Review of Keldan Solaris Pro
Why writing this review? Well, I guess I believe that small businesses that make good products should occasionally get some evaluation and publicity. There is currently a trend in scuba diving where only certain brands are “acceptable” and I always thought that brand loyalty in scuba diving should be avoided (sorry—I don’t mean to open up a can of worms here, it’s just my believe that a larger variety of products allows us to select what we really want and not what is “just there” and widely promoted). This review is based on my personal experience and might therefore be slightly biased. However, I am trying to write the review as objective as possible and, just for the record, I am in no way affiliated or otherwise connected to Keldan.
Keldan Solaris Pro
A few years ago I looked into buying a new dive light and decided it’d be time for an HID light. I’ve had a few lights before—from a DIY “bomb” made from a huge plastic tube to a sweet 50W Halogen light that illuminated half a reef. I also used some smaller backup lights over time. I had some money to spend, so price wasn’t too much of an issue and I wanted to get something that would last a long time and be of high quality. Plus, I really don’t like the “toy-lights” that run on AA or C batteries.
I had seen some of the HID lights available at that time (2001) and wasn’t too impressed with the typical bluish cold light they emit (this is my personal preference and I know lots of people who like this color). Granted, this light penetrates the water very far, but it’s not really nice for color rendition or on your eyes.
By chance I found a review in a dive magazine that tested a new dive light made by Keldan, a small Swiss company (www.keldan.ch). The most intriguing part was the HID burner they use—it emits pure white light and, to my knowledge, is otherwise used in medical applications. The promise was that the light comes very close to sunlight and is therefore a really good choice for underwater photography or videography. Well, back then I just thought that if I am scuba diving to experience life underwater, I might as well see it as pleasantly as possible. Nowadays I often use it as an oversized “focusing” light on my camera (Keldan offers a nice beam spreader that widens the bean from 10 degrees to 60 degrees and omits a hot spot. The spreader is wet mountable, so changing the beam under water is a matter of seconds).
Solaris Pro with attached 60 degree beam spreader
The company offers different models, varying in burn time (from 60 to 400 minutes) and has regular hand held as well as canister lights.
Customer service pre-sale
I wrote several emails to Keldan and asked a lot of questions about the dive light, its advantages and disadvantages, about the light and how it works, how it compares to other dive lights (both HID and Halogen), build quality, service after sales, and so on. All my questions were answered promptly and with great detail. I never had the feeling that my inquiries were too much or troublesome and that’s what finally let me make my choice.
The dive torch
In the end I decided to purchase the middle-of-the-road version, the handheld Solaris Pro (up to 120 minutes burntime). It is a very compact dive light that doesn’t take up too much room in my dive bag when going on a boat or traveling. This is largely because of the NiMeH batteries the Solaris uses. Nevertheless, the light output is quite impressive at 45W and 60W halogen-equivalent in the low or high setting, respectively. Build quality is very high and I guess that’s what you get from the proverbial Swiss precision. The Solaris is turned on by a ring close to the light head. Pull back a safety button, twist the ring to the low or high power setting and the button clicks right back into position, securing the current setting. It has also a “Test” setting for checking the current status of the battery (so you don’t have to ignite the light). The back side of the light is translucent and gives room for 5 battery status LEDs and the backup light.
Translucent back of the Solaris acts as battery status indicator and also sports the 4 backup LEDs
The light itself comes with a few features I really like: it has an integrated charging electronics that sits in the battery pack—simply connect the charger and the batteries will be re-charged and tested automatically. The charger itself is standard industry grade (with automatic voltage recognition), but with the nice touch of exchangeable plugs (so no need for ugly adaptors). The Solaris also feature a rather nice integrated emergency backup light consisting of four LED’s at the backside of the light. If the battery runs empty and you’re still on a dive (or in case you don’t want to have so much light during a night dive) simply turn the ring into the “Test” position and you have your backup light. Believe me, this comes in really handy if you are erring on the longer side of dives and two hours of burn time leave you in the middle of nowhere and you have to get back home.
Using the Solaris under water is a pleasure. The white light renders colors very nicely and I never had the feeling it is “blinding” me (I am not talking about looking directly into the light). During the day, the effect of the white light is rather surprising. Very often the only way to tell the light is not on a specific spot is by the lack of colors. Once you point the light into a specific direction, the colors appear, but you don’t have the feeling that there is an “outside” light source tampering the picture. This is, in my opinion the highest compliment one can make to a dive light.
Regular Halogen Light on the left (Underwater Kinetics
Sunlight C8) versus Keldan Solaris (no beamspreader)
The solaris is about 2 pounds negatively buoyant under water, but because of the handle, the weight doesn’t bother me while holding. One other nice touch is the threaded holed in the handle, that allowed me to use a standard ULCS connector, when I use the Keldan as a spotting light.
Solaris Pro attached to Amphibico Surveyor II housing via ULCS dove tail and clamp
I have had the Solaris Pro for about 4 to 5 years now and it is still my favorite dive light.
Things not so great about the Solaris
There are only two things that come into my mind. First, the price. It is by no means a cheap dive light. Depending on the exchange rates, price can vary between US$800 to US$900 for the Solaris Pro, more for the canister lights, less for the smaller Solaris. [As of February, 2006, the current retail price is US$1,430 -Editor]
Second, the metal reflector showed some signs of wear after 2 years and the metal foil started to loosen up - it doesn’t impact the light output, it just doesn’t look to nice. To my knowledge, the new models from Keldan use a slightly larger reflector and this problem shouldn’t happen anymore.
If you don’t mind spending the money, this is one of the best dive lights you can get. I wouldn’t replace it with anything else currently on the market.
My wife “borrowed” the Keldan for a cavern dive in the Florida springs.