Mega Buck High End Headlamps vs Budget Headlamps

OttaMattaPia

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Is the difference really worth the big bucks for the high end ones?

Why?

I have 4 or 5 that I've had for going on 5 years of HARD daily use including car repairs, intricate electronics work, chores, house work etc.
All were under $30 and put out more than enough light.

What would I get for a $1000 headlamp that I don't get from those? Gold plated bezels ?
 

Hooked on Fenix

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Many cheap headlights run on 3aaa batteries. You might get up to 500 lumens+, but it'll be mere seconds before the light dims down significantly. Some cheap ones might be in the 100-300 lumen range and you might get a useful amount of time on high for some tasks before the light dims down. If that's good enough for you, you can stay with what works. However, alkaline batteries frequently leak so you might have to buy a new light when they ruin it. Alkalines also don't work well in the cold or in high drain devices, so you may spend a lot more on batteries if you need the light on bright settings or work in the cold. Cheap headlights also tend to go cheap on waterproofing, yet still advertise that they are even if only rated at IPX4. You want IPX7 or 8. Basically, a cheap light will dim when you need it bright, work lousy in the cold, break when dropped, and fail in the rain. What you get from a good light is reliability. A good 18650 li-ion powered light will last several times longer than 3aaas, be regulated so it stays bright, also work with 2 123A lithium batteries for using in the cold, be very waterproof, be metal for good heatsinking and durability, and could have built-in charging, temperature regulation so it can't overheat, built-in battery tester, and reverse polarity protection (so you don't ruin the light if you put the batteries in backwards). Contacts may be made from better materials and may even be gold plated so they don't corrode over time. A good headlight can be found for $50-$100. Some as low as $30 (Acebeam H40, Nitecore NU20), depending on your needs. I like the Nitecore HC60 v.2 ($65). Spend much more and you get a headlight that will go up to over 1500 lumens for seconds (not very useful for hands free use, but useful for routefinding and signaling). A handheld flashlight is better suited for uses at very high brightness levels.
 

Lynx_Arc

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It really depends on what your lighting needs are as personally too cheap of headlamps are less reliable and sometimes more quirky and perform sometimes less adequately. If you need a super reliable headlamp with extreme output and absolutely must have one such that your light depends on it spending more is justified but in a situation where a budget headlamp does the job just fine and if it fails it doesn't cause you severe problems then my advice is to save your money.
I think professionals and hobbyists that make their living using headlamps and must have the best available then price is less an issue than performance. Consider a Nascar driver being given the alternative choice of a Ford Focus to drive in a race to choose a budget car would be idiotic.
Typically more expensive headlamps have top notch water resistance and uber high output levels and sometimes very programmable. Mid priced headlamps often have better warranties and drivers and mode spacing and higher outputs.

I have a $30 headlamp and a $75 headlamp and some cheaper ones and both perform similarly to me. I think for your uses the $1000 headlamp is too pricey and likely the high output levels would be insanely bright and either unuseful or when used possibly temporarily blind you.
 

OttaMattaPia

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Many cheap headlights run on 3aaa batteries. You might get up to 500 lumens+, but it'll be mere seconds before the light dims down significantly. Some cheap ones might be in the 100-300 lumen range and you might get a useful amount of time on high for some tasks before the light dims down. If that's good enough for you, you can stay with what works. However, alkaline batteries frequently leak so you might have to buy a new light when they ruin it. Alkalines also don't work well in the cold or in high drain devices, so you may spend a lot more on batteries if you need the light on bright settings or work in the cold. Cheap headlights also tend to go cheap on waterproofing, yet still advertise that they are even if only rated at IPX4. You want IPX7 or 8. Basically, a cheap light will dim when you need it bright, work lousy in the cold, break when dropped, and fail in the rain. What you get from a good light is reliability. A good 18650 li-ion powered light will last several times longer than 3aaas, be regulated so it stays bright, also work with 2 123A lithium batteries for using in the cold, be very waterproof, be metal for good heatsinking and durability, and could have built-in charging, temperature regulation so it can't overheat, built-in battery tester, and reverse polarity protection (so you don't ruin the light if you put the batteries in backwards). Contacts may be made from better materials and may even be gold plated so they don't corrode over time. A good headlight can be found for $50-$100. Some as low as $30 (Acebeam H40, Nitecore NU20), depending on your needs. I like the Nitecore HC60 v.2 ($65). Spend much more and you get a headlight that will go up to over 1500 lumens for seconds (not very useful for hands free use, but useful for routefinding and signaling). A handheld flashlight is better suited for uses at very high brightness levels.

The $65 Nitecore only uses one 18650.
That would be the no go for me.

Nearly all my sub $30 headlamps use two 18650's for much greater run time.
And as far as reliability......I haven't had any problems with the sub $30 ones and they've seen HEAVY use for nearly 5 years.
As far as the water resistance.
That may be a good point.
That said, I never would wear a headlamp in the rain or wet (other than sweat). I guess it depends on your individual needs.

Good post tho.
Lots of good thoughts.
Thanks
 

Lynx_Arc

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I should have clarified.......

All my headlamps run on 2 x 18650 batteries
All mine are 1x18650 or AA/AAAs (which I don't use much now).
The issue with 2x18650 headlamps is you pretty much need an external battery pack on them and decent quality headlamps can run towards $100 and up the $30 ones likely underperform and often have cheap chinese LEDs in them that limit the output to unimpressive levels. I was working at a sight and was using my Wowtac A2S and recommended it to a guy there that didn't listen to me and ordered a cheap 2x18650 headlamp with 3 LEDs on it that looked kind of goofy and all 3 LEDs combined didn't put out as much as my single Cree XPL LED on turbo and the output was optical magnifying or moon beam which also isn't that great either (IMO).

My main issue with the 2X18650 is often the battery pack is on the back of the headband and although it is good for balancing it is lousy when you have to land down on your back with either it on a hardhat or on the headband only you end up laying on the battery pack.

The advantage I guess would be potentially higher output and runtime vs a single 18650. I typically get buy fine with the low and medium modes 85% of the time and low/high/turbo the rest of the time which extends my runtime to days without charging at times.
 

Lynx_Arc

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The $65 Nitecore only uses one 18650.
That would be the no go for me.

Nearly all my sub $30 headlamps use two 18650's for much greater run time.
And as far as reliability......I haven't had any problems with the sub $30 ones and they've seen HEAVY use for nearly 5 years.
As far as the water resistance.
That may be a good point.
That said, I never would wear a headlamp in the rain or wet (other than sweat). I guess it depends on your individual needs.

Good post tho.
Lots of good thoughts.
Thanks
I've worn mine in the rain and got it wet from water and some sweat even no way around it when you work contruction. Most decent quality headlamps are fine with water as long as you don't dunk them much.
I do know the cheap chinese LEDs and drivers are considerable less efficient with output, likely you may get only half the runtime as higher output levels and they often limit you to under 400 lumens at max as the driver and heatsink of them cannot handle more than that, higher output drivers cost more and more efficient ones also.
 
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"Hi end" headlamps are like $50 more than crap headlamps and $30 more than moderately decent headlamps. But they provide a lot of value for the few extra dollars.

Durability, efficiency, tint, color temperature, brightness range, compactness, lightweight, programmability. You get a ton for your money.

Not everyone can appreciate what you get. For those folks no reason to spend the few extra bucks.
 

Hooked on Fenix

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There are a few problems with 2 18650 lights. First, they are hard to waterproof as they have more potential water entry points. The wire can also get snagged in the bush and pulling on it can screw up a connection or two. Next, having two lithium ion batteries is more dangerous, especially unprotected cells. I don't put anything on my head that can blow it up. Last, you lose the ability to carry it easily as a flashlight if the bugs are bad and it hurts using it lying down. I'd rather have a good 1 18650 headlight with the best l.e.d., circuitry, and build quality than a 2 18650 lacking in quality. If you need more power, go to one 21700.
 

jabe1

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There's a lot to be said for single cell lights if you have to change a battery in the dark.
Color temperature and dependability are my chief concerns. The piece of mind is worth the extra expense.
Usually, they're more comfortable too.
 

OttaMattaPia

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Correct.
These types of discussions are always "YMMV".

Just because the budget headlamps work for me and my needs doesn't mean they will for another.

I guess I forgot this for a moment in the OP.
 

that nashville guy

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Have you guys seen the Sofirn HS40? About $30 including 18650 batt. 2000LM. Built-in USB-C charging and cable included. About the only thing it lacks to make it a perfect work light is magnetic tail cap.

I'm probably going to end up with one.

 
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that nashville guy

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Differences between SP40 and HS40, from Sofirn website:

The difference between SP40 and HS40:

1, SP40 with Cree XPL LED or S@msung LH351D LED while The HS40 with Luminus SST40 LED bulb

2, SP40 is 1200 lumen max. while HS40 is 2000 lumen max.

3, SP40 with 4 kinds of modes while HS40 with 8 modes & step-less Ramping

4, SP40 is 5V 1A rechargeable while the HS40 is 5V 2A rechargeable, faster charging

5, SP40 is Micro USB charging port while HS40 is Type-C charhing port

6, SP40 is one-way clip while the HS40 with Dual-way clip

7, SP40 without Strobe while HS40 with Strobe and lock-out function

8, SP40 and HS40 has different knurling on out-looking
 

sirpetr

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Is the difference really worth the big bucks for the high end ones?

Why?

I have 4 or 5 that I've had for going on 5 years of HARD daily use including car repairs, intricate electronics work, chores, house work etc.
All were under $30 and put out more than enough light.

What would I get for a $1000 headlamp that I don't get from those? Gold plated bezels ?
Hi, I am founder of my Lucifer headlamps and I designed from scratch all of them, so I can surely tell you there are many differences! Not only prize. Its simple, If they weren´t any differences, nobody would buy them. I can tell you there are differences virtually in every aspect you choose - size, weight, life, materials, LEDs, batteries, optics and beamshapes, UI, number of modes, discharge warnings, temperature stepdown, efficiency of electronics, offstate discharging, runtimes, number of accessories, head comfort, tilting, warranty, safety, afterwarranty repair service. If you use your lamp just for camping, you probably do not need quality.

Good to mention, that more expensive light doesnt necessarily means better light for your use. Usually, more lumens needs larger batteries = higher weight.
 

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