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Thread: CREE LED Headlamp for Photography?...

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    CREE LED Headlamp for Photography?...

    Was thinking about getting one of these and thought I'd put it out to the collective masses as to any recommendations for a good not too expensive CREE LED Headlamp for photography purposes. So ideally:

    - a headlamp rather than torch model so the hands are free
    - would like to use for lightpainting as well
    - bright (200+ lumens?)
    - multiple brightness levels
    - automatic thermal protection
    - rechargable batteries

    anything else I should be thinking about?
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    200+ lumens out of a head lamp. You want to burn a path in front of you?

    Buy a head lamp and a separate torch. More versatile and when one fails you have the other to get you back in the dark.
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    Quote Originally Posted by peterb666 View Post
    200+ lumens out of a head lamp. You want to burn a path in front of you?
    I've seen some that are listed as 900 lumens (used both for bikes and as a headlamp) - apparently heat and thermal overload can be a problem with some models (esp if you try and run it at the highest settings constantly).

    However one that can go very bright - many hundred lumens for shorter periods of time (a few minutes) would be handy for light painting large or more distant objects.

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    A while back, I got a head worn LED for about $50 from one of the popular outdoors retail shops(I think it was Mountain Designs, but I'm not sure.. either way it was one marked as their own brand).

    From what I've seen as the respective Lumens outputs quoted on most packaging, it's all a load of BS, and most likely to be open to various interpretations.
    (as random examples)Where one quotes 900 lumens, and another quotes 1500 lumens, upon direct testing of the two units, one can easily fail to see where and how this 1500 lumen model is any brighter than the 900 lumen version.

    I always find that the rated power output(consumption) of the LED chip itself is more of an indicator as to the brightness of the light unit itself.. or more accurately!! ... 99% of the time, this is true.

    I actually have a couple of these types of torches(but no handheld versions yet! ) and have tried to use them in a few varying situations, with different levels of success.
    The first unit I purchased was this 'Mountain Designs' unit which was unbelievably bright(for the money) and for $50(reduced from their marked $125) was the brightest of the torches I(and the salesman) tested.
    I actually did originally purchase a handheld torch from JayCar, an impressively sturdy stainless steel handheld unit, but which I basically immediately gave to my father. He still has it, and I remember the lumens rating on this handheld was higher(apologies, as I can't remember the exact numbers) than the mountain designs head unit. No power figures for the handheld, but we estimated the Jaycar handheld to be about 1W, whereas the head unit I subsequently got is about 2-3W(I think 2.2W, but again I can't remember.. all packaging gets recycled! fairly quickly in my house nowadays).

    FWIW, my original intention for these torches was purely for work(when looking for addresses and stuff at night), so the head worn requirement was not important.. it;s just that of all the units at the outdoors shop, this head unit was the brightest and one of the cheapest!(the other cheaper unit(back then) was $40.
    I did have photography in the back of my mind for this torch, but it took me a while to get into it.
    I have uploaded a few photos taken with torches as supplemental lighting.
    (check my gallery and or threads started for a spider at night(lit with the torch, and a series of coloured dandelion images, where I used some coloured plastic cups over the LED torch unit as a form of lighting and filtering as well).

    So after a few months, I found myself at an Aldi store just doing some regular shopping(**I'm not a regular Aldi shopper**) and I found this table stacked with 'cree' type LED torches, both head worn types and handhelds.
    For $10 a pop, surely I couldn't go wrong just to get one for the sake of comparison, and as an emergency backup somewhere.
    No power or lumens rating that I can remember, but approximately 90% of the power/brightness of the very nice Mountain Designs torch I got only a few months prior.
    (note this was all about a year or more ago)
    The Aldi unit is weaker and the light quality is no where near as nice.. but all you want is light huh!? the major advantage of the Aldi unit is that it has a focusing lens type bezel around the LED itself so can focus/spread the beam to your liking, whereas the MD unit is fixed. But the MD light quality is nicer!!
    My photos were all taken with the Aldi unit, never the other units.
    My only regret for the Aldi unit was that I didn't get 5-10 of them(and just have them either sitting, or set up as an array of lights for various purposes). Not being a regular Aldi shopper, and this product not being a regularly stocked item, I've never had much of a chance to get any more due to this situation, but I definitely would if I was sure of the supply(probably 5 or even 10 more, for various uses including specifically for photography).

    **Note, I just checked the actual brand of the Mountain Designs torch and it is Katmandu, not Mountain Designs(MD)!!**

    A couple of caveats tho!
    While using it as a head worn device sounds almost ideal.. you will eventually find that the human condition is a major factor and that doing it this way is actually more annoying than you imagine.
    It's more natural to look through the viewfinder of the camera(even in the dark) so wearing it as a head mounted device, the light obviously doesn't fall where you really wanted it too!
    The Aldi unit was immediately pulled apart, even before I used it for photography and the head strap disposed of. Uncomfortable when compared to the Katmandu unit. I've kept the Katmandu unit as is, and is generally comfortable to wear on your head, as it has some padded areas to make it more comfy.
    With the Aldi unit, I used rubber bands to keep the battery unit and the head unit together as one piece and it has a swivel head design(as almost all head units do) and you can set it somewhere and direct the lightbeam to where you want.
    That's what I did for the dandelion shots I took, but for the spider image against the moon, I simply hand held it.
    Some problems with it tho, are that even tho it has three brightness levels, sometimes it's still too much(for the spider) and sometimes not enough(for the dandelions). With the spider images I captured, I waved it around (instead of keeping it concentrated) at the spider, as that was really the only way I could control the exposure of the spider itself.
    The other caveat that may come into play is the colour of the light. LEDs are all by their nature, very blue in colour. There is no preset WB that takes into account all flavours of LEDs, but more importantly, if shooting in the dark(or even in daylight) as you allow more of the LED light to affect exposure, the colour balance may be off and you get strange colour casts that can be hard to correct nicely.
    I once did a light painting of an old ruin(in SA) with a standard halogen spot light and the colour balance came out perfect as the colour of halogen lights appear pleasing and balanced, even in almost total darkness(with a hint of moonlight).
    I know that if I tried lightpainting(a subject) using one of these LEDs, the subject will come out with a very cool rendition, relative to the rest of the image, and post processing this effect out of the image is both boring, and time consuming, and I'd rather be doing more meaningful stuff with that time.. such as looking at various ways to implement a filtering type system for the torches

    If you can find it, the Aldi unit is a lil ripper of a product. I was very weary of the thing, only buying it on a whim(originally with the intention of using it for my father as a reversing light source(for his car). So it was always going to be a test bed for various lighting projects(for him).. and my own purposes. If you can find them, get them.. they're perfectly acceptable for various uses, blindingly bright and cheap!
    For brightness tests.. never look directly at the LED.. as the saying goes.. you WILL go blind if you do(and also try to keep them away from kids.. their natural reaction is to shine it at peoples faces. In almost broad daylight(but in a white room), if you shine it on a matte white A4 paper about half a meter away, the reflected light(off the paper) has a blinding effect!

    All of my findings a simple observations and not formal testing.. Just stuffing about with various stuff.
    Heat is not an issue with any of the units I've had, even tho I now only have the two 'head torches'.
    I've had the Aldi unit on for a much as a couple of hours, and it;s never thermally overloaded, and it has a nice solid Aluminium heat sink on the head/light unit. The (separate)battery compartment is 'more flimsy' when compared to the Katmandu unit, but I've never had a problem with it. The Aldi unit has a rheostat brightness adjustment knob on the battery compartment, and I've found to be the more versatile for stuffing around for photography.
    This feature makes it far more useful as a 'torch' for operating the camera in the dark, whereas the Katmandu unit is still too bright on it's lowest brightness level(of 3 levels).
    As a guide to their usefulness, the Aldi unit is a permanent fixture in my camera backpack, and the Katmandu torch stays in the car, but in saying that... the camera bag is in the car every time I go out, and I also spend about 99% of my awoken state in the car anyhow!

    The other caveat that may/may not be important, is the battery type you may want to use.
    These LED types require a particular voltage to operate. That is, without specific voltage regulatory circuitry in the unit, you can't run them on rechargeable batteries(not 100% sure about rechargeable lithiums tho). So any unit that can accept and use rechargeable batteries, is going to cost more, and may also be more prone to failure. More electronic circuitry, means more parts COULD fail. (As distinct from WILL fail).
    As a guide to battery life! I've installed a pair of lithium AA's into the Katmandu unit and have never replaced them. I don't use it all that much, but the Aldi unit has operated, I reckon, maybe 50hours.. maybe more.. in total. I can't remember replacing them, but the battery compartment is a PITA to open and get too. It's a partly plastic shell(body) with the other half(n a clamshelll design) being a rubber cover that you kind of peel back. You place the batteries and then stretch the rubber cover back over the batteries. kind of painful.. cheap, I guess and a purport to being 'waterproof'
    The Katmandu design is a sealed plastic unit, easy to operate.
    Basically, the cost of batteries will be insignificant. That is, the price premium of the rechargeable battery capable units(being well over $100) was a diminishing one. I've so far spent $20-30 on two packs of four Eveready lithium AA's and I still have one of the packs(of four) still sitting in the car. in over a year of use/inactivity. Both torches are still pumping out a ton of lumens too mind you
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    Quote Originally Posted by arthurking83 View Post
    These LED types require a particular voltage to operate. That is, without specific voltage regulatory circuitry in the unit, you can't run them on rechargeable batteries(not 100% sure about rechargeable lithiums tho).
    Umm, all of mine work wonderfully with recahrageable batteries. I use Sanyo Eneloop or Varta Ready2Use. The nominal voltage of the rechargeables is around 1.2 volts (they tend to be around 1.25 v fully charged and around 1.15 when mostly discharged). Compared to standard batteries which are 1.3 volts nominal (vary between 1.35 to 1.4 volts fully charged and 1.1 volts when nearly flat), it is rare that you would have a problem.

    The LEDs don't seem to be super sensitive to voltage variations and I haven't had a LED failure in the years that I have been using these (other than losing a headlamp into a rock pool when I forgot I had it on and removed my cap).

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    Quote Originally Posted by peterb666 View Post
    Umm, all of mine work wonderfully with recahrageable batteries. I use Sanyo Eneloop or Varta Ready2Use. The nominal voltage of the rechargeables is around 1.2 volts (they tend to be around 1.25 v fully charged and around 1.15 when mostly discharged). Compared to standard batteries which are 1.3 volts nominal (vary between 1.35 to 1.4 volts fully charged and 1.1 volts when nearly flat), it is rare that you would have a problem.

    The LEDs don't seem to be super sensitive to voltage variations and I haven't had a LED failure in the years that I have been using these (other than losing a headlamp into a rock pool when I forgot I had it on and removed my cap).
    Have you compared rechargeable batteries in your LED devices with alkalines? I use Litepanels which are very bright LED light sources for shooting video. While they do *work* with rechargeable batteries (which output an average of 1.2V per cell), the light output is CONSIDERABLY dimmer (maybe 1 - 1.5 stops) than with good alkaline or lithium batteries (which output an average of 1.5V per cell). The same goes for my LED powered scuba diving torches, so I'm pretty sure it's an issue that needs to at least be checked with any particular LED light source...
    Last edited by ElectricImages; 20-04-2011 at 10:05am.
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    I would dare say I am one of the pioneers in Adelaide in using LED for wedding and fashion photography over the last 12 months, and rarely use flash anymore unless I need to really overpower the sun. Not sure what lumens rating it is but I have 4 panels personally, and a lot more to give to friends who ordered it.

    Mine uses the Sony NPF750 batteries which is 4000MaH so puts out decent power and lasts for hours.

    No idea what Arthur is raving on about there. I think video lights for videography here is what should be used for photography, not some small LED torches and lights that has limited uses, or bought at Aldi etc. It doesnt have the spread or output dimmer levels or ability to fit barn doors or gels etc.

    If you check my threads of photos I have taken over the last 12 months on AP, you can see the effect of LED in my photos. LED lights give out a cooler colour balance/cast, which I find to be very pleasant on the skin and surfaces.

    Below is an example of LED from 2 shots I did last night in Sydney, the winner of Miss Vietnam-Australia 2011. I only used 2 LEDs for this, one on the wall and one on her face.

    Last edited by JM Tran; 20-04-2011 at 10:23am.

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by peterb666 View Post
    Umm, all of mine work wonderfully with recahrageable batteries. ....
    Almost certain to be voltage regulated then. 3 battery or two?

    most of theese LED chips seem to run on about 3v input.

    If you have an (old)Maglite torch, there are conversion lamps available to replace the Halogen/standard bulb, with an LED chip(of some branding), but you have to specify the number of D-cells for the Maglite
    For each type of Maglite body eg, 2, 3 or 4 cell bodies, there are various LED bulb replacements to suit.
    I've never upgraded mine, as the kit is expensive(even the cheapo ebay kits) and it's simply cheaper and easier just to get a smaller more portable 'Aldi' type high power LED chip type torch.

    OH! and I just checked and make a correction to my first reply: The Aldi torch uses three AAA's and not two AA's. Just tried three fresh NiMh's and it won't work.. I remember the same issue with my Katmandu 2AA torch not operating on NiMH's either.
    But the lithiums last for so long and have a significant weight advantage too!

    For a handheld, I'd definitely look into a rechargeable battery capable device.

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    I am older than I look. peterb666's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ElectricImages View Post
    Have you compared rechargeable batteries in your LED devices with alkalines?
    Yes. I prefer the reliability, longer life and lower long-term cost of rechargeables.

    the light output is CONSIDERABLY dimmer (maybe 1 - 1.5 stops) than with good alkaline or lithium batteries (which output an average of 1.5V per cell).
    No doubt, a fresh set of alkalines would be brighter than NiMh batteries but once the alkalines are around 50% discharged the brihtness would be the same. I generally use my lights to find my way in the dark when seascaping pre-dawn or finding my way back post-sunset.

    I rarely use them for photographic lighting but have done so. I have found painting with flash units fairly effective rather than playing around with LEDs. I have used LEDs for phtography lighting but a 1 to 1.5 stop advantage doesn't really mean anything unless you are trying to capture action. Just use a longer exposure.

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    Jackie!! read the OP's post!

    how on earth do you wear a videographers LED lighting array ...
    - a headlamp rather than torch model so the hands are free
    I know you have no idea on what I'm usually on about, and that's because I try to answer the OP's question directly.

    So.. and just for a change .. try to answer the OP's actual question, rather than starting a new tangent(while it may one day be valid, this is up to the OP to decide).

    Can you get these videographers LED lamps for $10-50? Do they have the power to drive their illumination further even compared to a simple hi power LED chip bicycle head torch?(I bet you they don't!)

    spread is one thing, power in illuminating distant subjects is another!
    Last edited by arthurking83; 20-04-2011 at 10:36am.

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    Quote Originally Posted by arthurking83 View Post
    Almost certain to be voltage regulated then. 3 battery or two?
    My headlamp is 3x AAA and my torches are 4x AAA and 4x AA.

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    Quote Originally Posted by arthurking83 View Post
    Jackie!! read the OP's post!

    how on earth do you wear a videographers LED lighting array ...

    I know you have no idea on what I'm usually on about, and that's because I try to answer the OP's question directly.

    So.. and just for a change .. try to answer the OP's actual question, rather than starting a new tangent(while it may one day be valid, this is up to the OP to decide).

    Can you get these videographers LED lamps for $10-50? Do they have the power to drive their illumination further even compared to a simple hi power LED chip bicycle head torch?(I bet you they don't!)

    spread is one thing, power in illuminating distant subjects is another!
    ah yeah, mine costs 45 dollars inc the 3rd party NP750 battery, which alone sells for nearly 100 here retail. Just checked my specs, its rated at 672 Lumens, at 7.8W with 112 LED lights. Perhaps if the OP knew about this like many others dont, he would realize the greater uses of these products rather than a simple head lamp - pretty sure u dont really want to try and wear them whilst taking a photo too.

    Just for a change, maybe be more succinct and precise and straightforward with your posts, or even use dot points - as every post you write makes it very hard to summarize and maintain interest in reading it, not every post needs to be an essay unless its a written tutorial or review of something.

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    Thankyou all for extremely informative info...

    I probably should have been a little clearer in my thinking for the light (or as it turns out probably lights)

    For the headlamp I was originally thinking mainly of the walking to and from locations (scrambling across rocky shorelines or in the bush in the dark and finding good locations to setup) when shooting seascapes and sunsets and also helping with setting up and seeing what I'm doing in the dark at the location (and maybe focus assist if I'm focusing on something not too far away - foreground interest). I was also thinking of a secondary usage of lighting up large or more distant objects when light painting long exposures in the dark (e.g. painting a building, large tree, cliff face, etc).

    I was originally thinking I could get something which would do both well but now after a little more research I suspect what I really might want is an adjustable headlamp with a wide flood for the first purpose (like the Zebralight H51 headset, Fenix HP10 with diffuser, Led Lenser H14, etc) and something more like a handheld torch with a powerful narrow long throw for the second (e.g. Fenix TK35, EagleTac M3C4, etc).

    The info re the colour cast will be useful (not so much for the headset but could be for the for the torch) - when light painting I wonder how this might affect things.

    Light panels do sound very interesting (perhaps something else for me to look at some other time) but probably not suited to either of my current wishes.

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Remorhaz View Post
    .....

    I was originally thinking I could get something which would do both well but now after a little more research I suspect what I really might want is an adjustable headlamp with a wide flood for the first purpose (like the Zebralight H51 headset, Fenix HP10 with diffuser, Led Lenser H14, etc) and something more like a handheld torch with a powerful narrow long throw for the second (e.g. Fenix TK35, EagleTac M3C4, etc).

    ....
    This is what I immediately assumed from your OP.
    This is (partly) what I have and occasionally use. I can't imagine a diffuser to be too hard to conjure up for nothing/next to nothing.
    The higher end products ion this type of category cost a small fortune(when I last checked). Only you know what represents value for money for your own purposes..I try to keep it to the absolute minimum personally.


    Quote Originally Posted by JM Tran View Post
    ah yeah, mine costs 45 dollars inc the 3rd party NP750 battery, which alone sells for nearly 100 here retail. Just checked my specs, its rated at 672 Lumens, at 7.8W with 112 LED lights. Perhaps if the OP knew about this like many others dont, he would realize the greater uses of these products rather than a simple head lamp - pretty sure u dont really want to try and wear them whilst taking a photo too.

    Just for a change, maybe be more succinct and precise and straightforward with your posts, or even use dot points - as every post you write makes it very hard to summarize and maintain interest in reading it, not every post needs to be an essay unless its a written tutorial or review of something.
    Problem with these type of lights Jackie is real punch, as opposed to theoretical lighting power as generally and wrongly assumed.

    Having an array of 112 globes all pumping out 7.8W of lighting power sounds fine and dandy if you want light in the immediate vicinity, but has no real power to travel beyond this immediate area. Depending on light globe design, I dare say they'd struggle to provide any power to light up a subject over 5 meters.. maybe 10 meters away. Great for video or some photography genres, but the OP specified light painting.
    if you've done light painting, you would know that in general the light needs to have more travel than width in it's spread.
    you can more easily diffuse a concentrated light source, than you can concentrate a diffuse light source(if at all??) so these videographer's lighting set ups really wont help much with light painting.

    I'm sure you know exactly what these Cree(brand not generic term for) LEDs a capable of.. if not, then imagine a 1-3W globe running off 3 AAA batteries and using it perfectly well as a car headlight!

    If your 112 globe array was manufactured with these high powered LEDs(what I call Luxeons, as they were the first to produce them way back...), it'd easily light up a footy ground(with some form of diffuser).
    They are completely different in the way they work to those LED globes found in the videographers array.

    once again, apologies for the long posts, but some things are easier to reply to once rather than brief point form summary.
    Especially stuff like the variable resistor(rheostat) adjustment on the Aldi torch. if not for that, the torch is unusable as a night light to operate the camera in the dark.. it's simply way too bright.

    BUT!! I will try to be more concise in future

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    Thanks and I guess the follow up question to the masses is if it's worth going for the so called more expensive name brands (e.g. the above headlamps I mention are about $60-70 each delivered and the high power (800+ lumen) torches are in the $100-200 range) or would anyone recommend for instance (any of) the cheap ebay ones. My reading seems to indicate the more expensive models are likely to have better power regulation, heatsinks & thermal cutoff protection (apparently the really high power CREE LEDs can generate a lot of heat), etc along with build quality, quality/consistency of light, etc. The headlamps generally run on AA's or AAA's but the high power torches generally require specialty batteries (like the CR123 or 18650 rechargables (and there appear to be quite some variation in quality and capability for these as well)) so that may also be a factor.

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