LAMP FaMi Solar 12 HID 2001
It seems only yesterday that dive shops could offer only a couple of makes of dive light to customers. That was back in the days when most divers met one night each week in the municipal swimming baths and shared the cost of a snorkel.
     The British seem to have grown a lot richer since. Now we are in the 21st century, half-million pound houses seem almost normal, holidays in Bora Bora taken for granted and ubiquitous family saloons cost 20 grand.
     No longer does the average diver bother to make a cheap lamp out of a car headlight and a length of drainpipe. As with everything else he wants, he goes shopping, gold card at the ready. And, as with everything else available in our bright new consumer society, there is plenty of choice.
     The FaMi range of underwater lights comes from Italy. FaMi I hear you say. Thats a funny name! Putting that aside for the moment, this FaMi is a 12V HID lamp. HID stands for HIDeously expensive, and a major part of the price reflects the cost of the bulb.
     The FaMi Solar 12 HID 2001 might be marketed as a thoroughly modern product but when it was conceived by its maker, the year 2001 no doubt seemed a long way off. Solar indicates the intended colour quality of the light.
     High Intensity Discharge lamps need to warm up before they give of their best, so you have to switch it on and leave it on. Thats fine by me. You should turn on any diving light just before you go in and leave it on for the duration of the dive, because a bulb always seems to blow during the initial power surge, and turning it on and off, especially during a night dive, can sometimes leave you fumbling in the dark.
     If you want to enjoy a bit of natural darkness at any time, its best to occlude the lamp by holding it against yourself.
     Once up and running, an HID gives a vastly superior output when compared with a normal tungsten-type bulb. Because it burns at a higher colour temperature (which means that it has a cooler-looking light), it penetrates further through water, which tends to absorb the red end of the spectrum. The other bonus is its four-hour burntime with a battery that takes only four hours to charge.
     Gradually manufacturers are coming round to the idea that an underwater lamp, no matter how expensive, may be one of the least well-looked-after pieces of diving equipment. HIDs may be bright, but many of us are not.
     Expecting a simple-minded diver to disassemble a lamp to charge it, then reassemble it, checking that the all-important O-ring is properly lubricated and free of foreign bodies, is really too much to ask.
     Any object with an air-space is liable to flooding if taken more than a few inches under water and, lets face it, the re-assembly would usually be carried out in low light conditions. Most of us will have experienced diving by that romantic watery glow from a torch shortly before it drowned, leaving us wondering which way was up.
     So, in line with some other far-sighted manufacturers, FaMi enables the diver to recharge this lamp simply by sticking a plug in the back of the unit, instead of taking it apart (see picture above). It should stay as watertight as when you bought it.
     Even the on/off switch is magnetic, so there are no through-body connections to leak later. The switch is operated simply by rotating a collar round the main body of the lamp. It needs to be pulled back a little to disconnect the detent, which should stop it switching on by mistake in your dive bag and burning a hole in your suit.
     Theres nothing too clever in the way of sequential switching or different power settings, so even I could work it first time out.
     Under water, even in clear Med water and summer sunlight, it was effective at lighting an otherwise monochrome scene into natural colour. In fact, someone diving with me was heard to say: FaMi, thats bright!
     I just had to bear in mind that HID bulbs are not as robust as ordinary ones, so I refrained from using the lamp as a lumphammer under water and slinging it on the deck when I came back on board.
The FaMi Solar 12 HID 2001 with charger costs £441. FaMi, its expensive, too!
  • Submerge, 01484 310130

  • Divernet Divernet
    + Very bright
    + Long burntime
    + Quick charge time

    - Expensive