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ETC Capella 800 Lumen Front Light

6
£40.00

VERDICT:

6
10
Decent enough package for the money, but beam shape and battery indication could be better
Solid build
Good mount with 360-degree rotation
Great side visibility
Unshaped beam dazzles drivers
No High-Low mode
Low-battery indication only kicks in at 20%
Side lights shine on drop bar hoods
Weight: 
154g

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ETC's Capella 800 front light is a tidy enough package, with 800 reasonably focused lumens, good side visibility and a sturdy adjustable mount. However, the beam isn't shaped to prevent it pointing into the sky, wasting lumens and dazzling drivers alike. There's not much warning of a low battery either.

Compact yet feeling hefty at 125g, the ETC Capella is a physically attractive light with an anodised metal body.

2020 ETC Capella 800 Lumen Front Light - detail.jpg

The mount clamps solidly to your bar, and then you can remove or reinstall the light. The bar clamp is the traditional Cateye-style grooved strap that passes around the bar and then through a threaded ring which then screws down tight.

2020 ETC Capella 800 Lumen Front Light - clamp.jpg

A bonus is that it can mount forwards or backwards, the light able to rotate 360 degrees in solidly clicked increments. This is handy if you have cables or other bar apparatus to clear.

Charging

The Capella charges from underneath using the provided 23cm micro USB cable sucking in juice at 0.8A (not the claimed 1A on ETC's website, but more than the 0.7A stamped on the light itself), the button blinking while charging. ETC claims two and a half hours, I measured it as four hours to 100% full using a current meter. Once charged the light turns solid blue.

A useful trick is that you can charge and run the light in Breathing mode at same time – possibly good for touring or really long day rides where you might want to run it as a day light off a dynamo hub or similar, then into the night.

Modes

There are four modes to cycle through with a click of the button: High at 800, Medium 400, Low at 200, and 'Breathing' which varies between 50 and 100 at about one-second intervals. These modes have run-times of 1hr 20mins, 2hrs 10mins, 4hrs 30mins and 18hrs respectively. Memory mode is always on, where the light turns back on in the last-used setting.

Finally, there's an absolutely bonkers Strobe mode accessed via a two-second-long press. The ensuing lightshow wouldn't look amiss in a Norwegian Death Metal Eurovision set.

One omission is a High-Low beam two-way mode, which Lezyne and others have introduced, albeit at a slightly higher price. This means you have to cycle through multiple button presses if you need to dip the light from High for oncoming traffic and back again, which is annoying. 

Performance

In High, using all 800 lumens, the Capella is good enough to crack on at about 15mph on completely dark roads or tracks, depending on the surface, wetness and surrounding light. Unfortunately, when projecting the centre of the beam far enough out to be able to ride at that speed and react in time to hazards, the unshaped beam is throwing half its output skywards or into the eyes of other road or trail users.

Going lower than full power means riding pretty slowly – it turns into a 'be seen' light instead of a pothole-spotter. In a halfway see-or-be-seen light there's inevitably a compromise of beam spread – focused for speed vs broad for closer-in surface awareness and off-centre illumination for other road users. ETC has got it as close enough to good enough as I can imagine at this price point.

> Buyer’s Guide: The best 2020 front lights for cycling

The basic conical beam is pretty darn close to that of the venerable Exposure Joystick Mk10, another 800-lumen light but one specifically designed for use as a helmet-mounted trail corner/hazard spotter. For me, the Joystick edges out the Capella in the beam focus stakes, but it's not really an apples-with-apples comparison.

The body has cutouts on either side with yellowed lenses casting out quite a decent amount of 'see me' light to alert other intersection users to your presence. Possibly not that visible in the wet against an urban background, mind. One downside of this 'feature' is that if mounted on a drop bar it really lights up your hoods/hands, which then detracts from your night vision in complete darkness.

2020 ETC Capella 800 Lumen Front Light - button.jpg

Run-times were on the generous side of the indicated durations, but be aware that once the red light kicks on at 20% you can't get High power anymore, so if you need High for riding at 15mph+, you're limited to just over an hour before it's Medium.

Value

Despite some shortcomings, 800 lumens and a decent mount for £40 is a pretty good deal.

The Lezyne Micro Drive 600XL is £50, a bit dimmer on spec and with a slightly shorter run-time on full power. But with a more focused beam and a high/low mode for riding in traffic, it could be a more useful option for the extra tenner.

Its more powerful sibling, the Micro Drive Pro 800XL, is a £60 light with only marginally better beam and brightness. But you get a longer run-time of 1hr 45mins and 50% charge indication – likely worth the extra £20 for hardened nighttime commuters.

Conclusion

Overall, for £40 the ETC Capella is a pretty decent light. Certainly good enough to get a commuter to or from work along dark roads, or to keep yourself visible in traffic. The mount is solid and there's not really much to dislike aside from the beam shaping, no High-Low mode and limited battery level indication. ETC really should throw in High-Low and a 50% amber indication on the next iteration to improve user-friendliness.

Verdict

Decent enough package for the money, but beam shape and battery indication could be better

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road.cc test report

Make and model: ETC Capella 800 Lumen Front Light

Size tested: 101 x 33.8 x 30.7mm

Tell us what the light is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

It's a decent low-cost light that can get you home along a black road if needed.

ETC says:

Light source: 1x CREE XP-L LED

Lumious Flux: 800 lumen

Beam Distance: >200m

Battery: 18650 Lithium battery 2500mAh

Charging Time: 2.5h (5V 1A)

Burntime: 1hr 20mins 100% 2hr 10mins 50% 4 hrs 30mins 25% 18hrs Breathing 100hrs Strobing

Waterproof: IPX6

Product Size: 101 x 33.8 x 30.7mm

Weight: 125g

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the light?

ETC also lists:

Series High Power

Bulb LED

Battery 18650 Lithium battery 2500mAh

Fitment Clamp

Output (Lumens) 800

Power Plug Type USB

Rechargeable Yes

Run Time (Hours) 1hr 20mins > 100hrs

Rate the light for quality of construction:
 
9/10

Feels and looks premium.

Rate the light for design and ease of use. How simple was the light to use?
 
8/10

One press on/off and memory mode – what else you need? – apart from High-Low mode, that is.

Rate the light for the design and usability of the clamping system/s
 
8/10

I liked it. Can be reversed to clear bar stuff, and rotated 360.

Rate the light for waterproofing. How did it stand up to the elements?
 
8/10

IPX6 rated, and no issues.

Rate the light for battery life. How long did it last? How long did it take to recharge?
 
7/10

Lasting over an hour on High is good, but the level indication is lacking. Charge time of 4hrs isn't great.

Rate the light for performance:
 
5/10

The beam does waste a lot of energy, and the lack of charge awareness makes you nervous.

Rate the light for durability:
 
9/10

Feels solid enough to last a battering.

Rate the light for weight:
 
8/10

Reassuringly hefty.

Rate the light for value:
 
5/10

800 lumens and a decent mount for £40 isn't bad – the Magicshine Allty 800 is £15 more, and the Lezyne Micro Drive Pro 800XL is £60 – but the Magicshine's beam is more focused with more usable light where you want it, while the Lezyne has a longer run-time and 50% charge indication.

Tell us how the light performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Well enough, once you realise the battery needs keeping an eye on.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the light

The mount is nice and hefty, very adjustable.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the light

The beam shaping. And no High-Low beam mode.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

The Magicshine Allty 800 is £15 more, but the beam is more focused with more usable light where you want it. At only two-thirds the price of the £60 Lezyne Micro Drive Pro 800XL, with similar beam shape and only slightly less focus, it's a good alternative to the big brands.

Did you enjoy using the light? Yes

Would you consider buying the light? Yes

Would you recommend the light to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your overall score

The unshaped beam and lack of a 50% battery indication mark the ETC 800 Capella down, and no High-Low beam mode is annoying. Which is a pity as the build quality and mount are great, and 800 lumens for £40 is bangin'.

Overall rating: 6/10

About the tester

Age: 47  Height: 183cm  Weight: 77kg

I usually ride: Sonder Camino Gravelaxe  My best bike is: Nah bro that's it

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: A few times a week  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, general fitness riding, mtb, G-R-A-V-E-L

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