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Thread: Fenix HL30 Review (2xAA)

  1. #1
    Flashaholic* subwoofer's Avatar
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    Default Fenix HL30 Review (2xAA)

    In this review I will be looking at the HL30 headlamp. This is the production HL30 which has some updates/improvements compared to the pre-production model I have looked at previously. Every set of lights should include a headlamp, as only with this type of light do you have a mobile task light and both hands free to carry out the task.

    This is the third of a series of four detailed reviews of a selection of lights making up the ‘Totally Fenix Hunting Line-Up’. Included in the series will be the TK22 (Reviewed here), TK15 S2 (Reviewed here), HL30, and the TK75, all of which provide a rounded set of capabilities covering everything you would need while out hunting.

    Of course each of these lights stands perfectly well on their own, so this review will be covering the light in its own right, and following the individual reviews there will be a follow-up review covering the hunting applications.






    Initial Impressions:

    A lot of popular compact headlamps are effectively a separate flashlight held in a rubber mount on a head-strap, so to see a compact ‘true’ headlamp is refreshing. The HL30 at first glance may be mistaken for a 3xAAA format light, but is instead a 2xAA which gives it nearly double the energy to use for greater output or longer runtime.

    Simple design, friendly appearance, and easy to use - this is a light that everybody would find easy to pick up and use straight away.

    The choice of a red beam or an excellent flood of white light makes this especially versatile. The simple but functional design, just works, from the moment you start to use it.



    What is in the box:

    The HL30 arrives in a hybrid cardboard/blister pack.



    Included are the HL30, the head-strap components, instructions, and a spare o-ring.





    Taking a closer look and looking inside:

    The HL30 is made from a plastic housing with a metal insert, metal lens ring and a plastic TIR style lens.



    Looking through the lens to the LED (XP-G R5)



    To remove the battery door, the HL30 must be tilted completely forward on its mount. This frees the door from the plastic tabs that click into the angle adjustment teeth, and reveals the word ‘open’ next to a tab. Pulling this tab away from the main light, will allow the battery door to come off.



    Revealing the battery compartment for the two AAs.



    Looking straight into the open battery compartment you can see part of the metal fascia as a silver ring, and the battery connection terminals.

    Also clearly visible here are the c-clip connectors on the back plate. These are for holding the head strap band, which is not currently attached.



    The battery door and latch which is a simple pressure latch. As the angle adjuster for the headlamp effectively holds the battery door in place, this simple design is all that is required to secure the battery door.



    Looking more closely at the engaged angle adjustment, you can see how the tab fits into the series of grooves. There are two of these and despite (or maybe due to) the simplicity of this design the functionality of this has been totally reliable.



    Looking down onto the two controls, the power button and mode change switch.



    The HL30 with head-strap fully assembled.





    Modes and User Interface:

    The HL30 has five white output levels and one red.

    With the light off, each of the buttons will turn it on.

    Pressing the power switch (from OFF) will turn the white light on, in the last used output level. Pressing the power switch again will turn it off.

    Pressing the mode switch (from OFF) will turn the red light on. Pressing the mode switch again will turn it off.

    If the red light is on, pressing the power switch will turn the white light on, in the last used output level.

    If the white light is on, pressing the mode button will cycle through Low, Med, High, Turbo, Low etc.

    If the white light is on, pressing and holding the mode button will first switch to the red light (pressing the mode button again switches back to white, or the power switch to turn it off), and if held in even longer will enter the SOS mode.



    Batteries and output:

    The HL30 runs on 2 x AA batteries. Either Lithium AAs (NOT li-ion), Alkaline AAs, or Ni-Mh rechargeable AAs can be used.

    The testing was carried out with Eneloop LSD Ni-Mh cells.


    To measure actual output, I built an integrating sphere. See here for more detail. The sensor registers visible light only (so Infra-Red and Ultra-Violet will not be measured).

    Please note, all quoted lumen figures are from a DIY integrating sphere, and according to ANSI standards. Although every effort is made to give as accurate a result as possible, they should be taken as an estimate only. The results can be used to compare outputs in this review and others I have published.

    Fenix HL30 I.S. measured ANSI output Lumens PWM frequency (Hz)
    Turbo 224 9090
    High 113 2000
    Medium 50 0
    Low 5 0
    Red 2 0

    As the HL30 utilises an electronic switch, there is parasitic drain to consider. I have reviewed and early pre-production sample of the HL30 and am pleased to see that in the production version, Fenix have significantly improved (i.e. reduced) the parasitic drain. This is now 0.1mA meaning it would take over 2 years for this to drain the batteries (this previous version was four times this).

    The runtime graph was intended to capture the maximum output. This meant having to babysit the test as every 5 minutes it switches down to High and needs to be nudged back up to Turbo. After doing this, the following output trace is the result.





    In The Lab

    NEW for Winter 2012 ANSI standards include maximum beam range. This is the distance at which the intensity of light from an emitter falls to 0.25lux (roughly the same as the lux from a full moon). This standard refers only to the peak beam range (a one dimensional quantity), so I am expanding on this and applying the same methodology across the entire width of the beam. From this data it is possible to plot a two-dimensional ‘beam range profile’ diagram which represents the shape of the illuminated area.

    In order to accurately capture this information a test rig was constructed which allows a lux meter to be positioned 1m from the lens and a series of readings to be taken at various angles out from the centre line of the beam. As the rig defines a quadrant of a circle with a radius of 1m, all the readings are taken 1m from the lens, so measuring the true spherical light intensity. The rig was designed to minimise its influence on the readings with baffles added to shield the lux meter from possible reflections off the support members.

    The distance of 1m was chosen as at this distance 1lux = 1 candela and the maximum beam range is then calculated as the SQRT(Candela/0.25) for each angle of emission.

    In this plot, the calculated ANSI beam ranges are plotted as if viewed from above (for some lights there may also be a side view produced) using a CAD package to give the precise 'shape' of the beam.



    Starting with the 5m range grid, the HL30’s beam profile shows the even spread of light without a significantly brighter hotspot.



    Zooming out to the 50m grid and here, the HL30 is shown with two other Fenix lights that will be part of this series of reviews, and this clearly shows how the HL30 is a close range task light.





    The beam

    The indoor beamshot shows the wide even spill with hardly any hotspot. A really excellent close range wide soft beam.



    At the same exposure setting, the red beam was not visible, so here the exposre has been significantly increased to show how the red beam looks.



    Naturally such a floody beam has little reach, but does light up your immediate vicinity.





    What it is really like to use…

    The answer to title of this section (“What it is really like to use…”) is pretty much summed up simply by the fact that the HL30 has become one of my favourite lights.

    It just works on so many levels and is one of the best performing, easy to use, comfortable and functional lights I have come across.

    The main reasons for this are:

    That excellent smooth flood beam.
    Great combination of light weight but still having a good run time due to the 2xAAs powering it.
    Totally stable and yet very comfortable to wear thanks to the inclusion of a top-strap. Having the top strap means that you don’t need to have the main strap all that tight and still have the HL30 stay firmly in place.
    The choice of a red light for use when your eyes are dark adapted.

    I thought the 5 minute timer on Turbo (which then switches down to high) would be annoying, but in general use, find the Turbo output far too bright to use anyway. I tend to use it on Medium or High, rarely ever needing Turbo at all. It is there if you need it, but I rarely do.

    If I could change one thing, it would be to introduce a moonlight/firefly mode of sub-lumen white light output, but as the beam is very floody the low level is nearly there (nearly…).

    The HL30 may not look flash, it may not turn heads, but it does everything it needs to, and does it very well.

    The HL30 really has become my ‘go-to’ light –need I say more?


    Test sample provided by Fenix for review.
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  2. #2
    Flashaholic* subwoofer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fenix HL30 Review (2xAA)

    reserved....
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  3. #3

    Default Re: Fenix HL30 Review (2xAA)

    Thanks for the review. I'm still not sure about the timer. I've avoided most lights with a timer but on a headlamp, I can't see too much use for a constant turbo, especially when this uses optics for a floodier beam. Glad to see the flood, especially the use of the optics.

    PWM on the higher mode and constant current on the lower ones? Interesting concept. Anyone else do that?

  4. #4
    Flashaholic whiteoakjoe's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fenix HL30 Review (2xAA)

    Great review, I am pleased to read that the UI, is easy to understand and use, some 2 button systems are a pain. I really like the idea of switching out my HL21 for this light and although I have not been purchasing anything but XML's for a while, I think that this will be my next light. What did you think of the tint, your sample looks pretty good in the photos.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Fenix HL30 Review (2xAA)

    Thanks for the review. Had fun when I did my review on this light

  6. #6
    Flashaholic fishndad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fenix HL30 Review (2xAA)

    Thank you, I just ordered this light and was inquiring about it just minutes beforen i found this review.
    Im sure i will be pleased with my choice.
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  7. #7

    Default Re: Fenix HL30 Review (2xAA)

    Great review.

    After a long hiatus from flashlights in general, bought this light.

    One thing to note is that I loaded it with 2 alkaline duracells, the low is almost as bright as the medium and overly bright then what you need for a low.
    Perhaps when the voltage drops this will adjust to a lower low, but something to keep in mind

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Fenix HL30 Review (2xAA)

    Thank you the superb review! I appreciate the way you cover the actual use of the unit and not just the technicals.

    Just ordered one of these for use in the field while camp and hiking use. Also seems like a good choice for typing in bed so that I do not have to use house lighting. Sounds like a couple of sets of Eneloop's are about perfect for this rig. The 1.2 NiMH batteries are the recommended type per Fenix literature. Nice to know that it will work with Alkaline type as well if the need arises.

  9. #9
    Flashaholic* kj2's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fenix HL30 Review (2xAA)

    Am using this light more and more. These cold days is very handy to have your light on your head, and not in your hands

  10. #10

    Default Re: Fenix HL30 Review (2xAA)

    I'm curious, is it possible to not use the top headband with it or would it slip or tip too much without it?
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  11. #11
    Flashaholic* subwoofer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fenix HL30 Review (2xAA)

    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Arc View Post
    I'm curious, is it possible to not use the top headband with it or would it slip or tip too much without it?
    The top band can be removed (or left off as it comes unassembled), and you could use it without, but it would need to be made tighter to stabilise it. I much prefer it with the top strap.
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  12. #12

    Default Re: Fenix HL30 Review (2xAA)

    Thanks for the review - and an echo to the question above. I usually use my headlight with a cap and wonder if I would need the top strap.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Fenix HL30 Review (2xAA)

    Quote Originally Posted by subwoofer View Post
    The top band can be removed (or left off as it comes unassembled), and you could use it without, but it would need to be made tighter to stabilise it. I much prefer it with the top strap.
    As long as it will work, I have had other top strap lights and found that some the straps are too short and pop off my head in use when I lean forward.
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  14. #14
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    Default Re: Fenix HL30 Review (2xAA)

    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Arc View Post
    As long as it will work, I have had other top strap lights and found that some the straps are too short and pop off my head in use when I lean forward.
    Well, I gave it a try today without the top strap and it stayed put just fine. I did tighten the band a little bit, but nothing that caused any discomfort. I just walked around the neighborhood some. No jogging or bouncing really. Light stayed where I wanted it. I think if I were getting serious on a trail, the top band would be a welcome addition.
    Fenix PD32UE and HL30, ShiningBean S-Mini (T5), Convoy M1 XM-L U2, XinTD SC-82 (V4)

  15. #15

    Default Re: Fenix HL30 Review (2xAA)

    Quote Originally Posted by klmmicro View Post
    Well, I gave it a try today without the top strap and it stayed put just fine. I did tighten the band a little bit, but nothing that caused any discomfort. I just walked around the neighborhood some. No jogging or bouncing really. Light stayed where I wanted it. I think if I were getting serious on a trail, the top band would be a welcome addition.
    Sounds like it will do fine then as I don't plan on doing any jumping jacks or mountain climbing I will mostly be using it around the house with an occasional trip out to the garage or to take the trash to the curb. I sometimes put my headlamp on a dozen times a day for just a few minutes so I can be hands free and not having to fumble with the top strap is a good thing.
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  16. #16

    Default Re: Fenix HL30 Review (2xAA)

    1) Does the 5 min turbo timer start over if I cycle the light on and off, will the 5 mins start AGAIN? And will this cause any overheating damage?

    2) Is it just ME, or does anyone else see a scam here!!!! I love Fenix, own many, many of them, but come on here, seems like a case of EXTREME false advertising. I mean it says:
    Turbo: 200 lumens / 1h 40min
    High: 100 lumens / 4h 30min

    But in essence, its only a FIVE min runtime, period, end of story in TURBO. The OTHER 1 hour and 35 mins is in HIGH. That in NO WAY equates to a 1hr 40 min TURBO mode!!!!!!! That equates to a 5 minute turbo mode. I mean heck, if thats the case, just keep timing each mode out until you hit the lowes setting and then announce that the TURBO mode lasts for 50 hours.....cause it downshifts to low mode after 6 mins....thats the most absurd thing i think i have ever heard in my life.

    It matters to me as I JUST ordered FOUR of these and they are on the way, based upon a 1HOUR and 40 MINUTE turbo run time. Don't know about the rest of you, but I ALWAYS USE TURBO.....if I wanted a 2 lumen night light I'd go to Kmart.

    3) You mean to tell me that 5 lousy mins in turbo takes aways 3 full hours and 30 mins from it being on HIGH???? If it downshifts to high after 5 mins, then I should have the remainder of the 4 hour and 30 min stated high runtime, minus whatever extra juice it burned up being in turbo for a losuy 5 mins....and I can't imagine that being 3 1/2 hours worth.
    Last edited by cheaperrooter; 10-03-2013 at 08:53 PM.

  17. #17
    Flashaholic* subwoofer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fenix HL30 Review (2xAA)

    Quote Originally Posted by cheaperrooter View Post
    1) Does the 5 min turbo timer start over if I cycle the light on and off, will the 5 mins start AGAIN? And will this cause any overheating damage?

    2) Is it just ME, or does anyone else see a scam here!!!! I love Fenix, own many, many of them, but come on here, seems like a case of EXTREME false advertising. I mean it says:
    Turbo: 200 lumens / 1h 40min
    High: 100 lumens / 4h 30min

    But in essence, its only a FIVE min runtime, period, end of story in TURBO. The OTHER 1 hour and 35 mins is in HIGH. That in NO WAY equates to a 1hr 40 min TURBO mode!!!!!!! That equates to a 5 minute turbo mode. I mean heck, if thats the case, just keep timing each mode out until you hit the lowes setting and then announce that the TURBO mode lasts for 50 hours.....cause it downshifts to low mode after 6 mins....thats the most absurd thing i think i have ever heard in my life.

    It matters to me as I JUST ordered FOUR of these and they are on the way, based upon a 1HOUR and 40 MINUTE turbo run time. Don't know about the rest of you, but I ALWAYS USE TURBO.....if I wanted a 2 lumen night light I'd go to Kmart.

    3) You mean to tell me that 5 lousy mins in turbo takes aways 3 full hours and 30 mins from it being on HIGH???? If it downshifts to high after 5 mins, then I should have the remainder of the 4 hour and 30 min stated high runtime, minus whatever extra juice it burned up being in turbo for a losuy 5 mins....and I can't imagine that being 3 1/2 hours worth.

    1) I brought mine with me to work today to test this. Found the batteries were flat! I am pretty confident though that the timer will be reset as when trying it out for various tests, every time I switched it into turbo it would run for 5 minutes regardless of what I had been doing.

    Overheating will depend on the ambient temperature, and if it gets some sort of cooling airflow (just form you moving about or being outside). If you wrap it in a cloth and keep it running on turbo it might overheat.

    2) It is a bugbear for me that Fenix don't let the Turbo mode stay on. The lights can handle it. It is a bit like laws that make everyone follow the same restriction for the safety of a few idiots!

    I would say that in my use where I am working with my hands or at close ranges, Turbo is too bright. I use it mostly on Medium and only sometimes on High. Turbo use for me is restricted to when I am walking outside and want to see further ahead.

    3) Not sure where you got that from. As far as I am concerned, 5 mins on turbo should leave most of the stated High runtime.
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  18. #18
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    Default Re: Fenix HL30 Review (2xAA)

    Quote Originally Posted by cheaperrooter View Post
    1) Does the 5 min turbo timer start over if I cycle the light on and off, will the 5 mins start AGAIN? And will this cause any overheating damage?

    2) Is it just ME, or does anyone else see a scam here!!!! I love Fenix, own many, many of them, but come on here, seems like a case of EXTREME false advertising. I mean it says:
    Turbo: 200 lumens / 1h 40min
    High: 100 lumens / 4h 30min
    For your first point, Turbo has a 5 minute timer that is reset when you hit the mode button again. IE, you put the light into Turbo and it stays in that mode for 5 minutes. After that, it cycles down to High. If you hit the mode button again, you are back in turbo. You can do this until the batteries are drained. This means that you are NOT limited to 5 sum total minutes, but 5 minutes per time you enter Turbo mode. While this is not very convenient, it does mean that you can technically run the light in turbo till the batteries are drained. I have done the mode "bumping" like this to see what sort of battery life I could expect. During that personal test of my HL-30, the emitter got quite hot and I did start to get concerned after about a half hour of this. I would not run it on back to back Turbo sessions unless I absolutely had to.

    This brings up your second point...if one continues to put the unit into Turbo mode, an hour and a half on fully charged Eneloops would be about as far as it will go. That is about what I got, though the inconvenience of having to reach up and hit the mode button is a bit of a drag. I have done some night hikes with the lamp and in High, mine gets right at 4 hours. It might be able to eek out another 30 on medium, but that would be a stretch. It could be that my cells are a little older with about 250 cycles on them. A fresh set might reach their advertised times. I consider my HL-30 to be a headlamp that is designed to run at 100 LM with a few bursts of 200 LM when needed. If used this way, a set of cells offer enough service life to make it rather useful.
    Fenix PD32UE and HL30, ShiningBean S-Mini (T5), Convoy M1 XM-L U2, XinTD SC-82 (V4)

  19. #19

    Default Re: Fenix HL30 Review (2xAA)

    Ok, well, maybe so. Still....its a crazy way of figuring to say the least. And that brings up other questions. If the 1 hour and 40 mins is based upon 5 mins in turbo and the rest in high, then at a MINIMUM, the stated run time for turbo should be based SOLELY upon how long it WOULD HAVE LASTED IF THERE WAS NOT TIMER. So if 1hr40mins INCLUDES 1hr35mins in high mode....we STILL don't know exactly how long turbo mode would last if cycled on and off repeatedly....but whatever that time is, THAT should be the stated run time for turbo, as if there was no timer....to include run times of ANY mode that includes the run time of a lower setting because it downshifts....is just plain ole STUPID. At least, in my humble opinion....

  20. #20
    Flashaholic* subwoofer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fenix HL30 Review (2xAA)

    Quote Originally Posted by cheaperrooter View Post
    we STILL don't know exactly how long turbo mode would last if cycled on and off repeatedly....but whatever that time is, THAT should be the stated run time for turbo, as if there was no timer
    Yes we do. Look at my runtime graph in the review. I reset to turbo every time it down-shifted.
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  21. #21
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    Default Re: Fenix HL30 Review (2xAA)

    The 1 hour 40 minutes is not based on your criteria. It is based on running the lamp on Turbo till the cells are drained. You keep bringing up "Turbo for 5 minutes and the rest on high". This in NOT what the run time is based on. My run time is based on continually bumping the unit back in to Turbo after each kickdown.

    The run time under your criteria (Turbo for 5 and the rest on High) IS over 4 hours, and not by any literature...but while using my actual HL-30.
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  22. #22

    Default Re: Fenix HL30 Review (2xAA)

    My point is simply I shouldn't HAVE to go through all this work to find this out. You are a VERY RARE cookie indeed. Few people have the skill to do what you did with your review. MOST people just don't have the knowledge to do such tests....and why should they, that's why we just buy Fenix, cuz THEY went through all that stuff. I am not attacking, nor even, to be honest, care about your review. Why? Because, quite frankly, it's WAY OVER MY HEAD. I don't have a CLUE what you're really talking about and few really do. I just want to know a simple question while hiking around unfamiliar terrain at night. How dang long will my light last in turbo mode? The rest.....is far too much investigative work to answer a simple question that Fenix could just answer simply. Come on, you need to do what you did to get the answers you got. The other 99.9999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999% of the world SHOULD be able to just rely on what the manfaturer tells us

  23. #23

    Default Re: Fenix HL30 Review (2xAA)

    And please, what EXACTLY is the red light supposed to be used for? I haven't a clue....

  24. #24

    Default Re: Fenix HL30 Review (2xAA)

    Actually, I got your review mixed up with another review i was reading about the Fenix ARE-C1 charger. Yours was not that hard to follow.

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Fenix HL30 Review (2xAA)

    Simple answer, the run time in Turbo is 1.5 hours. In High it is a little over 4 hours. Not too much skill required to hit the mode button every 5 minutes with a stopwatch running, but it is annoying. In essence, with the HL-30, you have a 100 LM light that will provide you 4 hours of run time. If you use Turbo mode to get 200 LM, you will reduce that run time but can still expect to get AT LEAST 1.5 hours.

    Fenix answers the question perfectly. They tell you in the literature that the light will run in Turbo mode for 1 hour 40 minutes. They are pretty dang close with that assessment. The investigative work that the OP and I have done was for our own verification. Both of us have shared our findings which back up the Fenix literature to within 10 minutes. You can do with what we have shared, what you wish. Ignore it, misunderstand it or misconstrue it...but that does not change the fact that the data is published by the manufacturer AND verified by at least two separate unaffiliated entities is available and correct.

    The red light is simply another emitter. Red light is touted to help preserve your night vision, though that is a disputed claim. I do not use it.
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  26. #26

    Default Re: Fenix HL30 Review (2xAA)

    Hey!!!! We agreed on something. The red light is useless

  27. #27
    Flashaholic* subwoofer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fenix HL30 Review (2xAA)

    Quote Originally Posted by cheaperrooter View Post
    The red light is useless
    I disagree. Though I too know that simply by being red it does not protect dark adapted vision, however it does help and is a very low level output.

    One particular application is when out hunting at night as red light is far less visible (in some cases invisible) to the prey, so you can have it on without them seeing you.

    So definitely NOT useless, but perhaps of limited use to some.
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    Default Re: Fenix HL30 Review (2xAA)

    Thank you SubWoofer. That is what I actually meant. I simply have not found a use for the red emitter in my journeys, YET. Might someday.
    Fenix PD32UE and HL30, ShiningBean S-Mini (T5), Convoy M1 XM-L U2, XinTD SC-82 (V4)

  29. #29

    Default Re: Fenix HL30 Review (2xAA)

    I see they list runtimes of the white LED on it but not on the red LED. I wonder if it gets too weak to light up the white LED at the lowest level will it still light the red one up.
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  30. #30

    Default Re: Fenix HL30 Review (2xAA)

    What about waterproof of this headlamp? Good sealed?

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