Review: Fenix HL12R

Rekkie

Newly Enlightened
Joined
Oct 14, 2010
Messages
53
Disclaimer: The Fenix HL12R was provided for review free of charge from Fenix HQ.

Quick mention for those who haven't read any of my reviews yet; I'm a runner, mostly, but I basically do anything that involves me and the outdoors. I'm the most critical and picky about a headlamp when I'm running, so bear that in mind. I try to focus on is user experience and the things that you wouldn't necessary get unless you have firsthand experience with a light. Although I'm as a flashaholic as anybody else, I don't have access to specialized equipment or have in-depth technical knowledge on everything, so I leave that to the guys who do. And although I'd like to cover everything, it would make for an unnecessary long article.

As most of the headlamps I use is meant for looong excursions and are hence on the Â"heavyÂ" side, I was eager to try out a smaller form factor headlamp agian. Ever since I broke my NU20 my headlamp arsenal was missing a piece. And I must say, the HL12R filled the gap quite nicely.

So, the Fenix HL12R:

Some quick manufacturerÂ's specs:
  • 400 Lumen Maximum brightness from 1x Cree XP-G2 LED (6 modes; 5 Constant, 1 SOS)
  • 1x Red LED (Constant and flashing
  • IP66 rated (in real world terms: it'll hold up in severe rainstorms & accidental submersion, don't go swimming with it)
  • Aluminium & plastic body
  • Built-in USB-rechargeable 1000mah Lipo battery a "Fuel gauge" & on-the-go charging
  • Dual switch operation
  • Lightweight @ 73.3 grams
  • 2 years Free repair & limited lifetime warranty

LetÂ's look at what you get:
  • The box
  • The headlamp with built in Li-Po battery and the headband (silicon interweaved)
  • User manual
  • A USB cable
  • Warranty Card

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First impressions: the high build quality, the body is well constructed, the switches have a nice Â"click" to them and are easily located. The size and weight of the headlamp is what really caught my attention. I often head out the door late for my afternoon run and hence run the last 30-60min in the dark. Having a headlamp that I can stuff in my short's pocket and forget about until I need it is a big draw for me.

The headlamp's tilt ratchet is nice and stiff, yet easily adjusts and doesn't drop from a quick jolt when you run. The front panel of the headlamp is made form anodized Aluminium, thus getting rid of the LED's heat efficiently. Water/dust seal on the USB charging port keeps the port clean and dry.
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So out the box: the battery came somewhat pre-charged but I gave it a charge to top it off nonetheless. You have to attach the strap yourself, which although fun to do, can be a bit troublesome if you have 10 thumbs. And if you're like me and too hasty (and excited) and don't pay attention you attach it up-side-down. (A little more on the strap later…)
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It didn't take long to memorize and get used to the user interface which I think is a big positive. Last you want to do it go: "uhm, is it a long press or a double click again?" and then press and click yourself into a disco, especially if you're running. Only thing is to remember which switch operates what set of modes, which you quickly get right as you'll be using the main LED 90% of the time anyways.

Speaking of User Interface, customary to all my reviews: a diagram to explain the operation:
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Now, the Beam(s):

The TIR Optics produce quite a narrow, bright hotspot with a clear edge and a fairly wide spill. The beam does have some rings noticeable on the edge of the spill, similar to some reflectors. At first I was a bit concerned, thinking it would give too much of a narrow beam and not enough spill, boy was I surprised. Modes are also nicely spaced, and the Burst mode is a true "burst mode", ie. it kicks out triple the light than High mode. Often you I found headlamps state a "Turbo" or "burst mode" and then it appears to be only 10-20% brighter than the high mode. The HL12R I feel holds true to what I believe a Burst mode should really be.

Now for some Beamshots….FYI, the end of the fence is 68m away:

Control:
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Burst Mode – 400 Lumens (1Hour):
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High Mode – 130 Lumens (8Hours), My preferred running mode:
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Medium Mode – 70 Lumens (13 Hours), The use-for-anything mode:
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Low Mode – 30 Lumens (33 Hours), a dimmer use-for-everything mode:
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Eco Mode – 4 Lumens (40Hours), dinging in a tent, backpack or stalking the fridge mode:
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Red LED – 1 Lumen (40 Hours):
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Although the beam pattern is quite pleasant, every time I ran with the headlamp, both on the Road and Trail, I wished the hotspot could've been just a little bit wider. The hotspot was just a bit too defined to my liking, but I'm being petty, so take that comment with a pinch of salt. On the flip side, it gives you enough light some distance ahead of you which is nice, especially when you're blazing down a trail so not too much to complain about.

Comfort factor:

Now I've used headlamp bands before with a silicone Strip bonded to it, intended to channel sweat away from your eyes. They don't work, and that silicon strip is almost always too thick and thus digs into your forehead, becoming painful not long after. The interwoven strands of Silicon on the Fenix headband is just brilliant, and wow does that headband grip, even when soaking wet. Because the silicon strands on the headband is so thin, it blends into the band, not protruding at all and thus not digging into your skin. Now why you ask am I so excited about a headband?? Well, because this headband grips so well I can wear it with barely any tension in the strap, which means no headache after hours of use. Granted you do have to have some tension in the strap, but it's so minimal that you almost worry it's going to slip, yet it doesn't. Now I've been running with this headlamp for a little over 2 weeks now and never once did I feel the need to tighten the strap. Well done Fenix, well done!!:twothumbs

Close up of the Silicone strands woven into the strap:
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Ultimately any light, no matter how brilliant, will have some negatives to it. And I point this out because I like my reviews to be completely unbiased.
The Runtimes; Upon reading the runtime chart I was very excited; I mean 8hours of 130Lumens is almost usable for a whole night of running. But then I spotted the graph on the back of the box and NoooooooÂ…! Fenix programmed the headlamp to step down/decrease output as the battery drains, turning that wonderful 8hour runtime into a 2hour usable runtime. Come on!!
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I'd rather have the headlamp run at 130lumens till say 85% of the battery's capacity, and then have a reserve of 4 Lumens (Eco Mode) or whatever. Now I can understand stepping down the brightness by a small margin to increase the runtime a bit, but more than half?? NO, just no. This isn't just on the High mode, it's every mode except Eco. Bummer. Also, although you're able to charge the headlamp while in use, during charging, you can only use Low Mode, ONLY Low mode, No red LED, no SOS mode, Just Low Mode.


So in conclusion:
The Fenix HL12R is really nifty little headlamp. Although I used it for running mostly, I won't hesitate to take it camping, hiking, fishing etc. It's small and light enough that I'll even consider packing it as a back-up headlamp for my long excursions. USB rechargeable means easily rechargeable via your PC/Laptop, wall charger or power bank. It provides a really good beam pattern for any outdoor activity, you just have to get used to the defined hotspot, unless thaÂ's what you want, each to his own. The Silicone interwoven band is just phenomenal, I want to replace all my headlamp's bands with this one! The user interface is easy to get used to and the red LED and Fuel Gauge (battery level indicator) is a handy addition. Only downside to me is the runtimes, I mean if you tell me 8hours @ 130Lumens, the give 8hours, not 2hours then step it down. I'd rather want the full 130Lumens till the battery is flat and then recharge it.
So that being said, I'm more than happy to throw this headlamp into my rotation. It fills the gap perfectly for my use (mostly running that is) thanks to its compactness, lightweight and brightness, as +/-100Lumen is perfect for most types running I found.

Also feel free to check out the HL12R's bigger brothers, the HL30R and the HL40R.
 

colight

Enlightened
Joined
Dec 6, 2013
Messages
304
Location
On Earth
Well Rekkie, thanks for this well thought-out review from a user! These are always some of the best reviews IMHO! I may even consider getting one of these myself.
 

zespectre

Flashlight Enthusiast
Joined
May 21, 2005
Messages
2,197
Location
Lost in NY
Nice review. Thanks for sharing it. I've forwarded it to my Father in Law who is also a runner and was just asking about headlamps. (how about that timing)
 

Rekkie

Newly Enlightened
Joined
Oct 14, 2010
Messages
53
Thanks! I just lend this one out to a fellow runner doing her first Ultra in 4 weeks time. Perfect for that first 2 hours of the start of the race. And by the looks of things I'm going to have a hard time getting it back.
 

Spades45

Newly Enlightened
Joined
Aug 5, 2015
Messages
9
GREAT review, going to purchase one. Just haven't decided on this one or the hl30r yet :)

Now I've used headlamp bands before with a silicone Strip bonded to it, intended to channel sweat away from your eyes. They don't work, and that silicon strip is almost always too thick and thus digs into your forehead, becoming painful not long after. The interwoven strands of Silicon on the Fenix headband is just brilliant, and wow does that headband grip, even when soaking wet. Because the silicon strands on the headband is so thin, it blends into the band, not protruding at all and thus not digging into your skin. Now why you ask am I so excited about a headband?? Well, because this headband grips so well I can wear it with barely any tension in the strap, which means no headache after hours of use. Granted you do have to have some tension in the strap, but it's so minimal that you almost worry it's going to slip, yet it doesn't. Now I've been running with this headlamp for a little over 2 weeks now and never once did I feel the need to tighten the strap. Well done Fenix, well done!!:twothumbs

Fenix if you're reading this... sell the headbands separately!!
 

Hooked on Fenix

Flashlight Enthusiast
Joined
Dec 13, 2007
Messages
3,346
I wonder if the stepdown on the higher settings is merely timer based. Can you test those settings again, but at the stepdown turn the light off, then on again to see if it goes back to full regulated brightness for another 2 hours at a time? If it works, we get full regulation as long as possible with the stepdown as just a power saving feature that can be bypassed. I have to do this with the Nitecore NU10 every 45 minutes on high so it's not that big of a deal if that's the case.
 

Rekkie

Newly Enlightened
Joined
Oct 14, 2010
Messages
53
I wonder if the stepdown on the higher settings is merely timer based. Can you test those settings again, but at the stepdown turn the light off, then on again to see if it goes back to full regulated brightness for another 2 hours at a time? If it works, we get full regulation as long as possible with the stepdown as just a power saving feature that can be bypassed. I have to do this with the Nitecore NU10 every 45 minutes on high so it's not that big of a deal if that's the case.

Sorry, completely forgot...almost. Switching off and on again after the 2hour step down seems to reset it, so you'll be back to the full ~130lumens. Assuming the battery will last the next full 2hours.
 
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