LIGHTKowalski Mini Xenon
Not only that, but it was not a watery yellow temporary light caused by the lamp gently filling up with water because you had reassembled it incorrectly after charging.
Mr. Kowalski said: Too much knowledge is a dangerous thing and divers cannot be trusted to clean and grease O-rings, so he organised the charging of his lights in such a way that there was no need to break into the lamp to get to the battery. The charging leads were simply inserted through the outside of the lamps aluminium housing.
That sums up the success of Kowalski lights in the diving market. When all is said and done, you want a light that gives out a bright, reliable light.
So what does the new Kowalski Mini Xenon add to that Firstly, sophisticated electronics that allow you to recharge it at any state of discharge. You can always top it up for a night dive if you used it for any period during the day.
It does not matter which way round you plug in the external female charging jacks. Polarity is not important. In line with most modern chargers, you can plug it into any voltage supply between 90 and 280V.
It takes only 80 minutes to recharge it from flat. A red light indicates if it is still charging, and this turns to green when its done. Then theres the three-year guarantee on everything save the battery (one year) and, of course, the bulb that has no guarantee at all.
Different from its brothers and sisters made by Mr Kowalski, the Mini Xenon has a 10W HID that gives out a very penetrating, if cool, light.
This light will burn at full power for around 90 minutes but, unusually for an HID set-up, the brightness can be reduced to about half in order to double the burntime.
HID bulbs do not like being turned on and off. In fact, their longevity is measured by the number of times they will fire up. So its best to turn on an HID lamp and leave it on. In fact its true of any lamp used under water that bulbs usually blow with the current surge causing by initial switching.
However, having waited the few moments needed for it to achieve maximum brightness, a dimmer switch allows you to reduce that brightness. When it comes to turning the lamp off, you have to turn it back up to full brightness first.
I had a little trouble with this, because it proved quite hard to turn it from half- to full-power without going too far with the knurled control wheel. Too often I found myself accidentally switching it off altogether.
Mistakes like that could unnecessarily shorten the expensive HID bulbs life, so I found myself either using it on full power or half power but never switching between the two once it was in use.
The Mini Xenon is only 20cm long by 6cm in diameter and weighs just 1.2kg, so I felt no reluctance in packing it for a trip across the world. Its a very smart bit of kit, designed with almost Scandinavian sleekness.
How did it fare under water I was recently taken to task by another lamp manufacturer. We had compared the beams of a range of HID lamps in a side-by-side comparison test and he argued that, because all the lamps and ballasts (DC voltage pump circuits) were made by the same manufacturer, their light outputs had to be the same.
Well, they werent. Thats because we are interested less in how bright the bulb is and more in how bright a beam will light our way. That depends on the design of the reflector.
Mr Kowalski has taken two years to design an efficient reflector for this lamp. Thats because the HID bulb is not a point-source like a conventional bulb.
The new lamp has a spot reflector, though I understand that a flood reflector that will make this lamp suitable for use with small video cameras is under development.
I took it to the Caribbean and it worked marvellously during the first night dive. Its beam was direct and bright, if a little cooler than I favour. It was certainly a lot brighter than any of the lights used by the other 10 divers in the water on that particular dive.
Alas, a short trip with Cayman Express revealed its weakness, because when I unpacked it at the next island destination it had ceased to work.
I have yet to find out if it was the expensive HID bulb or some other part of its electronics that could not sustain the rigours of the journey, despite being packed in the same case as all my camera equipment. Suffice to say that the recharging-light showed neither red not green.
The Kowalski Mini Xenon is not cheap - with its charger, it costs £535.
  • Lighthouse Diving 01599 577277

  • Divernet
    + Usual Kowalski quality and simplicity

    - The dimmer switch may cost more in HID bulbs in the long run
    - Costly