This page is a work in progress. I need to organize the lights better.
This is my new headlight beam page. Some of the images are from the original page and were shot in July 2008 and May 2009. The later (larger) images were shot on October 25, 2011, and the Luxos U images on January 14, 2013. I can't recall the temperatures from the 2008 and 2009 shoots, but it was probably between 60 and 70 degrees fahrenheit. On October 25, the temperature was 45 degrees fahrenheit, and there was a gentle breeze. All of the newest headlights use LEDs instead of a bulb. And the efficiency of an LED is effected by temperature. The better headlights keep the LED cooler, and so they shine brighter. So the ambient temperature and wind speed can effect how bright the headlight is.
The 2008 and 2009 images of dynamo lights were shot using a Schmidt SON28 hub spun by hand to power the lights. This created the possibility that the various headlights weren't receiving the same amount of power since the wheel could have been spinning at different speeds for each headlight. The 2011 images use the Busch & Müller "Light Adapter" to power the dynamo headlights, and the battery headlights are all powered by their standard batteries, fully charged. This makes for a more objective measurement.
All of the photographs on this page were shot by me, Peter White, and I have written all of the text on this page. The text is very important. If you only look at the photos, you will come away with a false impression of the relative brightness of the headlight beams shown. You MUST read the text as well. The images don't tell the whole story.
The wheel with a SON28 hub is mounted in a Schmidt display stand. Also mounted is the headlight, in this case a Busch & Müller Luxos U. The variable speed drill has a disc mounted which spins the wheel. There's a heavy rubber band pulling the disc firmly against the tire tread.
In the 800 pixel wide images, the center of the headlight lens is about 35" off the ground (the mount is at 34") putting it between 3.5" to 5" higher than it would be on bikes with 26" to 700c wheels with the light mounted at the fork crown. The older 600 pixel wide images were shot with the light mounted on a different rig. I don't recall the exact height of the lights on that rig, but it was similar.
Shops selling the SON hubs should know that this red stand is available for sale. Schmidt makes them for shops and I keep them in stock. It can mount by its base, as shown, or be mounted on a wall. Your customer can spin the wheel, and see the light shine.
And here's the daytime view down the driveway. The above two images were made January 14, 2013 as I set up to shoot the new Luxos U headlight beam.
All of these beam images are made with the same camera, a Canon 5D digital SLR using a Canon 45mm tilt/shift lens tilted for sharp focus on the road surface. This lens has a field of view that's 51 degrees from corner to corner. I set the camera up during daylight so I get the focus correct. The camera's ISO speed, shutter speed and f stop are identical for all of the images; ISO 3200, Shutter speed 1 second, f/5. No image processing was done to any of these images other than size reduction, both to the physical size and the file size using JPEG compression. This has no effect on what you see here. It only speeds up the downloading time to your computer. The camera's position is identical for the 2011 images, being mounted on a rigid tripod, about 160 feet from the end of my driveway. The 2008 images were shot from 140 feet to the end of the driveweay. The position of every light is almost identical, a few feet to the left of the camera and below it, also mounted firmly as it would be on a fork crown.
You can see light shining on the road surface from the right side. That is from the outside light on the Peter White Cycles shop building. There is also a light behind the camera. That's from the light over the front door. I left it on so I could see what I was doing this time. Yeah, I'm a bit slow.
The dark blob at the bottom is my shadow. This is the ambient light you'll see in every 2011 image. The dark blob moves around a bit. It's just me getting restless. In the 2011 images, the bottom of the frame is about 7 feet from the camera. Knowing this will help you judge how close to your bike the bottom of the headlight's beam is.
The range of apparent brightness in these images is exagerated. This is because of the way that a camera records images as compared with the way that our eyes and brains create images. There is simply no way to objectively display the difference in brightness between the Lumotec halogen headlight and the Supernova, Edelux and Busch & Müller CYO headlights. In these images, the Lumotec and Luceo headlights appear much dimmer, and the high end headlights appear brighter than they are in use. If I set the camera to record the brightest headlights without washing out, the dimmer headlights wouldn't show up at all. The range of light levels that our eyes can see simultaneously is much wider than what a camera can record in a single image. in other words, you have a wider "dynamic range" than my camera. And to keep things in perspective, when I began importing the Busch & Müller Lumotec halogen headlight in 1998, people were thrilled with how bright it was.
Also, these images are made with the light motionless. LED headlights will be brightest when the LED itself is coolest. So cooling can be very important. When the light isn't moving, there's little air movement to cool the light. Some headlights have better cooling for the LED than others. Be sure to note the time that the light was on for each image.
Also, the camera exagerates the difference in illumination between the area where the beam is focused, and the areas outside of the focused beam. There's always more light to the sides of the beam, and closer to the bike, than the images would make you think. For example, with the Busch & Müller Cyo and Schmidt Edelux, you might think that the area right in front of the bike is very dark. It certainly looks that way in the photos. But it really isn't. That's not to say it's as bright as it is with the Cyo R or Lumotec IQ Fly RT or any of the Supernovas.
I could try to make the brightness of the images more closely approximate what you would see if you were standing in my driveway while I make these images. I could increase the exposure when shooting the halogen headlights, and decrease the exposure when shooting the brightest LED headlights. But I would probably not produce images that everyone would agree were accurate. So I have decided to simply make all of the exposures identical, and hope people understand the limitations of the medium. Please take my descriptions of the beams and their usefullness into account when evaluating the beams. If you think that, based on these images, buying one of the expensive brighter headlights will give you a headlight that's as bright as an automobile's headlights, you're going to be very unhappy. None of these headlights are as bright as a car's headlights. Not even the brightest images where detail in the road surface is washed out by the exposure. In effect, the brightest images here are over-exposed, and the dimmest are under-exposed.
My car is parked off to the right in the 2008 images.
In the 2011 images, the first image was made a few seconds after switching the light on, so the LED is at ambient temperature. The second image was made after the light had been on for a full 5 minutes, so the LED was much hotter. Then I quickly aimed the light a bit lower and made another image. Aiming the light down a bit makes the beam on the road surface brighter, and closer to the rider. Then, I left the light on for another 5 minutes and took the last photo.
Every light is mounted 35 inches off the ground, except one image with the Supernova E3 Pro which is mounted at the height of a 700c wheel's axle. Axle mounting has become popular though I have always advised against it. The image makes it clear why you shouldn't mount a headlight on a hub axle.
You'll find a short article about headlights here.
Lumotec Fly, 2.4 watt halogen (2008 image)
2008 Image. The streaks of light from the bottom right of the image are from the outside light on the side of my shop building. That light is plenty bright enough to ride with, and you can see that the Fly's beam, aimed beyond that light is even brighter. Like all Busch & Müller headlights, it has a sharp cutoff at the top of the beam so as not to focus light into the eyes of oncoming drivers and other cyclists.
The Lumotec Fly has all the light most cyclists will need in most conditions. Even a 25mph descent will not be a hair raising experience for most night riders. Other lights using this same beam are the Lumotec and Lumotec Oval Plus.
Lumotec Fly Senso Plus: $ 30.00
Spanninga Luceo LED (2008 image)
2008 Image. The Luceo has the same total light output as the Lumotec Fly, but spreads it out a bit more. The bluish LED light has a different effect than the halogen bulb and in some situations may not provide as much brightness for the rider, but certainly puts the available light over a larger area than the Fly. The Luceo is available in both dynamo powered and battery powered versions. The light output is identical for both types. The version used here is the dynamo version.
Both versions mount only at the fork crown on bikes using either V brakes or disc brakes. These are now 40% off their regular prices.
Luceo XS with standlight for 6 volt dynamo, On Sale: $ 35.50
Luceo XB for 3-AA batteries, On Sale: $ 34.00
The Luceo has enough light output for most situations. This comparison is perhaps a bit misleading, as the Luceo is best suited for the slower cyclist, and should be aimed a bit lower. When aimed lower, the light patch is positioned closer to the rider and it's quite a bit brighter on the road. So instead of the top of the beam being 140 feet away, 75 feet or so would be better. That's plent if you're riding at 10 to 12 mph. In the rain, it may not give some riders enough light to see the road well, but will give other road users enough light for them to know you are there. So in an urban environment with overhead street lighting, it's ideal. In dry conditions, it's plenty of light for moderate speed riding, say 10-12 mph. Just stay away from steep descents. For the good weather commuter, either rural or urban, it's all you'll usually need.
Busch & Müller DLumotec and Ixon (discontinued)
2008 Image. These lights are no longer available, but a lot of people use them and so it's useful to have them shown here for comparison.
This image was made with the DLumotec. Please take my word for it; the Ixon beam is identical. It uses the same LED and the same reflector. The DLumotec is dynamo powered, the Ixon is battery powered. I really like this headlight for anyone riding at moderate speeds. It has plenty of light right in front of the bike, so working your way through potholes and glass on city street is safer, and you still have enough light at a distance to make cruising at 18mph comfortable. There's enough spill light above the focused beam to make it easy to see street signs.
BUT BUT BUT PETER!!!! BRIGHTER IS BETTER!!!! Right?
Uh, well, yeah, but if a light is bright enough, and costs less than a brighter light, and if the less expensive light has a more useful beam with spill light illuminating road signs above the road surface and lots of light close to the bike, is the brighter light necessarily better?
And please remember what I wrote above. These images exagerate the brightness of the brighter headlights, and exagerate the dimness of the dimmer headlights, by comparison. I could easily manipulate these images in my computer to make the dimmest headlights seem extremely bright.
Busch & Müller Ixon IQ
The Ixon IQ is powered by 4 AA NiMH batteries. 2011 Image.
Here we have a very bright headlight, the B&M Ixon IQ. This photo shows it at full power. If you have a hilly route this is what you need for the descents.
As of Fall, 2010, the Ixon IQ beam has the same shape as the Lumotec IQ Fly RT, seen below. So there is now plenty of light projected close to the bike, and the distance beam is just as bright. 40 Lux.
By the way, the shape of the focused beam of the Ixon IQ, is identical to the Lumotec IQ Fly, IQ CYO R and IQ CYO RT. All of them use the identical mirror to focus the light from the LED.
2011 Image. And here's the Ixon IQ aimed a bit lower.
2011 Image. Here it's still aimed low, but I've also set the output to the low power setting. This is bright enough for many conditions. Use it at full power in the rain and on busy roads. Otherwise, save your batteries. On a dark country road, when you're not competing with oncoming automobile traffic, you don't need as much light.
Ixon IQ without batteries or charger: $ 106.00
Ixon IQ with batteries and charger: $ 135.00
2011 Image, Lumotec LYT. This is Busch & Müller's moderately priced LED headlight for commuters. Here it's just been switched on. 25lux. The LYT headlights are particularly good for the urban commuter. They shine a lot of light directly to each side, so at intersections you'll be more obvious to drivers.
2011 Image. Lumotec LYT after 5 minutes. It appears brighter after 5 minutes, but I bumped the mount and it's aimed very slightly lower, so that probably accounts for the tiny difference.
2011 Image, Lumotec LYT. Here it's really aimed lower and the beam on the ground is clearly brighter as a result. Still at 5 minutes.
2011 Image, Lumotec LYT. Still just as bright even after 10 minutes. This inexpensive light has very good cooling for the LED.
Lumotec IQ Fly RT
Currently my favorite headlight for the typical commuter due to the wonderful "Daytime Running Light" feature. Here it is just after switching on.
And here the light has been on for 5 minutes. It's just a bit dimmer as the LED heats up.
5 Minutes. Here I've aimed the light a bit lower. It took about 10 seconds to re-aim, so the light's output is identical. Notice how much brighter the patch of light on the ground is, simply by aiming it closer to the bike. While the trees at the end of the driveway are invisible in the photo, they were easily seen as I was standing there taking the photos. This is the case with all of the headlights. The camera simply can't accurately record what our eyes can see.
And here's the same light, but it's been on for a full 10 minutes. It's lost bit of brightness because the cooling for the LED is not as effective as it is for some other lights. But the difference, while enough to be seen while directly comparing two images side by side, would not be noticed by a rider.
Here I've switched it to the "T" setting which brings the "DRL" Daytime Running Lights (six extra LEDs) to full brightness. See how it makes the road to each side of the beam brighter. If there were an overhead road sign in my driveway, you'd see it more clearly with the DRL LEDs on.
Many switch options.
Lumotec IQ Fly Senso Plus: $ 85.00
2011 Image. Just after switching on. The Edelux uses the same reflector as the Lumotec IQ Cyo, but pretty much everything else is different.
2011 Image. Here it is after 5 minutes. As you can see, the Edelux is very well cooled. I could leave it on for hours. It wouldn't matter.
2011 Image. Here I've lowered the beam a bit.
Edelux: $ 194.00
2008 image. Here's the Schmidt E6. I made this image the next night, so the camera is not aimed exactly the same. But the exposure is the same.
The E6 uses a halogen bulb, so the color is yellowish, and the beam isn't nearly as wide as many of the newer LED headlights. But notice something interesting. The very end of the driveway in every other image is a bit darker than the driveway a bit closer to the camera, say one quarter of the way down from the very top of the beam. But with the E6 the end of the driveway is just as bright as the rest of the beam, except the bottom third of the beam, and that's because I'm holding the light in my hand, lower to the ground than it would normally be by about a foot. Now, all of the other images were made with the light at the same height, so the comparisons are valid. The point is that the E6 has the ability to concentrate a great deal of light at the very top of the beam, making the furthest section of road relatively brighter than other beams, compared to closer sections of the road. This is explained in my article here.
So, yes, the E6 is older technology, it uses bulbs that you'll have to replace after about 100 hours of use, but the optics are very impressive, I think. The beam is narrow, so you're riding down a somewhat narrow tunnel of lit road with no other lighting. The Busch & Müller Lumotec IQ Fly and Cyo, Supernova E3 Pro and Schmidt Edelux all put more total light on the road, but the E6 still looks pretty good to me.
Here's what I wrote about LEDs in 2008. It was true then.
Also, regarding halogen headlights, older people often find that the bluish light from LEDs makes it harder to see details, particularly in the rain, than the more yellow light from the halogen bulb. Also, LEDs emit light at only a few specific wavelengths, whereas a halogen bulb's spectrum is smoother, creating light over a much larger range of wavelengths. So, sometimes, brighter isn't necessarily better.
But notice the difference between beam shots from 2008 and 2009, vs beam shots from 2011. The older LED headlights all had a strong blue color, very different from the haogen headlights. The newer headlights from Busch & Müller, Schmidt and Supernova all have vastly improved color balance. Perhaps still not as good for aging eyeballs as halogen, but a lot better than the older LEDs.
Schmidt E6 Primary 2.4w: $ 98.28
Busch & Müller Lumotec IQ CYO
2011 Image. The IQ CYO is Busch & Müller's brightest dynamo headlight. 60 lux. The Cyo has a large heat sinkon top to keep the LED cool. The lower the operating temperature of the LED, the brighter it runs. The CYO keeps up with the big boys in the battle for brightest dynamo headlight.
2011 Image. After 5 minutes, the Cyo's effective cooling keeps it fully bright.
2011 Image. Aiming the Cyo a bit lower makes for a brighter patch of light on the road, and it's closer to the cyclist.
2011 Image. Same low aiming as above. Even after 10 minutes there's no loss of light.
Many switch options.
Lumotec IQ CYO Senso Plus (Black housing): $ 107.00
Busch & Müller Lumotec IQ CYO R
The IQ CYO RT uses the same LED and cooling heat sink as used in the IQ CYO, but the reflector is different. The IQ CYO RT reflector takes some of the light and projects it toward the ground close to the front of the bike, filling in the dark area close to the rider. This is helpfull for cyclists riding slowly on dirt roads, through pot holes and around obstructions like you often find on bikeways. At high speed you won't care about nearfield lighting, since there's nothing you can do anyway.
2011 Image. After 5 minutes, no change in brightness. The heat sink is doing its job.
2011 Image. Here the Cyo RT is aimed a bit lower. 5 minutes.
2011 Image. Here's the Cyo RT aimed low after 10 minutes. Obviously the cooling is very effective.
Many switch options.
Lumotec IQ CYO R Senso Plus (Black housing): $ 107.00
These next two photos were taken with the same 45mm focal length lens as all of the other photos. However, the Luxos beam is wider than this lens can capture. So I also took a few shots with a 24mm wide angle lens. They can be seen further down the page. Since even with the 24mm lens, you can't really see how wide this beam is, I then used an even wider lens.
New for 2013, the Luxos U headlight from Busch & Müller. This is how the Luxos U beam looks when you're riding at speed. This is the widest headlight beam of any dynamo powered headlight I know of. And it's 70 lux, one of the brightest headlights you can buy. Notice also that the road surface closer to the bike isn't brighter than the road suface at a distance. That makes it easier to see the road surface at a distance when you're descending a hill at speed.
By the way, this is the same beam that the Luxos B has.
And here is the Luxos U beam at low speed. It reduces the power to the primary LED and sends it to two other LEDs which project light close to the bike and to each side. This happens automatically, and gradually. In other words, there isn't a speed above which the distance beam is on, and just below that the near beam switches on. Oh no. At about 15kph, as you go slower, the distant beam gradually dims, while the near beam gradually increases. It's a very smooth transition as your speed changes.
So at low speed, where other headlights are still trying to illuminate the road at a distance (where, at 8 mph, do you care?) the Luxos U is using all of the available power of the more slowly turning hub dynamo to illuminate the road up close, where it matters at low speeds.
The less expensive Luxos B does not have this feature.
So, how wide is the Luxos U beam?
With the 45mm focal length (51 degree) lens, the camera can't show how wide the Luxos U beam is. So here I've switched to a 24mm (84 degree) lens, which has a much wider field of view. First, here is the ambient light, just as a reference.
Here's the Luxos U at full speed, using the wide angle, 24mm lens. The Luxos B has the same beam as this.
And here is the Luxos U again at low speed output. But even the 24mm wide angle lens isn't wide enough to show you just how wide the Luxos is. Where's my ludicrously wide angle lens?
Ludicrously Wide Angle
So here's the view with ambient light using a 16mm (108 degree) wide angle lens. You can see the shadow of the wheel in its stand to the left.
Here's the beam at high speed. The Luxos B has the same beam as this.
And here's the Luxos U at low speed with the 16mm ultra-wide lens. The very bright light at a distance is dimmed, but close to the bike, you still have lots of light, far more than you would have with any other dynamo powered bicycle headlight. This beam is "crazy-wide". I love it!
Supernova E3 Pro 2
2011 image using the E3 Pro, same beam as the Pro 2, a few seconds after switching on. The bottom of the image is about 7 feet from the camera lens. So you can see that this beam is very tall, illuminating the road close as well as at a distance. The beam is also very wide.
Here's the E3 Pro after it's been on for 5 minutes. That's enough time for any dimming from heat to be visible. There isn't any. This headlight has excellent cooling. These images were both hand-held, so the aiming is slightly different. It was getting late...
Here's what happens when you mount a headlight
Here's the E3 Pro Terraflux mounted 15" off the ground, the same height it would be if you use one of those mounts that put your headlight on your front hub skewer. Some people like having their light mounted low since it accentuates irregularities in the road surface, and helps you to see junk on the road easier. See how the shadows of the leaves are enhanced? The same would happen with a pothole or a piece of glass.
But there's a very serious detrimental effect. Notice that the road at a distance isn't as bright, and the road up close is much brighter. Having the road surface close to you so much brighter makes seeing at a distance more difficult, as the bright road surface up close overwhelms your vision. No bicycle lights I know of are designed to be mounted this low. The good German lights I sell are all optimized for mounting at the top of the front tire, bolted to the fork crown. Their distribution of light assumes the light is about 3 feet off the ground.
I'm not singling out the Supernova headlight for criticism here. The same effect would be seen if I had used any of the Busch & Müller, Schmidt or Inoled headlights. They all should be mounted close to the height of the fork crown if at all possible.
Supernova E3 Triple
2009 image. The Triple uses three LEDs, so it's a bit brighter. Also, the round beam is larger. It's more of a flood light than a spot light. The driveway surface is washed out a bit in the E3 photo, so the E3 Triple, being brighter, is still just washed out on the road surface. It's easier to notice the differene in brightness by looking at the trees and leaves, particularly straight down at the end of the driveway. The E3 Triple image was made a couple of weeks after the E3 image. Same camera exposure settings, but the foliage is grown in a bit more.
I highly recommend the Triple for riding a mountain bike in the woods. The huge beam illuminates overhead branches very well, along with the trail. With the E3 Triple, dynamo lighting for mounting biking makes sense. But you shouldn't use this headlight for riding the roads. It focuses far too much light into the eyes of oncoming drivers.
Supernova E3 Triple, Handlebar Mount: $ 342.00
2011 Image. The Airstream has the same optics as the E3 Pro Terraflux. It's just brighter.
2011 Image. After 5 minutes. The Airstream has very effective cooling for the LED.
Busch & Müller Ixon IQ Speed
2011 Image. Ixon IQ Speed just after switching on.
2011 Image, Ixon IQ Speed. After 5 minutes. It's lost a bit of intensity, but only a bit, and while visible on the image, as well as the histogram in my software, probably not noticeable to the rider.
2011 Image, Ixon IQ Speed. Here I've lowered the beam a bit.
2011 Image, Ixon IQ Speed. And here, the lowered beam after 10 minutes. Between 5 and 10 minutes, it's just as bright.
2011 Image, Inoled Extreme. Inoled was the first to make an LED headlight with modern optics for dynamos. It can be powered either by an Inoled battery or a 6 volt dynamo. Here it's just been switched on.
2011 Image, Inoled Extreme after 5 minutes.
2011 Image, Inoled Extreme with the beam lowered a bit at 5 minutes.
2011 Image, Inoled Extreme after 10 minutes. The beam has now lost a bit of brightness in the photo, but you wouldn't notice it on the road.
All halogen dynamo headlights I sell use the same bulbs; either the 2.4 watt or 3 watt bulb. If used with a .6 watt taillight, use the 2.4 watt bulb. If you prefer a battery taillight, use the 3 watt bulb in the headlight. Most LED headlights can be used with or without a taillight. If you use the Inoled Extreme powered by a dynamo hub, you must use a taillight and Inoled's "Inoguard" wire.
None of these headlights should be positioned upside down. In the case of the Busch & Müller, Spanninga, Inoled and Supernova headlights, that can allow water to collect in the housing, possibly shorting out your lights in the rain when you need them most. But more importantly, by rotating the lens upside down, the brightest part of the beam hits the road closer to you, making for a light that is next to useless for clearly seeing the road ahead for any meaningful distance. This doesn't apply to the symmetrical Supernova E3 Pro, but it does apply to the Asymmetrical Terraflux E3 Pro. While the Schmidt headlights are impervious to water penetration, placing it upside down is still silly, since you've spent so much money for a carefully refined beam pattern, and by reversing it, you make the light beam worse than the cheapest dime store flashlight.
Metric connectors attach the wiring to some of these headlights. These metric connectors are virtually impossible to find in the United States. But I stock them by the hundreds. So if you have any concerns, buy some extra connectors when you purchase your system. They are very inexpensive.
Some headlights are hard wired for attachment to the Schmidt SON dynohub. All have connectors to attach optional taillights. We stock lots of wiring and connectors to allow many configurations for your bike. We don't have a package as such, since everyone's bike is a bit different. We prefer to sell you exactly what you need to give you the best lighting for your needs.
For more information about lights for the Schmidt hub, go to the Schmidt headlight page.
Article: The Perfect Headlight
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This page updated: Sunday, January 20, 2013
Peter White Cycles