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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
The end of Daylight Savings time means 5 night commutes every week, plus our regular evening rides. Some of you will know that I've been using DIY LED lights for many years. Commuting, even if your commute is half on trails like mine, does not demand as much light as regular trail rides, so I was interested in these 2 medium powered LED lights when they became available. I've reviewed both separately, and added some comparison data at the end of the post

Warning, this is a long!



DiNotte 5W:



Specs
The DiNotte uses a 5W Luxeon emitter, driven from 4 AA batteries via a boost circuit that provides 2 power levels (Full/Medium). The battery pack is designed to attach to your stem, and the lamp to the handlebars. It is delivered with a good helmet mount, O-rings for different bar sizes. The batteries & charger are from the Battery Station. Run time is 1.75 on High, and 3hs on medium. The complete unit as mounted is 208gm. Suggested price is ~$250. Optional C cell battery pack and elliptical beam optics are available.

The lamp head mounts with a large O-ring onto any part of the bar. It comes with 2 different sized o-rings to accommodate the different bar sizes. Although the light is easily re-directed (like when you are changing the brightness level) it stays put where it's pointed - fast rocky descent on a rigid fork (my ultimate test that has knocked many a light off the bar) didn't budge it. Crashes will not break the mounting hardware, and the O-ring is easily replaceable. However, the battery pack is strapped under the stem, and the stock strap & bag bounces around a fair bit (it's fine on the road, which is what it was designed for) - adding an additional Velcro strap that cinches around the stem & battery bag keeps everything nicely in place. The 4 AA batteries are so small and light, you don't notice them.



On the trail, the light gives off a clean uniform slightly blue white light that shows trail details very well. The clear gasket around the front optic allows some light to escape laterally for commuting purposes, but it does not glare or affect forward vision. In technical single track, the beam feels just like my more powerful 12W systems. Visibility is good. Even with a 15W halogen glaring behind you, the DiNotte fills in the details. But you don't get something for nothing, the lack of a narrow hot spot means the light only projects so far down the trail. On fireroads and straighter double track, there is still enough light to motor alone at a fast pace. The medium beam will provide enough light to pick your way through a trail, or ride comfortably within a group. This is a good trail light. Supplemented with a spot beam helmet mount, it would make a decent race light.

The 4 AA batteries gives a decent run time, with judicious use of the medium beam, I could get through our usual 2~3hour ride. (Longer runtimes are available with the optional C cell battery pack). The up-side of standard AA batteries is that you can get replacements and/or spares for ~$15 and a local store, and you can change the batteries mid-ride (although its a pain, especially in sub zero temps). The unit has a low battery warning, but it does not shut down the light. This is a good thing, since NiMH AA batteries cannot supply enough current at sub zero temperatures to drive 5W without depressing the voltage enough to trigger the low battery warning. The Green LED turns red, and the light flickers momentarily to warn you that the battery pack is below ~4.3V. At -10C, this happens around 15 min into the ride - but this does not mean the battery is low, the unit will happily draw 5W from the battery pack and continue driving the LED at full brightness for the next 1.5 hours. If you warm up the battery pack, the low battery warning will go off. This is just characteristic behavior of drawing this much current from a small battery - at full power, the DiNotte draws ~1100mA from the batteries (~600mA at medium). Since the low battery warning will not shut down the light, the DiNotte will try to draw every last bit of energy out of the battery if you leave it on - which is a good way of killing the battery. However, I prefer not to be left in the dark because some circuit thinks a battery is depleted when it's just cold and/or old ( - something that has happened to us alot), especially since the AA cells are cheap and easy to replace. Although it has held up fine, the battery connector (standard clip found on 9V batteries) appears to be a weak spot.

Conclusion:
This is an excellent light with a good attachment system (bar & helmet) and a great beam pattern. It uses it's modest 5W output with great efficiency, providing an excellent light for serious trail riding and commuting.

Pros:
Cheap replacement/spare batteries. Excellent beam pattern. Small & light. Good helmet mount.

Cons:
Beam does not project as much distance. Battery connector.

https://www.dinottelighting.com








Light & Motion Vega:



Specs:
It is listed as a 4W unit, but it uses a Luxeon-III, which consumes about 3.4W from 4 built in NiMH cells. It is a one piece unit that fits onto a standard L&M handle bar mount, comes with a plug and forget charger. Four light levels are full (2hrs), medium (4hrs), low (8hrs), flashing. The complete unit as mounted is 262gm. Suggested price is ~$180.

All in one units are nice for commuting, the light snaps on and off the bars in seconds. As long as you don't mind leaving the mounting hardware on the bar, it makes for a very quick convenient setup. The beam is clean and white (slight bluish tinge) and very narrow. On fire roads and bike paths, it projects nice and far ahead and lets you motor at a good pace. On singletrack, the beam does not light up the first 3m very well so trail obstacles are hard to anticipate. This can be improved by point the beam down, at the cost of distance. You get a strobe effect (PWM circuit) as you ride by objects, not bad, but interesting.

The medium and low beams are useful for conserving power when there is enough ambient light, but are not very useful on dark trails. At low temperatures (0C ~ -10C) the low battery warning kicks in after a little over and hour, and reduces the light output to medium, but you can still re-set the beam to high until the battery is empty. You cannot carry spare batteries, but then the unit is about the size of a battery back, so why not carry a spare light? Actually, this unit would be ideal as a spare backup trail light.

Conclusion:
Excellent commuting light, great for roads, bike paths, and OK for well known trails. A great backup light for those already using L&M bar lights.

Pros:
Single self contained unit without being too large. Simple charger. Good light for road and bike path commuting.

Cons:
Narrow beam angle not good for singletrack. Battery replacement requires factory service. No spare batteries.

https://www.bikelights.com/



Comparisons:

Trail shots for comparison. For reference, I have included the beam patterns from my DIY triple Luxeon-III unit using a NightLighting housing, and Fraen optics (2x 10 deg + 30 deg) - this has been my standard light for the last 2 years. I have also added the beam of a 13.2V 12W NiteRider halogen system for reference (which is very similar to a Niterider 6V 10W beam). As always, photos don't show the subtleties of these lights.


The DiNotte (left) provides ample foreground light for tight singletrack, while projecting far enough down the trail so you can lead a group at a moderate pace. The Vega (right) has a much narrower beam which projects farther down the trail, but you cannot see nearby trail object. The beam can be pointed downwards to illuminate the near field at a cost, but still does not provide as much illumination as the DiNotte.


For comparison, here is the trail shot for my triple Luxeon-III unit (left) and a NiteRider 12W Halogen (left). As expected, more wattage give you superior distance coverage and decent foreground lighting.


Here is an animated version of all the trail shots - it makes it easier to see the differences in how each beam lights up the foreground and distance (down the center of the bridge).



Here are beam patterns measured using a Sekonic L-328 incident light meter, showing incident light at 4.25m measured in Exposure Value (EV) at 1000 ISO. EV is an logarithmic absolute scale so it "should" be repeatable, and mirrors how our eyes interpret light. The area under the curve can be used to calculate lumens. Most eyes can see reasonably down to 0EV, but trail details are comfortable visible at 2~3 EV. Eyes have a dynamic range of 8~10 EVs, meaning if you stare at a hot spot at 10EV, you may not be able to see detail at 2EV any more.


Just for reference, I have plotted the beam profiles for my triple Luxeon-III light, and a NiteRider Classic at 12W and 32W.


Beam shots to scale for the mentioned lights.







Not responsable for grammatical errors and typos - I'm just to damn lazy!
 

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nice review. i've been researching LED and HID lights as i'd like to get something in the near future. right now i've had a NR trail rat for short night rides, about 1-2hr rides. its enough, but i definately can't go as fast. as i'll be working full-time soon i'll be doing more night rides in the future. i've been planning on buying an HID unit either a NR or L&M. But i've been reading over in the endurance forum about the new Cat Eye Triple Shot. i understand the the HID will be brighter but the initial cost of a unit and the cost of replacement lamps seem like it would add up. i understand LEDs will outlast an HID lamp by a huge margin.

have you had a chance to test out the triple shot. i've seen it as low as $240. would it be a better trail light than the DiNotte?

i'm thinking of the triple shot for the bars and possibly the double shot for the helmet. seems like i would be able to get both for the price of one HID unit.

thanks

ps may only be me but i can't see any of the photos
 

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Thanks

for a most informative review. These all look like pretty good lights.

It's interesting to see the difference the optics make. My Cygo Night Rover (2x 6W) is just a bit too low powered to get a useful amount of light out of the flood, but I can tell from your outdoor beam shots that a spot light alone is not going to work well for a trail light. I'm thinking pretty hard about making my own 2 x 5 W LED light. Your 3 x 3 W unit is impressive. However, the 5 W Luxeons have improved to the point where they have a light intensity advantage, at least on paper.

My guess is that LEDs are going to take the low end of the trail light market soon. It's surprising how much better the LED light looks than the halogen, even at similar intensity.

Walt
 

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Thanks for the research and pictures

This was a timely review. Only an couple hours ago I received an order from Performance that included the DiNotte 5W. I had been struggling over what combo of lights to use as my current lights are almost ten years old and will be used as loaners. I can't tell from your picture just how the O-ring attaches to the handlebar when using the DiNotte.

I had read a thread that suggested buying a 14.8V 4000mAh Li-Ion Battery + Smart Charger from batteryspace for $69 and then contacting trailtech to buy their Single Helmet Mounted HID light Kit for $135 that puts out 38 watts of halogen equivalent light while only drawing 13 watts. The burn time should be around 4 hours. The problem I had was after buying and receiving the Li-Ion battery I contacted trailtech to place my light order and found they were no longer offering the light. They were kind enough to tell me they had some design flaws and were redesigning the switch/voltage regulator, I believe. Should be available in February. Perhaps it would have been better to simply spend $400-$500 on a proven HID light.

I'm looking forward to testing the new DiNotte 5W.



http://www.batteryspace.com/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWPROD&ProdID=1287

http://www.trailtech.net/helmet_mounted_light_kits_1.htm
.
 

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Thanks for the detailed review Tom, great stuff. You've put in a lot of work there!! :)


DiNotte - I'm really liking the look of the DiNotte. Great looks, nice looking beam, and respectable light output in a small and light package.

It's a shame about the battery connector. I guess it would be an easy fix, but at $250 it's not really the kind of thing you'd want to do a DIY job on!! Hopefully future revisions might address this issue.

Although more hassle, I really like having the battery pack external to the light. Makes swapping / recharging a lot, lot easier.

This is the first serious review I’ve seen for this light. Good job!! ;)


Vega - I was a little disappointed with the Vega. I was expecting a little more light output. I would rather a duller, wider beam then a marginally brighter narrow beam too. Especially for commuting.


Tom said:
You get a strobe effect (PWM circuit) as you ride by objects, not bad, but interesting

Yuk!! Was this the case all the time, or just when in lower power settings?? :(


****************


Walt Dizzy said:
My guess is that LEDs are going to take the low end of the trail light market soon. It's surprising how much better the LED light looks than the halogen, even at similar intensity.

To be honest I think you’ll see more and more LED based lights hitting the mid to high range markets very soon.

There are already LED lights out there that give 10-20 watt halogen lights a good run for their money, and offer some serious runtimes and boast very light product weights. :D


Cheers, Dave.
 

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Triple/Double Shot

I got in my first night ride using the Cateye bar-maounted Triple Shot and the helmet mounted Doulbe Shot. After using a 10W and 15 W halogen combonation (Vista Light), I can tell you the difference is night and day (in an almost litteral sense). I like the Triple Shots focused center beam that still has enough "flood" in it to help out with periphial (sp?) vision. The helmet mounted Double Shot topped things off perfectly. It has enough sack to throw a beam ahead of the Triple Shot so you can get a feel for what's coming up far ahead, and also for looking down directly in front of you for chopping through the rock gardens and technical areas.

The engineering of these light sets is impressive. The battery packs for both are identicle. The bar mounts included (2 sizes) are pretty slick, they tighten with a skewer type tensioning mechanism.

I don't have a whole lot of night riding under my belt or experience with other types/mfg's of lights, but I feel confident saying that these lights are the cat's a$$. Paid $230 for the Triple Shot and $200 for the Double; together coming in @ about the same price of a single high end HID.
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
jr711 said:
have you had a chance to test out the triple shot. i've seen it as low as $240. would it be a better trail light than the DiNotte?
I have not seen a Cateye up here yet (or the BLT that was out in the summer). But I would gather that the Cateye would be somewhat similar to my DIY 3x Luxeon-III unit, same LEDs (mine are from a 2 year old batch though) different optics.

There is no replacement for pure wattage, nothing is free. I considered the Vega & DiNotte for commuting, but a single DiNotte is trail worthy IMHO. A dual DiNotte setup would probably be comparible to the Triple Shot, and you can still put one on your helmet, one on the bars.



Rooster said:
I got in my first night ride using the Cateye bar-maounted Triple Shot and the helmet mounted Doulbe Shot........I don't have a whole lot of night riding under my belt or experience with other types/mfg's of lights, but I feel confident saying that these lights are the cat's a$$. Paid $230 for the Triple Shot and $200 for the Double; together coming in @ about the same price of a single high end HID.
Prices I quoted are ~list, you can often get these things for less. The DiNotte is available (or soon to be) with a lithium battery, although the light units will not be interchangable with the NiMH versions. I like using the cheap easily replacable NiMH cells.



Titan Go King said:
I can't tell from your picture just how the O-ring attaches to the handlebar when using the DiNotte.

Also check thier web site.



Titan Go King said:
I had read a thread that suggested buying a 14.8V 4000mAh Li-Ion Battery + Smart Charger from batteryspace for $69 and then contacting trailtech to buy their Single Helmet Mounted HID light Kit for $135 that puts out 38 watts of halogen equivalent light while only drawing 13 watts. The burn time should be around 4 hours. The problem I had was after buying and receiving the Li-Ion battery I contacted trailtech to place my light order and found they were no longer offering the light. They were kind enough to tell me they had some design flaws and were redesigning the switch/voltage regulator, I believe. Should be available in February. Perhaps it would have been better to simply spend $400-$500 on a proven HID light.
One of our ride buddies (fast guy) bought a TrailTech setup recently, it's a very nice light. But he won't let me make any measurement on it yet... it's still too new.

I am not an HID fan, you cannot easily dim them, turn them off and on, and they over power your night vision so you can't fully enjoy the moon-lit night... (besides my DIY 12W luxeon does all that already). But if you are a serious compedative 24hr racer, there's no such thing as "too much light" (it's so easy to out-run your lights), and if you have poor night vision, or are not comfortable out at night, then more light is better.



Brown_Teeth said:
Much cheaper LED solutions out there, that then can be adapted to variety of powersources...
DIY modified flashlights are also a good way to go, but by the time you have jury rigged a mount, drilled and wired in a battery, purchased a charger, your out of pocket cost + time gets up there. But, if you like to do those things (like I do), then that's a very good route to go.



Low_Rider said:
It's a shame about the battery connector. I guess it would be an easy fix, but at $250 it's not really the kind of thing you'd want to do a DIY job on!! Hopefully future revisions might address this issue.
Although the connector looks fragile/out of place, it seems to work fine, and Rob @ DiNotte agreed it looked poor, but said it's been reliable. Although the mounting hardware is unlikely to break, even if you manage to knock the light off the bike, the connector is the likely weak spot - which is a good thing since it's the easiest part to fix/replace.

FIY DiNotte is planning to upgrade the connector.



Low_Rider said:
I was a little disappointed with the Vega. I was expecting a little more light output. I would rather a duller, wider beam then a marginally brighter narrow beam too. Especially for commuting
The Vega is actually pretty good - keep in mind they were one of the first ones out. But I also prefer a wider beam - road commuters would probably find it fine.



Low_Rider said:
Tom said:
(Vega) You get a strobe effect (PWM circuit) as you ride by objects, not bad, but interesting
Yuk!! Was this the case all the time, or just when in lower power settings??
In all settings, but it's not bad - the PWM is very high frequency, so you only see it when something is moving very fast (like the branches whipping by you), and you can just make out the strobe. At speed, rain looks like fine dotted lines in the beam.
 

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Rooster where'd you find them at that price?

thanks
sorry for stealing the thread


Rooster said:
I got in my first night ride using the Cateye bar-maounted Triple Shot and the helmet mounted Doulbe Shot. After using a 10W and 15 W halogen combonation (Vista Light), I can tell you the difference is night and day (in an almost litteral sense). I like the Triple Shots focused center beam that still has enough "flood" in it to help out with periphial (sp?) vision. The helmet mounted Double Shot topped things off perfectly. It has enough sack to throw a beam ahead of the Triple Shot so you can get a feel for what's coming up far ahead, and also for looking down directly in front of you for chopping through the rock gardens and technical areas.

The engineering of these light sets is impressive. The battery packs for both are identicle. The bar mounts included (2 sizes) are pretty slick, they tighten with a skewer type tensioning mechanism.

I don't have a whole lot of night riding under my belt or experience with other types/mfg's of lights, but I feel confident saying that these lights are the cat's a$$. Paid $230 for the Triple Shot and $200 for the Double; together coming in @ about the same price of a single high end HID.
 

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upgraded batteries for DiNotte light

I charged the 2300 mAh batteries that came with my new DiNotte and it ran on high for over two hours. At least I think it was on high. Hard to tell. This afternoon I ran over to a battery store in town and bought a set of 2500 mAh Ni-MH batteries to extend the run time. They mentioned that someone was making a 2700 mAh AA battery. All they had at Radio Shack was 2000 mAh AA's. I like the light but was not happy with how the on/off button worked. It took several tries to get it to come on.
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on / off button

The on/off button was designed to avoid accidentally turning it on while sitting inside a backpack. This was accomplished by requiring a double click to turn the light on, and a Press and hold for three seconds to turn the light off.

Just a hint when purchasing new batteries OR using our batteries for the first time. Assume the batteries are completely dead - charge the batteries in the smart charger overnight, use your light for 30 minutes or so, then charge the batteries again. It might take 2-3 charges before reaching maximum capacity.

Dr Li suggests this will wake up the chemistry by exercising the cells in both directions. He also cautions us against draining new batteries the first time out as it can create long term capacity issues.

If you are looking for a higher capacity battery I have found the Annsman 2600 batteries to work quite well - The 2500 mAh Energizers also perform well and are available everywhere.

Within the next week, we're going to have a battery tips sheet that can be downloaded from our website - Dr Jason Li has taken the time to help us provide NiMH AA battery users with some guidelines we believe will be useful.

In the next couple of days we'll post a picture of the new 9V battery snap that is much more cosmetically appealing. I think you will like what you see!

Rob
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
Some Corrections

I've been looking at the colour of the photos that I posted, and I don't think I've given the Halogen pics a fair shake. All the photos were taken with the colour balance set to daylight (5500K). The Halogen pictures look very neutral white when you set the camera to Incandessant colour balance (3800K~4200k). The reality is that there is a big difference in the colour of the pictures, but your eyes compensate for this (we have a built in organic white balance) such that halogen lighting look very white (not yellow as posted above).




To the eye, this is what the beam spot colour should look like (in the absence of other lights)




The trail shots look more like this when you are there. (LED left, Halogen right)

Keep in mind that the CCD in the camera will accentuate the red channel with the halogen (due to IR light) which makes it look warmer in the picture than in person. But there is a big difference in colour - the LED is very close to the colour of white on a cloudy day, while the halogens are much warmer in colour.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Titan Go King said:
I like the light but was not happy with how the on/off button worked. It took several tries to get it to come on.
Without gloves, my switch was fine, a little stiff and spongy, but with a definite click. Remember you have to push it twice to turn on. With winter gloves, the switch was a bit tricky, but that's true with almost every water proof push button switch I've ever used (Vega, Vistalites, BLT's, Niteriders, Marwii, etc...) But once you figure out the "touch", you can usually get it without accidentally re-directing the light... (I put 2 finger over the front of the light and the thumb on the switch).
 

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itsdoable said:
Without gloves, my switch was fine, a little stiff and spongy, but with a definite click. Remember you have to push it twice to turn on. With winter gloves, the switch was a bit tricky, but that's true with almost every water proof push button switch I've ever used (Vega, Vistalites, BLT's, Niteriders, Marwii, etc...) But once you figure out the "touch", you can usually get it without accidentally re-directing the light... (I put 2 finger over the front of the light and the thumb on the switch).
I think I've got the hang of it now.

I'd like to hear more about your friends batteryspace / trailtech HID system when he lets you look at it. I'm going to have to wait a while before trailtech offers the headlamp again but I was planning on getting a single beam to pair up with the Li-Ion 14.8V 4000mAh battery pack I already have.
.
 

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jr711 said:
Rooster where'd you find them at that price?

thanks
sorry for stealing the thread
I got the Triple Shot mailed order from Alfred E. Bikes http://aebike.com/site/intro.cfm A Google search showed several sources that come in around that price.

The Double Shot was a different story. Cateye told me they were not going to be available here in the States until December or early January (they have been available in the UK for some time). I really wanted one, so I kept on Googling and E-Baying until I found a seller on E-Bay that had one (they literally had ONE), but said they were going to get more shortly. The name of the E-bay store is "Ultimate Sports and Nutrition". They were very easy to deal with and fast shippers. Here's their E-Bay link http://stores.ebay.com/Ultimate-Sports-and-Nutrition If you're interested,give them a call.
 

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Wow! Awesome detailed review. You should give courses on how to do this.


Makes me feel good about my Dinotte purchase. My only concern with the Dinotte is the water sealing of the battery pack and the 9 V connector.

Thanks also for explaining why the thing tells me it's going into low battery mode in the cold weather after only a few minutes.

Good job.
 

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Titan Go King said:
I think I've got the hang of it now.

I'd like to hear more about your friends batteryspace / trailtech HID system when he lets you look at it. I'm going to have to wait a while before trailtech offers the headlamp again but I was planning on getting a single beam to pair up with the Li-Ion 14.8V 4000mAh battery pack I already have.
.
I run the trailtech / batteryspace Li Ion 4Ah combo. Has worked great for me. No probs during regular night riding or 24 hour races. The cabling is too long as delivered, but not so bad that I've bothered to shorten it (yet).

Great review, itsdoable! I have diy LuxIII light that will be a Tri-LuxIII by the end of the week. Good to see those beamshots. The Tri-LuxIII looks great. I thought about going w/ just a single LuxV, but your beamshots make me happy to have chosen 3 3 watters...

baker
 

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Discussion Starter #19
baker said:
Great review, itsdoable! I have diy LuxIII light that will be a Tri-LuxIII by the end of the week. Good to see those beamshots. The Tri-LuxIII looks great. I thought about going w/ just a single LuxV, but your beamshots make me happy to have chosen 3 3 watters...
Keep in mind that optics are critically important for creating a good beam - The 3x luxeon-III shots above use 2x 10deg and one 30deg optic from Fraen (thier tri-optic system). I have another using a 10, 30, & 50deg optics from Carclo - which I think is better for singletrack, but I used the Fraen version to compare because the beam more closely matches the Niterider halogen bulbs.
 

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great thread

Itsdoable,

I have an Exposure Race (2x5 watt luxeon) I would like to add some beam shots of it and post to this thread. I'm out in California so I wouldn't have any snow to use as a backdrop but I could take some shots of a decent trail.


What were your camera settings for the shots?
ISO
shutter speed
white balance
aperature


Thanks
 
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