marți, 4 decembrie 2012


Is it really like they say on the box ?  Let's find out. (Petzl Ultra Vario review available here)
I got my Petzl Ultra Wide together with two accus back in 2011 just before the trip to France where I traversed the undergroud Verneau. That was end of October.

Beside the light and the accus I got also the helmet mounting kit and a brand new helmet to start the Li-Ion era with it. Petzl says that the mounting kit was designed only for their Elios series.
I am using Edelrid Ultralight helmet and the kit provided by Petzl fits perfectly. Also, my colleague mounted his Ultra Wide on Petzl Ecrin Roc with no problem.
Ultra Wide have 4 lighting levels:
- 24 lm on Mode 1
- 84 lm on Mode 2
- 140 lm on Mode 3
- 300 lm on Mode 4
It has also a reserve power mode that activates automatically when the rechargeable batteries are nearly spent, giving low level proximity lighting for a couple of minutes.
It was relesead in 2011 as a improved version of the Ultra for caving. Practically they added a diffuser in front of the LEDs that spread the light to 180 degree. Also, the beam is constant and I can say is the best wide beam I saw in caving lights at that moment.
What else is different form Ultra ? Well, the IP rating: IP 67 vs IP66. There is a mistake somewhere because while on the box and on the Petzl websites it says IP67 in the booklet they wrote IP66. I don't know what to believe. So is it IP66 or IP 67 ?

Doesn't matter to much now that I know it doesn't get any water inside at all. But I don't think that's a mistake we should found at such a sound brand name.
So, now my entire set is more than one year old (13 months to be fair) and it was used in more than 30 caving trips and also burned 50 hours in other outdoor activities. Because I do a caving trip at least twice on a month the accus were charged constantly before each trip. They didn't had time to stay untouched more than 14 days. That mean I recharged the 3 accus that I have 100 times maximum. I have 2 Accu 2 and one Accu 4.
Petzl says the accus are guaranteed 500 cycles:

The problems started this summer when I noticed a big drop on power after using the lamp at it's full power which is rated 300 lumen. In about 20 minutes on this setting, Accu 4 went to lower modes ending in Mode 1 for the rest of the tour. Even went to reserve mode 3 times in a tour that didn't last more that 12 hours. That's a huge drop considering that this big accu pack supposed to last 3 hours on maximum power. And that was true when it was new:
With Accu 2, the whole story became a nightmare. After 10 minutes on maximum power (mode 4) the lamp switched to lower modes reaching reserve mode instantly and even disconnected the charge sometimes, leaving me in the mighty darkness. That happened several times lately and the question what's inside the black box raised. Back home I charged them completely and repeated the test in a much more domestic environment like 22* C and no humidity. Well, the results are quit sad: Petzl Accu 2 last only 10 hours on mode 1 (instead of 25 hours) while Accu 4 managed to keep the light running for 25 hours on minimum setting (instead of 44 hours). If we compare these results with the factory rating we just got a big problem.
The problem is inside the boxes of both accus:

I opened the first Accu 2 to find out what's going on inside. To do that I had to craft a spanner screwdriver from a normal one because they used this rare heads. Of course opening the boxes, I lost the warranty.

Well, inside there's an OEM PCB made by Uniross and two Uniross Li-ion 1865 3,7V 2100Ah batteries. Each battery have a Thermostat made by Dongguan Heng Hao Electric Co., Ltd glued and taped on it. The whole thing looks impressive, that's for sure. But, the problem for Petzl is that they used 2nd league battery for their reference light. Otherwise I can't explain the huge drop on performance for these accus. For 90 € per piece of Accu 2 and 145 € for Accu 4 I expected to get batteries with Sanyo, Samsung or Panasonic cells, not some cheap things.
I had to solve the problem because that's my main caving lamp now and I don't want to switch back to Petzl Duo LED 14. On my second Accu 2 I made a short circuit when I opened it which resulted in a faulty PCB. So, I had to get protected Li-Ion batteries for it to substitute the broken PCB. For the other Accu 2 I went for unprotected Li-Ion because the PCB was intact.
Doing some survey I've reached this and this awesome websites about the real power in the Li-Ion batteries. So, I made my choice: Sanyo 2600mAh unprotected for one box and protected EnerPower 2900 mAh with Panasonic cells for my 2nd Accu 2 box. I got 'em from e-acumulatori shop which helped me also with the next step:
Because I don't have a Li-Ion glue gun I went to a specialized workshop that did the entire thing. Now my accus looks like that:
Accu 2 with Unprotected Li-Ion Sanyo 2600 mAh and the original electronics from Petzl:

Accu 2 with Protected Li-Ion Panasonic 2900 mAh and with the original electronics removed:

The original Petzl charger (made also by Uniross as an OEM for Petzl) is working in the same way while charging these new cells like it did with the original ones: the led is red when the battery is near empty, orange when the charge is half way and green when the charge is complete.

And now we can talk about power:
After the very first full charge of these, this Accu 2 box now last 2h on maximum mode (300 lumens) at the indoor temperature of 23* C !!!
This represents a 50% increase over the original Petzl rating from booklet and box (1h30 minutes).
After the very first full charge of these, this Accu 2 box now last 2h15min on maximum mode (300 lumens) at the indoor temperature of 23* C !!!
This represents a 60% increase over the original Petzl rating from booklet and box (1h30 minutes) tested also as true when the lamp was new. Because I fried the original PCB I lost the function of the energy gauge button which was mounted in this accu.
Another big minus for all these accus is the metal used to transfer the electricity from accu to reflector. Oxidation appeared after 6 months and is getting worse with every tour. Interesting is that on plus (anode) there is much more than on minus (cathode):

Very interesting that the corrosion is not covered by warranty, according to booklet. Well, if you put IP 67 on a product you can be sure that the customer will use it as is, that's part of caving and Petzl should know that better than other manufacturers. Unfortunately these days it seems like they pay more attention to marketing than to reliability of their products. I can mention here LedLenser which has gold plated contacts even in the no water resistant lamps.
The interesting thing is that Petzl have an update for 2013 for the Ultra family, both for outdoor and caving. These are Petzl Rush and Petzl Vario:
- Petzl Rush intended to replace Petzl Ultra that was designed for trail running and other outdoor activities.

Petzl Vario intended to replace Petzl Ultra Wide that was designed for caving and other harsh environment.

Already mounted on Elios helmet it will be named Trios II:

Both models will share the same accus as the old models (a good ideea for those who want to upgrade from Ultra/Ultra Wide) but what draw my attention was the ratting of these:
- 2 hours burning time on maximum power - mode 4 with Accu 2 for Ultra Rush which is 700 lm (double the power of the Ultra which is 350 lm);
- 2 hours burning time on maximum power - mode 4 for Ultra Vario which is 450 lumens  (1,5 x the power of Ultra Wide which is 300 lm).
Same accu, more light, longer burning time...hmm, something is wrong. Maybe Petzl finally added some real Li-Ion cells in their boxes. Only time will tell. But I don't think they changed the brand because the charger is the same, so hopefully Uniross got better.

At the end it could appear I am not happy with this caving light. Actually I am. It's a masterpiece in my point of view.

- Perfect balance on the head, much lighter than competitors;
- Superb bright wide beam (compared with Scurion 1300, LedLampe IV, BigLight, Petzl Duo 14) reminds me of the carbide era - great for filming and taking pictures;
- Real waterproof for both reflector and accus;
- The best clipping/unclipping system for changing the accus even in total darkness;
- Photogenic design (it matter to me !).

The front half part of it is a winner.
The second half part of it is a very complex engineered stuff filled with low quality materials. I hope they realized that and that the new versions will have real batteries and Stainless Steel contacts.

Next thing: changing the Accu 4 batteries in a couple of months. Because are 4 batteries, it still deliver some power, unfortunately not much.
Till then, caving...

11 comentarii:

  1. Hi. Broken link on photo. Give me please photo petzl accu inside. thanks.

    1. Hi! I still have problems with pictures, I can see only the first and the last. Anyway a very useful article!
      Are you still using the Ultra Vario?
      Thank You!

    2. Thnaks for the comment.
      Yep, the entire DivXshare went down so I lost everything.
      I have to reload the entire blog with new pictures unfortunately. That's a lot of time.

      I am still using the Ultra Vario. I have 4 Accu 2 and one Accu4. The new version of Accu2 is better than the old version which came with Wide model.

  2. Great job, my friend!!!.

    I have the same ilumination you related, the Ultra wide, with two Accu2 batteries. I'm living in Cantabria - Spain, with 15 - 20 hours caving tours once per moth. Amazing the Ultra Wide light, i'm very happy with this. But Accu2 batteries are starting to drop energy.
    I just opened my batteries and now i'm waiting for arrival Panasonic NCR 18650 3.600 mAh, no PCB, to replace the original accumulators.

    Your comments and photos are very ussefull for me. Lot of Thanks!!!

    1. I'm happy I was usefull. You'll enjoy the Panasonic Pure Power :)
      My Ultra Wide broke and I got free of charge (was in warranty) it's replacement, Ultra Vario. I'll review it soon.

  3. Hi ,broken links to picture inside Petzl. I am on the battery upgrade :)...

  4. Yes, sorry about that. divshare went down 2 months ago, lost everything. I'll have to reupload everything asap. Cheers.

  5. Hi!
    I have a Petzl ultra too and I really would like to see the pictures of the batteries, can you maybe fix the links or sell me the photoes by email? I will offer you a beer when you pass in Slovenia!

  6. I will fix the pictures, glad you are interested.

    1. Thank you very much! Hope caving together in Slovenia or Italy!


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