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Barmaglot

Lights for blackwater diving

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I got introduced to blackwater diving earlier this year, and having signed up to a blackwater-focused trip on The Smiling Seahorse liveaboard, I decided to get a proper spotting light. Going with @alextyrrell's recommendation, I got an Inon LF800-N from DiverVision in Taiwan. Unfortunately, when I arrived in Thailand well ahead of the liveaboard trip and went to test it in the water, it flooded on the first dive. Must've been a slow leak, but enough to cover the battery compartment in gunk, and half-fill the light head with water. DiverVision instructed me to send it back to them, which I did, but in the meanwhile, I had only my Archon D15VP torch to light my way at night, so I went on Aliexpress and got a Weefine Smart Focus 1000 light with a WFA61 snoot lens, which screws into the light and focuses it into a narrow beam with almost no falloff. I did the liveaboard trip with this light, and as the boat came back into cellular reception range, I got an email from DiverVision that Inon has replaced my flooded LF800-N, so now I have both lights. Here is quick comparison of the three lights in a pool:

Archon D15VP, wide beam:

x8ARNla.png

8LGli1c.png

Archon D15VP, narrow beam:

le7pEn1.png

LJBwLSc.png

Weefine Smart Focus 1000 with snoot lens:

boIAapl.png

93rnJgf.png

Inon LF800-N:

hF0nPxK.png

fKKPVPz.png

The Fresnel lens design of the LF800-N appears to more efficient than the Weefine one - the latter starts very narrow but widens quite notably with distance, whereas the former looks like a solid cylinder of light, and despite having somewhat lower rated power, the beam appears to be more intense. Unfortunately Inon has recently discontinued this model, but it looks like LF650h-N is an almost identical replacement, using slightly a different LED in what seems like the same body.

Edited by Barmaglot
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I like the INON torches and have two of them myself.  I guess you were unlucky with the first one, I find the o-ring design works really well and never get any debris on the o-rings, unlike my housing which generally has some grit on it after a shore dive.

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As with Chris I am very happy with mine and find it very useful for daytime dives too. In HI there are lots of dark places - ledges, tunnels, etc. to look at on day dives. The can be scoped from a distance saving bottom time. The double O-ring design seems almost bulletproof, but maybe not.

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I don't think mine leaked through the o-rings - I found water in the light head, but mostly battery gunk (rather than water) in the battery compartment, so I think water got in through the front.

What I find strange is that this design of lens+reflector appears to be completely unique among the myriad different dive lights on the market. It's extremely effective, and doesn't appear to be too complex, yet not a single manufacturer has copied it. It can't be patent protection, can it? Large searchlights have been using similar optical designs for well over a century now...

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On 12/10/2021 at 4:32 AM, ChrisRoss said:

I guess you were unlucky with the first one

The plot thickens. My second LF800, the one I got as a replacement, which was fine in the pool - it filled up with water on the first dive of a week-long liveaboard trip. I contacted DiverVision again, but it took about two weeks for them to reply due to Christmas and New Year's holidays. They had two more in stock, but I asked them to do a pressure test before doing an exchange, and this morning, they let me know that when tested, both of those leaked too. Must be a faulty batch. In the meanwhile, I got an XTAR D26 2500lm, but it has a lot more fall-off on its beam than the Inon.

uoYiSwl.png

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Wow, unlucky and annoying on those light failures.  I hope it was a great trip despite the leaks...... Mrs Lincoln, ;-)

 

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On 1/8/2022 at 3:08 PM, Barmaglot said:

The plot thickens. My second LF800, the one I got as a replacement, which was fine in the pool - it filled up with water on the first dive of a week-long liveaboard trip. I contacted DiverVision again, but it took about two weeks for them to reply due to Christmas and New Year's holidays. They had two more in stock, but I asked them to do a pressure test before doing an exchange, and this morning, they let me know that when tested, both of those leaked too. Must be a faulty batch. In the meanwhile, I got an XTAR D26 2500lm, but it has a lot more fall-off on its beam than the Inon.

uoYiSwl.png

 

Daaamn that is unlucky, sorry to hear that. But thanks for the heads up, I was just looking at the LF800-N, so in this case will ask teh shop to definitely test it beforehand.
Out of the curiosity, how was the liveaboard trip ? The blackwater ones seems a bit of a new thing, hence really curious how it went :)

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55 minutes ago, makar0n said:

I was just looking at the LF800-N, so in this case will ask teh shop to definitely test it beforehand.

Keep in mind that LF800-N has been discontinued and replaced with LF650-N, although shops may have old stock on hand.

55 minutes ago, makar0n said:

Out of the curiosity, how was the liveaboard trip ? The blackwater ones seems a bit of a new thing, hence really curious how it went :)

A little bit of a disappointment due to weather - we had to cancel some dives, and conduct others as bonfire, with the line tethered to a static buoy in a protected area which significantly reduced the availability of subjects. I was told that the trip immediately after that, the weather got even worse - they had to cancel Richelieu Rock dives due to high winds and waves. I did another trip with that boat over Christmas, and we did one blackwater dive off Koh Tachai - weather was much better, and that one dive had more stuff to shoot than all the blackwater dives on the previous trip put together. I'm heading out with them again in two weeks; that trip has three blackwater dives scheduled - fingers crossed for good weather.

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17 hours ago, Barmaglot said:

Keep in mind that LF800-N has been discontinued and replaced with LF650-N, although shops may have old stock on hand

Another reason to get it, before it disappears forever :) ...the LF650-N replacement seems weaker and also higher temp (5000K vs 6500K). Found that onderwaterhuis.nl still has these, and since I am debating on getting a LF-1300EWf, to replace yet another failed L&M Sola light (their PCBs are complete garbage, and repair cost is outrageous), and realized Inon lights have interchangeable heads, tempted by the LF800-N as well. Just gotta figure out if can find a head alone, not to pay for two bodies.

 

17 hours ago, Barmaglot said:

A little bit of a disappointment due to weather - we had to cancel some dives, and conduct others as bonfire, with the line tethered to a static buoy in a protected area which significantly reduced the availability of subjects. I was told that the trip immediately after that, the weather got even worse - they had to cancel Richelieu Rock dives due to high winds and waves. I did another trip with that boat over Christmas, and we did one blackwater dive off Koh Tachai - weather was much better, and that one dive had more stuff to shoot than all the blackwater dives on the previous trip put together. I'm heading out with them again in two weeks; that trip has three blackwater dives scheduled - fingers crossed for good weather.

Thanks for the report. Do let me know what happens in two weeks...perhaps even post a few pics here :) I am quite interested in the blackwater, sadly being stuck in Europe, makes it rather difficult....meanwhile Thailand is not that far and they seem to be open as well, which in today's times is rather rare :D

Hope you have a great weather and all the lights work on the next trip!

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23 hours ago, makar0n said:

Another reason to get it, before it disappears forever :) ...the LF650-N replacement seems weaker and also higher temp (5000K vs 6500K).

I was just chatting to a guy who has both and he says there's no practical difference between them.

23 hours ago, makar0n said:

Just gotta figure out if can find a head alone, not to pay for two bodies. 

DiverVision sells the heads separately, but for now they don't seem to have the LF650-N in their catalog, and if you order an LF800-N from them, I don't think they'd be shipping it anytime soon.

Santa brought a new toy yesterday; an Archon J2, replacing an Archon D15VP that now sleeps eternal (it was attached to my BCD with a lanyard when I got slammed against a boat ladder getting out of the water; the lanyard got hooked on the ladder, parted and that was that). Three lights side by side in the pool - Weefine Smart Focus 1000 with snoot lens (left), Archon J2 (center), XTAR D26 2500lm (right):

yTIB26o.jpeg

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On 1/11/2022 at 10:48 AM, Barmaglot said:

I was just chatting to a guy who has both and he says there's no practical difference between them.

DiverVision sells the heads separately, but for now they don't seem to have the LF650-N in their catalog, and if you order an LF800-N from them, I don't think they'd be shipping it anytime soon.

Santa brought a new toy yesterday; an Archon J2, replacing an Archon D15VP that now sleeps eternal (it was attached to my BCD with a lanyard when I got slammed against a boat ladder getting out of the water; the lanyard got hooked on the ladder, parted and that was that). Three lights side by side in the pool - Weefine Smart Focus 1000 with snoot lens (left), Archon J2 (center), XTAR D26 2500lm (right):

yTIB26o.jpeg

 

I think you should change your username from Barmaglot to "Buys-a-lot" :D:D:D
Funny enough I was looking at the Kraken 1500 model as a focus light too, thought this one does not seem to have any extra filters etc, seems the screw in thread is only present in the 1000 version. I am curious whether you could do a similar shot once you receive the LF800N back...I am still making up my mind, and more and more leaning towards even skipping the focus light altogether and just getting the 800N model alone.

How was the trip by the way ?

Edited by makar0n

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13 minutes ago, makar0n said:

I am curious whether you could do a similar shot once you receive the LF800N back...

That will take a while :( A week ago, I got a response from DiverVision that Inon is shipping them a replacement light that passed a pressure test, and once they get it, they will ship it to me.

15 minutes ago, makar0n said:

I am still making up my mind, and more and more leaning towards even skipping the focus light altogether and just getting the 800N model alone.

If you're doing blackwater, it's better to have search light and focus light separately. Waving a big camera rig around to search for stuff can get tiresome.

16 minutes ago, makar0n said:

How was the trip by the way ?

A lot better than the previous one. Imgur gallery.

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On 2/12/2022 at 1:17 PM, Barmaglot said:

That will take a while :( A week ago, I got a response from DiverVision that Inon is shipping them a replacement light that passed a pressure test, and once they get it, they will ship it to me.

If you're doing blackwater, it's better to have search light and focus light separately. Waving a big camera rig around to search for stuff can get tiresome.

A lot better than the previous one. Imgur gallery.

 

Hmm so do you mean taking both focus and the 800N, then first using focus to scout the area, then switch that off and only use 800N ? As my plan was, even if i was to get both 1300 and 800, to basically only have one body (and two heads)....but i guess then the above would not be possible.
 

And those are very nice pics! I love that fishie with green back, damn thing has wonderful colors (though the one with blue back is also quite nice!). Ha seems its time to visit Thailand after all...just checking out Singapore Airlines as they seem to have some promo flights to Thai land...just gotta find the right time of the year :)

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On 2/16/2022 at 12:52 AM, makar0n said:

Hmm so do you mean taking both focus and the 800N, then first using focus to scout the area, then switch that off and only use 800N ? As my plan was, even if i was to get both 1300 and 800, to basically only have one body (and two heads)....but i guess then the above would not be possible.

I have a focus light (Weefine Smart Focus 1000) mounted on top of the camera, and a search light (currently XTAR D26, will switch to LF800-N when I get the replacement) attached to my left shoulder D-ring. I swim with the camera rig in my right hand and the search light in my left hand, sweeping ahead of me to find prospective targets. When I find something, I swing the camera forward until the subject is illuminated by the focus light, drop the search light and grab the camera left handle with my left hand. Until I'm done shooting that specific subject, the search light is just dangling off my shoulder, pointing downwards.

On 2/16/2022 at 12:52 AM, makar0n said:

And those are very nice pics! I love that fishie with green back, damn thing has wonderful colors (though the one with blue back is also quite nice!).

Those are a juvenile soldierfish (or possibly squirrelfish) and a juvenile goatfish respectively.

On 2/16/2022 at 12:52 AM, makar0n said:

Ha seems its time to visit Thailand after all...just checking out Singapore Airlines as they seem to have some promo flights to Thai land...just gotta find the right time of the year :) 

If you're interested in blackwater, The Smiling Seahorse liveaboard is the only operator that I know of who is doing it routinely, at least one blackwater dive on every trip. Regarding time of year, keep in mind that the Andaman Sea marine parks are open from 15th of October to 15th of May, and within the season, weather can be somewhat... marginal close to the beginning and end.

 

Edited by Barmaglot

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On 2/17/2022 at 6:45 AM, Barmaglot said:

I have a focus light (Weefine Smart Focus 1000) mounted on top of the camera, and a search light (currently XTAR D26, will switch to LF800-N when I get the replacement) attached to my left shoulder D-ring. I swim with the camera rig in my right hand and the search light in my left hand, sweeping ahead of me to find prospective targets. When I find something, I swing the camera forward until the subject is illuminated by the focus light, drop the search light and grab the camera left handle with my left hand. Until I'm done shooting that specific subject, the search light is just dangling off my shoulder, pointing downwards.

Those are a juvenile soldierfish (or possibly squirrelfish) and a juvenile goatfish respectively.

If you're interested in blackwater, The Smiling Seahorse liveaboard is the only operator that I know of who is doing it routinely, at least one blackwater dive on every trip. Regarding time of year, keep in mind that the Andaman Sea marine parks are open from 15th of October to 15th of May, and within the season, weather can be somewhat... marginal close to the beginning and end.

 

Aaach so that is a bit different from what i envisioned - you are already using narrow 800N as a spotting light, then switching to even more narrow Weefine for focus...hmm as was thinking having the lwf1300 as general spotting, then switch to 800 for focus.

 

And thank you for the tip dates wise - definitely going to head there, just not sure yet if before this May or only after October....and will in this case definitely keep at least a few weeks on each side, just to be safer with the weather ...and if you happen to be on the boat the beer is of course in order :D

 

Thanks again for all the tips, and please do post here if you happen to go there again and have new pictures!

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12 minutes ago, makar0n said:

Aaach so that is a bit different from what i envisioned - you are already using narrow 800N as a spotting light, then switching to even more narrow Weefine for focus...hmm as was thinking having the lwf1300 as general spotting, then switch to 800 for focus.

No, it's the other way around. On blackwater dives, I'm using the Weefine light without the focusing lens, so it's emitting a wide beam. You need a narrow beam to punch through the water without blinding you with backscatter in order to find subjects, and then a wide beam to keep track of your subject once you have it in your sights.

14 minutes ago, makar0n said:

And thank you for the tip dates wise - definitely going to head there, just not sure yet if before this May or only after October....and will in this case definitely keep at least a few weeks on each side, just to be safer with the weather ...and if you happen to be on the boat the beer is of course in order :D 

For what it's worth, I'll be on the boat between March 8th and 13th, and then I'm heading back to Israel.

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11 hours ago, Barmaglot said:

No, it's the other way around. On blackwater dives, I'm using the Weefine light without the focusing lens, so it's emitting a wide beam. You need a narrow beam to punch through the water without blinding you with backscatter in order to find subjects, and then a wide beam to keep track of your subject once you have it in your sights.

For what it's worth, I'll be on the boat between March 8th and 13th, and then I'm heading back to Israel.

Yes a focus light needs a broader beam so you don't have to keep re-aiming it, something like a 60° or wider beam works well and doesn't need to be super bright generally.

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On 2/22/2022 at 2:46 PM, Barmaglot said:

No, it's the other way around. On blackwater dives, I'm using the Weefine light without the focusing lens, so it's emitting a wide beam. You need a narrow beam to punch through the water without blinding you with backscatter in order to find subjects, and then a wide beam to keep track of your subject once you have it in your sights.

For what it's worth, I'll be on the boat between March 8th and 13th, and then I'm heading back to Israel.

I wish...sadly so soon is rather not possible in my case ;/ But I am looking forward to seeing more of your pictures!

And since you seem to be from Israel...is Eilat worth it? Been also meaning to go there , especially since few of Dahab folks moved up there. Anyways...another question :D Have awesome diving in Thai land!

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11 minutes ago, makar0n said:

I wish...sadly so soon is rather not possible in my case ;/ But I am looking forward to seeing more of your pictures!

Weather conditions were exceptionally good this trip, and the boat was able to head out further west, where the continental shelf begins to drop off and the water deepens. I didn't have a lot of luck on the single blackwater dive of the trip, but still managed to snap a few shots of a swimming crab - first time I saw one of those.

OMg4ZqO.jpg

A bit of an overexposure on highlights on this one, but I liked the angle enough to keep the shot regardless.

fEBCUuf.jpg

16 minutes ago, makar0n said:

And since you seem to be from Israel...is Eilat worth it? Been also meaning to go there , especially since few of Dahab folks moved up there. Anyways...another question :D Have awesome diving in Thai land!

It's sort of worth it if you're a local and can drive down there; not so much if you're traveling internationally unless it's a part of a wider tour of Israel. If you're just looking to dive, there are better spots than right next to two major industrial ports.

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On 3/15/2022 at 3:40 PM, Barmaglot said:

Weather conditions were exceptionally good this trip, and the boat was able to head out further west, where the continental shelf begins to drop off and the water deepens. I didn't have a lot of luck on the single blackwater dive of the trip, but still managed to snap a few shots of a swimming crab - first time I saw one of those.

OMg4ZqO.jpg

A bit of an overexposure on highlights on this one, but I liked the angle enough to keep the shot regardless.

fEBCUuf.jpg

It's sort of worth it if you're a local and can drive down there; not so much if you're traveling internationally unless it's a part of a wider tour of Israel. If you're just looking to dive, there are better spots than right next to two major industrial ports.

Hot damn, that is a very nice crabby, congrats! This trip is definitely a must now :D
Thanks for the tip..yeah had my doubts, but was more curious since would be easier to fly there, than across the globe. Och well, pass for now, unless will be going for some trip around the area by some chance.

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