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February 2007 Vol. 22, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Getting the LEDs Out

from the February, 2007 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Dive lights using LEDs (light-emitting diodes) provide a good alternative to traditional halogen/filament bulbs. According to Britain’s DIVE magazine, LEDs may not match filament bulbs in output but they do offer much reduced power requirements and generate virtually no heat. As a result, they give much longer burn times, even the inexpensive alkaline AA-size batteries. This keeps the size down to allow them to be kept unobtrusively in a BC pocket, ready for use when needed. The light output is much easier on the eye over long periods. The LEDs themselves are virtually indestructible and claim a life of around 100,000 hours.

Underwater photographer Peter Rowlands tested a dozen LED “torches” (as the Brits call them), and several ranked 9 out of 10 for superior light output, duration and construction (basically aluminum or plastic, which is cheaper and lighter but more prone to flooding in Rowlands’ experience). Here’s what he had to say about his top choices on sale in the U.S.:

The Underwater Kinetics Sunlight C8 eLED was the largest light tested as it takes eight C-size batteries. The eLED circuitry, like the MiniQ40 eLED described below, maintains a constant voltage for consistent output throughout the battery’s life. The lantern design is much more like a traditional diver’s light and the output is very impressive, with two power settings to provide longer burn times. The lens cover is well recessed and protected by a rigid plastic cover. The molded handle sits nicely in the hand and the on/off switch is ergonomically positioned for easy use. If you already own a C8, you only have to buy the eLED module to upgrade, and you can use alkaline batteries as well as an optional rechargeable NiCad pack.

The Underwater Kinetics MiniQ40 looks different from others tested and it is, because unlike the rest, it has voltage control circuitry incorporated to keep the brightness at maximum during the battery life. The front bezel is protected by a rigid rubber cover for increased impact protection, and a mask strap is supplied to mount the MiniQ40 on the side of your head, if required. The main O-ring seal is fatter than most, thereby offering an increased sealing area. Both Underwater Kinetics lights in this test are ‘retrofit,’ so if you already own a conventional light you can convert it to eLED by buying just the lamp module.

The Aquatec Aqua-Star is a stylish, machined-aluminum light that would survive life in a BC pocket yet still be ready for use when required. The front port is recessed for protection, and the double O-ring seal is reassuring and easy to maintain. The rotary on/off switch control is very precise, requiring only a tendegree rotation and, being at the rear, would lend itself as an excellent focus light on a camera system. The Aqua-Star torch represents excellent value for money and, because of the photographic connection, is my favorite.

The Dive Rite LED had me fooled at first — then I read the instructions! The front bezel has to be screwed down fully counterclockwise, through the on position, to turn it off. You then rotate it clockwise to turn it on. This is the opposite of the others tested. The result is a good design which would be okay to turn on and off underwater. The seven-LED array provides a slightly bluer light and the burn time with four AA batteries is very impressive. The built-in rubber handgrip is also a nice touch. The Dive Rite LED is a good backup torch and preferable to the other small plastic ones.

Traveling divers with concerns about baggage weight limits might find smaller (and generally) lighter LED lights the way to go.

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