There is no escaping the big advances in lighting technology over the last decade. The birth of high power LEDs, which have made traditional halogen bulbs all but redundant, has made a huge impact on those of us who enjoy fishing in darkness.
Modern units can run for hours and offer a brilliant, crisp light that can illuminate the coast more than 100 metres away if required.
The cost has come down considerably too. With many examples from China on the market for just a few pounds, it can be a real task to sort the wheat from the chaff. Power is not the be all and end all of a headlamp, and I reckon brightness remains the primary concern, while there are some manufacturers who pay little attention to overall build quality when designing a head torch.
Fenix refers to its products in their varying guises as ‘high-quality illumination tools’, and I was keen to find out just what they have to offer when one of their most popular head torches hit my desk.
The HL55 was nicely packed in a card-backed blister containing a small headlamp complete with user manual and two CR123A batteries. This really is a small unit, but it feels solid in the hand, and its cold metal construction gave me the impression it wouldn’t end up in pieces after rattling around in the bottom of my rucksack on its first outing.
The claimed 900 Lumen output ‘burst mode’ seemed a big ask for such a minuscule lamp, and I found myself inserting the two CR123A batteries fully expecting for the stated output to be the stuff of fairy tails. Boy, did I get a shock! The highest setting was almost as bright as the unit I currently use, yet it is some £200 cheaper and half the size.
I flicked through the lower power settings, using the easily accessible large rubber button found at the side of the main unit, and had a good look over the lamp before once more cranking the power up and leaving it there, putting the light to one side.
The claimed run time of three hours and 45 minutes seemed feasible, but safe in the knowledge that I had spare batteries of this type somewhere in my camera kit, I set the stop watch to see just how accurate it was. At three hours and 40 minutes later it finally gave up the ghost, but I’ll give it the five minutes grace for the time I spent fiddling prior to the test.
On its lowest setting of four options (not including burst mode) it will last for 150 hours, drizzling out 10 Lumens of light – just enough for baiting a trace.
That robust appearance I mentioned earlier is confirmed both on the packaging and the Fenix website, where it is stated that the unit has an impact resilience of one metre, not to mention that it is fully waterproof to two metres; important without stating the obvious.
A few drops on the office floor and some funny looks from my colleagues later and the lamp was still very much intact – and all for less than 50 quid! The elasticated headband also seems up to the task, though time will tell if it loses its elasticity; it’s a fault suffered by even some of the more expensive units today.
My one concern was the batteries. They’re not AA, they’re not even AAA, but they’re CR123A cells as found in some digital cameras. Hardly has a ring to it, but neither has the alternative cell size as recommended by Fenix for this model, the 18650. A little research revealed that the 18650 cell is fast becoming the choice to run an ‘illumination tool’ with many rechargeable versions now available at online stores. I wouldn’t mind betting that this cell will replace the traditional AA version over the coming years.
Don’t glance at the size of this lamp and write it off as a back-up. This is a well-engineered piece of electronic lighting equipment that has been the subject of some careful thought, and
I would happily use it as my main source of light when fishing.