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Hands-on Gear Review
Zebralight H52 Review
Cons: Poor battery life
Bottom line: A small lamp that is pretty bright, this model sacrifices battery life.
The Zebralight H52 is among a very select group of lights in our test that sends a huge beam from a tiny, lightweight package. Only the Yalumi Spark Pro 120 is brighter and smaller. The battery life is the least among our tested products.
RELATED REVIEW: The Hunt for the Best Headlamps
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Zebralight is a popular brand among hardcore lighting aficionados. It is less known among general consumers. While this is not a perfect product, it does have a potential niche and should be considered by outdoor recreationists.
As the brightest headlamp under 100 grams in our review, the Zebralight H52 should be a consideration for literal trail finding. The compact form and ultra bright, smoothly lensed beam combine to be almost perfect for trail sports. Additionally, the modular design, in which the user can easily remove the headband and either carry the light handheld or clip it to a hat brim or pocket, serves to increase a trail user's options for lighting. For rough-ground depth perception, it is our experience that a head-mounted light isn't always the best. For travel across uneven ground, on which you have a hand free, sometimes holding the light provides better visibility. Both Zebralight models allow this. In fact, one can hold onto any light, regardless of its configuration. However, being able to quickly connect the headband or not is a nice touch. Check out the beam comparison below to see differences in the quantity and quality of light cast by both the H52 and our Editors' Choice Black Diamond ReVolt.
The super bright and even beam of the Zebralight provides excelent close proximity lighting. With the option to choose between two different tones (cool white and neutral white) of light at time of purchase, you can be sure to get exactly the close lighting you want. In scoring, this Zebralight was matched only by its cousin the Zebralight H602 and the powerhouse Nitecore HC50. Both of these companies have clearly invested a great deal in fine-tuning their lenses.
As excellent as the beam from the Zebralight is, its battery life truly suffers. The big bulb really drains the juice out of the single AA battery. In the highest mode, in our sensor test, the light power dropped off fast, declining to an unusable percentage in just 35 minutes. Compared to the 9 hours we got out of the similarly priced Black Diamond ReVolt, this performance is abysmal.
As noted above, the H52 is among the brightest for its size in our test. Only the Yalumi Spark Pro 120 is brighter and lighter. The next smallest light in our test, the Princeton Tec Byte is 18g lighter, but throws a beam about half the distance of the H52.
At 82 grams, even with the optional headband, the H52 is solidly a compact headlamp. We tested six headlamps that were lighter weight, but only two performed better in actual trail-finding. This is remarkable. If only Zebralight could make the battery last longer without compromising size, brightness, and lensing.
Ease of Use
The Zebralight H52 operates with a single button. Pushing that button a certain numbers of times, at certain rates, and with a certain depth of press activates a deep suite of features. Just like any complicated electronics, it takes some fiddling to take full advantage of all the features. Once familiar with the procedures, the H52 will be appreciated for its attributes. In the meantime, it sure seems complicated. Additionally, because of the asymmetrical shape of the light and battery unit, it fits on ones head a bit strangely. In order for the lamp to feel centered and balanced on your head, as well as pointing straight ahead, the light will shine from above one eye or the other. In distant use this presented no problems, but one tester found that the lop-sided light show was just a bit distracting.
This is an excellent product for high-pace, rough ground travel that only lasts a little while. In aggressive motion, the light weight will be appreciated. For navigating tough terrain, everyone will like the bright light. However, there is no way to overlook the fact that the battery scores are the worst in our test.
At $64 retail, this is not an inexpensive product. The construction quality, most notably the lensing and battery housing, is clearly above standard. This is a rugged, nicely machined product. With such a low battery life, however, other slightly less ruggedized products will surely suffice for most people.
If only that battery lasted even a little longer! This is a tiny, strong, durable product, with abysmal battery life.
Other Versions and Accessories
H52 Cool White
H52 Neutral White
— Jediah Porter and RJ Spurrier
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