Light on your wallet - the lamps

 
EMERGENCY BACK-UP LIGHTING
width=100% 1 UK MINI POCKET LIGHT Your friends will be very envious when they see that you have one of these. Theyll think you pulled some very posh Christmas crackers indeed. Perfect for a key-ring, it clips onto a mask strap but its light output is unsurprisingly as minuscule as the package in which it comes. It switches on by screwing the reflector shroud onto its sealing O-ring, which is fine if you enter the water with it switched on, but disqualifies it as a serious back-up light on which you could rely. It might well have been flooded long before it gets called into use. No lanyard supplied.£11. width=100%
width=100% 2 2 UK 2AAA Slightly more useful than its similarly priced brother, this little light is a watertight pen-light, or should be. The light it produces comes in the form of a very narrow cone which makes the most of its bulbs small output. It suffers the common defect of being switched on by altering the pressure on its water-sealing O-ring. No lanyard.£11 width=100%
width=100% 3 PRINCETON TEC BLAST A lamp that comes with a clip so that you can attach it, for example under the strap of a wrist-worn computer. Although minuscule, its light output was better than that of some other tiny back-up lights reviewed here, but it still suffers from the screw-down shroud effect, which is OK for switching on but not for switching off. No lanyard.£11 width=100%
width=100% 4 PRINCETON TEC RAGE Just about the very minimum you will need for getting yourself out of trouble. You could keep this stowed away and forgotten about, but if it still worked when you needed it, and its screw-down shroud had not allowed it to flood in the interim, it would give a reasonably bright beam in a tight cone of light. No lanyard.£15 width=100%
width=100% 5 OCEANIC HYBEAM The name of this light led us to be hopeful of its output, but we were disappointed. It was rather pathetic but then, what do you expect for the price It has a useful switch with a lock to stop you wasting its precious light inadvertently. Double O-ring protected, it uses four AA batteries for a short burntime and a rather dim and narrow beam. Definitely to be kept in the pocket until dire circumstances force its use.£19 width=100%
width=100% 6 PRINCETON TEC 40 Not that bright but certainly useful as a back-up with a wide enough beam, this little lamp will stow conveniently away until you need it. That is, if it hasnt flooded in the interim. It is switched on by screwing the rubber-covered shroud down onto a single O-ring, and if you take it diving while switched off it may well be unscrewed too far and let the water in. There is also the half-size Tec 20 for a slightly reduced price.£19 width=100%
width=100% 7PRINCETON TEC IMPACT This is the back-up light that you can routinely leave switched on before you start each dive. Why Because its 4AA batteries are claimed to power its focused high-output LED for more than six days of continuous use. Of course, it isnt very bright, but it is amazing how little light you need when things become desperate. The focused centre part of the beam is certainly bright enough to reveal your position on the surface in the dark, although it might be too tight to read gauges by.£27 width=100%
width=100% 8 PELI NEMO 4C We liked its big brother the Nemo 8C very much, and this miniature version has all the same attributes, with a beautiful construction and sexy design. But what is it doing in the back-up light section Well, its output seems so puny that it certainly wont do as a primary diving light. Unfortunately, its shape disallows it from being easily stowed in a pocket either. So, neither fish nor foul, we cannot see an application for this lamp. Be happy - get its bigger brother.£48 width=100%
width=100% 9 INOVA X5 This is a highly desirable bit of kit that anyone will want to own. Beautifully machined in a mix of metals but little bigger than a fountain pen, its five unfocused high-output LEDs are guaranteed for 200,000 hours of use! It switches on either by twisting its stem or by pressing and holding a button at its end. Fantastically useful for all sorts of jobs on land, under water its projected white-light beam was so weak and widespread that we felt it was good only for finding your way back to the surface and as a last-resort signal at night.£50 width=100%
width=100% 10 GREEN FORCE ARROW 5 DIAMOND Belgian-made by a manufacturer that believes in interchangeable parts, this lamp uses a focused high-output LED that screws down onto a long pack of ni-cads. Switching is by adjusting the amount it is screwed down, but it is triple-O-ring protected. The light it produces is totally puny but exceedingly even and will go on for 16 hours on one charge. However, we thought it only good as an emergency back-up, and so did Green Force because, using the same lamphead and light output, you can buy the cheaper Diamond Back-up, powered by a smaller 10 hour lithium pack. This will fit in a pocket because it is only half the size.£126 or£106 for the Diamond Back-up. width=100%
PRIMARY DIVE LIGHTS
width=100% 11 UK MINI Q40 Whats this silly little light doing in a line-up of primary diving lights Well, its here because its bright and has a reasonable-width beam. Equipped to fit on your mask strap, I guess the light provided by its four AA batteries will attract plenty of planktonic lifeforms in the dark and drive you near insanity, but you dont have to use it that way. It switches on by screwing the shroud down tightly onto its O-ring and I do not recommend turning it off this way in the dark, as you could easily flood it. Similarly, if you stow it for an emergency occasion you might well find it has flooded by the time you come to use it.£20 width=100%
width=100% 12 IKELITE PCa Small enough to stow as emergency lighting, this little lamp gave a powerful beam with a hotspot, although patchy, as bright as some of the best. It uses a 9V AA battery-pack. Its peripheral halo was wide and useful too, so we thought this good enough to use as a primary diving light. It assembles by pushing together precisely, so there is little danger of screwing up the sealing O-ring, and it has an easy-to-use switch with a good lock to prevent accidental switching. A favourite. The example sent was of clear plastic for efficient leak inspection.£31 width=100%
width=100% 13 UK SL4 With a hot-spot bright enough to make this allowable as a primary diving light, its beam is nevertheless rather narrow and we suggest you would be better off keeping this lamp stowed in your pocket for use as emergency back-up. Needing only four batteries, these are less tedious to install than those of its larger sibling SL6, but otherwise it was very similar in operation, with good in-water weight and handling, and a simple-to-use switch. No lanyard is included.£31 width=100%
width=100% 14 PRINCETON TEC SURGE It may look like a mere back-up light but its eight AA batteries equate to 12V of power that pushes out enough light from this small package to make it useful as a primary diving light. The beam is broad and bright and yet this lamp will fit easily in the smallest BC pocket. It has a useful burntime too, so would be a back-up on which you could rely if used that way. It has a positive switch with a rather imprecise detent to stop accidental operation.£32 width=100%
width=100% 15 PRINCETON TEC 400 This old design provided one of the narrowest cones of light of all the lamps tested here. No wonder the hotspot provided proved to be very bright indeed. It was remarkable. The translucent front shroud allows you to check for minor leaks without disassembly and it includes inside a different bulb for an optional less bright but wider-angled beam. It has a simple on/off switch without lock or detent and was conveniently heavy in the water.£32 width=100%
width=100% 16 TECHNISUB MINI VEGA HYBEAM If you are looking for a long burntime in a primary diving light, this could be the ideal lamp for you. The manufacturer claims 16 hours of continuous use from four D-cells but, of course, this comes at the expense of light output. It makes the most of a very efficiently designed reflector, so that the hotspot of the beam it provides is adequately bright but at the expense of being very narrow. It has an interesting trigger-switch with a positive lock that will keep it on or off, and it handled well, if near neutrally buoyant, in the water. Good value.£35 width=100%
width=100% 17 IKELITE PC Longer than its similarly named sibling, this lamp gave a bright but patchy beam from its 6V battery-pack, though less wide and not as bright as the PCa. It had good leak-protection as a result of being assembled by a push-fit and lock-in-place design that avoids crimping its O-ring, and a well thought-out switch with a good lock to prevent accidental switching. This is a viable light that will see you through any dive. We wondered why neither this nor the PCa came with a lanyard.£37 width=100%
width=100% 18 UK SL6 A long-time favourite and well-established product that is small enough to go in the larger pockets of some BCs, in the water it has a useful heaviness that makes it easy to handle and it switches on and off reasonably precisely. Still good enough to consider this as a primary diving light, its beam did not have the brightest hotspot but was wide enough to be very useful without being spread too far. Inserting the six C-cells proved tedious in the extreme and we were glad we would not have to do it too frequently.£41 width=100%
width=100% 19 PRINCETON TEC MINI WAVE II Slightly toy-like in its dimensions, this is another example of the new generation of mini-lanterns, this time with alternative power settings from a switch-action so subtle that many owners will never discover they have it. We found the ultimate width and brightness of its hotspot very adequate from its four C-cells at the higher setting, but at the lower setting not so good. We suggest that if you think yours is not bright enough you should be more gentle when you operate its switch.£44 width=100%
width=100% 20 UK D4 Chunkier than some of the other lamps reviewed here, and very similar to its more expensive rechargeable sibling, it provides two identical bulbs which are interchangeable during a dive by operation of the switch mechanism. In this way you should never be left in the dark. Not particularly bright, its light output was found to be even enough and sufficiently wide. It felt a little lightweight in the water but its switch proved easy to operate and with a good locking mechanism to stop it switching on in your dive bag. A dive-centre favourite.£53 width=100%
width=100% 21 PELI NEMO 8C Eight C-cells squeeze into a novel battery chassis. A choice of different wattage bulbs with the spare are held inside the reflector-unit and there is a good-quality switch and lock. A rubber-covered shroud bears down onto an over-sized O-ring and the body of the lamp is a mixture of integrated techno-polymers. It all adds up to what must be a desirable lamp. The beam it provided proved to give a bright hotspot of a reasonable diameter and its in-water weight and balance in the hand seemed ideal.£58 width=100%
width=100% 22 NITERIDER SEA TORCH The US manufacturer of technical diving lights has simply added a handle to its normal umbilical battery-pack and a small lamp reflector is screwed directly into it instead of the more normal cable connection. And very well it works, too. It gives good brightness in a broad, evenly diffused beam that includes a wide hotspot and a gentle peripheral beam. The 5 D-cell battery compartment gives it a useful heaviness under water, as well. Added together, it makes this otherwise ugly-looking lamp eminently usable. Around£60 width=100%
width=100% 23 PRINCETON TEC SHOCKWAVE This was one of the first of a new wave of compact yet bright lanterns, now well established in the diving world. Sufficiently heavy in water, well-balanced in the hand and with a bright beam that gave a perfectly even hotspot and a massive peripheral halo, this was one of our favourites. The eight C-cell batteries were installed without fuss and the simple switch and lock to prevent accidental use proved straightforward. This lamp is sealed by the reflector unit being screwed down on to a single O-ring. It is eclipsed only by its more expensive rechargeable sibling.£65 width=100%
width=100% 24 GILAN POCKET TORCH Its not that bright, its expensive to buy, and everyone will want one. This beautifully machined precision-made bit of kit is a less expensive version of a very expensive Dutch-made umbilical-style HID light but comes supplied with a conventional halogen bulb and a battery-carrier for eight AA batteries. It is only just bright enough to be considered a lamp for routine use but its beam has a very wide and relatively even hotspot and a massive peripheral halo that makes it a pleasure to use. Switched on and off by a magnetic device in a rotating collar and sealed with double O-rings, youll not regret buying it. Aluminium. No lanyard supplied.£70 width=100%
width=100% 25 IKELITE C-LITE 8 One of the best-made of this type of compact lantern, with a rubber shroud to its reflector and a well thought-out cam-lock that avoids crimping the captive sealing O-ring and should avoid flooding by careless assembly. This is a two-part-action device that allows access to the well-made battery chassis. Although plastic, the lockable switch has a precise feel to it and the rubber-covered handle made it well-balanced and comfortable to use. A smaller than expected hotspot was less bright than some but this was compensated for by an extremely wide and even peripheral halo. We liked this unit and so will you.£72 width=100%
width=100% 26 BEAVER NOVA-LIGHT A bit of a brute to handle because its large air-spaces made it effectively neutrally buoyant yet rather unbalanced in the water, this lamp provided undeniably the brightest hotspot of any of the lamps compared here. Once its front bezel was unscrewed, the connections for recharging its ni-cad battery looked a little primitive. Initially it offers good value for money but we felt that the waterproof switch might not stay that way once it was subjected to the rigours of heavy use. Good for UK diving when you might need to force a narrow cone of light through the murk.£87 width=100%
width=100% 27 PRINCETON TEC MINI WAVE R Slightly toy-like in its dimensions, nevertheless this light proved useful and a pleasure to use. Its beam was not the brightest, neither was its hotspot the widest, but the comfortably diffused, if a little patchy, beam it produced was nice for viewing things by. Easy to assemble, the rubber-like shroud of its reflector bears down on to a single O-ring to keep the water out, but its dimensions deny its use as a back-up because it will not easily stow away. A simple switch with an efficient lock completes the picture.£91 width=100%
width=100% 28 BIRCHLEY SL British-made in Gloucester by a small independent manufacturer, this light is made from a plastic that seems more brittle than the modern technopolymers to which we have become used. Very bright at its hotspot, its beam was not at all diffuse and a short burntime may not be enough for some dives. Its switch has an efficient detent that could make it difficult to operate under water and it was found to be on the verge of being positively buoyant, which can be inconvenient in the dark.£84 width=100%
width=100% 29 PELI BRITELITE Lamp technology has come a long way in recent years and this old design proves just how much. Four D-cells will run it for up to 12 hours with a beam that at its brightest point was as bright as that of its bigger, more brutish, brother, the Aqua King Lite. Reminiscent of an old car headlight, its massive reflector screws down onto two over-sized O-rings and a twin-element bulb gives underwater redundancy but at the expense of a very messy beam. Even with its optional lead ballast in place, it was tiring to hold under water because the large air space of its reflector made it uncomfortably front-buoyant.£77 width=100%
width=100% 30 PELI AQUA KING LITE What a brute! Eight D-cells will power this King Lite for up to 12 hours continuous use. Redundancy under water is provided by a unique twin-element bulb but this is provided at the expense of a cleanly delivered beam. The handle can be quickly attached in two different ways, but although it weighed 250g in the water, the unit was unbalanced in use because of the massive frontal buoyancy provided by the huge reflector. Leak protection is provided by two over-sized O-rings, but even though our test example suffered a minor flood, it did not seem to stop it working.£100 width=100%
width=100% 31 BIRCHLEY YL It was surprising to find that this older-design lamp produced a less bright beam than its cheaper sibling. Its tight hotspot proved exceedingly bright but with little in the way of a peripheral halo. Positive buoyancy proves to be a positive nuisance because the light will float above you if tethered by a lanyard (not supplied), which makes it difficult to find in the dark. We were unsure of the design of its switch, which had a very inefficient detent to its action that might prove its undoing. A one-hour burntime is too short to waste in your dive bag.£104 width=100%
width=100% 32 NITERIDER SPORTDIVER The halogen head and umbilical cable of this popular US technical diving light is linked to a simple battery-pack that easily straps to the belt and substitutes for some lead. For this reason it is effectively neutrally buoyant in water. Reasonably bright with a good-sized hotspot, it comes with a head-mount, a favourite method of use with cavers. It has only a simple switch without lock. We used it in conjunction with the five ni-cad D-cells (6V) provided but it is equally at home with 7.5V alkaline alternatives and will give a brighter output. Around£110 width=100%
width=100% UK D4R A choice of light outputs from being able to switch bulbs while under water means that you dont have to depend on a single bulb during a dive. Not incredibly bright, the beam of this lamp was comfortably even instead, with the largest soft hotspot of almost any lamp tested here, and a handy peripheral halo. It has a useful switch and lock. The compact ni-cad pack was easily installed and the soft rubber-covered shroud bears down onto a large sealing O-ring. A well-balanced unit that was exceptionally pleasant in what it provided in the way of light. A favourite.£113 width=100%
width=100% 34 PRINCETON TEC SHOCKWAVE R One of the best but also one of the most expensive, this lamp can be used with either a ni-cad pack or eight C-cells (both supplied). Its beam was perfect - very bright, with a large even hotspot and a wide peripheral halo. Predominantly plastic in construction, it screwed together easily, bearing down onto a single O-ring, and was well balanced in the hand, although with enough weight to give you confidence of being able to put it down for a moment if needs be. With a simple plastic on/off switch equipped with a safety catch, we found it compact and a pleasure to use.£139 width=100%
width=100% 35 UK C8 R Nearly the most expensive in our line-up and probably the best, this is an example of UK following a trend set by arch-rival Princeton Tec but doing it even better. It is a smaller, more compact, lamp than its sibling D4R but with a big output. The beam it delivered was very nearly the brightest of any tested here but, more to the point, it was the most even and pleasant to view things by, because its hotspot proved to be wide and evenly diffused. Twin bulbs give a choice of outputs and duration and offer instant redundancy should one fail during a dive. The switch is easy to use, with a fail-safe lock, and, under water, the lamp sits well-balanced in the hand.£142 width=100%
width=100% 36 BEAVER BLUE ASTRO The heaviest in water but small enough to fit in the pocket of a BC, this aluminium and plastic lamp is the most expensive of the test and uses domestic low-voltage sealed-beam lamps. The figure for brightness listed is misleading because the lamp supplied gave a very wide-angle yet very even spread of more than 1m at a metre distance. We felt that with the right choice of lamp unit it was a useful primary diving light. As it was, it was good for short-range use and as a emergency back-up and signal lamp. We thought its switch proved simple to use and avoided accidental use thanks to a good lock, although the lamp was vulnerable to mishandling during recharging. Lanyard included.£149 width=100%