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Thread: FieldTest on Zebralight Q5

  1. #1
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    Default FieldTest on Zebralight Q5

    FieldTest on Zebralight Q5

    Location: My wife and I just returned from 2 weeks in rainforest jungle in Guyana, South America. Average temp ~90-100+ F. Humidity, constant 100%.

    Pattern of Use: We had to rise before sunrise, and go to bed well after sunset, so our usage ran about 4-6 hrs per day each, for 15 days. We set up camp (tents, etc), purified water, cooked meals, read a little, did paperwork, organized medical supplies, “showered”, and walked to the river and latrine every day in a different village - in the dark. Personal lighting was one of the most important tools we had with us.

    Form Factor: This light is terrific. It is small, light weight, multi-leveled, usefully bright and dim, very well regulated, and very efficient. The right-angled emitter is a terrific design for this use!! And the soft shield really eliminates the spill from hitting an eyeglass wearer. (We had a PT Apex along for internal body cavity illumination; it did fine for that task, but we could hardly wait to get its weight off ones head and use the ZL when its flood was appropriate.) Furthermore, after being caught in the dark at a dirt airstrip and having to walk a mile to the village along unfamiliar and uneven trails, we took to carrying the ZL+headband in our pockets all day long; virtually no weight or bulk meant that we always had a light with us.

    Silicon Brackets: We found these worked very well. Due to weight limitations, we only took the headband and its one bracket. It was light, comfortable, and easier to find in the dark due to the glow properties. Some have speculated about spontaneous rotation in the bracket – we found none. It is appropriately easy to adjust the angle up and down (much easier and wider range of motion than any of the other 8-10 headlamp I have owned,) but neither walking, vigorous up and down head motion, nor an occasional jog ever resulted in the light changing from the angle we set for it. Terrific design, well implemented.

    Battery Usage: Due to weight, temperature and run-time considerations, we used Energizer AA Lithium L91s exclusively. (For medical examination and surgery purposes, we had three other lights along, both LEDs and incandescents. A vital criterion was to get all lights using the same primary battery, as no mains power was ever available to recharge anything.) This gave us UNBELIEVEABLY LONG RUN TIMES. Using Zebralight’s advertised continuous run-times, we took several batteries apiece for each light. In reality, we used each light longer each day than we had estimated, and we came home with the original battery in each light still producing full output. This means, that we got at least 75 hours of use on one battery, being pretty much “on” full time in each 4-6 hr daily chunk of use, in a mixed pattern of (roughly) 60% low, 30% medium, and 10% high level. Perhaps others will not be so impressed, but I was flabbergasted and delighted that I got this much appropriately-scaled, evenly-regulated light from one AA battery!! WOW!! Next time we will not take nearly so many backup batteries.

    Light Pattern (Wide-Angle Flood): We knew full well that a flood pattern would not be the most useful for every purpose, and it was not good for illuminating surgical/biopsy sites and internal body cavity locations. But, it was virtually perfect for all our camp/living/reading/record keeping chores. The even light from the edge of peripheral vision to the center of a task was wonderful. Not having to move ones head to see something just off-center increased efficiency and reduced the psychological annoyance of living in a “light tunnel.” Everyone around us marveled at how evenly the lights illuminated things, and I would say that this is the most useful general task light I can imagine. (Some have questioned whether the flood pattern is more annoying by shining in the eyes of another while talking face-to-face; our prolonged experience was that indeed it has a wider angle of hitting another in the face, but the light is less concentrated and so is certainly not more annoying than a focused beam, and it is so easy to rotate the ZL to shine directly upward that one does it quickly and evenly, maintaining overall illumination without blasting ones conversations.) We used the ZL to illuminate trips to the river and the latrine once we knew the general direction of the object. However, two situations presented themselves in which the ZL was not the light of choice (nor was it designed to be).
    First, looking for an unfamiliar object or trail at some distance (30-60 meters) calls for a stronger central spot, for which we had a pair of Fenix L1D-CEs, which served perfectly. (Had a L2D-CE body along, but never needed to use it.)
    Second, at times we wanted to illuminate a room with general light from a site remote from ones body, as when cooking or using a solar shower; aiming the ZL at the ceiling meant that the very wide angle dispersion hit one in the eyes unless the ZL was placed on a pretty high surface. By contrast, tail standing the L1D-CE with its narrower beam worked much better.
    So, as I imagine everyone knows, no light is perfect for everything, and the ZL is no exception. When a focused beam is needed, that is what is needed. But for the usage on this mission, the ZL’s flood pattern was simply excellent at 95+% of the daily tasks we needed to illuminate, and I for one cannot ask for better than that.

    Switch (Twisty): Changing levels is a simple and easy series of off-on twists, facilitated by a short but noticeable pause in the off position when moving to the next level. I was delighted NOT to have a blinking pattern in this light; to me this is a task light, and flashing is not useful when doing work-oriented tasks (tho I do like and use the strobe mode in my L1D-CE when walking on narrow roads in the dark to really get the drivers’ attention.) There is no doubt that it would be more convenient if the ZL could change levels one-handed, e.g., with a clicky switch of some kind (I very much like the switch on the Fenix L1D-CE). BUT… I would not want to compromise the weight, size, or reliability of this light just to get one-handed operation. I must have changed levels a minimum of 15 times a night for 15 nights, so I have enough experience to conclude for myself that it really is not that annoying, and I would opt to retain the light weight and reliability as more important priorities.

    Overall: A truly useful light, extremely well implemented. Quality is excellent, performance is brilliant. In combination with a light like the L1D-CE, we had exactly what we wanted and needed when we truly had to depend on small, hand lights for every aspect of our lives. I would buy the Zebralights again, and would recommend them highly. 5 Stars.

    *************************************
    Post Script 10/30: First, thanks to so many of you for your complementary remarks. Frankly, it was a pleassure to pull together my evaluation of this light that served us so very well in a situation of real necessity. I am quite certain that if we had had to spend the same number of hours illuminating our lives with the more focused beam of most lights, the situation would have seemed substantially more stressful. Having a broad field of even light in front of us was so much more natural than living in the tunnel of light from most lamps. Working on tasks, especially searching for something and writing notes and filling out patient record forms, was so much easier and more natural than in a narrower field of light.
    Second point: I did not really say anything above about the objective of the trip since I did not want to bore the reader. But, since several of you have asked, yes it was a medical trip. My wife is a gynecologist and I am a psychologist. We like to volunteer in remote, interesting and adventurous places as often as possible. (Last year we went to Rwanda, where the genocide took over a million lives in 1994.) This year we went to Guyana (where, totally unrelated to the purpose of our trip, Jim Jones coerced lethal doses of cyanide into over 700 of his People's Temple members in 1978. Remember, "Don't Drink the Coolaid!"?) In Guyana we worked with the native AmerIndian tribes who live deep in the interior. There are no land roads to these places. It is a several week walk along one-track trails to the nearest city. One has to fly into one of the few regional dirt airstrips, and then travel by river in dug-out canoes. Like backpackers, we carried everything we needed, living in tents, "cooking" freeze-dried dinners on a one burner stove, having CliffBars for breakfast and lunch, and carrying all our personal and medical gear from village to village each day. We had torential rain most days (even tho it was the "dry" season), and the temp and humidity made it very physically stressful. The point of the trip was to address the fact that the AmerIndian women have one of the highest rates of cervical cancer in the world, and seemingly caused by a diffrent strain of the Human Papilloma Virus than American and European women suffer from. It was a facinating experience, and we are still deciding whether to make this a regular commitment on the calendar. (I played secretary, handling medical records; my wife was the key player!)

    *********************************
    Update 6/11/08
    An UPDATE after several months: Two of these little devils didn't seem enough - one for my wife, one on my bedside table for middle of the night reading when we are not traveling, but I wanted one for my pocket.

    So, I ordered a third Zebralight - and after it arrived I felt that the threads on the end cap to turn it on and off were a little rough. So I cleaned them and lubricated them, but still it was "stiff". Ocular examination "revealed" that there were burrs on the threads inside the cap.

    One email to Zebralight got the following response:
    "Please send the defective lamp only (without all accessories) to ZebraLight. We will send you the replacement this week. Sorry about the problem."

    Lo and behold, 2 week later I received a new light, and the threads are butter smooth. These guys are great!!

    [For the record, I have no relationship with nor any compensation whatsoever from Zebralight. They just build a TERRIFIC product.]

    I am really lookig forward to the new AA formfactor- ?the 51? We simply cannot do multiple battery types in our work, and the AA has a terrific weight/size/power ratio, so... bring the new ones on!!!
    Last edited by photonhoer; 06-11-2008 at 10:49 PM.

  2. #2
    Flashaholic* WadeF's Avatar
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    Default Re: FieldTest on Zebralight Q5

    Thanks for the report! Now I'm even more excited about receiving mine. Got the Q5 version on the way.
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  3. #3
    Flashaholic* Grubbster's Avatar
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    Default Re: FieldTest on Zebralight Q5

    Excellent review! It is great to hear real world usage like this. Those are the same thoughts I have had about the light, but I have only put it to limited usage. It is nice to know that even when used to more extreme levels, the light performs admirably.
    P.S. - let's see some pics of where you went!

  4. #4
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    Default Re: FieldTest on Zebralight Q5

    Excellent and detailed review.

    Cheers and thanks!


  5. #5
    Flashaholic* Haz's Avatar
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    Default Re: FieldTest on Zebralight Q5

    Great review, sounds like you have a pretty interesting job as well!. I think i have to order one!, thanks.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: FieldTest on Zebralight Q5

    Thank you for a well documented very comprehensive review, the reason for your adventure and your intriguing usage of a good compact headlaamp.

    You doubtless donated time to a grand humanitarian purpose. Kudos to you and your team for giving back. Your organization deserves a mention too.

    Huge cheers Doc, marlite

  7. #7

    Default Re: FieldTest on Zebralight Q5

    Great report. I wish they'd gone with a multi-level twisty (i.e. turn further to get brighter) or adjustment knob instead of the multi-twist UI, but that probably would have increased the cost and complexity.

    Did you not have access to 12V vehicle power? That's good for charging NiMH cells. The Energizer 15 minute charger comes with a 12V cig lighter plug these days so you can operate it directly from a lighter socket without needing inverters or anything like that.

    Did you have any concern about the silicon bracket wearing through / cracking? I felt happy that they included some spares.
    Last edited by paulr; 10-29-2007 at 08:33 PM.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: FieldTest on Zebralight Q5

    paulr: Great report. I wish they'd gone with a multi-level twisty (i.e. turn further to get brighter) or adjustment knob instead of the multi-twist UI, but that probably would have increased the cost and complexity.

    I cannot really discern what you are asking about. The three levels worked really well for our purposes, if that is what you are talking about.

    Did you not have access to 12V vehicle power? That's good for charging NiMH cells. The Energizer 15 minute charger comes with a 12V cig lighter plug these days so you can operate it directly from a lighter socket without needing inverters or anything like that.

    There was absolutely NO vehicle availability where we were. There are no roads and very few air strips for planes in the Cessna 182 class. So, forget recharging!!!! We've used the 15 min charging cells many times in Africa and like them, but here there is no opportunity to rechrge at all. Much more primitive!!

    Did you have any concern about the silicon bracket wearing through / cracking? I felt happy that they included some spares.

    No, this implementation seemed to work very well. After we got back, I noticed someone using the spare bracket to hold a 1AA light like the L1D on the same headband as the ZL, and while I have tried it I cannot yet offer an opinion about the functionality/practicality of this arrangement.
    Last edited by photonhoer; 10-29-2007 at 10:04 PM.

  9. #9

    Default Re: FieldTest on Zebralight Q5

    By multi-level twisty I mean I'd have preferred an interface where you turn the knob to get to low, turn it further to get to medium, and turn it even further to get to high, all in the same direction; instead of multi-twist where to get to high you have to turn right-left-right-left-right as if you were opening a safe. Thanks for the responses re the other stuff.

  10. #10
    Flashaholic* PhantomPhoton's Avatar
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    Default Re: FieldTest on Zebralight Q5

    Wonderful report; thank you for putting the time in and letting us know how it performed.

    Sounds like Lithium AAs worked well. Were you generally under the Jungle canopy and/ or clouds where quick solar charging wasn't viable? I get generally good performance from solar charging NiMh AAs as long as its sunny... cloudy as it often is up here in WA its slow going taking all day for one charging unit and 4 AAs.
    1) Neutral white, it's the new black. Heck, it's not even "new" anymore.
    2) User Interface... KISS.
    3) Proprietary cells and battery packs - Just say NO!

  11. #11

    Default Re: FieldTest on Zebralight Q5

    Great review! Thanks!
    May I ask what the purpose of your journey was?
    The ZL is great but two things I don't like after some weeks of use:
    1. The twisty is a little to stiff (need some different lube)
    2. To change the modes one needs to stay a little in off-mode. Switching too quickly doesn't work...
    Last edited by Xygen; 10-30-2007 at 05:45 PM.
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  12. #12
    Flashaholic* Oddjob's Avatar
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    Default Re: FieldTest on Zebralight Q5

    Good to hear about some very specific real world uses. Thank you. Sounds like you were on some kind of medical mission. Good for you! It's nice to read about flashlight usage but it is even nicer to read about people helping other people.
    I'd rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: FieldTest on Zebralight Q5

    Quote Originally Posted by photonhoer View Post
    ...We had a PT Apex along for internal body cavity illumination...
    You had me a bit worried about the story until I was able to tell that you were medical professionals... whew

    One of the best and most useful reviews that I have ever read! Thank you for taking the time to produce it.
    -Goatee

  14. #14
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    Default Re: FieldTest on Zebralight Q5

    I have added a post script to the original post #1:

    *************************************
    Post Script 10/30: First, thanks to so many of you for your complementary remarks. Frankly, it was a pleassure to pull together my evaluation of this light that served us so very well in a situation of real necessity. I am quite certain that if we had had to spend the same number of hours illuminating our lives with the more focused beam of most lights the situation would have seemed substantially more stressful. Having a broad field of even light in front of us was so much more natural than living in the tunnel of light from most lamps. Working on tasks, especially searching for something and writing notes and filling out patient record forms, was so much easier and more natural than in a narrower field of light.
    Second point: I did not really say anything above about the objective of the trip since I did not want to bore the reader. But, since several of you have asked, yes it was a medical trip. My wife is a gynecologist and I am a psychologist. We like to volunteer in remote, interesting and adventurous places as often as possible. (Last year we went to Rwanda, where the genocide took over a million lives in 1994.) This year we went to Guyana (where, totally unrelated to the purpose of our trip, Jim Jones coerced lethal doses of cyanide into over 700 of his People's Temple members in 1978. Remember, "Don't Drink the Coolaid!"?) In Guyana we worked with the native AmerIndian tribes who live deep in the interior. There are no land roads to these places. One has to fly into one of the few regional dirt airstrips, and then travel by river in dug-out canoes. Like backpackers, we carried everything we needed, living in tents, "cooking" freeze-dried dinners on a one burner stove, having CliffBars for breakfast and lunch, and carrying all our personal and medical gear from village to village each day. We had torential rain most days (even tho it was the "dry" season), and the temp and humidity made it very physically stressful. The point of the trip was to address the fact that the AmerIndian women have one of the highest rates of cervical cancer in the world, and seemingly caused by a diffrent strain of the Human Papilloma Virus than American and European women suffer from. It was a facinating experience, and we are still deciding whether to make this a regular commitment on the calendar. (I played secretary, handling medical records; my wife was the key player!)

  15. #15

    Default Re: FieldTest on Zebralight Q5

    My true respect to you both!
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  16. #16
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    Default Re: FieldTest on Zebralight Q5

    That is a very good review. Considering the heavy rainfall and jungle-type humidity that the light had to deal with, it is also about as tough a field-test as you could get.

    The postscript is a great account of what you were doing and what you and your gear endured. That was a fine job you were both doing. Thanks for telling us about it.
    Resistance is futile...

  17. #17

    Default Re: FieldTest on Zebralight Q5

    Great review........thanks!

    only problem now.....i cant decide between the Zebralight, the Pentagon MOLLE light or the Streamlight Sidewinder....

    too many choices.....

    best buy them all

  18. #18

    Default Re: FieldTest on Zebralight Q5

    Thanks Photonhoer for your detailed review in a real test enviroment
    and especially for your Humanitarian support.
    Flashlight collection: Ra, Novatac, Surefire, WolfEyes, Inova, Olight, EagleTac, Dereelight, Tiablo, Fenix, Nitecore, Lumapower, JetBeam, Zebralight, Thrunite, Sunwayled

  19. #19
    Flashaholic*
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    Default Re: FieldTest on Zebralight Q5

    Very good and careful review! Thanks!

  20. #20
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    Default Re: FieldTest on Zebralight Q5

    Quote Originally Posted by PhantomPhoton View Post

    Sounds like Lithium AAs worked well. Were you generally under the Jungle canopy and/ or clouds where quick solar charging wasn't viable? I get generally good performance from solar charging NiMh AAs as long as its sunny... cloudy as it often is up here in WA its slow going taking all day for one charging unit and 4 AAs.
    PhantomPhoton
    Tho I considered a solar charger, I did not think we could afford to rely on one in this case - both due to the weight (vs. extra L91 cells) and the length of time required to achieve a full recharge. We could have found canopy openings in the villages, but there is constant intermittant cloud cover so charging times would be long.

    Plus, we had the concern that when we ran a battery down we needed an immediate replacement (during the day for exams, pap smears and biopsies) and at night for conducting our lives. The weight-energy ratio, the shelf-life and the immediacy of availability weighted the decision for extra L91 primaries for us in this circumstance.

    We really were well-outside the edge of civilization, could only bring limited amounts of gear, and had to fully depend on what we had.

  21. #21
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    Default Re: FieldTest on Zebralight Q5

    thanks for the review, as well as your good hearts and deeds.

  22. #22

    Default Re: FieldTest on Zebralight Q5

    Thanks for the review and the commentary.

  23. #23
    Enlightened Grateful Ned's Avatar
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    Default Re: FieldTest on Zebralight Q5

    I was already leaning toward buying one of these for some upcoming winter night outings with students and scouts but wow that was a great review. Thanks for your efforts, both in developing countries and here on CPF !

  24. #24
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    Default Re: FieldTest on Zebralight Q5

    Great review and one word RESPECT

  25. #25

    Default Re: FieldTest on Zebralight Q5

    great review man! glad to hear about your trip too. many thanks to you and your wife on both accounts. think you just sold me a ZL Q5!

  26. #26
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    Default Re: FieldTest on Zebralight Q5

    Thanks, everyone, for the very nice and encouraging comments. I was - and continue to be - glad to have reviewed this light, as I found - and still find - it to be so VERY USEFUL.

    Several of the posts on other threads seem to criticize the light for its flood. This frustrates me a little, as these comments seem to ignore the fact that nothing can be everything to everyone. A narrow-focus light is more useful and most approproate in some situations, and this is when you need to have one. (I do have a variety of"throwier" lights, up to a Mag85 for extreme nightime illumination in 4x4 off-road travel and impromptu exploration of caves and mines.)

    What the H-50 Zebralight excells at is giving a broad field of even light out to at least 20-30 feet, with diminishing illumination beyond that point. It is also well made, light, and gives incredibly long battery life on lithium L91s.

    No one light can do everything, but an awful lot of life's chores are close in to one's hands (regulated by the length of our arms?) and in this zone the Zebralight is more useful to me than any of the other 6 models of headlamps I have used extensively. The even wall of light vs. the tunnel of more focused beams is a vast improvement to me. On the other hand, this is not a throw-monster, and we could not use it for PAP smears and vaginal biopsies, at which for example a PT Apex served extremely well.

    This is a different tool than a "throwier" light, just like a socket wrench is different from a crescent wrench. Depending on what you do, you may well need both; I think it is artificial to try to reduce the choice to a binary "buy-one-or-the-other" decision.

    John
    Last edited by photonhoer; 11-23-2007 at 09:43 PM.

  27. #27

    Default Re: FieldTest on Zebralight Q5

    Excellent post; superb reporting!

  28. #28

    Default Re: FieldTest on Zebralight Q5

    Great review, thanks for sharing your experiences!
    Full list of all my reviews: flashlightreviews.ca. Latest hobby: whiskyanalysis.com. Latest flashlight review: Thrunite TN42.
    Gratefully accepting donations to my battery fund.

  29. #29

    Default Re: FieldTest on Zebralight Q5

    preciate the response man, but one thing i wanted to know is if there was anything you didn't like about it. i was looking more into it and i might try to wait for the cr123 model... then again, i don't know. i honestly don't 'need' a headlamp right now, but it sure would be a fun stocking stuffer... as i'm sure most everyone else would agree... but, i was trying to get a feel for how it performed. i don't need a thrower; i have several. what i don't have is a friggin' awesome little lite that i can wear on my head while i'm working on my truck or doing odd jobs around the house (insert plumbing, wiring & electrical... you get the point) and walking to my deer stand tomorrow morning... things like that... sounds like i won't be disappointed with the h50, but i also accept perfection to be a journey, not a destination.

  30. #30
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    Default Re: FieldTest on Zebralight Q5

    Quote Originally Posted by medicmerlynn View Post
    ...one thing i wanted to know is if there was anything you didn't like about it. ....
    After our usage in Guyana and back home (on a small ranch) we have found nothing to not like about the light. The simplicity and reliability of the twist-UI overrode the possible convenience of a clickie; the floody wall of light is highly desireable in our usage (having a separate small thrower for when that is needed, like a Fenix L1D-CE); and the size, adjustability and absoluute minimal weight, and excellent construction are terrific.

    I thought saying this would be redundant, but happy to say it again.

    John

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