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  1. #1
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    The current lighting market: what are we really getting for the $$?

    I posted this on my local forum but I wanted to start the discussion here as well since there is a large cross section from both the domestic loyalists as well as the overseas loyalists. I see mostly X light vs Magicshine or Y light vs Gemini threads but I haven't seen a through discussion of simply the Chinese lights vs "domestic" lights (whether they be from the US, Canada, UK etc). I realize that the domestics are using parts made in China, but I'm really talking more about the parent company and what they offer.

    I've had minor interest in bike lights for the past few years and have decided to finally buy. Dinotte has always interested me as a quality US brand and of course the Magicshine is on my radar for obvious reasons. I've bee reading a lot and trying to decide this: Am I really getting more for my money from a domestic brand? Am I really truly saving with the overseas lights? I don't want to part with anything unnecessarily, whether it be my money or quality of product.

    While the US companies seemed slow to adopt the LED technology (at first) I think most of the current domestic stuff is way ahead of where it was just a few years ago. With that in mind has anyone been able to make a fair comparison between the magishines/geminis etc. and L&M, dinotte, lupine etc.?

    I'm typically one for saving money where I can but I find it curious that the cheap lights get so many nods from the cycling crowd. We could all ride walmart bikes yet we're on bikes that are at least 10x the price. My point is that we see the value in spending the extra money. I typically live by "you get what you pay for" and wouldn't hesitate to spend the extra money if I was genuinely getting more.

    Considering this, is the increased R&D and customer service/warranty from the domestics really not enough to stick out amongst the overseas stuff? Are they (overseas) really that good? Is the performance equal to lights that are 2x the price? People say that their high $$ lights perform better than the cheap lights but I'm not sure if that's truth or people just trying to re-justify the money they spent.
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  2. #2
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    Why I went with a Dinotte XML3.... The price to lumen ratio was second only to a MS, at the time. I really liked the beam pattern. Their reputation for quality products and service.... and.... I absolutely wanted to support a US company, if deemed viable.

    Why I may pick up a light made in china next - I only need it for a backup, and I don't want to spend much $.

    I would expect opinions to basically boil down to - if they've had problems with their lights or not. High end lights can fail too, and some low end lights may never fail, but we all know some have. Some have problems with customer service, and others claim great service, both with the same company. You puts your money down, you takes your chances.

  3. #3
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    My experience with bike lights mirrors my experience with flashlights. Virtually everything is made in China with few exceptions. I've bought direct from China; cheaper, yes, but quality is hit or miss and forget about consistent ship times or God forbid warranty you can actually claim. On most things I purchase now it's from US distributors if possible. Fast shipping, warranty and yes, just slightly more expensive but worth it. My tastes are middle of the road: not interested in cheap crap, not interested in overpriced uber high quality. Middle of the road works fine for me - and glad to see domestic companies like L&M, Dinotte, Baja Designs, etc. step up to the plate for good 'value' lights. MagicShine is the equivalent of Ultrafire* in the flashlight world - tons of clones, inconsistent quality, pretty on the outside but open 'er up and she's stuffed with dooky.

    *Not available in all markets; Ultrafire is not to be confused with but may actually be: Trustfire, Fandyfire, Uniquefire, Prairiefire, Slowfire, Won'tfire, Didfire, Didn'tfire, Backfire, Campfire, Pantsonfire, Sh1tfire, Bigfire, Firefire or any other product containing fire in the description.....

  4. #4
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    Mmm, for my money I get a chance to own the trails at night. Quite a bargain, IMO.
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  5. #5
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    I'm betting lights go waaaaay down in price in a couple years. Right now things are kinda crazy. Hopefully it will be like computers. Starting business in 1996 a computer was like $1,200. Today one that does infinitely more is a lot less. Well, if you steer from Apple that is
    2007 Cdale Caffeine 29er Lefty.
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  6. #6
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    What are we really getting for the $$ ??

    Right now, we are getting brighter, lighter, smaller lights with longer run-times, for less $ than years past. Thank you technology.

    My old light was a Jet halogen, big heavy battery pack but it got me hooked. Great build quality & great company.
    New light I tried Gemini Xera. So far the build quality is great, everything has been working awesome, so no complaints.
    Riding.....

  7. #7
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    Maybe... maybe not

    Quote Originally Posted by bigbadwulff View Post
    I'm betting lights go waaaaay down in price in a couple years. Right now things are kinda crazy. Hopefully it will be like computers. Starting business in 1996 a computer was like $1,200. Today one that does infinitely more is a lot less. Well, if you steer from Apple that is
    The reduction in price has much less to do with the technology becoming cheaper, and much more to do with the intense competition within China's own bike light industry. The LED's themselves are already a very small percentage of the total cost of the light and they can build controller electronics for practically nothing. Optics are very cheap. The remaining cost items are batteries, housings, and LABOR. But if you think about it, the housings are mostly labor cost as well. And guess what China pays for labor... Not sure there's much room to go lower there.

  8. #8
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    I wanted to clear up my intent/stance on this thread. I'm merely asking are we saving money buying cheap lights or wasting money buying expensive lights?

    I don't think either of these are true. I'm not really into the disposability of the cheap lights, not do I want a super high end $500+ lamp. I think the mid level domestic lights are the best overall value. I wanted to see if I was alone on this or not.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by rlb81 View Post
    I wanted to clear up my intent/stance on this thread. I'm merely asking are we saving money buying cheap lights or wasting money buying expensive lights?

    I don't think either of these are true. I'm not really into the disposability of the cheap lights, not do I want a super high end $500+ lamp. I think the mid level domestic lights are the best overall value. I wanted to see if I was alone on this or not.
    Mid-level products are sometimes called mainstream products, when compared with bargain basement or boutique products.

    I think the majority of people are in the same situation. People are leery of purchasing cheap Chinese products but of course don't want to plonk down huge amounts of wonga on what some may see as overpriced lamps Magicshine and Lupine immediately spring to mind.

    In most products, there is usually a sweet spot where the return on investment yields the highest efficiency.

    This is a little bit different from the products were talking about in this thread, but if we're to talk about socks, there is an excellent example.

    I have spent varying amounts of money on socks over the years. I have spent a little money at pound land on some really cheap nasty socks which lasted about two or three wears before they fell apart.
    Bought some reasonably priced socks which I still wear and last for as long as one could hope for. Then of course there's the stylish socks which although are no warmer than the regular socks and last as long as the regular socks, one is tending to pay more for the intangible aspects of the sock: ie style.

    Now if this particular aspect, style, is important to you then you have to pay the money in order to receive it. Whether this is a waste or not is really down to the individual's needs and budget.

    So does this answer your question? Probably not. Cheap shite breaks down or doesn't perform, expensive shite looks good and often performs more than is necessary, between them is happy medium and everyone sits somewhere on it.

    Millions of cyclists ride nothing more than a blinky on the road commuting, and most of them don't die in horrific car accidents. But some people are willing to pay little bit more for the added security. That's where I sit: a bit more light a bit more security and I feel that's good enough as long as my Lights don't break down in the middle of the night leaving me in the dark or suddenly short out when it's raining then I'll be very happy.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by pethelman View Post
    The reduction in price has much less to do with the technology becoming cheaper, and much more to do with the intense competition within China's own bike light industry. The LED's themselves are already a very small percentage of the total cost of the light and they can build controller electronics for practically nothing. Optics are very cheap. The remaining cost items are batteries, housings, and LABOR. But if you think about it, the housings are mostly labor cost as well. And guess what China pays for labor... Not sure there's much room to go lower there.
    I'd like to add my nickels worth here. I've been an engineer in new product design for 30+ years and have produced products here (in the US) and in China, including LED flashlights.
    The major cost in new bike lights is in the Li-ion batteries. They are followed by the driver circuit, the LEDs, and the aluminum for the housing
    The housing in fact has almost no labor in it as it's produced on a CNC machining center. Stick in a bar of aluminum and say go. Lots of chips and housings come out the other end. A quick check as they come out and then off for anodizing which is a batch process.
    In fact, there is very little labor in the process of putting together the light itself. Final assembly is attaching the power cord to the driver, running wires from the driver to the led, and screwing everything together. (well, maybe a little more to it)
    A good quality custom driver is in fact a fair amount of cost.

    The last 2-3 years have seem performance go way up and the prices come way down and I don't seen the trend changing anytime soon. If you follow CREE they are constantly coming out with brighter and more efficient LEDs at ever cheaper prices. Driver circuits are being mass-produced for many applications bringing their price lower. And I expect Li-ions to come down to as volume goes up and technology improves. 18650 Li-ion cells are becoming the standard and are used everywhere, even in the Tesla that uses big packs of them because the price to performance ratio is better than custom batteries.
    As is obvious, getting into the bike light market has never been easier. Technology and the Internet have resulted in the number of choices multiplying at an ever increasing rate. Except for the little China companies fighting it out at the bottom of the food chain there are a lot of good products showing up almost on an almost monthly basis. One advantage the new smaller companies have is flexibility. Niterider produces hundreds of thousands of a new light and fills their warehouse and the warehouses of Bike Nasbar and Amazon etc. If a newer LED comes out itís a year before they can come out with a new model. The new small companies can now almost build to order and carry almost no inventory. They can constantly be improving there product (assuming they have some good engineers) and have a new or improved version every few months. What now sets the good companies apart from the not so good is the quality of the components they use and customer service. Thatís why I have chosen to work with Gemini. Their quality standards are very high and customer service is a top priority.
    Jim Harger
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  11. #11
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    So why do you also sell MS?

    BTW, anyway to avoid the flashing when turning off a Titan?

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bernhardt View Post
    So why do you also sell MS?

    BTW, anyway to avoid the flashing when turning off a Titan?
    It's just a guess, but I'd wager because people buy them.
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  13. #13
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    You got it.
    MS's are still not a bad deal if you buy them from a reputable seller who will provide their own warranty program.
    I always think it's good to offer a Good-Better-Best product selection. (the best part of that is coming soon) But I think Gemini offers a better value overall. Especially if reliability is important to you.
    As far as your question about the strobe. On the Titan, you have to suffer through a couple flashes of the strobe to get to off. (Unless you just unplug it) However you don't have to cycle through strobe or off to change brightness levels.
    With the Xera or the new Olympia you can go straight to off by holding the button for 1 second. Strobe is reached by holding the button from the off position.
    Jim Harger
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Action LED Lights View Post

    ...small companies can now almost build to order and carry almost no inventory. They can constantly be improving there product (assuming they have some good engineers) and have a new or improved version every few months.
    All good info, but this struck me as a great point. I saw this firsthand with Dinotte. I bought a 400L a few years back, was impressed, and some six months later bought another.
    The second was way brighter than the first!
    Rob at Dinotte said they had gotten a new batch of LEDs or something. Constant improvements whether we know it or not.

    As for Chinese vs Domestic, I've had five Dinottes now and one MS. In a time of such rapid technology change being built to last isn't such a perk anymore. My major complaint of the MS is they get too hot to hold if you want to use it has a walking flashlight. Overall I'd still prefer a Dinotte, the quality is visible and I don't upgrade yearly anyways.
    "...like sex with the trail." - Boe

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by stumblemumble View Post
    In a time of such rapid technology change being built to last isn't such a perk anymore....I don't upgrade yearly anyways.
    You just shot down your own point "Built to last" isn't a perk if you're the kind of person that wants to always have the newest. But if you only have the budget to buy it once then might as well get the best you can for the money. I'd say we're both in the latter.

    Anyway, I was hoping my Dinottes would have arrived today but no luck! Maybe tomorrow!
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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by rlb81 View Post
    You just shot down your own point "Built to last" isn't a perk if you're the kind of person that wants to always have the newest. But if you only have the budget to buy it once then might as well get the best you can for the money. I'd say we're both in the latter.

    Anyway, I was hoping my Dinottes would have arrived today but no luck! Maybe tomorrow!
    Just what I meant. I was raised under the ideal to buy quality and buy once. Tools being the obvious application, I suppose it drives my light purchases as well. Whether it's cost effective I don't know. I think was a solid three years before I upgraded from my previous Dinottes (to an XML3 and 400L+).
    The old 808 MS I have is great as a commuter light though, don't have to worry a bunch about it getting stolen.
    "...like sex with the trail." - Boe

  17. #17
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    People say that their high $$ lights perform better than the cheap lights but I'm not sure if that's truth or people just trying to re-justify the money they spent.
    I don't believe high price means high quality, otherwise every vendor will sell at high price and deem high quality.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by stumblemumble View Post
    ... In a time of such rapid technology change being built to last isn't such a perk anymore. ...
    I would tend to disagree. This may have been true in the past, but we've easily reached the point of diminishing returns with the state of the technology or perhaps the "sweet spot" is a better description.

    We don't need to go "brighter" anymore and there's not much room and/or need to go smaller either. So if you find a light that satisfies your needs with respect to brightness, beampattern, functionality, ergonomics, weight, style, etc. You'll probably want to treat it like your favorite pair of running shoes. The longer it can last, the better.

    We've seen the next "frontier" of bike lighting this year with the Philips light, which is where I think the next push for development needs to occur. JMHO

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by pethelman View Post
    I would tend to disagree. This may have been true in the past, but we've easily reached the point of diminishing returns with the state of the technology or perhaps the "sweet spot" is a better description.

    We don't need to go "brighter" anymore and there's not much room and/or need to go smaller either. So if you find a light that satisfies your needs with respect to brightness, beampattern, functionality, ergonomics, weight, style, etc. You'll probably want to treat it like your favorite pair of running shoes. The longer it can last, the better.

    We've seen the next "frontier" of bike lighting this year with the Philips light, which is where I think the next push for development needs to occur. JMHO
    While the latest tech goes into the LED and Lithium Ion battery tech is relatively new, the reflectors are basically the same as they were when miners used them in the 19th century.

    I would love to see some intelligent reflector design as used in the Philips applied to other lights. Remember the Philips is driven by the laws in Germany where unshaped beams are forbidden, but it does lead to a shaped beam with a brightness gradient that ensures most of the light ends up where it should, on the road.
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by pethelman View Post
    I would tend to disagree. This may have been true in the past, but we've easily reached the point of diminishing returns with the state of the technology or perhaps the "sweet spot" is a better description.

    We don't need to go "brighter" anymore and there's not much room and/or need to go smaller either. So if you find a light that satisfies your needs with respect to brightness, beampattern, functionality, ergonomics, weight, style, etc. You'll probably want to treat it like your favorite pair of running shoes. The longer it can last, the better.

    We've seen the next "frontier" of bike lighting this year with the Philips light, which is where I think the next push for development needs to occur. JMHO
    I agree that lights have gotten bright enough. Put 2700 lumens on the road or trail in front of your and your pupils shrink up it pin pricks and you can't see anything except were your light is shining. The changes now will come in efficiency and price, both of the LED and the battery. When we get to 80% efficiency for the LED heat will no longer be an issue and we'll have a 4 oz internal battery that will give us 12 hours of run time. Or better than the battery may be a ultra capacitor that can recharge in 90 seconds, run for hours and last virtually forever with no drop in capacity. There's already some flashlights on the market that use these. SC flashlight

    Maybe I missed something but could someone define "the Phillips light" I'm guessing you mean some sort of car headlight made by Phillips. I drove a new Toyota the other day and was amazed at the beam shaping of the headlights. That's were I was headed with the Wide Angle Lens I built for the MJ-808 and it's clones. Headlights that put no light above horizontal would be great for road riding, but on a trail you need to see that low hanging branch coming up. But then of course you can just add the helmet light.
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  21. #21
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    [ Philips light, which is where I think the next push for development needs to occur. JMHO[/QUOTE]

    I couldn't agree more! I have a new Gemini Olympia lighthead on order which I plan on using for trail riding only. The light I'll still use for all my street/canal bank/group rides is my MS 808e w/ action wide angle lens. It's not quite as controled s the Phillips but still way better than the stock lens. As soon as I started using this lens instead of hearing "It's too bright" I now get "nice ligfht" comments from on-coming pedistrian traffic. My point is any uncontroled 500+ lumen light is blinding to on-coming traffic and a safety issue.
    Another point I'd like to make is with the light manufacturers. Why not provide/sell battery/lighthead interface adapters (or come up with an industry standard) so we can use different light and battery combinations? Part of my decision to purchase the Olympia lighthead was that it would work with my geoman batteries. I'm guessing price is important to most of the people who own Magicshine, etc. lights and it would be a less costly way to introduce them to your products when they decide to upgrade.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by MRMOLE View Post
    My point is any uncontroled 500+ lumen light is blinding to on-coming traffic and a safety issue.
    Another point I'd like to make is with the light manufacturers. Why not provide/sell battery/lighthead interface adapters (or come up with an industry standard) so we can use different light and battery combinations?
    To follow up your comments... I would agree on the road lumen level with a non-shaped beam. I've found that around 600 is acceptable, as long as the beam is moderately tight and well-aimed.

    I took exactly that approach with my taillight design. Ready to plug and play with any of the magicshine style 7.4V li-ion packs.

    "Philips Saferide" It was one of the lights in this year's review.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by pethelman View Post
    We don't need to go "brighter" anymore and there's not much room and/or need to go smaller either. So if you find a light that satisfies your needs with respect to brightness, beampattern, functionality, ergonomics, weight, style, etc. You'll probably want to treat it like your favorite pair of running shoes. The longer it can last, the better.
    Absolutely agree. Lights have more or less reached a level of brightness enough for relatively safe quick downhill run in the night - that's enough useful light. It'd be ridiculous to aim for brightness enough to light up a baseball field on game day, from a handlebar.

    Battery runtime and weight are the next major change we should expect. We have been investigating Li-Po as an alternative to Li-ion. It's lighter, greater capacity to weight ratio but more volatile than Li-ion. Ay Up has got it right. I don't know why others haven't gone down that path besides cost and safety.

    Build me a battery which weighs 100 grams which run 10 hours for a light about 800 real lumens or about 1400 manufacturer rated lumens. IMHO say we've more or less reached the Holy Grail of bike lights. Presently we have those runtimes but only with a 17,400mAh battery which weighs 550 grams without the bottle.

  24. #24
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    You get a lot for a little nowadays, but with so many options it can be overwhelming I think for newbies to night riding. I don't want much, maybe just a light the size of a thimble, battery included, that can pump out 3,000 lumens all night with a natural color output and good throw too.

  25. #25
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    It seems to me that what Magicshine is eliminating to save money is an expensive battery and charger. I have one of the original MS, and a Cateye doubleshot that I picked up when they first came out.

    The Cateye has a nice theromocouple state of charge sensor on the battery, and a charger that uses it to 'know' the battery is fully charged and never overcharge it. I've had the thing for 6 years and it's still going strong (and I get a consistent run time on it of ~5.5 hours, with the MS it varies more than that). MS uses 4 commercial cells stuck in a battery holder, with a off-the-shelf charger that is either over- or not fully charging the battery. I doubt the MS batteries will last as long as the Cateyes, though I don't know for sure, because they were recalled.

    So the question is, which is better: a battery that basically lasts forever (or at least much longer), and costs $100, or one that you know will need replacement every 3-4 years and costs $40?
    Personally, I don't look at lights as a particularly long-term purchase anymore; kind of like a cell phone, no point in building something to last for 10 years, if it's going to be obsolete in 2-3.

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