What Happened to the Sten?

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What Happened to the Sten?

Postby Amazingracer » Jan 8, 2012 1:53 pm

So the Sten Light is by far the top go-to light for cavers (for durabliity, battery life, price etc, dont start saying Apex, Fenix, whatever FTW, thats not what this is about). But it hasnt been updated in over 3 years, while lights like the Scurion, and Rude Nora are sailing past it, and lights like the Fenix's and Apexen are catching up rather quickly.

The Sten is still a great light but hopefully it doesnt fall by the way side.

Has anyone heard of any updated versions in the pipeline?

Edit to add this too:

Many of the new "major" lights shift to a wide/angle spot setup. Seems to be the new thing, and was one of the major reasons I sold my Sten and went with a Scurion. Not for the lumens but for the spot (lumens were reason number 2 lol).
Last edited by Amazingracer on Jan 8, 2012 5:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What Happened to the Sten?

Postby Evan G » Jan 8, 2012 2:40 pm

I agree and disagree. I have a sten, but after seeing what a Scurion can do.... My Sten has become my backup light. There is no comparison! But I do hope the sten does continue to update!!!

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Re: What Happened to the Sten?

Postby rlboyce » Jan 8, 2012 3:04 pm

It would be very nice to see the Sten updated, as it was (and still is) a superb caving light.

Previous updates were a simple change of LEDs from the same company, increasing output and efficiency while using the same circuitry (I think). It was an easy swap. Unfortunately, the LED manufacturer does not have a better LED to replace the ones currently used in the Sten. This is most likely what "Mr. Sten" is waiting for, because if he were to use an LED with different specifications, the light would have to go through a significant overhaul. I suppose the performance of a Sten has not been eclipsed enough yet to warrant an overhaul, at least in Mr. Sten's mind.

If it were my business and it was a sole source of income for me (which it's probably not for Mr. Sten), I'd strongly consider an upgrade unless the investment was too insurmountable. Reputation and percentage of cavers using the light is important, I think; wait too long and the Sten will slowly be forgotten and it will be harder to get that popularity back.

Long live the Sten!
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Re: What Happened to the Sten?

Postby Cody JW » Jan 8, 2012 7:49 pm

I thought I read somewhere that the new ( in the last year ) Stens were brighter than the previous premiums .I know when the first premium ones came out you were able to update the head piece in the original models. I would imagine if they updated to a new bulb you could just purchase the head piece. I am planning on caving next weekend in Roppel Cave with someone who just got a new Sten for X-mas and will also be with others who have Stens that are a few years old. I will be able to tell then if the newest ones are any brighter. I love the switch on the Stens because it is easy to reach with gloves on. I cannot help but think that if you can get a 700 plus Lumen Zebra H-600 for a reasonable price that Sten could update as well. I know people who have them love them and I believe most would update if it were possible.
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Re: What Happened to the Sten?

Postby Scott McCrea » Jan 9, 2012 8:52 am

Good cave lights are a system. It's not just about how bright it is. It's about how durable, efficient, small/lightweight, versatile and reliable they are. Cost is a big factor, too. A good light is one that you forget about. It is just there and it just works—always. Drop it, freeze it, bang it, sit on it, whatever, it should still work. It should be simple to charge and change batteries. The batteries should be small, lightweight and manageable. The switch should be easy, simple and reliable (not an easy feat of engineering). Of course, it should be bright so you can see large rooms, the top of domes, high leads, etc. But, it should also have great lower-light capabilities for small passage, normal travel thru a cave and personal illumination (messing with gear, digging in pack, sketching, cooking, etc).

Stenlights do a pretty darn good job with all that. There might be some things that could be improved, but even small things can mean big changes in the production process. Tooling and design for the heads, circuit boards, etc is a huge investment.

There have been instances of manufacturers ruining a classic piece of gear for the sake of "improvement." Often the best way to improve something is to make it simpler. I can't think of much that could make a Stenlight simpler.
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Re: What Happened to the Sten?

Postby potholer » Jan 9, 2012 9:00 am

Amazingracer wrote:Many of the new "major" lights shift to a wide/angle spot setup. Seems to be the new thing, and was one of the major reasons I sold my Sten and went with a Scurion. Not for the lumens but for the spot (lumens were reason number 2 lol).

Personally I wonder why that move took so long.
Even if there wasn't any blending allowed, it's not as if there weren't precedents for at least having beamshape choice, like the Duo, or the decades of twin-bulb mining lamps before then.
When I started making/selling twin beam lights in '04, I was fitting them in mining lamp headsets with a 2-way switch, so the twin beam idea was a bit of a no-brainer.
Not doing it would have seemed really odd.

Even just for battery economy reasons, multipower independent beams seem a far better solution.
Why have a flood beam burning high just to look at something in the distance, and why run a spot beam you don't want in confined spaces even if it isn't actively annoying you?
If you can augment a flood with a smidgen of spot you can get a basically floody beam with better reach for a given power input, or get a floody beam of equivalent reach for a lower power input.
That gives an effective efficiency gain which can be large - in my view, for the way I use my light, larger than any likely difference between the best and worst electronics likely to be used.

That said, I think that many people who haven't used an independent-beam light simply don't appreciate what they're missing.
One of my first thoughts looking at a twin-LED light would be what beam blends I could get, but observing quite a lot of people looking at a fixed-blend twin-LED light a while ago, I was amazed that even after a play with it, not one of them asked how they could get one LED on without the other or at least change the balance.
I was waiting for someone to ask, but it just didn't happen.
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Re: What Happened to the Sten?

Postby NZcaver » Jan 9, 2012 3:44 pm

potholer wrote:Why have a flood beam burning high just to look at something in the distance, and why run a spot beam you don't want in confined spaces even if it isn't actively annoying you?

While I generally agree with your logic there, personally I find running two LEDs at the same time (almost regardless of beam shape) can improve my binocular vision and depth perception on uneven ground in a cave. Ultimately I think having the choice to run each LED independently (or simultaneously at different levels) would be the best solution. But... I'm not buying a Scurion.
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Re: What Happened to the Sten?

Postby Carl Amundson » Jan 9, 2012 3:55 pm

NZcaver wrote:
potholer wrote:Why have a flood beam burning high just to look at something in the distance, and why run a spot beam you don't want in confined spaces even if it isn't actively annoying you?

While I generally agree with your logic there, personally I find running two LEDs at the same time (almost regardless of beam shape) can improve my binocular vision and depth perception on uneven ground in a cave. Ultimately I think having the choice to run each LED independently (or simultaneously at different levels) would be the best solution. But... I'm not buying a Scurion.

The Scurion seems to be a great light.
I have seen one in use and it puts out a lot of light, but the cost is very high.
At the low end the Scurion® - 700 runs about $580 US dollars
and the high end Scurion® - 1500 is about $967 US dollars.
A bit out of my price range.

http://www.scurion.ch/jm/images/scurion/docs/Pricelist_Scurion.pdf
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Re: What Happened to the Sten?

Postby rlboyce » Jan 9, 2012 6:54 pm

junkman wrote:A bit out of my price range.

+1
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Re: What Happened to the Sten?

Postby Anonymous_Coward » Jan 9, 2012 7:13 pm

Mr. Sten probably does not see much need to update a light that is still flying off the shelves. Stens may not be as bright as Scurions, but they are plenty bright, half the price and one-fifth as obnoxious.
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Re: What Happened to the Sten?

Postby Jeff Bartlett » Jan 9, 2012 7:32 pm

If Stenlight had a marketing budget, you'd hear about upgrades all the time. Since they built my original "premium" Stenlight (with Rebel LEDs) in late 2007, there have been several circuit board revisions, updated optics and each successive generation/bin of LEDs is brighter and brighter. In fact, Leah's 2010 model is so much brighter than my 2007 model that I'm considering sending mine back to Sten with a blank check to update the guts... since I know a 2012 update will be even brighter than hers is. The overall design hasn't changed, but I don't know of cavers lining up to demand any changes.

Of course, the thing that came out 6+ years ago isn't nearly as sexy as the thing that comes out next month, so have at it. It's still the light I see most frequently on "serious" cavers.
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Re: What Happened to the Sten?

Postby rlboyce » Jan 9, 2012 7:59 pm

Jeff Bartlett wrote:If Stenlight had a marketing budget, you'd hear about upgrades all the time. Since they built my original "premium" Stenlight (with Rebel LEDs) in late 2007, there have been several circuit board revisions, updated optics and each successive generation/bin of LEDs is brighter and brighter. In fact, Leah's 2010 model is so much brighter than my 2007 model that I'm considering sending mine back to Sten with a blank check to update the guts... since I know a 2012 update will be even brighter than hers is. The overall design hasn't changed, but I don't know of cavers lining up to demand any changes.

Of course, the thing that came out 6+ years ago isn't nearly as sexy as the thing that comes out next month, so have at it. It's still the light I see most frequently on "serious" cavers.


I can believe that. I did some checking up on the Rebel specifications. They are actually much more efficient than I realized, with supposedly the same efficacy as the xm-l (albeit at different currents). Numbers can sometimes be deceiving though, so it's hard to tell without an in-depth analysis. It's strange though that they don't appear similar in efficacy when comparing numbers. :shrug:

I'm starting to realize that it's more to do with Sten's small size and thermal limitations than anything else. They could really put some serious emitters in there, but the Sten would fry quitckly. I guess one of its best traits is also its weakness.
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Re: What Happened to the Sten?

Postby Amazingracer » Jan 9, 2012 9:24 pm

rlboyce wrote:I'm starting to realize that it's more to do with Sten's small size and thermal limitations than anything else. They could really put some serious emitters in there, but the Sten would fry quitckly. I guess one of its best traits is also its weakness.


This was kinda my guess as well. To do any "major" changes would require a redesign most likely and the Stens small size is one of its selling points. It packs a lot in a small box.

As Jeffery pointed out about the updates. I didnt realize they were making the incremental changes like that. Makes sense now that I think about it. I dont think the Sten is really going disappear. As far as the best light to money ratio its still the winner by a long shot.
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Re: What Happened to the Sten?

Postby rlboyce » Jan 9, 2012 9:47 pm

Amazingracer wrote: As far as the best light to money ratio its still the winner by a long shot.


Well now, I don't know if I'd go that far. But I will go far enough to say that it's one of a few that agreat for the money. Of course, we've had this discussion more than once before.
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Re: What Happened to the Sten?

Postby Jeff Bartlett » Jan 9, 2012 10:01 pm

Not sure what the board revisions were, but my Rebel stenlight was the last of the D-revision boards; after shipping units marked "E-xxx" for a while, the light I bought my wife in 2010 was an F-revision. Not sure if they're still on F or not. Likewise, not sure if the newer Rebels are 2 bins removed from mine or 5 or... you get the idea. Stenlight still publishes very, very old and incorrect figures on their site and doesn't announce upgrades, so there is a conspicuous absence of hype. I'd love it as much as everyone else if we got some kind of "full disclosure" update on what's going on inside those aluminum head units from year to year.

I think most of the upgrades translate to better efficiency; surely the Turbo setting gets brighter and brighter, but where I see the difference between a 2007 "premium" Sten and a 2010 "premium" Sten is in the middle settings. Medium on the latter approaches High on the former. That translates to better battery performance. Since I don't know what the board revisions are, I don't know if the mA being applied to the emitters has changed to take advantage of higher efficiency LED bins or not; I'd almost assume so if the newer emitters run so much hotter, as I'd imagine that Turbo would thermally limit itself much faster than previous models if not.

This fall, on a 5-day expedition in the Far East branch of Lechuguilla, I came within an hour of being able to make it through the whole trip on one battery. That's an 8 hour trip to camp, three 10-12 hour days of sketching gigantic (100+ feet wide), dark (red flowstone) passage that soaked up light, and 8 hours back to daylight*. Had to change to battery #2 between the Rift and Boulder Falls on the way out. That's why people keep buying them, I think; they're simple, reliable and pretty darn efficient.

* I use a Zebralight at camp, so I'm not including any of the in-camp times here.
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