DIVING LAMPS TEND TO BE made by small companies, although some may be marketed with big brand-names on them. That’s because, on a comparative scale, the world demand for lamps for divers compared to, say, that for cyclists, is quite small. Many of the best are made in small workshops in Germany.
Ten years ago, Kowalski lamps reached the UK from that country, and swept all competing products before them.
Why Because you could charge these lamps without opening them, so there were no O-rings for users to keep clean, and no worries about incorrect assembly causing disastrous floods.
In fact, at that time many mainstream diving-equipment manufacturers had given up on selling underwater lights because so many were returned flooded and there were often isagreements with customers as to whose fault it was.
So Kowalski had a clear run for a few years but, as in every other business, rivals looked at its success and concentrated on making a more competitive product.
This was helped by a revolution in both light sources and power sources. Ni-cad batteries were superseded by the newer ni-mh type, which could be recharged at any time without inducing a memory effect.
Meanwhile conventional tungsten-halogen bulbs got blown away by the high output of HID lamps.
Then came the more robust high-output LEDs. Kowalski had enjoyed a successful product with good sales, so why change it It’s a common mistake among small businesses.
In the meantime, many new lamps with perceived advantages arrived in the shops, and Kowalski sales inevitably dwindled.
Last year, the company pulled itself together and came up with the very sexy Kowalski LED lamp. This marked a sea change in the company’s thinking. It had an anatomically designed shape that appealed, but you had to unscrew the end to replace the batteries, with all the dangers that entails.
The light source was the high-tech Cree MC-E 10w LED lamp. Now, that LED technology has been applied to the design formula that saw such success for Kowalski in the past.
The Select 620 looks similar to traditional Kowalski lanterns, in that it is still a simple anodised aluminium tube with a lamp head at one end and charging connections and a handle attached at the other.
It is slimmer than some of its siblings, and at less than 20cm long it weighs less too.
It is slightly negatively buoyant under water.

Light Sources and Beams
The unique selling proposition of this lantern is that the fronts are interchangeable. That’s why it is named the 620 Select – you select the light source that suits your needs.
These sources vary between a high-output LED that delivers a narrow spot of light (12in), and a very even broad-beam (70in) LED suitable for use as a primary light source when using a high-ISO digital camera for macro pictures.
The colour of this light is typical of a Cree LED, in that it is a quite cool-looking 6500°K.
Not only that, but traditionalists can opt for 20W halogen that delivers a narrow 12° beam of warmer-looking (3200°K) light, or you can buy all three in a cost-saving package.
The broad-beam LED provided such a perfectly even beam that it seemed pointless to provide a beam picture here – it would just be white space! Kowalski is confident enough to provide a three-year guarantee.

Power Source
Kowalski has once again leapfrogged the opposition by adopting a rechargeable 7.4V 4.6Ah li-ion battery, which can be recharged from flat in only a couple of hours.
The lamp is connected by exterior connections. If you don’t change the head, there is no immediate danger of flooding because of this.
An LED on the lamp changes from red to green when the battery is topped up. Burntimes vary according to the lamphead fitted, but with the LED it should give two hours at full power, followed by a further four hours at a lower output diminished to 20% of full.
With the halogen head it should be good for a burntime of a little over an hour at full output, followed by nearly four hours when diminished.

Switching
Typically, this Kowalski lamp has a rotating on/off switch at its anterior end, locked with
a slider detent to prevent it from being operated inadvertently. Operating the switch starts the lamp at full power, then dims it by a constantly variable amount back to 20% output, if that’s what you want.
An incidental advantage of the interchangeable lampheads is that the battery and lamp can be separated for the purpose of air transport.
This should please the people in charge of airline security, so the switch lock can become redundant at this time.

In The Water
In use, as the battery voltage is depleted the little LED at the back changes from green through yellow to red, indicating how much burntime remains.
Putting a handle on the top of a lantern seems obvious when using it in normal gravity, but go under water and the often slightly positive buoyancy of a lamp makes you realise that this might be a mistake. A pistol grip is often more comfortable.
However, the negative buoyancy of the Select 620 meant that it was as comfortable to hold under water as on land. Alternatively a neoprene sleeve can be added to make it less heavy, and to protect the body of the lamp from abrasion.
The handle slots conveniently through the waist-strap of a BC when you’re not using it,
but I would add a lanyard and clip it to a D-ring. You wouldn’t want to come back from a dive without such a good lamp.
Lighthouse Diving, the importer, also supplied me with a little gizmo so that I could add the lamp to one of the standard flash mounting arms of my camera and use it as a light source (with the wide-angle LED head).
It certainly proved bright enough to light macro subjects, even if I did need to jack up the sensitivity level on my FX camera to get a small-enough lens aperture.

Comparable lamps to consider:
Green Force F2 Heptastar XPG H, £570

SPECS
PRICE £419 to £599, according to head chosen.
BATTERY Rechargeable li-ion
BURNTIME 65min halogen/120min LED
WEIGHT 930g/910g (halogen/LED)
DEPTH-RATING 200m
CONTACT www.lighthousediving.co.uk
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