Note: images are missing at the moment as I have an issue with my blog. Hopefully they'll be back soon.
Update: images are back!
This light was sent to me by Sofirn in exchange for doing a review, without any requirement to give a positive rating. Thanks to Sofirn for providing the light.
There's already lots of reviews of the SP40 on BLF from last year but hopefully another one can't hurt and may give some new insight.
This review originally appeared on https://davestechreviews.wordpress.com/2020/07/10/sofirn-sp40-headlamp-review/
About the light
The Sofrin SP40 is an angled headlamp that runs of an 18650 cell. You can also run it from a shorter 18350 cell.
The Sofrin SP40 is a great entry level headlamp that has the quality of lights twice its price. It’s a great all rounder, coming with USB charging, an included cell, head strap and even an extra body tube for shorter cells.
I’d recommend it if you’re after a mid-range headlamp and want something better than something that runs off AAA batteries.
Sofirn SP40 specs
Sofirn list the following specs for the SP40
|IPX7 (1m of water for 30min)
|2.3oz / 65g (I measured it at 66g)
|108mm by 25mm (I measured it at 111.3mm 27.4mm at the head and 24.1mm at the tail)
The physical light
What’s in the box, manual
The SP40 comes in a cardboard box with bubble wrap. Sofirn have printed card and plastic boxes too, so I was surprised to see something so plain.Why do I keep taking photos of cardboard boxes?
As always, what’s in the box is more interesting. Sofirn provide a cornucopia of accessories and parts with the SC40 package.
- SP40 headlamp
- an 18650 cell (inside the light)
- short tube, to fit shorter 18350 cells
- Micro USB cable
- 2 spare O-rings
- Steel clip
Appearance and quality
The SP40 is black anodised aluminium. The anodising appears fairly thick and doesn’t seem to get scratched by the clip.
The threads are rectangular cut and the tail cap fits perfectly. You’d expect this machining from a light twice the price.
The cell tube has springs at each end, so should be able to handle a range of cell sizes. The springs are strong but not being a high current light they’re not especially thick. The light doesn’t flicker when you shake it, so they’re doing their job fine.Tail end, with a magnet
Physical design, size
The Sofirn SP40 is a long 18650 light by default but because it comes with a short tube for a 18350, it’s almost 2 lights in 1. 18650 and 18350 cells are about 65mm and 35mm respectively.
|18350 not included
|Weight (without cell)
|Weight (with cell)
|I used a 1200mAh Keeppower
|Sofirn’s is 3000mAh.
Up to 3400mAh available
The 18350 tube that comes with the SP40 works with Sofirn’s SC31B too.Sofirn SC31B is now tiny
Although it works fine as a pocket light, Sofirn sell the SP40 as a headlamp. The head strap it comes with is fairly heavy duty, including a top bit and handles the weight of the SP40 in 18650 mode fine.SP40 in the head strap, with the clip too
The head strap accommodates the SP40 in 18350 mode fine too. When in 18350 mode then it’s noticeably lighter.SP30 in 18350 mode
The Sofirn SP40 comes with a magnetic tail cap. I haven’t tried removing it but it may be possible. The magnet is fairy strong and holds the light on a screw in both 18650 and 18350 modes.The magnet easily holding the SP40 in 18350 mod
As the magnet is in the tailcap, you can unscrew the body from the head and wonder where the cell has gone.Took me a moment to realise the cell was in the tube
The steel pocket clip clips on to the 18650 tube either way round (unlike on the Sofirn SP31B). As the tube is reversible anyway, this doesn’t make much difference.SP40 (left) and SC31B (right) with very similar and interchangeable body tubes
It’s not a deep carry clip at all, so whichever way round you have it, it’ll stick out of your pocket quite a bit.
The clip is very strong and takes effort to take off, so there’s little risk of losing the light when it’s clipped to something.
The clip fits on the 18350 tube too, slightly off centre on the tube, so you can rotate the tube and adjust it a few mm.
It’s too long when pointing down though, so won’t clip to a pocket.
There’s no lanyard supplied with the SP40 but the clip has a hole you could attach one to.
The SP40 is almost light enough to use as a hat light, though being a headlamp it points down instead big forward.
You can kind of point it forwards on a hat but this it won’t be secure enough to walk with. Best to use the provided headband.
- Click on
- Click off
- Hold to change brightness
- Double click for turbo
Changing brightness goes low, medium, high, then back to low. The light will remember your last mode (even if you don’t).
You can also do 4 clicks to lock / unlock the light. The anodising on the threads mean you can physically lock it with a quarter turn of the tail cap too.
The user interface passes the intuitive test, as the switch turns it on and off. This means you can hand the SP40 to someone and assume they’ll be OK with it.
There’s only 3 modes and turbo here. No strobe (hooray!) and no moonlight (boo!).
The SP40 also has an indicating light on the switch. This comes on for a few seconds when you turn the light on:
- Green – over 30%
- Red – under 30%
- Flashing red – very low
Charging and cell
You can charge the SP40 with the supplied micro USB cable – either the included 18650 one or any other 18650 or 18350. The indicator light on the switch goes from red to green to show it’s charged.Charging at around 1A
You can also turn the light on low when it’s charging, or even without the cell it body tube in place. This means you can use the SP40 as a USB powered light.
The included cell is rated 3000mAh. This is pretty good, though high end cells are up to 3400mAh. With a single XP-L emitter, even turbo will only pull a few amps, so most cells will work with this.
The SP40 holds turbo for a few minutes before stepping down to roughly the high level.
You can see the output continues to drop beyond 450lm. This happens on high too, as the cell voltage drops. Sofirn have used a fairly basic driver in the SP40 that doesn’t regulate the output. The SP40’s driver is good quality but very basic. This isn’t noticeable when you’re using it as it drops so slowly.
As with most lights with a turbo mode, the output drops down from turbo (either thermally throttled or on a timer). With more expensive lights that use a regulated driver, the output will then stay constant. I expected the SP40’s driver to be regulated, based on the very high quality of the light in general. It’s was a bit of a let down to see it drop. In reality though, the SP40 only drops about 10% in an hour, which isn’t even noticeable.
Sofirn could have spent more on a driver in the SP40 but that would have put the price up for consumers too.
Low Voltage Protection
After almost 6 hours the low voltage protection kicked in and the light turned off. This is where a driver will turn off just before the voltage gets to the point that it could damage the cell. The SP40’s cell measured about 3.3V at this point. Cheap lights don’t include LVP and can damage cells if you’re not careful, so it’s good to see Sofirn have included this. The battery check in the SP40 indicator light means you get a warning when the voltage gets low anyway.
LED and BeamOrange peel reflector and LED
Here’s the SP40 next to my 4000K D4 and cold white SC31B. The D4 has a TIR optic, which smooths the hotspot out. The SP40 has an orange peel reflector, so still throws a bit for its size but has a more even beam. It’s not mentioned in the manual but I expect the SP40 has a CREE XP-L LED. The SC31B’s smooth reflector gives a much more defined hotspot and spill. The orange peel reflector looks like a good choice for the headlamp.
The SP40 is colder white (higher Kelvin) than my D4 but isn’t as cool as the SC31B or some of my other lights. I haven’t seen details on the emitter Sofirn use but I expect it to be around 5500K.4000K XP-L HI Emisar D4, XP-L Sofirn SP40, Sofirn SC31B
The driver on the SP40 is unregulated and uses PWM (turning on and off quickly) to make different modes. On very cheap lights, the PWM can be very noticeable and annoying on low modes. Not so with the SP40 though. I could see the PWM on low and medium modes with my camera but not with a naked eye. My camera couldn’t detect it on high but I’d expect that to use PWM too.PWM only noticeable with a camera
Some other budget right angle 18650 headlamps:
- Astrolux HL01 (runs Anduril, moonlight mode, comes with 18350 tube too)
- Wowtac A2S (neutral white option, 0.3 lumen mode)
- Skilhunt H03
- Lumintop HL3A (2800lm turbo, moonlight mode, runs Anduril)
- Convoy H1 (lots of LED options)
On the higher end, Zebralight and Armytek are the go to brands and give you lots of choices.
- High quality machining
- Comes with cell, USB charging, head strap, 18350 tube, magnet, clip, kitchen sink
Some of these are a bit picky and would only be expected on a light twice the price. Still, hopefully Sofirn’s next headlamp will get even more things right.
- Output falls with cell voltage
- No moonlight mode or shortcut to low
- Colour temperature is a bit high for my liking
- Pocket clip could be deep carry
The Sofirn SP40 is great value for money and makes a great first headlamp. The quality is exceptional and you get loads of accessories for the price. The driver is the only thing that’s lacking slightly but it wouldn’t put me off recommending it.