Thursday, August 22, 2013

MBI HF Body and Zoom Head Review

Its not enough that the HF series of lights can stand toe to toe with the finest production or custom lights out there.  MBI pushes the envelop even further with two accessories that make this flashlight system among the finest in the world.  I talked about the flexibility of the Eiger in its review and how there are multiple options for heads and body tubes.  All of this accessorizing isn't for fashion points.  It is about giving the end user options.  And like the Eiger, the HF has a bevy of options.

Twitter Review Summary: More Flexibility than a Yoga Instructor

There are three things that help make the HF series so good.  First, all HF-R lights come with a body tube for the rechargeable cell it comes with AND a AAA sized cell.  This is standard.  This means that you can use your HF with lots of different batteries--the 10250 cell that comes with the HF-R or AAA rechargeables.  That right there is much more than the average flashlight maker gives you.  Can you see Surefire dropping a light with two body tubes, one for CR123a batteries and the other for AA?  Not likely, and certainly not for free.

ZoomHead

But that is not all.  For an additional cost you can purchase the ZoomHead.  Here is the product page.  There are multiple variations, all with different metals (Ti, Brass, and the review sample Aluminum). They range in price from $55 for the Ti version to $38 for the Al version. The ZoomHead swaps out with the standard HF and HF-R head and allows you to take a tiny floody light and turn it into a real thrower.  Here is the HF-R Keychain edition (HF-RK) with the ZoomHead attached:

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The ZoomHead allows the HF to focus and this, in turn, gives it substantially more throw.  All of those photons are gathered into an incredibly tight beam, seen here:

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Unfocused the ZoomHead still gives you a bit throwy-er beam than normal.  Here is the ZoomHead not focused:

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Compared to the light with no ZoomHead attached (on high):

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The overall effect is quite impressive.  Lights this size always have floody beams, but thanks to the magic of convex optics, you get a light the size of a AA battery with actual throw.  Here is a size comparison with the standard Zippo:

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Still tiny, still bright, but now with more throw.

Overall I liked the ZoomHead a lot.  Because of the focusing mechanism it can be a challenge to install, but once you get the hang of it, its is quite easy to put on and take off.  The fit and finish is superb.  The lens is beautifully made without any imperfections or scratches.  I carried the HF-RK for about a week and I had the ZoomHead on most of the time and it was never a problem.  It did give me enough punch to light up tree tops in my yard or see out the second story window, something the light couldn't do before.  The ZoomHead, given the price, is a very reasonable purchase.  If you plan on using your light for walking the dog or the like, just consider that $38 part of the price and get it from the beginning.  It is a no-brainer for me (at night I am picking up kid toys in the backyard though, not walking the dog).

HF Body Tube

The HF light, as compared to the HF-RK and HF-RT (HF-R Titanium), does not come with an AAA body tube.  Instead it comes with a brilliantly designed body tube.  It basically takes the HF, a light the size of a AA battery, and makes it something as big and durable as an HDS light.  Here is the body tube:

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The body tube makes the tiny HF jewel light a hardy, indestructible beast.  The design of the body tube is actually quite ingenious.  You screw off the lens to reveal the milled out hollow portion:

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With the hollow portion revealed, you insert the HF careful to align the hex sides with the hex cut outs:

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It is a very snug fit to ensure that there is no rattling and you have to align the hex sides at the top and bottom of the light to make sure the HF fits inside. Once that is done you reinstall the lens:

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This takes a few minutes the first time, but once you have done it three or four times the whole thing is pretty quick.  Once its done the HF is not firmly and snugly tucked into a body tube that seems more like an artillery shell than a flashlight.  If you are thinking about the HF but are worried that the tiny size might make it hard to use or too dainty for your tasks, the body tube should change your mind.  This thing is a freaking tank once completely assembled.  That is a pretty impressive package--super convenient EDC light that transforms into tank like photon cannon.  Oh yeah, the UI is exactly the same.  Once the HF is in the body tube, because the hex sides are aligned, twisting the body tube twists the HF, so you don't have to learn a new UI.  Yet, another sign of design genius. 

But there is a hidden trick to the HF body tube.  It stores three of the rechargeable cells in a rotated base:

IMG_0074

The lid pivots out of the way and entire base rotates to one of three positions, each of which accepts a battery, giving you a total of four cells in the HF body tube configuration (three in the tube and one in the light).  That is a lot of extra runtime.

It is touches like this that make the MBI HF series something special.  Sure the body tube is probably the same size as a 2xCR123a light that would have a runtime equal to the four cells together, but you lose flexibility.  With a 2xCR123a you are stuck with a light that size.  With the HF and body tube you have a light that size, or one the size of a AA and the output to match, regardless of the configuration.  I have to admit that the rotating battery holder was a moment of pure design geek freak out when I discovered it.  It is such a cool thing, so well integrated into the body tube that the sheer novelty was impressive.

Conclusion

I'd probably opt for the Zoomhead from the beginning and hold off on the body tube, as I don't have a lot of high demand tasks, but if you need a duty light, then you could probably do the reverse.  In short these two accessories make the HF series a flashlight platform, one that can accomodate almost any user and compete with anything on the market today.  Taken as a whole, I am confident that there is no better option out there for someone looking to get into the high end flashlight world and these aren't even that expensive.  Like the Eiger, the HF series shows that the future is modularity.  And the future is now.  

And now for the giveaway.  MBI was kind enough to allow me to keep all of the review samples and since I don't keep anything I review I am giving away the HF and body tube.  To win simply become a follower of the blog and post in the comments below.  After a week I will choose a winner.  The HF-RK is part of a giveaway running right now on the podcast (tune in for more details) and the HF-RT will be given away in a future contest so stay tuned.

  CORRECTION:  the HF-R series will work with alkaline batteries.  I have corrected the text above.

48 comments:

  1. This sounds really cool. Consider me entered to win! Jim P. @therealcyber5

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  2. I got the eiger based on your review and now I don't see how I can't get this!

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  3. Great review! I've been following Tgwnn and MBI lights on CPF for two years and own a Core Ti that is always with me and is truly a work of art. It is completely different than the HF, but still an amazing light.
    You mentioned that the HF with its AAA body tube can run on alkaline batteries, this incorrect as the HF only runs on Li ion 10250 and 10440.

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  4. I would love to win this light. I really like the zoom head option.

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  5. Great review for what seems like a great light!

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  6. Enter me in! MBI clearly defines flexibility and reliability.

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  7. Looks like a great light. Count me in.

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  8. Another great review, thanks for the site. I don't own an MBI yet but am a huge fan and supporter. I'm on the list for his upcoming Torpedo and can't wait to get my hands on it :)

    Thanks for the chance of an HF!

    http://www.matchboxinstruments.com/mbi-torpedo---500-lumen-aaa-flashlight.html

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  9. this little things look amazing, once more you will cost me money. i love this blog, always very precise and well researched reviews - thanks for all the time and effort you put into it.

    and yeah, sure, as all of the others I'd love to get one to try out! :)

    have a nice one everybody, greetings from austria.

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  10. I think i may know where my next paycheck is going. Love the site, keep it up

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  11. Nice review. Definitely considering picking up an HF with the zoom head. It would be nice to have something a little more versatile and easier to operate one handed than my Quantum on my keychain. Though I'm still waiting in MBI to finish the Torpedo.

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  12. Count me in. If I can't win it I'll definitely be buying it. Great review

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  13. While I love my aeon mkII, this looks like an innovative little light. I love the throw of the zoom head, it adds amazing flexibility to such a compact package.

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  14. Sweet lights! Planning to get a Peak Eiger but now I'm not so sure. Would rather win this one though ;).

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  15. Thanks for the great reviews and the giveaway.

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  16. I've been circling MBI lights for a while now but have yet to pull the trigger. I'm in.

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  17. Thanks for all your hard work, Tony.

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  18. Awesome review! I've been eagerly anticipating MBI's products, especially the Torpedo. That will be one heck of a light, can't wait until it becomes available. Thanks for the giveaway!

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  19. Superb review, as always and thanks for the contest, I'm in! In paragraph 2 you mention that HF will run on alkalines. I am about 95% certain that this is not the case so you might want to double check that. MBI's upcoming Torpedo will allow for other battery chemistries but I'm fairly certain that the HF and the HF-R does not.

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  20. Great review once again, always a great pleasure to read your reviews.
    Keep it up.

    Greetings from Germany.

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  21. Great giveaway! Thanks for the review.

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  22. Appreciate the thoughtful and thorough review......as always.
    Thanks!

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  23. The size comparison with the zippo sells me on this light. If I could sell my Aeon II I would buy this. Maybe I can just win it instead! :)

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  24. That zoom head looks cool. Not quite as good as the LL in terms of focusing ability but still good.

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  25. Great review! Can't wait to see what new reviews and articles you have for us in the future!

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  26. It's great to see that flashlight development is not limited to pushing more lumens. These MBI lights have a ton of features and innovations. I can't wait to see what the finished torpedo looks like.

    Great reviews, as ever. Keep up the good work

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  27. I have been on the fence about whether or not to invest in a quality EDC light, winning one in a contest seems like the perfect scenario!

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  28. Love your blog. Look forward to each new post. As a novice gearhead, this is where I turn to first to see if you've reviewed some new toy I have just discovered. These MBI lights might be my newest 'must have.' Thanks a bunch.

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  29. Great review! I've been looking for better pictures of the body tube, had to watch a few youtube videos to understand what it was. I wish these pictures were available earlier. Been looking to get a HF, winning one would make it easier to eventually get the two I've been looking at. Thanks!

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  30. Terrific review. I'm looking for a new flashlight...

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  31. great review and an amazing giveaway... thanks Tony!

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  32. This looks like quite the light. It's enough for me to think about trading in my Quantum 40DD.

    Of course I'd like to get a free one :)

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  33. I always look forward to your reviews, Tony. Thanks for putting so much time and energy into making this a terrific resource.

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  34. What a well designed little tool - I appreciate your measured eye for design. Count me in for the giveaway.

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  35. Awesome- thanks for the chance.

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  36. As always, great review Tony! Thanks for the chance!

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  37. Greetings from Singapore. Good review and love the review method.

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  38. Awesome giveaway, count me in : )

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  39. Thank you, as always, for the blog.

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