We have two main categories of lights used in underwater illumination-- Spot and Floodlights. Traditionally, spotlights are quite common for primary dive lights due to the narrow (yet powerful) beam to communicate from large distances. Floodlights are often used to illuminate a specific scene; however, make for poor communication using the light as a signaling device.
Lighting Features to Consider
- First, and most important is your budget. Sure, there are other features below, but there are many lights to choose from to meet your needs.
Lumens – You'll hear "the brighter the better;" and this is true. You can never have too much power, but you do need the ability to control it. When visibility is poor, we dim the lights to penetrate further (the same reason why we run low beam vs. high beams in our cars in the rain).
Beam Angle – How wide or narrow the beam is. The more narrow the beam, the easier it is to signal and communicate using light. The wider the beam, the shorter the distance, but more illumination within that illuminated area--think video lights.
Operations – How do we control the light: Dimming, Turn OFF/ON, mounting location, and functionality used to operate the light.
Power Modes and Factory Set Levels – Most lights come with a HIGH and LOW setting. Other lights have the ability to "press and hold" to dim to the desired brightness. For normal diving standard settings are fine. For photography/videography you'll want total control of the light output.
Beam Quality – Is the beam nice and even or does it have hotspots. Does it have a large reflector or smaller one? Too small of light compared with a large reflector won't penetrate far; however, makes for a great focus light.
CRI Rating (Photo/Video Lights) - Measured typically in CRI - Color Rendering Index. CRI is the measurement of how colors look under a light source when compared with sunlight. The index is measured from 0-100, with a perfect 100 indicating that colors under the light source appear the same as they would under natural sunlight.
Mounts – Which mounts does the light come with, and how does it fasten to a camera try or handle for use. Several types of mounts are ball joints, clamps, goodman handles, soft handles, and even GoPro mounts.
- Batteries and Charging – The size and capacity of the battery matters when it comes to maintaining illumination. Some brands falsely advertise high output on battery cells that are simply unable to produce the necessary power. Remember, we are not in a 'factory controlled environment.' Some lights allow you to remove/replace the battery while others require a dedicated charging cable. All batteries deplete over time, so invest in high-quality ones.
When trying to capture the real colors during an underwater scene, we need to incorporate artificial lighting systems in our photography and videography. There are two primary types of lighting used underwater, Strobes and Continuous Light, to choose from.
If you are a photographer with a mirrorless or DSLR camera, you'll likely be selecting a strobe light. If you plan to capture video, you'll want to select a continuous. For our professionals, we often use powerful video lights for photography as we can illuminate the scene and set up our subjects better. If you can't decide, check out our multipurpose lights and capture the best of both worlds.
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