What lights should you use for your underwater video system?

The answer to that questions depends on how much money you are willing to spend.

First of all, do you need them? If the diving you are doing is during the day and wide angle, probably not. The new camcorders available today have amazing ability to use available light.

If you are planning to take close-up or want to take video of creatures in holes and crevices or at night, then yes, you need lights.

Lights in general for the consumer underwater video system, cast light during the day to about 3 feet. So that shark or school of fish is probably not going to end up with much light on them. But that beautiful soft coral or frogfish or Nudibranch is going to have the colors stand out with added light on them.

Coral Shrimp lite in cave

Learn about Underwater Video Lights

Do I need lights?
What wattage is enough?
Is expensive better?
HID or Halogen?

Do you have these questions about underwater video lights? Then read on....

Grouper lite during day

PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE...will give you great underwater Video.

Got a question about underwater video or equipment? Send questions to Sheryl Brakey at SJB Productions.
We will try to answer them or give another opinion.

This Coral Shrimp is taken in a cave using only one Light and Motion 20 Watt Halogen SunRay Mod Light on high setting at about eighteen inches from subject.
This Grouper was taken at a distance of three feet during the day in shadow using the dual SunRay Elite Halogen Lights which are 20 watt each. Only the front of the subject is light because lights during day are only good to about 3 feet in water.
Now the question is what kind of lights do I use, Halogen low intensity or HID or LED? First let’s look at Low Intensity Halogen versus High Intensity Definition or LED lights. The low intensity halogen lights have been the first choice for consumers because of cost until recently. The HID lights have come down in price and are now a reasonable choice. But LEDs are the way to go.

Low Intensity halogen lights give off a warm softer light than the HIDs or LEDs which give off a whiter light. The HIDs and LEDs are VERY bright and at night disturb some marine life. But they are suppose to give the same light as day light.

What do I use? I use a Light and Motion Bluefin housing with two LED Sola 1200V lights. They cost $1400. I also have a $400 Fisheye FIX Light HG20DX Focus Light with a halogen 20 watt bulb. I use this one during the day for close-up macro. I don’t use any extra lighting for the wide angle or large creatures during the day. At night, I use the Solas on low and when I see something I want to take video of. Both types of lights have a high, medium and low setting.

What is nice about all the Sola 1200V LED light is that the battery is internal and just plug it in to recharge. the Fisheye has a removeable battery with charger.

What are other Low Intensity solutions? Ikelite makes the Pro Light for their housings. The light comes in 50 watt and 100 watt. I have used the 50 watt and it is more than adequate for night dives. You can change out the lamp to the higher wattage if you desire. This light retails around $500. It comes with a mounting arm which resembles a bar. There is no flexibility in aiming it, unlike the mod light and the Solas which are on articulated arms.

Manta Ray in natural light

What about low cost HID lights? Underwater Kinetics has come out with the Light Cannon 100. It is a Professional HID light which is 20 watt (has the brightness of a 50 watt halogen) and comes with a video diffuser filter. It is an incredible light and wonderful for night diving and TEK diving too. It comes with two kinds of handles (need to specify) and either batteries (8-Cs) or rechargeable. Endurance is good. The regular batteries will last about 5 hours. This light retails for under $200.

This Manta Ray was taken with only daylight at about 15 feet away and 25 feet depth.

I recommend the rechargeable and find a way to mount at least one (two are pretty bright) to your camcorder housing. There are a number of different mounting systems available for underwater cameras which can be adapted to your housing.

The best source is Ultralight Control Systems . They have an adapter for the Light Canon under their "Strobes & video light adapters" page. This adapter attaches to one of their many arm choices. You would probably have to talk to them about how it would attach to your camcorder. They sell through dealers and give the info on their website on who to contact.

The reason you want flexibility with your Light Canon movement is the same reason you wanted to use strobes for underwater photography. You want to vary the distance and direction of the light to the subject. But they don't have to be as far out (long) as the strobe arms. Since the Light Canon has a very bright light, you don't want it directly aiming at your subject or too close.

Since the HID light doesn’t give off as much heat, it can be used out of the water when gearing up at night. But there is a draw back. The Underwater Kinetics Light Cannon 100 is similar in size to the large strobes used on underwater cameras and it has only one intensity setting—high. Light replacement is expensive on the HIDs, about $70-$80 per bulb versus the halogens which are around $35.00.

What other lights are available? There are certainly other manufacturers of both Low Intensity, HID, and LED lights available. Most underwater housing manufacturers have lights which they recommend with their housings. This is a good place to start but the not the final place. Decide how much money you want to spend and sometimes a compromise is required between dollars and wattage.

This article has tried to address the confusion about what is enough wattage for underwater video for consumers. It is not intended to address all lighting situations or what a professional videographer might require. The equipment which I use has been more than adequate for any light requirements which I have encountered.

Sola 1200V LED Light
Fisheye FIX Light
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