Fenix are about to release a new headlamp powered by 2AA batteries, which is to supplement the existing range which currently only offers 4xAA or 1xAA lights.
All comments in this review are limited to the pre-production sample I have. The final HL30 may differ slightly from this pre-production sample.
Initially it looks similar to a common type of headlamp using 3xAAA batteries, but seems much more solidly made.
The HL30 uses a full three-way headband, with straps going around the head and a top strap to keep it securely in place.
Quality feels very good as the straps are wide and a good weight of elastic and the unit itself comprising metal and plastic elements well.
What is in the box:
Being a prototype, there was no packaging or spares provided, so this section is not applicable here.
HL30 - as supplied
Looking straight onto the front shows the metal lens retaining ring bearing the model number and serial number. This holds a plastic TIR lens to the again metal LED housing. Also visible is the red LED secondary light source.
Viewed from above the HL30 has two buttons, the main power switch and a mode changing switch
The HL30 lamp unit is held in a cradle that allows it to be set an various angles. Moving the lamp unit all the way forward shows the battery cover and release latch button.
Taking off the back shows the battery compartment, shown here with Eneloops
And here with the batteries removed
You can see the metal ring that surrounds the LED goes all the way through to the battery compartment.
The HL30 is specified as IPX-6.
Modes and User Interface:
The HL30 has two soft click buttons. Power and mode changing.
And two LED emitters, White: Cree XP-E LED and Red: Nichia red LED
Pressing the power button turns the light onto the constant white output level previously selected. Once on, using the mode selector, cycles through Low (4 Lumens - 160H) -> Med (45 Lumens - 11H) -> High (100 Lumens - 5H) -> Turbo (180 Lumens - 2H).
Pressing the power switch turns off the white LED. It will turn on in the last constant white output mode that was used.
With the light on, press the mode switch and hold it for 0.8 second, and it will turn on the red light. Hold it for 3 seconds, it will enter a SOS mode.
With the light off, press the mode switch button once to turn on the red light.
Batteries and output:
Supporting only standard AA battery types the HL30 is likely to be optimised for ni-mh as most Fenix lights are. As there are no specifications or instructions it is not clear if Lithium AAs (1.7V) will be supported, but it is likely they will be. Testing has been carried out with Eneloops.
An early draft of the instruction manual states output levels of:
4 Lumens -160H
45 Lumens -11H
100 Lumens -5H
180 Lumens -2H
The modes are regulated and do not use PWM. When the batteries can no longer provide maximum output, the high mode simply dims gradually. As there is no sudden cut off so you will not be left in the dark and have plenty of warning.
In The Lab
In an attempt to quantify the actual beam profile I developed the following test. There are probably many flaws in my method, but it is simple and easy to carry out and seems to provide a good enough comparison.
The method used was to put the light on the edge of a table 1m from a wall, with a tape measure on the wall. The zero of the scale is placed in the centre of the hotspot and a lux meter is then positioned at points along the scale, with the measurements recorded. Beam shots are often taken with the light shining on a flat white wall, so this method is simply measuring the actual intensity across the beam on a flat surface, not the spherical light emission.
The results are then plotted on a graph.
For the best throw you want to see a sharp peak with less of the distracting spill. For the best flood light the trace should be pretty flat.
Here I have compared the HL30 to the HP11 with its diffuser. The HL30 has a fantastically smooth beam profile with very floody beam.
Taking this a little further, I calculated an approximate factor to apply to the lux measurements, as each measurement gets further from the centre of the beam, it corresponds to a larger area onto which the light is falling. It seems to me that this should also be taken into consideration, so I applied these area corrections and came up with this odd looking graph.
The key quantity here is the area under the graph line. This should correspond to the total light output.
The HL30puts more light into the spill area than the HP11 with diffuser does, making for a really great beam for near distances. Despite the HP11ís far greater total output without diffuser, the HL30 compares very well to the HP11 with diffuser having a smoother beam and outputting plenty of light.
The beam of the HL30 pre-production
The HL30 provides a beam that is neither full flood, nor with a strong hotspot. The central area is slightly brighter, but fades out into the spill smoothly. The resulting beam is excellent for walking or general work and does not require you to point your head at whatever you are looking at which some headlamps can.
Fenix specify it as an 80 degree beam angle.
Using the HL30
The HL30 is very comfortable to wear with the top strap making the distribution of pressure from the strap even. The weight of 2xAA is not noticeable.
Angled a long way down the spill starts to hit the userís face, but this is further down that you would ever normally use it.
Looking from the side you can see how the unit adjusts angle in the cradle. The angle adjustment is positive and has not moved at any point during use so far.
The red LED is a very useful addition. I have used this while driving for extra cab illumination without reducing visibility outside the car.
The HL30 takes the type of unit typically powered by 3xAAA and makes it a 2xAA light. Doing so increases the power capacity available and the high output and lovely smooth floody beam make the HL30 a really useful light.
Even though this is only a pre-production version, it has become my go-to headlamp and is kept in a drawer by the front door.
Test sample provided for review by The Photon Shop.
Iíll update post 2 of this thread once I have some more comments to add....