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.
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 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.