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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on August 15, 2012
I don't do reviews (since Amazon jiggered the review ranking system),but every so often I make an exception. This is a product that is both an exception to my "no review" policy and exceptional in execution.

This one does it all. It is a smart headlamp that is equally at home on your head or helmet. It senses what you are doing and adjusts the light to meet the demand. If you are on a trail after dark, the long distance beam is on. Stop to check the map & GPS and the lamp dims to the level needed for that close-up work. Petzl has created "reactive lighting" and has done it very well, indeed.

The headlamp has a rechargeable battery (N.B. it comes with the battery disconnected - you have to open the battery case and plug in the battery before you charge it for the first time). The battery charges from the ubiquitous USB connector (a male connector is part of the battery case). Your battery life can be very short - less than 2 hrs - if your use requires constant highest light output (way brighter than any other headlamp I've ever used, including a Carbide Lamp!), or it may exceed 50 hours of continuous use in the average camping/hiking situation. A slick feature is the ability to replace the rechargeable battery with two AAA cells (at a loss of some brightness and automatic functions) if your rechargeable battery is discharged. Given the ubiquitious USB adaptor for automobiles and backpacking solar panels, switching to standard AAA cells won't be a common choice - but it is nice to have an alternative when necessary!

It gets even better! Petzl has created a program to tweak the headlamp! A free download for Mac & Windows machines, the Petzl application allows you to name your headlamp and the battery, as well as to store up to four (4) "profiles" for your headlamp. The standard is Petzl's "Multi-activites" profile. You can choose to include three other profiles (including ones that you create!). Petzl provides the standard as well as: "around-the-house", "bivouac", "Mountaineering", "Orienteering Race", "Trekking / Hiking", and "Caving/Spelunking".

The only activity I don't believe this headlamp is appropriate for is open-water / white-water rafting & kayaking. It is not "submerged" waterproof though it handled a brief afternoon mountain downpour without harm.

It's fairly pricey until you factor in the cost of disposable batteries. If you use your headlamp often and frequently have to adjust the light level (as I always do when tying on a new fly) your battery costs will offset the price in six months, or less.

Love it!
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on September 25, 2012
This review is about the Nao, the newest head torch from Petzl. Being a head torch lover and ready for a technology upgrade I blew $175 Au on this unit. It has been a while since I have bought a Petzl, the last one being the duo from 15 years ago which still works despite a lot of use. More recently I have owned a Hope Vision 1 and a Lupine Tesla. I use head torches for hiking/camping, wildlife spotting and night photography and this one seemed to tick the right boxes with some gimicky technology thrown in (good output, lightweight, relatively cheap spare batteries, ~ 100m spot). It has twin LED emitters, one diffuse and the other a fairly tight spot each putting out about 150 lumens. The "bulb" at the top of the torch is a sensor and allows the light to adjust the intensity of each emitter based on reflected light collected by this sensor, when in reactive mode. it seems that head tilt also effects the relative contribution of either emitter to suit close up (looking down) and long distance looking up. The torch has 5 potential light output settings in each of two modes: Reactive and Constant, and the software allows you to tailor the amount of output each LED emits at each setting and of course how many settings are available.
The software also allows you to customise the minimum light output when in reactive mode, and for all settings it gives estimates of light throw distance and battery duration.
A quick quarter turn of the square nob switches between each setting, and holding the quarter turn for 2 seconds will switch between reactive and constant output modes. the light uses a lithium battery encased in a USB dongle that has water resistant seals and a 3 bar battery meter that displays when you start the light and when you shut the light down. With both emitters at 100% (in constant mode) the light seems to last about 1hr 30Min before requiring a recharge. Reactive mode is designed to improve burn times by continuously adjusting the output to your needs based on sensor feedback and head position.

The Trial: I went to Hinchinbrook Island off the coast of Queensland for 6 days of camping, hiking and photography. Before I left I charged, disharged then charged the included battery + 2 spares I bought for about $40 each. I also played with the settings to get the most ideal output ranges for both modes.

The Good: The output is pretty good really, I was surprised at how bright 150 lumens is and now suspect some of my other LED torches of exagerating their outputs. The diffuse beam has a great spread and at 85% allows rapid boulder hopping up creeks and is bright enough to comfortably replace a flash for night time macro photography, with a reasonably smooth lighting pattern. The spot emitter suffers a little from the small reflector, but is still quite useable for spotlighting animals up to 30 - 40 meters in the distance with the aid of binoculars. The unit is reasonably light weight for its output, and I liked the fact that you can easily remove the lithium cell from the battery case to cut down on weight when carrying spares. For me the software set up for the torch is fantastic and will definitely be a game changer for future torches. The ability to control your settings and tailor for the intended activity is both fun and useful. I have always had issue with torches that turn on at the brightest setting, and now you can completely customise the sequence of settings to what you need.
Another great feature is the ability to swap out the lithium ion cell and replace with 2 AAA batteries for emergency lighting.
The new headstrap works well and I found it lighter, more comfortable and cooler (temperature) than the usual head straps. It fits securely, but I do wonder how it will go on larger head sizes. My head is smaller than most and there isn't a great deal of adjustment space, even after it is tightened on my head.
The switch locking mechanism is simple but effective

The Bad: So the reactive lighting didn't really do it for me. I became frustrated that it just wasn't putting out enough light when I needed it, even with the minimum level set to maximum (using the software). I also found the shifts from brighter to lower outputs in reactive mode to be distracting when moving around quickly in awkward terrain, and the output sometimes just wasn't appropriate for where I was looking. I invariably found myself switching over to the constant mode in favour of any of my preprogrammed reactive mode settings.
The battery level metering does not appear to be based on the battery output, but duration of use between charges, as recorded by electronics within the casing. This means that when you swap a discharged lithium cell out of the plastic battery case, and replace it with a fully charged cell, the battery case will tell you that the fresh battery is low in charge and will even give the flashing warning (emitters pulse 3 times when battery gets low). The light will continue to perform for the expected duration, but you cannot get any indication of the true state of charge. The converse happens when you return an empty cell to the original plastic casing it was charged in. That empty cell will be read as full by the battery meter even though it is not. This is not so smart, but fortunately the meter resets when you next recharge the battery.
Disengaging the battery from the headband cradle could be easier, actually I find it painful as you have to jab the end of your finger into it to force it to release. forget doing this with gloves unless u have a spoon or something on hand. Yes it is secure, but I would have preferred a less painful release mechanism.
The front plastic lens seems extremely vulnerable to scratches and abrasion and does not appear to be replaceable. After the electronics, this is probably the weakest point of the torch.

Ambivalent: Waterproofing: the unit has rubber seals on its assorted removable parts and should display a reasonable level of water resistance to all but prolonged submerges. I know this has disappointed people but this isn't designed to be a dive torch. I am impressed at the way the design team have managed to seal up the usb connection when seated in the headband cradle and I imagine a lot of hours were spent figuring out how to do this. Fortunately it didn't rain on this trip and I didn't submerge the torch, so was not able to test the effectiveness of the waterproofing.

Summary: Despite its short comings, this head torch is a game changer purely based on the software customisation. It produces an excellent light output for all but the more demanding spotlighting applications, and I wouldn't consider it for downhill skiing/snowboarding or mountain bike riding (you will need triple the output of this light). If you want a dual 150 + 150 lumen head torch with excellent diffuse light output and reasonable spotting capability (for a light and Petzl NAO Headlampcompact head torch), that is software customisable to exactly how you like, then this torch is for you.
Don't buy this light for the reactive lighting feature - if in use this works for you then think of it as the icing on an already tasty cake.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on September 5, 2012
I usually do not post reviews, but this product is exceptional. I am a runner and do the majority of my workouts at night. The Petzl Nao is extremely bright! Its like running with a car headlight. I even had one motorist flash his brights at me. I have used other Petzl headlamps and there is no comparison to this one. The weight and head strap are comfortable even when running. The battery holder has a curve to match the shape of the back of your head. The rechargeable battery has a visible charge meter and is so much easier than using AA's or AAA's. If that weren't enough it has the reactive technology and it lets you program different light levels via the free software.

If you are looking for a crazy bright headlamp for running at night this is your light.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 2012
I work for a utility company on the night shift, I use this light every night. This light is superior to any light the company has purchased and is much more versatile to the lights my coworkers have purchased. Would recommend for any activity. The wide beam and spot are amazing. The way you can program it is great. The only thing I wish is that it came with a dual battery or an extra battery in the kit. It is easily charged and I have not run out of juice yet, I wouldlike the extra battery for possible back up. I also had to change the head strap the one that comes with it is not for a hard hat more for your head or rock climbing. BUT IT'S STILL AWESOME.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 15, 2012
The light thinks on its own and knows just the right amount of light for the situation. Looking at a map or looking down the trail, it give you the right amount of light. We went rock climbing at night and someone in our camp a mile away said my headlamp looked like a lighhouse, it's that powerful. Great purchase!
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2012
It might seem a bit silly to blow $175 on a headlamp, and perhaps it is; but after trying several cheapo sporting-goods-store lights, and finding them all totally inadequate, I decided to bite the bullet. To my surprise, this unit proved well worth its exorbitant cost. It's amazing how much more you can see with it than with cheap units, or with a hand-held flashlight, even a fairly powerful one. The light field is much broader; it literally turns night into day in your immediate vicinity, and its effective range is perhaps 100 yards at full power. The light is always pointing where you are looking, and you have both hands free to do tasks, which is a big improvement over holding a flashlight with one hand and trying to do everything with the other, or attempting to prop the light against something so you can use two hands. It's also rechargeable, although in a pinch you can use disposable batteries as well. (Remember to open the battery compartment and connect the battery before charging it the first time.) The unit is light, and very comfortable; after a while you almost forget that you're wearing it. The "reactive lighting" feature, which automatically dims the illumination for close-in work or map reading, is very handy. If you do a fair amount of work (or play) in darkness, you will find this light well worth its stiff price tag. As with most things, you get what you pay for.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This was a great light for one year, then the switch knob stopped working. For a premium light that commands such a high price, most consumers would expect higher-end components that last more than one year.

UPDATE: I disassembled the unit to determine the cause of the failure. The right front housing where the screw connects the heat sync to the LED front half had structurally failed and broken. This is clearly a design failure, as the power knob is on the right side, causing repeated use of the light switch to naturally stress this upper corner screw connector housing. The manufacturer's designer clearly failed to account for the actual function of the unit when they designed their housing. When this screw housing breaks, the lever inside the rotation switch fails to make contact with the electronic light switch mounted on the circuit board inside the unit.

In any case, the solution was simple: I used some baling wire and a pair of pliers to create a tight-fitting wire "spring" band that wraps around the front of the unit to keep the front and back halves of the light tightly together. Now the light works perfectly again.

So if you buy this light, make sure you have some baling wire and pliers handy to fix it when the screw connector fails (as it will if you use it very often).

Hopefully somebody at Petzl will read this and beef up their screw housing to resist the stresses caused by repeated use of the rotation switch mounted on the right side of the unit.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2013
This is a very cool thing. many settings range, brightness and intensity, high-quality production, easy mounting. this one is worth the money
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 4, 2013
This light has made running in the dark so much more enjoyable. Super bright and really effective. Love this light.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 23, 2014
I used this headlamp for my last 100 mile race. I also purchased the extra battery pack and extension chord. When I was first researching this lamp, it was recommended that an extension chord be purchased so that the battery can be worn at your waist. I found that it was much more comfortable wearing it on my head (make sure to wear a bandana or else you will get a nice little imprint on your forehead!) I do recommend buying an extra battery pack or two. On my first fully charged battery, I was able to get about 10 hours at the lowest level. After switching out the battery and knowing that I only have about 2 hours left in the race, I had it set to the medium level....wow! it lit up the trails. At medium setting, I believe you get 5 hours but have not been able to verify (I know it gets at least two). I also run with a handheld as a backup but found that I didn't need it at that setting. The lamp seems to be very well made and will most likely outlast my running career. A little bit on the expensive side but worth it if you are looking for a dependable source of illumination.
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