Xenonics Nighthunter

  • Dimensions: 5"x13",  9.7 lbs
  • Lamp: Xenon Short Arc, 75W, 1000 hr
  • Battery: SLA, 22V, 5Ah
  • Run Time: 45/75 min
  • Price: $2749 (Basic Package)
  • Manufacturer: Xenonics, Inc.,  http://www.xenonics.com/
  • SYNOPSIS

    The Nighthunter (NH) is the flagship searchlight made by Xenonics, Inc. of California. Contrary to popular belief, it was NOT developed as a competitor to the Maxabeam (MB). Rather, it was developed quite independently by two people who used to design helicopter searchlights.  They simply wanted to make a smaller, portable version.

    The current line up consists of one model, and a Gen. 2 model is coming soon, which will have slight adjustments in relfector and focus.  But the main difference coming next year will be the addition of NiMH or Li-Ion batteries.  I cannot stress how important this change will be (more on that later).

    I liked the shape of the light.  It reminded me of high-end dive lights made in Germany such as Hartenburger or Kowalski.  Just a big cylindrical shape, nice and clean looking.

  • CONSTRUCTION

  • The body is made up of the same tough ABS plastic as other lights in this group, the only obvious metal part on the outside being the distintive heat sink that you see in the pictures (the "gills").  Just remember not to touch the heat sink after long operations!

    The NH has a smooth black finish, with a more streamlined shape than the MB. There is also a screw thread on the bottom so that the unit can be mounted on a tripod. The unit is rated at water-proof to 3ft.  Which means that a dunk in a knee-high stream would be OK. Just don't take it diving.

    It has an external power terminal in the back of the unit for powering the unit from an external DC source, as well as charging the battery.  

    The light has that same rugged feel and look as many others, but at almost 10 lbs, it was the heaviest single-chassis unit.  Still the unit doesn't feel too bad when you carry it.  At least until your arm begins to hurt.  A shoulder strap is provided as standard equipment to help you out.  New batteries should make the Gen. 2 units lighter. Let's hope much lighter.

    The lens is also tempered glass with UV filtering.

  • BATTERY

    The NH uses a Sealed Lead Acid(SLA) battery, also known as a gell cell.  SLA are tested and true, and can provide a large amount of current.  The downside is that for a given capacity, they are by far the heaviest. To study more about battery types, go here: http://www.nlectc.org/txtfiles/batteryguide/ba-cont.htm

    Even though the NH uses the oldest and heaviest battery technology, there is much to like about it's charging design.  The NH has a unique charging design that is actually inside of the main unit!  The only other unit that has this design is the Nighthunter 2 (surprise?).  What does this mean to the user?

    First of all, you don't need a seperate car charger. The power cable (Fig. 1) itself is all you need. That single cable will both power your light when your battery is drained, and it will also charge the battery when you're not using it! Now that's great thinking.  

    Want to charge it from home?  Instead of another set of cables and a seperate AC charger, Xenonics simply provides you with a regulated DC power supply.  Notice that the power supply has a female cigarette socket at the end (Fig. 2).  This way, all you need is ONE power cord for everything.  Brilliant. YouOh, and just in case you need to, you can also use the home power supply to power the light as well.

    I really think this kind of simplicity should be recognized and applauded.  It will cut through so much confusion. One word of caution, though, the DC power supply is rated at 22V.  So don't try to power any other car accessory with this power supply at home.  :)

Fig. 1: Power Cord
Fig. 2: DC power supply
  • Just as with the MB, there are a couple of factors which you need to keep in mind when powering the NH through your car's DC.

    1) Make sure the engine is running.  The car battery alone sometimes will not provide adequate voltage to power the light.  Turning the engine on will ensure this will not happen, as well as prevent your car's battery from draining.  When charging the NH, however, it is OK to keep your engine off.

    2) Never use an extension cable for your DC socket.  I tried using an extension that was rated at 10A, but it still would not power up the NH.  You must connect the NH directly to your car's DC socket.

    OPERATION

    To turn on the light, you must keep the power button depressed until the light comes on (about 3 sec).  If you simply depress the button and let go, the light will not turn on.  After the light is on, depress the power button once more for about 5 sec, you will change the light intensity from normal to low mode.  Depress it for another 5 sec and you will go back to normal intensity.  To turn the light off, simply depress the button and let go.  Like the MB, the light is extremely quiet with little or no ballast sound.

    The focusing mechanism is done by manual twisting of the head.  Like the KumKang (KK), the NH has clear stops on both ends.  The head unit turns with a nice silky smooth weight to it.  I liked it.  It reminded me of those really nice volume controls on very expensive audio equipment.  Nice and heavy, but smooth. Xenonics said that the manual design was a deliberate one, as their light was designed to be used in rigorous operations where sensitive electronics could break. Low tech is sometimes best.

    Run time is rated at 45 min for full power.  Like the MB, I could not get anything even remotely close to this figure.  As noted in other tests, I was constantly plagued by the battery life of the MB and NH. Possible explainations are mentioned in my review of the MB.  At first, I thought I had made a mistake in charging the battery.  But after it happened many times, I decided to always take the power cable with me.  At least I only needed to carry ONE cable. :)

    PERFORMANCE

    The beam angle at tightest focus has a tight penetrating center beam, but unlike the MB, it actually has a more uniform area of illumination, but not quite the pin-point focus (Fig. 3). In almost every area, the NH performed much like the "little brother" of the Megaray (MR).

    The strange anomolies you see in the beam patterns is caused by the positive electrode inside the reflector.

    Note that Fig. 3 was calibrated to show the secondary beams correctly, so the primary beam is overexposed. Light outputwise, the NH was comparable to the MB in normal mode, but the low mode of the NH was brighter than that of the MB.  The MB in burst mode, however, clearly out classed the NH.  But both fall short of the output of the MC or KK.  For more beam shots, be sure to check out the comparisons page.

Fig. 3: Beam Pattern (Normal Spot)
Fig. 4: Amber Filter & IR Filter
  • The flood setting of the NH is quite different from the MB in that it has no black hole. Infact, it has a fairly smooth wide angle beam, again like that of the MR.  This is interesting, because the MR uses a optical lens to achieve this (true refocusing), but the NH uses the same principle as a Maglite or MB (defocusing). How is this possible?

    "It's black magic I tells ya!"

    The NH comes standard with two filters.  The Amber filter and IR filter (Fig. 4).  Notice how the two filters have different textures on the outer ring, so you can distinguish between the two even in pitch darkness simply by "feel".  Sharp.

    Just like the other "throwers", the NH begins to show it's strength after 700 yards.  In the 850 yard test and the 1500 yard test, you can clearly see this.  Remember, as with all the throwers, the extreme focus of the NH is also a product of the light source vs. reflector ratio. Look at how similar the beams of the NH look to those of the MR at 1500 yards, only dimmer!

    Don't judge a light based on meaningless aspects (meaningless throw, meaningless lumens, etc.).  Always try to judge a light based what what it is meant to do, and what you will need

    CONCLUSION

    Ah, the NH.  The so-called arch-rival of the MB.  But is it really?  It was to my surprise that these two lights are as different from each other as they are alike.  I don't think there would be a confusion on which light to buy at all.  Both have their own strength and weaknesses.  It again comes down to what you need the light for.

    If it is for ultimate throw (for signaling), than nothing beats the MB. But for illumination, the NH can be considered to be a smaller(?!), less expensive(?!) version of the MR.  :)

    I think the NH and MB are distinct enough to each carve it's own name without imposing on the other. I'll take both.