Princeton Tec Axis Headlamp Review
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When the Winter Solstice starts getting closer, it becomes time to reach for those headlamps to be able to extend or begin those running adventures in the dark. From late evenings to early mornings a bright headlamp is a must have piece of running gear that can help keep you visible in the face of traffic and light up your path to reveal natures protruding obstacles.
I recently got my hands on the Princeton Tec Axis headlamp and took it out on a number of early morning / late evening trail and road runs to see if it could light the way.
First Look at the Princeton Tec Axis
The Princeton Tec Axis is a cylindrical designed headlamp that allows for 180 degree rotation of the lamp, from straight up to straight down, not sure why the light would ever need to shine in either or those directions, but just note that it has the ability to do so should the need arise.
The Axis is supplied with an inch wide adjustable elastic headband. And in my experience headlamps with wider bands tend to be a lot more secure, resulting in little to no bounce of the light when running.
The Axis is powered by three AAA disposable batteries. I can only come up with one reason I would ever want a headlamp to be powered by disposable alkaline batteries rather than be equipped with a rechargeable battery pack, and that is when one is running in an ultra-marathon, where you don’t have the ability to recharge the headlamp. I should mention that Princeton Tec does offer the Axis in a rechargeable model. Obviously sticking with disposable batteries will increase the long term cost of owning this headlamp. If you guys have any thoughts on why owning a disposable battery headlamp versus a rechargeable headlamp is the better way to go, leave a comment down below, as I am curious if there are any good reasons. The battery compartment does not include a rubber grommet for weather proofing, but does maintain a fairly tight seal, giving the Axis a level 1 weather rating. Level 1 is assigned to lights that offer a degree of water protection equivalent to IPX4 in the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards. Lights rated at Level 1 are designed for water resistance to splashing and very quick dunkings.
The Princeton Axis is turned on and off by the button on the side. With the Axis being a cylindrical style headlamp it can be worn upside down or right side up, allowing the on/off button to be on the left or right side depending on your personally preference. A single press of the button turns on Red Ultrabright mode to 50% output. A double tap turns on White Spot Maxbright mode at 60% output. Pressing and holding turns on White Flood Maxbright mode at 25% output. Why only a percentage of full output? Here is the cool thing about the Axis, it is equipped with a dial surrounding the on/off button that allows you to dim or increase the light output in any mode. Beginning in Red mode, any dial turn will alter the red output. Beginning in White Flood mode and increasing output, it is possible to continue turning dial to activate Spot mode in addition to Flood mode which will achieve maximum output in what is called Dual Beam mode. Beginning in Spot mode, dimming action will be restricted to spot mode only. And a single press occurring more than two seconds after the previous button press will turn the light off. Confusing, Right? It was for me at first, but after spending a couple of runs with the light it starts to become second nature. I will put a graphic below that makes it a little easier to understand.
The Princeton Tec Axis features four different bulbs:
- Primary high-powered white LED spot
- Secondary lower-powered white LED flood
- Two Low-powered red LEDs, which better preserves night vision than white light and is great for map reading.
As described above, each bulb can be used on its own and is fully dimmable. The two white lights can be powered on in unison which allows the Axis to achieve peak brightness at 250 lumens. Lumens are a measure of total light output, but not always the key ingredient to a brighter, better light. The actual usefulness of the light depends on how it is cast. Relative to the competition, the maximum beaming 250 lumens of the Axis falls just about in the middle of the running headlamp category. At its dimmest setting, the Axis produces around 5 lumens, which is about enough to tie your shoes.
As you can tell by the pictures, the weight of the Axis is all in the front, taking just a couple extra minutes to get the strap adjusted just right can mean the difference between comfort and discomfort, bounce and no bounce, spending that time to get it right at home will ensure you don’t have to adjust it on your runs. Once I got the strap adjusted just right, I had no problem comfortably wearing the Axis for hours on a run.
At only 83 grams, the thought of the Axis soon disappears and the enjoyment of a peaceful early dawn trail run takes over. With the one inch wide strap and the correct adjustment, the Axis delivers a bounce free 250 lumen beam, allowing you to see all of the features of the trail in front of you.
Because of its LED bulbs, the Axis is battery efficient. With its high-powered dual LEDs at max, it’s total continual burn-time is stated at 50 hours. This seems a bit optimistic based on my experience, but it is nonetheless still pretty long. While the Axis comes with three disposable AAA batteries, it should be said that lithium rechargeable batteries can be used in the Axis, giving it better battery life, long term cost efficiency and improved cold weather performance. The batteries in the Axis are easily and quickly replaceable, no tools required, just a little pull on the battery tab cover and it flips right open.
The toughest thing to overcome about the Axis is it’s control system. One button to power three different lights in four possible configurations. Until the controls become second-nature, it will take a few minutes of random guessing to get what you want. If you only use the Axis a few times per year, it is unlikely that you will master the sequence of button pushes and holds it takes to get to the light setting you desire on the first try.
- 3AAA – 3 AAA Alkaline (Included)
- DIMMABLE LED – This advanced circuitry allows selection of whichever power level suits user requirements.
- FOCUSED NARROW BEAMS -This pattern creates a long, powerful beam of light excellent for illuminating distant areas. The resulting long-throw spotlight is especially well-suited for night hiking and search and rescue.
- MAXBRIGHT LED – The highest quality LED available from Lumileds, Princeton Tec’s Maxbright LED is extremely bright and efficient. This single LED emits a smooth, powerful, white light useful for a wide range of tasks. Princeton Tec uses collimators or reflectors with the Maxbright LED depending upon the application.
- MULTIPLE BEAMS – This beam pattern combines focused narrow and focused wide beams to allow for the most versatility. At close range, the focused wide beams simulate normal daylight conditions so you can take advantage of your peripheral vision. The focused narrow beams create a long-throw spotlight ideal for night hiking and search and rescue.
- MULTIPLE MODES – Multiple settings on many of our products give you the flexibility to adjust your light’s brightness and/or beam width to illuminate greater distances or to conserve battery power, depending on your needs.
- WATERPROOF – LEVEL 1 – Level 1 is assigned to lights that offer a degree of water protection equivalent to IPX4 in the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards. Lights rated at Level 1 are designed for water resistance to splashing and quick dunkings. If a light with a Level 1 rating is accidentally submerged for a longer period of time, the batteries should be removed and the cabinets should be carefully inspected for signs of battery leakage. If water has entered the housing, the light should be dried and batteries replaced.
- FOCUSED WIDE BEAMS – This beam pattern is an excellent choice for multipurpose activities. At close range, focused wide beams simulate normal daylight conditions and allow you to take advantage of your peripheral vision.
- POWER – 250 Lumens
- BURN TIME – 109 Hours
- WEIGHT – 83 Grams
- WARRANTY – Princeton Tec warrants the Axis to be free from defects in workmanship and materials under normal use for 5 years. This warranty covers all of the component parts of the product except batteries.
The Princeton Axis combines good lighting, battery efficiency, and light weight comfort into a headlamp that will work well for just about everyone. Considering the beam performance and battery life, $60 is an excellent value for this light. However if you are a frequent user of the headlamp it will go through batteries and unless you decide to pick up rechargeable AAA batteries, opting for the rechargeable version might be a better bet. For more information, please visit www.amazon.com/princetontec.