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March 25, 2009 Comments (0) Gear & Equipment

ZebraLight H30 and H50 Review

ZebraLight H50-Q5

As a child, I remember seeing my father holding flashlights in his mouth while he was working on projects. I’ve seen lots of people do this over the years. I have done it too, all the while, grumbling to myself about how I needed a headlamp. I only recently decided to take the plunge on a headlamp, after using my friends Zebralight. It immediately reminded me of my beloved Surefire light. A no frills, hardcore, headlamp with wonderful construction. The anodized finish is even, and on par with every Surefire light I’ve seen. I bought the H30-Q5, and coincidentally enough, I received the H50-Q5 a few days later to review and compare alongside of it.  Earlier on, Woods Monkey had gotten in touch with 4Sevens about a couple different offerings from their store, and one of the review items they sent out was the ZebraLight H50-Q5.  4Sevens carries a number of different light offerings inlcuding ZebraLight, Fenix, NiteCore, and others.  So, it was a pleasant surprise to have two of the Zebralights to compare side by side.  Needless to say, I was eager to get to work.

First Impressions

H30 and H50 Side By Side

It is not hard to notice the difference in the appearance of the two lights. The H30 is shorter (2.2 inches) and bigger in diameter, and has a tail switch.  The H50 is just a bit taller (2 5/8 inches) and narrower, and has a twist on/off tail switch. The H30 runs on a single CR123A battery, and the H50 runs off a single AA. The H30 has a more recessed LED making the beam an 80 degree flood as opposed to the 120 degree flood of the H50.  Construction of these lights is very good. The threads are all crisp and well machined, and the finish is very even. Both lights have gold plated negative contact springs. The H30 has a single O-ring seal on the tail cap, and the H50 has a double O-ring seal to combat the elements.  My guess is that the H50 has a double O-ring seal because of the rotating switch being constantly rotated on/off.  The H30 essentially stays sealed once you install a battery due to the external on/off switch.

H30-Q5

The H30 comes packaged with a headband with a glow in the dark silicone bracket, a slip on pocket clip, a lobster claw, and neck lanyard with a glow in the dark silicone bracket. There are multiple ways to utilize this headlamp. The headband is comfortable to wear, and made of quality material. The H30-Q5 also comes with a replacement switch cover in glow in the dark silicone. I replaced the black one with it immediately, as it makes the switch highly visible in low light conditions. The only gripe I have with the package is that the lamp itself doesn’t fit super snugly in the silicone bracket. It’s not loose, but it can move around if you’re not careful.

The H30 has a single CREE XLamp XR-E Q5 bin LED in it.  The light has 3 factory preset brightness settings.  Low is 4 lumens, medium is 20 lumens, and high is 80 lumens.  I tested the run times of each setting with Surefire brand CR123A batteries.  The run time on high was right at 2.5hrs, which is right on with what the factory stated. 2.5 hrs at 80 lumens on a single battery is very impressive.  The run time set on medium was right around 24 hours. The run time set on low was just shy of 4 days!!!  I am very impressed at the efficiency of the CREE led.  To use the light you just press the switch and the light comes on immediately.  You then hold the button down to cycle through the brightness levels.  Be advised that this light has no warning when the batteries die. The light just shuts off.  The beam is a straight 80 degree flood pattern, with no hot spot.  It provides a very nicely illuminated area, and on low is still a very effective light.  I tested the light’s operation in various temperatures ranging from 17 degrees Farenheit, to 70 degrees Farenheit.  It performed flawlessly, and turned on immediately.  I did not submerge the lights to test water resistance, but I did use them both in the pounding rain and had no problems.

Over the past month I’ve used this light almost every day. Its finish is perfect. It still looks like it was just removed from the packaging. The light has performed flawlessly.

H50-Q5

The H50 comes packaged with an elastic headband with glow in the dark silicone mounting bracket, a neck lanyard with glow in the dark silicone bracket, a slip on pocket clip, a silicone anti-glare shield, and an additional glow in the dark silicone bracket.  I am not sure why the H50 comes with the spare silicone bracket and the H30 does not.  The two lights feel identical in weight when on your head.  Both are very comfortable.  The H30 does fit slightly more snug in the silicone, and overall is easier to use as a headlamp because of the external switch.

The ZebraLight models can be carried in a variety of ways.

The H50 has the same single CREE X Lamp XR-E Q5 bin LED in it.  It is not as recessed as the H30, so the overall flood pattern of the beam is 120 degrees.  With the silicone anti-glare shield installed, the flood pattern is very similar to the H30.  The H50 runs on a single AA battery.  I tested this light with both Energizer brand lithium AA batteries, and Energizer brand alkaline AA batteries.  The H30 also has 3 factory preset brightness levels.  Low is 2.6 lumens, medium is 13 lumens, and high is 66 lumens.  Run times with lithium AA were around 4 days on low, 16 hours on medium, and 2 hours on high, slightly less then the H30 with CR123A batteries.  With standard Energizer brand AA the run times were shorter. With a run time of almost 3.5 days on low, around 14 hours on medium, around an hour and 45 minutes on high.  To use this light, you twist the tail cap clockwise to turn on the light, and back it off counter clockwise to turn it off.  To cycle through the brightness levels you turn the light on and off, unscrewing it a little farther after the LED goes off. Each time you turn on the light it will cycle to a different brightness.  I don’t like this feature, as it was a pain in the butt when using the light to have to cycle it back to the brightness level you want.  Like the H30, the H50 also has no warning when the batteries die.  It simply shuts off.  The runtimes and output of the AA Zebralight were very impressive.  I also like the fact that AA batteries are available almost everywhere, unlike the CR123A batteries of the H30, which is great when you need batteries and you are limited in where you can get them.

I tested the H50 in the same 17-70 degree F temperatures as the H30. The light, when equipped with lithium batteries, functioned flawlessly in all temperatures.  When equipped with the standard AA batteries there was a slight delay in the light turning on in cold temperatures. You had to warm it up a bit in your hands before it turned on. This of course, is not a fault of the light, but a function of the different chemistry betwee alkaline and lithium-ion cell.  It functioned without problems in the warmer temperatures though.  As I stated earlier, the light also functioned perfectly in the pounding rain.

I did also notice that the twisty cap had a tendency to pick up grit, requiring you to disassemble the light and wipe the threads clean to get that smoothness back. This did not impede function of the light, but I felt more comfortable using it when it was clean.  A nice function of the H50 is being able to use it with the slip on pocket clip, and mounting it to your pack strap. The H30 didn’t do well in this role as the switch kept getting bumped and turning the light off.

Post Testing Conclusions

I’ve got a good system with these lights now. The H30 is my dedicated headlamp for woods bumming and mountain biking, and the H50 is my dedicated pack light.  It lives on the strap of my pack.  With its wider flood pattern it makes an excellent light for this duty.

I really like both of these lights.  However, it is my opinion that the H30 is a better choice.  It feels like a more advanced version of the H50. The light is easier to operate, and maintain. The only real advantage that the H50 has is the use of AA batteries, which is an important factor for some.  To me, it is not an issue, as all of my lights use the CR123A batteries and I like to standardize that aspect. Both lights are both extremely well made, and very durable.  It was a sheer pleasure to use the Zebralight products, and I will continue to do so for a long time.

I totally recommend Zebralights headlamps.  If you are in the market for a new headlamp, and want something that adapts to any role and is die-hard tough and reliable, look no farther then Zebralight!

Visit:  www.4sevens.com

         www.zebralight.com

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