How to choose your light for underwater video?

by spotmydive

Lighting in underwater photography and underwater video

Professional photographer or apprentice photographer, you probably already know that there are two types of lighting used under water :

The flash or Strobe

This device has a xenon bulb that emits for a brief moment a very strong light jet. The strobe is also known as “Flash”.

Constant light

This device unlike the strobe emits a constant beam of light that can last from minutes to hours. These lamps use LED bulbs that turn on and off like dive lights.

Here at Spotmydive, were are using 2 differents light system :

The first one is the Arius 1500 system. It easily assembles with our Hugyfot Vision Hero subwoofer for GoPro6. This system is equipped with 4 ‘true color’ LEDs producing 1500 lumens and a 5.700 Kelvin color temperature, providing an exeptionnal spectacle of lifelike and amazing colors. The Arius 1.500 video lighting system is equipped with a rechargeable Li-Ion battery that provides 1 hour of light at full power. The quality of this lamp is incredible, and the ease of set up is more than appreciable!

Our second underwater light system is the Green Force Heptastar 3000 DB canister equipped with the Dynamic Beam system which when used in auto mode automatically adjusts the beam according to the distance of the subject! This is why this dive torch combines the best of both worlds: spot and flood. This light head can switch automatically or manually from 9° to 120°. A high Kelvin spot light is best used as a signaling light which can also illuminate objects at a distance, while a low Kelvin flood light serves as a video light that can reveal true colors at short distances. The light head runs on batteries ranging from 6 to 18 Volts.

If you are interested in this latest model discover our full review about this Green Force lamp.

Before buying a scuba diving light what should I consider?

Dive Light Price

Here is the criterion that determines the majority of purchases. All features discussed in this article are not mandatory and will be more suitable for professionals. The range of dive light for underwater photography or underwater video could varies from few dozen of euros to thousands euros. You will understand, a quality product is not cheap and you must prioritize according to your wishes and objectives.

Is Lumens important for a dive light?

This feature is surely the most important to differentiate video lights. The power emitted by a light is measured in units known as Lumens. Without going into details, more lumen = stronger light. Today’s light ranges varies from 500 to 1000 lumens for basic light, 2000 to 3000 lumens for medium-range light, and the most powerful can even reach 30,000 lumens, a true sun under water.

Beam Angle

Underwater torch Lights can be used is different ways. Focus all the light on a very narrow beam with lenses and mirrors. On the other hand, you can extend the light output to 60 degrees, 100 degrees or even 120 degrees, which can cover a wider spectrum with 1 or 2 lamps. Most video lights are set with a beam angle of 60 to 120 degrees. This factor will determine the brightness of your subject in the frame. A tips for you: A remote light source will decrease the effect of particles.

Batteries and charging system for your dive light

Most lights have a battery life that last between 50 and 70 minutes. However, there are several different battery models:

1. Interchangeable rechargeable battery

This system allows you to open your lamp and change the batteries between two dives. These batteries are the most common and can be charged individually. The disadvantage of this system is that it requires you to open your lamp more frequently which accelerates the death of your O-rings.

2. Factory sealed lights

In some diving light models, the battery is sealed inside the lamp, which means it can not be opened. This is an advantage that prevents any leakage of the O-ring. The big disadvantage is that you can not replace the battery between two dives. It’s up to you to see if you’ll be able to charge your battery or have a second replacement light.

Best dive torch Control?

Over the years, manufacturers have developed new ways to control their light. Each system has is own advantages and disadvantages. Review of the most popular.

1. Twist method

This method is quite simple. If you turn the lamp head all the way in, you will turn it off and if you unscrew it slightly, you will turn it on. This method is widely used because it is the easiest to implement and the least expensive. However, this method has a big disadvantage, it causes corrosion of the O-ring which if not changed regularly may break under water and thus drown your lamp. Another possibility, a distracted person can also unscrew his lamp too far to light and drown it.

2. Push buttons

The use of one or two buttons to control the light is a proven method. You can turn on and off quickly its lights but also switch between modes. A 1-button lamp will be more affordable than a two-button lamp, but the maneuverability is greatly enhanced by using two buttons. If you have only one button on your lamp, you will need to switch between two types of pressure: a short press to switch between modes and a long press to turn your equipment on or off. A two-button lamp will provide more options making the overall experience easier and faster.

3. Other method

Some manufacturers have developed their own ranges of controllers. We will think of the sliding lever that works in the same way as the two buttons but in an even more simplified way or even 3-button systems with an LCD screen.

4. Remote control

This very recent method is used by connecting optical fiber cables to lights. A single master remote control can control multiple lights at once, making the experience a lot easier and faster to change your lighting instead of adjusting each light separately.

Modes and Levels

As you already know it exist 2 differents modes: Spot narrow beam and Flood wide beam. Another common mode that is common in video rendering is the red light mode. The red light is very useful as a help beam for focusing, since the camera can read it easily and it does not disturb the marine life because it is out of their visible spectrum. The red light is also too dim to appear in most pictures, so it will not affect your overall lighting. Another fashionable mode is UV or Blue Light. It is an ultraviolet light that excites bioluminescent organisms underwater and when combined with a yellow filter creates a unique glowing effect.

Power levels are almost always implemented in one way or another, allowing you to control the output power of low, medium and high light. Some lights have 3-4 modes and some have complete control of 0-100 in 1 steps. Most lights are set to operate for about 1 hour at full power. Using light at lower power settings dramatically increases it life span, allowing you to use it for multiple dives before charging or changing batteries.

Generally, the more modes and levels you have, the more you can play with settings and effects. Nor should you spend hours underwater adjusting your gear or risk getting your subject away in the distance.

Beam quality, which one shoudl I buy?

The quality of the beam is usually measured according to how the beam is on the exit circle. The use of multiple bare LEDs may result in a less regular beam than a single LED or diffuser dome that distributes the light evenly. Some LEDs create a more uniform beam than others. Video lamp manufacturers will always have to compromise between a regular beam, power output, price, heating and other factors that create different types of LED formations. Another important factor is the CRI index acronym for Color Rendering Index. This number indicates how accurately the light will reproduce the true colors of life of the subject ideal light = daylight / tungsten. The higher the number close to 100, the more accurate the color will be.

What mounts for your dive torch?

Before investing your savings in a new, overpriced light, consider the compatibility between this model and your underwater camera. If you do not consider this parameter, you will soon be forced to create Mc Gyver-like solutions based on thread and tape. Indeed, some models require appropriate supports to be grafted on the mount of your device. Most lights come with a default mount and optional extra mountings. Usually, you can not go wrong with a 1-ball mount or a YS mount that are easily interchangeable with each other.