I recently had the opportunity to try out the ridiculously powerful Orcalight Seawolf video light in the Maldives and thought people here might be interested. Stuart Keasley (bottlefish) did a detailed technical review here so I won't go into too much depth on the specs. The main outstanding feature of this light is the sheer lumen-power. A single lighthead can push out 22000 lumens. I had previously considered my pair of 4000 lumen lights to be powerful, but this blows them out of the water.
Why would you want or need so much light? I would say the main reasons are either for lighting very large objects in dark environments, such as deep wrecks or in interior of caves, or in shallower, brighter environments the lumen power comes into play to compete with natural light. Still photographers know that you need as much strobe power as possible to fill in the foreground shadows, especially when shooting into the sun. I've always been interested in achieving a similar look in video, and up till now that's been very difficult.
The Orcalight is not particularly small or light unit, but there again that is to be expected for such a powerful beast. The unit I tested is an umbilical arrangement, where the battery can be fixed either to the side of your cylinder or clipped to your BCD. Underwater this arrangement is fine and I found it didn't affect my buoyancy much at all. I think officially it is quoted as 200gms negative. The only problem I encountered was boat entry and exit from the water was slightly complicated when it was very choppy as I was effectively attached to the camera. However, Orcalight have since announced a self-contained unit, which should eliminate this problem.
In use the unit was simple and reliable. I had no issues. It came with two lenses, a 60 degree and a 90 degree. I found the 90 degree sufficient to cover the FOV of a 17-40mm lens on full frame. I believe a 120 degree lens is also now available, which would suit those using a fisheye lens. Note the angles are horizontal field of view, rather than the diagonal 180 of a fisheye. The light output was great and definitely a step up from anything I had used before. At 8-10m depth and beyond with bright tropical sunshine, the light balanced well with the natural light, and coverage was even. I was able to shoot off some stills as well- see attached pic below. Depth around 12m, ISO 200, 1/100th f8.
I only managed a couple of dives with the light in the end as I was also shooting stills, but here are a few clips-
It left me itching to shoot more with it, and I feel it has the potential to help create some really unique shots which weren't previously possible. This is particularly true with 4K video where there may be the potential to pull decent quality stills from the video- helpful when you need to shoot both with limited underwater time.
Ethics Statement: I have no association with Orcalight. I was kindly loaned the unit by Alex Tattersall of Underwater Visions, and Shane Newman of Orcalight provided very useful tips and is extremely responsive to requests for information.