Nitecore HC33 Headlamp Review

Preface
Official Specs
Versions
Price
Short Review
Long Review
  What's Included
  Manual and Packaging
  Build Quality and Durability
  Size
  Retention
  Power
  User Interface and Operation
  Modes
  LED and beam
  Tint vs...
  Beamshots, Runtime, etc table.
  Comparisons
Conclusion
  What I like
  What I don't like
Up Next
Notes

Preface

Nitecore sent out another headlamp, this time a single 18650 light.  I happen to really like angle lights, and I’m considerably into 18650 lights as well, so I’m interested to see how this little light performs.  This is the Nitecore HC33, from NitecoreStore.

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Official Specs and Features

Versions

I believe there’s just one version of this light.

Price

MSRP on this light is $64.95.


Short Review

An angle light that pulls an impressive 5 amps on turbo…. It has nice build quality, and good modes.  It’s a nice little headlamp!

Long Review

What’s Included

  • Nitecore HC33
  • Headband
  • Spare o-rings (2)
  • Pocket clip
  • Spare rubber switch boot
  • Manual and papers

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Package and Manual

A black and yellow cardboard package is the typical Nitecore package, and this is no exception.  The light is held in place in a plastic tray, with the goodies in their own bag.

Here’s a pdf of the manual.  It covers the usual specifications and things, as a manual should.

HC33_Manual.png

Build Quality and Disassembly

The first thing I notice when I hold this light, is the great knurling.  As I’ve said repeatedly, this is my favorite knurling.  Diamond pattern, but flat.  Very comfortable to hold, and providing a reasonable amount of grip.

Behind the emitter, there are ample fins, which are very deep and should provide ample cooling.  The light will need it, since turbo runs at around 5A (though it does step down quickly).

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The tailcap unscrews with near-Zebralight quality.  The threads are anodized and square, and fairly fine threads.  They’re very smooth.  There’s also a magnet in there!

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The head unscrews with relative ease as well.  See that the head has no spring, but the tail does have a spring.  It’s a fairly beefy spring, but not incredibly tight.

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Below, a better shot of the threads on the tail end of the light.  Hard to tell because they’re fine threads, but they’re square cut.

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As … separable … as this body is, I’d love to have a shorty option!!  Come on Nitecore, give me a 18350 tube for this light!!!

Size

Officially 105.3mm long and 25.5×24.2mm in the head, and 23.8mm in the body, weighing in at 51.2g.  Very likely not the smallest 18650 headlamp out there (clearly not smaller than the venerable Skilhunt H03!), but still reasonably sized.

Below observe the HC33 beside the H03.  The HC33 has a reflector, and head switch, and and also outputs grossly more lumens.

Retention

Included is a pocket clip, which can mount in either direction, neither of which allow for a very deep carry.  However, whether intentional or not, the body tube here is reversible – working either orientation.  So the pocket clip can be moved by means of flipping the body tube.  In the orientation opposite what’s seen here, the HC33 can ride almost flush with the pocket, in a bezel down orientation.  This is a fairly well considered layout.

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However, as you can see below, flipping the body tube will likely make your light unbalanced in the headstrap.  So you’ll probably want to have the tube in the “normal” (or “as shipped”) orientation if you plan to use the headstrap exclusively (or often).

The head band is very nice.  The light slips in very easily – the loops are silicone and stretchy.  And the light twists easily for pointing toward your task.

The tailcap also has a magnet, which I consider a form of retention.

Power

The HC33 is powered by a single 18650, or two CR123, or two 16340.  I tested the light with only a Nitecore 18650.  That’s for a few reasons, not the least of which is that the HC33 doesn’t reach it’s Turbo mode with any 2-up cell option.

The below runtime data was with the Nitecore cell (not provided).  Note the heavy stepdown from turbo.  This is actually visible, and happens within just seconds of the light being put into turbo…. So one might say that the turbo mode is academic – yes the light draws 5A on turbo, but does so for approximately a split second, and then steps down to ~3A.  It’s possible to reset the light to turbo, but this turbo isn’t as high as it starts (likely due to the capability of the cell to provide 5A).  I’d much rather a slightly lower turbo, for slightly longer.

Runtime.png

The light has reverse polarity protection, and upon tightening the tailcap, a cell voltage indication.  This is a great feature – When an 18650 is installed, the light blinks the “ones” voltage, then pauses, and blinks the “tenths” voltage.  So 4.2V is four blinks, pause, two blinks.  When using 2-up cells, what’s reported is the average voltage between the cells.  As far as I can tell in the literature, there’s no low voltage protection.  (I’ll look back into this to be sure.)

User Interface and Operation

There’s a single switch on the HC33: A head e-switch.  It’s a nicely clicky, easy to identify, and fairly textured button.  The UI is also … maybe not intuitive, but it is versatile (by that I mean there’s easy access to many modes).

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Here’s a trusty UI table.

State Action Result
Off Click Ultralow
Off Hold (~0.6s) Mode Memory
Off Hold (>1.5s) Turbo (Mode memory at 0.6s, then Turbo)
Off Double Click Strobe (FAST)
Strobe Click Strobe group advance (Strobe> SOS> Beacon)
Any Hold Off
On Click Mode advance (L>H direction)

As far as UI’s go, that’s not all that many entries in the table. But still, quite full featured.

Modes

Mode Mode Claimed Output (lm) Claimed Runtime Mode Measured Lux Tailcap Amps
Turbo 1800 30m 31800 5.00
High 780 1h30m 16300 1.10
Mid 240 5h15m 4820 0.31
Low 70 15h 1279 0.07
Ultralow 1 300h 33

LED and Beam

Nitecore has opted for the Cree XHP35 HD in this headlamp. It’s a solid choice for a huge output light. And operating at 5A on turbo, that’s clearly the goal here!
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Low is fairly respectable in this light.  I could use lower, but this is pretty good.

The reflector is smooth, and the beam has a broad spot with moderate spill.  I’ll note that there’s a bit of a donut pattern in the beam on higher modes at close range, but not enough to put me off.

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Tint vs BLF-348

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Beamshots, Runtime, and Lux Measurements

Nitecore HC33
Emitter Cree XHP35 HD
Emitter Notes
Cell 18650
Glamour Shots Beamshots [0.3″, f/8, ISO 100, 5000k]
Runtime 18650
Chargetime
LVP?  (Seems like no)
Claimed Lumens (lm) 1800
Lux (Measured) 274 lux @ 4.69 m
Candela (Calculated) in cd 6026.9
Throw (Calculated) (m) 155.3
Throw (Claimed) (m) 187

Random Comparisons and Competitive Options….

There are a bunch of lights similar to this, but notably the Zebralight H600/H603 series lights compete.  The HC33 boasts much higher total output, but it’s very likely that the stepdown puts it into the range of the Zebralights anyway.

Notably the build of the HC33 is very similar to that of the Concept 1.  It wouldn’t surprise me if they shared parts.  And again, we need a shorty tube for this series!!!

Conclusion

What I like

  • Build quality
  • Total output is ridiculous
  • Magnet in the tailcap!
  • Pocket clip versatility
  • Multiple cell options

What I don’t like

  • Highest output is too short
  • No “extra Turbo” with 2-up cells.

Up Next

Tomorrow I hope to have a review in the One-Off series, and Friday, likely another Nitecore!!  I have a bunch of lights on tap though, so stay tuned!!

Notes

  • This light was provided by NitecoreStore for review. I was not paid to write this review.
  • This content originally appeared at zeroair.wordpress.com.  Please visit there for the best experience!
  • Whether or not I have a coupon for this light, I do have a bunch of coupons!!  Have a look at my spreadsheet for those coupons.  Note I’ve upgraded that sheet so that now, you may subscribe and get notifications when the sheet is edited!!

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