Appeared in DIVER August 2006

Light  Metalsub Handlamp XL 7.2

THE FIRST EXAMPLE OF A METALSUB LAMP I ever experienced was of the umbilical type.

 It was made in the Netherlands to a military specification and called to mind an M3 assault rifle or a fitting on a Bradley Fighting Vehicle.
The only divers I saw sporting them had the sort of budget for diving equipment that small nations spend on their military hardware. One of them, for example, wanted his own rebreather sufficiently to acquire the factory unit next to his own and start making them.
The pony-mounting clamp on the Evolution rebreather is lasting testimony to the affection in which its manufacturer held his Metalsub lamp.
Where does that leave poor mortals like you and me Well, we can still enjoy owning a Metalsub lamp, even if it is the equivalent of a BMW 316 when it was the 640 we wanted.
The Metalsub Handlamp XL 7.2 is a compact little number, though at more than a kilo it weighs as much as some much bigger lights.
It is made from Teflon-coated anodised aluminium to the same high standard as other Metalsub lamps. There are heavy-duty rubber inserts in its handle, around its reflector shroud and around the main lamp body, which has a flattened section to prevent the lamp rolling when placed on a surface.
It is powered by a 7.2V ni-mh battery pack. A pressure-relief valve allows any gases that might be given off to escape during charging.
The battery charges in five hours from flat, and there are external charging connections, so you dont need to break open any O-ring-protected seals during regular use. This eliminates the chance of flooding due to careless reassembly, and an intelligent charger prevents over-charging.
The magnetic switch rotates in a very satisfying manner when its lock is pulled back. It has four positions: full-, half- and quarter-power and off. An LED at the rear shows green, orange or red, depending on the remaining charge in the battery.
It also tells you if the lamp is over-heating, in which case it will eventually turn itself off, and will flash red when down to the last dregs of charge.
The Handlamp XL 7.2 comes with a 20W halogen bulb as standard. This gives a 70-minute burntime, ideal for night diving. Even during night dives at Cocos, with 1000 hungrily hunting whitetip reef sharks, I start getting bored after an hour in the dark!
You can dramatically increase this burntime by fitting a dimmer 10W halogen bulb with twice the burntime, or a brighter 15W LED module, though this comes at a price - and what a price!
The LED module has six separate high-output LEDs mounted together. Just looking at the spring-contact on the back of it says much about the way Metalsub products are made. It is machined from a single solid piece of brass.
Fitting this LED does not reduce the light output over the halogen bulb, but increases the colour temperature of the light, which is more penetrative through water because of its shorter wavelength. The burntime then becomes 90 minutes at full power, plus another five or so hours as the output of the LEDs automatically steps down.
The beam given by the halogen module was effectively tight, but not as neat as I might have expected. The LED beam was much more pleasant, if rather cool.
Whichever you use, halogen or LED, this is a lamp for the diver who appreciates a level of precision engineering not often associated with diving equipment.
After all this, it was a great pity that this excellent Dutch-made lamp should be let down by the failure of its cheap Chinese charger.
This became apparent only once I had got to use it under water a long way from home. After that, the lamp was no more useful to me than any of the lumps of lead on my belt.
The Metalsub Handlamp XL 7.2 costs£239. The LED costs an extra£110.

  • Mikes,

  • The
    The Metalsub Handlamp XL 7.2 with optional LED unit.
    Comparison of the beams cast by the LED (above) and halogen versions of the lamp
    + Beautifully made
    + Difficult to break

    - Expensive for what it does