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Video/Picture Review: Fenix HL50 XML2 headlamp —by Mhanlen, CPF

Publish Time:2014-07-18

Review: Fenix HL50

Ok, as you may or may not know the main review here is primarily what's contained in the video. I know not everyone likes or can watch a video, so the later portion of the review is for you. First up though here is the video. As always I tried to incorporate my own brand of humor into it. It is not a boring table top review. It's pretty fast paced and has plenty of nice HD images to look at.

These photos were either taken in my house or in the Monongahela National Forest. I took the light camping with my wife and I during the 4th of July Weekend. I had brought along an Armytek Tiara, but decided to let my wife use the Fenix, primarily because it was a bit easier to use. The Armytek has an interface that takes a little bit of time to show someone how to use, and it's a bit of a pain to explain sometimes. 

The HL50 has a nice firm button, that gives a nice audible click when you press it. One quick press turns it on and allows you to scroll through any of the three primary modes. A long press turns it off. To access burst mode, you'll need to press and hold. When you let go, burst mode ends. As I used the light I found that the High mode on an eneloop (at close to 200 lumens) was plenty enough brightness and I never had to use burst mode. Most campsite duties you don't need more than that anyway. And if you camp a bit you'll notice that many other people get by on a lot less than 200 lumens, and don't really use flashlights much anymore. Anyway, I brought a flashlight along if I needed something that more had throw.

So, yeah we used it with an eneloop pro all weekend, and not the CR123A. I don't see the point in using it on a lithium for what appears to my eyes as the nominal increase in brightness. Plus I'll just add an extra battery to the backpack in case it's used a lot. One battery was plenty though for two nights of camping. 
Anyway, so the light is pretty top notch in turns of quality. It isn't a purely flood headlamp, which is fine, because I find pure flood headlamps scatter a lot of unnecessary light into your peripheral vision and beyond, which is a bit of a waste. Having a reflector is useful on a single AA powered headlamp because it allows it to throw a bit more.

It has a comfortable headband, despite having some unique metal parts on it. If you ask me, they also should have made the headband adjustment pieces out of metal too, and there wouldn't have been a single piece of plastic on the light. 

The HL 50 is easily removable from the band, and you can use it as a tiny right angle light. It doesn't come with a clip or lanyard unfortunately, and as of now Fenix doesn't list a part on their website that fits it. I apologize that my fingernails were dirty, but I had just finished shoveling out a fire pit. Remember the old camp motto, leave the campsite better than you found it!

Anyway here are some beamshots that compare the output level of each mode between batteries. Naturally every mode is brighter on the CR123A than the Eneloop Pro.

Ok, now that those are out of the way, how about comparison on high and burst to other similar-sized lights. I'll throw in a mixture of lithium ion and AA powered lights. You'll notice that it's not quite as bright as the Armytek or the Sunwayman on lithium ion batteries, but it's brighter on a lithium than the Spark, Skilhunt, and the AA powered Fenix LD15 when using burst. Of course, it's also brighter on high mode AA than the Fenix is... Better driver I guess? I put them in the order from what I perceive to be the brightest to the dimmest. You'll notice that the Hl50 has a good spill and spot compromise. That and the XML2 emitter has a nice pleasing neutral white tint.

Ok so how about runtimes. All the following videos are integrated into the main video review, plus there's the medium mode runtime tests in the main video review that I won't list here. If you take a look at the packaging in the first few photos it gives you a runtime chart. The runtimes I tested on high and medium with both battery chemistries are either spot on or slightly less than the manufacture rated times (that's fairly accurate as far as I'm concerned). Plus all output levels are current controlled and maintain a near constant brightness throughout Fenix's rated runtimes. They actually run a bit longer than stated but at reduced brightness levels, so you'll have time to change the battery if you need. Anyway here's the first video comparison which is an actual video comparison between Alkaline, CR123A, and an Eneloop Pro battery. Bet you've never seen this kind of test? For each battery I ran a video camera for the entire runtime, and did a split-screen between the three batteries to show you exactly how the HL 50 behaves on each battery. As expected the CR123A was the winner, and the alkaline was the clear loser. A videos were sped up, but show the accurate time.





Anyway, so that about does it. If I have a few parting thought it's this.

What I liked.

  • Easy to use, intuitive interface. 
  • Well spaced modes.
  • A great light to gift or give someone who needs a good headlamp that's not complicated.
  • Durable, and well built.
  • I like the ease of adjusting the angle, seems to be smoother than the rubber headlamp mounts.
  • No visible PWM on any level.
  • No blinking modes.
  • Great runtimes.
  • Nice spill/spot ratio.

What could be improved?
  • Moonlight mode. Some people don't like these though.
  • Anodized threads. This not only helps the threads last longer, but it also helps lock it out.
So that's about it. Thanks! Please feel free to ask any questions.

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