Freshwater to test my new camerahousing

I finally have a camera housing for my old Canon EOS 550 D camera. The housing seems to be functioning, but it is far from perfect. For now it will have to do, though. I will publish a review later. Check facebook also. First decent shots: (click for larger)

The dive lighting setup DIY

I have been using my torch to light my pictures and video subjects for ages now, with mixed results, but always made with a lot of effort. The old mainlight diffusor setup worked like a charm for over 7 years in all kinds of configurations and I would still use it if my main light did not break down.

The old divelight with diffusor

The old divelight with diffusor

Holding the light in one hand and photographing with the other. Big problem is always finding the right light to the even more difficult task during the dive; changing settings on the camera while lighting, keeping your subject in focus, remaining in balance and not touching anything… while keeping aware of what your buddy is doing and your normal dive situation.

Last year I created a new setup for my photo and video stuff, making it possible to video and photograph together. Last year and during my recent trip to the Maldives I had lot’s of practice and fun with it. I created a base plate on which the camera’s and later, the extra lighting was to be fixed. It worked. This year I searched for gorilla arms… I finally settled for a much cheaper alternative: actioncam arms. At the moment they are quite cheap and available in all kinds of colors and versions. I also found a videolight that drowned on the Maldives and the whole setup cost me less than 50 USD.

The base plate

The base plate

After some evolution I came up with a version that can hold two arms, two camera’s and is light and small enough to take with me on travel. Currently I only have one light-arm, but I can extend to use two. In the Maldives I dove with a modified 7 USD light and a 600lm light on the baseplate. I extended the baseplate with a bit of extra aluminium plating to take some stress off the plastic Canon housing, making it also stick in one position. The actioncam that sits beside it is light enough not to need extra fixtures.

lighting in action

Lighting in action

So what are the elements that made the current setup successful, besides the baseplate? For me the breakthrough was the light aluminium arm itself, that included the standard Gopro formats in all aspects. I combined that with a connection to the baseplate. Inittially by a simple camera connector but I found a sturdier alu version that will last much longer. The other added feature was the pivot extension. The video light was easy to attach, but since it drowned tie-wraps are my big friends for connecting the light. The light itself was adapted slightly by making the plexiglass. I still need to do underwater tests, to see if this will be sufficient.

Divelights – Chinese lights revisited

I have been using Chinese import divelights for years now. I bought my first lamp 6 years ago, after a long study on the European and American brands at that time. Most were offering Halogen or HID lights around the 400 to 800 Euro. The first LED lights were priced around that level as well. Canister lights were still not so very popular and goodman handles did not really exist.

Then the first Chinese imports started appearing. After long hesitation I finally bought me a 1200 Lumen light. Back then 1200 lumen was the absolute top. It would be like diving in daylight and the only thing I would see with that much light was baked or fried fish. True. Diving in Holland really limits the lightlevels you can be using. Normally 500 Lumen is more than you would ever need, I think. But then again, I use my light as cameralight as well.

I have been experimenting and testing my lighting setups for a few years now. I found some really cheap lights, bought them, to be used as cameralights. My MJ-850 finally quit on me, after 5 years… just before I went on my first Northsea wreckdive weekend. Bad timing. I ordered some more new Chinese lights on the spot. I needed to have them fast, because I was getting ready for my Maldives holiday as well. I now have a range of Chinese lights, including my latest addition, a new heavy duty light and a small 300 lm video light. This post is about the range I now have, how they compare and my advice on the lights.

The low end

simple, decent, surprisingly good

simple, decent, surprisingly good

Less than 7 USD buys you a low end 900lm light that has decent properties… and a tendency to drown when going deep. The good news: although I had 3 drownings with one of them, I was able to just dry, replace batteries and lube the o-rings… and it lived again. The light gives decent light, is easy to use although it is quite heavy to twist on and off. It has 3 settings: off, on, strobe. It also comes with a Velco wriststrap, which is of no use when you have european style wrists… or a thick divesuit/drysuit. With a small modification I use the light mainly for photography- and video-light. It can easily be fixed to my camera arms. (the lamp is light.. so no extra buoyancy stuff needed) A more extensive review will follow.

The compact, well made lamp

works good as backup, although with a small issue

works good as backup, although with a small issue

Just double the price of my yellow favourite is the sturdy, small backup light with an advertised 600lm. I have had this lamp on me for 25 dives as a backup. Problem with this lamp is 2-fold:

  1. it oscillates at about the frequency my camera uses for metering, result is many failed photo’s and bad video. (which, off course, I only discovered to be the cause after I finished diving in the Maldives)
  2. the on/off toggle switch switches WAY to easy. When I used this light as backup, I had several dives with a lighted BCD-pocket. The light turned on inside my jacket.

The Magicshine 810 revised edition

The 810, still perfect for travel.

The 810, still perfect for travel.

A divelight that has been around in several editions for over 7 years (*that I know of). The price has gone down quite dramatically and it is easily affordable as a backup while it is advertised to have 900 lumen, so no problems to use as a main lamp. I have used this light for a couple of dives, and really, this will be my travel light. It is small, light and has more than enough light in 3 dimmable settings, and strobe functions.

The 6000 Lumen for 25 USD light

Not really 6000 Lumen but more than enough

Not really 6000 Lumen but more than enough

Well, it was to good to be true. Off course it is no 6000 Lumen. It can be roughly 1200, if I compare it to the other lights I have, and even that might be a bit much if we are talking about measured lumen. The light has a ring switch and several good settings. It has 5 o-rings in 2 user maintained openings and a secret 3rd opening, you will only discover when the light gets flooded. Yes, this light flooded after 1 dive… I serviced the o-rings I had found… not the one I couldn’t find. The good thing, though: I get a replacement, sent to me by the Chinese trader that sold me this lamp and now I know the issue about that leaking o-ring, I am sure it will not happen again… I hope ;-].

The LM2200, heavy, sturdy

Heavy duty

Heavy duty

I have to confess this light still has had no logged dives with me. It is still quite expensive, but it is a different quality level as well. 1200 lumen, dimmable and battery indicator LEDs. This will be my main lamp for diving in Holland. It has a charger that plugs in to the light. The batteries cannot be removed for recharging. It comes with extra o-rings and a nice bag to transport it in. I need to build me a diffusor, off course and I need to find a way to get this attached to my vest. Looking forward to diving with this lamp.