Nitecore HC50 Headlamp Review

Welcome to CivilGear where I review tools, not just on the bench, but on the job!
I am so thrilled to present Nitecore’s HC50 headlamp as it fits my lifestyle amazingly!

Let’s face it, handheld flashlights are lots of fun, but when it comes to getting work done, you need both hands free, and a headlamp is the solution! As a home owner, a car owner, and a civil engineer who sometimes works in the field, I would highly recommend the Nitecore HC50 headlamp.

Quick Specs

Thanks to increasing industry standards (ANSI FL-1), you can now get a feel of what kind of flashlight you’re planning on buying. Once you start buying flashlights and start comparing numbers, you get a better feel for all of these mean and what to expect. As a crude explanation, lumens (the half sun symbol on the table below) is basically the total amount of light produced by the flashlight, and the target symbol below measures the brightness (in candles) at the very center of the beam. So if you were comparing 2 different 565 lumen flashlights but the other one has only 1,000 cd you would know to likely expect a more diffuse or ‘floody’ beam profile, whereas if it had a higher peak beam intensity (and likely a longer beam distance), it would likely have a more concentrated ‘spot’ beam profile.

HC50_EN21 - Copy (2)
Pre-2016 Nitecore Hc50 headlamp.

As a comparison a traditional incandescent/xenon Maglite with two D size batteries only produces about 27 lumen but has a wapping 10,627 cd; so it’s not super bright but can throw the beam like a great distance (link to Maglite)

*UPDATE*

Nitecore has release a new 2016 version with a max of 760 lumens, see the following specs for more:

HC50 2016 specs
2016 Version Nitecore HC50

Hands-On Review

Major Pros

I would recommend the HC50 for the main following reasons (besides being bright):

  • Wide and floody beam means you get less neck cramps aiming the light at your work. Total spill angle is 110 degrees with a spot angle of 30 degrees.
  • Easily operated while using heavy gauge gloves and with one hand
  • Precise battery indicator lets you know if you’ve got enough power to finish the task (green light illuminates the click switch whenever the light is turned on)
  • Legitimately water proof IPX8 and full-metal construction (military grade anodized aluminum) means you can work in the rain, and when you’re done, you can toss it in the tool box without worry of damage
  • Has a very wide vertical swivel angle (can be pointed straight up or down)
  • Has brightness mode memory (if you have the light at medium and turn off and on the light, it will turn on at medium instead of low)

 

 

Added Bonus

  • Easily removable from rubber mount and can be an impromptu hand light
  • 3 hidden light modes: SOS, beacon, slow flash
  • Has multipurpose secondary set of dual red LEDs which can be used as a back of hard hat light safety light, or a low light for map reading or star gazing on the weekends
  • Sleek and compact design won’t look too goofy on you and will likely fit in your back pocket
  • Square-cut thread makes the battery cap easier to use and will help it not jam as much

Cons

  • Not as many lumens (565) as other flashlights that use the XM-L2 LED (typically 1000) but 565 lumens is a lot of light when you’re working at arms length
  • Takes practice to operate the light with one hand; if you grip the switch end between your pointer and middle finger you can easily use your thumb to operate the clicky switch. Additionally, if you turn off the light too slowly, you end up changing the brightness level right before you turn it off which will be remembered when you go to turn on the light again
  • The headband, while comfortable against the skin, will not grip a hard hat at all. Additionally, the combination of a smooth headband and plastic buckle, the tension tends to slip over time

Observations

Applications

If you regularly need a light and both your hands are hard at work, you should seriously consider the HC50. Here are some tasks which I thought the HC50 did or would do a great job:

  • Plumbing under the house and around the house
  • Vacuuming the car (after work in the dark, the dome light never stays on long enough)
  • Inspecting hotel mattresses for bed bugs for vacation or business travel (always check!)
  • Late night rose pruning (you just never know when your wife will ask you about that one 😉 )
  • Regular car maintenance
  • Around the camp site
DSC09891
Gas plumbing in the crawlspace under the house for a new gas fireplace. Thanks to the wide beam angle, I didn’t have to crane my neck to aim the light (on high mode).
Pruning the roses after work with Nitecore's HC50
Pruning the roses after work and thanks to the large clicky switch, I could easily operate it while wearing thick leather gloves (on turbo mode).
DSC00374
Adding some extra caulking behind the shower and it still produces quality light on a dark background (on turbo mode).
DSC00318
Adding a door security latch, even at this close range, the wide beam angle lights up my project just right (on turbo mode).
DSC00691
Checking the hotel for bed bugs before unpacking and it still works great with all the room lights on (on turbo mode) .

 

Other Thoughts and Wishes

  • Due to the wide output angle, the light is very visible to other people who are facing your direction, so it may not be polite to use the HC50 as a trail light or bicycle light unless you have it angled further down. When my wife comes to check on me I usually have to turn off the light to talk to her.
  • Although the headband will not stay tight on a hardhat, there are accessories you can find on amazon, check out the Goggle Grip Micro Grip
    that can help retain the headband to your hardhat.
  • For the strap, my preferred option would be a reversible strap with one side being non-slip, but in the mean time I might break down and pick up a non-slip strap like from 5.11 tactical:
    5.11 Tactical Headlamp Straps
  • While not the heaviest headlamp around, it might bounce a little if you go jogging with it.
  • I would have liked the knurling at the ends of the the flashlight body to have been more aggressive so you could swivel it easier with heavy gauge leather gloves
  • I would have liked the option to dim the light without having to make the light brighter first. Some newer Nitecore lights have a way to always turn the light on in low mode which would have fulfilled this wish.
  • It’s a bit fancy of a request but I would have liked the option, or option to buy an accessory, for a momentary burst mode, perhaps the use of a tactical momentary switch that could mount to the side of the head band or tool belt.
  • It would have been nice of Nitecore to make an optional zipper pouch to store the light, but you can likely find a case or bag like this on amazon instead:
    Black Nylon Mesh Drawstring Pouch Bags 3 Pcs
  • Not sure if it’s compatible with the current flashlight body design but, I also would have liked the light to have come with a belt clip (similar to Nitecore’s HC30).
  • One “out-there” wish is having the headlamp beep once when you’ve used 50% nad twice at 85% of the battery. I usually get so wrapped up in project that I get surprised when the light starts to shift into lower output modes.
  • I would have like a couple of more threads on the battery compartment as you have to apply a little pressure to bring the cap in close enough to begin screwing the cap which can cause a little jamming.

Price

Check Amazon for the current price; here are some links to get you there quicker:

Original Version

Nitecore HC50 565 Lumen CREE XM-L2 LED Headlamp

Upgraded 2016 Version

Nitecore HC50 760 Lumen CREE XM-L2 LED Headlamp

Thanks for Reading!

Hope you found this humble review useful! If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment. Thanks!

 

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