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Monday, March 31, 2014

Sketching Light for Astronomy: Black Diamond Spot, Rigel Starlite or Photon Freedom II

As a sketcher, I am always in search of a better lighting source that will preserve my dark vision while allowing me to sketch. So of late I have gathered three items to help do so. I am going to present them here and discuss their pro's and con's.

First come an image of all three together. They are on the bottom: 1. The Rigel adjusting red light; also called the Starlite here.  2. To the top the BlackDiamond Spot Headlamp.  3. The Photo Freedom Light which is on the right.


1. We'll start with the Rigel Starlite as seen below (with a Lego Darth Vader Key Chain).


This light is about four inches long by about 1 1/2 inches wide. It has a wheel that turns on and off the two LEDS inside the clear plastic on the front. I question in the build if the wheel will endure but some people on some of the forums like CloudyNights swear by them. One guy reinforces his with duck tape.  I would use the red lanyard to make sure it isn't dropped or better yet, I'll probably make a wrist loop so it stays on my wrist for sketching. The light varies in intensity and here is an image in a darken hall during the day of the dimmest setting of this light. The hallway was darken, no flash went off but it sure seems bright there! Here is the Rigel Starlite a couple of inches from the door to the garage. It's dimmest setting is workable for sketching but not something to float around. I would keep my observing eye closed on this one.



Here is the Rigel Starlite in the dark with a clipboard and an actual sketch.  The first is at the brightest setting. This is way too bright for sketching and for keep dark adaptation.


Here is the Rigel Starlite at its dimmest setting. The light is spread out more evenly on the sketch and allows one to see the two galaxies that are close to each other here, along with the bright core. It didn't really allow for me to see the mottling on the galaxy with the bright core. Not bad, but you need something to hold it in position over your sketch.



2. Here is a headlamp made by BlackDiamond and it is called Spot. It puts out 130 lumen on the white light, and if your the last one cleaning up at the end of an observing session, it is bright, very, very bright.The build quality is good to very good, it is built more sturdy in my opinion than the green Energizer headlamps I have and it swivels into 3 positions; straight on, 45 degrees and near 90 degrees, more like 75 degree probably. Adjustable headband. The only thing I do NOT like about this is when you go to change the batterys' it is REALLY flimsly on the piece of plastic that connects the two parts. It would be easy to break. So I would watch the battery meter and change it at home before going into the field or you'll need white light to change the batteries.  Better to change these ones out at home.
Both the red and white light have a variable in how bright they are. Depending on the mode, you simply push down the button and the light dims down to its lowest levels.You can view a lot of the details to this product at this Black Diamond video at YouTube: LINK. Again, it doesn't show the red light dimming which it does. This is a workable headlamp for me.


Here is the dimmest setting for the red light. The light from the Spot at its lowest setting was low enough that the DSLR I was using would not register the light, so I had to move to the wall next to the door. It was very dim, so dim that at night I cannot leave it on my head at the lowest setting an illuminate the clipboards I use for sketching.


Here is the Black Diamond Spot in the dark on its highest setting. Again, this is too bright to maintain dark adaptation and to not bother others around you. It does show the 3 galaxies and the stars I had put in place though .


Here is the Black Diamond Spot at its lowest red setting. Still a little brighter than the Rigel, but it does light up the paper but the two rings from the two LED's do show up on the paper in the dark, even visually. This one would work if one had to use it.



3. Photon Freedom


The Photon Freedom is about the size of a fifty cent piece though in the shape in the middle of the picture above.It comes with a clip, a tie on clip, and I ordered a finger clip. You can see those above on the packaging. I also ordered mine in red as they do come in many colors. This one like the Rigel, is red only.
I also have a regular lanyard that it will clip on to if I want to use it that way.

The Photon has the following items to it. A pulse, that flashes red. A safety mode, actually 5 of them, 4.5 lumens,  about 18 to 20 hours of battery life; waterproof, and variable brightness. I love the size, the ease to use it, and the ease of use. It's build is okay, I'll see how it holds up over time. My only worry on he build is how enduring is the switch in it.  At the price though, I can't beat it, and I love the size, the light it puts out and the ease of changing the battery. It is the lightest of the three and as such, after a few moments, no matter where I am wearing it, I cannot tell it is on my finger, around my neck, or clipped to my sketching clipboard.  Here is a link to the WebSite and there are two videos you can watch in the lower right. In terms of brightness here it is at the end of the hall during the day.



Dim, and what I like is a nice even oval of light.  Here is another in the dark of the Photon at its highest setting. Again, it is way to bright but it does show the galaxy and the stars though with enough bright red light to make your night vision running away for around 30 to 60 minutes.


Here is the Photon at its dimmest setting. I love how it is an even light, spread out on the black paper and it feels comfortable to my eyes. Out of all three, I like this one the best as long as it holds up and I surely hope it will.


So the winner for me is the Photo Freedom II followed by the Rigel, then the Black Diamond Spot. Don't take me wrong, the Black Diamond Spot will be the headlamp I use for observing when I need one. The Rigel will work on some big projects but I simply love that I can clip the Photo Freedom II to my clipboard, use the magnets to attach it, or put it on my finger and give the perfect illumination to my sketching. Lastly I can hang it from my lanyard and it illuminates the paper quite well. Here it is on my finger. I'll do a follow up post to this in a few months when I get some good time observing to ensure these play out well with intensive use. I like all three, but so far prefer them in the order I have listed. We'll see if that holds up with time.


2 comments:

  1. Hi Jay. I've never really found a light that I liked in terms of design, form factor, battery type, life span, and deep red colour.. So I made my own! ;-) http://blog.lumpydarkness.com/2011/02/flashlight-no-headlight-done.html
    Still, I enjoyed your article. I'm always on the look-out! Cheers, Blake.

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