My "old" Petzl Ultra Wide (read that review) died suddenly after a caving trip in Sura Mare cave. After that trip, I recharged all 3 accus that I had, to be ready for the next cave. I also replaced all four cheap Li-Ion Uniross 2000 mAh from inside of Accu 4 box with Sanyo unprotected 2600 mAh to get ready for the big expedition that took place at the end of august.
So, doing just a test at home playing with Ultra Wide, I found that the lamp wouldn't pas the first level of light no matter what. I let it rest untouched for a couple of days and tried it again. Same problem, it turned on only on low level. So, big problem !
The expedition started and I went to it with a borrowed Scurion 1500 from a friend, while my Petzl Ultra Wide I carried it as a camp light or backup wishing that the problem will solve by it's own. That didn't happend of course so once I got back home, I sent it to where I bought it from, Germany.
After 3 weeks I got an answer from the shop that I bought it telling me that the lamp can't be replaced because they don't manufacture it anymore so I had two options: full refund or getting one of the new models: Petzl Ultra Rush or Petzl Ultra Vario.
So, customer care works at Petzl ! My Ultra Wide was almost 2 years old, used in about 60 caving trips, burned a lot, got dirty and it has scratches all over. All those things that happend during underground explorations.
So, all I could say when they presented me the offer was WOW. Of course, I opted for a a brand new Ultra Vario which replace the Ultra Wide in the range of caving lamps from Petzl, while Ultra Rush is replacing the Ultra for outdoor activities like trail running etc.
It arrived in february due to the fact that it wasn't available on stock before New Year, so I went back to my old Petzl 14 led till then. Patience was the key :)
And finally it came in a beautiful brand new box.
What I got was:
- the lamp itself
- an Accu 2 with the new 2600 mAh accus inside
- head strap
- helmet mounting kit for Vertex and Alveo helmets
- recharger for accu
- a small cover
- IP 67
- a small sticker
...and of course 3 years guarantee from Petzl from the date of purchase !
So, technically I just upgraded for free from Ultra Wide to Ultra Vario free of charge.
Chapeau to Petzl customer care !
Mounting it on my helmet which is not a Petzl was same thing like it was with Ultra Wide because I still had the helmet mounting kit that I got it together with the Wide. Same dimensions, same design, just different colors: Wide was black-orange, Vario is black-yellow. The accu's from Wide were also orange while the new ones are grey.
Inside the box of the accu's, also a difference: the new accu's have 2600 mAh instead of 2000 mAh. Beside those things, these lamps are exactlly the same.
The positive side
First of all, it has a very bright spot light which the old Ultra doesn't had. It is also brighter allround over the old model (520 lm vs 300 lm).
The charger provided with the lamp is sturdier, the cable is higher quality than the old one.
On the lowest level, it looks brighter that Petzl Duo 14 LED, even if the light is rated at just 45 lm compared with 67 lm of Petzl Duo 14 LED. The beam is narrower than that of the Ultra Wide. I suppose that happend because they used just two LEDs which also with the dissipation pattern in front of them, aren't enough to spread the light at 180* like Ultra Wide did. I could say that the spread angle is about 160*.
On the 2nd level the level of light is enough for walking around and even taking pictures or filming. In this mode, the two LEDs that are also burning on the lowest level, became 5 time more brighter so it gives 200 lm with same beam of about 160*.
On the 3rd level, the light is shining all over, till a distance of 65 meters. You really can see everything and have to be carefull not to speak with your mates face to face on this level of light :). In this mode, beside the two LEDs that shine on 1st and 2nd level of light, a 3rd LED turns on that throw a spot light in the middle of the wide light generated from the the other two LEDs. This mode deliver the full 520 lm power.
The 4th level, is reserved for pure spot light, very powerfull and deep. You can see far, very far. They say 210m. In this mode, only the narrow beam of the 3rd LED is burning at an intensity at least double the intensity that it lights up when on level 3. The light in this mode is rated 330 lm.
Interesting is also the fact that there are two ratings of power, one according to Petzl standard and one according to ANSI standard:
So, in ANSI standard, we are talking about 604 lm of power.
On the negative side, compared with Petzl Ultra Wide, the beam of the light is narrower especially on vertical axis. On the horizontal axis the beam is still narrower with about 10* than the angle of beam light of the Ultra Wide. On the 3rd level, which deliver the full power of this lamp (520 lm) doesn't really matter that the angle is narrower than on Ultra Wide because there is plenty of light that is reflecting back also from walls, in normal passages.
Burning time with my custom made Accu 2 that uses 2 Sanyo Li-Ion 2600 Ah (read my full Ultra Wide review) lasted 6 hours and 30 minutes using mostly level 2 of power. That makes me think that also the LED's improved a lot over the old ones, because this burning time is awesome. After these 6h30m, the lamp switched to reserve mode for another 30 minutes but I didn't counted till the accu depleted because I switched the lamp off.
Petzl also came down on Earth about accus warranty. Instead of 3 years like they mentioned on the old accus boxes, now they offer just 1 year for the accu which I think it's fair enough. For the headlamp you are covered still 3 years which is also fair.
So, how does the caves looks while using this lamp ?
Well, you can rediscover caves that you thought you know before. It make you want to go to your roots to review your well known passages and chambers. This is the first Petzl lamp that can stand near big boss, Scurion. And this is a good thing, because the competition between several manufacturers bring prices down, give us chances to pick a caving lamp not only for the number of lumens that it gave, but also design, quality, weight, simplicity and not last, the feeling and personality of our lights that are so important for exploration of the mighty darkness of our Mother Earth.
For me, Petzl Ultra Vario was born as a winner, despide the minor problem with narrow beam on vertical axis which should be improved in the next generation of Ultra. Ideal, even it's a utopic word, should be a combination of the wide flood delivered by Ultra Wide and the spot of Ultra Vario. That's what I'll call a perfect caving lamp. Time will tell.