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headlamp review: ZebraLight H50-Q5

Discussion in 'Gear Reviews' started by Valerian, Dec 11, 2007.

  1. Valerian

    Valerian Tea-powered admin

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    PREAMBLE

    The ZebraLight H50 has only been mentioned a few times here on EDCF (although much has been said about it at CPF), so I figured I might as well do a small review of it. The ZebraLight homepage has good pics of the light itself, all of the accessories in use, and even beamshots, so I won't bother with those.

    I ordered mine direct from www.zebralight.com. No communication with them apart from a "your order has been shipped" email one day after my order. Shipping took nine days, but that's one thing where your mileage not only may, but probably will vary. The light arrived safe and sound in a padded envelope, which revealed a package containing not only the light and a headstrap, but also a neck lanyard, pocket clip, glare shield and no less than two spare GID brackets for the light. These guys take their accessories seriously.

    The light itself is tiny. This must be about as small as an AA light can possibly be. Its weight is negligible, with the strap, glare shield, and a GP Recyko cell included, it weighs 70 grams. As a comparison, a Petzl Tikka XP weighs 100 g, plus it also sticks out much further from your forehead. Suffice it to say that the ZebraLight is not noticeable when you wear it. Even when it's on, you'll probably soon forget that it's there.

    My specimen had a tailcap that was tight to turn at first, but after some lubing and use, it has loosened up. It also rotates quite easily in its bracket. Not by itself, but it will change orientation at the lightest touch. This has not, however, bothered me much, but if it begins to, some cloth tape around the body of the light should give more friction.

    OPERATION

    The ZL H50 has three light levels. According to the manufacturer, they are 2.6, 13 and 66 lumens, but I have no equipment to verify that with. The modes are cycled by turning the light on and off repeatedly. The sequence goes: low, off, Medium, off, high. If the light is turned off for more than 5 seconds, the level resets to low. Personally, I'd rather have the levels in opposite order as I usually use the high level and would like it to come first. However, after a bit of practice, it is a very easy and quick operation to cycle through the levels. Nevertheless, it's a bit of a nuisance.

    The main use of this light is as a headlamp, and this is accomplished by a headstrap and a GID silicone bracket that attaches the light to the strap. Since the emitter is in one end of the light, it does not sit quite in the center of your forehead. It is offset about an inch or so. However, due to the extremely wide and smooth beam, this is not an issue.

    The light also comes with a pocket clip accessory, which cannot be used at the same time as the headlamp bracket. The clip is not very aggressive, so I find that the light will easily fall off. It also never seems to point where I need it, when used like this, so I prefer the headlamp mode. However, if you like the idea of having an anglehead light clipped to your pocket, vest, MOLLE pack or whatever, here is another good candidate.

    THE BEAM

    As was mentioned above, this light has a very wide (120 degrees) flood type beam. The emitter is protected by a lens, but it is not a collimating lens and there is no reflector. In fact, this is a pure flood light, and there is no hotspot in the beam whatsoever, just a perfectly smooth wall of light. This is an excellent idea! In use, it will light up such a large area in front of you that only your peripheral vision is left in darkness. There is no sense of looking into a tunnel of light, or having to constantly move your head to avoid putting a bright hotspot where you are looking at. At close range, that is, which is how I often use a headlamp. If I need to see something further away, I'll use a handheld light anyway.

    The light levels are very well spaced out, so the change from one level to the next is quite noticeable. In fact, I find it easy to tell which mode the light is on without cycling through them to test.

    The low level is sufficient for reading in the dark or navigating in a dark house. The high is plenty bright and the medium is, well, medium. As you might expect from a flood light, the beam does not carry very far. Indoors, the high mode will light objects 10-15 meters away enough to tell what they are, but not enough to read the small print. Outdoors, in wet, muddy conditions (always the toughest test for any LED light) it won't cut it beyond a few meters. But it will still light up a couple of meters ahead of you, so you'll easily see where to put your feet.

    CONCLUSION

    An excellent headlamp. A unique design, both physically and by beam type. It's hard to find another headlamp with such a wide and uniformly smooth beam, to speak nothing of its tiny size. I use mine all the time, and the ZebraLight has replaced the Tikka XP as my favorite LED light.

    I'm a flashaholic, so I got the Q5 version. Some folks on CPF, who have both, have indicated that the difference between the P4 and Q5 models is minor. In practice, you can barely tell which is which. Apparently, ZL has a CR123 version in the works, but personally, I'd advise you to go with this AA powered one. If you use it a lot (and I sure do), rechargeable NiMH AAs are an easy, cheap, and safe solution. If you use it infrequently or in cold conditions, you can use lithium AAs. And in a pinch, alkaline AAs are easy to find anywhere and cheap. In high mode, it probably won't run very long with alkalines, but medium should be fine and the low will probably run for a couple of days at least.

    Pros:
    + beatiful flood-type beam
    + small
    + easy operation
    + well though out levels, dim on low and bright on high
    + no strobe or SOS

    Cons:
    - not much throw, so won't be a good choice for your only light
    - light levels go from low to med to high

    You don't think you'll want to EDC a headlamp? Why not? It may look dorky, but when you need both hands free to do something else with, it sure beats holding a flashlight in your mouth. :p
     
  2. houdini28

    houdini28 Loaded Pockets

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    Thanks for the review. Nice job.
     
  3. Lugsalot

    Lugsalot EDC Junkie!!!!!

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    I concur! Excellent, thorough review! O0

    I remember looking at the Q5 model a while ago, and I'm glad to hear good things about it. Thanks for taking the plunge on this one, Valolammas! :)
     
  4. Rah14

    Rah14 Empty Pockets

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    Thanks for the review, Valolammas!

    For those that are still interested in this awesome headlamp, it appears that ZebraLight is offering EMS (express) shipping at no extra charge. You might just get it by Xmas or earlier.
     
  5. Valerian

    Valerian Tea-powered admin

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    Thanks!

    I forgot a couple of things. In case it wasn't quite clear, this light works on a single AA battery. It is also operated by twisting the tailcap, there's no clicky or momentary switch.

    That latter point is a bit of a downside, actually. While it is easy to use, you do need to use both hands to reliably twist the tailcap. It can be done one-handed, but it's difficult. The head and tailcap are grooved, but the body of the light is smooth, so it's hard to get a grip on it one-handed.
     
  6. moeman

    moeman Loaded Pockets

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    I ordered one on Friday. They tried to deliver it today but i was not here....

    I am anxious!!!

    will post my opinions after playing with it..
     
  7. Lunal_Tic

    Lunal_Tic Empty Pockets

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    I just received mine and it's quite impressive so far. I've not had a chance to use it more than a few days but I think it's going to get a lot of use in the future. I'm still looking for a svelte case to carry it in to keep the extra parts together and keep it from disappearing in my bag, it's really small.

    [​IMG]
    L to R: Zebra Light, Arc AAA, Fenix L1D (AA cell)

    -LT
     
  8. DB

    DB Kilted Moderator

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    Great review...I'm convinced! So if I understand correctly, there's not much difference between the two models. Would it be a mistake to get the P4 over the Q5?
     
  9. Valerian

    Valerian Tea-powered admin

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    Not really. The Q5 is a little brighter, but if you want to save $10, go for the P4 and don't worry about it. You can find some side-by-side beamshots of both versions in this thread on CPF (see post #6).
     
  10. DB

    DB Kilted Moderator

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    Thanks for the link. I like that the Q5 has a warmer cast to it. May go that route simply for that fact.
     
  11. 0dBm

    0dBm Loaded Pockets

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    I received my order for the H50 a week before Thanksgiving and have used it frequently since then. I don't care for the headband so I attached a lanyard with a breakaway connection to it so I can wear it around my neck. It has becomes a torso lamp vice a headlamp. Because the beam is so wide, having the light at about sternum height, for me, is just as useful as mounting it on my forehead.

    The size is quite small and the output is remarkable.

    I'll post some photos in a couple of days.
     
  12. jtice

    jtice Loaded Pockets

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    I just wanted to make a comment on the light also,,,, I LOVE IT !!!!!
    I am very very very pleased with it.
    Its TINY, seems well made, the beam is SMOOTH, no artifacts, LOT of light for its size.
    I have not been this excited or pleased with a light in a really long time.
    It fills a nitch in my lights that was missing. I love that its so small and light weight.
    Its the PERFECT beam for a headlamp indoor. I also noticed its GREAT for reading,
    you can just sit it on a shelf, etc. near you, and it just floods the area with light.

    I have heard the new 123 version will be a 75 degree beam instead of 120?
    I think that is a huuuuge mistake, the 120 degree beam is perfect.

    ~John
     
  13. DB

    DB Kilted Moderator

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    I've been using my Q5 at work....man I love this light! I have to crawl around in the ceiling to do wiring and such. Perfect flood to light up the whole area.
     
  14. Sharpy_swe

    Sharpy_swe Loaded Pockets

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    Interesting review, thanks :)
     
  15. Rah14

    Rah14 Empty Pockets

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    I think someone on CPF had a Q5 and a P4 side-by-side and noticed that his Q5 had a whiter tint. Could just be the luck of the draw thoguh.