I’ve been using a Snake River Prototyping Tray with my GoPro tray setup for the last few years and it has worked pretty well however I found myself wanting more light coverage without necessarily spending the money on more expensive lights.
Their boomerang tray is beautifully constructed and the bundle they sell comes with two loc-line 1/2″ arms and light mounts. So far I’ve found that this setup has worked well enough in warm water with good visibility. I’ve even had acceptable to good results diving in New England where the visibility has been limited provided I had a little ambient light to work with however my videos on some deeper and darker wrecks and in the caves with this setup has been less than ideal in my opinion.
Archon D11V vs. DGX Max Video Lights
The lights I have been using are the Archon D11V video lights. These are the same lights sold by Snake River Prototyping although they are re-branded and the cost is marked up. You can get them much cheaper at other vendors online if you’re willing to wait for them to ship from China. Although they are “cheap Chinese lights” I have found the build quality to be very good. They’ve been down to 200ft on several occasions and have not flooded. Although they are twist on/off I keep the o-rings lubricated enough that turning them on at depth has not been an issue yet.
They rated for ~860 lumens using the CREE XM-L LED but I’m guessing in reality the output is a bit less than that. Even still, I’m very satisfied with these video lights. They add much needed color back into my GoPro videos and are hard to beat for the price; I think I paid around $45/each (batteries not included) from some Chinese supplier.
I’m using Tenergy 18650 batteries with my Archon D11V video lights and probably get runtimes of about 70-80 minutes on high. I found the runtimes they advertised are pretty accurate but it will probably depend on the quality of batteries that you’re using.
Anyway, recently Dive Gear Express came out with their own branded video lights called the DGX Max Video Lights which utilize the XM-L2 U2 LED which they say is 1100+ raw LED lumens of cool white 6500°K light. This supposedly translates to about 600 lumens of usable light. They’re $49.99 and they also include batteries and charger making them a cheaper alternative to the Archon D11V.
The build quality of the DGX Max Video lights is also excellent. The other nice thing about them is that they have an on/off ring switch on the head of the light making them very easy to activate. You don’t have to worry about accidentally flooding them or having issues turning them on at depth.
At least on the surface the DGX Max Video lights and the Archon D11V lights both have a very wide beam (110 degrees). They’re almost equal in brightness (unscientific opinion) but the color spectrum is noticeably different on both of them with the light from the DGX Max Video light appearing much whiter.
This actually makes perfect sense considering the Archon D11V advertises 5000K from the LED and the DGX Max Video advertises 6500K. I found this to be true although I’m unsure how well it will translate underwater. I’ll have to do more testing.
Rather than simply replace my working Archon D11V lights I figured I would add two additional lights to my SRP GoPro tray. Although this will probably do nothing to increase the overall brightness it should give me a more uniform and wider angle of light coverage. If you want more light the simple and unfortunate truth is you really need to spend more money and get higher rated lumens lights.
Adding additional video lights arms
A lot of underwater camera vendors use a modular hose system called Loc-Line to make their own video lights and strobe arms. It can be purchased in various lengths and diameters. The difference is because it’s marketed to SCUBA divers and photographers the price markup is absolutely insane. If you can manage to put a set of legos together then you can easily build your own set of light arms or strobe arms using loc-line. I use 1/2″ hose which is available at http://www.modularhose.com For larger strobes or heavier video lights I would recommend using 3/4″ hose. The loc-line hose itself is pretty secure but you can always run a piece of monofilament line inside it attached to the light for a little extra security.
For around $17 bucks you can build 2 video light arms. You can simply go to any hardware store and buy stainless steel nuts and bolts to connect to your tray and make your own video light mounts.
|51895-Blk||1||LOC-LINE 1/2″ FIXED MOUNT, PACK OF 2, BLACK||Color: Black||4.92||4.92|
|51801-Blk||1||LOC-LINE 1/2″ HOSE SEGMENT PACK, 2 SEGMENTS EACH 5 1/2″, BLACK||Color: Black||6.83||6.83|
|51838-Blk||1||LOC-LINE 1/2″ END CAP, PACK OF 4, BLACK||Color: Black||4.82||4.82|
Here is what my Snake River Prototyping GoPro tray looks like with 4 lights attached to it. Archon D11V lights on the top and the DGX Max Video Lights are on the bottom.
I used a set of helmet light mounts from Dive Gear Express and simply drilled holes into some loc-line end caps and attached with stainless hardware.
I’ve yet to take this for a test drive in the water yet as I’ve been focusing on shooting macro photography with my new Olympus TG-4. I’ve actually been using one of the DGX Max Video lights as a focusing light on my camera rig for the last 5 dives or so with some good results.