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  1. #1
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    DiNotte Ultra-5 / 200L review

    DiNotte Ultra-5 / 200L review


    I received the new 200L from Rob at DiNotte Lighting a few weeks ago, and on the surface, it looks the same as the old Ultra-5 (Ultra-5 on the left, 200L on the right)

    I started using the original DiNotte Ultra-5 in 2005, and posted my first review here, and a follow-up after a minor chip upgrade here . After a year and a half, I've logged ~400 hrs of beam time on it (2 winters worth of commuting, and weekly night rides). So how are they holding up? This seemed to be a good time to re-measure the Ultra-5 (ie:lumen maintenance).


    Pretty good so far. Although it looks like the beam is slightly dimmer, it is still within measurement error (ie: difference may be due to the meter). The only issue that has cropped up over the last year and a half is with the snap connector & AA battery holder - we occasionally get momentary power flickers which cause the regulator circuit to freeze, such that the unit refuses to turn on or off. Reconnecting the battery resolves it, and adding an extra velcro strap to prevent the battery from bouncing, pretty much eliminates this issue. Basically, it's been a good reliable light.

    200L

    The new 200L came with a narrow beam optic (an optional wider optic is available), which generated a nice bright spot in the center, unlike the old Ultra-5's donut spot. Although it looks identical to the old Ultra-5, it is a very different beast. The new 200L draws 0.75A from a 4.8V battery pack, using only ~3.6W at full bright to produces more light than the old Ultra-5 (which consumed a little over 5W). I guess that explains the name change. I'm assuming that it's using a Cree die, which has a lower Vf than the original Luxeon-V chip, so the current regulator circuit is also completely different (buck regulator instead of a boost).

    Here is a graph of the measured beam intensity.

    The beam pattern is plotted in EV (Exposure Value), which is a log scale, and mimics how our eyes see brightness. An increase of 1 EV is equivalent to a doubling of intensity (ie: 2EV increase = 4x intensity). The 200L peak intensity is about 2.5x brighter (1.3EV) as the old Ultra-5, with a similar beam width (FWHM), and a steeper fall off at the periphery. Also shown are my 2 standards, a NiteRider 12W Halogen and 10W HID. The new 200L is roughly equivalent to the 12W halogen - using 1/3 the power, not bad at all! It's interesting to note that the Niterider 10W HID beam (using ~3 times the power at ~ same efficiency) has a similar bright-spot intensity, and distributes the extra light out to the periphery - something that is particularly nice on tight singletrack.

    The unit is as small & light as they come, has a simple effective mounting system for both bar and helmet, stays put and doesn't bounce, is easily adjusted, and very durable. If you don't like AA batteries (which are cheap and easy to replace), there is a lithium version. The longer run times (due to lower power requirements) have another useful side effect, longer battery life - from which I mean, more useful charge cycles. The high discharge rates of the Ultra-5s are hard on AA cells, and shorten their useful life. I now have 2 sets of AAs from the Ultra-5s with bad cases of voltage depression under load, such that the low battery indicator comes on within the first few minutes of use - they won't even power my digital camera any more. But like I said, AA's are cheap. The batteries used for the 200L should have more useful charge cycles.

    More importantly, how was it on the trail?


    Narrower beam with less spill, but more penetration, and bluer color.



    Mounted on the bar, the increased lumens is obvious, it pierces further down the trail. Also evident it the bluer colour, the old Ultra-5 was on the yellow-green side. The narrower beam's limited spill into the periphery made it a little more difficult in the slow technical/twisty trail sections (but was fine when helmet mounted). Because the of brighter hot spot, there is a tendency to aim it further down the trail, which means less light right in front of the wheel, something you notice on long slow loose-trail-surface gronk climbs. I've talked about "sufficient lumens" for night riding, and why I like "enough light" rather than "too much light" in previous posts, so I won't go there. The original Ultra-5s were sufficient for trail riding, so the 200L, with the increased Lumens, is definitely trail worthy.


    Easy to mount, no bounce, no cords to worry about when removing the helmet.

    On the helmet, the extra bright spot addresses the main criticism of the old Ultra-5. It's so bright that if you aim it too close, the intensity overloads your eyes, making the periphery look darker. The mount is easy to install and doesn't move. Careful placement of the battery pack allows you to balance the helmet, so it is not front heavy.

    Here are the nitpicking issues. The side-light coming from the gasket is a lot brighter than the Ultra-5, so bright that I found the glare annoying when bar mounted. This is due to the new optic which has a concave front surface, reflecting more light onto the gasket. The ultra-5's yellow-green tinge seem to show trail detail better, the 200L's bluer light makes everything look slightly dusty (Something I've always found with HIDs). And as I said before, the narrow beam makes bar mounted, tight & slow trails more demanding (something i really liked about the ultra-5). Compared to the 10W HID, riding with the 200L gives you a bit of tunnel vision - you simply can't have everything when you are using 1/3 the power. Would I upgrade? Yes - none of these issues are significant - the glare is easily remedied (felt marker or darker gasket), optic can be switched to a wider beam for bar mounted use, and the extra lumens easily over rides any colour issues (as most people on HID's have found).

    It's been a few years, and there's a lot more competition on the market now. The DiNotte 200L still holds it's own as one of the better units available in this category. Great helmet mounted. Good bar mounted.
    Last edited by itsdoable; 07-14-2007 at 06:25 PM.

  2. #2
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    itsdoable,

    Well done. This a great followup on your previous reviews. I, too, heartily recommend upgrading to the 200L if you running the older 5W. The light amount and longer run times are worth it.

  3. #3
    56-year-old teenager
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    What about using the 200L and the old Ultra 5 together?

  4. #4
    Gone riding
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    Hi Tom, thanks for another professional review!

    The lumen maintenance of the Ultra-5 is definitely acceptable, and as you say it could well be explained as measurement tolerance too. However judging by the beam profile it is likely that a little output has been lost over time. It would be interesting to see the 200L with the flood optic, with the few extra lumen's you may not loose as much throw as you might think.

    The Ultra-5 has certainly proven to be a great light, and it appears the 200L will be no different.


    Quote Originally Posted by chucko58
    What about using the 200L and the old Ultra 5 together?
    Iím sure that would be a great combination, or maybe even two 200Lís, one on the bars with a flood optic, and the narrower optic on the helmet.


    Dave.

  5. #5
    Spanish biker
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    Thanks for the review!!!!!!!!!!! excellent

    Greetings - Saludos

    msxtr
    Warning!!! my english is very very bad, sorry.

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  6. #6
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    I've just gotten my 200L upgrade with the flood lens. The beam is tighter than the original Ultra 5, without the annoying donut in the centre. The beam is also about 30% brighter to my eyes, and a warm white rather than the slightly greenish tint after the upgrade.The spill progressively gets dimmer towards the edge of up to about 80degrees from the centre. However, the flood lens uses a frosted fresnel-type lens, which I believe might lose abit of efficiency compared to a reflector design.

    But all in all, brighter and cleaner spot with better flood pattern, longer runtime..I'm a happy owner!

  7. #7
    GeoMan
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    Very helpful technical information. Terrific review.

    Thanks!!!
    GeoMan
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  8. #8
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    200L question

    Quote Originally Posted by Tinier
    I've just gotten my 200L upgrade with the flood lens. The beam is tighter than the original Ultra 5, without the annoying donut in the centre. The beam is also about 30% brighter to my eyes, and a warm white rather than the slightly greenish tint after the upgrade.The spill progressively gets dimmer towards the edge of up to about 80degrees from the centre. However, the flood lens uses a frosted fresnel-type lens, which I believe might lose abit of efficiency compared to a reflector design.

    But all in all, brighter and cleaner spot with better flood pattern, longer runtime..I'm a happy owner!
    Tinier, any way you can show us a pic of what the 200L beam pattern looks like? If you can try to do it on a trail. I hate when people show beam photos over light colored patios or grass.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by chucko58
    What about using the 200L and the old Ultra 5 together?
    I tried it, and it's a nice combo. But two 200L's are nicer, like James said, the longer run times and more light are worth it.

    I will eventually get a wider optic in it, and I'll update the post with beam measurements and pictures.

  10. #10
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    I received my 2 lights with the 200L upgrade today. My compliments to DiNotte for the fast turnaround time.

    Went for a short test ride tonight with one bar mounted and one on the helmet. NICE!

    This post made me aware of the flood lens for the 200L and I just sent an email to Rob asking how I can get one.

  11. #11
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    Well, January is almost over, the days are getting noticeably longer, it's time to update this review.

    There are now 2 comprehensive reviews on the DiNotte 200L's, one by Frances on MTBR, and one by James at GearReview. I can't really add much to these excellent reviews, except maybe some long term testing.

    First off, here's a plot of the wide optic, which I didn't have on the first post.

    I did not get a trail shot, but the beam shot looks like the old Ultra-5, only whiter, brighter and no donut in the middle. It is the optic I use regularly (bar mounted).

    Since the DST change, I've been running this light 6 nights a week, on commutes and our weekly night rides. The unit is robust, easy to mount and point, stable, and robust. After 3 seasons of using the DiNotte's, I have yet to break an o-ring mount.

    As I've said before, a single Dinotte is about the minimum I'd run on regular night rides - I can get by with less on the commute, mostly because I know every rock on the trail. On snow covered ground, you can easily get by with the medium beam, but not when it's wet and rainy. A little more side spill would be nice on twisty singletrack, but you can only ask for so much from a single LED.

    Most people in our group have two 200Ls (or Ultra-5s), setup helmet and bar mounted. However, much of the time they are only running one - we're into conserving power because sometimes our rides drag on...

    So what were the problems... because thats what you inevitably want to know, right?

    The AA version's snap connectors work, but can be finicky, causing momentary power interruptions when shaken, sometimes causing the circuit to crash. A power cycle usually resets it. To DiNotte's credit, the circuit is very resistant to this, one of my 2-year old battery holders had bent connectors that were no longer "snapping" (ie: it had a very intermittent contact) - and you had to really work to make the light crash. But it does happen. The Li-Ion versions uses a different connector that was completely trouble free. AA's (cheap, DIY-able) or Li-Ion batteries, it's a choice.

    We had trouble with 2 new units after the first ride, one needed it's program to be reset, the other needed to be returned (DiNotte's CS was excellent). All have been running trouble free since.

    The units blue indicator light blinks to tell you what power level you are in, but when it turns red (low battery warning), it no longer blinks, even though you can still switch power levels. This is only being mentioned because at low temperatures, the AA versions' indicator usually turns red prematurely using high power (AA are being pushed too hard to perform below freezing), and with the old Ultra-5, we could switch to lower power, and the red indicator would usually turn off. It was one way with the Ultra-5's that we could check to see if the battery really was low.

    Other than that, these lights have been trouble free. A good product that I would definitely recommend. However, if you want HID performance, I'd suggest one of the triple LED units (like the 600L).

  12. #12
    Nightriding rules SuperModerator
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    wow..great review..and update!

    thanks!

  13. #13
    BBW
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    Awesome review!
    I had the 200L (great light) and now I have the 600L

  14. #14
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    Very good review. I especially like your plots showing the distribution of the light.
    When under pressure, your level of performance will sink to your level of preparation.


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