By Jason Heaton
on 12.12.11

The idea of SCUBA diving at night can seem absurd, dangerous and terrifying to someone who hasn’t tried it. But for those who have done it, it can be exhilarating and downright addictive. The ocean becomes a different place after dark and a whole new set of creatures emerges from daytime hiding places – shape-shifting octopi, spiny lobsters and shy eels go out on the hunt. Tarpons and barracuda shake off their daytime languor to patrol the reefs. In the dark, bioluminescent corals and drifting invertebrates pulse like tiny science fiction monsters. As a diver, you become hyper aware of your surroundings and almost giddy with adrenaline. Of course, there are additional precautions to take when night diving, the most important being the use of a good dive light. And there may be none better than the SOLA Dive 1200 from Light & Motion.

Underwater photos by Gishani for Gear Patrol

Light & Motion is a California-based company that makes high-end underwater video camera housings and lighting systems. While they’ll never be accused of being cheap, they cut no corners on design and quality. The SOLA Dive 1200 is a compact light that is packed with innovative features. Smaller and lighter than most underwater lights, the SOLA is comprised of a factory-sealed composite case with machined aluminum bezel. It is available with conventional pistol or T-grips but our test light came with the nylon strap system that mounts the light on the back of your hand, not unlike the straps found on ski poles. This strap works brilliantly, allowing full use of your hands to hold a camera, climb a boat ladder or check your gauges.

A nice case and strap are great, but when you’re underwater after dark, it’s the lumens that matter and the SOLA Dive 1200 delivers more of them than any other hand-held dive light on the market. On its highest setting, the SOLA pumps out a blinding 1200 lumens in a wide, white, flood beam. Medium and low settings give you 600 or 300 lumens, respectively, while the available spotlight setting provides 500 very focused lumens for flushing out that wary moray under a coral head. On a couple of night dives in Roatan, we found the high setting to be almost too much light and used the SOLA on medium or low most of the time unless we were scanning the flats for rays. This had the advantage of preserving battery life too, which is still a respectable 65 minutes on high flood.

Using the SOLA Dive 1200 is intuitive and easy, thanks to its magnetically-coupled slider switch, which toggles between high, medium and low if flicked forward or between flood and spot if flicked back. The light even has an SOS setting, which will automatically pulse out the Morse code for SOS if you happen to surface away from your boat. Thankfully, we never had to test this feature. The slider switch locks when not in use so you don’t blind your dive buddy or run down your batteries when it’s not in use. The rechargeable sealed battery is easily charged via the gold-plated contacts and DC charging cord, which works whether the light is wet or dry. Our only gripe with the SOLA Dive 1200 was the lack of visibility of the mode indicator lights during a daytime reconnaissance of a shipwreck. But after dark, it’s not a problem and that’s when the light will get most of its use anyway. After all, with the SOLA Dive 1200, night diving is so much safer and more enjoyable, you’ll never see night diving the same again.

Buy Now: $699

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