LAMP Mares Phos Tronic
Divers Technical Editor was determined not to be scared off by a bulb and battery in a box, but this was the first time I had really had to study an instruction manual for a lamp.
     In fact there was little to worry about. I charged it in the normal way, switched it on by pressing the button on the handle, and pointed it at things I wanted to illuminate.
     Well, actually there was a bit more to it than that.
     The Phos Tronic gives you lots of information via an illuminated LCD screen in its handle. It tells you what power setting you are using via one of three sun icons. Switching on each time at the last power setting used, choosing between the three strengths is effected by pressing the electronic sequential switch-button in the handle.
     It also estimates how long the lamp will stay lit in that setting and displays the duration in minutes on the handle. This gives you the opportunity to manage a whole night dive in such a way that you finish with the light still on.
     The first thing I had to do was charge the ni-mh battery pack. This can be done at any state of charge and the sophisticated charger will automatically adjust to any voltage. I unscrewed the front half and plugged in the lead.
     This was the first fence at which I was to fall. The Phos Tronic knows that it is being asked to take a charge but, answering a question with another question (dont you hate people who do that) it then demands to know whether you want to charge at a snails pace or hare ahead.
     I did not realise this at first, and wasted a good hour looking at a lightning icon that indicated progress that was doing little for the battery pack. The Phos Tronic waits for you to press the button to give it your decision, choosing the appropriate snail (14 hours) or hare (5 hours) icon. During the charging process its LCD shows the state of charge as a percentage of the whole.
     One big disadvantage I discovered is that if your lamp is in a crowded charging locker on a boat and someone disconnects it momentarily by mistake, simply reconnecting does not do the job. The Phos Tronic sits and sulks, waiting for a decision that does not come until you discover what happened - which may be just before you want to use it.
     It also has a self-diagnostic mode should things go wrong, and the expression in your face at this time is mirrored by an icon of a frowning face in the display. You can press the button for three seconds or more and get a code number which is translated in the manual to a particular fault.
     For example, fault 16 is when the lamp has switched itself off due to excessive temperature levels within the battery pack. Fault 6 is when the unit switches itself off because the battery pack has reached its lowest acceptable level of charge.
     The unit feels quite heavy but I am told it weighs less than 1kg immersed. The balance was perfect in the hand. At 29cm long, it is no midget and out of the water weighs more than 4kg.
     The sequential switching translated into frantic button-jabbing at times. Under water the 12V, 50W xenon-halogen lamp gave plenty of light with not too wide a beam angle. I found it worked admirably lighting up subjects in natural colour that were already exposed to midsummer Mediterranean sunshine. I like to be selective where I point a torch, especially at night.
     All well so far, I took it into a cave system. I had just lost sight of the blue window of daylight and was comforted to see on the illuminated display in the handle that I still had 28 minutes of burntime left at that power setting.
     Then the lights went out. There was no warning. No frowning face glowered in anticipation of failure. The blackness was relieved only by the red glow from the ready-light of my underwater photo flashgun.
     I surfaced through a lens of fresh water into an air pocket and suggested to my buddy that this was no place to loiter. We returned, our way lit by a far less intelligent lamp - but one that worked! So the Phos Tronic gives a great light in a nice package but proved to be not very clever at all.
     To be fair, most of the electronics are aimed at longevity of the unit rather than clever gadgetry for its own sake. Made in aluminium, it should take a few knocks. Lets hope that the electronics have not made it unnecessarily complicated.
     My Phos Tronic was not flooded, though I never got it to work again - or tell me why it wouldnt work. Perhaps I had an early example with a design defect that will be rectified. The importer thinks that might be why it has yet to receive supplies.
The Phos Tronic with charger is expected to cost around £375.

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  • Divernet Divernet
    + It tells you how its feeling

    - Not that clever after all