new vs. old Icon from BD

I’m writing this blog because I’m very disappointed with the new Black Diamond Icon headlamp. I plan on returning it for 2 primary reasons: it’s more bulky and heavy then I’d imagined, and its performance is hardly an improvement. Read on if you ever wanted to know what the differences are with the two headlamps.

old version of the Icon headlamp is on the left

old version of the Icon headlamp is on the left

So, at $79.95, it’s expensive. It’s heavy too, with 4 aa’s. I originally liked the idea, especially with rechargeables, like eneloops that require charging in pairs. The former Icon uses 3 aa’s. Charging required saving 1 till I got another odd number to charge. The new Icon’s exterior seems more refined, as is the battery compartment. Closure is a bit weird, but doable every time. The old Icon came apart in two pieces, so the headlamp strap wasn’t an enclosed loop anymore. Both require another headlamp to help you change batteries. I say require, because though doable, it would take a long time and first remembering which side feels like “+” or “-.” It would be cool to see a small led imbedded in the battery compartment run by a separate tiny battery that is triggered on when the compartment is open. Just sayin’.

This shows how each comes apart to replace batteries. New Icon is waterproof.

This shows how each comes apart to replace batteries. New Icon is waterproof.

The old Icon has a 3 step click change of light intensity. The new one uses a sustained press to change, stepless, the intensity. In theory, this sounds cool, but in reality, you only need a few if only 2, lowest and highest; regardless, the stepless new button only goes in one direction, so depending on where you are in the intensity cycle and where you want to go, you may have to hold it down for a bit. I find the 3 steps of the old unit to be very good. I usually only ever used it clicked to the lowest intensity or highest when climbing or intently doing something (assume lowest setting for not intently doing anything…).

this is the old Icon led layout

this is the old Icon led layout

...and the new

…and the new

Regarding the new Icon’s two individual white led’s as seen above (below the ones that look yellow), even at its maximum intensity on the new Icon, it pales in comparison with the strength of the 3 battery old Icon mainly because the old one has 4 individual led’s that produce not only a stronger beam, but a better one that helps in seeing depth. The new Icon is so frustratingly dim that I must have pressed through like 4 cycles while holding the button down trying to see if the light became brighter. For some unknown reason of irrationalism, I kept holding that tedious button down as it darkened then blinked, slowly lightened then blinked only to realize that that was it, just as it would move to a darker intensity, causing me to wait yet again till it became bright. The new Icon has only 2 led’s. Not only that, they produce such a smooth, flat and dull spray of light that it’s hard to really appreciate what’s in front of me. The light is so flat, I found myself while moving through dense trails with tons of roots, loose rocks, and occasional loose soil, staring intently to make sure what I saw was what I saw. With the old Icon, it was smooth sailing. I could easily start into a trot confident I will step exactly where I think it’s safe. With the new Icon, it was really disappointing. Jill tried it out too agreeing.

don't ask me why I'm holding it with my middle finger. weird. that green battery indicator only comes on for a second or so only when to turn it on. So... you have to take it off and turn it off then on to see. the old Icon was visible all the time from the side so a partner could tell you what it reads, or, you take it off to see it.

don’t ask me why I’m holding it with my middle finger. weird. that green battery indicator only comes on for a second or so only when you turn it on. So… you have to take it off and turn it off then on to see. the indicator on the old Icon was visible all the time from the side so a partner could tell you what it reads, or, you take it off to see it.

Since I was open to having a 4 aa battery headlamp for bouldering, I accepted that a small amount more of weight would be an ok tradeoff for more greater breadth and depth of light. Something I find very important for bouldering is peripheral vision because the rock is really close and we often see outside our direct vision. As I mentioned, the beam is weak, and flat and “seeing” variation and definition in rock looking for small anythings to use as feet was just plain hard; the new Icon was super disappointing. So in not having any advantage, in fact a disadvantage, with the main light used for 95% of time hobbled, having 4 aa’s now seemed like a very dumb idea. It was, when I grabbed the lip on Mad Max in Leavenworth, at night, the headlamp almost came off my head backwards with my beanie stuck inside. I grabbed it as it began to slide off. I never had this problem with the 3 aa old Icon, save maybe a rare moment I put in on too loosely. Since aa’s and aaa’s have the same voltage, just different watt hour rating, maybe use 4 aaa’s housed in a small carrier that can be slipped in and out easily. It would make the headlamp way lighter, have the same voltage to power strong led’s and with a second set in a quick change carrier. We carry extra batteries anyways, so why not in a thing that holds them together, already pre-aligned to “+” or “-” and ready to be inserted. That would allow changing batteries without another light source.

this is the beefcake battery compartment. looks like something different

this is the beefcake battery compartment. looks like something different

The new Icon has 4 led’s, two on a side, but 2 of them are red. I like this a lot, but I think if you have so many batteries, the illumination it provides should be really strong and broad. A red filter would be so much more cutting edge, ironically. You get twice the strength of light in both white and red with 4 white led’s. And maybe have a way to reduce output to 2 for low power? Just sayin’.

Now onto the main high beam of this very power headlamp. The new one is rated to 200 lumens. The old one is less, but I don’t know how strong. The new Icon is very bright. No question. But. Its reach is no better than the old one. Jill uses one for bat work looking up into crevices and such high up, and the old icon has a good reach, but it’s not very bright at that distance. The new one doesn’t seem to offer any improvement, just a ton more light out to the same distance. If that’s what you want then this headlamp does a great job. But if I can see and identify that which I am looking at with the old Icon, I’d prefer the light weight and the better low beam lights then to lose those two qualities in exchange for just more light to see the same thing I can see with the old one. This main led burns battery power so is not used often except to see things better on occasion. Why would I have a heavier and more powerful headlamp that can’t see further than the old one, and can’t see as well locally when using the low power led’s?

again, with the main led, that green indicator only comes on briefly when you turn the led on.

again, with the main led, that green indicator only comes on briefly when you turn the led on.

I read on the bd website that 9 out of 9 gave the headlamp 5 stars. All liked it a lot. I find that amazing.

The next issue is the angle that the headlamp rotates from pointing up to pointing down. Basically, the new one sucks. It doesn’t point down far enough, so I have to see something up close in the duller and darker part of the headlamp beam. It’s just fucking retarded. I at first found myself tilting my head down to see better causing me to look up past my eyebrows! I thought to myself, this is fucking stupid. The old rules.

this shows the extent each can re swiveled

this shows the extent each can be swiveled

What next? The new one is waterproof, or IPX7 rating (water immersion down to 1m for 30 min), and that’s good.

So to sum it up, bd focused on making the main light very strong and broad out to a given distance, but not farther then the old one, which in truth would have a been a really cool thing… to actually see farther. I mean, if you have the extra power… The low beam light is of great importance for bouldering or hiking but is too weak. Too poor quality. This light I use maybe 95% of the time. The 2 red led’s though nice are rarely used and shouldn’t be equal in real estate to the two white low beams. The main strong led is so strong that it actually feels like a waste of light for anything in general proximity, maybe out to 30 feet. At night, I want the main low beams to have a real long burn time, cover a broad front out to 100 or more degrees in front of me, light out to 30 feet in front, and have a focal beam that’s progressively bright towards the center. This is what the old Icon has, and Jill and I kept comparing while hiking trails at night at Point Defiance in Tacoma. We would swap lighting the path with each headlamp, and it was obvious how much easier it was to see, discern, define and react to things in front of us with the old lamp.

Here are some shots with the same exposure in the camera (set to manual) for each headlamp source:

light from the low beam old icon

light from the low beam old icon

here is the new icon low beam.

the new icon low beam.

Now for the high beam comparison. There are 3 shots. The first 2 show the old then the new. The third shows both hitting the wall with the exposure closed down because the intensity of the high beams are too strong. The third image shows how the old icon beam, though small is still very intense, even more so it appears.

old icon high beam

old icon high beam

new icon high beam

new icon high beam

new icon with old icon high beam hitting bottom door panel only

new icon high beam centered with old icon high beam hitting bottom door panel only

new icon high beam with old icon high beam hitting only the top door panel

new icon high beam centered with old icon high beam hitting only the top door panel

As you can see, the old icon is not exactly weak. Just directed. And its low beam is way stronger.

Don’t waste your money unless you need that much stronger high beam and weather sealing. I’m now re-using my old bd headlamp that uses 3 aaa’s. At least it’s light. Very light.

the one on the right is my bouldering headlamp now. it's old. that one on the left was my first led headlamp... the elastic is going bad.

the one on the right is my bouldering headlamp now. it’s old. that one on the left was my first led headlamp… the elastic is going bad.

Advertisements

~ by r. mulligan on 2013/10/29.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: