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Black Diamond Wiz This Ain't NO TOY!!!

in Lights - Flashlights & Headlamps

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4.00 / 5 (1 reviews)


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paul johnson
( pj )

Locale:
LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Black Diamond Wiz - This Ain't NO KId's TOY!!! on 02/02/2007 11:31:43 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 4 / 5

[Note: near the end of the "short" Review is a clearly marked HEADING entitled RATING:. You might want to read that first b/f wading through the following extraneous verbosity & to keep the following comments in perspective.]

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All i can say is if BD planned this little gem to be a kid's headlamp ("budding alpinist" to use BD's own words), then i must still be a kid!!!

So, what's a Wiz? Now that's a loaded question, but in this case, it's...

a small, light 2x5mm white LED headlamp with a narrower than usual band (perfect for a "budding alpinist's" noggin), which is certainly NOT uncomfortable to wear. In fact, the narrower than usual headband feels no different to me than a regular headband, except perhaps a little more comfortable!!! A narrower band, all other things being equal, means less tension for a given stretch. I find the narrower band more comfortable during extended wear - a "win-win" situation, i.e. lighter AND more comfortable band.

The BD Wiz is described as "toned-down illumination". I don't know if this refers to the light output being less than what one would expect from a 2x5mm headlamp, or if it's mainly a side-effect of having only two 5mm LEDs.

Now $17.95 (MSRP) is NOT exactly cheap, but do i feel that i wasted my $$ on this little guy (or is it gal? mine's the orange & black one, and not the fuchsia&purple one, so mine must be a 'guy'!). NO, i think it's work $17.95.

So, for $17.95 what does one get?

Wt. is 2.00oz w/the two included AAA alkaline batts. that's almost as light as the PT Scout 2x5mm, 4xCR2032 powered headlamp. BD claims 2.04oz, but my fancy, smancy digital scale actually reads 2.00 (internally it's keeping 3 decimal places). The PT Scout weighs 1.85oz incl. the headband & batts (1.50oz on my digital scale).

Is the Wiz regulated? Well, i'm not sure. Not being familiar w/the internal circuitry of the Wiz, i can't say for sure. Since BD is using only 2xAAA batts, then the Wiz has voltage step-up circuitry inside, commonly known generically in the vulgar vernacular as a "boost" converter. See, the approx. max 3.2v output voltage from 2xAAA batts is insufficent to forward bias (i.e. "turn on") a white LED (typically around 3.5-3.6 V is req'd). If the circuitry is simple, then it is merely boosting the voltage sufficiently to forward bias the LEDs. In this case, the light will dim slightly, but still remain bright, as the boosted voltage steadily drops off until the voltage becomes too low to cause the LEDs to produce useful (or any) light. If the circuitry is more advanced, then a regulator will provide constant current to the LEDs even while the voltage from the batts is decreasing while the headlamp is turned on. In this case, the light output is a fairly constant level.

What's really neat about the Wiz is that BD finally heard the complaints of their customers and got rid of that on-off-on-off approach to headlamp operation. The Wiz uses what BD calls a "Positronic" On-Off switch. Hold the single On-Off switch down for ~0.5sec and the headlamp will turn on. Repeating that 0.5sec press-and-hold, while the headlamp is on, will turn it off.

Since it really is intended for use by "budding alpinists", the headlamp shuts itself off every 60min to conserve battery power if one inadvertently falls asleep with the headlamp on. I really didn't find this aspect to disconcerting as a quick 0.5sec depression of the On-Off switch immediately turns the Wiz back on in Steady-mode.

Since the Wiz has only ONE level of light output, there are no partial presses of the headlamps single switch to change the level of the light output.

However, the Wiz does have two modes of operation, viz. steady FULL-BLAST (not BD approved terminology) and a flashing mode. Pressing the switch fully cycles the Wiz b/t steady on and flashing and back to steady on, etc. Go ahead, try it - it's a great way to relieve some stress! This reviewer hopes that the new "Positron" (sounds like a young boy's adventure toy - a robot of sorts, doesn't it; or else, some type of sub-atomic particle) switch finds its way into all of BD's headlamps.

I've been using it now for about 8 or 9 hrs over several days - BD claims 35h of light output from a set of 2xAAA alkaline batts. Well, we'll just have to see if BD is overstating it. I find the light produced by these relatively fresh batts to be steady (i really can't tell if it has dimmed any - the voltage supplied by these two batts is now ~2.52VDC according to my DMM [digital multi-meter]). IF(???) the Wiz's boost converter is a 50% boost, then i'm getting close to an ~3.5V forwared bias cut-off voltage. So, over these 8-9 hrs of use (i haven't really been counting, but 12hrs would be the absolute most that i've been on this first set of batts, i would reckon; just can't see how it would be longer than that), the voltage has dropped from an initial ~3.2VDC (i didn't measure, but that can be typical of fesh alkaline batts) down to the ~2.52VDC that they currently have.

So, on to the crux of the matter. Is it BRIGHT? Simple answer: NO! Next question, please. Would i want it brighter? Simple answer: NO! It makes a great reading light & a more than adequate task/proximity light. Brighter wouldn't do a thing for it as it simply doesn't have enough LEDs to function as a navigation light, IMHO. It puts out the right amount of light for its intended purposes - at least that's the opinion of this "budding alpinist"!

Ok. I just decided to compare the Wiz to two PT Scouts, both of which had four fresh CR2032 Li coin cell batts in them.

Here are the qualitative results of that comparison.

The Wiz w/8or9 hrs (maybe 12h at most) was noticeably dimmer than both of the Scouts (Scouts were both tested on their HI output mode only). This is NOT to say that it was much dimmer - just barely noticeable. IME, this typically means somewhere b/t 25%-33% dimmer b/f my eyes start to notice a real difference. I get this 25%-33% figure from comparing headlamps for which someone else has performed actual LUX output testing with a real light meter.

Well, i was surprised by this difference as i had felt that the Wiz was easily just as bright as the Scouts that i have used quite a bit for task lighting. So, i fetched two new AAA batts - Duracell's, a truly manly AAA batt. Replaced the Mfr's included No-Name batts with these manly batts & repeated the simple side-by-side qualitative comparison test.

The results were rather instructive in that not only was the Wiz very slightly brighter than either Scout. I had to repeat the "test" many times b/f i was settled on the fact, and was confident that i was NOT just imagining it. So, perhaps the Wiz is at most 25% brighter than the PT Scout.

Another aspect of the test revealed that the Wiz does NOT appear to be using constant current regulation to drive the two LEDs. As the light output from the Wiz was brighter with new batts than with the batts w/8-12 hours of use on them. [Note: i purposely left the above discussion of regulation circuitry as i originally wrote it b/f doing this simple test just to show that for some things, in this case remembering brightness, visual memory is a poor judge - more particularly, my visual memory.]

One point that i'd like to make is that, given the very low capacity of CR2032 batts (~225mAH each, IIRC) vs for a single AAA batt (up to 1250-1350mAH for good quality Duracell or Energizer batts), i would expect that, even though PT advertises 24h hi/36h med/48h lo "burn" times for their Scout headlamp vs. the 35h burn time for the BD Wiz, the Wiz will take longer to dim under CONSTANT, longer duration ON/use than compared to the Scout on HI output. My experience with the Scout is that the light dims noticeably when used on HI mode after even 30-60min (but, again, how good is my visual memory for brightness??!!).

One nice feature of the Scout vs. the Wiz though is that the Scout has a built-in hat brim clip so that ~0.5oz in wt (on my digital scale) can be saved by leaving the Scout's headband at home.

On more point: i feel that, on my Wiz, the default threading of the headband through the front bracket is incorrect. The way mine came from the factory had the plastic bracket against my forehead. It was a very simple matter for a klutz like me to remove the headband and rethread it through the bracket the opposite way so that the soft, cushiony headband is directly against my forehead. The curvature of the bracket is such that the now exposed plastic corners of the bracket are NOT pressing against my forehead.

Personally, i feel that the Wiz is a Winner! I would gladly carry it instead of the PT Scout (by now, those familiar w/my Posts & Reviews should know that PT headlamps are my favorite headlamps & it takes quite a bit to move me away from PT and also good ole American, made in the USofA technology). I generally carry at least two lights. Something like a PT Apex for nighttime navigation and a Photon Freedom Maxx for task lighting and reading, so as to not unecessarily use batt power in the Apex for task/proximity lighting purposes. If i was going to be needing a task light with more duration than that provided by the Photon Freedom Maxx, i would now choose to carry the Wiz as my task/proximity/backup light (subject to the yet to be completed how-long-do-these-batts-really-last-in-the-Wiz test). [yes, i know i could carry a lot of CR2016 batts for the Photon for the same wt. diff b/t the Photon+clip & the Wiz - however, and this is my personal pref. only, i don't want to be forced to change batts in the field even though it's not that difficult with the Photon Freedom Maxx.]

In rating the Wiz, i've attempted to rate it relative to other headlamps that i might use exclusively for task/proximity lighting and for reading, without any consideration of using it to walk a distinct trail. Therefore...

RATING:
I give this a 4 b/c it's NOT perfect. It's bright enough to do the jobs that i would expect it to do, plus, compared to other options, it has a very long bright light output. Light output has dimmed over its initial use period which is still a long way away from the advertised 35h "burn" time (i don't think, based upon personal experience, that it will make it except perhaps for some "glowing" output). Also, i'm not really sure what to compare it against. Arguments could be made for and against comparing it with a number of diff. types of small, lightweight headlamps. Depending upon what one compares it to, i'd guess that you'd have to give it a 3 or a 4, depending upon what other reasonable competitor it is compared to.

It's certainly no Quad, Tikka/Zipka (Plus or no Plus) competitor (it would only rate a 1 or 2 compared to them). It's NOT a precise competitor, despite using 2xAAA batts, for some 0.5W Luxeon type low-end headlamps, e.g. the Streamlight Enduro. But, it's also NOT a precise competitor for any Li coin cell powered headlamp, but they are, perhaps, its nearest competitors, particularly the Scout and newer Petzl e+Lite - hence a 4 rating (i could go for a 3 also, but i'm feeling generous right 'bout now). Just for reference, in this "Class", so to speak, i'd give the PT Scout a 4 due its smaller size, lighter weight, integrated hat brim clip, and multiple lighting levels (viz. Lo, Med, Hi), and the Petzl e+LITE would get a 4 also due to very poor batt. life, poor switch ergonomics, but its much greater light output. The Wiz, however, really shines (pun intended) due to its 2xAAA longer lasting power source (not necessarily the first 30min cp. to the e+LITE, but definitely brighter after that initial ~30min period - cf. Rick Drehrer's excellent, professional review of the Petzl e+LITE headlamp in a regular BPL On-Line e-zine Article).

My two [million] shekels!!

Edited by pj on 02/03/2007 01:33:16 MST.

Price comparison from GearBuyer:
Black Diamond Apex priced at: $89.95
Black Diamond Blast - Women's priced at: $92.95 - $132.00
Black Diamond Boost priced at: $27.95 - $159.95
Black Diamond Burn - Men's priced at: $89.98 - $132.00
Black Diamond Trail - Women's priced at: $45.95 - $119.95
Black Diamond Wiz - Kid's priced at: $18.95 - $44.99
Energizer Alkaline priced at: $12.94
Petzl e+Lite priced at: $29.90 - $29.99

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