068C Cree XM-L Headlamp

068C CREE XM-L T6 680LM 3-MODE WHITE HEADLAMP” from LightsCastle.com SKU #310067
* Provided for review courtesy of Lightscastle.com

First Impressions

I was honestly surprised by how much I like this headlamp.  Usually I use my Zebralights or my UF-H2/3/6 when I need a headlamp for detail work like soldering or for reading.  Usually the single strap headband and rubber mount hurt my forehead in short order and end up irritating me more than helping me.  This headlamp, once adjusted for proper fit, is surprisingly confortable and extremely useful.  The parallel cell arrangement provides fantastic runtime and eases my worries about having two Li-Ion cells in series strapped to my head.  Since the cells are wired in parallel this light will run on one or two cells.  I was not expecting to see a charger included in the package and even more surprised when I opened the battery compartment and found a really nice charging circuit built into the headlight.  While I still prefer to charge my cells seperately in a proper charger, this is great for the cyclist who is taking an extended trip and needs a small, lightweight charging option to carry in his/her pack to save precious cargo weight.  Overall construction is average and acceptable, especially for the price.

Manufacturer Specs:

Dimensions: 2.24 in x 2.13 in x 1.73 in (5.7 cm x 5.4 cm x 4.4 cm)
Weight: 7.09 oz (260 g)
Model: 068C
Quantity: 1
Color: Black
Material: Aluminum alloy
Emitter Brand: Cree
LED Type: XM-L
Emitter BIN: T6
Color BIN: Cool White
Number of Emitters: 1
Working Voltage: 3.6~4.2V V
Battery Configuration: 1 x 18650 / 2 x 18650 (Not included)
Circuitry: 2400mA
Brightness: 680 lm
Runtime: 3 hours
Number of Modes: 3
Mode Arrangement: Hi > Lo > Fast Strobe
Mode Memory: No
Switch Type: Reverse clicky
Switch Location: Tailcap
Lens: Glass
Reflector: Aluminum Textured / OP
Strap Included: No
Clip Included: No
Band Length: 20~40cm
Beam Range: 100 meters
Packing List: 1 x Headlamp  1 x Charger
Price:  $20.08 USD
Purchase link: Lightscastle.com

Measurements:

Head/Main body (diameter x length):  43.23mm x 53.27mm
Lens (diameter x thickness):  38.2mm x 1.37mm
Reflector (O.D x I.D. x Depth):  37mm x 33.8mm x 23.7mm
Reflector base opening:  9mm
Pill (O.D. x I.D.):  33.8mm x 23.7mm
MCPCB Diameter:  20mm
Pill switch base:  22mm

Output after 30 seconds (measured in calibrated I.Drunk:

High mode:   476 OTF lumens
Low mode:   98 OTF lumens
Lux @ 1m:  12,390
Throw distance:  222.62 m

Lets take a closer look at the construction.  I will provide details with each pic describing what you are looking at.

The head is slotted and finned.  Fins at the base of the body help rid heat from the pill.  Slots machined into the head allow air to circulate through the solid and finned reflector.  Stainless steel bolt is used to anchor the pivot point on the mount.

A very sturdy switch cap allows easy switching while maintaining a solid feel.  While small, it should be easy to find the button and activate the light.  The recessed switch area funnels your finger down to the switch so it can be easily found.

All driver and charging circuits are located in the battery case at the rear of the headlight.  Sturdy, coiled cabling routes from the battery case to the headlight base.  The head strap is very comfortable to wear and never feels as if it is cutting or digging into your skin.  What appears to be m erely a decorative label on the battery case is actually a tail light that glows red when the headlight is on.  A red LED on the driver/charging circuit illuminates this panel from behind.  This helps make a hiker or cyclist more visable from the rear. Not super bright but it does add to the user’s safety.

The inner surface of the battery case is made of a very soft rubber and is contoured to wrap around the curve of your head.

The base of the battery case is where the external wallwart charger plugs into the light.  To access the cells, merely peel the cover from the hard plastic base.

The charging port itself is accessed by removing the plug.

A look at the front of the light.  The OP reflector provides a very smooth beam (as you will see in later shots) but still provides a fair amount of throw from a surprisingly concentrated and bright hotspot considering the 490 OTF lumens on high.  THe Cree XM-L T6 is CW but has a nice pure white tint to it.  I would have to hazard a guess that my example uses a 1C tint.  A plastic centering/insulation ring on the emitter centers the reflector perfectly.

With the aluminum bezel removed we can begin to see the completely anodized internals of the head.

The lens is glass but is only 1.37mm thin.  It is uncoated but is very clear for just glass.  A GITD o-ring sits between the bezel and the lens.  All the internal parts are perfectly machined and designed for a perfect solid fit when assembled with no looseness in any of the parts.  It just feels good when reassembling the head.

The threads are clean and while not the smoothest, they aren’t too bad.  I’ve seen better but I’ve seen worse as well.

A closer look at the front of the bezel.  Notches machined into the inner face of the bezel allow you to use a tool to grip the bezel for removal.  There is enough surface on the bezel lip that hand grip alone was more than enough to loosen things.

The reflector itself is machined from a solid piece and is finned for extra thermal transfer area.  Grooves in the front and rear of the reflector have an o-ring in each.  This allows the reflector to fit/slide snugly into the head with no rattle at all.

Here you can better see the fins and o-rings.  These are the nice o-rings, not cheap silicone or rubber.

The design of the reflector base means it sits firmly onto the emitter’s centering ring while being raised enough to avoid any chance of shorting the power connectors on the LED MCPCB.

Inside the head we can see the top of the pill and the 20mm LED star/mcpcb.  Soldering on the connections is very good.  Proper amount of thermal grease is applied between the star and the solid base of the pill.  heat from the pill is transferred to the head only where the lip of the pill sits on internal ledge.in the head.

Fully anodized interior.

Here I’ve pulled the pill out from the head.  You can see the top lip where the pill sits against a lip i the wall of the head.

The base of the pill contains a press fit PCB borad for the switch.  There are no components in the inner surface of the PCB.  Just wiring form the battery case to the switch and from the feed cable to the emitter.  The switch has a nice lcick to it and while small, feels acceptably solid.

A closer look at the switch.

Here we can see the very base of the head and the rubber switch boot/grommet.

Back to the battery case, here we see the silicone rubber cover pulled from the body of the case.  A split ring keeps the rubber cover from getting lost.  4 screws hold the inside of the compartment to the outer case.

With the screws removed and the internal section lifted, we can see the driver/charging circuit for the headlamp.

A closer look at the circuitry.  I’m sure someone could change out the sense resistors and bump up output but given the limited thermal transfer capability of the pill and head I would not recommend doing so.  I think the current output is perfect for the light’s thermal properties.

Protected TF flames fit fine inside with 1 or 2mm to spare.  Protected 3400’s might be too tight a fit to work but most else should be just fine.

Here is the wall wart charger that comes with the headlamp.

Designed for US plugs and 100/240 volts input, it outputs 4.2v @ 500 mAh

When not plugged into the battery case and when the charge is complete, the LED on the charger turns green.

When charging the cells it is red.

If cells are in the case and the charger plugged into the case, the LED is lit green.

Here is a pic of the output profile with the light perfectly parallel to my well worn table.  Very smooth spread and nicely focused hotspot.

Here is a shot of the light on low.  PWM is definitely visable in low.  On high there is zero PWM.

Next up you can see how the red marker on the rear of the lamp lights red when the light is on.  Even in a lit room you can easily see the red light but through the camera it’s not as visible as with the naked eye.

With the lights off you can see it much better.  I think it’s a really nice feature for a cyclist to have.  Since this is my first headlamp of this kind I don’t know if it’s a common feature or not.  Regardless, it’s pretty nice to have.

Close up shot of the rear LED.

Here is a ceiling shot.  I have 10ft ceilings in my house and the headlamp is a little over 6ft from the ceiling (sitting on the dining room table).  Usually I have no problem getting the entire spill form a light into the picture but I had to get on the floow to fit this one.  Spill is the widest I have on any light, even FTT lights in flood mode.  You can see how smooth and buttery the spill is while the nice center spot aids in distance viewing.  My lux readings show the range of this to be over 220 meters.  Not bad form a small headlight with so much spill.

Here the light is 1 meter from the wall.  I’ve taped a yardstick to the wall so you can get a proper idea of the size of the spill and the hotspot.

Conclusion

I really like this headlamp!  I have to give it a solid recommendation at it’s selling price of only $20 USD.  Comfortable, smooth spill, great hotspot, long run time with 2 parallel 18650 cells.  This light will go with me when I go camping and hiking for sure.  I don’t bicycle but I used to and if I still did I would use it in addition to a handlebar mounted light.  Even by itself it would probably work very well!

Feel free to leave comments and thoughts.  Thanks for reading!

~Johnny

One thought on “068C Cree XM-L Headlamp

  1. Pingback: 068C Headlamp from LightsCastle.com | Johnny Mac Reviews

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