Mactronic Nomad 03
MACTRONIC NOMAD 03
The word "nomad" refers to members of groups of people who do not have a permanent place of residence, who move from place to place to ensure their survival. In a bit more contemporary sense, it also applies to a kinds of travelers. The short and catchy name seems to clearly indicate the right group of customers and the application of the product. But is it suitable only for this?
Of course, we're talking about the Mactronic Nomad headlamp, specifically its relatively young version, the 03 (using a CREE XP-L LED with a brightness up to 340 lumens), which is designed for typical outdoor activities. The Nomad model itself appeared on the market a few years ago, but in a configuration providing a smaller luminous flux. The design and functionality of the device gave grounds to believe that it could be a useful element of airsoft equipment. Not so long ago, we received a copy of this test lamp and from the Polish company Mactronic.
In the past, I had the opportunity to test another Mactronic headlamp - the MX-T110-HL model from the M-Force series. For those interested, the link to this review is at the end of the article.
PACKING AND ITS CONTENTS
The Mactronic Nomad 03 headlamp comes packed in a blister. It fulfills its marketing role very well: you can find the manufacturer's logotype, the model designation as well as all relevant information regarding the functionality of the device and its technical parameters. Unfortunately, the packaging protects the equipment against mechanical damage to a very small extent. Nevertheless, the headlamp came to me in intact.
In addition to the headlamp and its strap, the blister contains the rest of the set. Those are 3 Energizer alkaline batteries, the user manual and color filters.
DESIGN AND EXECUTION
The Nomad is a compact flashlight (its dimensions are: 60x40x38mm, its weight with batteries and the strap is approx. 100g). It is made entirely of plastic in shades of black and green. Structurally, it consists of four parts connected together.
The first part is the front end cap (olive in color). It serves only as a mounting point for attaching two color filters added to the set. It is removed from underneath the housing of the flashlight by prying. The easiest way to do it is by using a hard, thin tool, such as keys or a knife. The filters are attached inside with small plastic hooks, but they do locked by them. For this reason, efficient filter replacement requires some practice from the user. The cap itself has no slack and a chance of it accidentally falling out is marginal.
The black part of the headlamp is its main part, meaning the housing. On it you can find the Mactronic logo. The housing performs many key functions of the headlamp. From its front side, it conceals a 5mm red LED and the main light source, i.e. the CREE XP-L LED with the reflector. In the upper part of the housing there are two rubber buttons (a big one and a small one) that control the headlamp. On the side wall of the housing there is a battery level indicator that glows green or red. In the back of the headlamp the power source is mounted, i.e. three AAA batteries.
These batteries are protected by a rear cap, which is removed in the same way as the front cap. In the back, there is an additional gasket installed, which affects the waterproofness and dust tightness of the device. The Mactronic logo, the model designation (Nomad), as well as information about the European standards the headlamp meets, are placed its the back side.
The rear cap is connected by a hinge with a black part through which the head strap is threaded. The hinge is also made of plastic, which may be detrimental on its long-term durability. Tilt adjustment has a total of 5 different settings in the range of 0-90 degrees.
The strap is made of flexible, stretchy material and matches the flashlight in color. Plastic brackets are used to adjust the length (in a very wide range). The width of the strap is 25 mm. On the inside there are silicone inserts - the solution works as it should, the strap does not slip on one's head.
According to the adopted standards, the headlamp is classified as IP64, i.e. fully dust-proof and rain-proof. Avoid submersing the flashlight and subjecting it to water jets. According to the manufacturer's statement, the Nomad should be able to bear a fall from a height of 1 meter unscathed.
USE AND LIGHTING CHARACTERISTICS
The main source of light in the headlamp is the CREE XP-L LED, which, according to the manufacturer, generates a luminous flux with a maximum value of 340 lumens. An additional light source is a single red 5mm LED.
The XP-L diodes can be used in one of four modes (manufacturer's declared operation time shown in brackets):
- 100% - ~ 340 lumens (40h)
- 50% - ~ 170 lumens (75h)
- 10% - ~ 34 lumens (130h)
- 2% - ~ 7 lumens (250h)
Indicated times of operation seem to be overstated. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to test the original batteries included in the set. When using alkaline alternatives, the light of the headlamp lost its intensity over time. Additionally, it seemed to operates shorter than the declared amount of time.
The red 5mm LED can also be used in one of two modes:
- continuous light (150h)
- SOS light (200h)
The headlamp can therefore be used in 6 different modes. Additionally, thanks to the four attached filters (colorless, green, blue, red) for the XP-L diode, the Nomad 03 can operate on a total of 22 different ways. It should be noted that in the headlamp has room only for two selected filters, so without changing them, the user has access to "just" 14 different operating modes).
Usually, I describe the operation of the device in two ways: a short description and a full description. If you are not interested in the slight nuances of operating the flashlight, you can skip the long version.
Pressing the main power switch will start the XP-L diode. Subsequent presses of the switch will change the modes (the sequence is as follows: off -> 100% -> 50% -> 10% -> 2% -> off). Pressing the second button will activate the 5mm red diode, and subsequent presses will also change its operating mode (off -> continuous -> SOS -> off). You cannot run both LEDs at once. The flashlight remembers the last used operating mode for each diode separately. Pressing and holding both buttons for 3 seconds will lock the flashlight until the action is repeated.
Truth be told, getting used to the fact that the headlamp remembers the last mode used may be somewhat difficult in airsoft, mainly due to the time needed to remember the settings. The headlamp remembers it only after about 5 seconds from switching it on in a given mode. Pressing the main button again before this time is over will change the mode to the next one. Pressing it after that time turns off the flashlight and the mode is remembered. The situation is similar in the context of the use of the red diode. So, if the headlamp is turned on by accident, then to quickly turn it off one has to go through the remaining modes in the cycle.
It is worth noting that the flashlight remembers the settings for both diodes individually. This means that if, for example, the 10% mode is memorized and the flashlight will be, in turn, used with the red diode, then the next pressing of the main switch will restore the 10% mode. It is similar in the case of red diode and SOS mode.
There is one more advantage to this. In this way, you can slightly shorten the time needed to memorize the selected mode. After selecting the desired setting, just use the switch of the second diode and complete its cycle.
As mentioned above, it is impossible to used both diodes at the same time. Lighting the diode other than the one currently in use will result in the simultaneous deactivation of the one previously used.
It is possible to protect the headlamp against accidental activation (e.g. when stored in a backpack or other gear). To do this, when the headlamp is off, press and hold both buttons for three seconds. To unlock the headlamp, repeat the operation. The battery level indicator, in green or red, will inform you whether the headlamp has been locked or unlocked. If you try to turn on the headlamp when it's locked, it will also turn on the red indicator as a reminder.
On the right side of the headlamp's housing there is a diode indicating the battery level. It has three indication states:
- green (100-20% battery level)
- in red (20-5% battery level)
- blink in red (<5% battery level)
I compared the brightness of the Mactronic Nomad 03 headlamp to two other products. The Nikon D5100 camera was used to take the photos, using the following settings: f/3.5, t=1s, ISO=200.
A flashlight with 140 lumens of luminous flux (focused light, Samsung 3535 LED):
The Mactronic Nomad 03 with 340 lumens of luminous flux (first focused light, than dispersed light by using the CREE XP-L LED diffuser):
A flashlight with 900 lumens of luminous flux (dispersed light, CREE XM-L2 LED):
USABILITY OUR IN THE FIELD
I had the opportunity to test the Mactronic Nomad 03 at a few airsoft games (at night in the forest and in CQB games).
The Mactronic Nomad 03 is a very comfortable headlamp. This is due to the small weight and relatively compact size, combined with a well designed head strap, even long-term use of this headlamp is not tiring. You can complain about a lack of a smooth adjustment of the angle of inclination. I had to change the setting between the zero and the first tilt level very often, depending on whether I used the diffuser or not. The tilt adjustment itself did not change its settings while I moved, even when I was running. Its design, however, does not seem to be well conceived, which may result in the loss of these properties over time. For now, however, I should not make judgments - the equipment works as it should, and what will happen later, only time will tell.
It was nice that the manufacturer made the headlamp available in olive and black, so one does not attract unwanted attention. In an airsoft application, this is quite an important matter.
When it comes to operating the headlamp, it's not bad, but it could be better. The buttons are very easily accessible (sometimes even too easy but more on that later) and are easily found with one's fingers, also when using gloves. More problems are caused when using a diffuser (and other filters). To insert or remove a filter, you have to move it using a small plastic tab. While it is not a problem using bare hands, when the headlamp is mounted on one's head and wearing gloves, you will be hard-bent to change the settings. The replacement of the installed filters and batteries is also problematic, as it requires prying the housing in the right places.
Another downside may be the use of an inefficient power source (3x AAA batteries), but it can also have its advantages. The availability of these batteries is greater than the 18650 or even the CR123 cells.
Easy access to the buttons is not always an advantage. Many attempts to carry the headlamp in a backpack or inside other gear end with accidental turning it on. This results in two problems, the user being unaware that the batteries are being depleted and the increase of one's own visibility (the luminous flux of the headlamp is so strong that it visible the dark through many materials used to make combat gear). Fortunately, the manufacturer provided the flashlight with a lock-up function. It is best to immediately assume that it is not an unnecessary addition but an important "transport" function. If the Nomad is being transported, it should be locked. Only after mounting it on our gear, head or helmet, you can safely unlock the headlamp.
I mentioned the possibility of mounting a headlamp on a piece of equipment or a helmet. While in the latter case you need a suitable adapter (RHM0011) for a VAS type mount, the use of a headlamp with the MOLLE system is one of its design functionalities. I will also add here that it is a useful alternative for people who carry a tonne of equipment on their heads (active headphones, masks, NODs, cameras etc.). In general, however, more advantages come from the use of headlamps on one's head, a hat or a helmet (than the light follows the eyes).
In the context of airsoft games, color filters gain one more application - emitter protection. The headlamp is designed to mount two filters. As a result, you can save a colorless diffuser and in CQB battle conditions, shield the diode with one of the color filters. This will reduce the amount of light generated to a large extent, but should effectively protect its source. Even if one of the color filters breaks, there will still be two in the reserve.
When writing about the luminous flux, it is appropriate to describe how the Mactronic Nomad 03 headlamp fares in airsoft in terms of the amount of light generated and the available lighting modes. It is very good! Of course, it does not have thousands of lumens and hundreds of meters of range - the leaders of the competition, using more efficient diodes, far surpass the Nomand in this regard. The Mactronic's product, however, enjoys quite intuitive operation and the ability to adapt the headlamp to different conditions of airsoft games. These headlamp should not be treated as the main source of lighting, or a device that gives a big tactical advantage. The Nomad is a multifunctional tool that facilitates moving around the field. It allows you to read maps in the dark without attracting the attention of a half of the forest, to discreetly move only illuminating the immediate surroundings, to search through an area in looking of POI with a wide viewing angle, to check the area several dozen meters in front of you using intensive light, or even mark yourself with a flashing red light after being eliminated from the game.
340 lumens stated by the manufacturer in the brightest of the available modes, and this is not much. The focused light effectively illuminates objects about 50 meters away. The residual light reaches much further, however, it is too weak to be of real benefit to the user. The use of a diffuser further reduces the luminous flux. It is still sufficient, however, to be able to effectively illuminate an area at a distance of about 20-30 meters in a woodland terrain. When using the Mactronic Nomad 03 headlamp, remember that the average AEG replica has an effective range of about 50 meters. It is therefore highly probable that you can find yourself in the firing range of your opponent before he will become visible in the light stream of the headlamp. Fortunately, not counting those few seconds after turning on the headlamp (during which the controller is prepared accept a change pf the brightness mode), you can turn it off with one click and instantly dissolve in the dark.
As in the case of many other products, the situation changes very much in airsoft CQB fighting conditions. In this case, three hundred lumens are enough to effectively illuminate most of basements and corridors bathed in the twilight. With an luck, you can also try to obstruct your opponents by aiming by irritating them with your stream of light.
Mactronic makes different flashlights. One are better, other are worse. Some are suitable for airsoft applications, others not so much. The Mactronic Nomad 03 headlamp, despite several problems it has, is a successful product. It can successfully be used in airsoft applications, if only the buyer knows what he can expect from this headlamp and what he should not.
Certainly, the Nomad should not be treated as the main tactical lighting used during the day and at night. He can not illuminate an enemy with a a strong stream of light not lit every nook and cranny at 100 meters. This role should be fulfilled by another, more powerful flashlight mounted on a replica.
The Mactronic Nomad 03 in airsoft application seems to be a great choice for a secondary flashlight, especially for milsim applications. The vast majority of features that it offers will work in such an environment. Lightinga a map? Marking the wounded? Friend-foe identification? Sweeping the terrain? Discreet movement? Illumination of a tent? Working at a camp? This headlamp should work well in each of these uses. Its water resistance is not of the highest class (only IPX4), but it should be sufficient to protect it from the intense rains.
Also in CQB games Nomad should come in handy. Basements and corridors will cease to be dark, and the diffuser and the headlamp's resistance standards (protection against falling from a height of 1 meter) should protect it from the effects of a possible hit with a BB.
So if you already have powerful lighting equipment, which is used to make life difficult for opponents (not to lighting, by no means!), then you can think about a more modest light that fills in the gap between different applications and completes your main product. Whether you choose a product from Mactronic or any other competing company, it depends solely on You and your personal requirements. As for me, Mactronic Nomad 03 fits my requirement very well.
We would like to thank Mactronic for providing us with their product for testing!
- lightweight and compact design makes it convenient to use;
- interchangeable color filters and availability of lighting modes very useful in airsoft;
- autonomous red 5mm LED;
- the ability to lock the flashlight against accidental use;
- ease of use, thanks to two buttons and mode memory;
- color filters help to protect the LED emitter against damage;
- presence of a battery level indicator;
- possibility of mounting on the MOLLE system;
- power supply using generally available batteries;
- the maximum luminous flux of 340 lumens works in many applications ...
- ... but in a woodland area, where here is a risk of enemy contact, it is too weak;
- difficult to operate the filters in gloves;
- low water resistance class (only IPX4);
- the plastic tilt adjustment mechanism does not seem to be durable;
- narrow range of tilt adjustment;
- despite high availability, the AAA batteries used as the power source of the Nomad are not known for their high performance;
- operating time seems to be shorter than declared;
- the need to lock the headlamp before storing it in a backpack or other gear;
- a long time needed to memorize the currently used mode.
Mactronic Nomad 03 - Information and product card at the manufacturers website