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Which underwater video lights?


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#1 Painted Frogfish

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Posted 21 November 2005 - 12:19 AM

Hi all
I'm a novice when it comes to underwater video and plan to go underwater with my new Sony HDR HC1 in Ikelite housing next month. Which underwater lights should I buy? Thanks.
Marcus Lim
Nikon D200; Seacam; Ikelite DS-125

#2 Drew

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Posted 21 November 2005 - 12:33 AM

Hi frogfish
The question should be what sort of bulk are you willing to put up with, how you are going to use them and of course, how much money you want to spend. Obviously the choice is to get as bright and wide lights as you can afford, with decent burn time. Lately HID lights are the flavor of the year. Against the most powerful halogen Xenophots, it still gives a lumens/watt output that's 2/3s of the halogens, giving good burn time. However CRI is a low 60+ vs 100 for halogen. If you do a search in this forum, you will find many discussions on the merits and disadvantage of both. There's also LED lights which I know very little about, esp lumens/watt and CRI.

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#3 rizumi

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Posted 21 November 2005 - 11:46 AM

I've personally used both halogen and HID lights, and much prefer
HIDs because they have high color temperature. The high temps give
light closer to noonday sun, making colors really pop out. I'm not
going to get into the "what do colors really look like underwater"
issue here - that's another whole (inane) argument.

But here are the issues as I've experienced them:

HID Pros:
Superior color due to hi temperature (5500 - 6500 K)
Brighter, usually with better coverage and penetration

HID Cons:
Some don't like the sometimes bluish cast to the color, particularly
during night dives where there is no daylight fill
Poor reliability - some better than others
Very high initial cost
Very high cost for spares, batteries, etc.
Need large batteries due to greater current requirements
Tend to be heavy due to big batteries
Hardware tends to be finicky, and there are some rules you must follow
to prolong the HID bulb lifetime

Halogen Pros
Much lower initial and maintenance costs
Better reliability
Usually considerably smaller thus more easily transported
Longer burntime due to reduced current required vs. HIDs
Longer bulb lifetimes

Halogen Cons:
Somewhat orange cast to the light due to lower color temp
Less brightness / penetration

Having said all this, I'm crazy for using HIDs you must think.
But, especially for getting "broadcast quality" video, they are
the best for the money (yes, there are even more expensive lights).

Right now I use Light and Motion HIDs with the big batteries;
I like them because they have the best dispersal, giving a
very even light. I spent a whole day at DEMA checking out
every HID made, and they all have nasty hot spots except L&M. This
is due to their superior reflector technology. Since the reflector
is so well designed, you don't need a diffuser, which many other
companies seem to think is the way to go; but diffusers will eat
up about 25-35% of the emitted light. That's one third of your
expensive illumination going into the ol' photon bucket.

But it's definitely a love / hate affair with the L&Ms - they can
be very frustrating to use due to poor reliability.

I have also used Nite Rider HIDs, which are not as powerful as the
L&Ms, but are cheaper and much more easily reconfigurable to work on
several different housings. Overall a nice little light.

Though I have no personal experience with the USVH compact fluorescent
video lights, I've seen them in use, and some of the resulting video.
I was impressed. And, bulbs are $30 vs. $250 (ouch!) for L&M HIDs.
They're definitely worth checking out. I'm thinking about getting a
set for myself.

For a newbie, I'd probably recommend starting out with halogen lights.
They work just fine for most users who aren't that concerned with
"broadcast production values", and will keep the number of maintenance
issues down. It's hard enough learning the video craft without having
to deal with extra hardware nightmares!

Ray Izumi
http://www.chateaugris.com

#4 Drew

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Posted 22 November 2005 - 01:27 AM

Hi Ray
Thanks for the information. Always good to have practical knowledge not biased by measurbating. I do have a few questions.
1. You say you get better burn times with halogens than HID vs halogen. May I ask what halogen lights you are using? I have the exact opposite effect. But I don't use the L&M Elites. What sort of halogens are you comparing them to?
2. About longer bulb life. The Solarc (Allen Wynch) HID bulbs are rated for 500-1000 hrs. The xenophots (brightest bulb in the Osram/Sylvania catalog) is rated for 50 hrs. What are the L&M HIDs rated for?
3. Battery size: I had the Nite Rider BW batteries running my Sartek 24W HIDs. Each last an hour and as a package much lighter than the usual battery pack 9mah I need to run my halogens 2 x 50W (xenophots).
Could you please be specific in your equipment listing so we know what you are comparing with?
Thanks

Drew
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#5 Painted Frogfish

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Posted 23 November 2005 - 12:07 AM

Wow, bit more than I was looking for!!!
I'll try available light shooting with filter first.
Then add an HID if necessary.
Cheers.
Marcus Lim
Nikon D200; Seacam; Ikelite DS-125

#6 pmooney

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Posted 23 November 2005 - 12:22 AM

I have been using L&M HID lights since they were first introduced to the market - they conservatively have 500 hours of reliable use. Great light temp - excellent colour fair battery life. (I should note that I have been the only user of these units - which probally has added to the life )

I recently got a set of greenforce Squid 100's - I think they are a little too green for me. Light heads are big & bulky for me - great battery life.

A great hybrid would be L&M HID heads ( wet connect this end ) powered by the
Greenforce battery ( screw connect this end ).

Nothing about HID light is cheap - some is less expensive tha other's.

my 2 cents

#7 rizumi

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Posted 24 November 2005 - 07:31 AM

>Could you please be specific in your equipment listing so we know what you are comparing with?

Here are the specs:

1) L&M Sunray-X Pro HIDs
2) Niterider HIDs
3) L&M Sunray-X Elite halogens
4) Sea & Sea halogens
5) Niterider Pro Video halogens
6) SunRay-S Mini Pro halogens

Ray Izumi
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#8 Drew

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Posted 24 November 2005 - 08:42 AM

Thanks Ray.
For reference:
L&M Sunray-X HID are 21W HID(total consumption with ballast is 31W) at 1302 lumens, 5500°K
Sunray-X Halogens are 35W 1050lumens, 3400°K
S&S BLX-55 halogen 55W 4700°K no data on the lumens but they were dimmer than my Hartenberger 50W Xenophots which are 1600lumens (I think), probably due to the colored diffuser to get 4700°K.

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#9 nshon

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Posted 25 November 2005 - 05:08 AM

I'm using a pair (well mostly one) UK Light Cannons with my Ikelite housing and Ultralight arms. Kinda cheap and cheerful white lights.

#10 larsdennert

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Posted 25 November 2005 - 01:15 PM

How do you like the Light Canons? With two you must get really good coverage. Like everything, do they have a 4-5 ft range? Are you using rechargeables? I was going to just try my UK1200 but the beam is too narrow without the difuser. It also takes D's and is even more bulky. How are the Light Canons atop a housing? Is just one adequate?

#11 meekal

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Posted 25 November 2005 - 08:14 PM

just my $0.02 worth - i have only used the DUAL UK LightCannon gimik twice - so take this 'experience' for what it's worth. (literally about $0.02) withOUT the diffuser they are way TOOOOO hot - WITH the diffuser you might get 2~3 feet (about 1 meter) worth of LIGHT - so unless you're doing MACRO worth.... i found them not really worth the bother.

you can check out an example at http://piddlefish.se...CUBA/video.html - choose the SPEIGEL GROVE of Nov 26. - yea, yea, i know.... i shouldn't have been using the RED FILTER, but......

what's the bother? it essentially doubles the weight of your rig and it made mine (mounted on a pair of ULTRALITE arms) signicantly top heavy. i do most of my shooting in clear Florida waters for a point of reference

#12 nshon

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Posted 26 November 2005 - 06:34 AM

How do you like the Light Canons? With two you must get really good coverage. Like everything, do they have a 4-5 ft range? Are you using rechargeables? I was going to just try my UK1200 but the beam is too narrow without the difuser. It also takes D's and is even more bulky. How are the Light Canons atop a housing? Is just one adequate?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Hmm, I've been told I look like a UFO from a distance with both lights on. I'd say 4ft tops and one is adequate. They are really unwieldly as a pair together with the Ikelites and travel is a b**ch. Bought the rechargables but haven't used them, battery life is very good for the cannons.

My guess is, I need longer arms to reduce backscatter and fresh batteries. They have to be bright enough and like the previous post says you need both diffusers on or you'll get a REALLY hot spot.

#13 bvanant

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Posted 26 November 2005 - 10:22 AM

We also looked at all of the available lights and settled on the Niterider HID system since our experiences with L&M lights was so terribly abysmal. They certainly didn't have any idea what customer service was about. Niterider has probably the best service of any underwater company that we have ever dealt with and are guaranteed for life. The lights themselves are bright enough with diffusers to be useful even in SOCAL murk and aren't too bad to pack. The battery system can be bolted to the housing but putting it on a BC makes more ergonomic sense.

Bill

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#14 ronrosa

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Posted 26 November 2005 - 01:18 PM

For a newbie, I'd probably recommend starting out with halogen lights.
They work just fine for most users who aren't that concerned with
"broadcast production values", and will keep the number of maintenance
issues down. It's hard enough learning the video craft without having
to deal with extra hardware nightmares!

Ray Izumi


Ding Ding Ding. My cheap halogen light suites my needs fine.

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