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I've seen several posts about X-Adenturer, Weefine, Kraken, BigBlue and DivePro lights added over the last few days.  As always Keldan is the elephant in the room :P
First of all: pointing out that they are Chinese doesn't mean anything per se. Today 90% of our equipment is made in China.  An iPhone is made in China. In our context, Nauticam is a Chinese company (I won't go into Hong Kong's terrible issues with Mainland China). As always the devil is in the details.

Our equipment goes in salt water and given the cost, in the long run needs maintenance. So in addition to finding a product with great features, it is important to find a company that will support their products over the years and at a reasonable cost and time. As someone pointed out, sending a lamp to China for service from the U.S. / Europe has costs and times unrealistic. So it would be preferable to find a company with dealers who are also able to provide technical assistance and follow their customers. Nauticam has a worldwide network of dealers who can solve most of the problems. You are forced to send the housing to Hong Kong only for complete service and the dealer always takes care of it.

Going back to the underwater lamps mentioned above, just take a tour of their websites to realize that many of their models are eerily similar if not identical. Even USA/Canada based companies, have identical lamp models except for logo customization and a few details. Moreover a quick search on AliExpress will  shows dozens more unknown brands with very similar models. 
Have you noticed that they all have the same type of switch?
A button that controls the lamp through a sequence of presses. I agree with @ChrisRoss, IMHO this is the absolute most inconvenient way to use it underwater. In the long run I have had several problems with this type of switch. They state that the lights are guaranteed 100 meters but already around 60 meters the switch does not work well.

So the question I have been asking myself for a long time is: who really makes these lamps?

It seems to me that Chinese and Western companies re-brand and "remake" OEM lamps with specific names, marketing and features, etc. But in reality most of the underwater lamp lines are the same.

TL;DR
Anyway, I too have had a couple and still have two small snoot lights that I use for macro. Some models are unbeatable value for money but in my opinion the important thing is to choose a brand with a reliable local dealer who will provide support if there are any problems.

My experience on that:

 

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Posted (edited)

Two characteristics most touted by underwater lamp manufacturers are Lumen and CRI.

The lumen is a measure of the total quantity of visible light emitted by a source per unit of time (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lumen_(unit)). Although by now we are all used to lumen to make our comparisons, it would be more correct to use Lux (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lux).


Put simply and with some approximation, the lumen measures the light emitted, the lux the light that actually hits the subject on a specific area. I know it is a difficult subject. Maybe @adamhanlon and Alex talked about it in some WP Live episode.

We find out the difference in meaning between lumens and lux, when we realize that a small 1000 lumen macro lamp, concentrating all the light on a nudibranch, is able to get us to work at F16 while, at the same distance & ISO, a 10,000 lumen lamp with a 100 degree reflector can't light it enough.

In our LED lights, the amount of lumens emitted depends on the characteristics of the LED module itself, the temperature and basically how much current is supplied to it. Each LED module has a datasheet with these values. 
Unfortunately 99% of underwater lamp manufacturers declare the lumen value simply by copying the factory data of the led module at the maximum possible current. Nothing could be further from the truth. The electronic circuitry and batteries of a lamp are rarely if ever able to provide those values and no manufacturer declares and measures the actual lumen emitted. Amen.

Another important value is the CRI, on the meaning of which I will not dwell (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_rendering_index).
What I wrote on lumen, applies here as well. At best they quote the data of the manufacturer of the led module used. If you read the last paragraphs of the Wikipedia entry you will realize that the CRI is a much discussed and not very reliable measure for LEDs.
Measuring the CRI of an underwater lamp as a finished product is not easy and I don't know how many manufacturers use specific equipment to measure it.
My experience is that with the exception of Keldan, the lamps I tried had strong greenish or yellowish tints (Mediterranean waters). As I wrote in a previous post:

Quote

To be honest the old Keldan Luna 5000 Lumen Led module was composed of a series of LEDs that gave a very high quality light.The new 8K LED module is a COB type and although the quality is very high, I do not find it up to the previous one. I don't have any scientific data to support my thesis. It's just my impression. 

My Panasonic GH4 and GH5 used in AWB (ok, I confess) with the old 5000 lumen keldan led module had a pixel perfect color rendition. 

With the new COB Led I have remove a slight yellow cast in post.

 

Edited by Davide DB
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I can see all these arguments and anyone who isn't completely blind can see that all those lamps are coming from the same source. The issue is that an X-Light 15000 Lumen 96CRI lamp costs 600€ and a Keldan 8X 15000 Lumen 95CRI lamp costs 1800 or 3 times as much. 

Most people aren't willing so spend three times as much for a nicer control mechanism. Now I don't doubt that there will be a difference in light output between those two lamps, but to this day no one has shown me any even slightly controlled test that pits one of those cheaper lights from the relative reputable brands (weefine, x-light, kraken) against a Keldan lamp. 

Remember, even if my set of X-Lights breaks, I can buy another one and then another one. Meanwhile tech improves so chances are that if each light lasts just two years (which is worse than reality by far from my experience with these lights) I will get a better light than the Keldan in my third iteration. I don't think those lights break anywhere near as easy, but still this shows, that even the service and reliability issue in my opinion can't justify tripple the cost.

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46 minutes ago, hyp said:

I can see all these arguments and anyone who isn't completely blind can see that all those lamps are coming from the same source. The issue is that an X-Light 15000 Lumen 96CRI lamp costs 600€ and a Keldan 8X 15000 Lumen 95CRI lamp costs 1800 or 3 times as much. 

Problem is that probably the X-Light is not really 15K lumen and 96 CRI. So they are not comparable.

Quote

Most people aren't willing so spend three times as much for a nicer control mechanism. Now I don't doubt that there will be a difference in light output between those two lamps, but to this day no one has shown me any even slightly controlled test that pits one of those cheaper lights from the relative reputable brands (weefine, x-light, kraken) against a Keldan lamp

Me too. As I wrote I had several of them. Thing is that after 8 years my Keldan is still there, the other are in the bin.

Of course you will not find any test of cheaper lights. They are crap. Do you know how many Ali-Express lights I thrown away after two dives? I paid $50 USD for these lights. Following your reasoning I could buy 36 instead of a Keldan.

53302855-81ec-4125-a7fe-611fe726bba1.thumb.jpg.cbd2d247e6084f4c58589dc07725558f.jpg80a4f3ce-bfce-4d2a-8691-0063fa2d2b85.thumb.jpg.354343a004a4a09dc6132dec4323dcae.jpg


 

Quote

 

Remember, even if my set of X-Lights breaks, I can buy another one and then another one. Meanwhile tech improves so chances are that if each light lasts just two years (which is worse than reality by far from my experience with these lights) I will get a better light than the Keldan in my third iteration. I don't think those lights break anywhere near as easy, but still this shows, that even the service and reliability issue in my opinion can't justify tripple the cost.

 

 

As I wrote before it's only a matter of find a decent product with a reputable service. Definitely lacking in a product that is a fair compromise. I don't think the brands we mentioned really make the products they sell. There is a lack of serious artisans.

Everyone is responsible for their own budget.

 

 

 

 

 

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I think it is unreasonable to throw 50$ ali express lights in the same pot with lights from Kraken/Weefine et.al. Of course at some point that logic breaks down. I still own my Weefine light (bought 3 years ago) and I am happy with it, but I am not a hardcore user with hundreds of dives a year. I think these lights are popular enough with brands that now have been around for long enough to warrant testing. As I said, I don't doubt that the Keldan lights are better, but I don't think they are that much better unless someone can actually prove that they are. 

I would be honestly curious to see an objective comparison. Right now all we have is opinions and we all know how much those are worth...

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1 hour ago, Davide DB said:

, but to this day no one has shown me any even slightly controlled test that pits one of those cheaper lights from the relative reputable brands (weefine, x-light, kraken) against a Keldan lamp

I was referring to comparing cheaper lights with other.

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4 hours ago, hyp said:

I can see all these arguments and anyone who isn't completely blind can see that all those lamps are coming from the same source.

Is absolutely incorrect :) 

The better lights have better LED modules and this is largely what makes them more expensive. I can see the difference in light quality between them, so this is not a just marketing hype and I am not blind!

All imaging involves the capture of light. Investing in the best quality of light available (or that you can afford) will always pay dividends in the quality of the imagery you produce. While the best quality may not always be the most expensive, custom built, short- run LED modules do not come cheap...



 

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I meant the chinese lamps like Kraken/Weefine et. al. I know Keldan lights are sourced differently. I was citing the OP on this one. Show me any test of a Keldan lamp vs one of those brands that shows how much better Keldan is. As I said, I am sure they are better, but how much? Three times the price as much? 

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6 hours ago, hyp said:

I can see all these arguments and anyone who isn't completely blind can see that all those lamps are coming from the same source. The issue is that an X-Light 15000 Lumen 96CRI lamp costs 600€ and a Keldan 8X 15000 Lumen 95CRI lamp costs 1800 or 3 times as much. 

Most people aren't willing so spend three times as much for a nicer control mechanism. Now I don't doubt that there will be a difference in light output between those two lamps, but to this day no one has shown me any even slightly controlled test that pits one of those cheaper lights from the relative reputable brands (weefine, x-light, kraken) against a Keldan lamp. 

Remember, even if my set of X-Lights breaks, I can buy another one and then another one. Meanwhile tech improves so chances are that if each light lasts just two years (which is worse than reality by far from my experience with these lights) I will get a better light than the Keldan in my third iteration. I don't think those lights break anywhere near as easy, but still this shows, that even the service and reliability issue in my opinion can't justify tripple the cost.

I've done controlled tests before comparing DivePro 18k lights vs. the Gates GT14s and Keldan Luna 8s (13k lumen model). The tests are somewhat complicated by the fact that the DivePros' output is concentrated in a ~90 degree cone, similar to the Gates GT14s, while the Keldans are closer to 110 or 120 degrees. Because of this, the actual amount of light for the Keldan that falls upon the subject ends up being half what you get from the DivePro and the Gates GT14s. The difference between the Gates and DivePros was not measurable in fstops. So.. I wouldn't worry too much about the cheaper 'chinese' lights meaningfully exaggerating their light output.

Keldan certainly has nicer controls and better reliability. My dive buddies and I have experienced issues with DivePro cannister lights in cold water (4 degrees) where multiple units just stopped working for no reason. Clearly, the quality control and testing under challenging conditions could use improvement. But in my view Keldan made a serious mistake by using dome ports on the front instead of flat ports. A 90 degree beam is more than enough for video unless you're filming with a fisheye. 

I note that the X-Lights also use a dome port, which is silly. 

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5 minutes ago, dreifish said:

conditions could use improvement. But in my view Keldan made a serious mistake by using dome ports on the front instead of flat ports. A 90 degree beam is more than enough for video unless you're filming with a fisheye. 

Actually they have the dome port only on the Luna model which is their historic light. All their newer lights have a flat port.

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1 hour ago, Davide DB said:

Actually they have the dome port only on the Luna model which is their historic light. All their newer lights have a flat port.

I didn't mean the oversized dome of the old Luna 8s, just the fact that the front element is rounded not flat.  Even the new compact lights still have a 'rounded' front that results in a 110 degree beam in water very similar to the 120 angle in air. https://keldanlights.com/products/compact-lights/1571-video-8x-15000lm-cri95.html

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Posted (edited)

Since we are so hung up on the word Ch**a, lets not use that word. Let us instead focus on a place where mass manufacturing is the norm. A place where theft of IP is the norm. A place where a good percentage of the worlds goods are made and where you CAN find good quality IF you can find a company who is chasing the niche you are buying goods for. 

However this same place, wherever it might be, is fraught with low end poor quality goods churned out at a massive volume with no thought to after sales nor care about such issues, it would seem.

Just be educated about it and make choices accordingly. Buy quality, cry once. I'll personally take Swiss craftsmanship first every time over a cheap item mass produced in some far away place where it seems that customer care is an abstract thought.

There is no right answer here. Everyone has thier own personnel preference. Then of course there is this new age we live in where mere mention of certain things or countries has people in a frenzy ready to pounce on you for such mention. I dont know why any of that ends up in a place like this, but it does sometime rear its head it seems. So lets stay away from all that and concentrate on the lights. I think we all get that there is no mythical bargain to be had in underwater lights. Expensive lights are expensive for a reason. If one goes for cheap they should simply be realistic about what they are getting for that cheap price. I think most would understand you dont get a Porsche for a Fiat price. It is what it is.

Edited by John Doe II

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Posted (edited)

The quality question and readiness to pay for it really depends on how critical the failure is. If I would dive a hundred bio dives per year and I would have one or two failures (and throw the lights into the bin), perhaps I would not mind this and I could even purchase couple of spare ones just to have available when needed. But, a significant amount of my dives are such that there might be just a once per season or even once per lifetime chance to dive and shoot the scenery. In such cases I am very willing to pay whatever sum (within my reach) that gives me good enough confidence that the lights will work when needed, flawlessly and predictably.

Example one: once-in-a-lifetime chance to dive the Finnish flagship WWII destroyer at 80m depth, a grave of 300 soldiers. The coordinates of it are a strict state secret and punishable by minimum 6 months of prison even if one only attempts to leak the coordinates. The approximate location is somewhere in the open seas between Finland, Sweden and Estonia. After years of research and working with a number of key navy officers we were granted permission and coordinates to check that the wreck was still in a untouched condition. Nobody had scuba dived this wreck before, and maybe never will again because the coordinates were on a 8" floppy disk.

Example two: progressive dives and setup dives to shoot a cave up to 860 meter penetration. I had already studied this cave a year earlier and then called together a team to spend a second week diving just this cave and penetrating each time a bit further. It was the effort of altogether six persons spending a week to get this shot, plus all diving and travel expenses. If the total cost of this expedition is in the range of tens of thousands of euros, why should I risk failure by saving a thousand euros on the lights? Really, why?

Edited by r4e
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Posted (edited)

Out of curiosity, what are your opinions on Japanese lights?

When I was working in a Japanese environment, and Japanese divers / guides swore by Inon lights, but then again they do tend to be quite chauvinistic and do that for all Japanese equipement brands (Gull, Bism, SAS...).
RGBlue lights seem to be gaining in popularity on the Japanese scene as well http://www.rgblue.jp/en/

I'm moving to Japan next month so these will be an option.

It's interesting to remember "Made in Japan" used to mean low-quality, from the first transistors of the 1960s up to the 1980s, then the label slid to "Made in Hong Kong", "Made in Taiwan" before it became the ubiquitous "Made in China".
That said, quality of Japanese electronics did increase significantly after Japan's MITI refocussed R&D and investments on electronics, moving on from petrochemistry after the oil shocks of the 1970s, which led to rise of the well known electronic branches/brands of Japanese conglomerates.

Taiwanese and Korean industries were developped in the wake of Japanese colonisation, based on the "flying geese model" and were initially working as assemblers for Japanese brands for the most part, before they started producing their own branded products (Asus started as a Toshiba assembler for instance), and eventually overtaking Japanese industries, especially following the drastic cuts in Japanese R&D budgets that took place after the economic bubble burst in 1989...

The Japanese camera sector seems to be doing kind of ok, but I wonder how they're doing on the light front....

Edited by bghazzal
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9 minutes ago, bghazzal said:

Out of curiosity, what are your opinions on Japanese lights?

Many years ago I had a pair of Fisheye FIX lights.

Light quality and build construction was really good. I see that some lights are still sold by big uw photo & video stores.

They are more focused on small lights for macro work.

The company remain a little mistery to me. They have their lights but they sell Nauticam housings and other gear too.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Davide DB said:

Many years ago I had a pair of Fisheye FIX lights. 

Light quality and build construction was really good. I see that some lights are still sold by big uw photo & video stores.

They are more focused on small lights for macro work.

The company remain a little mistery to me. They have their lights but they sell Nauticam housings and other gear too.

Thanks - I remember seeing these as well.
Looks like they have quite a few models now:
http://www.fisheye-jp.com/products/light/light.html

Fisheye is also Japan's official Nauticam dealer / service centre, hence the products  - but I definitely agree, most small Japanese companies are a little mysterious, even when you speak the language - they just seem to always do things their own way ;)

Recently there was some news on the Japanese UW grapevine of a new video RGBlue light aimed at professional productions, the RGBlue BlackBody (sic, ehrm...) VM2, said to give up to 20,000 lumen at either 4200K or 5000K, and all that for roughly 4,900 euros a piece:
http://www.rgblue.jp/ja/products/blackbody/

Edited by bghazzal
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2 hours ago, bghazzal said:

Recently there was some news on the Japanese UW grapevine of a new video RGBlue light aimed at professional productions, the RGBlue BlackBody (sic, ehrm...) VM2, said to give up to 20,000 lumen at either 4200K or 5000K, and all that for roughly 4,900 euros a piece:
http://www.rgblue.jp/ja/products/blackbody/

Hahaha you need a gun permit for that :rofl:

The maximum power I used was this. When you open it like a cross and you light the scene from above you get a really nice effect

 

20200524_094920.thumb.jpg.1af697509b5a2850164c4d8842072878.jpg

 

 

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On 4/16/2021 at 1:26 PM, bghazzal said:


Recently there was some news on the Japanese UW grapevine of a new video RGBlue light aimed at professional productions, the RGBlue BlackBody (sic, ehrm...) VM2, said to give up to 20,000 lumen at either 4200K or 5000K, and all that for roughly 4,900 euros a piece:
http://www.rgblue.jp/ja/products/blackbody/

These look interesting. Any user reviews out there ? 

Being todays Japanese, you just know it will be good stuff.

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I might be a bit absolute but... you pay peanuts you get monkeys

I have a pair of Divepro 18K and a pair of Keldan 4 the 7k lumen edition.

The Divepro are nowhere near the Keldans in terms of usability, construction quality, and light quality.

We all tend to focus on light output ignoring the fact that power is nothing without control. The divepro one button system is practically useless and offers only 3 modes Off, full power, 50 percent. Yes they do have a punch on full power but light quality is nothing like the Keldan. The edges are harsh and the lighting looks unnatural compared to the gradual drop off and soft light of the Keldans.

The construction quality is day and night. The o-rings on the Divepros are so thin and fragile that you really have to be careful every time you remove or install the battery, same goes with the threads in the battery body and the light-head you really must be careful anytime you install the battery. Keldans on the other hand are made to last. I ve dropped them down several times and had no problem at all.

I ended up using the Dive pro as offboard lights handing them over to a light diver or putting them on Joby Gorilla pod tripods.

Spending mega $$$ on camera, lenses, housings, water optics/domes and then try to save on the most important element is in my opinion not the best tactic. 

And as R4E said deco is very boring to spend it looking at badly lighted shots :)))

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On 4/16/2021 at 6:33 PM, Davide DB said:

Hahaha you need a gun permit for that :rofl:

The maximum power I used was this. When you open it like a cross and you light the scene from above you get a really nice effect

 

20200524_094920.thumb.jpg.1af697509b5a2850164c4d8842072878.jpg

 

 

Crocs are color matching the light Davide :)))

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52 minutes ago, Lionfi2s said:

Crocs are color matching the light Davide :)))

:rofl:

 

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12 hours ago, John Doe II said:

These look interesting. Any user reviews out there ? 

Being todays Japanese, you just know it will be good stuff.

Haven't seen any, they were announced last May, and marketed very recently (the product page is less than a month old)

I'll let you know if I see any reviews, but I'm guessing will probably be restricted to the Japanese market for a while.

This profile here (Japanese only) explains that the lights were initially developped as something of a collaboration project with NHK teams, for 4K/8K footage.
https://av.watch.impress.co.jp/docs/news/1253757.htm
They market it as "supernatural light with premium colour"  and present the 5000K model as ideal for working on sunny days, and the 4200K as offering slightly more vivid colours.


 

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