Zebralight 502D vs. Black Diamond Icon for close-up work

I need a top quality headlamp for working on intricate piano actions. After some research, I’ve narrowed it down to the Zebralight 502D and the Black Diamond Icon. Both are about the same price - $65-$69 - and reviews I’ve read are excellent for both.

I’ll be using this mostly for close-up work, where small parts are hidden behind other small parts, etc., but I’d love it to double as a decent outdoor beam for hiking/camping.

Which one would you choose?

Welcome to BLF!

I would have to go with the zebralight. The modes on them are excellent, plus you wont have that huge battery pack hanging off the back of your head. Youll be very pleased with the quality there for sure.

I haven’t heard of black diamond ever before.

Second on the Zebralight.

Maybe wait until the newer version get released compatible with 14500 batteries, but my choice would be for the ZL.

The ZL is the best option for close up work. It’s not a good hiking lamp though due to the complete lack of throw.

The Icon is not the best for close up work due to the tilt angle not adjusting far down enough, and is a bit bulky for general camping/hiking duty.

If you absolutely want something that can pull double duty, check out the Fenix HL30. The beam is wide enough, although not as good as the ZL’s, for close up work, and throws enough for hiking/camping. It’s also less expensive.

On a side note, these headlamps should be run on Eneloop batteries. No alkalines.

Thanks for the great answers, you guys. Looks like the Zebralight is the way to go, although your answers stimulated a few follow-up questions:

Hmmm…when I wear a headlamp, I want the beam pointed to the exact spot where my eyes are pointing. Wouldn’t the Icon do that if it is at my mid-forehead, pointing slightly down (as it’s built-in angle would suggest?)

When is this “newer version” coming out, and what does “14500” batteries mean. Why would they be preferable to Eneloops?

And yes, Rojos, I’ll check out the FenixHL30, although up-close work is primary and price is not a big concern, I’d rather get the absolute best for close-up and get a separate one for hiking if needed.

Also, any “best for close-up” suggestions concerning the tint of the light: the ZL502d for daylight vs. the 505c neutral and the regular “cool white?”

It’s good to have at least 60 degrees of adjustability for working up close. The Icon barely has 30 degrees. Here’s a photo:

A 14500 is a AA sized Li-ion battery. Li-ion batteries are good for high power applications, but they require special handling and specialized chargers. They should only be used with flashlights that are specifically designed for them and only after you familiarize yourself with their handling requirements.

Eneloops would be recommended for your use. They are easier and safer to use. The ZL circuit is optimized for Eneloops, so it performs quite well with them. Since you don’t really need a super bright turbo mode, there’s no significant advantage gained by using a Li-ion.

I think that the D and C versions would work equally well since both have high CRI. High CRI is good for making objects look a little more 3D. Low CRI can make things look kind of flat and washed out. Tint, between daylight and neutral, is a matter of preference. I like things a little warmer, so I would choose the C, but that’s just me.

Thanks again rojos.

Just ordered ZL 502d AND Fenix HL30. I’ll use the ZL for tinkering inside pianos, based on your recommendation; and the Fenix for night walks/hikes.

Thanks again for taking the time to make this decision clear & easy for me. You rock!

P.S. Just for future, what’s your favorite bright, long-throw flashlight (headlamp or hand-held) for maximum distance & clarity when, say, hiking through the woods or on a mountain path at night?

I’m probably not the best person to answer that since my interests are limited to short and medium range lights.

I’m sure that you’ll get a lot of good responses if you create a new thread and ask.

You’ll probably get a lot of recommendations for 18650 Li-ion flashlights, just so you know.

To Rojos or anyone else who’s worked with Zebralight H502 series:
Purchased H502d for close up workbench tasks(as per Rojos recommendation:-) Looks like it could quickly become one of my favorite work lights for lumens and adjustability of light levels. However, I’m confused about how to position the light in the included headband so that it points forward, like your eye direction, towards the task you are working on.

If you slide the cylinder thru the two rubber rings attached to the headband, the on-off switch is pointing face-forward, and the light is pointing down towards your feet. How do you mount the headlamp so the lamp points forward and follows your eye direction?

I tried sliding the included metal clip across the headband (vertically,) That positions the on/off switch at the top and lamp pointing forward, but I’m not sure if that’s the proper alternative for forward angles. Sorry if this should be obvious, but I’m not quite getting it, and the enclosed instructions tells all about switching through the different lighting levels but nothing about how to affix the cylinder to the headband…guess they figured it’s too obvious except for dweebs like me:-)

Should look like this:


I like the Nite Ize headband more than the one that comes with the ZL as it is more stable. But it’s not for everyone.


Of course :* d-oh! Rotate lamp to point outward instead of at floor, then swing headband a quarter turn to the front of your head. Somehow I just naturally assumed the rubber-ring holder was positioned at the side of your head (making face-forward lighting impossible.) Like I said, what a dweeb! Thanks Rojos

Note to Zebralight: For the directionally-challenged like me (there’s gotta be a few others out there:-) I still think the instruction sheet should mention a couple things about headband/lamp positioning, not just all the clicks & light levels .

I'd suggest you also take a look at the Spark SD73 or SD52.

I have the SD73 and it's an incredibly comfortable and useful little headlamp. The neutral version has a very pleasing tint. Some people do not like the idea of having to use 3 AAA batteries but personally, as I have plenty this isn't an issue for me.

The SD52 takes two AAs and reports I've read suggest that people are very happy with these as well.

These have an optional screw-in reflector that changes the lovely close up flood beam into a more throwy profile for outdoor use.

They have a screw in magnetic base option which enables them to attach to any metallic surface for hands-free operation. There is even a tripod adapter available if you wish.

Minor criticisms include the fact that there is no stepdown when the batteries are depleted; the light just shuts off abruptly. Once this has happened however you can immediately press the switch to turn them on again, albeit at a lower level, with plenty of runtime left to find some new batteries. (I don't know if this behaviour has been changed with the newly released edition.)

I have also read that the SD52 doesn't quite achieve full output on Eneloops but rather only on 14500s. Others have told me that it works fine on regular NiMH cells.

Whilst they are not designed as madly overdriven super throwers the benefit is that you can run them on the maximum setting forever if you wish without them overheating.

I got mine from hkequipment just before the XM-L2 models were released.


Hope this helps.

Edit. DOH! Somehow missed that you'd already ordered. Never mind.

Although the OP already ordered, thought I should clarify that point for anyone who may read this later. The SD52 can handle up to 7.6V. It does not go into Turbo mode with NiMh or Eneloop/Recyko cells (they are the same, the Eneloops and Recyko’s are LSD NiMH batteries). You can use 1 14500 with a dummy cell, or 2 LiFePO4 AA cells and then you will get Turbo mode. The SD73 does go into Turbo mode with NiMH because it uses 3 AAA cells in series, and ditto the SD6 because it uses 18650.

Any of the Spark SD series (SD73, SD52, SD6) would have been a good choice for the tasks described by the OP because they all have the same options of mag mount, tripod mount, and most importantly, the interchangeable flood lens.

Thanks for continuing to make recommendations here, guys.

As mentioned above, I purchased both the ZL 502d AND Fenix HL30. I have something really bad to say about Fenix, but first, I tested them together, in both close-work situations and outdoor hiking.

For me, the Zebralight won hands down. It was brighter & clearer in both situations, and even though it’s not primarily a long-distance “thrower,” in outdoor night hiking, I could not tell any difference between the 2 in illuminating paths & objects at a far distance. So the “double-duty” possibility of the Fenix was no better than the Zebralight.

Additionally, the Fenix has a hot-spot circle in the middle of it’s spread, while the Zebra is clear and non-graduated all the way through its spread. For me, hot white circles in the middle don’t help with seeing objects at a distance, and they’re actually kind of distracting in close up work.

But if that wasn’t enough to guarantee me sending back the Fenix, this was: impenetrable packaging that made me damage the headlamp before even the first use.
The Zebra comes in an easy open lidded box. The Fenix is enclosed in a plastic blister-pack encased in really thick, uncuttable cardboard-like material. There is no easy open solution - no pull tab or perforations or “open here” peel backs. You just gotta use heavy scissors and cut across the top to remove enough plastic/cardboard to maybe reach your fingers in and pry the rest of the plastic apart - which is what I did. Big mistake! It was so hard to pry open the plastic that when I finally exerted enough finger strength to separate the front & back, the headlamp came flying out, landed on my hardwood floor, and had a nice dent and paint chipping before I even tried it out. I tried to think if there was some other way I could’ve opened the packaging, but the plastic bubble is so skin tight to the headlamp that I was afraid to try inserting my box knife and cutting around the lamp for fear I’d clip the lamp housing for sure with the knife edge.

I’m sure the Fenix people will try to make a case that ultimately I’m responsible for opening their packaging at the consumer end, and therefore responsible for any damage, but I got it from Amazon, and it’s going back for a full refund, no questions asked…along with a 1-star review for packaging. Sorry, Fenix, but that kind of impenetrable packaging is just ludicrous and, when you look at the simple, easy-open box the Zebra came in, inexcusable.

I’ll check out the Sparks also, thanks for the tip.

Costco loves to sell everything in those blister packs. I have this fantasy that I go back to their customer service desk and tell them I cannot get the product out and ask them to demostrate the proper procedure for me. My second fantasy is to start returning all sorts of items, telling them I damaged them when trying to extract them. I guess however that they are selling enough in spite of consumer angst against this type of packaging that they do not need to change.

I always scratch my head when I read comments like this.

It makes me wonder what other people mean by “hiking”.

I got the Fenix HP25 in the same package, at first I thought I was going to have to call a contractor to open it, then I remembered that I am a contractor and I figured it out.

For me the key was separating it, starting from the hole cut for hanging the package in the store.

Use a box cutter, slice through from the side into the top layer, and go around the whole box.

I hate blister packs, and IIRC there have even been some lawsuits against manufacturers from people injuring themselves opening what they buy.

Normal blister packs are easy if you just cut two sides with good scissors, this Fenix package was very different and for a few minutes it had me totally baffled, it is a really bad design.

In my world the average conditions to be able to address would be:

Distance:8-20 km
Vertical descent/ascent: 300-900 meters
Terrain: rocky with possible unbridged creek crossings
Objective hazards: Summer, potential for human-wildlife conflict. Winter, avalanche, hypothermia
Destination: defined by prior knowledge preferable, but may depend on GPS.
Enough batteries to run all lights on High for 4 hours.

For those conditions one Zebralight or Fenix would not be feasible, but some combinations of them might be workable. I need a minimum of three different types of light and one for backup. At the moment the three I’m using are Spark XM-L2 SD6NW (flood lens clipped on hip belt), Spark XM-L2 ST6NW headlamp, Solarforce P1 (XM-L2 T4 5D2 drop-in drawing 2.8A, side head mount), and Spark SL6S NW (hand held when required). I carry the extra batteries in ENB power packs that I can also use to charge the GPS if required.