How to choose a scuba diving lamp – part 1

I've been thinking about getting a new scuba diving lamp for some time now. Currently I'm diving with the Ikelite PCM, a very small and light LED lamp. Till now it has worked just fine, however it's more a secondary than a primary torch in Holland. I'm looking for something which has a bit more power. But which lamp should I get? I thought there was already a mind boggling choice in the other dive gear, but that's nothing compared to the jungle of diving lamps. I'm chopping this topic up in several posts as it's way to big to handle in one go. But first things first, let's get familiar with the specific definitions used on websites/ webshops, the different type of lamps and which criteria will help you in defining your and mine choice.

Professional definitionsdL4RQK

  • Lumen: This is the unit for light output. It is the total amount of light that the lamp produces, despite the way it is being bundled (for example multiple LED's).
  • Lux: The amount of Lumen per m2.
  • Candela: Is the unit (metric system) for light intensity, in which 1 candela stands for the intensity of 1 candle.
  • Watt: This is the actual power consumption of the lamp. Mostly used with old halogen lamps.

Types of lamps

  • Currently most lamps are based on LED lighting. This is currently the most efficient, durable and gives the most light output. You also still have halogen, tungsten and HID lamps.
  • You have flash- (hand lamp) and canister lights (cable lamp). Canister lights use a separate battery back which is carried on your tank (or waist) and is connected with your lamp by wire. Usually they are used by tech divers as they have more light output and longer burning time.
  • Flashlights: you have rechargeable and disposable batteries. Off course rechargeable is more expensive, but in the long run it's financially and environmentally better.
Canister lamp

Canister lamp

Flash light

Flash light

Price range:
During my research I found a non official price range in which you could categorize certain lamps:

  • € 10,- till € 80,-
  • € 80,- till € 300,-
  • € 300 till € 800,-
  • € 800,- and higher

The lowest price range are mostly secondary / back-up lamps. The most primary lamps are in between € 80,- and € 800,- range. Above that are specific dive lamps and usually do not have a recreational purpose.

Criteria
Lumen is the most commonly used term nowadays. The better (and often more expensive brands) offer the same amount of lumen during the whole dive. The cheaper models will often see the amount of lumen diminish during the dive. This is definitely something to take into account.

However a big amount of lumen should not be your starting point. When choosing a scuba diving lamp there are some important criteria or questions which will make it easier to define the lamp you need. As I'm looking for a new torch, I'll answer the questions below from my viewpoint as an example.

1. For which environment do you want to use the lamp?
Most of my diving is in the Netherlands, cold waters and low visibility (sediment in the water). This means I need a lamp with a narrow beam. A broad beam would cause to much reflection on the sediment and would blind me instead of giving me more visibility.

2. What is the purpose of your new diving lamp? (primary / secondary, for photography/ filming, etc.)
I want to use it as a primary lamp for exploring corals and wrecks. If it could be used for photography or filming it would be nice, but it's not leading in my choice.

3. Any preferences between flash- and canister lights?
All though there are many recreational divers in Holland with canister lights, I prefer a flashlight. In my opinion they can offer more then enough quality to suit my needs and they are also easier to store or bring along on holidays. If possible I would like a rechargeable battery.

4. What is your budget?
I have a budget of around € 300,- at the moment. which is at the end of price range 2 and at the beginning of range 3. If the research points out a somewhat more expensive lamp, I'll just have to save some more.

Conclusion & end of part-1
I've described the professional definitions, the different type of lamps, the price range and the different criteria to help and define your choice. I've come to a better understanding of which kind of diving lamp will suit my needs.

In part-2 I'm going to take a better look at what kind of lamps/ torches are being offered with my budget. All though I made clear I prefer a flashlight, I'll also take the canister lights into account. Currently I still have no idea which technical features (lumen, watt, etc.) are being offered in my price range. This will also be handled in part-2.

If you any more tips, please let me know and I'll add them to the post.

Tips/ advice from the comments:-
- Adjustable brightness can giver longer burn time, but also more visibility in certain situations
- Use LED's that are closest to natural light, especially for photo's and filming

Posted in Diving torches, Product reviews.

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