Nitecore HC68 | Expert Review by Koen van der Jagt
Nitecore is known for its innovations and the manufacturer often introduces new and surprising products. The new HC68 is no exception! Read this review and find out what makes this head torch so special.
My first impressions
The HC68 is wrapped in a compact cardboard box which takes a while to open (if you want to make sure the box does not tear). The box does not contain a lot of accessories: merely a charging cable and spare o-rings. It is, however, enough, because the battery is also included and you can immediately get to work after the first charging session.
The HC68 is completely made from metal and you can tell: the light is relatively heavy for its size and weighs approx. 165 grams including head band and battery. It needs to be made from this material because the light is enhanced with quite the output and can heat up. Construction quality and finish are as we have grown accustomed to from Nitecore, so simply good! A striking detail is the double head with a shallow and somewhat deeper lens/reflector that contains two SST-40-W LED lights. As such it is interesting to find out how the difference in reflector affects the image of the light: I will show you! In between the two main light sources you will find two small LED lights enhanced with a small red dot in the middle: these LED lights provide you with red light. At first glance the caps on both sides look similar but aren't: the left closes off the battery compartment and the right one hides the on and off switch. The top of the head is enhanced with a rubber, double switch with a plus and minus button, amongst others intended to adjust the brightness and the light image.
All in all the HC68 leaves a solid first impression; it feels solid in hand and is, in terms of design, not boring at all.
When and how:
The HC68 is incredibly versatile thanks to the many light modes and the adjustable light profile. As such the head torch is a practical accessory during maintenance tasks, while camping or as a companion during an adventurous holiday. The low, and in particular, the red light modes make it suited for night photography and reading maps in the dark; you can use the red flashing light as a warning light. During a search you can also easily use the HC68, although I do think a flashlight with a higher beam distance will be a better option in these instances.
How is the Nitecore HC68 in terms of controls and comfort:
Before I start using a light I always make sure I completely charge the battery. The USB-C port of the HC68 is hidden underneath a screw cap with O-ring, making the light completely waterproof (IP68). Loosening this cap took a little more effort and works best if you also pull it at the same time. Charging it is easy: as soon as the blue LED light continues to burn in the mode button the HC68 is fully charged. It does take a little while to charge (approx. 3 hours). If you think this is too long you can always consider opting for a spare battery. Do keep the right capacity and discharge current in mind when you do so. The head torch also functions with two CR123A batteries, but this does mean you cannot use the highest light modes.
You can check the battery status in two different ways. Briefly press the mode button for a quick check; the HC68 will flash once (almost empty) up to three times (full). You can also accurately check it up to 0.1 volt; for it you need to remove the battery and put it back into the light. A practical option which you will see in many Nitecore models. You can easily adjust the headband and the head torch is quickly in place. A system with which you can quickly tighten the rather floppy headband would be a welcome addition. Especially if you use it for a longer period of time it is practical to be able to make the whole fit a little tighter to make sure the light won't move during use.
Via the, easy to find, switch you can easily turn the HC68 on with a single click. Afterwards you use the plus/minus button on top of the light to select the desired light mode. The HC68 has a unique interface that was carefully thought through; the options are also endless. When turned on you can switch between the pre-programmed modes, you can adjust backwards and forwards. Incredibly practical! In addition, you can infinitely mix or switch two LED lights (flood and spot) by holding the plus or minus button. As such you can set up your favourite light profile and also save it to make sure the HC68 will save the mode last used. You can reach the highest and lowest mode via the stand-by option by holding the plus or minus button when you turn the light on. Immediately looking for full power? When you hold the main switch you activate the turbo mode. This mode is available for one minute which is long enough because the lens of the glass quickly heats up. From the stand-by mode you end up in the special mode if you press the button twice: two modes of red and flashing light, a white beacon mode and SOS. For these additional useful light options the last mode used will not be saved.
As you can see many options without it becoming too difficult in terms of controls. The option that enables you to switch back and forth is something I would love to see on any flashlight!
This is what I love about the HC68:
The light has many options but is still incredibly user-friendly. The infinite adjustment of the light profile and intensity is a unique option that is easy to use.
This could be better:
The USB charging port is hidden quite far away under a screw cap. This head torch is relatively heavy which can be impractical during long-term use. I also hope that Nitecore will add an option to quickly tighten the headband to make sure it is easier to attach.
Value for money?
Granted, Nitecore products are not cheap. On the other hand, the brand has proven itself throughout the years by introducing innovative and top-quality products. The same applies to the HC68: a completely water and dustproof head torch that is incredibly versatile in use. Keeping that in mind I think the price is justified.
A slightly heavy head torch that is capable of a lot and enhanced with a good interface. The lens does heat up quickly in the highest light modes and releasing the charging port might take some getting used to. You will notice that you will use this head torch for many situations, ranging from camping adventures to carrying out tasks around the house.
Last, but not least: the beamshots:
This leaves us to a very important aspect of this test: the shots of the light. The location is a large garden in a wooded landscape. Because I use the same camera settings for all shots you won't see much for the lowest light modes. So a real moonlight mode that is perfect for indoor use. For these shots I will only show you the output in the pre-programmed modes. You can clearly see the difference between the flood and throw mode.
Below some more shots of the HC68 in the highest mode with a mixed light profile. Pay close attention to the differences with regards to the highest mode in the spotlight mode (above): the hotspot is less intense but the tree on the right is better highlighted.
The red light modes (as expected) don't get very far. Still, the white shed located approx. 5 metres away can still easily be distinguished, especially in the highest mode.
Finally a type of 'bonus beam shot': an abandoned miners shaft in the Ardennes. The HC68 will completely expose every secret the dark cave has got to hide.
Koen van der Jagt
Ever since he could walk Koen has been interested in lights, wires and batteries. As a child he was always working with dyno torches, bike lights and electrical boxes. The krypton and halogen lights were replaced by LED lights. A couple of years ago he discovered the ‘professional’ stuff. His first brands were Led Lenser and Fenix. Photography is also one of his hobbies. In addition to nature and meteorology Koen loves to show others what a light can do and what its beam looks like at night. Koen’s reviews can often be found on forums such as candlepowerforums.com and taschenlampen-forum.de. Throughout the years Koen has collected lights in practically any category: from small and compact to enormous powerhouses.