Taillamps: comparison

Power use (current measurement):

According to StVZO a taillamp may draw at most 0.6W + 20%, which means 0.72W and at 6V that gives a current of 0.120A. The minimum allowed is 0.6W -50% which means 0.3W and at 6V that gives a current of 0.050A. But in approving a taillamp, the lower limit is not taken into account as long as the taillamp produces enough light, see further on.

Current through taillamps (at 6V direct current, test with 6 Veff alternating current to come)
Taillamp: Current at switching on: Current after several (ca. 4) minutes:
Lamps with 0.6W incandescent bulb
(Spanninga SP 15, old Basta Ray, etc.)
ca. 100 mA ca. 100 mA
Spanninga: SPX, battery version (3V) 5 mA 5 mA
Spanninga: Pixeo > 120 mA 27 mA
Axa: Go > 75 mA 47 mA
B&M: D-Toplight plus >150 mA 30 mA
B&M: Flat plus >90 mA 48 mA
B&M: Flat S plus >100 mA 60 mA
B&M: Line plus > 70 mA 20 mA
Herrmans: H-track >100 mA 64 mA
Basta: Riff steady 80 mA 47 mA
Spanninga: Plateo xds 75 mA 25 mA
B&M: Mini plus 16 mA 16 mA
Philips: Lumiring (first version, week 36 of 2011) 52 mA 14 mA
Philips: Lumiring, later version (2012, 2013?) 190mA has this changed from 14 mA in the earlier version?
Philips: Lumiring, battery version (3V) 39 mA 39 mA
Basta: Ray LED 65 mA 65 mA
Axa: Spark steady > 100 mA 51 mA
B&M: Toplight line brake plus > 86 mA 10 mA
Spanninga: Brasa, battery version (3V) 26 mA 26 mA
Spanninga: Lineo > 85 mA 42 mA
Philips: Lightring 53 mA 53 mA
Philips: Lightring, battery version (3V) 41 mA 41 mA
B&M: Secula > 115mA 70 mA
Sigma: Stereo (2.6V NiMH) 20 mA 24 mA
Spanninga: O (battery 3V) 33 mA 33 mA
Spanninga: Solo > 240 mA 42 mA
Axa: Blueline (standlight | non-standlight version) 144 mA | 33 mA 40 mA | 33 mA
Herrmans: H-trace > 140 mA 28 mA
B&M: Line small > 240 mA 45 mA
Union: 4365 > 300 mA 66 mA
Spanninga: Elips >150 mA 30 mA
Spanninga: Vivo >200 mA 31 mA
Spanninga: Duxo >= 167 mA 31 mA

After my first measurements: several taillamps did not seem to conform to StVZO with respect to power (far too low), unless these taillamps draw more power when attached to an alternating current. If they don't then the approving body has almost certainly looked at the amount of produced light and approved them despite a too low power consumption. The Philips Lumiring stays above required 50mA for a while until it drops very low.

Addition 2012-1-24: During the Philips bicycle lighting day I asked about this and it turns out the minimal current/power draw of a lamp is not looked at if the lamp produces enough light.

Update 2014-3-4: I got a report from a reader that his Lumiring takes quite a lot more power than what I measured, starting at ca. 190mA. I assumed it meant the standlight charging circuit has been changed and this seems correct: In my early version (week 36 of 2011) it stays lit for about 2.5 seconds after I had connected it to the 6V power supply for 20 seconds, and in his taillamp this duration is longer.

Light emitting area

Surface area is very important for taillamps, on 19-8-2015 I started with this section, last updated 2015-8-31.

The areas are:

Further, I compare the ratios of these values to the maximum values of any taillamp in this table. Currently that is: 1: 1457 (Philips Lumiring), 2: 728 (Philips Lumiring), 3: 5013 (Philips Lumiring). I will probably leave these values as the values to compare to, for some time, so if better taillamps appear, some ratios would then be higher than 1.

In the following lists the order is based on the 3 ratios, averaging them in this way: r=(r1*r2*r2)^(1/3)

Fender mounted taillamps Size (width x height) area 1,2,3 (optic | part of optic that lights up | outline indicated by optic) ratio 1,2,3
r=0.44: Spanninga 15 (from 1988, incandescent) 45 mm x 94 mm 800 mm2 | ca. 90 % = ca. 720 mm2 | 800 mm2 0.55 | 0.99 | 0.16
r=0.41: Spanninga O guard (fender version of the 'O') 58 mm x 65 mm 477 mm2 | ca. 80% = ca. 382 mm2 | 2038 mm2 0.33 | 0.52 | 0.41
r=0.36: Spanninga 15 (from 2013, incandescent) 45 mm x 93 mm ca. 800 mm2 | ca. 40 % = ca. 320 mm2 | 868 mm2
The light emitting ratio is a rough estimate, I think it is probably
even lower, 30% or so, it's really poor compared to the original SP 15...
0.60 | 0.44 | 0.17
r=0.34: B&M Secula 41 mm x 60 mm 432 mm2 | ca. 90% = ca. 389 mm2 | 1255 mm2 0.30 | 0.53 | 0.25
Rear rack mounted (usually wide) taillamps Size (width x height) area 1,2,3 (optic | part of optic that lights up | outline indicated by optic) ratio 1,2,3
r=1.00: Philips Lumiring 110 mm x 50 mm 1457 mm2 | ca. 50% = ca. 728 mm2 | 5013 mm2 1.00 | 1.00 | 1.00
r=0.55 (or 0.41 with 10%): Herrmans H-track 97 mm x 60 mm 1077 mm2 | ca. 25% = ca. 260 mm2 | 3185 mm2
Area 1: estimated using the curvature of the diffracting optic, 2: there is a strong
difference in lighting up in the middle of the lines vs the outside, so perhaps I
should set it at even less than 25%.
0.74 | 0.36 | 0.64
r=0.36: Spanninga Lineo 113 mm x 55 mm 315 mm2 | 100% = 315 mm2 | 2448 mm2
Area 2: intensity variations but no part is dark, the diffuser works...
0.22 | 0.43 | 0.49
r=0.35: Axa Blueline 109 mm x 53 mm 626 mm2 | ca. 80% = ca. 500 mm2 | 749 mm2
Area 1 & 2: the reflector lights up too but this is not included as it's a lot dimmer
0.43 | 0.69 | 0.15
r=0.34: Axa/Basta Ray (incandescent) 114 mm x 66 mm 570 mm2 | 100% = 570 mm2 | 638 mm2 0.39 | 0.78 | 0.13
r=0.22: B&M Line plus/Line brake plus 94 mm x 45 mm 600 mm2 | ca. 25% = ca. 150mm2 | 600 mm2 0.41 | 0.21 | 0.12
r=0.22: Spanninga Solo 98 mm x 35 mm 417 mm2 | ca. 50% = ca. 208 mm2 | ca. 640 mm2 0.29 | 0.29 | 0.13
r=0.08: Bidi 2015 taillamp 21 mm x 21 mm 147 mm2 | 100% = 147 mm2 | 147 mm2 0.10 | 0.20 | 0.03
r=0.008: B&M Toplight flat plus 110 mm x 53 mm ca. 14 mm2 | 100% = 14 mm2 | 14 mm2 0.01 | 0.02 | 0.00
Seatpost mounted taillamps Size (width x height) area 1,2,3 (optic | part of optic that lights up | outline indicated by optic) ratio 1,2,3
r=0.59: Seatpost: Sigma Stereo 75 mm x 41 mm 810 mm2 | ca. 90% = 720 mm2 | 1849 mm2 0.56 | 0.99 | 0.37
r=0.52: Seatpost: Philips Lightring 60 mm x 60 mm 699 mm2 | almost 100% = ca. 699 mm2 | 1485 mm2
Area 2: Some small dots are slightly less bright or even dark, but it's not
much of the surface, negligible it looks to me.
0.48 | 0.96 | 0.30
r=0.52: Seatpost: Sigma Mono 47 mm x 47 mm 759 mm2 | ca. 90% = ca. 683 mm2 | 1418 mm2 0.52 | 0.94 | 0.28
r=0.41: Seatpost: Spanninga O 58 mm x 65 mm 477 mm2 | ca. 80% = ca. 382 mm2 | 2038 mm2 0.33 | 0.52 | 0.41
r=0.34: Seatpost: B&M Secula (Seatpost version) 41 mm x 60 mm 432 mm2 | ca. 90% = ca. 389 mm2 | 1255 mm2 0.30 | 0.53 | 0.25

1,2 and 3 are a measure of visibility in a good way (being too bright is a measure of visibility in a bad way). All 3 should be as big as possible. From these numbers it is already possible to see a lot of the qualities that have shown themselves in my tests: The Philips LED lamps are generally superior, the Sigma Mono and Stereo are quite good and in some aspects better than the lightring. The Lumiring really is still the best taillamp, just the light output of the Lumiring could be smoother (higher percentage that actually lights up) and for the lightring the size could be bigger. You can also see that the actual area that lights up in LED lamps is barely bigger than the Basta Ray (incandescent) and the ancient SP 15 is actually about the same as the best LED taillamp, the Lumiring. The only improvement is that some LED taillamps have a bigger perceived size from the optic enclosing an area or making out a shape with height and width that is bigger than that of the incandescent taillamps. This table really shows again how little progress has been made from incandescent taillamps to LED taillamps, and that is without even considering the too high brightness in various spots that some taillamps have (e.g. H-track).

And to end, I had a look at the Toplight flat plus, one of the awful taillamps with blinding point source, and the measurements confirm just how truly awful it is...

Distance tests of taillamps

Long distance taillamp tests 1 & 2 (2011-8-18 + 2011-11-29)

The first test was done at night 2011-8-18, it was raining and I was cycling from 100m towards the taillamps. The second test in the night of 2011-11-29 was with the Toplight Line plus (the best of the first test), the Philips Saferide Lumiring, and the Basta Ray LED. I did this test in 3 parts: Cycling from 100m to the lamp, walking from 100m to the lamp, and a comparison of visibility between the Line plus and the Lumiring with both lighting at the same time and riding towards them from 150m distance.

Goal 1: To see how well visible they are, and in case of taillamps that have an annoyingly bright point source of light, by covering that point source with black tape (to be done: or by making that more diffuse and dimmer with some semi transparant tape) to see how much or little influence this point source has on visibility.

Goal 2: Determine the difference between line taillamps and taillamps with large illuminated surface w.r.t. visibility and ability to estimate distance. I will test this by comparing the Line plus and Plateo xds. The latter with obscured point source (and to be done: diffused/dimmed point source).

Impressions riding from 100 m distance to a taillamp
Taillamp Visibility Distance estimation (getting blinded by a point source?)
Spanniga 15 Surprisingly good! I'd say at least as good as any except the Line plus. Hard, size is too small.
Basta Ray Not tested (the Spanninga 15 is very similar, and it was raining ;-)). Not tested.
D-Toplight plus Not tested because of the rain and because I had already tested the similar (point source of light) flat plus. Not tested, but there is no doubt that this is impossible due to the point source of light.
Toplight flat plus Poor! Impossible because of the point source of light. Distance estimate at short distance is also impaired even if the cyclist is visible otherwise as the strong point source of light is dangerously blinding.
Toplight flat S plus (linetec) Surprisingly also quite poor! The lines don't help much. Not sure why. Very hard.
Toplight line plus (linetec) Excellent from 100m to 0m, and never annoying. Well, too bright perhaps. The Spanninga 15 is actually nicer to ride behind and still almost as visible... Hard
Herrmans' H-track Reasonable. When the direct light from the LED is obsured the visibility is a lot less. It seems not enough lights goes backwards horizontally and actually, when I look at the beamshot again it seems to confirm this. The line plus is better visible at any distance. Hard
Basta Riff steady Reasonable, but less good than the H-track. I didn't think this taillamp was visible enough at 100m to warrant a test with obscured direct light from the LED. Hard
Spanninga Plateo xds Reasonable, but less good than the H-track. With the direct light from the LED obscured, this taillamp is very dim which means not enough light goes into lighting up the reflector. Impossible because the point source overpowers the light from the reflector. Distance estimate at short range is also impaired even if the cyclist is visible otherwise as the strong point source of light is dangerously blinding.
Toplight mini plus Not tested, but undoubtedly poor as there is no optic to distribute/bundle the light. Not tested, but there is no doubt that this is impossible due to the point source of light.
Philips saferide taillamp Excellent from 100m to 0m, and never annoying. Difficult but at short distances you do get the feeling of seeing a real object instead of just a bright light. The diffuse light and fairly large surface (only the Plateo has a larger illuminating surface but that's spoilt by the point source) work.
Basta Ray LED Excellent from 100m to 0m, but too bright at short distances. Impossible due to the point source of light, it also gets too bright at short distances which hinders following traffic (esp. other cyclists).


Visibility: The Spanninga 15 with 0.6W bulb is surprisingly good, and I think it's better visible than all LED taillamp except the Toplight line plus (not yet directly compared with the Lumiring). The Spanninga 15 has a more smooth light ouput (even distribution over a reasonable surface area) than the Line plus which makes it nicer to look at for following traffic while being almost as visible, so all in all it is still a very good taillamp, better than I thought before this test (because of the corner- and wall projection images). This probably means all incandescent taillamps are actually pretty good, much better than one might think... Sideways visibility test (what a driver in a car coming to an intersection sees) is yet to be done...

Distance estimates: I don't think these are possible very well even with the line plus. The Lumiring is slightly better, especially at close range. The very strong point source in the Plateo makes distance estimation with that taillamp just about impossible. Obscuring the point source gives a near perfect taillamp, which makes distance estimation also better than any other taillamp. The only problem is that it's fairly dim that way. As I thought before has been confirmed, the Plateo with a few small changes could have been superb, instead of poor. I will do another test with the Plateo with white tape to diffuse/spread the light from the point source and see how it performs then.

Medium distance test 1 of taillamps (2013-2-21)

21-2-2013: Medium distance taillamp test with a few new taillamps:

The maximum distance to the taillamps was ca. 35m, walking away from them and back again to see what you can see of their shape, whether distance estimating is possible etc. This was with some light from streetlamps not too far away, so this test is a test of what it's like when encountering such taillamps in a city.

Part 1: SP15-2013, SP15 (1988), Lightring, Axa Go

Axa Go: The luminance problem becomes clear in that I could not differentiate the lightring from the Go (mounted about 10 cm apart) except at very close range. This does not indicate the Go is better, but that it blinds you... It means motorists can't see what else there is beside the light, not even other lights, so they can't estimate the width of the cyclist...

The SP15-2013's beam colour is way too diluted, not red enough. It's probably not bad enough to make a motorist or other road user think it's a yellow headlamp, but I don't like this at all.

There is not much difference in visibility between these lamps up to the relatively short distance of 35m.

From this test already it's clear the Axa Go is rubbish, and the SP15-2013 is not good because of the light colour.

Part 2: Brasa, SP15-2013, SP15 (1988), Lightring, Lumiring

Up to the distance tested the Lightring and Lumiring are equally visible, The Lumiring and Lightrings shapes can clearly be identified as such, and distance estimates are possible best with the Lumiring.

The Brasa has a point source, but it's not strong enough to really annoy. But the lines are also not outstanding in any respect. The sideways visibility of this lamp is despite the light lines going round the corner, worse than that of the Lumiring as I had tested long ago already, which means that I don't see the point of this lamp. The Lumiring is way better and the Line plus is also better. The Brasa is also quite ugly.

The Lumiring and Lightring are very well visible, both in amount of light that you experience, and in the smoothness of the beam.

The SP15s are not as well visible at this short distance of up to 35 m due to the small size of the emitting source. Whether the Lightring is as visible as the SP15s and the Lumiring at 100m and more is an interesting question, but I can only test that in about 3 weeks...

Part 3. Lineo, Lightring, Lumiring

The Lineo is bright, too bright. The high luminance, though it doesn't give stars in your eyes and doesn't blind you, is an issue in another way which becomes clear in that it's hard to make out that there are 2 sections of light (left & right) until you get close enough (I would say about 15 m), so the luminance is a spoiling factor. The 2 sections of light could have been a help in letting traffic get a distance estimate, but with this intensity it doesn't work. Also the light output that you experience is not as smooth as the Lumiring, which is clearly an oval which is well visible and which can be identified as an oval up to a long distance.

If the Lineo were driven at a lower power, and if the light were distributed over a bigger surface, with more distance between left/right illuminated sections, it would be much better.

Long distance taillamp test 3 (2013-10-9)

Long distance comparison of the Sigma Stereo, Philips Lumiring & Philips Lightring: I cycled towards them several times from ca. 300m, lights positioned at about 1m and another at near road level. This height difference didn't matter much in visibility... The Lumiring is best for close distance (not annoying, gives the feel of a solid object) and for long distance works just as well as the others, with very low power consumption, which shows the superiority of the optics and concept. The Sigma stereo also has a almost collimated section of light in the beam like the Lumiring which gives it long distance visibility with little power used. The lightring is perhaps a little better on winding roads (out of the direction of the 'almost collimated' part of the beams which go straight to the rear in a narrow cone, of the Lumiring and the Stereo) but the Lumiring is good enough. Do you really need to be seen further than say 200-300m if the road is meandering? It seems to me not, but if you have experience in such situations, and have some suggestions, let me know.

Conclusion (updated 2013-10-9)

The Lumiring is still on top. The Lineo is perhaps equal to the Line plus or a bit better? The Lineo is probably the best for areas with lots of light pollution and/or chaotic traffic.

TODO: I still need to compare the Lineo against the Lumiring in a ca. 300m distance test for a final verdict on how visible the Lineo is at long distances and give the final verdict on the Lineo. This will come hopefully soon.

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