantern-style metal loop.

Let’s check out the merits and demerits of this flashlight.

Packaging & First Impressions

This is what the light will come with as shown below.

  • The threads and o-rings were well lubricated. Threads were rather smooth and clean (no gritty feeling at all).
  • Detents area for the 90° Adjustable Head is overly lubricated – feel free to wipe off the access applied lubricant (as seen below).
  • The provided clip is reversible. However, it will require quite a bit of effort to reverse it once it has been installed.
  • The clip has sufficient tension to ensure that the light will stay clipped to any material to prevent the light from falling out.
  • The side electronic switch requires a firm press to activate.
  • Anodizing of the light is uniform without any missing specs.
  • The strong magnetic tail cap is able to bear the flashlight’s weight when attached horizontally and vertically (upside down) to a flat ferrous metallic surface.
  • The lantern-style metal loop is removable.
  • The provided lanyard is able to support the full weight of the light and should hold up to the test of time.
  • The lanyard can be attached to either the clip or lantern-style metal loop.
  • Holster provided is of decent quality and should withstand day-to-day abuse without issue.
  • Battery compartment is able to take a KeepPower 18650 3400mAh battery with barely much room to take a slightly thicker battery width. Fatter protected 18650 3500mAh batteries should be able to fit without issue as well.
  • Scanning the QR code with your phone/tablet on the box’s back would bring up the Nitecore MT21C’s product page.






Box Contents:

Quick Overview (Manufacturer Specifications)

  • Body Material: Black HAIII Aluminium
  • LED: XP-L V6 Bin
  • Battery Format: 1 x 18650, 2 x CR123A or 2 x RCR123A ONLY
  • Output & Runtime (with 18650 3.7V 3500mAh battery):
    • Ultra-Low (1 lumen / 700h)
    • Low (50 lumens / 25h)
    • Mid (190 lumens /  7h 30min)
    • High (400 lumens /  3h 45min)
    • Turbo (1000 lumens /  1h) – there is a temperature-based output step down
    • Strobe (1000 lumens)
    • SOS (1000 lumens)
  • Max Beam Distance: 184m
  • Beam intensity: 8,500cd
  • Waterproofness: IPX-8 (2m)
  • Impact Resistance: 1m
  • Dimension: 131mm (length) x 25.4mm (head/body diameter)
  • Weight: 103.5g (excluding batteries)
  • Battery reverse polarity protection
  • Accessories Included:
    • 1*Clip
    • 1*Lanyard
    • 1*Holster
    • 2*Spare O-rings
  • MSRP: ~$60

UI (User Interface)

UI for this light is good for Every Day Carry (EDC) as it is relatively straightforward to use.

Switching ON and OFF is done by the electronic switch on the side of the flashlight, so no momentary activation is possible.

From OFF:

  • HOLD (~0.5 sec) – Direct access to ULTRA-LOW.
  • HOLD (~1.5 sec) – Direct access to TURBO (light will switch ON in ULTRA-LOW temporarily before switching to TURBO).
  • HOLD (~2.5 sec) – Direct access to MOMENTARY TURBO (light will switch ON in ULTRA-LOW temporarily before switching to TURBO).
  • 1 Click – Battery Capacity Indicator (Switch LED will flash BLUE in the following sequence)
    • Each BLUE LED blink signifies 1V
    • After a ~1 sec pause, the next BLUE LED blink signifies 0.1V.
    • Hence, 4 BLUE LED blinks, followed by a ~1 sec pause and another 1 BLUE LED blink – signifies 4.1V.
      • If 2 x CR123A / RCR123A batteries are used, the battery reading will be the average voltage of the 2 batteries.
  • 3 Click – Direct access to STROBE; 1 Click again to activate BEACON & 1 Click again to activate SOS (cycles STROBE-BEACON-SOS -> STROBE-BEACON-SOS). HOLD (~0.5 sec) to switch OFF.

From ON:

  • HOLD (~0.5 sec) – Light will switch OFF.
  • 1 Click – Mode change (light cycles through ULTRA-LOW, LOW, MID, HIGH & TURBO -> ULTRA-LOW, LOW, MID, HIGH & TURBO).
  • 3 Click – Direct access to STROBE; 1 Click again to activate BEACON & 1 Click again to activate SOS (cycles STROBE-BEACON-SOS -> STROBE-BEACON-SOS). HOLD (~0.5 sec) to switch OFF.

There is no mode memory for this flashlight, it will always start in ULTRA-LOW.

Note: After disabling mechanical LOCKOUT mode or replacing battery, the Battery Capacity Indicator function will be activated.

Form Factor

For flashlights that are intended to use on a daily basis (EDC) and for possibly a long period of time, form factor is extremely important.

This light feels extremely well balanced and compact in a medium sized hand (not head/tail-heavy). Switching between overhand and underhand holding method is easy with its form factor. The knurling on the light enables the light to be sufficiently “grippy”, even with wet hands/gloves.

The 90° adjustable head, detachable lantern-style metal loop and tailcap magnet ensure that light can be angled in the direction needed. The 90° adjustable head has detents to ensure that the head stays in 5 different angles – ranging from 90° (right-angled like a headlamp) to 180° (like a normal flashlight). All of the 5 different angles can be easily adjusted by using a single finger/thumb as they do not require much force to switch angles.

It is able to tail-stand perfectly, even with the lanyard attached.

Note: the above 18650 size comparison picture depicts a Nitecore 18650 2600mAh battery (NL1826) next to the Nitecore MT21C; it does not come with the flashlight.

Beam Style/Beamshots

For this light, the spill, corona and hotspot is somewhat predictable due to the fairly shallow Smooth Reflector. With the XP-L LED used, the beam is still sufficiently “throwy” for recognising items in the near to mid-range distance.

The above beam profile is a rough interpretation of what is seen when white wall hunting.

The beam has a rather distinct hotspot with some slight corona and a rather wide usable (somewhat circular) spill. It also helps that the XP-L LED is perfectly centred in this sample. There is a slight ring in the beam when white wall hunting but not visible in real world usage.
Note: The crenelated bezel slightly obstructs the beam profile’s spill.

All of the beamshots taken below are done so with the following camera settings (ULTRA-LOW: 2.5 sec, F3.5, ISO100, 5000K WB, LOW: 1/3 sec, F3.5, ISO100, 5000K WB, MID: 1/4 sec, F3.5, ISO100, 5000K WB, HIGH: 1/5 sec, F3.5, ISO100, 5000K WB, and TURBO: 1/6 sec, F3.5, ISO100, 5000K WB).
Some pictures have been adjusted slightly to depict as close as to what is seen in real life. The distance of the light from the door is 4.6m.

Control shot:

ULTRA-LOW (1 lumen):

LOW (50 lumens):

MID (190 lumens):

HIGH (400 lumens):

TURBO (1000 lumens):

Mode (Output) Spacing

Mode spacing appears to be progressively brighter to the eye and the modes are well spaced enough to be able to know which mode one is currently in. With that in mind, TLR tend to view mode spacing as battery life indicators (amount of runtime left) rather than the specific output (lumens).

The ULTRA-LOW mode of 1 lumen which is what most would call a moonlight mode and is perfect for night-adjusted eyes and midnight snack runs.

Tint & CRI

Nitecore did not disclose the tint (color temperature) and/or the CRI (Color Rendering Index) for the LEDs used in their light. For this light, a guesstimate would be in the 6000K and 70CRI ballpark.

There are tint shifts throughout the beam profile. The hotspot is cool white whilst the corona possess a slight yellowish tint; and the spill having a slight purple tint.
This is however, not as noticeable in real life.

This could have been avoided if a “throwier” LED like the XP-L HI was used instead and would have made full use of the smooth reflector.


The light was subjected to warm water submersion, followed by cold water submersion and left under room temperature running water tap whilst running on TURBO.

No signs of water intrusion in the head, switch or body was seen.

Lockout Capability

No electronic lockout but mechanical lockout is possible when needed, like during transportation in a bag.

A quarter turn (anti-clockwise) of the tailcap or a quarter turn (clockwise) of the head will enable mechanical LOCKOUT.

Scale Comparison (Ruler)


To sum up, we believe that the most important part of any review is if given the chance to purchase the same light for our own EDC/usage or to gift to our loved ones out from one’s pocket (wallet), would we still do it?
For this light, it is a definite YES, if the tint shift is not an issue for your usage.

The 90° adjustable head, detachable lantern-style metal loop and tailcap magnet are all plus points for this flashlight. While Nitecore isn’t the first flashlight manufacturer to implement the 90° adjustable head, we were rather impressed by the build quality of the detent mechanism – after flicking the head back and forth countless times, the detents still worked like when brand new.

As mentioned earlier, we look forward to the day that Nitecore uses a “throwier” LED instead to make full use of the smooth reflector and would help get rid of most of the tint shifts.

Here is a bonus size comparison picture with other Nitecore flashlights/headlamps.
From Left to Right: Nitecore 18650 battery, Nitecore LR12, Nitecore MT21C, Nitecore HC65.

As with all gears, two is one and one is none.

Stay safe,
The Lite Review

Disclaimer: Light and 18650 battery was provided for by Nitecore (manufacturer) for this review. No other compensation was provided.

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Nitecore MT21C

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