Artificial light, like a video light, is the best way to bring vibrant color and contrast back into your underwater photos.
Underwater video lights can be used to shoot video or still photos, making them a versatile tool for those who want one or two versatile light sources. This is the new photographer on a limited budget, the video shooter who occasionally wants to shoot some still photos, and the macro still shooter who needs a focus light.
That’s a lot of applications for the video light, but it’s important to note that still photographers will generally choose a strobe instead of a video light. But if you fall into one of the categories above, one or two video lights is the best way to build your underwater camera rig.
We’ll break the lights down into two categories: Focus Lights (used by all macro photographers); and Video Lights (versatile for all applications).
Before we jump into the 2020 video light guide, let’s review a few of the essential features used in comparing the lights.
What are Lumens?
The lumen count of a video light is the power it produces. In simplest terms, the more lumens the light has, the brighter the light. There are other very important factors that relate, like the smoothness of the beam (lack of a hotspot), and the kelvin temperature of the light, but the general shooter doesn’t have to worry about these things with the quality of lights on the market now.
What is the difference between a Flood Beam and Narrow Beam Angle?
The beam angle of your light is how wide the beam is at a fixed distance. An average dive torch, for example, may have a narrow 60-degree spot beam. This is excellent for shining farther through the water, indicating where a subject is, and general dive applications.
Underwater video lights use a flood beam, generally between 100 and 130-degrees. This wide beam doesn’t travel nearly as far through the water, but it even lights the scene directly in front of the camera without producing a hotspot of intense light.
Video Light Batteries
Be sure to consider the type of battery in the video lights you’re comparing. Batteries are strong and reliable today, so the feature to look at is whether the battery is interchangeable.
When your light has interchangeable batteries and you’re planning a full day at the beach diving, you can purchase extra batteries and replace them in between dives as needed. But if you need to plug the entire light with built-in battery into the wall, you will need to give up the light in order to charge it, which becomes difficult if electricity is not readily available.
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Video Light Comparison Chart 2020
There are many different lights available today. I’ve focused this guide on the brands I’ve spent many hours using and trust, with solid price to value and quality. These are the lights I recommend first.
I haven’t included some of the much more expensive lights, as those are geared more for the pro market. We’ll also skip over some of the more advanced specs, like CRI (Color Rendering Index), in order to focus on the most practical information for beginner and intermediates looking to invest in underwater lights.
Now, let’s compare the best underwater video lights for 2020!
Underwater Focus Lights
Light & Motion GoBe 1000 Wide FC
The GoBe 1000 Wide FC light is extremely versatile. It works underwater down to 120 meters AND on land (most dive lights shouldn’t be used on land), has a 90-minute burn time on full power, power level indicator, and various mounting options.
The interchangeable GoBe light heads are very cool, allowing you to use different lumens, beam types, and even blue light or red light. One downside is that you can’t flip between white and red light, which is a really nice feature for a focus light.
$159.99 | On Backscatter
Kraken Sports Hydra 1200+ WSR
The Kraken Hydra 1200+ WSR is a fantastic focus light option. In fact, my focus light is several versions older than this light. It features a 100-degree flood beam, spot beam, and red light for shy subjects. Multiple power levels are easy to toggle through. Burn time on full power is 85 minutes. The light also uses standard 18650 replaceable batteries, which are affordable and easy to swap in and out for a full day of diving.
$189 | On Backscatter
Light & Motion Sola Photo 1200
The Light & Motion Sola series are classic macro focus lights. The 1200 focuses on delivering what you need at the highest quality in an affordable package. Built in Monterey, California, the Sola 1200 has white and red beams and lasts 70 minutes on full power. Note that the light is factory sealed, so while that virtually eliminates chance of flooding, the entire light must be plugged in to charge.
The top switch is extremely easy to flick on and off with a finger push, instead of needing to grab the entire light to depress a switch.
Note: You may see the older generation listed on Amazon at $167.95, but note that the light in this review is the updated version with revamped electronics and build design. See it here.
$279 | On Backscatter
Fisheye FIX NEO Mini 1000 SWR
The Fisheye FIX NEO brings high quality at a high focus light price. It features a white flood beam, spot, and red beams, with a burn time of 90 minutes at full power. Micro USB charging is nice because while you need to plug in the entire light, you can charge it with a portable battery (like you would use for a mobile phone).
$299 | On Backscatter
Underwater Video Lights
Light & Motion Sola Video 2500 Flood
The Sola Video 2500 Flood is the base model of their newest generation of lights. This light features a 2500 white 60-degree beam, plus Light & Motion’s standard switch and battery power indicator. The batter lasts 40 minutes on full power, lower than lights at slightly higher price points.
You can’t go wrong here if looking for a high quality video light at a low price.
COMPARE: The similar Sola Video 2000 S/F is priced a bit higher with longer battery life and ability to use both flood and spot beams, but if you’re using the light simply for underwater video, and are on a budget, I’d rather have the extra 500 lumens than the extra spot beam.
$299.99 | On Backscatter
Light & Motion Sola Video Pro 3800
The Sola Video Pro 3800 is a solid light. In fact, it’s in My Camera Bag. 3800 lumens, wide 110-degree flood beam, 50 minute run time on high power, effortless on/off switch, and innovative dome port for gentle light fall off all make this light ready all sorts of underwater filming. The light weight is also nice. Note the built-in battery requiring the full light to be out of use while charging.
$499 | On Backscatter
Kraken Hydra 3500S+ RGB WSRU
This ‘RGB’ version of the Hydra 3500 is the latest generation of these high-value lights and it brings the Disco. The 110-degree beam angle and new RGB color power indicator is supplemented by 9 different light color options. While the colored light isn’t practical for underwater video, it could be an interesting light for the video shooter who would also like to get creative with their advanced macro photos.
In terms of ergonomics, the dual button control requires a full hand grab to toggle between light and power modes, as well as practice learning the click menu for each button.
$539 | On Backscatter
Kraken Hydra 5000S+ WSRU
The Kraken Hydra 5000S+ WSRU is the most affordable way to get yourself one or two 5000 lumen lights. In fact, I have two Kraken 5000s (several generations old) in My Camera Bag. It has flood, spot, red and UV beams. If you’re looking for a powerful light along with the ability to do fluoro night dives with your own gear, then this light is a great choice.
The light is controlled by two buttons that require a full hand grab to depress the buttons. I actually spun the mount around so that the buttons are situated on the backside of the light for (what I think are better) ergonomics.
$699 | On Backscatter
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