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January 2019    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 34, No. 1   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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What’s What at the Latest DEMA Show

and do you really need to buy anything they’re selling?

from the January, 2019 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

How much dive gear do you really need? Jacques Cousteau's divers made do with mask, fins, a regulator and a tank or two on their backs. We add stuff to make it a better experience, but it could be said that more stuff sometimes overcomplicates matters.

So what new equipment appeared at the annual Diving Equipment Manufacturers Association (DEMA) show? And does any of it really matter?

Only a small proportion of the exhibitors who showed at this year's show, held in Las Vegas last November, were diving equipment manufacturers, and new products scheduled to be sold this year tend to be examples of gentle evolution rather than anything truly revolutionary. The DEMA show has instead evolved into what is mainly a dive travel exhibition, along with the photo equipment needed to record any encounters on those travels. Dive resorts from every corner of the planet competed to attract visitors from among the dive professionals who attended. Even the Italian manufacturer, Cressi, now promotes a Galapagos liveaboard, the Galapagos Evolution. It was also noticeable that fewer of the big-name personalities in diving were seen strolling the aisles, than in previous years. Maybe it's because they're all getting older -- like the rest of us.

What's New in Dive Equipment?

Simbiosis SS-03Technical diving and underwater photography have been the biggest growth areas in recent years, but when, not so long ago, it seemed nearly every equipment manufacturer showed a hopeful prototype of a closed-circuit rebreather, there are now just a mere handful of manufacturers with a core of properly developed models. The semi-closed models intended for the less-serious recreational diving market appear to have fallen by the wayside. So that leaves gathering images while underwater. Manufacturers of housings often just tweak their products to cater for new cameras. Nauticam stands alone in that it is developing optics for use in water with the Nauticam MWL-1 supplementary lens, which, combined with a camera's prime macro, is intended for close-focus, wide-angle use. That lets a DSLR user swap between the two while underwater, just as a user of a compact camera with wet lenses could. Only time will tell whether the image quality will be good enough, but with such images now being mainly reproduced online, it's probably less important than it was (www.nauticam.com).

Regarding lighting equipment, advanced battery technology, combined with even more efficient LEDs, continues to make video lights smaller and better performers. The Weefine 3000 and Kraken 3000 are both interesting LED ring-lights that can substitute for a strobe by emitting an intense burst of 3000 lumen light that's triggered by the camera's on-board strobe and are useful for extreme close-up pictures. Although that makes it less able to capture fast action due to the longer duration of the pulse of light, it does mean the "modeling light" accurately represents the final flash, making things easier for the photographer (www.krakensports.ca).

Underwater photographers, who were limited to two or three manufacturers of conventional strobes in the past, can now enjoy a plethora of choice. New strobes were represented, among others, by iDiveSite and its Simbiosis SS-03, a less bulky offering than previous models but still combining a strobe with a 2800 lumen video light for those who like to switch between stills and video during a dive (www.i-divesite.com).

Italian manufacturer One UW announced an entirely new strobe, the One160X, a welcome addition to an otherwise limited range of underwater strobes (www.oneuw.com). Retra is a new kid on the block that hopes to start shipping its updated new model, with built-in leak detector, next summer (www.retra-uwt.com).

The Reg-MountWell-established Inon continues to be promoted by its CEO merely carrying a bag full of equipment around the trade floor and demonstrating to interested parties in the refreshment areas, thereby saving on the cost of a booth. He's been doing that for years, and nobody from DEMA appears to have challenged him (www.inon.jp).

Scared of flooding your camera? Rare only a decade ago, vacuum leak tests are now common on more expensive housings, and even the less expensive Seafrogs housing can be fitted with such an accessory. With M16 and M14 adapters, it can fit other makes of housing, too (www.seafrogs.com.hk). 10Bar does something similar. And the Weefine iPhone housing has a similar system that confirms you've assembled your housing without the risk of a leak -- and a catastrophic loss of your iPhone data (www.weefine.com).

Some products have been further developed since the past year's DEMA. For example, last year we mentioned the Reg-Mount, which puts your POV camera ahead of your exhaled bubbles. This year, it has come back with alternative fittings for different regulators, alternative points for mounting your GoPro, and even a light -- although that can clutter the diver's view (www.regmount.com).

The Most Innovative Gear

The most innovative diving-focused product could be found at the Atomics Aquatics section of the Huish Outdoors booth -- and it's so simple, I can't believe nobody thought of it before. Open a tank valve at the surface and you'll spot how cold the air from it is. When the air from your tank is depressurized, as it is by your regulator, it expands and loses a lot of heat -- it's your lungs that warm up that cold air. No matter how warm the water is, you'll eventually get chilled, increasing your air consumption and cutting short your dive. Scuba Heat is a coil of copper nickel alloy that sits in your air supply, between the first- and second-stages of the regulator, and exchanges heat with the surrounding water to make it approach ambient water temperature, and thereby make it more comfortable to breathe. Scuba Heat is expected to cost around $350. That sounds pricey, but hey, at what price comfort? And don't think this is solely for cold water divers. No doubt there will be some similar copper-coiled pipes coming from China, if the idea catches on -- and those will inevitably cost less than a hundred bucks (www.atomicaquatics.com).

When it comes to cold water diving, one way to go is to wear a heated vest, and FIXNeo provided such a thing, safe enough to go under a wetsuit if required. Even tropical waters suck heat from your body, so these new heated vests could be a good application in conjunction with a lightweight wetsuit (www.fixneo.com).

Aria Snorkie-TalkieFull-face snorkeling masks may have been banned in Hawaii, thanks to a number of dive fatalities by those who were using them, but competition in this sector is still fierce. The Cressi Duke takes on its Italian neighbor and rival, Ocean Reef, which is the market leader with its Aria. With an improved design that has the snorkel pipe set to one side in an effort to combat buildup of carbon dioxide, the Cressi Duke also includes better education on how to use it safely (www.cressi.com). Meanwhile, Ocean Reef raises its game by offering in-water communications with its Aria Snorkie-Talkie accessory. So much for peace and quiet while looking at the fishes (www.oceanreefgroup.com).

As we get older, we usually need our reading glasses for extreme close-ups of underwater critters. But if you need a minus-diopter prescription in your mask, that presents a problem to fitting both sets of lenses. The 10Bar has come up with Mask MF Flip Frame, a mask that allows the user to flip down the "reading glasses," so to speak, which can be combined with a bright, mask-mounted LED. That's a solution for those who don't readily take to the bifocal solution offered by other mask manufacturers (www.10bar.com).

Packing a large pair of fins is problematic for traveling divers. Seac exhibited a new range of compact fins as a solution, although they're probably less effective for propulsion in the water (www.seacsub.com).

With so much black gear around, it's a joy to see new brightly colored silicone masks from the likes of Seac, Scubapro and Oceanic, and technopolymer fins like the Apeks RK3 (www.apeksdiving.com). Aqua Lung has a range of colorful covers for its Rogue wing-style BCs.

The Latest in Tech Gadgets

Some computers are also available in bright colors now, including entry-level models like the Aqua Lung i200c and Italian manufacturer Ratio, offering full-color displays on its Ratio Easy Dive (www.ratio-computers.com). Monochromatic displays on dive computers are looking a little dated, especially on more advanced ones. The display on the Aqua Lung i770R is both colorful and links directly to a smartphone for both setting up and downloading (www.aqualung.com).

Suunto D5The Suunto D5 is an elegant watch-style computer with a very clear full-color display, and, in a break with Suunto tradition, its battery is rechargeable. Designed to go down to 330 feet, it can be paired with a transmitter to display tank pressure and remaining air time. It also has Bluetooth connectivity with smartphones and comes with a choice of brightly colored silicone straps (www.suunto.com).

The D5 is probably Suunto's direct response to the threat posed by the superficially similar and also extremely elegant Shearwater Teric (www.shearwater.com).

The Italian company, Mares, introduced its Mares Genius computer. Mares' chief technology officer, Sergio Angelini, is a mathematical geek, and he gave me a rundown of all the parameters that can be entered to personalize it -- and a headache trying to keep up with him. If you want the full nine yards, you can get it in an article by Angelini at Underwater Technology (https://issuu.com/sut7/docs/underwater_technology_35.2; www.mares.com)

The French whiz kids at Thalatoo showed the Maoi, a new computer concept that debuted last year -- it mounts on your mask and promises a head-up display. Thalatoo is still looking to get it to market, so there is still a question about whether it will ever be available to buy (www.thalatoo.com).

The same might be said of the French Serenity S1 Frioul. It's a dive computer that works in conjunction with a beacon to help you navigate back to the boat. The three-item kit also allows those on the boat to monitor the various positions of several divers in the water, giving an extra degree of safety (www.serenityconcept.com).

The even more clever people at Ariadna Tech in Finland displayed the Posio dive computer that, by means of a separate unit strapped to your leg, can learn your fin strokes and then, in conjunction with surface GPS, show a 3D route you can take on your dives, effectively bringing GPSstyle navigation to your dives. That leg-mounted sensor uses your swimming motion to build a real-time picture of where you are in the water. Is the Posio Diver Positioning System an example of more technology than we really need? (www.ariadna.tech)

The Miscellaneous

Every DEMA show offers a hopeful entrepreneur attempting to break into the dive market, and the inventor of the Aqua Sketch Tablet was no exception this year. He showed a frame that uses waterproof paper so that divers can take their own pre-prepared dive notes, printed at home on standard-size paper, underwater with them (www.aquaSketch.com).

Aqua Sketch Tablet

Ocean Technology Systems showed its Spectrum full-face diving mask, into which you can fit your regulator's second stage. The idea is that it keeps the face warm and dry, eliminates jaw fatigue and prevents exposure to nasty water-based pathogens (www.oceantechnologysystems.com).

Among products that were a little hair-raising, the Easy Dive Snorkelator comes from the company that makes Spare Air. It combines a snorkel with a switchable Spare Air cylinder for those who want to snorkel and swim down from the surface. No mention of pneumothorax or emphysema, though, because what could possibly go wrong? (www.spareair.com)

SUBlue Compact DPVThose who want the best will want gear made out of titanium, a lightweight and durable metal, but it comes at a pretty penny. All-titanium regulators have been the province of Atomic Aquatics up to now, so it's ironic that the man who designed that company's original item created the original design on which the Scubapro titanium Mk25T Evo S620Ti is based (www.scubapro.com).

For those of us who get a little weary when swimming any distance, there were, as usual, plenty of motor-driven aids available, including the armmounted Scubajet, a refined development of something we first saw at last year's DEMA show (www.scubajet.com). The SUBlue compact DPV is good for 30 minutes of in-water use before recharging (www.sublue.com).

If you're getting too tired to bother with the effort of actually diving and you have at least $4,000 or more to spare, you can dive vicariously with a remote-controlled ROV such as the Deep Trekker (maximum operating depth ranges from 164 to 500 feet, depending on the model), which had its fine control and maneuverability features demonstrated in a clear acrylic tank for all to see (www.deeptrekker.com).

Stream2Sea showed a range of sunscreens, shampoos and sting-relief products that claimed to be kind to coral reefs and their ecosystems. There was no sign of its rival, Reef Safe, and its oxybenzone-based products on display, which we denounced in the August 2018 issue of Undercurrent (www.stream2sea.com).

Finally, some excellent news from Fourth Element, a small but rapidly growing eco-conscious British company, which introduced its prototype Surface wetsuit made from recycled content. Its "Ocean Positive" lining is made up of 95 percent material from recovered plastic bottles. Barring any production problems, expect it to be on sale soon (www.fourthelement.com).

-- John Bantin

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