We purchased five torches for our diving trip. Two torches are 'video torches' that throw a wide even light with no hotspots, suitable for photography. The other three torches are cheaper spares for night diving; they have narrower beams, and concentrating the beam into a tight angle makes the torch much brighter, but only over a much narrower area. Above water, three of these torches can only be used for a limited time at their brightest setting before they overheat. (They do not overheat when submerged.)
|Description||Price ($AU)||Weight (including batteries) & battery type||Burn time on high (minutes|
|Adventurer M1000-WRA Smart Focus Video Light (Wide light + Red light + Auto-Shut-Off). Great torch, warm light; perfect except for the price.||$225 (includes battery and charger).||160g incl 18650||80, then switched to low for 27 before cutting out|
|Intova Tusa TUL400 LED Underwater Torch. Fine if you are strong enough to open battery cover, but 3 AAAs hold much less energy than a 18650.||$75||220g incl 3 x AAA||115|
|Evolva Future Technology D02 Underwater 100M Video Camera Torch. Excellent, although not quite as bright and warm as the M1000-WRA.||$52||307g incl 26650 or 18650||120+, then gradually dimming for a further 120+|
|BlueFire 1000LM Xml-L2 Scuba LED Torch 100m Waterproof. The beam is too concentrated to be useful. Pity, because otherwise it is fine.||$28||280g incl 18650||120+, then gradually dimming for a further 120+|
|BlueFire 1100 Lumen CREE XM-L2 Bright LED Underwater Torch (Yellow). Only rated waterproof to 25m, and then only if you turn it on before you submerge, and leave it on until you have re-surfaced. Its beam is an excellent blend of spot + wide. Unlike the other torches above it is sand-proof. Because it is a 'twist switch' it will not turn on accidentally, so it makes a great way of carrying a spare 18650 or 3 AAAs. It does not overheat out of water, so it is an excellent general purpose torch.||$20||151g incl 18650 or 3 x AAA||240+|
Swmbo's $AU255 torch from the local dive shop is an Adventurer M1000-WRA Smart Focus Video Light (Wide light + Red light + Auto-Shut-Off) which has a remarkably bright warm even light, is small and as light as imaginable for a 100m waterproof 18650 torch, and has a good warning system re low battery power. Very nice. Included a battery and a charger. Apparently they are very reliable.
Wanting to guarantee that I would have at least one reliable backup light, and seeking the solidity of bricks & mortar, I ordered from wilderness.net.au (in $AU):
- a $75 Intova Tusa TUL400 LED Underwater Torch; takes 3 AAA cells. afaik I am paying for the brand, and it should be a reliable and compact emergency light. It provides a useful medium wide beam, and is not too bright to use when setting up in a dark boat (although for this I would prefer a head torch). My only complaint is that Swmbo cannot undo the battery cover now that I have pasted the triple O-rings with silicon grease.
- 2 $12 Scubapro Flashy LEDs. These go on your tank – I have read that it can be tricky to turn around to find your buddy in the dark, only to be unsure of which shadowy figure swimming away from you is your buddy. These might only be fully waterproof when turned on - you turn them off by partially unscrewing the battery housing, but Swmbo took it down to 25m after turning it off with no discernible ill effects. Wilderness.net.au advertise them as including 3 x CR1220 cells, but they were packed with 3 x LR44 in a plastic shim. I had purchased some CR1220's as spares, but when I tried to install them they were too skinny - I don't know if this is because the spring has been too compressed by the LR44s to accommodate the CR1220s, or what. The CR1220s are each a 3V cell having 30 mAh, while the LR44s are each a 1.5V cell having 100 - 160 mAh. The total 4.5V of the LR44s provides a gentle flash that is perfect for identifying a buddy, but might be a bit dull for marking a buoy that you want to be able to find at a distance. (I am surprised that the Flashy works so nicely on half its intended voltage?!) A Scubapro poster advertises the CR1220s as giving a 12 hour burn time; the LR44s provide far more energy at half the voltage, so presumably will last far longer. Still, it would be nice to get what was specified...
Wilderness.net.au eventually delivered my order to the local post office a week later.
Then I went to amazon.com.au, and purchased (in $AU):
- a $52 Evolva Future Technology D02 Scuba Diving Underwater 100M Video Camera Photography Light Torch Flashlight (Torch Only). By visual inspection, it is ~70% as bright as the M1000, with a colder light white light. Its red lights seem identical to the M1000. It can take a 18650, a 26650, or 3 AAAs in a pinch; with a 26650 it is good for 3 hours at its maximum setting. Nice controls. I am quite satisfied with it. It seems to have all its reliability problems worked out, e.g. perhaps in response to earlier complaints on the amazon site, it came with
- a useful replacement parts & special 'screw driver' kit for its magnetic switch, and
- a reasonably good wrist strap attached to a key ring that goes thru its under-sized hole.
- a $28 BlueFire 1000LM Xml-L2 Scuba Dive Diving LED Flashlight Torch 100m Underwater Waterproof Submarine Light Fishing Handheld Torch (without Battery). Its spotlight is too intense for most purposes, so it rates impressively but has been relegated to backup status. It seems to have adequate quality, although I felt the need to clean out some metal specks in the battery cover left over from manufacturing.
- a $20 BlueFire 1100 Lumen CREE XM-L2 Professional Diving Flashlight, Bright LED Submarine Light Scuba Safety Lights Waterproof Underwater Torch for Outdoor Under water Sports (Yellow). It has a usefully wide beam with a useful spotlight that is not too focused or intense. The uneven beam makes it unsuitable for photography, but when night diving it is fine for close viewing, and fun to scan further out to see a reef shark gleaming as it swims by. It has a velcro strap for fixing it onto your (slim) wrist, which we have yet to find a use for, but it's a nice touch. It takes a 18650 or 3 AAAs. You change it from bright to dim to flashing by turning it off & on. You turn it off by opening the battery cap a quarter turn; you turn it on by fully closing the battery case. So, yeah, its 'switch' is primitive, but has the advantage that if any sand gets in it is easy to clean it out, which is not true of most magnetic switches, so it is the only dive torch I have that we can use around sandy huts. It is nice and light and cheap, and it might also be good for running in the dark, although I might need to provide some sort of shim to stop a 18650 rattling around too much. Downsides:
- Only waterproof to 25 m, and then only if you turn it on above water and leave it on until you leave the water. We lent it to a friend who did turn it off at 15 m with no apparent ill effects (we wanted to see the phosphorescence) - just as well I had given it an extra dollop of stiff silicon grease.
- It is hard to turn off once it has been running for a couple of hours - I need to grip it with a bit of cloth, which you may not have in a dive boat.
- It has no circuitry to prevent an unprotected 18650 from completely discharging. This does not seem to matter in practice, because after 2 hours it slowly gets dimmer and dimmer, which means it would be at least 4 hours before you would damage a battery, and the unofficial word from Jaycar staff is that most 'unprotected' 18650s actually have a very simple circuit that stops them going below ~2.8V. (They warned that if this happens, then most chargers will reject the battery as dead & unchargeable, but if you jury rig a couple of charged 18650s in series you can get your depleted 18650 back up to a high enough voltage that a charger will then recognise it as functioning and charge it normally. If you try this and it explodes, causing a fire on your plane and massive loss of life, don't blame me. And if you are flying on a plane that I will be on, kindly read the airline safety requirements re lithium batteries.)
Amazon left my delivery outside my house in a semi-secure place (rather than outside my door as requested) the next day. Which reminds me, I will have to cancel the Amazon Prime videos that I signed up for to get fast delivery (perhaps after I have tried them out...)
I lubed up all the the torches and the camera with some stiff silicon grease of unknown brand that I bought from a dive shop. After each dive I rinsed them in well water and then soaked them in precious rain water for at least an hour. All worked perfectly.
To power these torches, from jaycar.com.au I purchased ($AU):
- a $20 26650 Rechargeable Li-Ion Battery 3400mAh 3.7V with a max discharge rate of 10.2 Amps, which should cover the 8 Amps that the D02's 4 XLamp XP-G2 LEDs can draw,
- a $15 18650 Rechargeable Li-Ion Battery 2600mAh 3.7V with a max discharge rate of 7.8Amps, which is unprotected but the shop tells me it turns itself off at 3 V, after which it needs resetting by being recharged by a jury rig to a mid-range voltage - what could possibly go wrong?
- a $20 2600mAh Power Bank with Removable 18650 Li-ion Battery, which happens to be a Samsung that I was told can discharge at 5 Amps.
All worked perfectly. The powerbank charges my phone much faster than other power banks I have.
To charge them I bought a $40 4-Channel Universal Fast Charger. It charges AAAs, AAs, 18650s, 26650s, etc. It requires mains power or 12V - it does not charge from USB. I think it only charges USB from batteries, not from mains power. Works fine:
All up, I took about 8 hours to spend $294, compared to Swmbo's 10 minutes to spend $225, so I think we can see who has the superior shopping skills...