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Battery Operated Field UV Lamp Review

UV Systems and "Way Too Cool" are the leaders in supplying portable UV lamps for the fluorescent minerals hobby.  Each lamp has its own advantages and I try to offer some insight into each here.  There are a few other manufacturers (as of the date of this review - Mar 2014) listed below the review - but I have no direct knowledge and cannot offer any insight.

Be sure to check out the purchasing FAQ before buying a lamp.  I've tried to include the various factors that are important when making this decision so you can pick the ones that are important to you.

Way Too Cool (9w) 

Way Too Cool lamps appeared on the scene a few years ago (2003?) and have quickly garnered a good share of the market. They are flexible, lower priced, and a great company to work with. WTC offers many models - a single bulb unit, two bulbs and three bulbs

Power and lamps: Each bulb is a 9W overdriven to about 11W. The UV output is unknown but somewhat comparable to a SuperBright (perhaps slightly less). If you need both MW and SW at the same time this is an added plus for WTC. The lamps used are standard off-the-shelf lamps, but must be modified to use in the light - a consideration if the company ever goes out of business.

With one lamp the output is around 11 to 13W, UV output unknown (wouldn’t it be nice if these manufacturers published the UV outputs? They certainly know what it is).

Current: Each lamp seems to draw about .9A plus a little for the fan. Under 1A is a good assumption for these units (per lamp). Lead-acid battery is supplied by dealers but other options can be easily used.

Construction: Sheet metal housing, larger than the Superbright (and heavier). The power cable is permanently attached to the unit. The more lamps, the heavier it gets (weight is a big deal when you’re climbing mountains).

General Opinions: WTC supplies a very affordable lamp with some neat options. Multiple bulbs for each wavelength is nice if you need that, but keep weight in mind. Some protection is provided for the expensive Hoya filter. Construction is not as solid as the SuperBright and I have seen lamps fall out of sockets, wires break, and other general failures. But these problems are being addressed and are most likely solved by now.

Each unit has a fan which I prefer. It helps keep the light cool (needed with three lamps) and exhausts any ozone that might build up inside.

A separate AC power supply is available to use the lamp without a battery - nice for home use.

UV Output - this is a very personal opinion - but the lamp is sufficiently bright for any field use IMHO. It is not as bright as a SuperBright, but certainly sufficient for field use.

Pros: Multiple wavelengths, cost

Cons: Weight, not as rugged as I would like to see, size.


Other Manufacturers

I only have direct experience with the two lights above.  But there are several other manufacturers who may deserve consideration:

On Ebay you'll find several dealers selling small 4/6W lamps, some with extra bulbs to turn it into either a SW, MW, or LW unit by swapping out the bulb.   These are lower priced, but you get what you pay for (not a lot of power).  I have seen one person sell one variety of this lamp without a Hoya visible blocking filter - useless!  He suggests that it works great, but trust me - no way.

superbright.jpgUV Systems

UV Systems has been making lamps since (forever). The original SuperBright was the workhorse for the hobby and served it well. It had some irritating problems; most of which were fixed in the new model 2.

Power and lamps: Undisclosed... UVSystems does not state the power of their lamps - partially because lamp wattage doesn’t mean a lot in the UV world (it’s the UV output th

at matters), partially because (I believe) they don’t wish to compete on specs. The lamps are custom manufactured for UVSystems and can only be purchased thru them (A disadvantage if he ever goes out of business. The light accepts only one lamp at a time, and separate lamps can be purchased for SW/MW/LW - requires replacing the lamp to use a different wavelength.

I believe the lamp to be putting out about 10 to 12W total - UV output unknown.

Current: Testing has shown the SuperBright I to draw about 1A when hot. I have not tested the model 2, but would expect it to be only slightly higher (but since he does not give wattage ratings, there is no way to verify this). Current draw is important as it gives one an idea of how long their battery will last. UVSystems supplies an 8.5AH battery (lead-acid) and states about 7 hours of usage. Working backwards, this indicates the lamp is drawing a little more than 1A.

Construction: Sturdy aluminum housing, lightweight, and small. No protection is provided for the expensive Hoya filter, but one can easily be improvised. The power cable attachment is solid but limiting in battery choices.

General Opinions: I find the SuperBright to be rugged and very field capable. It is expensive, and very limiting regarding battery choices. Since it is an entirely closed unit with no fan, ozone build-up is a concern. In spite of using ozone free bulbs, a slight amount of ozone will still develop and in a closed system this has to affect performance. 

SuperBright “Ones” had severe problems with the battery connector and blowing fuses, but to my knowledge these problems have been addressed in the new model.

A separate AC power supply is available to use the lamp without a battery - nice for home use.

UV Output - this is a very personal opinion - but the lamp is sufficiently bright for any field use IMHO. It is the brighter when comparing with WTC (right).

Pros: rugged, lightweight, well built.

Cons: Expensive, sealed construction, proprietary lamps, single battery option.

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