Tuesday, November 26, 2013

NITECORE HC50 565 Lm Headlamp REVIEW

This is the first headlamp from Nitecore. Clean and practical design.Rationally projected form,entirely of aluminum.
Clear looking shape at first look,but there are a few things that are well made and help for using the light in different ways.
A wide selection of well spaced brightness modes plus secondary red light. Modes Ultra Low(1 Lm)-Low(35 Lm)-Mid(170 Lm)-High(350 Lm)-Turbo(565 Lm).

As expected from Nitecore the overall quality is quite high.
The whole construction is durable and made in highest standard. All metal-you don't have to worry for impact resistance and heat dissipation.

Nitecore HC50 comes in a nice cardboard box. In the box you will find also-Headband(of course),spare O-rings,user manual.

Technical specifications (from the User manual)
Purpose-designed for hiking, climbing, camping and general outdoor
· All metal high-performance dual-beam headlamp
· Aluminum “unibody” construction is highly rugged and provides
excellent cooling performance
· Utilizes a premium CREE XM-L2 (T6) LED
· Powered by a single 18650 lithium-ion battery for up to 565 lumens of
· High-efficiency circuit provides up to 400 hours of runtime
· A custom catoptrics-based system produces an extremely wide 100°
beam angle
· Light housing provides 90° vertical movement to eliminate illumination
· Direct access to red light mode with a runtime of up to 145 hours
· Innovative single button two-stage switch is remarkably user-friendly
· Ten rapidly switchable brightness modes to select from
· Integrated red/green power indicator light displays remaining battery
power (patented)
· Power indicator secondary function displays battery voltage accurate to
· Integrated temperature sensor and intelligent temperature control
ensure stable and safe use
· High-efficiency regulation circuit provides unwavering output
· Toughened ultra-clear mineral glass with anti-reflective coating
· Constructed from aero-grade aluminum alloy
· Rugged HAIII military grade hard-anodized
· Comfortable chafe-free and breathable nylon headband
· Waterproof in accordance with IPX-8 (two meters submersible)
· Impact resistant to 1.5 meters
· Tail stand capability

Battery Options
1x18650 (recommended) (button top)
2xCR123 (recommended)
2xRCR123 (protected 16340/RCR are too long)

Length: 86mm (3.39”)
Diameter: 32mm (1.26”)
Weight : 130g (4.59oz)(without battery)

Black,not too matt (a little glossy) finish.Excellent HA III hard anodizing,all over the body.
There are cooling fins at the front of the lamp,two red LEDs and 11mm(diameter) smooth reflector.
Clean,white labels.
The right side wall is completely flat and allows stable "tail" standing.The other(left side)with the switch also allows side standing due to the recessed switch.
The possibility of accidentally light activation is minimal.
The caps on both sides have form that provides the needed grip when removing the battery tube cap and most important-the headlamp can stay on table stably,pointed at various directions.This makes it useful not only as a headlamp.Can be used as a work light or emergency room light,etc.
The light weights 130 grams,including headband. Sounds a little too heavy,but actually there's nothing in more.The aluminum is just the right thickness and there's nothing excessive in the design. For powerful 18650 flashlight,this weight is just needed for good heat dissipation.

As I always expect from a brand like Nitecore,build quality is excellent. There's no even a single sharp edge.This is a big plus,because this is a headlamp and usually we don't see it when we use it(touch it).
Even the cooling fins have very smooth edges.Actually the smoothest I ever seen.

The headband is very good quality.Good size with enough length for different size heads.
The light holder is made of soft,elastic rubber,very nice to touch.
Attaching and detaching the light from the holder is not too hard to do and doesn't take too much time.Even that the lamp stays quite stably in the holder.

Breathable nylon headband.

The coupling rings are made of plastic.

The headlamp stays very stable and comfortable on my head.Everything is in one place.No separate batteries to worry about.

In my medium size hand.

I don't have other headlamps with similar quality,which worth it to show here and to compare their brightness and quality of light,so I will compare Nitecore HC50 to quality EDC flashlights.

Protected batteries with high capacity fit well in the tube.
Slightly greased O-ring for water-sealing.

Perfectly made rectangular-cut threads.Anodized for maximum wear resistance.Very smooth screwing.
Check out again the cooling fins-how smooth edges they have.What a care to detail.Excellent job!

The battery is placed not in the center of the tube and this requires rotating connection board.Actually when you spin the cap,the board is locked by the pin you see in the picture.The negative contact spring stays always on its place-over the negative battery end.
Lock out possible.

Battery is positioned at the back side of the headlamp body.This will protect it from too much heating.

Reverse polarity protection for the battery.Flat top batteries don't work.

Toughened ultra-clear mineral glass with anti-reflective coating.
Purple anti-reflective coating.

As a true headlamp,HC50 is made to provide to the user very wide beam,useful nearly everywhere.Very suitable for medium and close range illuminating.
Small and shallow reflector for optimal beam angle of 100 degrees.
Bigger reflector is not required here and thanks to the small size is saved space,allowing more compact body.
There are two 5mm red LEDs on both sides. Very useful low brightness for use in full darkness or for signaling.

The LED installed here is Cree XM-L2 T6,cool white. It gives beautiful clean white light. No greenish or yellowish tint.
Maximum brightness 565 lumens. Really good amount of light from a headlamp.
Peak beam intensity 1820 cd.

Short video presenting the UI and design specifics.
(turn on annotations)

User Interface

Using HC50 is easy and convenient.All modes are well spaced. The highest mode of 565 Lumens gives pretty bright light.
It's great to have low mode of 1 lumen in headlamp.Doesn't affect night vision and will not blind your friends at close distance.Don't forget and the great runtime.
There are 5 constant lighting modes+Slow flash,SOS and Beacon for the white light and 2 modes for the red light- constant and flashing.
Nitecore HC50 utilizes a two stage switch,something like an 'electronic' momentary switch and clicky switch in one place.
The switch is easy to operate with one hand.Easy to turn ON/OFF and change mode. Activating the first or second switch depends on the depth the switch is pressed.
Light press activates the first,mode changing switch.Full press(click) activates the light.
Fully press within a second to activate the last used white light mode.
Fully press(click)and hold for more than a second to activate the red light.
Mode changing is possible by short light press(without click).
For access to the hidden flashing modes just turn the light Off and ON quickly.
HC50 has memory for the last used mode which applies only for the constant white light.

I had a little problem with the switch in the beginning.When I wanted to turn it OFF,I changed firstly the mode.This happens because pressing the On/Off switch is possible after pressing the mode switch.If you press it too slowly,the light will change its mode firstly. Would be good if there was a 0,5sec signal delay on the switch for mode changing.

Turbo 565 Lumens / 1h 15min
High 350 Lumens / 2h 45min
Mid 170 Lumens / 6h 15min
Low 35 Lumens / 32h
Ultra Low 1 Lumen / 400h
Red Light 1,2 Lumens
All data by Nitecore using 2600mAh battery.

Current draw(at the battery)
My measurements
I turbo=1,9A
I high=960mA
I Mid=370mA
I low=73,5mA
I ultra low=7,1mA
I red=12,8mA

Nitecore HC50 uses a high efficient constant current driver with integrated temperature sensor.
Intelligent temperature control maintain the light in optimum condition,decreasing the brightness(current) when the light becomes too hot.
This feature makes the headlamp very safe for using for long periods of time on highest mode with no worrying about how hot it is and will it be damaged and of course this is protection for the user.
To test the temperature controlling I did two runtime tests.First was for ~130 minutes.I used a cooling fan to see how will be the light if the headlamp is used outdoor for biking,walking or hiking,where the air goes through the cooling fins and cool down the whole headlamp.
The second test was without cooling.I tested it for 20 minutes,just to see the moment of the first step down.
Ambient temperature on both tests 21C.
When the temperature reaches 55C, HC50 automatically reduces the output.When the temperature drops below 55C the light restores its output.
Brightness decreasing is slow,gradual and hard to notice it by eyes.
Battery Keeppower 3400 mAh.
U start=4,2V U end=3,2V

When the light is well cooled,it doesn't get hot and keeps its output pretty constant for about 16,5 minutes on Turbo! You can't get this from much bigger flashlights.
Without cooling HC50 gets hot and decreases its output at the 5th minute. I stopped it after 20 minutes work and it was uncomfortably hot at the top,near the Nitecore laser label.
This graph shows only the first 20 minutes,just to compare the maximum time before step down.

I used Keeppower 3400mAh batteries for the tests.

Nitecore HC50 has one more unique feature.Green and Red illumination under the switch boot. These lights have two purposes-indicating the battery voltage and low voltage warning.
Each time when the light is turned on,the red/green light will show the battery status.
If the battery capacity is over 50% green light will illuminate the switch for 2 seconds.
When the power level is under 50% the switch will glow for 2 seconds in red color.

Every time when the battery is replaced the green light will show the battery voltage by flashing.
For battery with voltage 4,2V will blink 4 times,then short pause and 2 more blinks. 0,1V accuracy.
(Can be seen in my video)
These two features are very helpful and work pretty well. It is really good to see the voltage status when inserting a new battery.Quite useful to see the voltage when you are on camping,etc. and don't carry a voltmeter with you.
It's nice to see features like this in headlamps and flashlights that we rely on.
But...it has its price of course.
The battery status is displayed each time when the negative battery pole is disconnected and back connected.No need to press the switch.
This means that there are electronic components under power,no matter the switch is on or off. The "standby" current draw is about ~160uA.
If you don't want to lose this power you can easily lock out the battery cap.

HC50 is equipped with a smooth reflector and due to that the beam is not fully floody smooth.OP reflector would be also a good choice here.The smooth reflector is good in situations requiring more throw.
The dual red light gives good beam-suitable to do something simple in the dark,reading,etc..Color rendering is very limited,but for tasks like finding my camera in the dark and adjusting it,the red light is quite enough.

These photos are with different shutter speed!

White wall.


1meter,white wall, 1/20sec, WB cloudy

Other flashlights(not headlamps)

1meter ,white wall, 1/250sec ,WB cloudy

Other flashlights

5 meters, 1/6 sec

Outdoor beamshots

Foggy weather.
The tree in the center is 35~40meters away.

Just for reference to see how much is the moisture in the air.

Thanks for Reading!
Hope my review was helpful for you.

This review is part of the Nitecore HC50 global testing campaign.Thanks to Nitecore for providing HC50 for review!