We tested 17 new dive and video lights

Scuba Diving - - CONTENTS -

We shine a light on 17 new dive and video lights; see which mod­els earned Testers Choice and Best Buy honors.

BIG BLUE TL 4800 P PRICE $479.99 CON­TACT big­blue­di­ve­

Test-diver com­ments about the TL4800P ranged from “great beam” to “holy crap, is this bright,” and no won­der. Its quadru­ple-led light head de­liv­ers a tight, 10-de­gree beam with more il­lu­mi­na­tion in our lab test than any other dive light. In fact, high power can be a lit­tle too much; for­tu­nately, you can step it down to 50 per­cent, 25 per­cent and even 10 per­cent (there’s also an SOS flash mode) with a press of the push-but­ton switch. With four recharge­able Li-ions and an alu­minum body 6 inches long, it’s a lit­tle chunky. But it took very good ergo scores in our test us­ing the lantern han­dle. (One gripe: The han­dle puts the lighted switch on the bot­tom, out of sight.) With oo­dles of well­con­trolled power and a ter­rific beam, the Big­blue TL4800P is our Testers Choice for large dive lights.


To be fair, test­ing the Nova 2100 solely as a dive light is like put­ting a Swiss Army knife into a string-cut­ting con­test. With a pow­er­ful 15-de­gree spot/65-de­gree flood beam (and com­bi­na­tions of both) and equipped with a pis­tol grip and two video mounts, the Nova 2100 is prac­ti­cally a one-stop shop for dive and video light­ing. The push-but­ton switch (with lighted bat­tery-level dis­play) lets you choose from 100 per­cent or 50 per­cent flood, 100 per­cent spot, 50 per­cent flood plus 75 per­cent spot, 25 per­cent flood plus 50 per­cent spot, as well as strobe and SOS flash modes. The many op­tions left us some­times tog­gling through the menu for the best se­lec­tion — hence very good scores for beam shape and light out­put, but just a good score for ease of use. Pricey, rugged and ver­sa­tile, it can han­dle dive, photo or video du­ties.


The R30’s pro­file re­minds us of an old-fash­ioned night watch­man’s light, or as one test diver wrote, “like a cave­man’s club.” But in the wa­ter, divers had lit­tle but praise for the R30 and its func­tional beam that can be ad­justed from 12 to 75 de­grees by twist­ing the light head. The slid­ing mag­netic switch was rated ex­cel­lent, tak­ing top score in its cat­e­gory for ease of op­er­a­tion. The R30 is pow­ered by a recharge­able Li-ion that can be eas­ily re­moved, as well as charged while in the light by re­mov­ing the tail piece. It’s a handy fea­ture, but be sure you don’t ac­ci­den­tally loosen the tail while twist­ing the light head un­der­wa­ter. One gripe was its lim­ited set­tings, with just two power lev­els plus a flash; it’s so bright, some divers wanted an ex­tra step down. Pow­er­ful, ver­sa­tile and af­ford­able, the Seac R30 is our Best Buy.


Pow­ered by four AAS, the Lumia has a beam that seems a lit­tle yel­lowy top­side but sur­prised divers with its even, pen­e­trat­ing cov­er­age un­der­wa­ter. The slid­ing switch op­er­ates eas­ily, is placed just right and snaps locked, in both the on and off po­si­tions, help­ing to avoid ac­ci­den­tally dis­charg­ing in a BC pocket. The Lumia tech­ni­cally has two power lev­els, but switch­ing be­tween them re­quires un­screw­ing the light head and slid­ing a switch. On high power, it au­to­mat­i­cally switches off af­ter three min­utes to pre­serve bat­ter­ies (af­ter 60 min­utes on low), so you need to slide the switch off and then on again; we kept it set on the lower power level. Test divers wished the Lumia had a choice of power lev­els and a flash mode but thought its size made it ideal as a backup light.

LIGHT & MO­TION GOBE 800 SPOT FC PRICE $150 CON­TACT ligh­tand­mo­

One of the bright­est lights in its cat­e­gory, the Gobe earned very good scores across the board. The 12-de­gree cone evenly il­lu­mi­nates a wide area with a gen­tle falloff and was de­scribed by one diver as “dif­fuse, but with lots of light to go around.” Three pri­mary power modes of­fer a use­ful range of in­cre­ments and are eas­ily con­trolled. An aux­il­iary mode, ac­cessed by hold­ing down the but­ton for two sec­onds, of­fers a low-power beam and SOS flash. A dig­i­tal switch-lock pre­vents un­wanted ac­ti­va­tion, and a col­ored light in­di­cates the sta­tus of the fac­tory-sealed recharge­able bat­tery. The torch has just enough heft to give it a nice sense of qual­ity, and the tex­tured, rub­ber pan­els al­low for a com­fort­able grip. It’s com­pat­i­ble with sev­eral in­ter­change­able light heads and has a tri­pod mount.


Just over 5 inches long, the lit­tle 3RZ packs a lot of fea­tures into its alu­minum body, in­clud­ing a mag­netic switch with a slid­ing lock to pre­vent ac­ci­den­tal ac­ti­va­tion and a charg­ing port for its re­place­able lithium bat­tery (ac­cessed by un­screw­ing the tail sec­tion to plug in a USB charger). But best is its zoom fea­ture, which lets you ad­just the beam an­gle any­where from 12 to 75 de­grees by ro­tat­ing the light head. That helped it take the top score among com­pact lights for beam size and shape. It has two wellspaced power lev­els, plus a flash mode. While this sounds like nit­pick­ing for a com­pact light, some divers found it a bit too small to be handy, with its knurled han­dle (only about ¾ inch in di­am­e­ter and less than 3 inches long) not that easy to grip by divers with big­ger mitts.


The Gen­e­sis fea­tures all of the ba­sics of a func­tional, reli­able torch. Our test divers found it plenty bright in the wa­ter, rat­ing it very good for beam size and shape and good for light out­put. “Bright with a nice color,” one diver noted about the light’s wide, evenly lit beam. Some divers felt that the two power lev­els were too sim­i­lar and the light could have used some ad­di­tional set­tings, but they ap­pre­ci­ated hav­ing an SOS flash and the in­di­ca­tor light that en­cir­cles the push but­ton. Though some testers felt that the edges near the switch were sharper than they needed to be, the divers rated the light very good for com­fort and se­cu­rity. “Good size and weight,” one tester noted. Prince­ton Tec’s Gen­e­sis also comes with a hand-mount, giv­ing you the op­tion for a dif­fer­ent grip.


Dive lights don’t come much less ex­pen­sive than the League. Its sin­gle power set­ting and four AA bat­ter­ies feel a bit an­ti­quated com­pared to some of the more-ad­vanced lights in our test, but divers found it to be both ca­pa­ble and com­fort­able. “Liked much bet­ter than I ex­pected,” was a com­ment typ­i­cal of test divers’ re­ac­tions to the hum­ble torch. The beam is dif­fuse with some vis­i­ble halo but scored well for its reach. The on/off switch couldn’t be eas­ier to op­er­ate and in­cor­po­rates a handy, un­ob­tru­sive lock­ing mech­a­nism. The in­jec­tion-molded plas­tic body is sur­pris­ingly com­fort­able and pro­vides an er­gonomic one-handed grip. The lack of an emer­gency strobe would make us hes­i­tant to take this as our pri­mary, but the League makes a sturdy, in­ex­pen­sive backup.


The com­pact R3 was cho­sen by many divers as a fa­vorite and was sec­ond only to our Testers Choice. The beam mea­sured slightly over its rated out­put in our ob­jec­tive test and was rated very good for its light out­put. One tester com­mented: “Good pen­e­tra­tion. Lots of light. Like the beam color.” The two power lev­els and emer­gency strobe are ac­ti­vated by what testers de­scribed as a “solid, re­spon­sive” mag­netic push-switch that tied the top score for ease of use. The switch is stiff enough to make it un­likely — but not im­pos­si­ble — to turn on the light while in a pocket. The trum­pet­like shape makes it a lit­tle awk­ward to hold on land but less so in wa­ter. Some divers wished the light had a coat­ing on the grip in­stead of a me­tal sur­face but oth­er­wise found it com­fort­able and se­cure.

SEAL­IFE SEA DRAGON MINI 900 PRICE $79.95, not in­clud­ing bat­tery CON­TACT seal­ife-cam­

Divers over­whelm­ingly chose the Mini 900 as their fa­vorite com­pact, and it’s easy to see why; the light led the pack in nearly ev­ery cat­e­gory. “It has it all,” as one diver put it. The pow­er­ful beam was rated very good for color, bright­ness and pen­e­tra­tion, and can step down to hal­for quar­ter-power. Cycling through the power lev­els and two emer­gency strobes (one SOS) is a no-brainer. Testers also ap­pre­ci­ated the col­ored bat­tery in­di­ca­tor. The light is small and straight, but its an­odized-alu­minum con­struc­tion and tex­tured grip helped it sit nicely in the hand. It might seem mi­nor, but the chintzy lan­yard felt at odds with the light’s over­all qual­ity. For its bal­ance of size, er­gonomics and per­for­mance, the Sea Dragon Mini 900 is our Testers Choice.

UK MINI-Q40 MK2 PRICE $60 CON­TACT uwki­net­

The reli­able lit­tle Q40 has been around long enough to have gone through mul­ti­ple re­designs and up­dates, but its lat­est makeover bumps up its light out­put and adds a push-but­ton tail switch. Crisp, se­cure and sim­ple to op­er­ate, the switch helped the MK2 tie the top score for ease of use. The new switch makes the MK2 a bit longer and some­what less tidy for use with the in­cluded sil­i­cone mask strap. But a big plus is it also al­lows sim­ple one-handed op­er­a­tion rather than the two-handed process needed for the older twist-on mod­els. The MK2’S tight, even beam was rated very good for size and shape, and for out­put, tak­ing the top scores for Aa-pow­ered lights. But the MK2’S sin­gle power level and its lack of an emer­gency flash mode hurt its over­all score.

XS SCUBA LT 3 5 0 PRICE $110, $125 with snap clip CON­TACT xss­cuba .com

Sim­ple and in­tu­itive, the LT350’S mag­netic slid­ing dim­mer-switch tied top score for ease of use. At its high­est out­put, testers ap­pre­ci­ated the far-reach­ing beam with its hot cen­ter and soft halo, but they also liked its lower set­tings — which can step all the way down to a mere 10 lu­mens so you can do things such as il­lu­mi­nate your test slate with­out blow­ing out your eye­balls. “Love how dim it will go,” one diver noted. Be­tween ex­tremes, testers felt that the dim­mer switch of­fered lit­tle vari­a­tion and jumped be­tween low and high too quickly. It also lacks an emer­gency flash. The alu­minum body has a tex­tured han­dle that scored very well for com­fort and se­cu­rity. We tested the LT with its op­tional snap clip, a con­ve­nient fea­ture for backup duty.

AQUALITE PRO 100° PRICE $200 CON­TACT uwki­net­

The Aqualite Pro is just 5 inches long but sur­pris­ingly pow­er­ful. In our ob­jec­tive test, it put out well over the man­u­fac­turer’s claimed out­put of 1,200 lu­mens — although it dropped off steeply af­ter an hour’s dis­charge. The 100-de­gree beam doesn’t reach far, but it il­lu­mi­nates ev­ery­thing within its range with an even, white light. Mov­ing be­tween the four bright­ness lev­els is done by spin­ning the ro­tat­ing switch on the back of the light. The knob can be a lit­tle stiff, but the de­sign makes it easy to change set­tings from be­hind your cam­era rig. There is an in­cluded SOS flash for emer­gen­cies, but you’ll want to take a look at the man­ual and prac­tice be­fore you need it be­cause the process for ac­ti­vat­ing the strobe isn’t ex­actly in­tu­itive. The light also comes with a col­lapsi­ble cam­era mount ca­pa­ble of hold­ing two lights and a com­pact cam­era.

BIG­BLUE V L4 0 0 0 P PRICE $353.99 CON­TACT big­blue­di­ve­

Slightly smaller than a can of Red Bull, the VL4000P is full of en­ergy thanks to the chunky Li-ion bat­tery in­side. Six LEDS out­put a wide, 120-de­gree-an­gle beam of even, white light. “Will light up the whole cav­ern,” one diver com­mented about its ex­cel­lent il­lu­mi­nat­ing abil­i­ties. The but­ton to switch be­tween the set­tings ( 100 per­cent, 50 per­cent, 25 per­cent and 10 per­cent power, as well as an emer­gency strobe) fea­tures a col­ored bat­tery-in­di­ca­tor light. The light also has a red LED mode, a nice sec­ondary func­tion that can help you get close to skit­tish crea­tures or fo­cus your cam­era. The light comes with a yel­low fil­ter and a ball joint for cam­era use. It also comes with a hand-mount glove, but divers found the alu­minum body was com­fort­able and er­gonomic even in their bare hands. “Wish Big­blue made a dive-light ver­sion,” one test diver wrote.

SEAL­IFE S E A D R AG O N 4 5 0 0 PRICE $699.95 CON­TACT seal­ife-cam­

This hefty light packs a punch befi tting its size. In our ob­jec­tive test, the Sea Dragon pumped out an in­sanely bright 4,742 lu­mens. In the wa­ter, its bril­liance didn’t di­min­ish. “For when you ab­so­lutely, pos­i­tively, have to light up the en­tire ocean,” one test diver noted. This sub­ma­rine sun has fi ve bright­ness set­tings — in­clud­ing an auto mode — that are eas­ily cy­cled through with a push of the but­ton. De­signed for pho­tog­ra­phy as well as video use, this light fea­tures a flash-de­tec­tion mode that dims the light when a strobe is de­tected; while not its in­tended use, we also found it handy for checking our gauges quickly with­out com­pletely blow­ing out our eye­balls. The light head in­cludes YS adapters for stan­dard mount­ing sys­tems and Seal­ife’s Flex-con­nect sys­tem. If you’re ever left at sea, the strobe func­tion should help at­tract at­ten­tion.

DIVE RITE HP50 PRICE $1,175 as tested CON­TACT di­

The two can­is­ters in our test look out­wardly sim­i­lar and share char­ac­ter­is­tics (scads of light, rugged alu­minum con­struc­tion, and looong burn times), but they’re dif­fer­ent in the de­tails. The HP50 has a mod­u­lar de­sign, with a light head that can be used ei­ther with a can­is­ter or a wire­less bat­tery pack that cre­ates a pow­er­ful, com­pact hand-mount light just 6 inches long (our combo test set in­cluded both). The HP50’S ro­tary mag­net switch — mounted on the light head in easy reach — gives a choice of three well-spaced power lev­els plus a strobe. The quick-re­lease hand-mount was rated ex­cel­lent, but best of all was the HP50’S bril­liant 10-de­gree beam. “Best dive light I’ve ever used,” com­mented one test diver. Also avail­able with can­is­ter only ($995) or hand­held only ($699).

HOL­LIS LED 1200 PRICE $899.95 CON­TACT hol­

The LED 1200’s alu­minum can­is­ter is 9 inches long and comes con­fig­ured for stan­dard or side­mount use. The switch is a tog­gle on the can­is­ter top that op­er­ates with a crisp, au­di­ble snap that divers found sat­is­fy­ing. The choices are on or off, and while that made its op­er­a­tion sim­ple, some divers wished they could step down the power be­cause it can be over­whelm­ing with close ob­jects. Oth­er­wise its beam and out­put were rated very good, draw­ing praise for deep pen­e­tra­tion in clear wa­ter with just a bit of sus­pended ma­te­rial. As one tester noted, “You can see to the back of the cave with this baby.” The can­is­ter is rated for five hours of burn time; while we tested can­is­ters only up to four hours, the LED 1200 was ac­tu­ally put­ting out slightly more light af­ter four hours than with a full charge.

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