My Tiny Sun Head 1,000 Pro Headtorch
8th May 2012
I have said in previous reviews that there has been something of a shift in the standard of torches for outdoor users in recent years. It’s been driven by two things: LED bulb advances and Li-ion battery advances. Basically the bulbs are getting brighter and the batteries are getting more powerful and smaller.
Magicshine UK is a distributor who is ploughing the way for a number of lesser known manufacturers to get a hold on the UK market. A few weeks ago I reviewed their MJ 880, with an amazing 2,000 lumens of light. One of the other companies that they distribute in the UK is somewhat clumsily named MyTinySun (I get the name, but it doesn’t really roll off the tongue). I think MTS is a fair abbreviation though. It is a German company and after trialling their Head 1,000 Pro it’s clear that they are living up to the reputation of top-end German manufacturing.
The Head 1,000, as you will have gathered from the name is designed as a head mounted light with its battery pack attached to the back of the elasticated head strap. It features a weather proof push button on the left hand side of the head band which also glows red and acts as a position indicator if you choose. This button can be slid around to the back of the head so that the position indicator can be viewed clearly from behind – especially useful when on a bike. The battery pack is connected to the push button via a waterproof push-fit connector inside a rubber housing. There is then another cable that links the button to the head unit. That’s it. Very much like many other headlights on the market in design, but far, far brighter than most.
Its single bulb is very, very bright at 960 Lumens*. That’s clearly not as much as the abovementioned MJ880 (a 2 bulb unit), but it weighs just 165g (unit and battery) significantly less than the MJ880, which is designed primarily as a bar mounted light with a battery pack that is hung from the bike frame. The torch has two modes: simple and expert. For the vast majority the simple mode will be all that is needed. Press the button and on comes the torch at 430 Lumens. Press it again and it brightens to 960 Lumens. Again and it goes back to 430. Just two settings. Unlike some torches the light doesn’t go off as it switched between its two settings, it just brightens or fades depending on which way it is going. Once it’s been on for a second the bulb gives a number of quick flashes to let you know how much power there is left in the batter. 4 flashes means a full charge. 1 flash means very little charge. I think this is actually quite a clever feature. To turn it off you simply hold down the button for a second or two. The button still glows red after the torch has been turned off, pulling a small amount of power from the battery, but meaning that in a tent you can find the torch quickly. If you want to turn it off completely you can either disconnect the unit from the batter as you do with most such torches, or you can press the button again for about a second just after turning off the main light. Again, a nice feature. So that’s it in a nutshell as far as simple mode goes.
Battery times quoted for the two settings are 5 hours and 23 minutes at 430 Lumens and 1 hour and 53 minutes at 960 Lumens. That should be enough for most night runs / bike rides, flicking from the one setting to the next depending on the severity of the terrain. In practice I’ve yet to run the battery even close to dry. If you would prefer longer running times it is possible to combine the head unit with bigger batteries, giving up to 15 hours and 5.5 hours respectively! To charge the battery you simply disconnect it from the button unit and connect up to a mains very compact charger.
OK, I’ve described the simple mode. I will try to explain the Expert mode now. With only one button it is a pretty complex task to get your head around. So much so that I actually dropped an email to the customer services team in Germany. A very friendly chap called Harald helped me out initially before passing me on to a guy called Chris from Magicshine UK. Both have been super, super helpful – a very far cry from the sort of help you get from some more mainstream companies. Essentially I think that the problem lies in the fact that MTS have attempted to create a single set of instructions for their complete range of models, batteries and the various combinations. An ambitious project! In essence, the Expert mode features a further 6 levels which give different brightness settings, and offer different battery status check ‘locations’ via the main bulb flashing (described in the Simple mode above) or via the button, depending on whether you have the torch on your head, in which case indicating the batter status via the button is pointless, or on your handlebars, in which case the button becomes more useful than the flashing of the bulb. Get it? It makes sense, but I think a simple set of instructions for each particular combination would be a good idea. Below I have pasted Chris’s email to me explaining things a) to let you know in a bit more detail how the Expert modes work, and b) to let you know how good their customer service is!
A few more things to mention. It is possible to get a USB connector for some models I am told. This will allow future improvements to be incorporated into the software. The unit contains an accelerometer and a light sensor. The former will allow an update to cause the light to automatically go into SOS mode (three quick flashes, 3 slow flashes, 3 quick flashes**) in the event of a fall or a crash. Quite sensible actually! The latter will automatically turn the light on as it gets dark, another sensible option if you are, for example, descending off a mountain or just starting out on a night-ride and want to keep your hands free. Lastly it will include software which will enable you to teach your torch to switch into different modes with gestures of your head. Useful again, especially for climbing. More like a smart-torch than a torch!
In the box with the battery, head unit and head strap you also get a couple of interchangeable lenses to enable you to get a more diffuse or pointed beam, a handlebar mount for the head unit, and a small pouch that can be attached to the handlebars for the battery, an extension cable in case you need it, and a helmet mount if the headstrap is not suitable for your helmet. The whole package is incredibly well manufactured and I get the impression that it will last forever. If the computer which controls things plays up then I am confident in the customer services.
How Did It Fare?
I’ve used it now on a number of runs and bike rides. As I’ve said, the battery has never come close to running out despite me taking it on numerous outings without re-charging it. I live in the Peak District which is a particularly rocky place. Whether biking or running the danger of catching a toe or a pedal on a rock is ever-present. Throw into the equation some steep hills and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. I can honestly say that I do not slow down whilst out with this light. Not something I can say about other lights. Over the past three or four years I have used a Black Diamond Cosmo, Petzl Myo, Petzl Myo XP, Silva X-Trail Plus, the Magicshine MJ880, and a few others. The Head 1,000 is hands down the best light of the bunch to wear on your head (the MJ880 tops it for bar mounted illumination as it is so much brighter, but that said, I would still choose the Head 1,000 for biking if I only had one, as the battery fares better). On one recent run I went out with three friends. We started to run and they each had their torches turned on. I waited until we were in the woods and turned mine on. They thought a car was following us into the woods! They were able to turn their torches off and run purely in the light of mine! They had to keep up though ;-)
The beam gives a great clean area of illumination that has yet to leave me wondering what’s in that blind spot. It’s easy to switch from one mode to another if the terrain changes – a lot of my outings change from road to trail and back again and I don’t need to waste batter power on the roads. In fog it’s easy enough to point it down more steeply to the ground without blinding yourself. There are no irritating reflections back off the mounting as, for example, there are with the Myo XP.
I’ve used it for night bouldering which is a doddle compared to biking and running, the immediate area flooded with more than enough light to see by on its lower setting.
One further use I have put the light to has been for some ‘light painting’ of night photography. With such a bright light to play with it’s been quite good fun lighting night scenes and photographing then.
The light retails at £253.95. A chunk of money to pay for a head torch, but quite possibly the market leader. Certainly good value for money, but only if you can afford it.
• Amazingly bright for a light-weight head torch
• Beautifully constructed to a very high standard
• Future upgrades due for software that will make it even brighter
• Excellent battery life
• The Expert Modes are a little complex to get your head around
*A note about it’s brightness. Described as the Head 1,000 Pro you would be forgiven for thinking that it was 1,000 Lumens. In fact on the box it actually says it is 1,100 Lumens. However at the moment the bulb is limited to 960 Lumens, with a 140 hike potentially being made available at some point soon via a software update. Not entirely sure why this is the case, but you can be sure that there is a good reason.
**You can easily manually turn the SOS function on when using the torch by holding down the button for about 10 seconds. Handy if you have had an accident and want to attract attention. In emergency mode it emits 60 Lumens and lasts for 2 hours and 5 minutes.
Check out this email from Magicshine UK Customer Services.