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Andrew Does a Headlight Comparison - H4 Halogen and LED

3098 Views 59 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  Chip
Here’s a comparison between three popular headlights. The Cibie and Koito H4 halogens (ECE) and the Nolden Gen 1 LED (DOT).

First is a comparison of what they would look like installed. The Koito has a flat face and the Cibie and Nolden have a rounded face. Rounded is classic, but I think the flat face goes well with the Defender’s boxy shape.

Here are some detail photos of the Koito H4. It’s available as a kit with a relay harness from Toyota (for the FJ60) as part # 81110-60P70. (Left shown installed in Defender bucket.)

It has a locking ring to hold the bulb instead of a clip.

Now on to a performance comparison.

First up is the Koito H4.

Low beam. Very uniform pattern. A little more focused than the Cibie and more light directly in front of the vehicle.

Low beam on wall. Diagonal part of the beam on the right goes up higher than the Cibie, which may be more useful for road signage.

High beam. Most uniform pattern of the three.

Next up is the Cibie H4. It’s NLA, but I thought it would be nice to include it because it’s been widely believed to be one of the best H4 halogens.

Low beam. Very uniform and wide pattern. Widest of the three. Sharp cut-off line.

Low beam glare. This image is overexposed, but it’s to show glare at the top of the lens. The Koito and Nolden headlights don’t have any of this top glare. I think it isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s something I noticed.

Low beam on wall

High beam. Bizarre spider web pattern. Probably a lovely match for a weird French car.

Lastly is the Nolden Gen 1 LED (DOT version).

Low beam. Bright and focused. Pretty wide horizontally, but most narrow of the three vertically.

Low beam on wall

High beam. Pretty much opposite of the low beam. The pattern isn’t as cool as the Cibie and not as uniform as the Koito.

Out of these three I decided I like the Koito H4 the best. I love the Japanese old school look and it’s higher quality than the Cibie. The Toyota kit is also a phenomenal deal.
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Helpful for sure, thanks for doing this. I like the Koito H4 the best of what you have presented as well..

I wonder how the classic Hella e-Codes (not the DOT approved Visions) would fair, as well as the IPF H4 replacements? I know people complained about the Hella e-Codes being too thin and cracking to easily, but I have really enjoyed them in my Defender. I run them with 80/100 w bulbs (and a wiring harness of course) and find them to have a nice beam pattern, both high and low.

Not sure if comparative photos are terribly helpful without the same landscape (how many feet from the garage door were you?), but I can try to take some photos (if I remember) the next time I get her out at night.

Also curious about the Holly LEDs that look like H4 headlamps (I really don't care for the designs of most of the LED replacements, the truck lights are about as 'different' as I can imagine installing on a Defender (myself, I'm sure others like them)..
I was about 16 feet from the garage door (I just measured).
I'll see if I can recreate that with the Hella e-Codes. My truck is also lifted about three inches on 285/75's, not sure how that will affect the outcome of the photos at such a short distance..

I'll have to see if I can find a dark road to recreate your other shots. Weather is looking crappy for the next few days (and I'm still tryign to fix my stereo upgrade), so no promises on when I will get to this..

LED retrofits in H4 housings are a waste of time. The technology isn't there yet, and it may never be. Better to use a housing designed around LED from the beginning, or just stick with good halogen bulbs and lamps.
Agree 100%, as I'm sure Chip does as well..
They seem to look pretty good, no?

I personally would steer clear from them as they partnered with Morimoto to make them. They're Chinese and reviews for their previous products haven't been very good. I think it's better to stick with something made in Europe, Japan, or USA.
They are? I thought Morimoto was a Japanese name? I like to steer clear of Chinese companies when I can, so that is discouraging to hear.

Also just noticed they are poly lenses, prefer glass, but I guess most of the LEDS are poly..
I'm pretty sure the answer is they are still not good, but can't help but wonder if these 'shielded' HID retrofits would work well in the the Hella (Or Koito) e-Code Housings..

Okay, so I pulled the truck out after work tonight and snapped a few photos. My driveway slops away from the garage slightly, so I drove the back tires up on planks of wood till the fenders were level (measured with a small bubble level). Unfortunately, there is a small slope to the passenger side as well, so not sure how much that affected the photos.

Photos were taken 16 feet from the garage door, center of the headlamp measured at 38.5" from the ground. Two photos taken standing in the front of the truck, and two from the driver's seat.

I also snapped a couple of shots of low and high beam's up the residential street, but not sure how comparable they are with Chip's photos..


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Those are the ECE Hella H4 headlights? They look good to me. The low beam pattern on the garage door looks similar to the Koito.
Yes sir, 25 y/o Hella e-Codes at that, with 80/100 w Std. Hella Bulbs, and a dual relay wiring harness..

I think if i was further back, the sharpness of the cutoff would be more obvious, but you can definately see the sharp up and to the right cutoff going down backroads...

There is nice dark tree lined drive I will try to line up the headlight shots there, its flat, and no other light, so probably better than the snaps in the neighborhood..
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By the way, I called my local Toyota dealer and they got me another set of Koitos for $58 in 2 days. I think it’s the deal of the century. :) I should have called them first before ordering a set on eBay, but that’s okay. Some online dealers list them for $40, but with shipping it’s more than getting them locally.
That is quite the deal. Bus Depot seems to have the best prices online for both the Koito and Hella e-Codes at $72 and $80 a pair, respectively, so no where near as good a deal..

Who'd have thought buying them from the Toyota dealer would be the cheapest option..

Oh, and Daniel Stern seems to think the Koito's are the best as well.. (He sells them for $180/pr)

"It's a bit of a sad end to a storied brand, but don't fret: compared to the Cibiés even before their downward skid, the Koito large and small round H4/H1 lamps on this page are superior. The Koitos are more efficient (more light on the road), better focused (more useful distribution of light), and better-built (sturdier glass and metal materials, more careful build quality). "

I've thought about upgrading to LED's in the past, but I couldn't bring myself to put their more futuristic look on the Defender, and to be honest, I really can't complain about the lighting performance of my current set-up. Maybe a little whiter light would be nice, but ultimately for visibility, I think most studies show the warmer Halogen light to be better in most conditions anyway..
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I’ve just installed Holley Retrobright. LED headlights (Summit racing $180) on a ‘97 NAS D90. They look great and throw out a good light pattern. I’ve had various “eBay” LED lights on other Defenders which look horrible and one particular set were absolute rubbish beam pattern I threw them away.
I will try and get some pictures of the light pattern of the Holleys.
Curious to hear more about how you like them and see some beam patterns. Did you go for the classic white (3000K) or the Modern White (5700K)? I assume you go them for $180 EACH, but Summit currently lists them for $200 EACH..

We'll be doing an in-house unbiased review of all the headlights we offer in the next few weeks, will post the results.
To Red's point, maybe consider adding a water ingress resistance to the list of tests..
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I'd rather they still be salable after the test haha, but I agree with Red, the sealed LED units are much nicer than having fish tank halogens. Nothing like having to drill relief holes at the bottom
I guess its best not to include tests that are a 'known fail'..

I remember when I installed my Hella's (20+ years ago) that I put a bead of silicone around the perimeter of of the rubber cup (where it meets the housing) as well as around the three prongs that protrude through the rubber cup, but I've never had it in water deep enough to submerge the headlights, so no clue if it would be effective or not.

And if I did I'm sure I'd be more worried about the damage to components in the under seat boxes that water in the headlights. I guess if you have a 300 Tdi, you don't have to worry about the engine ecu and fuel pump/fuel injection relays under the passenger seat when wading..
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