Appeared in DIVER January 2007

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LIGHTS OMS Phantom HID/Vega LED
Its the new OMS Phantom HID torch.
Diving this October in the Red Sea I occasionally amused myself, during overcrowded night dives at popular spots, by swimming alongside divers from other boats equipped with those super Teutonic lamps, or lamps with big battery canisters and heads on umbilical cables.
The OMS Phantom is compact enough to conceal partly in the palm of my hand and occlude with the other. Just when the other divers were feeling very self-satisfied with their light output, I would reveal all, blasting the scene with an amazing amount of bright white light.
There is nothing phantom-like about the output of the Phantom! I was Luke Skywalker and this is the light-sabre of a Jedi. Childish, arent I
The Phantom represents a radical rethink about HID lights under water. It comes in the form of a conventional torch around 19cm long, but six 3V CR123 lithium batteries, making it very compact, fire up its 10W HID bulb.
Of course, the lithium batteries will barely last two dives of an hour each, so there is a cost associated with running it in this way. I worked it out at a little less than 4 per dive at the best price I could find for these batteries on the Internet.
The Phantom is very robustly built. Some would say it is over-engineered. It certainly holds appeal for those who like well-made kit. Its made from aluminium anodised to a high specification; its depth-rated to 300m and weighs barely more than half a kilo out of the water.
The back end unscrews in a satisfyingly precise way to get at the batteries, and the magnetic reed switch (with no through-bulkhead connection) has a substantial screw lock to stop it from coming on in your dive bag.
I let other divers use it on night dives and they all came back with a big smile on their faces. Not because they had experienced such a great dive but because they had found themselves king of the castle as far as light output was concerned. It was always the brightest light down there, and would turn a night dive into a day dive.
The lamp is protected with a thermal cut-off. The first time I replaced the batteries, it wouldnt work immediately. I gave up, not knowing whether it was switched on or off. I woke with the lark when my boat cabin was flooded with daylight, but the joke was on me. The Phantom had come back to life and filled my world with blinding white light.
You should not turn an HID light off and on during a dive because it affects the life of the very expensive bulb. Go in with it switched on and turn it off after you climb out.
OMS claims a fast 5sec restart time. I didnt try this, because I hate sending back equipment with apologetic letters. I found it better to occlude it with my hand. This way the HID bulb should be good for its claimed 1000 hours of use.
The Phantoms 6 beam angle seems perfect for wreck-diving and, of course, it proves very useful for lighting up parts of the reef in natural colour during daylight dives. The downside is the high purchase price.
OMS has also recently launched a handy little high-output LED light called the Vega L191. This also uses CR123 lithium batteries, but only two, and they will last for three hours of continuous use. Its the perfect back-up light to the Phantom.
I put a Vega L191 in my pocket and found it very useful, not only for peering under ledges and into other dark spaces during the day, but also for use as a primary diving light on night dives. Its Luxeon Star LED has a suitably efficient reflector that gives a sharp and concentrated beam, and the bulb should last virtually forever, barring accidents.
The Vega L191 is also made from anodised aluminium, milled with plenty of grip-giving surfaces. It is switched on by screwing down the head (which is protected by two O-rings) onto the battery contacts. It is protected by two O-rings.
I dont like this simple method of switching because what may constitute the off position at the surface often equates to on when at depth, and in the case of the Vega, I often found it had come on in my pocket when I pulled it out to use it.
The Phantom HID torch costs £500, while the Vega L191, which is depth-rated to 150m, costs £49.
- Otter Watersports 01274 307555, www.omsdive.com


Divernet
OMS
OMS Phantom HID
OMS
OMS Vega L191 high-output LED light.
Divernet
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+ Two very effective torches


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- Cost of purchase
- Cost of replacement batteries