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‘Hands-Free’ Headlamp Is Effective yet Complicated: Ledlenser HF8R Review

The Ledlenser HF8R packs digital focusing, an adaptive light beam, and a lot more technology into a headlamp. But what does that mean in the field?

HF8R Signature(Photo/Ledlenser)
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It’s raining and getting dark in the Rocky Mountains, and I just want to get back to camp. After a long day of archery hunting, I’m fried. I pull the Ledlenser HF8R Signature out of my backpack, push a button, and am greeted with intense light. Time to hit the trail.

I spent the last 2 weeks using the Ledlenser HF8R early every morning and late every night. I chose to do this because this is Ledlenser’s newest flagship headlamp. And the brand swung for the fences, going so far as to call it “hands-free.” It is — kinda.

And as much as this is a very advanced, effective headlamp, it has some shortcomings, too. I’ll dive into these below. But regardless, this is the most tech-packed headlamp I’ve ever used.

(Photo/Sean McCoy)

In short: The Ledlenser HF8R Signature adjusts its light beam automatically to properly light the environment for the wearer, with no hands needed. This feature works great! But if you want more control over the light, this super-modern headlamp can get fiddly and even frustrating to use. The HF8R Core is also available with slightly less power but similar features for a lot less money.

Ledlenser HF8R Signature Headlamp


  • Lumen output 2,000 lumens turbo, 20 lumens low
  • Rechargeable Yes, magnetic charging cable
  • Burn time 3.5 hrs. high, 90 hrs. low
  • Weight 6.84 oz.
  • Red light Yes
  • Waterproof rating IP68


  • Adaptive light works great
  • Powerful light with long (220 m) throw
  • Long run time
  • Red, green, and blue lights


  • Tricky to use in nonadaptive mode
  • Can only charge with dedicated magnetic cord, incompatible with other common cords

Ledlenser HF8R Headlamp Review

When you buy the Ledlenser HF8R reviewed here, you’re buying more than a headlamp. This large (6.84 ounces) rechargeable light also ships with a bike mounting kit. And while I haven’t tested it on a bike yet, it does seem like a logical use, given the high power output and adaptive lighting.

In the box is also an over-head strap (to be added if you want for comfort), comfort pad, and magnetic charging cord. And yes, you can only charge this headlamp with Ledlenser’s proprietary cord. No, it won’t plug into a standard USB-A or USB-C. More on this later.

I strapped the headlamp on my head for the first time at our elk hunting camp at 11,000 feet, where it would serve as my primary headlamp for 2 weeks. Just push the button and wowsers!

The light jumped to life with a pretty nifty light show. As the light turned on, it calibrated its 10-ish light sources, each turning on and off in an alien pattern. Wearing the light, the glow in front of me fluctuated from wide to narrow, dim to bright. Then, it settled onto a comfortable viewing light at mid-distance. Check out the brief video below for an idea of how it works.

But it certainly didn’t stay there! As I moved and turned my head to near or far objects, the headlamp adjusted for the just-right amount of light. If I lifted my head, the beam shot across the meadow, illuminating objects 200 yards away. But when I turned back to the camp table and tinkered with the stove, it dimmed to light my hands and the stove knobs correctly without blinding me or my fellow campers.

Walking on trails, the light was very bright and a nice, warm color. It did an excellent job of illuminating both near and far objects. I was shocked over and over by how well it adapted as I moved my view from a close to a far object. Once turned on and in this mode, a wearer really can rely on the adaptive lighting for many scenarios.

To be blunt, the adaptive lighting is pretty wild and awesome. And if that’s all I planned on using, I would fall in love with this headlamp.

But, well, it isn’t. And therein lies the rub.

Fidgety Controls

While the Ledlenser HF8R does an incredible job of managing light output automatically, that isn’t always what I want. In truth, I mostly want my headlamp to run on pretty low power to save battery. If I need a burst of power, I want it simply and quickly.

Well, that’s not where the HF8R shines.

Over the course of a couple of weeks of use, I consistently had to push the button through repeated cycles to get it set on the mode I wanted. It really wasn’t intuitive. For example, to lock it into a low-power white light, it required me to turn it on, wait about a second, and then tap the button again. But wait too long, and you simply turn the light off instead of changing the mode.

Press the button twice, and you enter turbo mode — which is great for powerful light, by the way. But if that’s not what I wanted, and it often wasn’t, I’d find myself turning the light on, off, through red light and blue and green, before finally landing on the mode I wanted.

Woman wears Ledlenser HF8R headlamp

It was a little frustrating and made me feel dumb, like I wasn’t capable of using the light correctly. Maybe it was just me or a lack of experience with the specific light, but it was, to me, too complicated.

Charging Cord

The Ledlenser HF8R Signature (and Core model) uses a cord with two magnets on one end that attach to magnetic charging cords on the headlamp.

If you’re OK with a cord that you can’t use for anything else, good. If you’re also OK with not being able to charge this headlamp with anything but the dedicated cord, also all good.

But for those of you who hate a rat’s nest of cords dedicated to just one device, this will be a pretty big drawback. I, for one, am not fond of having to pack, organize, and manage specific cords for specific devices, so it’s a pretty big con.

Ledlenser uses this style of charging because it makes it easier to waterproof the headlamp. It’s a fair point. But it’s also worth noting that plenty of headlamps out there share IP68 water- and dustproofness by using a simple USB-A or USB-C cord.

Conclusion: Ledlenser HF8R Signature

lendlensr HF8R

The Ledlenser HF8R reviewed is an impressive headlamp with automated adaptive lighting that will impress the heck out of a lot of users. It is powerful, smart, and has a long-lasting battery. It could also function as an excellent cycling light given the adaptive, powerful beam.

But the finicky manual controls and magnetic charging cord can be frustrating.

If you can get past those downsides, the HF8R Signature (or less expensive Core model) are some of the most advanced lights I’ve seen. For those who want the latest, greatest, whiz-bang tech, the HF8R series is sure to impress.

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