Friday, August 30, 2013

Review: Manta Strobe helmet light (replica)

I've been meaning to post about this for a while. As my regular readers may know, I simply can't get enough lights. I love lights, and illumination. As one of my favourite designers states "Dark Sucks" 

I saw one of these little guys in my feeds and instantly felt the need to add one to my collection. However, there were two problems. First and foremost was one of the banes of my existence. 

"This Item is ITAR controlled and cannot be shipped or carried outside the United States without express written permission from the United States Department of State. We do not export outside the United States. PERIOD!"   

IR products are just so hard to get from American producers because if this. The second reason was almost irrelevant as a result, its a pricey gadget. I was super lucky when I was sent the
CJ Engineering - Phoenix jr IR strobe .

However, the original Manta Helmet Strobe from S And S Precision looks to be an excellent addition to many real-world users kits, so I wanted to see what I could find.

I managed to find a replica-for-paintball version by Canis Latrans Trading, out of China. These are the same folks that supplied me my "Ops-Core like" bump helmet . Now, before I go into the item, let me reiterate, this is how I could get one of these, legally. It is a replica, so is unlikely to have gone through rigorous QC and testing that an original from S&S would have. I wish I could have a real one, but I can't. This will have to do. 

However, that said, it works a treat!

The manta-ray shaped device is 7.5 cm (3") long, 5cm (2") wide and 3cm (1.4") high. It is curved on its underside to mate with the curve of a helmet and is covered in hook-field for attaching to loop-fields.
 
The underside of the unit (the tail) features a textured button which when depressed, triggers the IR strobe. Because of the risk of switching it on unknowingly, or to confirm that it is in fact on, the strobe has a vibrate function, which gives three pulses when it is activated. This is an awesome feature, and can be easily felt with the helmet strapped on, but is essentially silent.

There are two buttons on the side of the tail, recessed, which trigger the "overt" green strobe. This can only occur when the strobe has already been put into IR mode, and then only by a three second squeeze of both side button simultaneously. This is a great feature, especially for those users who may need to be very aware of not breaking light discipline.

The strobe takes one of the CR123a batteries so prolific in high end electronics and lights these days.
The IR strobes uses three IR LED's, which when activated are barely perceptible within 2 meters to the naked eye, as three faint, pale pink blinks. I have pretty good night-vision, and beyond 2 meters in a blacked out room I couldn't see them. 

The overt, green strobe however, was almost painful to look at, with its twin lime green LED's that all but lit up the room I was testing them in. 

I had a go capturing the IR and overt green strobes both directly with my iPhone, and also down the barrel of my Yukon IR scope  and that really demonstrated the efficacy of this light.  The IR LED's cast so much light that the reflection made the blacked out room.

So, for my use as an emergency beacon  when I am out adventuring (like when I was out testing the Aquayak Snapper Pro, or running about through the mountains) I think it will work out just fine. I want to be able to be spotted by Search and Rescue, if the need arises, or just stay out of oncoming traffic's way. It is a rugged little toy, waterproof and bump-capable. I'm going to pack it whenever I go adventuring, and see who is watching ...

Visual light test of Manta

IR test of Manta, through Yukon IR scope

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