Appeared in DIVER August 2007

John John Bantin has been a full-time professional diving writer and underwater photographer since 1990. He makes around 300 dives each year testing diving equipment.


LAMPS HAVE TENDED TO GET BIGGER and heavier as airline baggage allowances have shrunk. Not so long ago a friend paid £600 excess to Singapore Airlines on his way to Papua New Guinea, the extra weight amounting merely to that of his super-Teutonic lamp.
Most of that weight was in its battery. He could have bought a new one for less than the return fare for it!
The Luxeon Star high-output LED bulb has come to our rescue, in that it produces a lot of life for low power consumption. Not only that, but its almost indestructible. That should suit
a lot of clumsy divers I know.
I now notice many divers going for night dives at tropical destinations with tiny little torches that they could have carried in a pocket if it hadnt been for airport security. These inevitably have the aforementioned LED, perhaps powered by a couple of AA batteries.
Its human nature, however, to want more.
We soon started seeing lamps that employed clusters of LED, each in its own reflector. A lamp with four will be four times as bright as one with a single LED - its simple mathematics.
Of course, more LEDs means more battery power, but it still doesnt amount to as much as you need to fire up a halogen bulb.
Now lamps with clusters of LEDs are coming with several AA batteries. They may bear different familiar diving brand names, but an independent lighting company based in Italy makes many of them. It is called Fa&Mi.
We recently reviewed a Fa&Mi lamp that employed a cluster of five LEDs, and said it was less bright than some would expect. If you want a super-bright lamp of this type, Fa&Mi has now answered your call. Its a bit of a beast, but then it would have to be.

Light source
The Special 150 employs no fewer than 18 super-bright LEDs behind the front glass, each in its own 12° angle reflector, and yet its rechargeable 7.2V nickel metal-hydride battery is quite petite.
In fact, in direct contrast to those super-Teutons I mentioned at the beginning, the 10cm diameter lamp-head dwarfs the battery-pack. It weighs 1.7kg out of the water.
I think the designer of the Special 150 had been watching the Flash Gordon movie, and subconsciously followed its style of spaceships. The lamps anodised aluminium body has the same art-deco pepperpot styling.
It unscrews into two halves in a satisfyingly precise manner, to reveal a battery that is only 6cm wide by 7.5cm long.

Power source
You remove the battery-pack to charge it, and this neatly takes care of venting any gases that might be produced, although the body also has a safety valve for this. The two parts of the body are protected from leaks by double O-rings.
A fully charged ni-mh battery promises a burntime of around 2.5 hours, which means it is good for both a night dive and sporadic use during the day. The battery comes out neatly for charging, so it is even conceivable that you could carry a spare one to be on charge while you use the other.
A magnetic reed switch operated by a plastic collar that rotates around the main body behind the reflector avoids any other through-bulkhead connections. The lamp is either on or off - simple and effective.

In the water, I found that the Special 150 had just enough weight to be able to put it down. Neither did it float up on a lanyard (none is supplied) and irritate me by always being in the way when I wasnt using it.
There is also the option to use it with an umbilical connection. The battery-pack then substitutes for weight that would otherwise be on your belt, and the head, complete with switch, weighs almost nothing.

The Special 150 gave a neat and bright spot of light, yet there was a surrounding halo that allowed me to be aware of what was outside my field of vision. The colour seemed reminiscent of daylight in its quality. It reminded me of the first Fa&Mi lamp I tested, which evoked the response FaMi, thats bright! even though it is nowhere near as bright as a big HID lamp.
It also produced a wide peripheral halo, making me aware of what was going on beyond my main field of illuminated vision.


PRICE £475 with intelligent charger
EXTRAS Umbilical
WEIGHT 1.7kg in air
CONTACT, 01484 711113
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