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Second Time Around

Red light headlamps

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At the IAS Steve from First Light Optics asked me to post the following on SGL after I showed him my recently bought Black Diamond headtorch.  

I've used a lot of headlamps over the years, including many that have separate switches for red and white light.  Even so, I've all too often pushed the wrong button and ruined my dark adaption.

Additionally, all the lights have been way too bright.  So the ability to dim the lights is an important feature.  However, whilst there are many good torches that dim right down, there seem to be few such headlamps, that I prefer when observing alone.

The best I've found are some of the 2019 Black Diamonds.  Confusingly, although the model name (but not the number) remains the same, many have been totally redesigned for 2019 with two buttons instead of just one.

One of the great things about them is that only the larger button turns the headlamp on; the smaller button just changes from red to white, but nothing happens when you press it if the headlamp is off. 

Additionally, they remember the last setting you used before turning off.  For instance, if you finished with the red light at its dimmest setting, that's what you get when you turn it back on.

Set up like this it means that it's impossible to turn anything on at the start but the dimmest red light - whatever button you push.

Not all the 2019 Black Diamond two button range are suitable for us though.  Some of them have battery check LEDs that light up when you first switch on.  The problem is they're bright blue!  Also note that the poorly-named Astro model doesn't have a red light.

I started by buying two models, the Cosmo 225 and the Spot Lite 160, that use 3AAA and 2AAA batteries respectively.  The numbers represent the max. brightness in lumens.

Surprisingly, the red light on the Cosmo 225 goes dimmer than that on the Spot Lite 160, although this may just be a sample variation.  The former is also on special offer at the moment because a new model, the Cosmo 250 has just been launched, that seems to be identical but has a higher output.  I've just tested this, and comparing all 3 with fresh disposable batteries the 250 is indeed slightly brighter on full power white light than the 225, but there isn't much in it.  On the dimmest red light they're exactly the same.  So any of the 3 models are fine for astronomy..

There were complaints about older versions of these products having a weak closure on the battery compartments.  This appears to be rectified nicely in the new models that have a firm, precise click action.  I'd add that, here in Europe at least, these Black Diamonds have a 3 year guarantee.  That doesn't of course prove anything, but they're expected to last at least that long.

These headlamps should also be suitable for my fishing and camping as they have a waterproof rating of IPX8.  This means that they can work for at least 30 minutes submerged to a depth of 1.1 metres (3 1/2 feet).  However do note the battery compartment itself isn't waterproof and will need drying out.

So for the first time I'm satisfied with a headlamp for astronomy and can thoroughly recommend these 3 Black Diamond headtorches.   They're also very reasonably priced.

Do check though that you're buying the latest 2 button models.  Many outlets are still selling the similar 1 button type that's not good for us.  For instance Amazon UK even has a picture of a 2 button Cosmo but the description suggests it's the old 1 button model.

Hopefully FLO will stock them so you can buy them from our sponser!

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Sounds interesting, any pictures or links to post?

I to date have not found a red light head torch that I would buy or use.
Perhaps this is 'the one'.

Edited by Alan White

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Here's my Black Diamond Spot 325. I think it's excellent. The fact that it turns on in the last mode selected rather than having to cycle through them was the clincher for me when I bought it a couple of months ago. I haven't found that I've noticed the battery charge state LED's (there are 3 of them on the side)

 

BlackDiamond.jpg

Edited by David Levi
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2 minutes ago, David Levi said:

Here's my Black Diamond Spot 325. I think it's excellent. The fact that it turns on in the last mode selected rather than having to cycle through them was the clincher for me when I bought it a couple of months ago.

 

BlackDiamond.jpg

Does it have red light too..?

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Thanks for the review, @Second Time Around. Very informative. I'm just wondering but do you have a link of the headlamp in question? I'm out in Spain, so a picture of the gear would be handy :thumbright:

I've never used a headlamp but in my search for an ideal red light to sketch with and read star atlases, I've found that even the best often use a  620 - 630 nm range of the visible spectrum. To achieve a better night vision a wavelength around 660 nm or greater, in the deep-red range of the visible spectrum, is more fruitful. Not only that, but it's helpful that this light is adjustable.

I've tried the typical trick of covering a normal torch with nail varnish or sweet wrapper material but with these kind of torches I've never found that I could adjust the light and moreover have never found the light diffuse enough so that there is no bright point-source of light. A simple moment of singular brightness and dark adaption is inevitably back to square one.

For most of this decade, then, I've used Rigel's Starlite Torch. It does everything I want from a torch and although initially pricey, after ten or so years of continuous use it seems a very small price to pay in terms of astro-gear when at the extreme fringe of dso targets and trying to sketch them, or hunting them out in my star chart and back to the eyepiece or tweaking a truss dob’s collimation at 3am in the morning. 

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Hi @WanderingEye. Yes. The red LED is the smallest circle in the picture. The main white LED is obviously the large circle and the medium circle is the dimmer white LED.

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Here's a link to the 2019 Black Diamond European headlamp page: https://eu.blackdiamondequipment.com/en_GB/headlamps-and-lanterns .  All the 2019 models are on here.

The 2019 Cosmo 225 is described in full here: https://eu.blackdiamondequipment.com/en_GB/cosmo-225-headlamp-BD620642_cfg.html#start=9.   I've linked separately to this one as (except on the mobile version) there's a table comparing specifications and a link to videos on this page.  According to this table the only 3 models that have dimmable red lights but don't have the battery check (usually bright blue according to the video) when turning on are:

Cosmo 225

Cosmo 250

Spotlite 160

The least expensive is the the Cosmo 225 that I bought from https://www.wiggle.co.uk/black-diamond-cosmo-225-headlamp/ and is priced from £21.99 depending on which colour strap/body you choose.  Here's a picture:

Cosmo225 Headlamp

 

Don't forget to make sure you get a 2019 model with 2 buttons (1 large + 1 small) as shown in the picture.

Edited by Second Time Around
Addition

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Edit note:  Rob, I'd assume the wavelength is likely to be 620-630 nm.  If not I'd guess they'd highlight it as I found some other manufacturers of specialist torches as opposed to headlamp makers do.

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Good to see something that won’t result in accidental blindings! One thing you might want to do (if observing with others) is to add a “front shield” (eg small black lined conical tube) so you don’t zap people around you when you look around. 
 

Peter

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On 18/11/2019 at 15:39, Second Time Around said:

Surprisingly, the red light on the Cosmo 225 goes dimmer than that on the Spot Lite 160,

Thanks for this review @Second Time Around

How much less dim is the 160- still useable? Prefer 2 batteries to 3. I’ve got the Petzl e+lite which has a lever for selecting the different outputs and from one end goes to red first but it’s not dimmable (but is pretty dim) it runs off cr2032s though which don’t last long- says 15hrs which is probably long enough but these say they last much longer 👍

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2 hours ago, markse68 said:

Thanks for this review @Second Time Around

How much less dim is the 160- still useable? Prefer 2 batteries to 3. I’ve got the Petzl e+lite which has a lever for selecting the different outputs and from one end goes to red first but it’s not dimmable (but is pretty dim) it runs off cr2032s though which don’t last long- says 15hrs which is probably long enough but these say they last much longer 👍

There's not a huge difference - as I said it may be sample variation.  As you like just 2 batteries I'd go ahead and buy the Spot Light 160.

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Well here is my £9.99 version, two brightnesses, and red slide over filter, so very easy to do in the dark

 

image.jpg

image.jpg

Edited by WanderingEye

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Coast 'Crew HL4'

I brought it from this years PAS show in Kettering.

They are American, and this one is the best head torch i've ever used. Comfortable to wear and is perfect over a winter hat.

Ideal in every way. Duel Red / white LEDs. Bright white while setting up / packing up and just the right amount of red (not too bright or too dim)

Highly recommended. Battery life is very good too.

https://coastportland.com/collections/headlamps?_=pf&pf_t_feature=Feature Category%3A Dual-Color White %26 Red Beam

49187009318_e46fa4cf8f_b.jpg

Edited by Space Hopper

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I picked up one of these lights from Princeton Tec two years ago. They are a bit pricey but well made and should last a long time. It has a set of clip down filters that come with it. I leave the red one on permanently. Its a pretty decent headlight for other activities too (fishing etc..) as it has three light levels. I am still using the original AAA batteries that came with it.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B000RLM3P2/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o08_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

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41 minutes ago, Limerick John said:

I picked up one of these lights from Princeton Tec two years ago. They are a bit pricey but well made and should last a long time. It has a set of clip down filters that come with it. I leave the red one on permanently. Its a pretty decent headlight for other activities too (fishing etc..) as it has three light levels. I am still using the original AAA batteries that came with it.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B000RLM3P2/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o08_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Similar to mine shown above for £10... 😀👍

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I have a collection and none is ideal. The best of the bunch was suggested by @mikeyj1 and is a LED Lenser H3.2 to which I've added some red light gel. 

It has a continuously variable dimmer and produces a lovely even beam at its widest setting with no bright spots, which most others seem to suffer from. 

(https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ledlenser-H3-2-Head-Black-Test/dp/B01N324CAA/ref=asc_df_B01N324CAA/?tag=googshopuk-21&linkCode=df0&hvadid=231920353356&hvpos=1o1&hvnetw=g&hvrand=18200206102462357814&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=m&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=1006505&hvtargid=pla-423313749115&psc=1&th=1&psc=1

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Thanks for the info, I have been getting frustrated at losing night vision when sketching with my custom ed nail varnish torch!

Have just ordered myself a black diamond spot lite 160.

Will update after I test it out.

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It should be fairly easy to cobble together one from some red LED's, a few resistors and a potentiometer.  Only if you're handy with a soldering iron, though.

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56 minutes ago, merlin100 said:

It should be fairly easy to cobble together one from some red LED's, a few resistors and a potentiometer.  Only if you're handy with a soldering iron, though.

Can’t see the point for the sake of £10 as the parts to make one would cost as much.... 👍👍

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Posted (edited)
4 minutes ago, Stuart1971 said:

Can’t see the point for the sake of £10 as the parts to make one would cost as much.... 👍👍

Yeah absolutely. If I had the spare time and the knowledge maybe. But I have a full time job, a 2 year old and NONE of the equipment required or knowledge. Would cost me over £100 and take me weeks!

Edited by miguel87
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That's why I said "only if you're handy with a soldering iron" ... 

I homebrew small pieces of kit. I appreciate that not everyone can. Your mileage will vary... 

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Posted (edited)

My black diamond spot lite 160  arrived today. Feels like a really nice build quality, comfortable to wear and very reasonably priced 👍

Obviously it hasn't had a proper test (wednesday hopefully) but I am pretty sure I will have to dim the red LED somehow as it seems pretty bright even at it's dimmest setting and I'm sitting here in broad daylight saying that. Maybe a layer of nail varnish or some other method. 

I will update after a proper dark test.

15873030432405443536251315058010.jpg

15873030884406852371777724204385.jpg 

Edit: just found out that parcel tape seems to do a really nice job 👍

 

15873039689847571424255270991775.jpg

Edited by miguel87
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The Black Diamond 325 (as mentioned above) is on sale at Wiggle.co.uk for £20.99 just now (for some colours).

Have just ordered one and I'll give a quick review when it arrived.

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