LED Headlamp Flashlight
My garage has three big
windows and a combination lighting scheme that includes overhead
incandescent, fluorescent and halogen lamps. But I never seem to
have enough light when I'm working on a bike.
Now it could be
because I'm getting old and my eyesight isn't quite as sharp as it
was, say, 20 years ago? But I'd like to think that it has
something to do with the nature of working on motorcycles. After
all, they're standing upright, and all the light is showering down
Combine that with bits of fairing, fuel tanks,
and the jam-packed nature of motorcycle internals, and it's easy to
make the case for a different type of lighting system.
Or maybe it is my aging eyes...
Since I'm always tinkering with one
bike or another, on projects ranging from ripping out a transmission
to a installing a new set of grips, good lighting is important. I've ended up with a
collection of flashlights both large and small, incandescent and
But until I grow a third hand, it's pretty hard
to hold a flashlight and work on a motorcycle at the same time.
That's why I've been intrigued by the recent development of lightweight headlamps
of all different shapes and sizes as a great solution for
motorcyclists. A headlamp can come in very handy for any type of
work around a motorcycle.
I've tried various shapes and sizes of
headlamps, but many of them are a bit clumsy for motorcycle
work. I've found that there are a few important features to
consider when purchasing a headlamp that will improve their
performance. First, the unit must be as light as possible, with
a low amount of mass hanging out in front of the head. Working
on motorcycles means bending, crouching and twisting upside-down to
see or reach its various and sundry parts, and the heavier headlamps
can move or fall off just as they're needed most.
The headlamp must also have a
comfortable and adjustable attachment system. If the headlamp is
heavy and only has a single strap to attach it around your head
circumferentially, it will have to be cinched down very tight to hold
it on, and this can quickly become uncomfortable. I've found
that headlamps with straps that attach both around (circumferentially)
and over the top of the head are (relatively) the most comfortable,
because they help to more evenly distribute the weight of the unit.
Of course, it goes without saying that
brighter is better, but there are various considerations that should
be taken into account. Sometimes a spotlight is useful, but
other times a broader, softer overall lighting is needed.
Brightness usually comes with a cost in battery life, and more or
larger batteries can mean more weight and expense.
partial to AAA sized batteries unless the light uses LEDs, which help
to increase battery life because they use much less power than
incandescent bulbs. I find AAA batteries to be expensive, a bit
hard to find, and not as long lasting as AA's or other battery
sizes. And I probably wouldn't consider a light that uses any
type of watch or wafer battery, because those tiny power sources just
don't have the guts to last very long, no matter what type of bulb is
One more important consideration is the
ability to aim the headlamp. Most headlamps are adjustable up
and down, and it is important to have a fine level of
adjustability. Having a light source on your forehead means you
run into the parallax effect, where the light source is on the same
plane as your eyes, but since you're usually working at close
distances, the angle of the light is more acute than it would be with
a background lighting source.
So the ideal headlamp would be
something that provides the light necessary to illuminate the task; is
lightweight; has a long battery life; and is comfortable to wear.
Which brings us to Optronics,
Inc. Optronics has one of the largest selections of
headlamps available. Optronics also manufacturers and distributes many
other types of lighting products for outdoor use, including ATV's, boating,
hunting and more. Their headlamps are very popular with hunters,
outdoor types and anyone else who needs a hands-free source of light.
has many different types of headlamps, which makes for an interesting
but fun chore to choose the right one for your application.
We sampled two Optronics headlamps
from the "NightBlaster" line; the HL-7700 LED array (left)
and the classic HL-6000, which is waterproof to 30 feet and uses a bulb
surrounded by krypton gas.
Optronics HL-7700 NightBlaster
The HL-7700 is a new design that it incorporates some interesting
features. It has a 7-LED array with a three-way switch.
Press the water-resistant switch on the top of the unit once, and the
central LED will light. Press again, and three LEDs across the
middle of the array will light; the third press lights all 7 LEDs.
I found that the brightest power
setting seems to be the most useful when working on motorcycles, but
it's nice to have a choice of variable brightness selections when using the headlamp
for other activities. For example, the single LED is really all that's
needed to read a map at night, and three LEDs will provide sufficient
light to see your way down a dark path.
brightest LED setting of the HL-7700 provides an even, diffused
lighting effect that helps illuminate the darker recesses of a
area by an f-stop or two. But it isn't an overpowering
brightness, and the illumination may not be that noticeable if the
ambient light level is high. LEDs suffer a bit in the
brightness department when compared to good quality halogen or krypton
incandescent bulbs, but as you can
see by the un-retouched photos below, the unit provides good
illumination when working in a poorly lit area.
LEDs are noted for their low power
consumption, and Optronics claims that the HL-7700 has up to 300 hours
of battery life. I'm assuming that the 300 hour number is applicable
only when using the
single LED low power setting, so I'll guess that if all 7 are fired up, the
unit may give about (300/7 = 42) 40 or so hours of light? If
that's true, that would be great.
The HL-7700 comes with three
Panasonic AAA batteries, which are easily installed by unscrewing the
cap on the right side of the unit. The batteries fit into a
cylindrical battery holder, which then slides into the unit. The
caps that secure the battery pack and the lens are sealed with
O-rings, making the HL-7700 "weatherproof". The AAA's
are very light, and the entire HL-7700 with batteries installed only
weighs 128 grams (4.5 oz.). The HL-7700 has both circumferential
and radial head straps, and both are adjustable.
The unit is very comfortable, and I
found that it's easy to forget that it's on my head. It has a 3 mm
thick foam backing that acts as a cushion against the forehead,
helping to prevent any chafing or pressure points. I came in the
house at one point with it on my head and I was working on my laptop
when my wife walked in and started laughing -- I forgot I was wearing
it and I guess I looked kind of foolish sitting there at the kitchen
table wearing a headlamp!
The HL-7700's switch is a bit fussy to
use; it takes a deliberate push with the tip of a finger or fingernail
to activate it. Also, when the HL-7700 is turned off, it
takes three clicks to bring it back to full strength. So rather
than working through the sequence of clicks each time I need some
light, I switch it to full power before I put it on my head and just
leave it burning. The batteries seem like they will last a long
time, so this hasn't been a problem.
The HL-7700 has five settings for
aiming the beam, and this provides an adequate number of choices to direct the
beam to the work because the light from the LEDs is diffused rather
than focused. A more focused light might call for a finer adjustment
to ensure the light is aimed precisely where its needed.
The HL-7700's LED array is replaceable
as a unit. The front lens assembly unscrews and two very small
Phillips head screws are used to attach the array to the headlamp.
first power setting.
second brightness setting;
3 LEDs lit.
highest brightness setting;
all 7 LEDs lit.
The Optronics HL-6000 features a size A-696 (aka PR-13 or K-13)
krypton incandescent bulb (replaceable) and a housing that is claimed
to be waterproof to 30 feet. The HL-6000 throws out a considerable
amount of light, rather like a good quality two D-cell flashlight (see
un-retouched photos below).
The HL-6000 uses four AA batteries,
which are not included,
and Optronics makes no claims regarding the burn time, but I suspect
that the batteries will not last anywhere near as long as the
HL-7700's LED lighting source. The HL-6000 is much brighter than
the HL-7700 though, so it's somewhat of a tradeoff, depending upon
Another tradeoff for the brightness is
the weight of the HL-6000; at 244 grams (8.625 oz.), the unit is
nearly twice as heavy as the HL-7700, but typical for similar
incandescent headlamps. Some of the weight may come from the
heavier plastic housing and O-rings, which are necessary to provide
the 30-foot depth waterproofing. If you're going to break down
on the road in a blinding rainstorm, this is the light you want!
The four AA batteries slide directly
into the housing, and they make a somewhat heavy but well-balanced
package that's probably about as small as it can be, considering it holds
four AA's. The HL-6000 has a 3mm thick foam pad to help make it
more comfortable, but the unit has only a single circumferential and
adjustable strap. It would probably be more comfortable with the
addition of a center strap, which would help spread the weight over a
larger surface area.
The HL-6000 is switched on or off by
rotating a fluted circular ring on the right-hand side of the battery
housing. The switch has a nice, fluid feel with a slight
"click" when it's engaged. The HL-6000's lamp can be vertically
aimed with 8 clicks "and a little bit more",
and it's easy to find a precise setting to focus the light directly on
the job. The HL-6000's bright light is useful even when there's
lots of ambient light, but its weight is a bit less balanced than the
HL-7700, making it less comfortable to wear.
At less than 10 bucks, the HL-6000 is a
definite buy. And let's face it, you never know when you'll need
a headlamp that's waterproof to 30 feet!
Headlamps are very useful, whether you're working on your bike, your
car, or just doing chores around the house. I find headlamps to
be indispensable when working on motorcycles -- they allow me to keep
both of my hands on the work while providing the necessary light to
see what I'm doing. I've gotten into the habit of strapping on a
headlamp as soon as I begin any type of maintenance, because I never
know when it will be needed.
Optronics has many different models of
headlamps to choose from, so it's worth paying a visit to their
website to see what's available. For example, the Optronics
model HL-7200 (not reviewed) looks intriguing; it's a combination
white LED and halogen headlamp with a spotlight or floodlight that can
be focused, and it also carries its 4 AA batteries in a pack at the
back of the head strap.
Remember that there will be a tradeoff
between weight, brightness and battery life when choosing a
headlamp. I've found that the HL-7700 provides just enough extra light to give my aged eyes a
break. It works especially well at night, when the only ambient
lighting I have comes from overhead. And when I have to do some
work down in the dark internals of one of my bikes, the HL-6000 comes
in very handy. There are plenty of other Optronics headlamp models,
and I'm sure you can find one that works best for
Check out the Optronics website for
more information and to see some of the many different types of
headlamps available. Optronics products are not available for
purchase through their website, but they have a page with a list of
retailers who carry the Optronics product line.
HL-7700 & HL-6000
Retail Price: Street
price of the HL-6000 is about $9.00; the HL-7700 retails at $44.99.
Comments: The HL-6000 krypton-bulb headlamp is waterproof
to 30 feet and takes four AAA batteries (not included).
The HL-7700 uses a lightweight 7-LED array, it has a
comfortable head strap with center strip and includes a 3-way switch for
variable brightness. Includes three AAA
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