User Review: Princeton Tec Apex
Price Paid: 60.00
This initial evaluation was performed indoors in a darkened basement and then after nightfall in the backyard, partially surrounded by trees.
This is perhaps the best headlamp i own or have ever used.
0. price: lists for a full retail price of $80. even though only just introduced, (was shipped on the first date available), was purchased for only $65 from BrightGuy.com.
1. good balance. batts behind head - perhaps a must in a 4AA headlamp. small front unit - a bit larger than the PT Corona, but not a big "head". speaking of the "head", it has 90 deg. of vertical adjustment from straight ahead to straight down. it has a non-racheted , friction hinge, and so is "infinitely" adjustable. will the nylon insert of the lock-nut securing the hinge screw loosen over time? if so, the phillips head of the hinge screw should be easy to tighten. very little bounce without the removable top "bucket" strap and no movement whatsoever of the head about the hinge point.
2. excellent batt. life is indicated by the mfr and is expected due to the addition of a fourth battery - as cp. to other 3 batt. systems. even taking a 1/2 to 3/4 reduction of the mfr's claims, this leaves a relatively long batt life. more testing is needed to see if these claims hold true.
3. light output - must be seen to be believed! in all modes, the Apex produces a very white light output with little or no "yellow" or perceptible "blue" from light reflected from surfaces ~40' away. this user prefers pure white light; others will undoubtedly prefer some "yellow", making it appear more "incandescent-ish".
the Apex has 5 operating modes: 3W LED-hi, 3W LED-lo, 5mmx4 LED-hi, 5mmx4 LED-lo, 5mmx4-hiFlash.
the 5mm-Hi is surprisingly bright easily illuminating out to 40' - much brighter than a TikkaPlus. on 5mm-hi, it is the brightest 4LED headlamp, i've ever seen, actually rivaling and surpassing any 6 or 7 5mm LED array headlamps i've used. in fact, on 5mm-HI mode, it appears to be nearly as bright out to 40'as some single 1W LEDs.
5mm-LO mode is noticeably dimmer than 5mm-HI mode, but still unusually bright. for example, 5mm-LO mode on the Apex was brighter at ~40' than other 5mmx4 white LEDs headlamps on their highest output compared. i will probably be unable to hike on unfamiliar trails in 5mm-LO mode (i like to see lo-contrast, dull, faded blazes on trees at least 30' ahead so as not to miss a bend in the trail), but younger hikers with average or better than average low light vision, in some cases, may find it possible. even on 5mm-LO mode, however, it is too bright to be used for reading, IMHO.
the 3W LED on LO is very bright (field testing will need to be performed to determine actual throw - at 40' in the basement, objects on the walls were illuminated very well. on 3W LED-Lo the Apex's beam was noticeably brighter than single 1W LED headlamps on their highest output mode and had a larger "spot", providing a much better overall view.
the 3W LED on HI very brightly illuminated small objects 40' away.
outside in the backyard, 5mm-HI illuminated trees ~50' away, though very dimly - very impressive for only 4 5mm LEDs. there is a real difference using it indoors where there are more surfaces to reflect light back to the eye, and outdoors where most light is not reflected back at perceptible levels since there are fewer objects/trees to do so, i.e. more open space.
3W LED-LO illuminated trees moderately bright, ~50'-75' away - about the same, or even a bit brighter than other 1W LuxeonStar-type LEDs - certainly no less bright than other 1W LEDs.
3W LED-HI brightly illuminated those same trees and could distinctly, but not brightly, make out the trees at the very back of my yard at the start of the woods, 150'-200' away.
beam width from the 3W LED was actually excellent at 50'-150, and even at 30'. won't need to be "chicken walking" to pick out blazes (i.e., bobbing and turning the head to see each individual tree trunk in order to locate blazes.
both the 5mm and even the 3W LED have an impressive field of illumination. 3W has a somewhat very nice large spot, nowhere near as tight as some other 1W and 3W headlamps, making it much more useful. for my uses, i.e., nighttime navigation and not SAR, giving up a bit of "throw" for a greater diameter "spot" is to be preferred.
4. removable "over-the-head"/bucket strap. doesn't seem to be really needed due to the relatively light wt. of the "head". however, the "around-the-head" strap can be looser if the the "over-the-head" strap is used. straps are very easy to adjust while wearing using just one hand. despite this, straps don't seem to slip and hold their tension/position well. on mine, the "around-the-head" strap was probably not installed properly. the strap went in front of the front attachment bracket/plate, causing the plastic plate to be in direct contact with the forehead. it was a very simple matter to detach the strap from the bracket and route it to the back of the bracket. the strap is very comfortable in this postion, providing cushioning, and will absorb the inevitable sweat that will be produced during extended wear, especially on warmer summer nights.
5. nice camo color headband with an OD head it's also available in black & orange.
6. no time limit on 3W LED-hi mode as cp. to a 20sec "boost" limitation on the Petzl MyoXP. hopefully, since there is no uniformly "forced" limitation/duration on continuous use of the 3W LED-HI mode, to prevent overheating, should the Al heatsink prove insufficient, the Apex possesses some type of thermal regulation consisting of a current "foldback" scheme should the 3W LED temp. get too high. however, this assumption is naive, since the Al heatsink alone might have been designed to handle conditions that would cause the "user" to fail before the LED fails?
7. 3W LED collimated optics beam pattern is a nice spot. not real large when cp. to some focusable Xenon's, but larger than some other 1W and 3W single LEDs. really very nice. compared to the Petzl MyoXP on BOOST mode, the Apex's 3W-Hi beam does not seem to have as wide field of illumination as the XP on BOOST, but it does appear to have more "throw" than the MyoXP. Also, the MyoXP has a very noticeable "yellow" color to its beam, whereas the Apex is very white.
8. a Petzl Duo-series type of removable battery "carrier" makes changing batteries easy.
9. nice o-ring seal on batt. compartment. mine was not seated properly, as shipped, and came out with the battery carrier. very easy to replace it in the "channel" on the main portion of the battery compartment. repeated removals and insertions of the battery carrier did not cause the o-ring to become unseated.
10. batteries (4AA) are included. but, that's becoming pretty much standard with many mfr's.
11. battery compartment top and attached battery carrier retained/released via a 1/4 turn knob on the bottom of the battery pack housing (similar to the PT Switchback, but a smaller knob). the "around-the-head" strap adjustment buckle is shaped to function as a tool to make turning the 1/4 turn fastener easy. on mine, it required quite a bit of exertion to fasten/unfasten the 1/4 turn fastener without using the buckle, but it's doable. very easy to turn when using the buckle.
12. softer rubber overmolding/cushioning on the battery compartment makes it fairly comfortable - even for short durations laying down & reading. however, for longer durations, it may become uncomfortable. solution was to cut a small piece of sleeping pad foam. it's easily secured under the "around-the-head" strap and greatly increases comfort. foam pad stays in place and doesn't slip. soft overmolding is also on the "outboard" side of the batt compartment which should prevent some breakage/cracking if dropped or from the wt. of the head if used laying down.
13. two button control makes controlling the Apex very easy. reduces the need to cycle through all lighting modes to get to the desired mode.
here's how it works: under the lamp head are two buttons - one on the right which controls the 5mm LEDs, and one on the left which controls the 3W LED. a quick press and release of either button switches the LED(s) controlled by that switch on in HI mode. another quick press and release of the appropriate button cycles illuminated LED(s) to the LO output mode. for the 5mm LEDs, another press of the right button cycles the 5mm LEDs to 5mm-hiFlash mode. additional presses cycle back to HI output mode.
pressing and holding either button for ~1second will turn off whatever LED(s) are currently illuminated. there is no need to turn OFF the illuminated LED(s) in order to turn ON the other LED(s). merely, pressing and releasing the other LED(s) ON/OFF button, switches OFF the LED(s) which are on, and illuminates the LED(s) which were off.
14. tiny flashing "battery health" indicator LED - located on the front of the "head" at the 6 o'clock position beneath the 3W LED.
15. very slightly recessed buttons with 4 "braille"-like nibs on the right side button (controls the four 5mm LEDs) with a nice tactile feedback. (will need to test with gloves on.)
1. just under 10oz with alkaline batts, so on the heavy side as compared to a Petzl Myo XP (at this point in time, perhaps its closest popular competitor for backpacking). other than the overmolding, and a generously, but not overly, wide headband, not sure how to reduce wt. of course, using 4 Li AA batts would reduce wt by ~1.2oz vs. 4 AA alk. batts.
2. on 3W LED-hi, very short regulated mfr claimed output time before unregulated output mode occurs. however, according to the manual that came with the Apex, use of Li batts can greatly increase (up to 4x) regulated times before the Apex switches to unregulated o.p.
Suggestions for improvement:
1. the addition of 1 or 2 5mm red LEDs might be appreciated by some users. since, in its present configuration, forget about preserving any "dark adaptation" acquired before turning on the headlamp.
2. could wish for more regulated output time, but this may be beyond the ability of current technologies if only 4AA batts are used to power a headlamp.
3. "Cavers" would appreciate the ability to add a remote 4C-cell battery pack to extend "burn time".
4. though, perhaps, this next suggestion would only be desirable to only a subset of the users (this reviewer being one of them), this subset would prefer that LO modes were activated first and then HI modes, instead of the way it is now - HI modes are activated on the first button press and then an additional button press is required to activate the two LO modes. this headlamp puts out so much light, that, to me, at least, even 5mm-LO mode is sufficient for many tasks that the philosophy of "let's get as much light out there as quickly as possible in an emergency situation" is perhaps unecessary. it's not like you have only one button and have to cycle through a bunch of lo-output modes in order to get some really bright output, especially with two buttons (the left one just for turning on the 3W LED - even on LO this LED is as bright or brighter than 1W LEDs). this reviewer, even though an admitted "light hawg" (sic), would be fine with LO modes being the initial "turn-on" modes.