by the Product Review Staff | 2003-12-12 03:00:00-07
In terms of volume of units, LED headlamps will be the #1 outdoor specialty consumer item purchased this December (Source: current purchasing trend info supplied by outdoor specialty retailers).
There are now dozens of LED lights on the market, with about two or three dozen in a headlamp style. The major U.S. market players are Princeton Tec, Black Diamond, and Petzl. Photon, Brinkmann, Lightwave, Streamlite, Tektite, and Pelican are all vying for the remainder of the pie, and overseas manufacturers such as FrontaLED and Speleo Technics offer high end (read: pricey) offerings for alpinists and cavers.
NOTE: For a comprehensive comparison of LED Headlamps (not including hybrid LED-halogen models) from around the world, ranging from the ultralight to the ultra-expensive, check out our new LED Headlamp Gear Guide. The Gear Guide also includes several LED headlamps that are not reviewed herein.
In this review, we narrow the field down to LED headlamps that weigh less than six ounces (170 grams), and that distribute their lightware in U.S. markets (hey, you have to be able to get it in time for Christmas, right?).
You can click on "Review" to read a headlamp's performance review, and "Specifications" to view its Product Card in our LED Headlamp Gear Guide.
We are pleased to announce two headlamps as winners of our Trail's Best Awards for 2004:
Honorable Mention - Petzl Tikka Plus. The Tikka Plus competes very well on a performance basis with the Princeton Tec Aurora, but we gave the Aurora the Trail's Best designation due to slightly better usability in cold conditions.
In this review, we focus primarily on cold weather usability and cold weather performance. Evaluation of headlamps in cold conditions is prudent because they are primarily used in the dark - when temperatures plummet. Thus, herein we test battery life and light output at 38 °F (3 °C). In addition, we evaluate headlamp usability and operation with cold, bare hands, and in cold conditions while wearing thin liner gloves, mid-weight windproof fleece gloves, shelled ski gloves, and shelled 300-weight fleece mitts - in the field - where at the end of the day, one is tired, hungry, and cold. Through this methodology, we are better able to evaluate the anticipated field performance of headlamps, rather than the typical industry standard of reviewing light performance at 70 °F (21 °C) and usability with bare fingers while typing the review at a keyboard in a warm cubicle.
Usability Assessment. For each headlamp, we evaluate weight (of course), headband design, changing the batteries, tilting the housing, operating the switch, and changing light modes (where applicable). We pay special attention to be able to perform these tasks with bare, cold hands, as well as gloved and mittened hands.
Cold Weather Performance. For each headlamp, we evaluate its initial performance with fresh batteries at room temperature (at both the beam center and the beam edge). More importantly, we take a look at the degradation of beam intensity over a 24 hour period when the lamp is left on continuously and incubated at 38 °F.
|Model||Weight w/o Batteries||Weight w/Batteries||Weight w/Lithium AA Batteries|
|Black Diamond Ion||0.64 oz (18 g)||0.97 oz (27 g)||n/a|
|Black Diamond Moonlight||2.88 oz (82 g)||4.03 oz (114 g)||n/a|
|Black Diamond Zenix||3.37 oz (96 g)||4.54 oz (129 g)||n/a|
|Petzl Zipka||0.92 oz (26 g)||2.07 oz (59 g)||n/a|
|Petzl Tikka Plus||1.39 oz (39 g)||2.54 oz (72 g)||n/a|
|Princeton Tec Scout||1.01 oz (29 g)||1.41 oz (40 g)||n/a|
|Princeton Tec Aurora||1.49 oz (42 g)||2.66 oz (75 g)||n/a|
|Princeton Tec Matrix 2||3.74 oz (106 g)||5.34 oz (151 g)||4.69 oz (133 g)|
|Photon Fusion||3.36 oz (95 g)||5.78 oz (164 g)||4.81 oz (136 g)|
For a detailed assessment of the performance of each individual LED headlamp, the reader is referred to the individual reviews, accessible by clicking the link(s) above in the "Review Index" section.
BATTERIES USED: Energizer Photo lithium AA's were used for evaluating the performance of the Photon Fusion and Princeton Tec Matrix 2. Energizer Titanium E2 AAA's were used for all AAA headlamps. Energizer 2032 coin cell lithium batteries were used for the Princeton Tec Scout. The stock Black Diamond 6V battery was used for the Ion.
Beam Quality Index is a measure of the ratio of beam intensity at its edge (1-foot off center at a distance of 2 feet) to beam intensity at the beam center. Higher values of the Beam Quality Index indicate a beam pattern that is more like a floodlight, while lower values of the Beam Quality Index indicate a beam pattern that is more like a spotlight. Scale: 0 to 100.
|Model||Lux @ Center||Lux @ Edge||Beam Quality Index|
|Black Diamond Ion||118||8||6.8|
|Black Diamond Moonlight||113||11||9.7|
|Black Diamond Zenix (Hyperbright)||438||7||1.6|
|Black Diamond Zenix (Normal)||125||9||7.2|
|Petzl Tikka Plus||259||13||5.0|
|Princeton Tec Scout||111||2||1.8|
|Princeton Tec Aurora||203||13||6.4|
|Princeton Tec Matrix 2||792||8||1.0|
Values for warm temperatures are repeated from table above. Values for cold temperatures were collected by incubating headlamps at 38 °F overnight (turned off) before light intensity measurements were taken.
|Model||Lux @ 68 °F||Lux @ 38 °F||Quality of Cold Light Beam|
|Black Diamond Ion||118||42||36%|
|Black Diamond Moonlight||113||107||95%|
|Black Diamond Zenix (Hyperbright)||438||397||91%|
|Black Diamond Zenix (Normal)||125||115||92%|
|Petzl Tikka Plus||259||252||97%|
|Princeton Tec Scout||111||81||73%|
|Princeton Tec Aurora||203||172||85%|
|Princeton Tec Matrix 2||792||604||76%|
Measurement of headlamp beam intensity decay in response to incubation at 38 °F. Light is turned 'on' at time zero. Time zero values are reproduced from table above.
|Model||Lux @ 0 hours||Lux @ 8 hours||Lux at 24 hours|
|Black Diamond Ion||42||3||1|
|Black Diamond Moonlight||107||41||13|
|Black Diamond Zenix (Hyperbright)||397||223||44|
|Black Diamond Zenix (Normal)||115||14||6|
|Petzl Tikka Plus (High)||252||75||12|
|Petzl Tikka Plus (Medium)||110||57||26|
|Princeton Tec Scout (High)||81||14||9|
|Princeton Tec Scout (Medium)||51||10||6|
|Princeton Tec Aurora (High)||172||64||14|
|Princeton Tec Aurora (Medium)||88||38||24|
|Princeton Tec Matrix 2||604||552||0|
|Photon Fusion (Hyperbright)||220||205||0|
|Photon Fusion (Brilliant)||155||143||0|
"LED Headlamp REVIEW SUMMARY 2003: Petzl, Princeton Tec, Black Diamond, and Photon," by the Product Review Staff. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/00270.html, 2003-12-12 03:00:00-07.
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Discussion of light-emitting diode (L.E.D.)-based flashlights and headlamps. The reader is referred to the following articles as basis for this discussion:
In addition, to provide context for the lightware that is currently available on the market, the reader is also referred to:
- The Weird Science of Night Vision: Lighting Considerations for Lightweight Backpacking
- Buying an LED Torch: Headlamp Design Considerations to Help Guide Your Purchasing Decisions
- M LED Lighting Technology: A Comprehensive Primer to Understanding the Design Basis of Light Emitting Diode-Based Flashlights and Headlamps
(richard.s) - MLife
Locale: Supernatural BC
|Re: AAA battery choices on 01/11/2004 18:10:14 MST|
Happy New Year to all because...
Edited by richard.s on 01/11/2004 19:02:19 MST.
(richard.s) - MLife
Locale: Supernatural BC
|Re: Aurora criticisms, etc. on 01/11/2004 18:21:37 MST|
Further to my previous post, I was able to speak with the manager of the retail store which I mentioned. He noted that he had returned about 75% of the Auroras they had sold, less than 1% of the Tikkas, and no Tikka Plus models.
Edited by richard.s on 01/11/2004 18:23:00 MST.
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife
Locale: Greater Yellowstone
|Re: Re: AAA battery choices on 01/11/2004 18:25:53 MST|
FYI: BackpackingLight.com will be carrying the new AAA lithium cells as soon as they are released to us for distribution. Next week, we should also receive our first shipments of other lithium round cell batteries, including the AA lithiums already on the market, and for you Black Diamond Ion fans, the lithium L544 BP.
(richard.s) - MLife
Locale: Supernatural BC
|Re: Headlamp Failure Modes on 01/11/2004 20:36:35 MST|
Well you've pretty well nailed it!
(dspellman) - F
|Headlamps and Green lights on 04/22/2004 18:19:00 MDT|
While aircraft and navy ships have, for years, used red as an optimum interior light to prevent night blindness, it seems that green is the new color on the block (as noted in the above article). I'm seeing more pilot chart lights with both red and green LED's, and even some tri-color (white is the third) units with a white lockout to prevent it accidentally being turned on.
(Arapiles) - M
|Re: Re: Aurora criticisms, etc. on 05/27/2004 07:10:29 MDT|
I bought a Princeton Tec Aurora last year and it is probably the worst piece of gear I've ever used. Mine was replaced under warranty but I threw the replacement into a corner and don't use it.
Edited by Arapiles on 05/27/2004 07:12:45 MDT.
(ksawchuk) - BPL Staff - MLife
Locale: Northern California
|Re: Headlamps and Green lights on 09/08/2004 17:35:04 MDT|
Please see comments on my 12/1 posting and Gary Lewis'12/16 posting about holding headlamps in hand while hiking/running. Yes it works much better.
(xtrem3djer) - F
|Why these big lights? on 09/10/2004 22:04:58 MDT|
It seems no surprise that most people have overweight packs, because they can't give up the kitchen sink!
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife
Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
|Battery Choices - single AAA on 10/09/2004 02:56:13 MDT|
The reason many headlights use 3 * AAA is to get enough volts to power a white LED, which needs between 3.0 and 3.6 volts.
(mikes) - F
|LED Choices on 01/17/2005 23:23:05 MST|
I really like the Petzl TacTikka with 3 ‘AAA’ Eveready Lithium batteries (2.3 oz. total). It has a red lens, so night vision is not impacted, that can be flipped down to offer white light when needed.
(drshuster) - F
Locale: Northern Arizona Alpine
|LED lights on 10/07/2008 23:50:07 MDT|
I used the Princeton TEC that uses 2 lithium CR123, for over a year. I recognize that this is a relatively heavy peice of gear BUT.. It seems all thorns need to be removed after dark, and fun reading happen in the middle of the night.