15. The history of dive lights
The diving lamps changed a lot in the last few decades.
In the past the main goal of the divers was to make longer the time they can be under water. First they dived only with a single breath. Later they invented the diving bells, and the classic diving helmets let them move around on the bottom of the sea. Whatever we think about those diving equipments, they were state-of-the-art products of their era. Certainly the diving lanterns they used a century ago were bulky copper ones too.
The sport diving became a popular hobby after introducing the simple and cheap SCUBA regulators. The Cousteau-Gagnan regulators are well-known diving equipments from the vintage movies and documentaries, every diver knows the classic double hose regulators. Hans Hass, another pioneer of the diving used rebreathers.
In the early diving movies it was stunning itself to see how freely moved the skin divers under water, they swam with sharks, explored sunk wrecks. They had to should use dive lights to show the wonderful colors of the undersea world. But it was quite challening to build reliable waterproof lamps: in those years the underwater filmmakers made their own equipment. In one of the early movies of Hans Hass there is a scene where you can see the huge lamps which were moved by two divers and were connected to the battery on the surface by long cables. But at least they were able to make colorful shots of the coral wonderland.
In the sixties the dive lights weren't necesserily appeared in the dive equipment catalogs. Those who sold diving lamps usually offered heavy duty flashlights made of aluminium. Those old bulbs weren't too powerful and their beam angles were narrow too. Anyway, the divers had to change batteries quite often. So there were two typical diving lights: a smaller with weak light, and a bigger, robust one with handle which could hold 6-8 batteries.
In the old catalogs they usually candlepower- if they wrote about the power the specific diving lamp at all. If a dive light worked reliably, it was good enough. Most of the dive lights had only a switch to turn on and off. You couldn't adjust the power. And it was only a dream to choose from different functions: wide or spot light, or maybe UV or red light mode.
One of the classic dive light was the Darrell-Allen, you can find working Bug-Diver 400 models in auction sites nowadays. It was made of cast aluminium, so it was really sturdy, durable- and heavy. The diameter of the dive light was more than 13 centimeters and it weighed about 3 kilograms. The user needed to install 10 batteries. It wouldn't be a travel friendly piece of the diving equipment if we think about the strict weight limits of the airlines...
In the nineties the smaller diving flashlights became more popular. These simply to use, 60-100-200 lumen dive lights were easy to carry. Although there were limitations because of the narrow beam angle, they were affordable choices for those who wanted to use their own dive lights during night dives or wreck penetrations.
And what about the modern dive lights? The LEDs changed everything, and it is especially true in the world of diving. It let the manufacturers to make small, light weight yet powerful diving lights which can work many hours flawlessly without charging. There are plenty of dive lights in the market but there are significiant differences between them if we inspect their quality and features. The Spark Action Light 7F multifunctional dive light really has all the features the divers dreamt of: more power levels and more functions, including the UV and the Red mode. In the past the underwater videographers needed huge lamps, now a Spark Action Light V1 which you can carry in your pocket has 3000 lumen output!
Certainly we don't know what the future will bring. But here is the thing: if you want to buy a small, reliable, affordable feature packed dive light to see the real colors under water, you have plenty of choices.