Dive Lights, Underwater Flashlights, Dive Torches: A Quest For The Best
If you have ever been on a night dive exploring reefs, or experienced the beautiful cenotes in an underwater cave, you know that having the best dive light for the situation will dramatically improve your experience. Besides an improved experience, a great underwater flashlight will also give you a level of comfort when diving in dark conditions.
If you have recently found yourself in need of a scuba diving flashlight for the first time, there are just a few things you should know. For typical recreational dives, an underwater flashlight that has a standard depth rating should be sufficient for conditions requiring a primary dive light (did you know even daytime dives can be improved with a bright scuba light). For those diving deeper and longer into dark waters may need something better like a pistol grip style underwater torch or a lantern style scuba light, which boast lots of lumen power and have larger battery capacity.
Below you will find some favorite primary and secondary dive lights that myself and my scuba friends own or tried over the year, and a short list of features that make them so great. These are currently the best underwater flashlights on the market, and I included a range of prices and features in order to suit a variety of budgets and needs. I am confident you will find something on our list of best scuba diving flashlights of 2018. Unsure about your needs, head down to our handy dive light buyers guide, know what you need!
QUICK ANSWER: Best Primary Dive Light
- Dorcy Dive II Dive Torch
- Tovatec Ultra III Underwater Flashlight
- UK SL4 eLED L1 LED Dive Torch
- Princeton Tec Sector 5 Dive Torch
- BigBlue AL-450 Dive Light
- Tovatec Search Light SL1 Dive Light
- BigBlue AL1100WP Underwater Flashlight
- Phantom Aquatics Impulse LED Dive Light
- UK Light Cannon eLED L1 Scuba Light
- Tovatec Beacon BCON Dive Light
- Bonus Pick: Light & Motion Sidekick DUO
- Bonus Pick: Tovatec Galaxy Video Light
QUICK ANSWER: Best Secondary (Backup) Dive Light
How To Choose The Best Underwater Flashlight and Dive Torch – Quick Guide
If you have been searching for scuba light you have probably realized just how many options are and are probably overwhelmed. In previous articles we have put together a short guide to assist you in choosing the best scuba mask or the best scuba fins, and I now I will provide a short guide to help you find the best dive light for your specific needs.
Once you know what type of diving you will be doing most, this short and simple dive light guide will help you narrow down the list to the diving flashlight that is best for you. You will learn all of the different styles and features of popular lights suitable for underwater use, and then you can use the handy table to sort list on the features that are important to your needs. Below the table you will find a short review of the best scuba lights and their features.
Scuba Diving Scenarios Requiring Underwater An Diving Flashlight
The type of diving you plan to do will determine or influence the type of dive torch you will need. Below are few dive conditions in which a dive torch is either required or highly recommended.
Night diving is a really obvious scenario where you will need a light underwater.
Cave diving and Wreck Dives are another scenario where conditions are dark and an underwater light is needed.
Underwater Video and Photography usually requires a specially designed underwater light.
Daytime diving is a less obvious situation but you would be amazed at how a dive light will improve your experience during a daytime dive.
Types Dive Lights
PRIMARY DIVE LIGHTS are just what the name suggests. This will be the light you rely on most, should be very bright, and have a long lasting battery.
SECONDARY DIVE LIGHTS are more compact and lightweight. It is usually stowed away in a BC pocket or attached somewhere to be used as a back-up in case the primary light fails
UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY & VIDEO LIGHTS are extremely bright lights that normally have a wide beam angle which illuminates very large areas. In some cases multiple lights are mounted to the camera housing.
MARKER LIGHTS are typically small compact lights that blink or put out constant but low illumination so divers can locate other divers. They are often used in lieu of glow sticks which are not reusable.
Styles of Diving Flashlights
UNDERWATER TORCH STYLE dive lights look and function like your typical baton style flashlight. This is the most common style of dive light and can be found in numerous configurations.
PISTOL-GRIP DIVE LIGHTS are held in the hand like the name suggests and usually have a combination beam that is both a wide and narrow focus. This style is usually a bit larger and can accommodate larger battery capacity which can provide a longer burn time and/or brighter dive light.
LANTERN STYLE DIVE LIGHTS usually use the exact same light housing as the pistol style but the handle is configured in a way in which the light is under the hand rather than on top.
CANISTER DIVE LIGHTS house the batteries in a canister separate from the light unit. This style is fading in popularity as battery technology has improved and batteries are smaller and more efficient.
A dive light’s beam angle will determine how wide or concentrated the light beam is. When looking at a light’s specs, a lower number corresponds to a narrow beam angle and the larger the number the wider the angle. It is really a matter of preference but consider your dive conditions when choosing.
Narrow beam angles are the most common choice for primary dive lights and secondary lights and suitable most dive conditions. Whether you are on a day dive peeking into a reef’s dark crevices, cave/wreck diving long narrow underwater paths, or diving low visibility water with a ton of disturbed sediment, the brightest dives lights with narrow beams will excel in these conditions. The strong and narrow beam is able to provide needed illumination far out into the distance.
Wide beam angles are also an option for your primary dive flashlight but they are most common on underwater video lights and photography lights. The ultra-wide beam will cast a flood of light so you are able to see a wide are illuminated. This is useful for underwater videographers to capture a wide area in the cameras frame. A wide angle beam will only cast its beam a short to intermediate distance.
Adjustable beams are also an option for you dive torch. Tovatec’s Fusion line as well as BigBlue offer dive lights with adjustable beams. The beam can be adjusted using a slider or twisting motion to adjust the beam from a narrow beam to an intermediate to wide beam which can be very useful when encounter different dive conditions in the same dive.
Dual Beam lights will usually have a toggle switch in which you toggle between two different bulbs that are set for a narrow beam and a wide beam. These are most common on underwater video lights. Another form of dual beams can be found on the pistol grip style lights in which a portion of the beam is set to a narrow focus and the other is set to cast a wider beam, using the same bulb to achieve two different beam angles.
Alkaline Batteries are available pretty much anywhere in the world and are inexpensive. They can offer a longer burn time before being replaced but offer a lower performance than other options.
CR123 Lithium Batteries perform excellent in dive torches but they are much more expensive than alkaline batteries and may not always be available in remote locations. You may also encounter special travel requirements when flying with them.
Rechargeable Batteries are usually the best choice for frequent divers. Money is saved in the long by not have to purchase new batteries after they are depleted which is another plus for the environment. In some lights that handle both rechargeable and alkaline, the rechargeable options can sometime provide a boost to lumen output. You will need to plan ahead to ensure you will have access to power to recharge your batteries when planning your dives.
LED Dive Lights are pretty much the standard now. The best LED dive lights are offered by virtually every manufacturer and there is really no need to look any further than an LED dive light.
HID Dive Lights used to provide unmatched brightness and color temperature and were the preferred option over xenon bulbs. HID dive lights have since been surpassed by the new generation LED lights. You can usually find LED dive lights that are now using the same form as your old favorite HID models.
Zenon Dive Lights are less expensive than the LED counterpart but they do not match the brightness of LED and HID and have a much shorter battery life. Zenon lights due have a more natural warm color temperature but LEDs are also gaining ground in this area as well.
Now that you have all of the information you need to choose the best scuba diving light for your needs you can take a look at the nifty table sort on the options to compare the best underwater scuba light for you!
Compare The Top 10 Best Dive Lights
|Image||Dive Light||Style||Beam||Lumens||Battery Life||Battery||Price Range|
|Dorcy Dive II||Torch||Wide||220||8 hrs||Alkaline||$|
|Tovatec Ultra III||Torch||Narrow||500||6 hrs||Alkaline||$|
|UK SL4 eLED L1 Dive light||Torch||Narrow||400||10 hrs||Alkaline||$$|
|Princeton Tec Sector 5 Hi-Power Dive Light||Pistol||Narrow||550||24 hrs||Alkaline||$$|
|Bigblue CF-450||Torch||Adjustable||450||4 hrs||Alkaline||$$|
|Tovatec Search Light SL1||Torch||Narrow||250 - 800||7 hrs||Alkaline||$$|
|BigBlue AL1100WP Underwater Flashlight||Torch||Wide||100-1100||2-20 hrs||Rechargeble||$$$|
|Phantom Aquatics Impulse LED Dive Light||Torch||Narrow||500-1500||18 hrs||Rechargeble||$$$|
|UK Light Cannon eLED L1||Pistol/Lantern||Narrow||440-1100||16-20 hrs||Alkaline||$$$$|
|Tovatec Beacon BCON||Torch||Narrow||800-2500||2-6 hrs||Rechargeble||$$$$|
|Bonus Pick: Light & Motion Sidekick DUO||Mounted||Adjustable||150-800||1-4.5 hrs||Rechargeble||$$$|
|Bonus Pick: Tovatec Galaxy Video Light||Mounted||Extra Wide||800-2500||1-3 hrs||Rechargeble||$$$$|
The Best Dive Lights – Top 10 List Reviews
Dorcy’s Dive II is a very affordable dive light with 220 lumens and 8 hours of burn time. At the price, this is a great entry level primary dive light but is compact enough to stow away as a quality secondary light. If you need high quality on a budget, this is definitely a great underwater flashlight.
One of my primary dive lights, the Ultra III is light, comfortable, and well suited for recreational night dives. You will get 6 hours of burn time on the batteries at 500 lumens. The narrow to medium beam angle will illuminate nicely at distance while also providing a wide enough beam near you for close observations. I am often surprised it is only rated at 500 lumens as it often outshines other lights rated higher. You will also be surprised at how affordable this light is for how quality and the amount of light it puts out. This is a truly great underwater flashlight!
If you have already been on a casual night dive there is no doubt that you have seen this dive torch in action. It is a popular choice because this led dive light is both rugged and packs a powerful beam suitable for many dive conditions. Its durability and ease of use is the reason many dive shops stock this dive light as a rental and its has a long burn time as it utilizes 3 C-cell batteries. It may not be the best looking light but with 500 lumens and the SL4’s reliability, it is a proven choice for recreational divers.
The Sector 5 diving light is a very comfortable light that is easy to hold with its pistol grip form. At 550 lumens and its medium beam angle you will illuminate both near and far providing you with plenty to see in front of you. If you are really looking to light up your night dives or peak into reef shadows this makes for a great primary dive torch at a very affordable price. One of the early versions of this light was my first dive lights and it served me well for years.
BigBlue’s CF-450 dive torch edged out the ever popular Ikelite Gamma on our list. While the Gamma is certainly a great choice, there is no question that the CF-450 is just a better choice as it has almost double the lumens and adjustable beam angle for a slightly better price. BigBlue also has a wide variety of accessories to go with their dive lights that make using them even more convenient.
Tovatec has long been a respected brand that was formerly part Intova until splitting off and are well known for their quality and the SL1 is no exception. If you are looking for a dive light that is well suited for technical dives the Search Light SL1 has you covered with its narrow 800 lumens beam. The tight powerful beam will illuminate wrecks and caves at extended ranges making it a popular choice for technical divers needing a quality underwater flashlight. You will also have plenty of time to explore as this light will easily last 7 hours on a set of batteries.
The AL 1100WP is one of the most affordable underwater flashlights out there having at least 1000 lumens. The wide beam angle makes this light a great choice for divers who are taking underwater videos or photos as it comes with light filters and is very bright. This light also has an adjustable output for times when you aren’t needing the full 1100 lumens or need longer burn time from the rechargeable batteries. BigBlue’s AL1100WP is a quality yet affordable dive torch for those who prefer a wider beam.
Phantom Aquatics Impulse is another great compact dive light option for those needing a lot of power in a small form. The Impulse features multiple brightness levels which are easy to toggle with the press of a button even wearing dive gloves. Its rechargeable batteries will also give you plenty of dive time as it should last up to 20 hours depending in the settings used. Very impressive for its size, it is the brightness underwater flashlight we have tried that sports the compact form. This is a higher end dive light but there is definitely a lot of value with it as well.
If you really want a versatile dive torch, the UK Light Cannon is a great choice. The UK Light Canon can be purchased in either a lantern or pistol grip configuration and can easily be converted to either style making it a great choice if you dive in many different conditions. Another great aspect of this powerful dive light is it can be used with regular alkaline batteries with an outstanding 16 hours of burn time at 1100 lumens but if swap in the rechargeable battery unit it will nearly double your lumens output to 2100! This dive torch is certainly on the high end of our list cost wise but it is definitely a quality light that performs outstanding.
Literally the brightest dive light I have ever seen or used, the BCON’s 2500 lumens will surely have you wide eyed underwater. It is a good thing Tovatec implemented multiple light modes with the BCON as this light is truly blinding at full power. Not only is this one of the brightest underwater flashlights it is extremely durable and the rechargeable batteries are also very high quality and long lasting. The beam angle is also ideal for any diving conditions and will last 2 hours at full power and up to 6 hours at 30%. If your budget allows this is one of the best underwater flashlights you can get and is rugged, quality built, and well suited for any conditions. If you need a high quality scuba diving flashlight you can depend on, this is it!
Designed to leverage existing GoPro mounts, the Sidekick DUO is a very versatile underwater video light which feature both a 600 lumens flood beam and a 400 lumens spot beam you can toggle between. Rechargeable batteries will get you between 60-240 minutes of burn time.
Need a more serious underwater video light, the Galaxy is just that. With up to 2500 lumens of flood you are sure to light of entire reefs or larger areas of the sea floor. The rechargeable batteries will provide up to 2 hours of light as well.
I hope you found The Leisure Pro’s List of Best Dive Lights useful. Be sure and let us know what your favorite light is and if you picked up one off of the list! Remember, all dive gear needs to taken care of if you want it to last, so check out the few tips below to keep your lights in top shape.
Dive Light Care and Maintenance
Before each dive trip, inspect your o-rings and look for cracks or nicks. Keep them clean and use the silicone lubricant provided by the manufacturer to prevent flooding. Rinse the lights with warm water after using them and remove the batteries from the light when you aren’t using it.
Be aware of the type of battery you have, some need to be charged and discharged at regular intervals, or they will lose capacity and stop working at all. Read you manual from your scuba light for proper battery maintenance.
Some manufacturers have amazing customer service, they will usually replace pretty much anything that goes wrong with the light at no cost. This is especially true for the premium scuba light manufacturers like Tovatec and BigBlue.