Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Ferei W170 Dive Light

Red Hat Diving
Ferei  W170 Dive Light
The Ferei W170 is the top of the range dive light from this Chinese manufacturer. On unboxing first impressions were of a very high quality piece of kit, which comes in a very nice bag ideal for stowing the torch, straps and chargers. It’s a nice package.
Turning on the light is amazing as the pure cool white light is very bright at 2200 lumens.
Wanting to charge the torch up and get it diving was my priority as it is an exciting product but the instruction booklet supplied with the torch is terrible and in no way tells owners all the information they need to know about the torch features. I found out more by getting hands on and finding things like the 3 power modes by accident. The torch comes with 3 charging parts. A car charger which is highly useful. There is the standard charging cable which as normal goes into a box and then plugs directly into the torch and this is the setup for the AC charging at home. I am unsure if you use the box section when charging in the car?? But I think not. I haven’t found any info on that yet, which isn’t very good (clearer manual required). Good points though are that the torch is fully sealed so you do not have to open up the torch to charge it. This does leave the charging point exposed to salt water. It’s clearly stated that this charging point needs to be rinsed and dried after every dive in salt water.
Once I figured out how to charge the torch a red LED illuminated on the plug and after 3 hours it turned green. This torch takes 5 hours to fully charge but after 3 and 4 hours the charging is at 80% and 90% respectively.  Full charge is said to give a run time of 95 minutes at full power. This should just about give you time for 2 good wreck dives. If you are like me and like to do long shallow scenic dives this run time may be a bit short. You don’t need to use full power all the time though and can easily move to mid power which will suit this type of diving.  I would have liked to see a slightly longer burn time on full power though, as you do need it if you are in murky water.
The head of the torch is also sealed and contains an American Cree LED surrounded by an aluminium reflector all behind a toughened ultra-clear optical lens.
The torch itself is a lantern style and has a very comfortable rubber coated handle, with lanyard attachment points fore and aft. It is constructed with a Type III military grade hard-anodizing aerospace-grade aluminium body (sounds good). This is said to resist scratching and corrosion. I will need more time to see if this is the case but after my testing so far the unit is bearing up remarkably well.
So this package on the face of it looks good, here is how I got on underwater.
On land the light was very bright with a large intense hot spot surrounded by a nice even halo. Underwater I noted as you would expect that the halo focused a bit making the beam narrower. This was good as too wide a beam is like full beam in the car in the fog. So at full power (because I hadn’t as yet found out about the other settings) the torch performed very well illuminating the murky depths of Loch Long. One thing I did note was a slight fogging of the lens. The cold water and the intense heat from the LED must have caused this although the torch does have inbuilt heat sinks. This cleared as soon as I left the water and I have found no information to know if this is normal when in cold water?
It was on my second dive of the day when I experienced a brilliant feature built into this and I believe all of the Ferei dive torch range. After 60 minutes run time the torch blinked. Initially I got a bit of a fright but I did remember reading about this. When the battery level reaches around 20% the LED will blink once every minute for the remaining 20 – 30 minutes of burn time. As LED torches either have power to work or not this I think is a brilliant idea, once you know about it that is!
After the dives
I had a good look over the torch after the dives. All trace of the lens fogging had disappeared. After the rough treatment I had given the torch there were only a few light scratches. What I did note was that a fine coating of rust had formed on one of the exposed charging terminals. The worst of this was removed with a cloth but it will require dedicated attention after every dive trip to keep it in tip top condition.
This torch retails for £676 if you look it up on Amazon and you do have the option to buy it in gold as well as black colours. Thankfully though you will not need to pay that amount as John Hewitt of Red Hat Diving is selling this torch at around £300.  Check out John’s website at http://www.johnhewitt.com where you know you will be able to buy with confidence.
This torch is powerful and well made from quality products. It produces a brilliant white light with a pleasing beam ideal for diving in UK waters.
Great plug in charging without opening the torch.
Reasonably fast charging 80% charge after 3 hours 100% after 5hours.
Excellent low battery warning.
Can be charged in a car ideal for the traveling, camping diver.
Very comfortable to use.

I would have liked to see a bit longer burn time to ensure 2 dives on full power. This will only be a problem if you are in the water for more than 95 mins with the torch on.
I didn’t like the fogging of the lens. It’s likely just due to the heat of the LED but I can find no information about it.
Lastly that exposed battery terminal will corrode if not cared for.
At time of writing an up rated version of this torch has become available with 3 LED’s in the head. This produces around 2960 Lumens and has a burn time of over 2hrs. This all sounds good if it can do all this.
Mike Clark

Friday, 15 November 2013

Mares Avanti Quattro + Fin Review

Mares Avanti Quattro + Fin Review

There are fins of every shape, size and colour on the market today. Some use split fin technology and some are retro harping back to the heavy rubber fins many of us would have learnt to dive in. I currently use Mares Avanti Quattro fins in a delightful shade of green. I have owned them for what must be 15 years.  When Split fins became the fashion I did flirt with some of these designs but even though they were new and shiny I always reverted back to my Quattros.  Many divers must feel the same, as in any dive party there will always be sets of Quattros in the mix.

Needless to say I was delighted when Mares upgraded the fin producing the Mares Avanti Quattro + Fin.  Mares sent me a set to try and they were in the same beautiful green colour. On first inspection the old and new models look identical apart from the obvious change of strap style. There other changes some subtle and some in the materials used. I took them on a dive to find out how they performed.
Notice the differences
The visual differences are very minor. The brand badge is in a different position and it has a + at the end. Would this just be a go faster stripe?
Strengthening bars at the front of the foot pocket have been removed on the new model
The most visual difference is the heel strap. This has been replaced with rubber bungee cord with a large rubber section for the heel. This incorporates a large thumb loop which made donning and removing the fins a breeze. The original fin straps where the only thing I didn’t like on the original fins. The buckles were rather fragile and didn’t take much to break the locking mechanism. So the new bungee fin straps are all good news and even better than the spring straps I put on the old pair. Mares supply a couple of spacers to lengthen the strap should you require more room.
The other differences are in the upgraded materials used to construct the fin.  The stiffer material in the blade (green in the images) is now more flexible.  The rubber in the 4 super channels in each blade is more elastic. These improvements along with the removal of the strengthening bars at the foot pocket improve performance right along the fin blade, making the fins even more responsive.
In the water
As stated already I’m used to diving with these fins and as expected I didn’t expect to notice a massive difference in performance.  As I waded into Loch Long to don the fins. I found the bungee strap easy to use thanks to the large thumb loop. They certainly where very comfortable and with the slightly softer and more elastic foot pocket they felt very secure on my feet.
Taking the first few fin strokes I felt immediately at home. Did I feel any difference in performance? Short answer yes.  I felt as if I had a spring in my step and there was just a little bit more of a snap from each stroke. It was subtle and I’m not talking about ploughing a bow wave across the Loch, it was more a feeling like having a good day at the office. The fins felt comfortable and the reinforcing bars at the side of the blades did their job and kept the water from spilling over the side of the blades. This water was channelled along the fin blade over all those lovely new materials. I did notice that the fins are even more responsive when making manoeuvres in the water. This was especially noticeable when I was making adjustments to my position to take pictures.
Getting out of the water was great too as I located the thumb loop on the straps and removed the fins with ease.
So it’s all good news then and it gets even better. Back in the day when I bought my original set, the Quattros were to top of the Mares range. Today they are near the bottom of the range. This means that while I paid a lot for them 15 years ago the current range of the Avanti Quattro + is a lot cheaper and a quick browse of the internet is showing prices between £55 and £70 which I think makes these fins extremely good value. Being around half the price of more new-fangled split fin designs.
So what you do get with the Mares Avanti Quattro + is a high performing, reasonably priced fin carrying on the tradition of being firm favourite from its predecessor.

Highly recommended.

Mike Clark

Quick Release Lanyard - With Ring & Stainless Ring Clip

I have reviewed Many a Lomo product as they are generally good quality and extremely good value. Recently I got my hands on their Quick Release Lanyard - With Ring & Stainless Ring Clip which retails at £5.99. This is around half the price you would expect to pay for a branded product.
 I used the lanyard for a prime dive torch but only after making a few adjustments to the lanyard.
 The lanyard is supplied with a small karabiner clip at one end and a split ring at the other. I found the karabiner to be fine but the split ring was too soft and lightweight and it started to unravel when tension was put on it. This was disappointing but not too much of a problem. I removed the split ring and utilised the loop of line that is found at the same end as the split ring. All I had to do was unpick a small knot. This then enabled me to thread the line onto the torch and loop the lanyard through it. Job done.
The karabiner clipped to a D ring and off I went. The body of the lanyard is made of curved plastic wire. The use of plastic clips enables lengthening the lanyard at the start of the dive and the clipping it all away tidily at the end.
After making the alterations I found it to be a good product giving great flexibility re torch positioning.
Mike Clark

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Go PRO HERO 3+ Black Edition Test

I have just taken receipt of a Go PRO HERO 3+ Black Edition for testing. Im hoping to dive some really nice wrecks with this and i am just awaiting delivery of the dive housing (60M) and a head mounting system. this is a very exciting product and i cant wait to try it out. Keep your eyes on my blog and hopefully U Tube to find out how i get on.
Mike Clark

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Finart Loch Long

Its been a while since i have been in the water, so it was great to get back in at the weekend. Weather was poor on the East coast and i headed West to Loch Long. The weather here was cold but superb and the Loch looked stunning. I arrived fairly late but managed to park up. I managed two nice dives and was impressed with the amount of marine life at this site. Here are a few pictures from my day.
Thanks goes to Paul and all the guys at DEEPBLUE SCUBA and Iain Smillie and his buddies who helped look for a spotting torch i lost on the entrance path at Finart. Its a small led lenser torch with white masking tape around the bezel, if you come across


 it please let me know.
Talking of torches I was testing 2 Ferei Torches and a pair of the new Mares Avanti Quattro+ fins. Reviews will follow shortly so keep a close eye on the blog to see my findings.
Mike Clark