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  1. #1
    Ballstein Models
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    trail LED Darkstar review--updated with beam shots

    I was recently convinced/coerced to participate on a 4 man team 12 hour overnight race called Pitch Black SIngle Track in Wisconsin. Since running from 8pm to 8am would require lights (obviously) I went on the hunt for a more modern solution to replace my 12 year old TurboCat S47.
    After a short period of research I decided that the homebuilt/garage innovators were making a much more compelling product than the major light manufacturers. I didn't want to spend much beyond about $250 and was going to content myself with a single light solution rather than both a bar and head mounted solution. While I did exceed my budget target by a few bucks I must say I could not be happier with zen bicycles Darkstar from trail LED.
    I have one ride under my belt with this light and am stunned at the amount of light. The spread of the beam. How lite and compact the lamp and battery are, etc. Last night was the maiden voyage on the race course that consists of almost entirely wooded singletrack. I actually rode with my persimmon tinted Oakley glasses (prescription) at night. The Darkstar was mounted on my helmet and had such reach and spread that I never had to consciously think about pointing my head to get light where I needed it. The beam was even, no hot spots, had nice throw. At one point we were bombing at 25 mph and was not even close to out running the beam.
    Kudos to zen bicycles. This is an incredible solution for the money and easily sufficient as a single light solution.
    Last edited by hogprint; 09-04-2009 at 04:27 AM.
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  2. #2
    Ballstein Models
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    Thought I would add a few pictures. The total package weighs in at 410 grams.
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  3. #3
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    Nice review of the Darkstar. Any problems with mounting this on the helmet? What optics did you choose when you ordered? Also, I do believe Zen is asking at least $320 ( USD ) for this set up so that is a tad more than the $250 you listed. Since you do seem to have a camera.....One request....BEAM SHOTS !! ( please... )

  4. #4
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    He paid the listed price, which was more than the $250.00 he wanted to spend. Here are my beam shots, wall is about 130ft away. Trees are 200. Taken with mtbr standard settings.
    Personally taking beam shots is a pain so wouldn't blame him for not wanting to

    Darkstar Low


    Darkstar High


  5. #5
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    I love my Dark Star

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by zen bicycle
    ...Personally taking beam shots is a pain so wouldn't blame him for not wanting to
    This is true, however he took the time to do a nice review including some pictures. A nice finishing touch would be BUYER beam shots. The ones you posted I've seen before. Hopefully he would post up with some shots in a more natural setting. Since he was using the light helmet mounted I thought maybe he might have ordered the setup with the tightest optics available. "IF" that is so, it would be nice to see some beam shots that show the beam pattern & throw distance in a more natural setting ( **ie....no highly reflective white concrete driveways.. ) ....sorry, but when it comes to beam shots I am extremely picky. ( as are others I'm sure ) If he does decide to post up with beam shots I'm sure ( If they are impressive ) it will undoubtedly result in at least a couple more sales coming your way.

  7. #7
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    I took those before I knew any better on beam shots plus it is the only place around that I have a defined distance. I will try to redo them in a more natural setting though. I agree on the buyer beam shots and hope he posts his as well. He actually got one spot and one diffuse beam on his. So not as much throw as possible, but a slightly wider beam.

  8. #8
    Ballstein Models
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    I am racing in a 12hr night race tomorrow night on a four man team. Part of my side activities during the race will be trying to get some quality night shots of the race to use for next years marketing. I will try to take some owner beam shots then. No guarantees of great results but I will try. I went with the spot/flood combo in an attempt to get a nice even beam at the expense of a bit of throw. As I said in the review at one point we were descending at 25mph and I felt in no way that i was outrunning the light. I am quite satisfied with my beam choice. Regarding the cost, while I did slightly exceed my intended outlay the $320 I paid seems to me a very good value. One of my teammates and I rode last night, he has a Light in Motion ARC HID lamp. While It was a very nice lamp the Darkstar completely washed it out when shining them at the same target. Hope the night pics work, we'll see, I'd imagine I'll post up either way by Sunday.

    Just to comment on Zen's pics, I feel the look low intensity picture is about what the light look and feels like on a dark wooded trail on when the light is set to high. Just imagine the driveway is dirt and grass. Honestly this thing is silly bright. Zen has been a great guy to work with, in fact a good friend of mine who lives in another state is now in the purchasing process. I have no doubt that his beam shots are in no way intended to deceive or take advantage of a friendly backdrop.. Hope I can produce some usable images.
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  9. #9
    Ballstein Models
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    I plan on using these setting:

    6 SECONDS AT F4 - WHITE BALANCE - DAYLIGHT
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  10. #10
    Ballstein Models
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    I guess I was a bit frosty with the tone of where this thread is going so I went in my backyard to take three shots. Trust me Zen is a straight shooter. Here you go: Light off. Light on low. Light on high. The fence at the far end is about 80 feet away. The width of the yard is about 50 feet. I'll get more of these shots tomorrow night. Judge for yourselves gents. Pics taken with a tripod mounted Canon XSi DLSR at the mtbr settings, stated above, with a Canon 10-22mm wide angle lens at 10mm so the field of view is nearly 180 degrees.
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    Last edited by hogprint; 09-03-2009 at 07:13 PM.
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  11. #11
    Ballstein Models
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    I chose the spot/flood combo to give the most versatility I could get. My aim is to typically use the light on my helmet. The mount is essentially a velcro watch band. I added a swatch of velcro to the bottom of the light and to my helmet just for added security (unneeded in hindsight). I could also do a bar mount but I like the wide and long beam that points wherever I turn my head. It is so wide that I am never forced to do anything other than flick my eyes if I need to look in a direction away from the beam axis. My ultimate goal was to find a single light solution. I have accomplished that goal.
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  12. #12
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    I'm the outta state bro with a purchase in progress...I saw Zen's beam pictures and heard Hogprint tell me this was an awesome light, but when I just saw Hog's beam pictures, the words "Holy $hit!" slipped out and I'm sitting by myself! I can't wait to get mine! Seriously! Zen, when's that CNC run to be complete?

  13. #13
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    ...GOODNESS GRACIOUS! THAT IS SOME FREEKING AWESOME OUTPUT! ( shut my mouth... )
    ...me likey awesome output led lights...

  14. #14
    Ballstein Models
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    I thought you might feel that way. This Darkstar is something else.
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  15. #15
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    I am impressed.
    I am just getting back into mountain biking again, and I have been looking at lights online such as the Niterider 1200 Pro and a few others.

    How many lumens is this Darkstar Trail LED?
    I did not see the info here.
    http://trailled.blogspot.com/

    Does it have a handlebar mount too?
    This would be going on the Rockhopper Pro I picked up a few months back.

    From the pictures above, this may be all the light I need for running trails/forest service roads while camping, and around the neighborhood at night.

  16. #16
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    I rate the Darkstar at 1200 lumen's out the front. So accounting for optical and thermal losses. I normally don't suggest the Darkstar for a handlebar mount as the heat sinking on the back could hurt in an endo. You could however mount it on your front fork if desired.

    Handle bar/fork mounts are an extra $5

    Oh, the CNC run should be done next week.

  17. #17
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    Thanks for the info.
    1200 is very bright.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by hogprint
    I plan on using these setting:

    6 SECONDS AT F4 - WHITE BALANCE - DAYLIGHT

    [SIZE="4"][SIZE="5"][SIZE="4"]What was the ISO setting, as this dramatically affects the image brightness?[/SIZE][/SIZE][/SIZE]

    If your camera was set to AUTO ISO, it is likely that it automatically went up to a higher ISO setting due to the night environment. The affect would be pictures that were possibly brighter than if manually set.

    Not trying to say they won't be brighter than my Eva, as there are 2 MCE's there. Just saying

    Nice looking little light BTW.

  19. #19
    mtbr member
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    F4
    4sec
    ISO 220
    the nikon D40 doesn't have an iso 100 so this is the closest I could get. I also adjusted these images down in brightness to what my eyes see so it is actually dimmer than what the settings would indicate.

    Hogprints shots are pretty right on as well based on what I have experienced with the light.

    I am going to be taking a new round of beamshots shortly and one will be included in the mtbr light shootout as well..
    Last edited by zen bicycle; 09-21-2009 at 01:49 PM.

  20. #20
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    Comments retracted about Zen's 220 ISO setting, as I missed the 4 vs 6 second exposure @ ISO 220 comment. That helped get it back more twards center.

    Best~Chris

    Not sure on hogprints ISO…. but then again my 1500 twin is too bright for that MTBR setting, so similarly washes out the picture and lights up all the night mist. At some point sooner rather than later, they are going to need to change that setting…as lights have become to powerful.

  21. #21
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    You have a PM

    Thanks for that
    Last edited by zen bicycle; 09-21-2009 at 01:49 PM.

  22. #22
    Ballstein Models
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    Couldn't confirm the ISO so I reshot. This particular night is a bit darker, zero illumination as opposed to the last series had a fair amount of ambient light. The previous shots also had a higher moisture content in the air thus the scatter, we are in a drought and the air is quite dry tonight.

    The images are confirmed 6 sec exposure, f4 aperture, ISO 100, WB daylight.

    I suspect the previous images may have had auto iso. With the lens and camera quality I doubt it went beyond maybe 400 iso. Never the less, here are three more shots exactly as specified.

    Beam shots or not. I am totally impressed with the light, particularly the night of our 12 hour overnight race. At 3am I was the only guy still getting comments about how bright my light was.
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  23. #23
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    .... ...not as impressive as the first shots. Low beam looks like 400 lumen. The problem here is that you are also testing a very bright light set and confining the light to the 80 ft. distance in your yard. A light like this BEGS FOR DISTANCE ! Find a place that has at least 200 ft ( or more ) so us beam-shot snobs ( ) can judge the throw. Anyway, sometimes beam shots don't turn out right the first time. You might have to vary the settings and take a series of shots and then judge for yourself which photos are more representative to what your eyes actually see. On MTBR, they sometimes put a bike at a set distance in the photo, this also gives some scale and helps people judge the brightness of the beam. Remember: What we're looking at with photos is 2D not 3D. Anything you can add to help us judge distance and scale is a big plus. Thanks again for taking time out to do beam shots...I mean that..

  24. #24
    Ballstein Models
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    I am satisfied with the beamshots I have provided. Lets think about this......repeat after me," one thousand one, one thousand two. " That is how long it would take to ride the length of my yard at 27 miles per hour. Double that (4 seconds) time at 13 miles per hour. Over the years I have tended to notice my rides average somewhere between 8 and 10 miles per hour or 10 to 15 feet per second. So at that average speed, lets see, "one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three, one thousand four, one thousand five, one thousand six." Six seconds to cover the length of this image. IMHO a 200 foot beamshot would be great for a car or if you are a downhiller. Regarding scale the fence is about four feet high and in the center of the image are your typical newer style folding nylon camp chairs.

    My intent in posting a review of the Darkstar is to provide an unbiased look at a product I bought. I am not a light maker nor do I purport to be. I wanted a nice wide, even, bright, simple, and reasonably priced beam to serve as a single light solution. I found exactly that. In practice the low setting is perfectly adequate for typical xc singletrack riding. The high setting is a comfortable overkill. Of particular note is the width and even nature of the lighting. Quite natural in my opinion.

    I hope not to offend your sensibilities, and I thank you for engaging in this thread.

    Cheers...........
    Last edited by hogprint; 09-22-2009 at 08:41 AM.
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  25. #25
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    [QUOTE=hogprint]Couldn't confirm the ISO so I reshot....

    The images are confirmed 6 sec exposure, f4 aperture, ISO 100, WB daylight.

    I suspect the previous images may have had auto iso. With the lens and camera quality I doubt it went beyond maybe 400 iso. Never the less, here are three more shots exactly as specified.QUOTE]

    Thanks hog for revisiting. No other comments, as being a fellow DIY seller, can say I have respect for Zen's and his little monster.

    The fact that you impressed all the other guys w/o DIY power (I do the same almost every ride ...if they can catch me long enough to see the beam) is a true testiment to the fact that DIY is pushing the technology both faster and cheaper to the public. It's time us DIY'ers got some proper respect, don't you think!

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