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February 2017    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 43, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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The Latest DEMA Report

a battery-free light, a $1400 BC

from the February, 2017 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

In past years, exhibitors at the Diving Equipment and Marketing Association's (DEMA) show seemed to be chasing the technical or wouldbe technical diver. Last November in Las Vegas, it was refreshing to see more accent on sport divers, with the major part of the show taken up by those competing to be next year's hot destination. That said, every aspect of diving was on display, including many new and interesting products, as well as some quirky ones exhibited. Here's a selection:

Fins, Masks and BCs

Among new diving equipment, there are usually plenty of examples of upgraded designs. Less common are the ideas that catch the imagination, as well as those we see at one DEMA show, but never again!

Aqua Lung Outlaw BCSwes Technology Dive Light. Probably the most portentous product in the DEMA show, the European-made SDL-600 dive light has no battery, but is powered by seawater! Its patented energy cell using graphite and magnesium rods is said to last for 2190 hours, and the lamp itself is rated to 325 feet (100m) deep. Electrolysis powers the 1pc CREE XM-L2 U2, producing a maximum of 1140 lumens. An updated 1800 lumen version is expected to be available in March and is expected to sell for less than $500.

Aqua Lung Outlaw BC is completely modular, allowing the buyer to tailor a perfect fit. It includes two different buoyancy cells, different-length shoulder straps, and single waistband, all of which easily snap together. One can attach differentsized integrated weight pockets, and the BC can be conveniently transported broken down into its constituent parts. With soft D-rings and a daisy chain loop feature for multiple ways to attach gear, it weighs only four pounds (1.8kg) and is expected to cost $389.

Atomic Aquatics BC1. The company known for the highest quality products regardless of cost has come up with a $1400 BC. That's right. $1400. Of a conventional jacket type, it uses a watertight material that gains no weight when wet, has a novel camband that promises to keep a tank forever secure, and has large pockets with covered zips. It might last a lifetime, and for that price, it needs to, but then, perhaps it's for those divers who wish to flaunt their wealth. It's due out later this year.

Indigo Fins. When it comes to fins, every DEMA show has a hopeful company attempting to "build a better mousetrap." This year Indigo Industries exhibited a range of fins -- Apex XT, Shift XT and Defiant XT -- with zip-on alternative blades, both split and paddle, and variable stiffeners, plus foot pockets for either boots or bare feet. They all seem too complex. After all, most divers slip on their fins and hope not to give them a second thought. From $199.

Aria by Ocean Reef. Some people cannot abide getting their faces wet, and that holds them back when it comes to snorkeling. Not new, but improved and gaining acceptance in the marketplace since it was announced last year, the $110 Italian-made, full-face snorkeling mask with a fixed snorkel comes in three sizes and six colors.

Buddy Watcher. Using ultrasound frequencies, this wrist-mounted unit can draw the attention of another diver, or even a group of divers if so equipped, by vibrating and flashing an LED. With a 262-foot (80m) range, it's a discreet method for divers to stay in touch with each other. A pair of units costs around $280.

Nautilus XPEasy Dive Nomad combines a snorkel with a compressed air cylinder that the user can easily switch to when underwater. We consider it hazardous because a snorkeler might too easily hold a breath taken at depth and then ascend unwittingly with a great chance of inducing an air embolism. Complete with a Spare Air cylinder, it's available at $380. We won't list the website because we don't think you should own one.

Nautilus XP and GLH. Why fin kick when you can ride? This tank-mounted propulsion system weighs less than 15 pounds (7kg) and is only 17 inches (43cm) long, so it can slip into your travel luggage. The two small propellers of the GLH each deliver 12 pounds (5.4kg) of thrust, enough to propel a diver for up to 40 minutes. Its remote control allows a diver to reverse out of tight spots. The single- propeller XP has an on-board depth sensor that will maintain a diver's depth. Two battery packs are said to conform with FAA regulations. $1299 and $1999.

Dive Computers

All the usual suspects were present with updated versions of popular dive computers, but there were one or two newcomers.

Shearwater Perdix AI. Shearwater Research has come up with a pricey computer for both technical and sport divers. With a high-resolution, colorful display and two-button interface, it allows air integration by means of a radio transmitter attached to the regulator's first stage. The Perdix AI functions equally well whether you are a vacation diver or use a closed circuit rebreather. It can be linked to the Shearwater Cloud for easy sharing and viewing and editing dive logs on either phone or tablet. It costs $1525 bundled with the transmitter.

Oceanic ProPlus X ComputerCOSMIQ Dive Companion. A $299 dive computer with illuminated color display, it's revolutionary in the way it is sold. Buyers become sales ambassadors, earning referral credits by direct sales to other divers. The unit interconnects with other divers via an app, and you can integrate photos and videos with dive data, with layers of digital possibilities on-line.

Oceanic ProPlus X Computer is a step backward in that it is a hose-connected gas-integrated computer, but in other ways, it is the latest thing. Its display employs thin film technology (TFT) to give a variable brightness multi-color display without demanding too much from the rechargeable lithium battery. The diver has a choice of algorithms to monitor deeper diving. A digital compass completes the deal. A quick disconnect means it can be safely taken away from a rigged regulator while the tank is being filled. Reminiscent of the Atomic Cobalt, it will be less expensive.

Ratio Color-Coded Transmitter. This wireless transmitter for Ratio gas-integrated computers has an LED that reveals your tank pressure to other interested divers. Green is good, yellow can be set for a reserve pressure, while red indicates empty. While perhaps useful to instructors managing more than one trainee, we suspect many divers will want to keep details of their heavy air usage to themselves. It can also be supplied as a head-up display when attached to a regulator second-stage.

Underwater Photography Gear

This is the big growth section of the diving industry, spearheaded now by the phenomenal GoPro. Rivaling that, the cameras of smart phones like iPhones are starting to be utilized on dives, once in a suitable underwater housing.

ProShot CaseGoPro Hero 5 Black is the latest incarnation of the popular POV camera, which now can be used down to 33 feet (10m) without any secondary housing. The built-in one-touch LCD screen, an improvement over the Hero 4, can be used as a viewfinder or for playback and for adjusting settings. The Hero 5 Black is much more intuitive than previous models. Image stabilization is a standard feature, together with voice commands -- of no use underwater, of course. With a Supersuit underwater housing, you can take the Hero 5 Black to 195 feet (60m). The best news of all -- at less than $400, the price is lower than the Hero 4!

ProShot Case. It's amazing how phone cameras have swept away the popularity of compact cameras. Among the underwater housings for iPhone 6/6S and iPhone 7 at DEMA, this one interfaces with the majority of GoPro mounting accessories, and for less than $100 includes a wide-angle lens. Another $40 will get you a 151° fisheye lens to increase the angle-of-view of your iPhone camera.

Vals Tech LenzO. This iPhone 6/6S case has a dome port, which restores the lens' original fieldof- view, and two internal color-correction filters. You will also have access to all the iPhone functions including the 4K mode and the on/off switch to save battery life. Depth-rated to 330 feet (100m), it's priced at $295. An iPhone 7 version is on the way.

Polar Pro Triton LED Tray. This new submersible lighting rig for GoPro and its imitators includes a tray and two grips that are each equipped with a 500-lumen video light, as well as built-in batteries. Expected to sell for less than $200, it will be less expensive than anything comparable.

Voice-in-the-Sea Narrator. If you want to add a commentary to your underwater GoPro footage while shooting, the Narrator allows you to record directly to your camera, though you'll sound like a tinny Great War U-boat captain speaking through a tube. It may simply look like a flexible plastic tube, but they'll sell for around $40.

iBubble Camera DroneParalenz Dive Camera. With a target price of $599, this precision little Danish unit starts recording as soon as it goes underwater. Watertight to 650 feet (200m), it uses clever programming to adjust the white balance for color-corrected pictures according to depth. But it's more than just a camera. The Paralenz app generates a time, temperature and depth graph linked to the recordings (either still pictures or live action) and this information can be embedded as an overlay. When combined with an iPhone, the footage can be shared with the click of a button. Its rechargeable battery is said to be good for more than two hours. Two hundred divers in 35 countries have tested it.

iBubble Camera Drone. This autonomous underwater drone from France promises to follow you on a dive and record the ultimate underwater selfie. It's wireless, rated to 200 feet (60m) deep, and has two 1000 lumen lights. It automatically avoids underwater obstacles, has image stabilization, a one-hour battery life and automatically returns to the diver who wears the control bracelet when it is out of battery life. But wait. It's still under development so you can only pre-order it on IndieGoGo ($1899), with delivery expected hopefully in September 2017. But always bear in mind a lot of IndieGoGo products never make it.

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