Scuba Dive Lights

Buying scuba dive lights is easy right? Shell out the cash, turn it on, it lights up and voila Technicolor sea life.


I'm not going to bore you with Wattages, Lumens, or other technical mumbo jumbo.

Not right now anyway. I know little maore than the basics when it comes to lighting, especially for underwater photography or video. That's information I'll put together, or get someone much more experienced to do it, and publish down the road.

I am however going to give you some basic information to help you review the different dive lights on the market and select the best one for your needs.

So like the genie in Aladdin said, "why don't you just ruminate, whilst I illuminate the possibilities."

Types of Scuba Dive Lights

Conventional - Conventional diving lights usually come with halogen or xenon bulbs. Some older models and smaller lights, great for use as backups, come with incandescent bulbs.

Conventional scuba lights are the cheapest you can buy but don't let price be the deciding factor.

These lights use a lot of battery power. You may pay less for the dive light in the short run but over the long haul you'll spend a lot more on batteries.

Conventional lights cast a yellowish light which doesn't do the greatest job at showing off the true colors of the undersea world.

Older models can burn hot and should only be turned on in the water or else they can burn out.

Because they use bulbs they can and will break if thrown around. The bulbs are usually cheap and easy to replace.

Also because they use a bulb there can be a black spot or ring around the center of the light beam.

New models of conventional scuba dive lights have made improvements, but for the most part except for use as backup lights and specialty lights they are disappearing.

HID Lights - HID stands for "High Intensity Discharge" and based on pure performance these are the best scuba lights around. They are really bright. Really bright! And really white. Really really white!

They are also the most expensive.

Besides price another downfall with HID Lights is the bulb. Because it is a bulb it can break, and some models can be a real pain in the ass to change.

On the plus side, HID dive lights are great on batteries. This will help save money and make up for the extra cost of the light over time.

LED Lights - Unless you have been living with the nomads in Mongolia for the last 10 years you have heard of LED lights. Christmas lights, traffic lights, billboards and everything under the sun that lights up is going LED.

LED scuba diving lights are cheaper than HID lights, more durable and use a fraction of the battery power.

Not all LED lights are made the same. Some throw off a bluer light, and because of the way LED lights work it can be tough to find one that penetrates the water or casts a wide enough beam.

The debate between what is the better light, HID or LED, is a hot one on most scuba forums. Like everything else, "better", depends on who you ask.

LED diving lights combine a good price, amazing battery life, and near indestructability to make them a great choice for divers as a primary dive light.

If you are the kind of person that always wants the absolute best and price isn't an issue, HID lights would probably be the best fit for you.

In the next few years this choice will get harder and harder as the gap between LED and HID quality and price gets smaller and smaller.

Types of Grips

Torch Grip - This is the traditional flashlight type of grip. Usually when you see a dive light with this style grip it's a back up light.

A lot of high end canister style lights that are used by technical divers, cave divers and wreck divers are "torch" style. Most times you will see these divers fit their lights with a "Goodman" handle.

Goodman Handle - Goodman handles are basically a strap and a mount used to fix a torch style light to the back of your hand.

This helps to keep your hand free to use while still being able to point the light in a generally useful direction.

You can easily slip the light off and on your hand depending on the situation and what you need to accomplish.

Goodman handles are used a lot by cave and wreck divers where keeping a light pointing forward while holding and following a guideline is necessary.

Pistol Grip - The pistol grip is the most common style of grip you'll see with diving lights.

The pistol grip looks like the handle of a pistol, duh.

This grip is comfortable and easy to use.

Things to Consider Before Buying Dive Lights

Primary Light - Your primary scuba light should be a larger model with a wide, bright beam. Remember in the Scuba diving world bigger is not always best.

A giant sized light will probably just get in the way if all you're using it for is to illuminate sea life in less than total dark conditions.

Back up Light - This is a smaller light. Something you can tuck into or clip to your BCD or harness.

Back up diving lights will be smaller, and most divers if they even carry one usually buy cheap lights that break or flood out easily.

Don't make this mistake!

Your back up light is every bit as important as your primary one. Look for a durable light. You'll usually have it tucked away somewhere and you'll tend to forget you have it (until you need it) and it'll get thrown around a lot.

Always check your back up lights before a dive to make sure they work and the batteries are fresh. It really sucks when you get a flat tire only to find out the spare is flat too. True story.

A medium sized or smaller large size light will suit 99% of recreational divers.

Battery life - is a major consideration, especially when planning night or penetration dives of any kind. The rule of thumb is to carry a primary dive light that has twice the battery life as your planned dive time.

Durability - If you travel a lot or don't dive often and have your gear in storage most of the time, a light that can handle some abuse is best.

You don't want to toss your light on a plane, in a boat or in the closet and have someone throw, bury or kick around your delicate and expensive piece of equipment.

Attachments - Make sure your light has a lanyard or some other method to secure it so you don't lose or drop it. Also a carabiner so you can clip it to your BCD when you aren't using it is a good idea.

Illumination for Photography and Video

This is a whole other world of dive lights. Lumens, wattages, strobes and floating particulate. All that boring technical stuff I promised not to get into at the beginning of this page.

I'll add information on this in the future but since this can be a complex area it deserves special attention.

In the meantime as that fast talking genie said, "You have been a fabulous audience! Tell you what, you're the best audience in the whole world. Take care of yourselves! Good night, fellas! Good night, Agrabah! Adios, amigos!"

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