In car headlights there are two different basic types, projection and reflection systems. The differences between the two have an impact on choosing the best lamp. It’s quite easy to tell which type is installed.
No, the basic types are not halogen, xenon or LED. All three light sources can be used both in projection as well as reflection. Projection systems are very easy to identify because one of the essential parts is a projector lens. It’s like the ones found in a film or slide projector because the light distribution is similar. The second characteristic feature is that the lamp is not visible from the outside. That’s because it sits behind the projector lens.
Projector or optical lens headlights have been around since the 1980s. They are quite widespread because in addition to dipped and high beam they provide other features. These include different light distributions for cities, country roads and highways, and also cornering lights.
Reflection systems have been around for a lot longer. They got their name from the reflector, which is also their characteristic feature. It’s visible from the outside and focuses the light. Today it’s also responsible for light distribution. In old headlights, the latter still takes place in a diffuser through which the reflector can’t be seen quite as well as through modern clear lenses.
Even though reflection systems have provided light for nighttime driving since the beginning of the automotive age, they’re still not outdated. Big reflector headlights especially are at least equal to projection systems, if not superior. This is particularly true when they have upgrade lamps in them, the design of which supports the operating principle. In Osram’s range that’s the lamps from the Night Breaker series. They’ve been optimized for the highest possible luminance. In other words, their brightest points are quite small. This means that the optical properties of the reflector and the diffuser can focus the light on the important areas on the road.
This optical process doesn’t work in headlights with lenses, i.e. projection systems. Here, the lens and other components ensure that the light is perfectly distributed to the right areas. For higher performance you would need a higher luminous flux. That is limited by licensing regulations though. They do allow a tolerance of ten percent to simplify production. Manufacturers which are in control of their equipment – like Osram – can get quite close to the upper tolerance limit. That’s what happens with the lamps in the Silverstar 2.0 series which are also the best choice for more light in projector headlights.
All the things mentioned so far apply to halogen headlights. It’s different for the ones with xenon technology. With upgrade lamps, those with reflectors allow a change only in color temperature. When it comes to the actual light output they are at the limit of what is legally permissible – as is generally the case with xenon. Projection systems, on the other hand, can benefit from lamps in the Xenarc Night Breaker range. Once again, Osram is making the most of permissible tolerances. This time it doesn’t happen with the luminous flux but the positioning of the arc.
By the way, only brand manufacturers which are in perfect control of their entire production process – and any potential deviations – can reliably exhaust tolerances. With others the result usually leads to more glare, while the advantages for your own visibility haven’t even been proven.