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Welcome to Dive Gear Reviews, a comprehensive guide to scuba diving equipment. Scuba diving is an expensive pursuit, so looking up reviews for a particular article of equipment is a wise precaution before investing any hard-earned money in it. However, consumer reviews may or may not be written by an experienced diver, and magazine reviews could be suspect due to the advertising ties of the publication in question. Dive Gear Reviews provides cross-referenced reviews assembled by an expert, making it possible to see at a glance what multiple sources said about a particular piece of scuba equipment. If one magazine loved a scuba regulator or a dive computer, but the consumers hated it, that information will be found here.
11
January

Product Guide: Dive Lights

Written by Dive Gear Reviews Editor. Comments Off on Product Guide: Dive Lights Posted in: Dive Lights, Scuba Product Guides
Dive with dive light.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Dive lights (sometimes also called underwater flashlights) arguably rank first among scuba diving accessories. After the absolutely necessary dive gear (regulator, mask, wetsuit, fins, BCD) comes the dive light, because without it a diver needs a rental to participate in night dives and even basic cave and wreck penetrations. Divers in low visibility areas need illumination even in moderate depths, and dive lights are also useful in underwater photography. Most recreational divers get by on one dive light, but anyone who makes regular use of their underwater flashlights typically carries a primary and a secondary light.

Like most types of scuba gear, dive lights now come in a diverse and sometimes confusing range of shapes, sizes and formats. For scuba divers buying their first or even second dive light, sorting through these options requires a little background information on the dive light features available on the market.

Requirements?
All divers should start with a primary dive light. This dive light should maximize light, creating a wide, strong beam. However, that does not necessarily mean a primary dive light should be the strongest, biggest light available. The point of night diving is to see the nocturnal sea life, which a huge, blinding beam of light might scare away. The sort of illumination an avid cave diver might want is therefore at least partially self-defeating for a night diver on a reef in tropical waters. Most recreational divers should choose a middling dive light to serve as their primary, and not the most powerful product they can find.

Secondary lights are back-ups, and therefore should be compact. Since these lights only come out after the primary has failed, they should maximize small size and ease of storage on a BCD over power.

Light Formats

Princeton Tec Miniwave LED dive light

The Princeton Tec Miniwave LED dive light is a good example of a middling primary dive light. Credit: Editor

One of the most important features of a dive light is the type of bulb it uses. LED bulbs are the most expensive, but very popular because they put out a lot of light for very little power, last on average 300 times longer than a conventional bulb, and are quite robust. The LED is fast becoming the standard for dive lights, but other bulb formats are still available. Old fashioned dive lights often use halogen, xenon or tungsten bulbs, which are much cheaper but also more power-hungry, have less stamina and are somewhat fragile. In between are HID bulbs, which are cheaper then LEDs and put out more light and with greater efficiency than tungsten or halogen bulbs.

Compare Princeton’s Shockwave II and Shockwave LED. Both use 8 C batteries, yet while the Shockwave II uses a xenon bulb that produces 205 lumens for 10 hours, the LED version produces 400 lumens for 20 hours. The xenon bulb is more fragile, but also cheaper and easier to replace.

Basic Format
The two most basic dive light formats are the pistol-grip, style and the classic flashlight, tube-shaped style. In terms of grip, the benefits of one style over another is purely a matter of diver preference. In terms of performance, flashlight-style dive lights are limited by the need for the diver to be able to get her hand wrapped around the tube. The more powerful the flashlight, the longer the tube and that is sometimes awkward when not in use the light is hanging by a diver’s side. Also, single, extremely powerful bulbs are more expensive than a collection of smaller bulbs, and offer none of the advantages of redundancy. For this reason, flashlight-style dive lights are subject to the law of diminishing returns: with more power, they become less practical.

Pistol-grip style dive lights sidestep these issues by mounting the light and battery capsule above the grip. These dive lights can be big and yet still reasonably compact.

The two odd-ducks in terms of basic format are the head lamp and the canister light. A canister light places the batteries into a pack which is clipped onto a belt or BCD, and connected to the light by a cable. These lights are always very powerful. Head lamps have the singular advantage of leaving both the diver’s hands free, but because of their position are usually not as bright as a mid-sized primary dive light.

Depth Rating
Always check the depth rating before purchasing a dive light. Some manufacturers make waterproof flashlights and market them as dive lights. Such lights might be perfect for snorkelers, but cannot reach even the basic OW limit of 60 feet without rupturing a seal. When in doubt, choose a different dive light.

Batteries and Other Features
The power supply is no small issue for a dive light. Most lights use conventional batteries, enabling the diver to choose between alkalines and rechargeables (usually NiMH batteries). Some mini-dive lights use less common batteries, however, which should be taken into account before purchasing the dive light. A dive trip is to the Andaman Islands is no time to discover that only well-equipped hardware stores stock 6-volt lantern batteries.

A handy feature for any dive light is a safety switch, as it prevents the dive light from being turned on by accident. In dim, but not dark conditions, a dive light could be on and dangle below and behind a diver for a long time before it is noticed, wasting battery power and bulb life the entire time.