The Fenix HP11 - a Review in Four Parts

subwoofer

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For me, headlamps have to be one of the most useful sources of light; I would not be without one. As it happens, I have quite a few and this number has recently increased by one with the Fenix HP11, which arrived a couple of weeks ago.

In this review I will give my initial impressions along with some measured output figures and then look at how it has performed for me.


PART 1 – Initial Impressions:

The HP11 is Fenix's most powerful and latest headlamp. Compared to the completely self contained headlamps I am used to, the HP11 is a step up in performance and runtime with its separate battery box.

When running on Turbo the HP11 is very bright and its hotspot can be blinding, creating a limited field of view at close distances. Because of this, and the problem with the standard diffuser (as described in parts 2 and 3) my initial impressions were disappointing, however, with further use I have found the HP11 to be a very useful and versatile headlamp.


What is in the box:

The well presented Fenix box

FenixHP11-boxed.jpg


The plastic carrier tray out of the outer sleeve

FenixHP11-box-contents.jpg



The HP11 parts out of the box (Headlamp with battery box, straps, cable clips and diffuser)

FenixHP11-box-contents2.jpg


Detail of the top strap buckle which allows the band to be passed through the gap in the central bar.

FenixHP11-strap.jpg




The rear of the lamp and battery box, also showing that like the top strap, there are angled gaps in the band fixing points.

FenixHP11-back.jpg



The English side of the instruction leaflet (click to get a bigger image)




Putting it together:

As shown above, the headlamp arrives with the straps not attached. Although not very complicated, it was a bit fiddly to assemble, and the instruction leaflet does not take you through any steps and all I had to go on was the one photo of it assembled on the leaflet.

Having read a report from one user that the top strap was way too small, I looked at this carefully and found that this strap needs to be reconfigured before attaching it, but this is not mentioned anywhere in the instructions. After reconfiguring it, the top strap is the right length. The main headband did not need to be reconfigured, only fitted to the lamp and battery box and the cable clips fitted.

The fact that the torch comes unassembled is a bit of a pain, but then again, it does mean you have to learn how to put it together and can then remove the strap to wash it.

The way it all fits together also means that only the strap itself is in contact with your head, so after using it for a while the strap can be removed and washed clean, and is comfortable to wear (unlike some manufacturers who make headbands with bits of hard rubber sticking into your forehead).


Fully assembled lamp

FenixHP11-full1.jpg


Battery box opened (by unscrewing the knob on the side of the box).



FenixHP11-batterybox.jpg



Overall quality is very good and it feels like it will survive pretty hard use, though I do wonder how tough the plastic fixing points are for the bands.


The LED is well centred.

FenixHP11-emitter.jpg




The buttons are partially covered when the torch is in its most closed position. This seemed very odd at first, but would provide a degree of protection from accidental switching on of the light if carried in a bag. You have to angle the lamp by one click position to access the buttons.

FenixHP11-button.jpg




Modes and User Interface:

The HP11 has two electronic click switches with the left one (when wearing it) turning it on and off, and the right one changing modes. The output modes are Low, Medium, High, Turbo and when accessing the hidden flash modes (by double clicking the power button) an automatically cycling strobe which alternates between a 15 Hz and 2Hz strobe, a slow strobe and an SOS. Turning it on and off again clears the strobe, so in normal use you never accidentally get to the strobe.

For a right handed person, this seems to work very well as when you reach up the on/off button falls under your finger tip easily, with the mode button needing a slight adjustment to find. As you are more likely to use a single mode most this works well.

The use of a separate mode-changing makes this light really easy to use, always coming on in the last used mode (apart from strobe). You might however accidentally change modes if you press the wrong button.


Size comparison:

Due to complications of photographing myself wearing the HP11, I enlisted the help of a Baloon-Head that was inflated to roughly the same size as my own head.

FenixHP11-mounted.jpg


FenixHP11-mounted2.jpg



And from above

FenixHP11-mounted-top.jpg



For reference here is a Zebralight H51

ZebralightH51.jpg



and Ultrafire H3 (18650 powered)

UltrafireH3.jpg




Batteries and output:

The recommended power source for the HP11 is a set of high performance NiMH batteries but it will work with alkalines. I have been using a set of eneloops as my preference is for rechargeable batteries.

There have been some comments on this headlamp not taking certain batteries. I can confirm that inside the battery box there are some plastic braces which mean that if the batteries you use do not have a button sticking out, they would not make contact with the terminal (unless you cut away the plastic). In practical use, I have never seen this for AAs (only some types of Li-ion) and the eneloops I used had plenty of clearance and made good contact. Normal AA batteries should have no problems making contact.

When loaded with Eneloops the HP11 weighs 290 grams.

Indoors and just sitting on a table, the front of the lamp gets pretty warm after 15 minutes on Turbo, but never too hot to touch. Once it has reached this temperature it stays stable at that temperature and doesn’t get any hotter. (It reached 53 Degrees Celsius when running on Turbo and as a comparison, the Fenix TK45 gets to 49 degrees)

None of the parts in contact with the users head get hot.

The instructions have a confusing comment which I suspect has been copied from another torch's instructions incorrectly. It advises unscrewing the lamp head to avoid parasitic drain. I have applied reasonable force (and being 188cm tall and 100Kg in weight, is quite a lot of force) and the head would not unscrew. I did not feel applying any extra force would be good for the HP11 so think this must be a mistake in the instructions.



PART 2 – In The Lab

As in a previous review of the TK21, I decided to try and quantify the actual beam profile. There are probably many flaws in my method, but it is simple and easy to carry out and seems to provide a good enough comparison.

The method used was to put the light on the edge of a table 1m from a wall, with a tape measure on the wall. The zero of the scale is placed in the centre of the hotspot and a lux meter is then positioned at points along the scale, with the measurements recorded. Beam shots are often taken with the light shining on a flat white wall, so this method is simply measuring the actual intensity across the beam on a flat surface, not the spherical light emission.

The results are then plotted on a graph.

For the best throw you want to see a sharp peak with less of the distracting spill. For the best flood light the trace should be pretty flat.

The HP 11 comes with an optional diffuser which changes the beam profile considerably. Unfortunately its design means that the user is blinded as the edge of the diffuser glows brightly in your peripheral vision which has made it unusable for me.


HP11beamintensityprofile.jpg



Taking this a little further, I calculated an approximate factor to apply to the lux measurements, as each measurement gets further from the centre of the beam, it corresponds to a larger area onto which the light is falling. It seems to me that this should also be taken into consideration, so I applied these area corrections and came up with this odd looking graph.

The key quantity here is the area under the graph line. This should correspond to the total light output. Here you can see the diffuser has put more light energy into the spill and widened the hotspot.

HP11AreaAdjustedbeamintensityprofile.jpg




PART 3 – The HP11's beam

My preferred use of the HP11 is without the diffuser. Here is the beam on Turbo.

HP11beam1.jpg




The HP11's diffuser is flawed in my opinion as the edge of the clear plastic diffuser lights up brightly, and due to the lamp projecting forward, the diffuser is placed into your peripheral vision. Despite the diffuser working well, it becomes blinding and I cannot use it.

Here you can see the beam with the diffuser, but also notice how brightly the lamp itself is now glowing (and lighting up the balloon-head).

HP11beam2.jpg




The diffuser is fitted, but flipped up, still catching the light strongly.

HP11beam3.jpg



The beam is very well formed and when viewed on a white wall has a minor defect on the hotspot, but you have to look for it, otherwise the beam is excellent.



PART 4 – Using the HP11

Looking at it and a few graphs doesn't tell you much about what this is like to use and how it performs in different situations. This is a heavier headlamp than I normally use, but the extra weigh is comfortable distributed thanks to the separate battery box, making it very comfortable and even with the strap not being very tight it feels secure and has never felt it would come off even when bending over to pick things up from the ground.

The instructions list cycling, searching and caving as potential uses and the marketing material adds camping, hiking and fishing.

Most caving lights are fully waterproof (IP-X8) but the HP11 is only IP-X6, so this may limit its use in more extreme caving where you need to be able to submerge it.

The output is impressive and the fact it will do up to four hours on turbo also impressive. The turbo output would probably be excellent for caving as it has a good throw (see beamshots below) and enough spill to see your way, but I'll leave further comment on that to a real caver.

Primarily configured as a thrower and, especially on higher outputs, it does not work well at shorter distances, however if you keep it on low or medium, the brightness of the hotspot is far less of a bother, and in fact I have found myself using the HP11 on medium most of the time. If the diffuser was redesigned with the edge of the clear plastic part covered with opaque plastic (see comments below) this would work really well. I'll see if I can DIY this and post an update.

The angle is adjusted with click stops which are positive and well spaced and I have always been able to find the right angle for closer or more distant use.

For camping, hiking and fishing, this light will work very well, as none of these need specific headwear. The output settings are well spaced and very useful and I would imagine that once you have played with turbo for a bit that it will be one of the least used outputs, only coming into play occasionally. Don't get me wrong though, that maximum output is very useful to have on tap.

As I religiously wear a cycling helmet (and mine has a visor), the HP11 has not worked for this purpose as it does not fit securely onto my helmet, however, if you don't wear a helmet it certainly has the power to be a great cycling light.

My other headlamps are smaller and lighter (though less powerful and shorter run time), but their size makes them easy to pocket for intermittent use. The HP11 is much bigger and heavier and is something you would tend to put on for extended periods.

On the higher outputs you start to become aware of the beam of light projecting from your forehead. The tight hotspot means you see a narrow column of light projecting forwards, which is quite good fun :) and a characteristic none of my other headlights have ever exhibited.

I'm going to keep on using the HP11 and update post 2 of this thread once I have some more comments to add....

(Note: this light was supplied by Fenix for review)
 
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subwoofer

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OK a few updates:

I've tried the Sharpie colouring in of the edge of the diffuser to reduce the glare and although it does indeed take the edge off, it is still not good enough for my eyes. Also, by using black, the light trying to get out of the edge of the diffuser is wasted. My next attempt will be to remove the black with meths, and then use white correction fluid to cover the edges (and then use the Sharpie to colour them black afterwards) so that the light will hopefully be reflected back into the diffuser and be of some use. The correction fluid also should be opaque so block the annoying glare from the diffuser.

I've also been abusing some eneloops:-

As far as battery configuration goes, they appear to be in series as it is not possible to remove any battery and still run the light. This means that inevitably one of the four will run out of power first, and the remaining three will still push power through it. So far the light has refused to run out. I lost turbo, then high, then medium, and now it doesn't even output the low setting, but it is still on. This very dim output has been running for hours (sorry haven't kept count), but I must be running one of those batteries very very low. Not sure how long to keep abusing the batteries, but the main message here is that despite being current controlled, this light won't leave you in the lurch as it just seems to keep running even if it is getting very low.
 
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LittleBill

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although i see what you mean about the diffuser lighting up when in use. to say its unusable is a stretch in my book. i have used the light over 12 hours in the dark. with the diffuser down the whole time. running wire in a completely un-lit basement. using between med-high. never once felt blinded..
 

vali

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About IPX ratings, higher number not always means "better". Just check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IP_Code. According to this, IPX6 means it is protected agains high pressure water, whereas IPX8 means it can be submerged more than 1m. Most of manufacturers only quote IPX8 without a specifit depth. It can be 1.001 m (less pressure than IPX6).
 

kevinm

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For caving you want the IPX8 as you are likely you run into submersion, rather than little jet nozzles spraying water. Also, the slow leak of air out (and water in) is usually harder to prevent, most of the time.

That written, interesting point, Vali. I have never seen a headlamp or flashlight with the rating IPX6/IPX8, which according to the source from Wikipedia would mean it has both ratings.


Nice review!

Kevin
 
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Beacon of Light

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Thanks for the review, but I prefer the simplicity of Zebralights. They are just smart with minimal bulk and wires and battery packs. Heck on low I bet the runtime is greater with a H31/H51 (with 1xAA or 1xCR123/1xRCR123) than this Fenix H11 on low (with 4xAAs).
 

peterharvey73

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Thanks for the very good review, photographs and graphs - you put a fair bit of time and effort into this Subwoofer...
 

Beacon of Light

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The H51 on low 384 hours on 1 AA.

Fenix H11 on low 206 hours with 4xAAs which would make super efficient use of that many AAs in series.

Even the H51 on the other low (2.2lumens) is 72 hours. If you just multiply that by 4 you get 288 hours, and if you factor an efficiency factor of an extra 35% to that for being in series, you'd get 388.8 hours!!!

For me, I'll stick with the Zebralight. Nothing to see here...
 

subwoofer

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although i see what you mean about the diffuser lighting up when in use. to say its unusable is a stretch in my book. i have used the light over 12 hours in the dark. with the diffuser down the whole time. running wire in a completely un-lit basement. using between med-high. never once felt blinded..

I did say that for me it was unusable, as the bright edge of the diffuser stabs at my hyper-sensitive eyes. I also went on to say that I have been using it happily without the diffuser. The photo shows how bright it is so people can make their minds up. I will be modifying the diffuser before using it again, you are lucky if you don't need to.


About IPX ratings, higher number not always means "better". Just check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IP_Code. According to this, IPX6 means it is protected agains high pressure water, whereas IPX8 means it can be submerged more than 1m. Most of manufacturers only quote IPX8 without a specifit depth. It can be 1.001 m (less pressure than IPX6).

The IP ratings are an incrementally increasing scale with the higher ratings implying passing the lower ones, otherwise, if this could not be inferred, you would see all items with IP ratings quoting the lower ones as well (as commented on by kevinm). Wikipedia, by the way, is not the 'Font of all Knowledge'; it is a collection of submitted articles by well, or poorly, informed people. Useful, but not definitive.


The H51 on low 384 hours on 1 AA.

Fenix H11 on low 206 hours with 4xAAs which would make super efficient use of that many AAs in series.

Even the H51 on the other low (2.2lumens) is 72 hours. If you just multiply that by 4 you get 288 hours, and if you factor an efficiency factor of an extra 35% to that for being in series, you'd get 388.8 hours!!!

For me, I'll stick with the Zebralight. Nothing to see here...

If zebralight works for you, then great, but there is still something to see, even if it just allows you to decide it is not for you.

Long runtime without changing batteries, very high maximum output which can run for four hours. Very simple interface allowing you to easily stick with the output you like or just as easily change it. (the Zebralights I have come on either moon mode or high and not low or mid without holding the button or double clicking, so if you like low or mid, the HP11 makes it easier to use these).

I'm not selling these, but it is horses for courses, it may not suit you, but it will suit some. It is nice to feel your support for all the effort that goes into doing a review like this.


Thanks for the very good review, photographs and graphs - you put a fair bit of time and effort into this Subwoofer...

Thanks for noticing. Yes a lot of time and effort goes into a review (this one has probably taken a total of 24 hours of work to plan, test, photograph and write up). Some of the other reviewers on CPF post up the most amazing runtime/voltage/output information which makes my simple graphs look very basic, but these are the only tools I have, so I try to do the best I can.

I know how much I appreciate a well rounded review when I am choosing a new torch, so wanted to share my own findings if it can help someone else with their choice.
 
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Father Azmodius

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A quick fix for the diffuser issue is to take a sharpie to the outer edge. I work nights for everyone's favorite phone company, in varying light and environmental conditions and this light works well. Two of my coworkers have liked mine so much they now have their own.
 

robostudent5000

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Thanks for the review, but I prefer the simplicity of Zebralights. They are just smart with minimal bulk and wires and battery packs. Heck on low I bet the runtime is greater with a H31/H51 (with 1xAA or 1xCR123/1xRCR123) than this Fenix H11 on low (with 4xAAs).
The H51 on low 384 hours on 1 AA.

Fenix H11 on low 206 hours with 4xAAs which would make super efficient use of that many AAs in series.

Even the H51 on the other low (2.2lumens) is 72 hours. If you just multiply that by 4 you get 288 hours, and if you factor an efficiency factor of an extra 35% to that for being in series, you'd get 388.8 hours!!!

For me, I'll stick with the Zebralight. Nothing to see here...

yeah, because people buying the HP11 are looking for something small, will only use the low mode, and really, really care about low mode efficiency. yeah!

:shakehead
 

vali

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The IP ratings are an incrementally increasing scale with the higher ratings implying passing the lower ones, otherwise, if this could not be inferred, you would see all items with IP ratings quoting the lower ones as well (as commented on by kevinm). Wikipedia, by the way, is not the 'Font of all Knowledge'; it is a collection of submitted articles by well, or poorly, informed people. Useful, but not definitive.

Forget about wikipedia... just search in google about "IPX rating" and choose any of the first hundred of links. Almost all of them say literally the same thing.

Correct me if I am wrong, but the pressure generated for the IPX6 stream of water is higher than dunking the light a meter.
 

kevinm

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The IP ratings are an incrementally increasing scale with the higher ratings implying passing the lower ones, otherwise, if this could not be inferred, you would see all items with IP ratings quoting the lower ones as well (as commented on by kevinm). Wikipedia, by the way, is not the 'Font of all Knowledge'; it is a collection of submitted articles by well, or poorly, informed people. Useful, but not definitive.

I thought the same thing, so I read the whole article cited as the source for the Wikipedia page. Near the bottom of the source article it mentions that the 5/6 and 7/8 ratings are independent. My guess is that IPX8 USUALLY implies IPX6, but I could concoct a case where that wasn't true (maybe a sealed plastic ball that is waterproof to 1m, but whose walls are thin enough that the jets would burst it).

I agree, Wikipedia should be taken with a grain of salt. Some stuff on there is just wrong (some of the history stuff for example), while the differential geometry is dead on. I tell my students that it's a great place to find primary sources, but you should never believe it directly!

Kevin
 

subwoofer

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Although I could discuss the details of IP ratings more:

I'm re-reading my review and I said that, as the HP11 is rated IPX6, not IPX8, it may not be suitable for full immersion as a caver might need. Why are we talking about the exact details of IP rating? The HP11 is rated IPX6 not IPX8, so, as stated, is not rated for full immersion.

What was the point you were making?
 

Beacon of Light

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I can't imagine in 2011 people are going out of their way wanting big bulky headlamps like this when there are efficient 1 cell lights. I could see if there was a runtime benefit that having a huge 4 cellpack hanging on the back of my headband digging into the back of my head and strands of wires hanging around and then a third top strap making me feel like a cyborg would have but as I posted there is no runtime benefit over something like a Zebralight. By the end of this month Zebralight will be offering the H600 a 1x18650 cell with runtime of 1920 hours or 80days!!!!! 500 lumens for 2.1 hours, 330 lumens for 3 hours and 200 lumens for 6 hours all on 1 cell (18650) and no weird battery packs and no tangling wires or bulky top head strap.

yeah, because people buying the HP11 are looking for something small, will only use the low mode, and really, really care about low mode efficiency. yeah!

:shakehead
 

robostudent5000

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I can't imagine in 2011 people are going out of their way wanting big bulky headlamps like this when there are efficient 1 cell lights. I could see if there was a runtime benefit that having a huge 4 cellpack hanging on the back of my headband digging into the back of my head and strands of wires hanging around and then a third top strap making me feel like a cyborg would have but as I posted there is no runtime benefit over something like a Zebralight. By the end of this month Zebralight will be offering the H600 a 1x18650 cell with runtime of 1920 hours or 80days!!!!! 500 lumens for 2.1 hours, 330 lumens for 3 hours and 200 lumens for 6 hours all on 1 cell (18650) and no weird battery packs and no tangling wires or bulky top head strap.

i'm sorry your imagination sucks as bad as it does. some people actually do need a headlamp that can run 130 lumens for 8+ hours, has good throw, and runs on easy to find batteries.

and even if there weren't, you should still have enough consideration for the reviewer who took the time and the effort to write the review for the benefit of the community to not simply dismiss the product that he reviewed as being irrelevant.
 
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arizona1

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Thanks for the great review, I bought one before i was able to read a review such as yours but its still a great look at the hp11.
 

arizona1

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If anyone is interested in the comparison of tint in the hp10 versus the hp11... the hp11 is a warmer tint (this is really only because of the pretty blue light of the hp10)... i was defiantly curious about this because i already had the hp10 before i bought the hp11 and wanted to know how they compared in that regard.
 
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