Nitecore HC33 Headlamp Review

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everydaysurvivalgear
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Nitecore HC33 Headlamp Review

Nitecore HC33 Review

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Hey folks so we are back here once again! Years ago I done my review on the Nite core HC30. That review has over 10k views so I guess its a popular light. The HC30 was and still is my recommended headlamp.

Now Nitecore have a newer and better model the Nitecore HC33. Its good to see Nite core keep the 30 series name. To me it resembles quality and reliability. Ill try and limit my story time but my HC30 has 1000s of hours on it. Its been my main fishing headlamp for over 2 years now. Its been beaten and abused seen some of the roughest conditions and its still working like a champ.

The Nitecore HC33 was sent to me for review by Fasttech. Fasttech by far have the cheapest prices on Nitecore gear and excellent customer service.
Nitecore HC33
Use code (saving) for 5% a discount!

What is included?

  • Nitecore HC33
  • Headband
  • Clip
  • Magnet (Already in the light)
  • 2 spare O-rings
  • Spare switch cover
  • Instructions/ Warranty card

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Build
The Nitecore HC33 is the big brother of the Nitecore HC30 they are almost the same at least in a build sense. They are built super similar to each other and almost look identical. Every thing on the HC33 is just a bit bigger than on the HC30.
Seeing as every one owns a HC30 this part is done!
I guess Nitecore done this on purpose so you can think of the HC33 as an upgraded edition of the HC30.

Although I love my HC30 it wasn’t the best built Nitecore light I have bought it had a few marks here and there but not too bad overall. Had to dig out the microscope to find these issues.

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I am glad to see that Nitecore has upped their game when it comes to the HC33. To me the HC33 has a much more premium feel when compared to the HC30. Price points are comparable if I remember the pricing for the HC30 correct.
But overall i would more so compare the HC33 to the Concept 1 seeing as they are similar specked both built really good. I guess its a hybrid of both light lol.

Any ways the HC33 is a step above the average headlamp. It is perfect in every way and it has less quirks than the Concept 1.

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The anodizing on the Nitecore HC33 is a thicker than on the HC30 it is the same glossy black colour that Nitecore loves so much. It is still the standard hard anodizing type 3 used on both the lights. I did note the difference on the Concept 1 also it appears to have better Anodizing then the HC30.
The threads are well cut and came lubed but you would expect this from a brand name light. Little things that Nitecore do like add a boot over the positive on the driver make a big difference. Two CR123s are smaller then one 18650s and can short out if moved around so this bit of extra protection helps. Also giving the included magnet and clips which makes the HC33 more EDC friendly more about this later.

Build specs

  • AR coated glass
  • Hard Anodizing type 3
  • Aero grade Aluminum alloy

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The HC33 is using coated mineral glass so basiclly AR coated glass and a Nitecore system for the optics its called precision digital optics technology. This name might sound gimmicky but its a legit system. The HC33 is using an SMO reflector but you still get a super flood heavy beam pattern. Much softer beam then seen on the Concept 1.
I have changed my original HC30 to a TIR optics setup. So it will be interesting to compare both plus I still have one stock HC30. So we will compare them all so we can see the difference. The stock optics setup offers a decent amount of throw and a wide enough beam to be very useable even in up close conditions.
Comes in handy when I am fishing and fixing my line. I love my optics on the HC30 but I miss the extra throw of the stock reflector.

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Nitecore does say the HC33 has a beam angle of 100 degrees Celsius scrap that. I mean 100 degrees of separation? I don’t know what Nitecore mean! The HC33 defiantly has a super wide beam angle! Only a picture can really explain.

Throw specs

  • Cd: 8750
  • Meters: 187m

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Durability wise the HC33 does good. It is above average for a headlamp when compared to most lights on the market. Nitecore lights are always fairly durable I have never had an issue as of yet.
Next minute my HC33 will be on fire now lol. The HC33 actually offers a better drop resistance rating then I thought it would coming in it at 1.5m. This is a good effort from Nitecore seeing as the HC33 is using a boost driver the standard protection is only usually 1m with a boost driver. Its good to see the extra half a meter protection. Seeing as the HC33 will be living on your head this may come in handy.
The water resistance is good being IPX8 to 2 meters waterproof and submersible. Headlamps are usually used in rough environments so you need some good durability specs. Nitecore also give you the extra switch cover for extra protection.

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Design
The HC33 is a typical 18650 L style headlamp it would be one of the smaller and light weight 18650 headlamps on the market. It has gotten bigger when comparing it to the HC30 but only marginally. The HC30 is the smallest 18650 headlamp I own. This means the HC33 is still on par with the competitors actually beating most of the competitors. Nitecore has gone for the sleek look on the HC33 its very slim and petite. Which helps keep the weight down to 51.2 grams.

The HC33 still has the cooling fins at the back of the head to help dissipate heat. The knurling on both the HC30 and HC33 are the same its super fine but still offers good grip. Plus as an added bones you get knurling on the tail cap. This helps with one handed operation (yes naturally we are good at one handers). The HC33 actually has a bigger tail cap and thus offers more knurling.

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The HC33 attaches to the headband the same way the HC30 does by the loop style headband. So the HC33 has some grooves where the headband fits. This is also where the clip fits. The clips itself seem to be the same clip as found on the HC30 so that saved Nitecore a few bucks!

The switch is located at the very top of the Nitecore HC33. I personally prefer where the switch is located on the HC33. It feels easier to access one handed because the switch is always in the same position no matter what angle the light is at.
It is a bigger switch then found on most headlamps. It is recessed if you want to EDC the HC33 but is still super easy to locate and use while using the HC33 as a headlamp in the dark.

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Size specs

  • Length: 105.3mm
  • Head diameter: 25.5mm by 24.2mm
  • Tail diameter: 23.8mm
  • Weight: 51.2 grams

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Size wise not many headlamps or actual flashlights of the 18650 variants can compete with the HC33. The HC33 really is in a league of its own when comparing out put to size. Its on par with the E40R for size just a few millimeters smaller but yet brighter.
This is why L shape flashlight like the HC33 make a great EDC options because of there size and output. From a modifying sense they are a pain to work on all custom parts.
The HC33 comes with all you need to EDC it same as the HC30 does. The HC33 has a magnetic tail cap which is removable if you have metal scull. The HC33 also comes with a clip which appears to be revisable it would appears Nitecore have thought of every thing with the HC33. The only part that is missing is the lanyard attachment.

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Headband
The headband on the HC33 is very similar to the headband found on the HC30 they look almost identical. It is okay I mean it works good but this is one area Nitecore could improve.
The headband fits and feels super nice but its a bit thin and is fairly easy to stretch.

Its probably a standard headband but after using a headband found on the H03 its hard to go back. The headband holds the HC33 in place by rubber bands as most headlamps do now. You simply move the actual light itself to reposition it.
Even the band parts are thin and are a bit easy to stretch when compared to the H03. Keep it oiled up so they don’t crack.
My Headband on my main HC30 is gone its really stretched out and I can no longer use it. I do always wear a hat and usually sweat so that doesn’t help. But seeing as these lights are marketed as headlamps this is one area companies could put a bit more effort into. At least they are cheap to replace!

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Performance
The part we have all been waiting for the juicy performance specs. The Nitecore HC33 has similar specifications to the Concept 1. I would say they are using same driver just an updated edition on the HC33. The HC33 has a much better UI plus some extra added features. Yea I know lol sounds like a new driver right?

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The HC33 is using the Cree XHP35 HD for a maximum output of 1800 lumens which is super respectable especially from a headlamp. Little lone a headlamp that weights 51.2 grams just keep that in mind.
The tint on the XHP35 is the same tint as the Concept 1 its a cold white tint but its not unbearable cold. Its actually a decent tint over this is help by the fact that Nitecore used the XHP35HD and not the HI. Makes me wonder why Nitecore doesn’t use a SMO reflector?
If this is the same driver as the Concept 1 we can expect much better numbers than the stated 1800 lumens. The Nitecore HC33 is ANSI rated at 1800 lumens and it reaches that mark and goes above and beyond. The HC33 has a similar output to the Concept 1. Okay so after testing last night its diffidently as bright as the Concept 1. It does step down faster than the Concept 1 only because the there is no option to push and hold turbo mode till your fingers catch on fire.

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My output numbers

  • Start up: 2107 lumens
  • 30 seconds: 1918 lumens

Which leads us to the next part. The first thing I noticed about the HC33 is that it has an updated step down curve when compared to the Concept 1. Which would be expected seeing as it is a smaller and lighter weight light.

The ATR system (Advanced thermal regulation) on the HC33 is more advanced than a normal step down found on most lights.
You will see the HC33 step down then regain brightness as it cools. There is an initial sharp step down on the HC33 as with the concept 1 this is because the first out pout numbers are super high way over the 1800 rated lumen. With the HC33 I hit almost 2100 lumens at start up on ceiling bounce test.
This is a bonus I guess because the Concept 1 is pushing around 2200 lumens which is no slouch. Similar performance is seen on the HC33.

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Driver features

  • Reserve polarity protection (Do not test this with two CR123 it will be bad)
  • Advanced Temperature regulation
  • Constant Current driver
  • Battery voltage test
  • Memory mode
  • Low voltage protection
  • Instant acess to Ultra low and Turbo

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Output and Modes

  • Ultra Low: 1 lumen at 300h
  • Low: 70 lumens at 15h
  • Medium: 240 lumens at 5h 15m
  • High: 780 lumens at 1h 30min
  • Turbo: 1800 lumens at 30mins
  • Strobe: 1800 lumens
  • SOS: 1800 lumens
  • Beacon:1800 lumens

The mode spacing on the Nitecore HC33 is really good. You have a good selection of modes to chose from. The separation is fairly uniform but unlike on the HC30 that has a 1000 lumen mode the HC33 does not. It would have been good to see that available here but 780 lumens is close enough. Splitting hairs here it would be hard to distinguish the modes in person.

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Battery compatibility
You will need a fairly high drain cell to run the HC33. Nitecore does recommend some batteries if you are new to flashlights that may be the way to go. The usual high drain cells will work fine in the HC33. The current draw shouldn’t be to bad seeing as the XHP35 is only drawing around maybe 18-20w. Nitecore does state for the HC33 to run on turbo mode you need a cell/battery capable of current draw over 8amps. So you standard NCR18650b will not have enough power to run the HC33.

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The HC33 can also run on two standard CR123 which is great for EDC but this does disable the turbo mode. So while using two CR123s you will only be able to access high mode as the highest output. The HC33 can also support the use of two 16340s but if you are going to use these cells you may as well use a 18650 right?
I will list some 18650 cells here. Any thing like the Sony VTC4/5/6 and Samsung 30Q and 25r and LG HG2/4 are a few cells that will work in the HC33.

  • IMR18650 (Recommended)
  • Li-on 18650 output above 8amps
  • Primary lithium batteries (No turbo mode)
  • Rechargeable RCR123/16340s (No turbo mode)

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UI
Nitecore has gone to town with the UI on the HC33 its got a lot of selection and variety and you would expect from a brand name flashlight. This is one place where the Concept 1 was lacking its good to see an improvement here. The basic UI is super simple on the HC33 which is great.

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Memory mode
The HC33 has a memory mode which is easy to access. You simply push and hold the side switch for around half a second and the HC33 will turn on in your last used mode.
To Turn the HC33 off it is the same half a second push.
Instant low is accessed by pushing the side switch from off position once. Just tap the switch and that is it.
Instant Turbo is also super easy as on many Nitecore lights push and hold the side switch for a few seconds from the of position. Its actually 1.5 seconds and it will turn on Turbo mode instantly.
Changing modes is easy simply push the side switch and till you find your wanted mode.

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Low voltage protection
The Nitecore HC33 has low voltage protection but with twist. The HC33 has low voltage protection for both the 18650 and CR123 cells. Both these cells can be used with the HC33. This is a cool feature first time I have seen this feature on a light. With the 18650 cell low voltage protection kick in at 3v. With the two CR123s low voltage protection kicks in at around 4v from what I can see. I am not 100% sure how it works with the C123s.
Nitecore does state it can not read the two CR123s separately so it will give you the average total voltage of both cells. So 6.4v with two CR123s and 8.4v with the two RCR123s. When using the battery check function.
As usual there is a compromise with this system as the cutoff voltage is a tad low for 16340s if you have protected cells low voltage protection on the cells will cut in at 3v so 6v total.

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Battery test
The HC33 does have a battery check mode simply undo the tail cap and do it up again and the HC33 will report by flashing the LED a said amount of times. 4V reading will be 4.2v reading will be 4 volts then a break then 2 more flashes.

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All of these photo where taken at ISO800. It is raining tonight but it had to be done! So some photos may have a bit of glare. Plus my clothes line broke backyard looks like trash now.

Ultralow mode 1 lumen about at 3 meters to my bag
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Low mode 70 lumens at 10m to the tree
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Medium mode 240 lumens at 10m to tree
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High mode 780 lumens at 15m to tree
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Turbo mode 1800/1918 lumens at 25m to tree
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Turbo mode 1800/1918 lumens at 20m to tree
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Nitecore HC33 on the left and Jetbeam E40R on the right
!E40r!

HC33 on the left and HC30 on the right not a fair comparison seeing as my HC30 is using optics
!Hc30!

HC33 left and H03 on the right
!H03!

HC33 on the left and Concept one on the right
!Concept 1!

Thanks for taking the time to read this massive review!

Regards Chris

Edited by: everydaysurvivalgear on 04/11/2018 - 16:09
Saved by Grace
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Thanks!
Hope you can arrange some discount codes.
Wink

John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Persechini
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Thanks for the nice review!

I have a similar experience comparing the HC33, HC30 and Concept 1 (and also the skilhunt headband which is my favorite over the stock headband). As my HC30 hasn’t had as much mileage as yours, I don’t find the anodizing to be all the much different, they look a lot like each other to me in the finishing department.

Other details that changed from the HC30 to the HC30:

  • Memory does not memorize moonlight and turbo like the HC 30 does, so you always have quick access to moonlight, turbo and the last of the 3 intermediary modes you have turned the light off while using. The HC30 would memorize ML and turbo
  • The tailcap is a tad taller because of the magnet and thicker spring, and the tube is a tad taller because the driver protrudes a little more, but they lego with each other and you can use the shorter HC30 tube with an unprotected cell to cut a few millimeters and grams
  • The more protruded positive contact allows for any flattop cell, while the HC30 wouldn’t work with some cells without a magnet or spacer of some kind

Other than the lack of a neutral white emitter option, this is a great flashlight and a nice update on the previous model

Saved by Grace wrote:
Thanks! Hope you can arrange some discount codes. Wink

Check out M4DM4X’s website

In my Tree

My collectionEmisar: D4 / D1 / D4 (broken) ― Convoy: C8 Clear / S2+ Clear / S2+ / S2+ UV / S6 ― Nitecore: Tube / Thumb / Concept 1 / HC30 / HC33 / TIP / TIP CRI / TINI ― Lumintop: Tool AAA / Tool AA / HLAAA / EDC05 ― Sofirn: SF10 / SF12 / SF12 / SF14 / SF14 / SF14 / SP10A / SP10A (gifted) ― Jaxman: E3 ― UTorch: UT01 ― Trustfire: Z2 ― Skyfire: SF-065 (trashed)

everydaysurvivalgear
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Saved by Grace wrote:
Thanks! Hope you can arrange some discount codes. Wink

Yea i will ask and see what they say mate.

Thanks!

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Thanks mate!

John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

everydaysurvivalgear
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Persechini wrote:
Thanks for the nice review!

I have a similar experience comparing the HC33, HC30 and Concept 1 (and also the skilhunt headband witch is my favorite over the stock headband). As my HC30 hasn’t had as much mileage as yours, I don’t find the anodizing to be all the much different, they look a lot like each other to me in the finishing department.

Other details that changed from the HC30 to the HC30:

  • Memory does not memorize moonlight and turbo like the HC 30 does, so you always have quick access to moonlight, turbo and the last of the 3 intermediary modes you have turned the light off while using. The HC30 would memorize ML and turbo
  • The tailcap is a tad taller because of the magnet and thicker spring, and the tube is a tad taller because the driver protrudes a little more, but they lego with each other and you can use the shorter HC30 tube with an unprotected cell to cut a few millimeters and grams
  • The more protruded positive contact allows for any flattop cell, while the HC30 wouldn’t work with some cells without a magnet or spacer of some kind

Other than the lack of a neutral white emitter option, this is a great flashlight and a nice update on the previous model

Saved by Grace wrote:
Thanks! Hope you can arrange some discount codes. Wink

Check out M4DM4X’s website

Thanks for the kind words.

I just tried and my memory saves Ultralow and Turbo?

My HC30 has no magnet and i can’t remember if it came with one?

Yea the HC30 is a bit short for protected cells i have a Samsumg 30b in mine now and its tight.

Funnily enough not many protected cells can run the HC33 so they could of saved a few mm.

Persechini
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The HC30 does not have a magnet, but you can use the tailcap from the HC33 or concept 1 (well, except there little reason to use the HC30 once you have the 33). The spring on the older model is also thinner as it’s not a high drain flashlight

I just double checked memory to confirm, and it’s like I said:

- Turned both lights on, set them to medium, turned off and on with a long press, both come back at medium
- Turned both on at moonlight with a short press, turned off and back on with a long press, the HC30 comes back on moonlight, while the HC33 comes back at medium.

It’s a nice and simple UI improvement. The shorter HC30 tube will make a tighter fit for the cells, but it’s ok for unprotected cells anyway. Even if you have only lower drain protected cells, you still get almost 800 lumens, it’s still a great light, you just can’t use the 1800 lumen turbo, so the longer tube was needed to compensate for the more protruded positive battery contact

In my Tree

My collectionEmisar: D4 / D1 / D4 (broken) ― Convoy: C8 Clear / S2+ Clear / S2+ / S2+ UV / S6 ― Nitecore: Tube / Thumb / Concept 1 / HC30 / HC33 / TIP / TIP CRI / TINI ― Lumintop: Tool AAA / Tool AA / HLAAA / EDC05 ― Sofirn: SF10 / SF12 / SF12 / SF14 / SF14 / SF14 / SP10A / SP10A (gifted) ― Jaxman: E3 ― UTorch: UT01 ― Trustfire: Z2 ― Skyfire: SF-065 (trashed)

everydaysurvivalgear
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Can you cycle to ultra low and turbo on your HC33?

Try that and see if it saves in the memory? Maybe its only the shortcuts that don’t save?

Persechini
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Hmm, that is correct, if I get to turbo or moonlight via normal mode cycle and turn off it keeps memory of it, but if I access them via shortcuts it does not overwrite the previous memorized mode

In my Tree

My collectionEmisar: D4 / D1 / D4 (broken) ― Convoy: C8 Clear / S2+ Clear / S2+ / S2+ UV / S6 ― Nitecore: Tube / Thumb / Concept 1 / HC30 / HC33 / TIP / TIP CRI / TINI ― Lumintop: Tool AAA / Tool AA / HLAAA / EDC05 ― Sofirn: SF10 / SF12 / SF12 / SF14 / SF14 / SF14 / SP10A / SP10A (gifted) ― Jaxman: E3 ― UTorch: UT01 ― Trustfire: Z2 ― Skyfire: SF-065 (trashed)

everydaysurvivalgear
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Yea that is a quirk lol still a better UI then the Concept 1. Even when i went to get pics i accidentally turned the Concept 1 on blinded me lol.

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Just updating the thread there is a code active for flashlight deals. Use the code (saving) in the checkout for a 5% discount!