Nitecore HC68 Headlamp Review

Nitecore HC68 Headlamp Review

Here’s a review of the new HC68 headlamp by Nitecore. This dual-emitter headlamp with red secondary boasts USB-C charging. Read on for more!


Official Specs and Features

Here’s a link to the Nitecore HC68 headlamp product page.

Versions

I believe there’s just one version of the Nitecore HC68 headlamp.

Price

These are listed for $99.95 currently but also appear to be backordered.


Short Review

There are many things to like about the Nitecore HC68 headlamp.  The output is great (and it seems to hit the claimed specifications, too).  USB-C charging works quite well. The red secondary is good too.  All in all, it’s a good package.  At $100, it might be priced a bit high, but it’s a feature-rich package for sure.

Long Review

The Big Table

Nitecore HC68 Headlamp
Emitter: Luminus SST-40-W (Both)
Price in USD at publication time: $99.95
Cell: 1×18650
Turbo Runtime Graph
LVP? ?
Switch Type: E-Switch
Quiescent Current (mA): 0.02
On-Board Charging? Yes
Charge Port Type: USB-C
Charge Graph
Power off Charge Port No
Claimed Lumens (lm) 2000
Measured Lumens (at 30s) 1987 (99.4% of claim)^
Candela per Lumen 3.7
Claimed Throw (m) 202
Candela (Calculated) in cd (at 30s) 392lux @ 4.79m = 8994cd
Throw (Calculated) (m) 189.7 (93.9% of claim)^
Claimed CCT
Measured CCT Range (K) 6000 Kelvin
Item provided for review by: NitecoreStore.com
All my Nitecore reviews!

 

Nitecore HC68 Headlamp
Emitter: Luminus SST-40-W (Spot )
Price in USD at publication time: $99.95
Cell: 1×18650
Higher  Runtime Graph High Runtime Graph
LVP? ?
Switch Type: E-Switch
Quiescent Current (mA): 0.02
On-Board Charging? Yes
Charge Port Type: USB-C
Charge Graph
Power off Charge Port No
Claimed Lumens (lm) 1800
Measured Lumens (at 30s) 1785 (99.2% of claim)^
Candela per Lumen 9
Claimed Throw (m) 202
Candela (Calculated) in cd (at 30s) 868lux @ 3.76m = 12271cd
Throw (Calculated) (m) 221.6 (109.7% of claim)^
Claimed CCT
Measured CCT Range (K) 5300-5500 Kelvin
Item provided for review by: NitecoreStore.com
All my Nitecore reviews!
Nitecore HC68 Headlamp
Emitter: Luminus SST-40-W (Flood)
Price in USD at publication time: $99.95
Cell: 1×18650
Higher Runtime Graph High Runtime Graph
LVP? ?
Switch Type: E-Switch
Quiescent Current (mA): 0.02
On-Board Charging? Yes
Charge Port Type: USB-C
Charge Graph
Power off Charge Port No
Claimed Lumens (lm) 1400
Measured Lumens (at 30s) 1341 (95.8% of claim)^
Candela per Lumen 1.7
Claimed Throw (m) 77
Candela (Calculated) in cd (at 30s) 200lux @ 3.235m = 2093cd
Throw (Calculated) (m) 91.5 (118.8% of claim)^
Claimed CCT
Measured CCT Range (K) 5700-6500 Kelvin
Item provided for review by: NitecoreStore.com
All my Nitecore reviews!

^ Measurement disclaimer:  I am an amateur flashlight reviewer.  I don’t have $10,000 or even $1,000 worth of testing equipment.  I test output and such in PVC tubes!!  Please consider claims within 10% of what I measure to be perfectly reasonable (accurate, even).

What’s Included

Nitecore HC68 Headlamp Review what's included

  • Nitecore HC68 Headlamp
  • Headband
  • Nitecore 3500mAh 18650
  • Charging cable (USB to USB-C)
  • Spare o-rings (2)
  • Manual and papers

Package and Manual

Nitecore HC68 Headlamp Review lens cover

Nitecore HC68 Headlamp Review manual

Build Quality and Disassembly

Nitecore HC68 Headlamp Review

Inside the Nitecore HC68 headlamp you can see that the positive contact is just a little button. The tail cap though (the removable one, which isn’t the switch tailcap) has a nice beefy spring.

Nitecore HC68 Headlamp Review into cell tube

Only one tailcap is removable – you’ll see why in later photos. These threads are fairly fine and quite long (it takes a lot of twisting to remove this tailcap), but because they’re anodized (and lubed), they’re very smooth.

Nitecore HC68 Headlamp Review tailcap threads

Size and Comps

Length 91.5 mm / 3.60 in
Head Size 26.5 mm / 1.04 in
Weight 118.5 g / 4.18 oz

If the flashlight will headstand, I’ll show it here (usually the third photo).  If the flashlight will tailstand, I’ll show that here, too (usually the fourth photo).

Nitecore HC68 Headlamp Review in hand

Here’s the test light with the venerable Convoy S2+.  Mine’s a custom “baked” edition Nichia 219b triple.  A very nice 18650 light.

And here’s the light beside my custom engraved TorchLAB BOSS 35, an 18350 light.  I reviewed the aluminum version of that light in both 35 and 70 formats.

Nitecore HC68 Headlamp Review beside torchlab boss 35

Retention and Carry

This is only a headlamp; you’ll almost certainly never carry it any other way. As such, it ships with the headband seen below.  This headband has an around and over the head part, too.

Nitecore HC68 Headlamp Review headband Nitecore HC68 Headlamp Review headband

On the inside is a silicone strip that will aid in keeping the Nitecore HC68 headlamp in place on your head.

Nitecore HC68 Headlamp Review headband

Here’s the back of the light attachment part.  This part will not contact your head; the headband will be between.  Also, note that it’s easy to remove the headband because of those slits in the plastic seen below.

Nitecore HC68 Headlamp Review hard plastic piece

Power and Runtime

The Nitecore HC68 headlamp is powered by a single lithium-ion battery. In this case, an 18650 fits, and the package from nitecorestore.com includes this 3500mAh 18650 seen below.

Nitecore HC68 Headlamp Review included 18650

Nitecore HC68 Headlamp Review included 18650

Install the cell with the button to the inside of the light. (This is the typical orientation for flashlight cells.)

Nitecore HC68 Headlamp Review included 18650 installed

Nitecore is using a standard 18650 in this headlamp. That’s great!

Nitecore HC68 Headlamp Review included 18650

Here are a number of runtime graphs.  Turbo, which is both emitters and then 3 or so from each (white) emitter individually. Turbo actually automatically switches to a very low output after a minute or so.  In this case (the very first runtime below), I just sat with the light and kept turning on Turbo over and over.  As far as I know, there is no way to make the light stay on Turbo continually, which is a little annoying. But for brief bursts, this is fine. Also, I can say that the temperature log on this light was… complicated. I could find no good purchase for my sensor, and thus while I know for certain that this Turbo runtime got “quite hot,” the temperature seen in the graph does not reflect that. Resetting to turbo over and over like this does make the light very hot!

Nitecore also reports that 2xCR123 will also work in the light.

Charging

Nitecore is using a USB-C charging port for the Nitecore HC68 headlamp. The port is exceptionally well protected, being hidden under “the other” tailcap.  That is, it’s on the end where the tailcap does not come off fully. This is the same end that has the on/off e-switch, too.

Nitecore HC68 Headlamp Review usb icon

Just like the tailcap that does come off, the threads here are anodized, fine, very long, and smooth.  This setup should mean that the USB-C port is very well protected from elements.

Nitecore HC68 Headlamp Review usb-c charging port

Just a quick sidenote on how the switch looks when the charging port is “open.”  The switch is accessible (you can see it below, barely).

Nitecore HC68 Headlamp Review with usb-c charging port exposed

A charging cable is included: USB to USB-C.

Charging from C to C works just fine – the charge profile is practically the same between A to C and C to C. Despite charging to “only” around 4.15V-4.17V, the cell is “full.”

Modes and Currents

Both white emitters:

Mode Mode Claimed Output (lm) Claimed Runtime Measured Lumens Tailcap Amps
Turbo 2000 1987 6.35

Spot light:

Mode Mode Claimed Output (lm) Claimed Runtime Measured Lumens Tailcap Amps
Higher 1800 30m 1785 6.25
High 950 2h30m 1026 2.37
Mid 250 6h 271 0.48
Low 50 28h 55 0.09
Ultralow 1 800h 0.9 6.82mA

Flood light:

Mode Mode Claimed Output (lm) Claimed Runtime Measured Lumens Tailcap Amps
Higher 1400 30m 1341 6.20
High 850 2h30m 756 2.34
Mid 220 6h 205 0.47
Low 45 28h 40 0.09
Ultralow 1 800h 0.7 6.75mA
Mode Mode Claimed Output (lm) Claimed Runtime Measured Lumens Tailcap Amps
High 11 30h 130mA
Low 3 110h 30mA

Pulse Width Modulation

There’s really no PWM on any mode.

For reference, here’s a baseline shot, with all the room lights off and almost nothing hitting the sensor.  Also, here’s the light with the worst PWM I could find.  I’m adding multiple timescales, so it’ll be easier to compare to the test light.  Unfortunately, the PWM on this light is so bad that it doesn’t even work with my normal scale, with is 50 microseconds (50us).  10ms5ms2ms1ms0.5ms0.2ms.  In a display faster than 0.2ms or so, the on/off cycle is more than one screen, so it’d just (very incorrectly) look like a flat line.  I wrote more about this Ultrafire WF-602C flashlight and explained a little about PWM too.

User Interface and Operation

First, there’s a “tailswitch” on the headlamp. Since it’s a headlamp, it’s not really on the “tail” but let’s call it that.

Nitecore HC68 Headlamp Review tail e-switch

There are also two e-switches on the top of the Nitecore HC68 headlamp.

Nitecore HC68 Headlamp Review top e-switches

When worn in the normal way on a headband – that is with these plus/minus e-switches on the TOP, the “tail” switch is on the right-hand side of the light. Below, you can identify it by the USB charging icon on the left.

Nitecore HC68 Headlamp Review top e-switches

Nitecore HC68 Headlamp Review top e-switches

Here’s a UI table!

State Action Result
Off Click either Top Switch Battery Check^
Off Hold either Top Switch No action
Off Hold Tail Switch Turbo
On Click Tail Switch Off
Off Click Tail Switch On – Mode Memory
On Click Plus Top Switch Increase output of selected emitter
On Click Minus Top Switch Decrease output of selected emitter
Ultralow Hold Top Switch over respective emitter No change
Ultralow Hold Top Switch farthest from respective emitter^^ Switch to another emitter
Off Hold Plus Switch and click Tail Switch “Higher” of whatever emitter is selected (in memory)
Off Hold Minus Switch and click Tail Switch “Ultralow” of whatever emitter is selected (in memory)
Off Double click Tail Switch Red Low
Special Group Click Plus Top Switch Special mode advance, as follows: Red Low > Red High > Red Flashing > Beacon (white) > SOS (white)
Special Group Click Minus Top Switch “Decrease” special group (reverse order from the above list)
On (except Ultralow) Hold Top Switch farthest from the emitter that’s on Emitter turns on and ramps up. Release at the desired level.^^^

^ Battery check blinks the voltage exactly, in ones and tenths. For example, 4.2V is four blinks (of the blue emitters between the top switches) then a pause then two blinks. If using two CR123 cells, the blinks indicate >50%, <50%, or <10% by three, two, or one blinks, respectively.
^^ Specifically, the Minus button switches to Flood, and the Plus button switches to Spot.
^^^ I am not sure what’s the point of this exactly, but trust me that it’ll be confusing at first. Just remember that to switch between emitters, the light must be in an Ultralow state. Otherwise, the “switching” action won’t switch, it’ll combine. Past that, changing the modes is a bit nebulous… The emitters do not initially seem to be matched in output, but if you go up and back down, they’ll both definitely be in ultralow (otherwise it’s really too bright to tell what’s what just by looking into the light.) Interestingly this actually seems to be the only way to get to “ultra-ultralow” (or “ultralow of both emitters at the same time”).  The output is not documented in the manual, either. (I am not a fan of undocumented features!)

LED and Beam

Both white emitters are Luminus SST-40-W emitters. I don’t think Nitecore specifies what the CCT is.

Nitecore HC68 Headlamp Review emitters

Those white squares in the middle are the red emitters.

Nitecore HC68 Headlamp Review emitters and TIR Nitecore HC68 Headlamp Review emitters and TIR Nitecore HC68 Headlamp Review emitters and TIR

Nitecore HC68 Headlamp Review emitters on Nitecore HC68 Headlamp Review emitters on

Nitecore HC68 Headlamp Review red emitters on Nitecore HC68 Headlamp Review emitters on

LED Color Report (CRI and CCT)

These Luminus SST-40-W emitters are interestingly different in CCT by my measurements. The flood emitter is much cooler, particularly at higher output. The CRI for both is also low, at under 70.

Flood:

Spot:

 

Turbo, then the two modes of red:

Beamshots

These beamshots are always with the following settings:  f8, ISO100, 0.3s shutter, and manual 5000K exposure.

Flood:

Spot:

Turbo, then the two modes of red:

Tint vs BLF-348 (KillzoneFlashlights.com 219b version) (affiliate link)

I keep the test flashlight on the left, and the BLF-348 reference flashlight on the right.

Flood:

Spot:

Turbo, then the two modes of red:

I compare everything to the KillzoneFlashlights.com 219b BLF-348 because it’s inexpensive and has the best tint!

Conclusion

What I like

  • USB-C charging works very well
  • Complete package
  • Red emitter modes
  • Meets output specifications
  • Comfortable
  • The difference between spot and flood is remarkably different
  • Switches are very responsive

What I don’t like

  • The cost is a bit high
  • Mixed emitter ramping doesn’t seem adequately explained in the manual
  • This ramping is only available when one emitter is steady and one is increasing or decreasing
  • Very long threads, so unscrewing the tailcap or revealing the charging port takes a lot of twisting.

Notes

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