I was in the market looking for a decent headlamp to spot night birds and wildlife. After doing some research, I found the perfect one, the Corona LED Headlamp from Outersports.com. It is a product of Princeton Tec, the makers of high quaility light products.
For spotting nocturnal birds and wildlife, it is important that the source of light that you use for it is held as closer to your head as possible in order to detect their eye-shines. Corona fills your entire field of vision with an even distribution of light simulating daylight conditions and achieves this task spectacularly well. The wide beam of light it produces prevents the need for your eyes to adjust quickly from very bright to dark areas and eliminates eye fatigue. The wider beam also eliminates the need to move your head too much – a real pain in the neck with previous headlamps, which offered narrower field of view.
Corona uses eight permanent high-power 5mm white LEDs (producing white light) and you can selectively light eight, five, three or one of them depending on the scene you want to illuminate. Once the number of LEDs have been turned on like this, you can further dim them or get them to flash continuously. I do not require using the latter feature much, but the dimming function helps a lot to observe animals that are wary of brighter lights.
Proving this point, a few days ago, I spotted a family of Asian Palm Civets in my yard with my Corona. I observed them with all 8 LEDs on in dim mode – just to be on the safer side. The Palm Civets just went on with their normal behaviour, in foraging at distances of 10-15m and they did not appear to be too bothered by my headlighting them. Eventually, I left the scene leaving them where I found them.
The angle of the light source of this headlamp can be altered to get the light coming at a downward angle from the forehead to illuminate the subject just perfectly for binoculars and/or cameras to focus upon simultaneously. With a hand-held torch it was always a difficult task to hold it in one hand and try to focus on the the subject with the binoculars from the other hand. (Yes ladies, we men are hopeless at multi-tasking). I found the eight LEDs in full brightness quite sufficient to identify subjects about 25m or so, which is really enough on most situations on jungle walks.
The Corona LED headlamp requires three AA Alkaline or Lithium batteries. The burn time varies between 70-30 hours depending on the intensity and mode. Corona uses current regulation so the light source chosen will remain at a constant brightness as long as the batteries have sufficient voltage to run them. It has very good power-saving options. The Dim mode is known to produce 40-50% of the maximum light of high mode with as little as 25 % of the battery power as on high mode.
For night birding, I prefer a light source that produces white light as opposed to yellow light. This is because the yellow light casts a tawnier hue on otherwise none-tawny night birds. Take a look at this male Sri Lanka Frogmouth that was digi-scoped at a daytime roost with the available low-light.
Now look at the same bird photographed with a torch producing yellowy light.
The photogaph below is the same bird photographed by a friend named Riza (not the drummer) using a dSLR camera and in a different angle.
You can see that the real ground colour of the bird is grey. In the picture taken with a torch with yellow light, the male appears tawnier and therefore very much like a typical female of this species (well, there's also a colour morph of the male that is more rufous-brown and approaching the colour of the female). Corona LED Headlamp will avoid you falling in such visual pitfalls and you will be able to see the colours of the birds closer to what you will see in daytime. BTW, click here to read detailed article by me about the plumage of this interesting-looking bird.
I tried the Corona as the light source (for focusing and clicking) for night time macro photography too. However, it is not used as a headlamp but as a hand-held lamp. This is because you cannot wear it on your head and find the subject in the view finder as the big macro flash that I use (Canon MT-24EX) blocks the fore-head area where the light source of the headlamp would be placed. This Common Shrub Frog in my yard was photographed with Corona hand-held together with the camera. I used three LEDs on in dim mode for this.
The outersports package arrived in air-mail direct to my house and I did not have to waste time at the ‘big post office’ in Colombo and go through custom procedures as in previous such deliveries.
Disclaimer: Directing light sources at the eyes of the nocturnal animals can be harmful for their vision, so please dim the lights/use brightness-reduction methods when viewing them. And never overdo it.