The Light Underwater

April 13, 2019

Originally written by Puccio Distefano
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Do you want to illuminate well underwater? Buy yourself a lens.

No, I’m not suddenly stoned (that’s a process in progress but, luckily, a little slow …); however, everything starts from the point of view we are using to carry out our shooting. If I want the joy of showing the world the red of the beautiful gorgonians and I have a beautiful machine available with a wonderful case and a lens that covers a field angle of less than 100 °, to frame the whole subject and part of the environment in which he lives, I will be forced to look at him at a certain distance. Please note that this distance is about two meters. Well underwater to properly illuminate a subject so as to highlight the colors at two meters of distance I will need a lot of light, and this will have to have, beyond the necessary “power”, also a thermal gradation and a CRI that give me back the colors of my subject. Let’s say that I will have about 15,000 / 20,000 lumens (and maybe a few) and a lighthouse that has the other features I mentioned above. If, however, I can use a lens that gives me a near-framed angle of view, for example, at 140 °, here, to get the same shot of the subject and the surrounding environment, I will have to approach it. This will ensure that I will have less water between the camera and my gorgonian and I will operate at a distance much less than the two meters previously hypothesized. Then the “power” of the illuminator could be even less than the 15,000 lumens I was talking about.

It is true, today on the net there are products (almost all of Chinese origin) that recite extraordinary characteristics and powers. Without being able to lay hands on them it is impossible to make judgments of merit.Recently I was able to test some of these illuminators with powers declared from 3,000 to 8,000 lumens and, some, with CRI equal to 95 (excellent value if true). Well the first thing that surprised me was the extreme care and qualitative quality in the construction of the product. Once in the water I was able to see the actual correspondence of the theoretical characteristics declared with the result in the field. I found that the durability of the lights and functionality of the spotlight corresponded to what was declared and that the luminous power supplied was, in fact, congruent with the manufacturing specifications. I found some lights “cooler” than others, but this was responsive to the declared color temperature.I have shared the various films made on the web and, therefore, how much I write is verifiable (you will have to put up with my shots … but, as I always say … “try to believe”). As for the prices of all the illuminators marketed in Italy (of any origin) it is enough to make a “tour” on the net and it will be found that, unfortunately, the light costs very expensive and the price is directly proportional to the power (and to the other qualitative characteristics) . If I buy directly from Chinese sites I will be able to check lower prices, but if there is a problem with the product I am put on a lily. The purchase in Italy guarantees me assistance from the retailer and, for products that go into the water, the intervention will not be tied to the “if”, but to the “when” (we all know, and we always say it between us, the problem it is not if it will be flooded – because this is taken almost for granted – but when it will happen …).I conclude by spending a few words for action cam users, often convinced that the “small light video camera” works. This is absolutely not the case, PURTROPPO. If, however, we consider what I said at the beginning of this post, we could say “minor distance from the subject minor light”, and here the action cams help us, because they are equipped with rather generous objectives in terms of angular coverage and allow us to operate closer to the subject.Then a compromise could be the purchase of add-ons that further increase the angle of view allowing to focus from just a few centimeters and guaranteeing a coverage of around 140 °, and the adoption of illuminators with a minimum power of 3,000 / 4,000 lumens.

wide-angle add-on for action cams

here is an example of the yield of the INON UFL-G140 SD lens

Since the add-ons also cost (and not a little), I could, in the end, have spent as if I had purchased a much more powerful illuminator (be careful … it takes two) but I will find myself with a system that allows me much more environmental shots interesting.

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