There is nothing in the world of technical diving that has undergone more change in recent years than underwater lighting: both the hardware itself and the way we approach its deployment.
Sure, the upgrades made to personal dive computers have been pretty radical; DPVs are almost unrecognizable compared to generation-one offerings available a few years back; and there have been improvements made to the design and function of many other staples in the gear locker; but nothing quite matches up to the improvements to the simple flashlight. And to cap it all, the cost of better performance, lighter weight, longer burn times and a smaller profile seems to be getting less and less. Certainly, a decent dive light is cheaper now than ten years ago.
Take as an example my first “primary light” – purchased considerably longer ago than ten years — but a valid comparison nevertheless. It was built for me by Lamar English and was the size of a Fiat 500. Well, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it was an enormous, heavy contraption fitted with a 40-watt incandescent lamp, powered by the battery off a Harley Davidson motorcycle, which provided light for about 45 minutes: sometimes. In any event, it was state-of-the-art at the time, and if we were able to do a lumen/minute/gram/dollar comparison, it would be blown away by a $100 “backup light” available today.
I purposely put backup light in quotes because the underwater lighting products available to divers right now are eroding the old definitions of what constitutes a primary light or a backup, and frankly, I find myself doing more and more dives these days using a small pocket flashlight as my main light… even for wreck penetration.
For instance, I recently lucked into a couple of I-Torch Evo lights. These are among the most compact and most powerful lights I have seen. The design is simple and they are small enough to throw into a drysuit pocket or stow on a standard harness or sidemount rig.
One of the neatest features is a cleanly designed no frills all aluminum body with an anodized coating. The light looks great and feels good.
The Evo produces 220 Lumens* of light, which is on a par with or superior to most other small dive lights I have tried.Certainly it is powerful enough to be useful on all sorts of dives in a variety of environments. I dive in the Great Lakes — murky water and deep enough to have little ambient light, and it works just fine.
It uses six AAA batteries which makes “recharging” easy just about anywhere in the world, but with a total burn time coming in around eight hours, recharging is not something that has to be done too often.
The I-Torch website (http://www.itorch.ca/ ) states the beam at 25 degrees in one spot and 45 degrees is another. In side-by-side testing at depth (70 metres at the bottom of the gantry on the Jodrey wreck in the St. Lawrence River) I am going to shy away from making a definitive guess which is right and will suggest the beam is wide enough for good general illumination but not so wide that the 220 lumens are wasted.
For the record, on a bunch of recent dives teaching an Advanced Trimix Program, I used an i-Torch Evo in a light sock or glove (like a goodman handle but made from neoprene) as a primary light. I had another in a pocket as a backup (plus a couple from other manufacturers.) I found the light it produced was enough to make the dive, and the real bonus was the fact it is self-contained (no canister, no cord) and weighs next to nothing. I also like that after a weekend of diving it did not need its batteries changed!
Bottom line is that if you are in the market for an inexpensive solution for lighting up your underwater adventures, i-Torch is certainly worth checking out.
Switch: Twist rear tail cap
O-ring: Double O-ring
Battery: 6 x AAA
Burn time: 8+ Hours, 3 Hours of MAX brightness
Lumen: 220 Lumens
Beam angle: 25 degrees
Suggested retail: around $100 Canadian
- A lumen is a unit of measurement that is used to express how much illumination a source of light provides. Resisting the temptation to give you a whole physics lesson, but rather to put things into simple terms, one lumen of light is as about as bright as one birthday candle from about 30 centimeters (a foot) away. So a lamp that puts out 220 lumens is as bright the birthday cake for a really old guy… older than me even!
As one of the students in the Advanced Trimix Program I can say I was impressed with the output of the light myself. The glove-like neoprene holder seemed to be a great way to carry the light. No cords, no battery pack with switches, very clean and sleek light. Not quite ready to give up my 10 watt but definitely worth a look when carrying a “portable sun” isn’t really necessary.