Warning: pic heavy, as usual.
This is a second generation headlamp from Olight, following on the original H15 Wave that I reviewed a little over a year ago. While superficially similar looking, a lot of has changed about the light – although the distinctive motion-sensitive "wave" feature for changing modes is still there.
As before, I haven't done a lot of headlamp reviews, but I am including comparisons to some of the workhorses in my collection. Scroll down for the comparisons.
Reported Manufacturer Specifications:
- LED: Cree XM-L2
- Three brightness levels: Hi 250lm/200lm (Without/with diffuser) – Med 100lm/85lm (Without/with diffuser) – Lo 15lm/12lm (Without/with diffuser).
- Runtimes: Hi 3h – Med 5.7hr – Lo 36hr
- Beam intensity: 1,850cd
- Beam distance: 85m
- Battery: OPB-H15S Li-ion (included) or 4xAAA Alkaline or NiMH batteries
- User interface: can be configured to either use the switch or infrared hands-free sensor to turn the light on and off. A filter built-in filter diffuses the light for close-up work but can instantly be flipped out of the way to project the beam far. This makes the H15S an extremely versatile light great for reading, inspecting equipment, working on the car, or walking at night.
- The H15S features a high-capacity, rechargeable lithium battery with built-in charger. The battery charges from a Micro-USB cable allowing the light to be charged from either a computer or 5V USB power source. The H15S can also be run on 4 x AAA batteries, either Alkaline or Ni-MH.
- A built-in filter has been designed for lighting close distances. The diffuser softens the light making reading and inspecting equipment close-up easy.
- Water resistant: IPX-6
- Impact resistant: 1m
- Head Dimensions: 70mm/2.57" * 53.5mm/2.10" * 22,,/0.87"
- Battery Pack Dimensions: 55mm/2.16" * 42mm/1.65" * 27mm/1.06"
- Weight: 98g/3.46oz (excluding battery)
- MSRP: ~$50
The H15S comes in the newer Olight-style packaging, with lots of descriptive characteristics printed right on the plastic packaging. As with the H15, the battery compartment is separate from the light head. Inside the box, my light came with the main headstrap attached (and optional over-the-head strap included in the box). There is spiral cable connecting the light and battery compartment (again removable from the clips on the headstrap, if you want). Bundled accessories include the new Li-ion battery, USB charging cable and manual.
As you can see, the box has an extensive range of specs printed on it.
From left to right: Duracel AAA NiMH, Olight H15S, Petzl Tikka XP2, Zebralight SC30W, Spark ST5.
All dimensions are given with no batteries installed:
Olight H15S Wave: (1xLi-ion, 4xAAA): Head alone: 42.2g, Battery compartment alone: 31.0g, Battery compartment alone with OPS-H15S Li-ion battery: 58.3g, Battery compartment alone with 4xAAA: 77.3g, complete unit (with basic headband and Li-ion battery): 118.1g
Olight H15 Wave: (4xAAA): Head alone: 42.5g, Battery compartment alone: 28.4g, Battery compartment alone with batteries: 74.8g, complete unit (with headband and batteries): 141.5g
Petzl Tikka XP (3xAAA): 58.3g, 94.4g with batteries
Petzl Tikka XP2 (3xAAA): 52.3g, 88.4g with batteries
Spark ST5 (1xAA): Weight, 41.5g, Length 58.4mm, Width 42.8mm (max body), Width 24.0mm (bezel)
ITP H01 (1xAAA): Weight: 22.7g, Length 53.7mm, Width 37.2 (max body) or 15.4mm (bezel)
Zebralight H31w (1xCR123A): Weight: 28.6g, Length 66.9mm, Width (bezel) 22.1mm.
The bundled Li-ion battery clearly lowers the overall weight, compared to 4xAAA.
Here's what it looks like with the top head-strap attached. If it helps for the scale reference, I wear a size 7˝ Tilley hat.
To overall shape and look of the H15S is very similar to the earlier H15 (and a number of other headlamps). I am glad to see the bundled rechargeable Li-ion battery pack included now – and it's a nice touch that 4xAAA is still supported as well.
As before, the H15S separates the battery compartment from the main headlamp unit. This is not an uncommon design, and it does offer the advantage of balancing out the weight.
Build of the headlamp and battery case is plastic, as you would expect (and as is common in most consumer headlamps).
The emitter has been upgraded to the latest generation Cree XM-L2 (which is different from most comparably-priced consumer headlamps that use the smaller XP-E or XP-G emitters). As before, you get the option for both throw and flood, thanks to a dedicated reflector and spring-mounted diffuser cover (scroll down for beamshots). I am happy to note the diffuser now flips up more than before, so it no longer casts a shadow or reflects the main beam anymore. Gone however are the secondary red LED emitters (replaced by infrared emitters in the same spots on the front of the unit). See the User Interface section below for more info.
The battery case looks a lot like before, but no longer has the primary electronic switch or dim red light (which I never found very useful, but may have suited bike-riders well). The H15S is controlled solely by the head switch, which is more intuitive now. On the top of the front headlamp unit, you find the single large red button to control modes and on/off. There are also motion-sensitive sensors on the front that can respond to hands-free "waves" to change levels (thanks to the IR emitters just below). Again, see the UI discussion below.
Headband is good quality, IMO. The top-strap is easily removable as before.
Let's take a closer look at how the batteries fit into their compartment …
It was clever of Olight to keep the basic 4xAAA battery pack shape from the H15, but then design a custom Li-ion battery pack that could also slide in (scroll down for pics of the new battery).
In terms of the carrier, it is much the same as before. Frankly, all-plastic multi-AA/AAA carriers tend to be somewhat limited in their battery hinge design and waterproofness. In the case of the H15S (and H15 before it), you rotate the designated side end-bracket until the end-piece pops open (i.e., out of the plastic retaining clamps holding it down). There you will find an internal connection piece that swivels slightly from the end-bracket. There is an o-ring around this connection piece that helps to maintain water resistance. There is also a connecting cable to ensure you don't lose the end piece.
Pay attention to how the batteries go in – the labels on the plastic end-bracket are very small, and hard to see. But you can tell from the indentations on the metal contacts which way the AAA cells are supposed to go (i.e., negative battery terminal to the raised dimpled connector piece, positive battery terminal to the flat connector piece). If you put them in wrong, Olight informs me the unit does have reverse-polarity protection. The included Li-ion battery can only go in one way (scroll down for pics).
As before, I find the carrier end-bracket a little fussy to re-seat and lock into place. Still, it should maintain reasonable water resistance (note the light is IPX-6 rated). There is actually reasonable good tension on the end-bracket, holding it tightly closed (once you get it properly lined up).
Let's take a closer look at the new Li-ion pack:
This is a good design – it has plastic bits on the battery's body to prevent you from sliding it in the wrong orientation. There is also an easy-pull plastic tab to allow you get the battery out of the carrier (it goes without saying, don't try to remove this tab ).
There is a micro USB connector on the battery itself, which you can charge from any USB port using the supplied cable. A red LED light beside the charging port comes on when it is plugged in and charging. Once charged, the light goes off. It took around four hours to do a complete charge (sorry, I didn't time it exactly). Voltage across the battery contacts reads ~4.20V when fully charged (i.e., just like all 3.7V nominal batteries). Olight rates the battery as 1200mAh (scroll down for my testing results).
The H15S uses a Cool white XM-L2 emitter with a textured reflector (OP). Emitter was well centered on my sample. A spring-mounted diffuser cover allows you to diffuse the beam. Although the reflector is small, it is deeper than most headlamps I have come across.
As mentioned before, there are two IR LED emitters on either side of the main white emitter. These will glow faintly red when the light is in wave-activated mode (i.e., they emit some minor amounts of light in the visible red spectrum when the wave feature is turned on).
This differs from the red LEDs on the H15 (which, presumably, emitted some IR light used by the sensors). The H15 had relatively bright red LEDs, in contrast.
Unlike the H15, you no longer need to switch on the light at the battery pack any more – all operation is controlled by the main switch on the head.
You turn the headlamp on by a single click of the head switch. You advance through modes by clicking the head switch again, in the reoccurring sequence of Hi > Med > Lo > Standby, in a repeating loop.
By default, once clicked on, you can the turn headlamp off/on in any given mode by a wave of the hand within 10 cm of the sensors on the front of the light (e.g. wave for off, wave again for back on).
To deactivate the sensor and "lock" the given level you are in, press and hold the head switch for more than 3 secs (you will see a brief flash). To re-activate the sensor, press and hold the head switch again for 3 secs.
There is no mode memory, and the unit always defaults to Hi mode upon a battery change.
This is definitely a simpler user interface than the original wave, which was a bit cumbersome in comparison. I also find the sensitivity of the motion-wave sensors slightly improved.
There is a diffuser cover for the emitter that is spring-mounted and held in place by a small clip on the base of the head unit. Press on the clip to release the diffuser for more throw.
For more information on the light, including the build and user interface, please see my video overview:
Video was recorded in 720p, but YouTube typically defaults to 360p. Once the video is running, you can click on the configuration settings icon and select the higher 480p to 720p options. You can also run full-screen.
As with all my videos, I recommend you have annotations turned on. I commonly update the commentary with additional information.
There is no sign of PWM that I can see, at any output level – I presume the light is current-controlled, as before.
Hi mode noise:
Med mode noise:
There were some reoccurring signal patterns on Med and Hi, in the ~1.7 kHz range. These were not visible by eye however – I only mention them because the oscilloscope is able to detect them. It is not uncommon to see circuit noise on many current-controlled lights.
As both the battery pack and head switches are electronic, a standby current drain is always present when a battery is installed. Given the design of the carrier, I was not able to measure this current, however.
And now, the white-wall beamshots. All lights are on Max output on the identified battery type. Lights are about ~0.75 meter from a white wall (with the camera ~1.25 meters back from the wall). Automatic white balance on the camera for the cool white emitters (to minimize tint differences), but daylight white balance was used for the neutral white ST5.
Let’s start with un-diffused white beams.
The H15S gives a pattern similar to the H15, as you would expect – but with much greater max output now. There's a good balance of throw to spill. For the comparators, note that lights that use an optic (e.g., the Petzl Tikka XP2, or my SSC-modded Tikka XP) tend to have a narrower beam profile with less spill. They also sometimes have color distortions in the beam.
You'll note the H15S diffuser cover flips open higher than the original H15 (i.e., it is not catching part of the spill, as before). This means that you no longer have the "shadow" over the top of the spillbeam like you did on the H15.
Now let's see what happens with included diffuser in place on all of the above lights:
It's always hard to tell in these up-close white wall shots, but the H15S diffuser does a good job diffusing the beam.
To have a better idea of the beam angle coming out of the headlamp, I did some comparison shots in my original H15 review against a carpet. The beam angle doesn't look any different on the H15S, so here are those original comparisons again.
Note that you shouldn't make too much out of beam tint difference below - auto white balance was again used, but with different lights combined. This is really just to show you the beam angles.
Keep in mind, the new H15S is much brighter on Hi than the old H15 – but the relative beam pattern hasn't really changed. Just imagine more output in the carpet shots above to get the idea.
All my output numbers are relative for my home-made light box setup, as described on my flashlightreviews.ca website. You can directly compare all my relative output values from different reviews - i.e. an output value of "10" in one graph is the same as "10" in another. All runtimes are done under a cooling fan, except for any extended run Lo/Min modes (i.e. >12 hours) which are done without cooling.
I have devised a method for converting my lightbox relative output values (ROV) to estimated Lumens. See my How to convert Selfbuilt's Lightbox values to Lumens thread for more info.
Throw/Output Summary Chart:
My summary tables are reported in a manner consistent with the ANSI FL-1 standard for flashlight testing. Please see http://www.flashlightreviews.ca/FL1.htm for a discussion, and a description of all the terms used in these tables. Effective July 2012, I have updated all my Peak Intensity/Beam Distance measures with a NIST-certified Extech EA31 lightmeter (orange highlights).
The H15S has basically the same output on the bundled Li-ion battery pack as on 4xAAA (more or less, scroll down for lumen estimates). Max output has clearly increased from the original H15 – as has the corresponding peak intensity/beam distance.
Olight output and throw specs for this light thus seem fairly accurate in my testing. Note there is a significant step-down on Hi after 5 mins of continuous runtime.
To start, here is a comparison of various battery sources on the H15S:
Consistent with my output measures, there is little difference in initial output on Hi on all supported batteries. There is a significant step-down after 5 mins on Hi (also consistent on all batteries).
Where things vary a bit is on the Med level, where my Li-ion battery pack was slightly brighter than 4xAAA. Otherwise, you can consider all battery sources to be consistent in output.
In terms of runtime, there is clear improvement on Hi of moving from alkaline, to NiMH, to Li-ion rechargeable. This is as you would expect (i.e., Li-ions do a lot better under higher current drains than alkaline). On Med, the NiMH and Li-ions look pretty similar, suggesting there is not much of an advantage to the Li-ion cell here (except for the lower weight, of course, and ease of recharge).
Let's see how it does stacked up against some of the competition:
The H15S clearly has a lot more initial output on Hi than the original H15 – but it rapidly steps-down to a comparable output level. This initial burst of high output means even with the new emitter, the H15S has slightly lower overall runtime on Hi than the original H15.
Of course, one advantage the H15S is a proper Med mode now (i.e., the original H15 was Hi and Lo only, no Med). You can see that output/runtime efficiency on the H15S Med mode is excellent, across all battery types.
You can also see that the 1200mAh battery in the H15S is capable of providing longer runtimes than 750mAh rated RCR or 14500 in my earlier XP-E and XM-L lights.
The motion-activated wave feature still takes a certain amount of getting used to, although it is much improved from the earlier H15 (thanks mainly to a simplified interface on the H15S). Sensitivity seems improved, but this feature is really best suited for outdoor use. In cramped quarters, the light can still be turned off by simply passing too close to a door jam, cabinet door, counter-top, etc. Indoors, you are likely to want to temporarily lock-out the wave feature.
There is no mode memory (accept during the wave-controlled standby-off), and the light always defaults to Hi upon main button activation.
The light uses a separate battery compartment connected to the headlamp by a coiled cable.
Due to the electronic switches, a standby current will always be required when batteries are installed. I have not measured this current, however.
All headlights that use a plastic battery carrier typically have limitations in terms of waterproofness and durability. But the design of the H15S seems acceptable for the rated IPX-6.
As I noted in my original H15 review, the headlamp space is a new lighting field for Olight. I am starting to see this more and more, as mainstream flashlight manufacturers move into the headlamp space (which was previously the domain of a select group of dedicated makers).
As is the case with many initial forays into new fields, there are bound to be some learning pains. The H15S is very much a second generation product, and one that I think it is better suited to general headlamp use. That said, there are still few quirks to be considered. But headlamps are a tricky space - it is probably impossible to have one design that pleases everyone. I personally have gone through quite a few different models over the years – and continue to keep several models around for use in different situations and for different purposes.
Physically, the H15S is similar to the original H15. Separate battery pack designs (with all-plastic construction) will not be uniformly popular. But Olight has smartly included a Li-ion battery source while maintaining general compatibility with 4xAAA. Like the H15S before, the physical build seems decent - tension on the battery pack bracket cover is good (although it can be fussy to seat and lock in place), and there is an o-ring in there for water resistance. And there a few head tweaks as well – the diffuser hinge now flips the diffuser a little higher up, preventing it from blocking part of the spillbeam path.
The motion control "wave" interface remains the most novel feature of the H15 series. I find this to be improved – not so much for sensitivity (which seems mildly better), but for a more intuitive interface. Of course, part of that has been achieved by ditching the front red LEDs modes, simplifying the options (i.e., the light now uses IR leds). But I am glad to see Olight respond to my suggestion to add a proper Medium mode. And the separate control switch on the battery carrier was never particularly helpful for me anyway – although some may miss the red light on the carrier (i.e., was good when riding a bike to help show your presence from behind).
As before, I have found the wave feature interesting, but of limited use indoors in cramped environments (e.g., under a sink, or changing a light fixture). At least you no longer have the complicated double-wave requirement to switch modes. The greatly simplified user interface on the H15S is much easier to use, and welcomed by this reviewer.
The beam pattern remains quite good, in keeping with the reflectored nature of this headlamp. The diffuser also does a good job spreading out the beam for up-close work. Note that max output has been greatly increased on the H15S compared to the H15 – but there is a timed step-down feature that quickly drops you a level that is close to the previous H15's Hi mode. Output/runtime efficiency seems quite good on all levels, and the Olight ANSI FL-1 specs seem accurate for output, runtime and beam intensity/distance as before.
A really nice touch is the inclusion of a Li-ion battery and USB charging cable – while still maintaining support for 4xAAA. The Li-ion battery has half the weight of 4xAAA, with at least as good runtime performance and regulation as NiMH (and even better on Hi).
On the whole, the H15S is definitely a much improved product over the H15. All I really miss from that earlier model is the front facing red LEDs. Hopefully this review was able to give you enough information to decide for yourself if it is a fit for you.
H15S was supplied by Olight for review.