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Ychng

Sunray Mod Light vs. UK Light Cannon

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Hi all,

 

I guess the popular choice (for those who can afford it) is to use the Sunray mod light as a spotting/focus light.

 

However, I was debating using a UK HID Light Cannon for this purpose, mounted on ULCS adapters on a central shoe. This setup would mostly be for night dives where the light Cannon does double duty as a dive light too.

 

Concerns:

1) Hotspots. Light Cannon comes with 2 filters that you can stack to produce a semi-even 40 deg x 40 deg circular beam. Color temperature is also pretty close to that of the 2x Inon Z220's I hope to use (6000k vs 5500), at least closer than any incandescent light.

2) No turning the light on and off as it takes 20 seconds for the LC to come up to full brightness

 

Given the big difference in price ($150 LC vs. $3xx for the Mod light), is there any compelling reason people go for the mod light?

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The UK light is huge! It's size would make it difficult to mount in the best location and may upset the handling.

 

The mod light has a narrow reflector option and lower wattage bulb. I'd like to try those options.

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My experience is probably relevant to this question ...

 

Until recently I used a Light Cannon on night dives, mounted on my camera rig using the ULCS ball adapter. I didn't find it to be much of a problem in terms of handling. (But mine weighed less than standard because I rigged up an adapter to use AA instead of C cells.) However it's much too bright to use as a focus light for shy things at night, as they are either gone or toasted by the time you get close enough for that macro shot!

 

It doesn't have to be too far forward; even without any arms the clamp on the ball joint allowed me to get the centre of the light somewhat behind the front of the camera.

 

For more distant objects the light cannon is a great night light. And for closeup it makes it very easy to focus (on things that don't run away). The brightness and whiteness of the light made it the envy of many other divers.

 

With a reasonable diffuser, and a moderately powerful flash, I didn't find hot spots to be a big problem. However without the diffuser it was a problem.

 

Mine did about 50 - 75 night dives (not sure exactly and I'm too lazy to check my log books) and was turned on and off quite often (but always according to the required delay) - whenever I found something shy, until I thought of the plastic cover mentioned above. It died suddenly a couple of trips ago (leaving me somewhat in the lurch). I bought a new globe (very expensive!) and that died suddenly at the start of the 2nd night dive after that. I don't use it any more. I expect there's a problem other than the globe but I can't afford to keep trying to find out.

 

I was always worried about turning it off and on so often. I eventually worked out that it's easy to attach a plastic disk to the front on elastic so that I could cover it and use a lesser light for focussing,without turnign off the light cannon. So that meant having 2 lights attached to the camera rig, rather than 1. Later I got a piece of black plastic and cut lots of regularly spaced small holes in it (to drastically cut down the amount of light), together with a diffuser, and this could be slipped on and off so I didn't have to use another light.

 

Currently I'm experimenting with using 2 lights mounted together (because I didn't have any bright lights left after the LC failed at the start of the last trip) - a wide light and a bright narrow beam. I turn off the narrow beam when I want to get close to something shy, or when I'm worried about hot spots. Actually it works pretty well and I intend to improve this system slightly and keep using this approach. It also has the advantage that if one light fails the other is already mounted on the camera rig so no fumbling around. (My real backup still lives in a pocket.)

 

-David

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Hmm.. Thanks for the advice David, this kind of experience was exactly what I was looking for.

 

Not sure if I'll go the LC way, as there is a point about it being heavy -- I have a set of NiMH C cells that I use with my Shockwave currently, and was planning to use them on the LC.

 

The tip about the black plastic with lots of holes is a good one! If the LC didn't fail so much would you still go the wide beam/narrow beam way?

 

Thanks,

Yeang

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Yes, the Mod Light is expensive. However, I can't imagine a better light for use with a camera. There is absolutely no hot spot. It is small, light, and solidly built. Its three power levels allow you to adjust the intensity based on your surroundings and the shyness of your subject. I have a pair of them. I use two for video. When shooting stills on a night dive, I take one off my video rig and use it on my still camera.

 

If it is in the budget, I highly recommend it.

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That's quite a hearty recommendation! If I were also doing video and was using it for video lights, I think that it would be a lot more justifiable.

 

Question for you: I noticed that the color temperature of the Mod light is around 3300K (very warm).. whereas most strobes are in the daylight range (5500 or so). Have you ever noticed color anomalies from having the mod light on the subject? or I suppose that the strobes are so much more powerful that the effect is insignificant?

 

Yeang

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Haven't noticed a problem, but then I generally use a fast shutter speed, so the ambient effect is pretty minimal.

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I am thinking about getting one of these too. I all but bought one at DEMA.

 

How would it work at shutterspeeds of 1/125th or less?

 

I think Yeang will be shooting the 10D (1/180th x-sync).

 

Cheers

James

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They are a nice package with a wide, smooth beam esp. by focusing light standards. I'll be trying one out. My gripes so far are the funky power button, which is not convenient to operate,and the LiIon battery which can be an explosion hazard if you flood it. Not sure how neutral it is, but it's quite powerful for a light of its size. I'll be trying the lower wattage bulb and spot reflector as well. I hope to find a 1" ball that screws directly into it.

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The old switch was much easier to access. Actually, it's the same switch, but the new safety cover is a pain in the butt.

 

Curious, Craig, why the lower wattage light instead of using the adjustment to dial it down? Also, I am curious why you want the spot reflector. The lack of a spot is what sold me on the light in the first place.

 

As for a ball, if you find one let me know, but in the meantime, a ULCS clamp will grip the outside of the LocLine like it was invented for that purpose. Don't get carried away with the clamping pressure, and it should work as you expect for a very long time.

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I suspect I won't feel the need for the highest output setting (esp with the narrow reflector) so the lower wattage bulb will offer potentially better battery life. The wide beam makes aiming non-critical but I find I most need the light with the 200mm or 105mm with a teleconverter. A pencil-beamed light works OK for that so I'm willing to try the narrow reflector. I haven't tried any combination yet so I'm keeping my mind open. The regular setup is quite nice as is.

 

I'm a little concerned on night dives that the broad beam may be too wide. For video I generally use a narrower beam for spotting. Perhaps I will ultimately like the standard beam. Who knows. Good to know the locline mount will work with a clamp.

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Just to confirm your suspicions, I'll relay my experience with the Mod light on night dives. If the visibility is good, it is a joy to use. If things are stirred up, it's time to shut it off and fire up the back up flashlight. You get amazingly even coverage for 10 + or - feet in clear water. In particulate that would make day time visibility 30-40, it's like using your car's high beams in a snow storm.

 

That said, I wouldn't trade my Mod lights for anything else. On a recent trip, I saw someone with about a 15 pound battery snapped to the bottom of his video housing and light heads about 3 times the size of my Mod lights. I figured he would light up the whole reef with that rig. In reality, he threw just slightly more light than my two Mods (which weigh less than a pound combined and require no cables).

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Guys, how is the reliability - I'm getting more and more convinced to get one. I got to play around w/ Eric's at DEMA but have never used one on a dive trip.

 

I have had bad experiences with other HID lighting solutions. Very unreliable.

 

Cheers

James

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James,

 

When you say HID solutions, does that include personal experience with the UK Light Cannon as one of them?

 

I've heard very mixed things about reliability where the LC is concerned.

 

How big is the charger for the mod light? One plus for the LC for me was that I could use standard NiMH batteries with my MAHA all purpose charger, one less charger to carry.

 

Yeang

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The modlight is self contained and is charged through an external port. Assuming the O rings work, I'm not too worried about reliability. The charger is a very small, wall-wart style universal.

 

Mauricio was have trouble with his during the class, but all his gear gets incredible use so I didn't put much stock in that. He swears by it as a modeling light.

 

I will be buying a second one from him as a spare since it looks really nice. My modeling light was one of my equipment failures during my last trip. Fortunately I brought a backup.

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Hmm. What's a good price for the mod light, Craig?

 

Thanks for the info on the charger. Good to know that it's small wall wart type, every pound makes a difference.

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Hmm. What's a good price for the mod light, Craig?

 

Thanks for the info on the charger. Good to know that it's small wall wart type, every pound makes a difference.

I don't know specifically about the price since I bought it with a bunch of stuff. I bought it through Mauricio Handler who's a dealer for quite a few manufacturers and a wetpixel member.

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Craig,

 

Let me know about the price if you do decide to get another one. If it's considerably below what L&M lists it at ($399), I'll probably get one for the convenience/small size/power levels.

 

Thanks,

Yeang

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Guys, how is the reliability - I'm getting more and more convinced to get one. I got to play around w/ Eric's at DEMA but have never used one on a dive trip.

 

I have had bad experiences with other HID lighting solutions. Very unreliable.

 

Cheers

James

James, I had one fail -- completely and totally. Of course it happened at the worst possible time. I was doing a night dive at the Town Pier in Bonaire and five minutes into the dive the light went out and never came back on. It was during the Bonaire Digital Shootout, and no one from Light and Motion or Backscatter could figure out what happened. They replaced it and both of mine have been flawless since.

 

Just to add to what Craig said about the charger...the wall wart is about half the size and 1/3 the weight of your normal wall wart.

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BTW, I don't think this light is HID.

I think that the HID that was being referred to was the UK Light Cannon -- sensitive to droppage, and real expensive bulbs! ($70-80)

 

Yeang

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James --

 

FYI I just got off the phone with Ryan Canon at UWCP (www.uwcp.com), who posts regularly at digitaldiver.net and is a good guy all around. I ended up getting the Mod light!!!

 

He offered me a great deal on the Mod Light (it was part of a package with 2x Inon Z-220s strobes) but indicated that he might be able to offer some similar discount to others too. I mentioned your name to him as I saw that you were really debating the purchase.

 

PM or email me at chng@fas.harvard.edu for exact details.

 

Yeang

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I bought a Sunray mod light in April for a two-month trip, and experienced a failure about ten days into the trip. The unit refused to power up, and just blinked a flashing red LED error indicator. Eventually (two weeks later) it started working again, but then failed again after another week. I went through that cycle once more before it stopped working altogether, about five weeks into my trip.

 

When the unit worked, I liked the light output - very even coverage, reasonably bright (but not remarkably so). However, I was dissappointed with the battery life, and frequently found myself with no focus light midway through a dive. The recharger is not fast enough to keep up with charging between dives on a liveaboard dive schedule, so you need to keep the light turned off most of the time, and turn it on briefly for shooting only. I would much rather have swappable batteries or battery packs than a built-in battery pack that I cannot remove.

 

After returning the light to Backscatter for repairs, they told me that Light and Motion acknowledged a design defect, and replaced the control board and much of the rest of the light with the latest version. It would seem that LMI did not adequately test their product prior to release. While on the Kararu in Bali/Komodo, I spoke with a photo pro who says his company has stopped purchasing LMI products because of reliability problems. This is a pity, since much about the design of their product generally seems to be good, but unfortunately they need quite a lot of work on the reliability of their designs.

 

If I could find a light with comparable light output and swappable batteries, I would gladly trade in my Sunray.

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I hope to find a 1" ball that screws directly into it.

 

 

Jeff & Craig,

 

I'll save you some looking.

 

ULCS part AD-MOD is the 1" ball you are looking for.

 

Thanks for the recomendation, Yeang! Enjoy your strobes & mod!

 

Ryan

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Hi Bob,

 

good to hear about your experiences with Subal and the mod light in SE Asia. I'm sorry that you met with so much misfortune with 2 products that others have praised as being top of the line, but your perspective is very much appreciated.

 

As far as a light with comparable output, swappable batteries, MUCH longer battery life... try the UK light cannon as this topic says :rolleyes: It was the way I was going to go before getting the Mod light. Instead of a 90 minute battery life you'd get 4-5 hours out of standard NiMH rechargeables.

 

The only minuses are: It's big, and heavy. No instant on/off, but you can jury rig a black plastic cover to hide the light.

 

I do not consider the so-called "extreme" price of a replacement bulb a minus any more, as I just found out that the replacement light bulb for the Sunray lists at $35. It is rated to last a whole 35 hours too.. a buck an hour. Ryan tells me that some people go through couple of bulbs a year. That adds up to more than a replacement UK Light Cannon HID bulb, which runs about $70 from leisurepro, and is rated to last 1000 hours, but usually less due to drops and fragility.

 

Yeang

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