The Prebit R1-1 NV Golden Gloss, Glass Brown, Dimmable, Warm white led lamp
After nearly 8 years Doolittle’s original Cantalupi bunk lights were looking a bit worse for wear. The lacquer that protected the brass finish had come off in patches and where the brass was exposed to the air the colour had changed from gold to silver. These lights were not even real brass, they just had a thin coating of something. They looked OK when they were new but now they just looked really scruffy. And since they were not even brass they couldn’t even be polished. All I could do was paint them but that was not a very pleasant option.
It was time to replace the lights. Because we live on the boat it’s nice to have good lighting so I decided I wanted to try and buy something of real quality that would hopefully last a bit longer than 8 years or could at least be polished when it looked tired. The search was long. There is a staggering array of choice for bunk lights. There are also many companies who make lights but nothing I could find looked any better than the old ones.
Then I came across a German company called Prebit who make a range of high quality lamps with Led bulbs. I chose their R1 design as it is the closest to the size of lamp I had before although I decided to go with their glass shade option which illuminates when the lamp is on. One of the problems with the lamps I had before was that they were very directional with their metal shades and I wanted something that would spread light around the boat a bit more evenly.
They are beautifully made in solid brass and then gold plated. Gold might seem a bit extravagant but it is very resistant to the marine environment. They certainly have a lovely finish and a very high gloss. The hand painted (every one is slightly different) glass shade is white on the inside and brown on the outside. During the day the shades appear a uniform brown but when the lamp is on it glows with a pleasant colour and the striped pattern becomes visible.
Fitting the lamps was straightforward. The bases are a bit narrower than the old ones so there is a slight ring of darker coloured teak showing now but it will fade soon enough and in a couple of months will hardly notice. I was fortunate that I was able to use the same mounting holes as the old lamps. The new lamp has a metal mounting bracket, not a plastic one as with the old lights. This gives a much more solid base. The lamp body is held to this bracket by a couple of countersunk screws which pull the lamp body tight to the surface effectively locking the lamp to the wall. The tiny Allen key screws were fiddly to fit as the body needs to be touching the wall before you can get the screw to thread but once tight are almost invisible. The lamp is held very well and there is no play at all. This is a vast improvement over the old ones which always wobbled. Each lamp comes with its own Allen key. Even wiring the lamps was easy as there is a fitted block clearly marked + and – all you need is a small screwdriver.
Visible here is the push button that switches on and dims the lamp. The software was designed by Prebit. Almost invisible is the small countersunk Allen screw in the side that holds the lamp to the surface. Very tidy. Note also how snug the lamp base fits to the surface. The mounted lamp is very solid and has no play.
The lamps articulate and can be rotated to almost 180 degrees and pulled out to 90 degrees. What this means is that the lamps can be pointed in almost any desired direction. Because they are so solidly mounted they turn easily and the action is smooth and quiet. The old lamps used to squeak when being turned.
Press the button on the front and the lamps illuminate with a soft start. This is a nice touch. Naturally when you turn them off they simply fade down to nothing. If you want to dim the lamp simply hold the button down. When you release your finger the lamp stops dimming. The lamp always turns on using the previous dimmed setting. What is interesting is that the supply can be cut and the lamps will still remember what level they were at before.
The colour of the light is very warm, partly due to the led itself and partly due to the warmth of the light shade. The effect on the boat is quite something. The ambiance has changed and the boat feels warmer and more relaxing. The lamps give off plenty of light. When they are pointed at the ceiling, they reflect the light and the boat can be well illuminated without having any light in your eyes. This is important. With the old lamps I was constantly having to move them so that they did not shine in my eyes. Because the bulbs are deep within the new ones they do not suffer the same issue.
This shows the lamp’s glass shade illuminated. The lamp is dimmed.
Used as reading lamps they have a fairly narrow beam but the light is intense and very effective. Quite literally head and shoulders above the old lamps with the added advantage of being able to dim them to suit. The dimmer allows the light to be reduced by 90% which is excellent for night sailing. It means that the on watch crew can come below and switch on a lamp without disturbing the off watch crew or ruining their night vision.
One surprising thing is that the bulbs cannot be changed! They are made by Phillips for Prebit and are very small and flat. They are quite unlike the bulbs I have been using. Slightly concerned, I contacted the company I bought the lamps from asking about this. The reply I got said that they have been using these bulbs since 2009 and have not had any failures. I asked about the intensity of the light fading as I have seen this with leds too. I was told that the bulbs will not fade and they will last 50,000 hours. That’s confidence for you! Only time will tell if this is true.
The non replaceable bulb. This shot was taken with the lamp dimmed down to 10%. Although the bulbs are supplied by Phillips they have Prebit printed on the PCB. Just three tiny bulbs yet they give off a surprising amount of light
Considering how bright they are they take very little power. With all 4 on at full power they consume 1.4 amp/hrs which is more than the old lamps but then they are much brighter and in any case this is not a lot of power for such a lot of light. If I wish to reduce power consumption, all I have to do is dim the lights. The power used goes down proportionally as the lights dim. The head of the lamps gets quite warm when the lamps are set on max brightness but the bulbs themselves and the glass shade remain cool.
Apart from the bulb the entire lamp is made by Prebit. They even designed the software that controls the lamp. There is no flickering when the lamps are dimmed, even when reduced right down but they do make a very slight buzzing sound. The noise is audible but whether this will be annoying on very quiet nights remains to be seen.
A lovely warm glow from the hand painted glass shades
This is a beautiful product. It is made in Germany. The finish is superb. The action of the moving parts is quiet and smooth. The articulation is very good. The lamps mount very solidly to the surface. They are easy to connect. They look really nice during the day and especially at night.
The light is warm and bright and the hand painted shades give off a friendly glow. The push button operation is simple and effective and easy to use. The lamps always remember the last setting they were on.
Of course these lights are not cheap but I do think they represent good value. Because they are made of solid brass if they ever start to look a bit rough, at least they can be polished so in theory at least they should last much longer than the cheap ones I had before.
What Prebit have done is to take the humble reading lamp and completely redesign it using the best technologies available to create a truly fabulous lamp. Lighting has come on in the last few years thanks to led bulbs. We’ve come a mighty long way from the caveman’s fire to touch button led lighting!