WHEN IT COMES TO KIT, technical diving is all about simplicity, reliability and longevity. The exponents of this deep dark art need gear that’s simple to operate, that won’t let them down and is robust enough to withstand the demands this genre of diving brings.
Bright lamps with long burntimes have always been essential pieces of this arsenal. After all, being able to see your way and to read your instruments in a dark environment is a fundamental safety requirement.
In the not-too-distant past, powerful batteries housed in metal canisters with umbilical wiring to large halogen lamp-heads became standard attire, and an hour’s burntime at full power was deemed excellent.
Illumination and portable power technology has moved on a long way in a very short period of time.
You only have to look at the latest cars sporting blindingly bright xenon headlights with just-as-intense LED daytime running lights to realise just how far it’s gone.
The light emitting diode (LED) has been the catalyst of this revolution, converting almost all the available electrical power to light – unlike halogen, which uses a high percentage of the available power to generate heat, with a smaller proportion producing the light.
LEDs are getting brighter too, delivering lumens in numbers that we could only dream about a few years ago.

The Design
Long and thin is, well, just so yesterday. Short and compact is the way forward, especially with lots of staying power, and nowhere is this more pronounced than in the hand-held torch world.
Monterey, California-based cycle-lamp maker Light and Motion has taken this concept to a new level with its range of dive lamps. Initially producing tools for underwater photo and video enthusiasts, it has now extended its range further to include technical diving.
The Sola Tech 600 is the new kid on the block, instantly recognisable by its black bezel but similar in size, shape and weight to its stablemates.
This compact light package is just 117mm long and 63mm at its widest diameter. It also weighs in at a paltry 333 grams, so it won’t bust the weight limits imposed by airlines.
The Sola Tech 600 gets its name from the certified 600 lumens it delivers at full power, with the facility to reduce this to 300 or 150 lumens and extend the duration further. In fact the burntimes are where this lamp really scores.
The manufacturer’s stated duration at full power is a huge three hours, increasing to a mind-boggling 12 hours at the lowest setting. That’s serious stamina not seen in such a bright compact package before, and perfect for long-duration cave or decompression diving.
The factory-sealed two-cell lithium-ion battery is charged through external gold-plated ports to negate corrosion. It’s housed inside the lamp’s impact-resistant resin body, and is said to be good for 500 charge cycles.
The control switch is a twist-lock magnetic slider which, when pushed either forward or back, will activate the torch. Further pushes will increase the power sequentially.
Three tiny LEDs above the switch indicate the settings, one for quarter-power and so on. They also double up for indicating the battery status, changing from green through yellow and red before blinking red to inform the user that there’s little charge left.
Lastly, there’s the facility to set the lamp blinking an “SOS” Morse code signal. This is claimed to flash away for 30 hours on a fully charged battery set. All this in a package tested and depth-rated to 90m.

Real Time Duration
It’s all well and good publishing manufacturers’ stated burntimes, but we at the divEr test centre pride ourselves on producing accurate figures, so I set out on a marathon expedition
to see just how long this little lamp would last before plunging me into total darkness as the batteries gave out.
I placed the fully charged lamp into a bucket of water, switched it on and timed it at full power. The light switched itself off after 176 minutes – so just four minutes under the time claimed by L&M. The charging process took a little over 2.5 hours.
The next test was at 150 lumens (its lowest power setting). I sat and sat and twiddled my thumbs, read a newspaper cover to cover, watched Tarantino’s Django Unchained, had a snooze and the thing still burned bright.
I had lunch, then, seven hours later, supper, and wished the damn light would just go out!
I was getting seriously bored sitting staring at my yellow bucket with the constant glow of this ridiculously long-lasting torch.
At 716 minutes it gave up the ghost, again just four minutes short of the time claimed, and as near to 12 hours as makes no difference. The 30 hours “SOS” signal will have to be tested at another time – after all, my sanity’s at stake here!
All joking apart, the torch does exactly what it says on the tin. It delivers a bright beam and has unbelievable staying power.

In the Water
I took the Sola Tech 600 out with me for a couple of dives in my local river, the Kennet, while I was trying to capture images of freshwater barbel feeding at night under rafts of streamer weed.
The light delivered from the three high-output LEDs is a cold white, unlike the warm orange tinted light from the old-style halogen bulbs of yesteryear.
Spread over 8°, it forms a tight and even circle of light, without any visible hotspots.
It was certainly bright, and cut through the poor visibility like a hot knife through butter, increasing my chances of spotting these elusive fish. Alas, our local otter population has reduced the barbel numbers substantially – they seem as rare as hen’s teeth.
I had the torch mounted on the back of my right hand with the neat and unobtrusive L&M “hand harness” (supplied with it). A small secondary loop ensured that it wouldn’t come adrift and ruin my day.
I found that I could perform all my dive-related functions, with the torch not getting in my way or snagging on my kit.
Alternative mounting options are available in the form of a pistol grip, wrist lanyard or a ball-mount for camera housings.
No doubt the serious cave- and wreck-divers out there could easily helmet-mount a pair too.

The Light And Motion Sol Tech 600 may be designed for the tech market, but this little black beauty would be a useful addition to any diver’s armoury, whether for photography, peering under ledges or into wrecks, or just to see your way in the dark.
The long burntimes are the big attraction.
You could do a whole week’s diving on a single charge, which makes this light an ideal companion in remote locations with little infrastructure and charging facilities.
There’s no doubt that this is an expensive bit of kit, but in my humble opinion you get what you pay for.
In terms of battery purchases for other torches alone, you can do the maths, but I reckon it could save you thousands of pounds over its lifespan.

PRICE £586
BURNTIME 3hr at 600 lumens; 6hr at 300 lumens; 12hr at 150 lumens
CONTACT www.cpspartnership.co.uk
DIVER GUIDE width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100% width=100%