MANY DIVERS, equipped with modern compact digital cameras, are content to shoot short video clips rather than try to take the crucial moment as a still picture.
In the days when pure video cameras were popular, victims had to endure evenings on liveaboards watching endless footage of blue fish, when perhaps a conventional blue movie might have been more welcome.
Now, mercifully, we only have to crane over a shoulder to watch the same thing in miniature on the little LCD of a camera in its watertight plastic box, immediately after a dive and while still dripping wet.
It is amazing how technology has advanced to make this possible, but it’s equally amazing that people still can’t see that others might be less-than wowed by a monochromatic image of some creature beating a hasty retreat, much as it might provide a great aide memoire for those who saw the real event.
But without some localised light, that is what you are likely to record, no matter how light-sensitive your camera might be.
What many people don’t realise is that it doesn’t matter how bright a lamp (or a camera’s flash) might be – the light will still be selectively absorbed by the water after passing only a very short distance through it.
The sun provides the brightest light on Earth, yet it is virtually only the blue wavelengths that make it more than 10m through the water. So although you need a certain level of brightness to get a decent photographic result, brighter lamps alone may not be the answer. You still need to reduce the amount of water through which the light passes to get a colourful result.
My own super-duper camera is more than 60 times more light-sensitive than film cameras used to be, yet if I imagined that I would be able to use the little UK Aqualite eLED Video lamp for wide-angle interiors of wrecks, I was dreaming.
However, for macro shots on a compact camera or a modern DSLR set to a high ISO, it seems to be quite a good proposition.
It is really intended for use with little cameras like the GoPro or the Liquid Image camera mask, and the happy owners of such clever devices will be sure to want something like this lamp once their inordinately blue and green underwater images captured without a lamp begin to pall.

The Lamp
Made in the USA, the AquaLite 90 eLED is not big. It is only 13cm long, and weighs less than 200g. But it’s a meaty little item with solidly built aluminium ends fore and aft, and it has a mounting point for an optional (extra-cost) 25mm mounting ball that allows you to fix it to a so-equipped camera via the appropriate knuckle-joint.
It was supplied to me with the wide-angle 90º head suitable for video use, though there is an optional and interchangeable 65º lamp-head that matches the angle of view of Sealife cameras and their like. The aluminium surround acts as a heat-sink that discourages the lamp from over-heating. In the depths of the autumnal Mediterranean where I tried it, there was no danger of that!
The machined aluminium rear switch clicks round in a satisfyingly precise way to give various brightness settings in four steps from 120 to 600 lumens.
It is mechanical in action, but the importer was keen to point out that as it was not a magnetic switch, it would not interfere with my compass while I used it.
The thousands of tonnes of steel in the wreck of the Zenobia was already doing that.
The light from this lamp is consistently delivered at 5000°K, which equates to an average daylight colour.

Power Source
A lithium-ion battery is charged via a battery-chassis and USB connector for a computer that comes equipped also with a wall-socket adapter. You unscrew the lamphead to slip it in.
A second battery is included, so that one can be charging while you dive with the other. At full power, the burntime is about 80 minutes, with commensurately longer times as the output is reduced.

In The Water
I went into the gloomy and near black depths of the cavernous lorry-decks of the Zenobia armed only with one of these lamps, and my very wide-angle camera.
The lamp was inadequate for seeing around much, but at least it allowed the auto-focus mechanism of my camera to work.
In fact I saw far more by taking a picture with my flash and then examining it on the LCD of my camera. That’s not to say that this lamp was poor, just that I was asking too much of it.
The UK AquaLite 90 eLED is intended more for looking at small animals hiding under ledges and in holes where little ambient light penetrates. It is not suitable for lighting up the interior of the Albert Hall, even at its maximum power setting. Used as intended, it’s a useful little lamp.
Those of us using bigger cameras for macro pictures will find it invaluable for use as a focusing light, too, mounted atop an underwater housing.

Light & Motion Sola 500D, £299
Big Blue FF 4x5 AFO, £299

PRICE £221
SWITCH Four-position mechanical
OUTPUT 120-600 lumens
BATTERY Rechargeable lithium-ion
BURNTIME 1.3 to 8.8hr according to output
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