Headlamp Review: Olight Array 2S
Whilst many headlamps and head-torches have a red light option, most of them run at approximately 5 lumens. The Olight Array 2S is the latest update to the Olight Array series of headlamps designed primarily for runners, with white light output of up to 1000 lumens and a red light output of an impressive 200 lumens.
Olight is a very popular consumer brand of flashlights, that has gained an almost cult following due to its online presence, marketing strategies, and regularly updated range of flashlights. Olight is one of the last bastions of constant frequency strobes in commercial grade lights, and the discontinued M1X Striker was one of the best flashlights for light painting in the previous decade. Sadly, the newer Warrior Pro and Mini flashlight models have user interfaces that are more limiting for light painting photography, and the the proximity sensor on the Warrior Mini 2 may dim the light when placed in some light painting connectors - oh dear! Back to headlamps, I have been on the lookout for some time for a headlamp with centrally located emitters (instead of L or angle lights) with a very bright red emitter. The Olight Array 2S has come to rescue, and quickly ended up on my shopping basket!
The Olight Array 2S has a single head-strap, with a compact light module at the front, and 2600mAh battery pack at the back, connected by a power cable. The light module has 3 LEDs. The main emitter has a white LED with "throwy" spot optics. There are two secondary LEDs, a white LED with flood optics, and a Red LED with flood optics. There is a proximity sensor for hand gesture control on the front of the light. The Array 2S is actually made by a company called Magicshine (better known for their bike lamps), and branded by Olight.
The headlamp, battery pack, and head-strap weigh a combined 131g, and felt stable and well balanced when walking. As I was recovering from surgery at the time of the review I wasn't able to test the stability whilst running. The light module is a similar size the Nitecore NU25 headlamp at 61x31x24mm. The battery pack is slightly larger than an 18650 Li-ion battery. The casing is made from Aluminium Alloy and is quite solid. The IPX4 rating is nothing special.
The 2600mAh Li-ion battery pack (presumably with a 18650 battery inside) can be charged by a USB A-C cable. Charging current is claimed to be at 1A, and it took 4 hours to fully charge. There are 6 red lights on the back of this battery pack which acts as a running safety feature. Unfortunately they can't be turned off for other uses, so I may have to put some black tape over the LEDs when out light painting. As the battery is non-user replaceable, then this light is not likely to have a lifespan of more than 3-5 years with medium to heavy use.
The Olight Array 2S can be controlled by both the single button on top of the light, or by making hand gestures in front of the light.
The button user interface is as follows:
Single press - on/off - with last mode memory
Double click from on - cycles between modes (flood > flood+spot > red)
Hold from on - cycles between brightness levels within mode (low > mid > high)
Triple click from on or of - SOS mode (not memorised)
Hold (1s) from off - lockout on/off
The basic user interface is similar to Anduril UI, which I see as a good thing. Mode memory is useful - if you want it turn on in a specific mode, then you need to turn it off in that mode.
The hand gesture user interface is as follows:
Wave left or right - switches between flood and flood+spot
Wave up - increases brightness level
Wave down - decreased brightness level
I found the hand gesture mode more useful than I was expecting in real world use. It only works if the hand is within 7cm of the proximity sensor, which reduces the chance of accidental activation. There are some limitations with the hand gesture - it cannot be used to turn the light on or off, and it can't be used to switch to/from red mode. Unlike most new Olight flashlights, the proximity sensor cannot be used to automatically dim the light if it is too close to another object - however the peak beam intensity isn't really enough for this to be required anyway.
I did find out the hard way (after the light accidentally activated in my camera bag) that you need to use the lockout mode when not in use.
Beam, Output, and Runtimes
The light module has 3 LEDs. The main emitter has a white LED with "throwy" spot optics, though in reality it's not particularly throwy at 5,000cd. There are two secondary LEDs, a white LED with floody optics, and a Red LED with floody optics. Unfortunately, Olight have joined Ledlenser in not stating the which emitters they are using.
The colour temperature of both flood and spot emitters is 6500k cool white, but appears to be close to the black body line, and thus exhibits a very nice "pure white" tint. My Nitecore headlamps look quite green in comparison. The colour rendering (CRI) is estimated at a mediocre 70CRI. Unfortunately, there are no neutral white or high-CRI emitters options. This is a disappointing, as having high colour rending is very useful for many headlamp use cases including checking that BBQ meat is correctly cooked when camping. The 90CRI 5700k LH351D emitter would have been perfect for this light. Given that most LED panel lights are now >95 CRI, I'm really surprised that most commercial grade headlamp manufacturers are still lagging behind modern LED technology.
The manufacturer stated brightness and runtime levels are as follows:
Flood+spot - 1,000lm (4h), 500lm (5h), 100lm (13.5h)
Flood - 500lm (5h), 250lm (6.5h) 30lm (30h)
Red - 200lm (5.5h), 100lm (8.5h), 40lm (15h)
Testing showed these brightness levels to be accurate within +/-10%. Step-downs were tested to occur in:
Flood+spot - gradual decline from 1000 lumens at 1 minute to 500 lumens at 5 minutes. Further step-downs to 250lm at 1hr 50mins, 150lm at 2hr 50mins, 15lm at 4hr 5mins, turned off at 4hr 12min.
Red - gradual decline from 200 lumens at 10 seconds to 109 lumens at 5 minutes. Stable at 110 lumens until test ended at 10 minutes.
Total runtime was tested on Flood+spot, and was 4 hours 12 minutes.
Bizarrely, the Olight Array 2S omits any very low or moonlight modes. There are many reasons for headlamps to use moonlight modes (approx. 1 lumen). Examples include for close up use without blinding anyone (e.g. finding something in a tent), and as a night light. I often use moonlight modes for illuminating my light painting tools set aside to use during a long exposure photo.
The red light brightness is very impressive. I'm not aware of any headlamps with centrally positioned red emitters than are this bright (as the Armytek Wizard WR and Skillhunt H03C RC are both L/angle lights). This bright red light is very useful for night time illumination, and creating bright red starbursts on backlit light painting photos. It is also very useful if you don't want to attract insects whilst out at night. The red light output was visually more than double than red light output on the Ledlenser P7QC. The peak red wavelength appears to be at 420nm, which is common place on headlamps.
Things I liked:
Impressive white light output for the size - 1000lm.
Good cool white tint.
Very impressive red light output - 200lm.
Sustained brightness at approx. 50% of max output.
Centrally located emitters (which I prefer to L/angle lights).
Last mode memory.
Integrated USB charging.
Hand gesture control is surprisingly useful.
Red lights on back of battery pack are an extra safety feature for night running.
Things I didn't like:
Lacks very low/moonlight modes for both white and red lights.
Not high CRI - seems to be an issue on most commercial grade headlamps.
Red lights on the back of battery pack can't be turned off - may need to be covered with tape when light painting.
Olight do not state which emitters are used.
Battery is not user replaceable - poor sustainability.
The Olight Array 2S is a fantastic headlamp if you require a very bright red light. It is also a good headlamp for long night runs, night hikes <4 hours, urban exploring, and night/light painting photography.
The lack of any very low / moonlight brightness modes means that there are better headlamps for camping, such as the OEM's Magicshine MOH 35, and Nitecore HC65. For shorter night runs, I would consider a more lightweight headlamp of which there are plenty of options from various manufacturers.
If the Olight Array 2S was updated with high-CRI LEDs (such as the efficient 90CRI LH351D), a moonlight mode, and the ability to turn off the red LEDs on the battery pack, then it would be my perfect headlamp!
The Olight Array 2S can be purchased from the Olight store (and other flashlight/torch retailers):
International (go to dealers and search dealers for your country)