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Light & Motion Sunray 600 LED: Practical test

The light system Sunray 600 LED in practice:

If you switch on the lighting system for the first time, it becomes quite obvious that LED technology has made a tremendous progress in recent years. Incredibly bright and subjective white emit the 6 small LEDs, although the Sunray LED 600 is only the smallest two-tank system from Light & Motion. What the larger Sunray 1200 and 2000X are able to illuminate, I can hardly imagine.

The illumination is very homogeneous without visible light spots. The angle of illumination is sufficient with 70°, to the edges the light intensity decreases slightly. The operation by the buttons on the left handle is exemplary, the dimming steps graded very good.

A major advantage is the low power consumption of LEDs, the staying power cannot be compared with halogen lamps. Even if the lamps are often used during the day, the remaining capacity will still be sufficient for a complete night dive. One should also mention the longevity of the LEDs, which is specified with more than 20000 hours. Spare parts such as light bulb and O-rings for lamp head are no longer necessary!

The buoyancy of the system with Sunray 600 LED

The buoyancy of the entire system is very good. The horizontal alignment is neutral, the housing tilts neither forward nor backward. Since the entire system weight is 5630 grams and the volume is 4770 ml, buoyancy is 860 grams negative in fresh water. To get neutral balance , a float with 860 ml volume is missing  (without own weight).
However, since the buoyancy in salt water is 35 grams/L, the float must be slimmed about 165 ml. I reduced 100 ml more to get a little negative buoyancy, which I prefer personally.

Floating body with 610 ml volume

For this reason, I've built a very pressure-resistant and tailor-made floating foam, laminated by carbon fibre (2x 160 gr./m2). This creates a positive buoyancy of 580 grams and the total weight of the entire video system in salt water is about 120 grams.
Many divers like a heavier weight of the video system during the dive. They should use the equipment without float or should buy some small floats by Light & Motion.

The performance of the Sunray 600 LED

  • Halogen onshore
  • Sunray 600 LED onshore

First, I compared the brightness and colour temperature with my old HLX. To do so, both test photos were taken with exactly the same camera settings. Camera Canon SLR (aperture/shutter 7,8/0,8 sec., ISO 100, white balance daylight)

It seems that the MB Sub in normal operation (70% power) is brighter, however, without correcting the white balance provides a bright yellow-orange light. The light of the Sunray 600 LED is similar to that of daylight, confirmed by the manufacturer's specification of 6500 Kelvin.

Since we are interested in the comparison of recordings under water, we compared the light intensity while diving and checked the need for a manual white balance by artificial light.

Recordings are made again in the pool, which proved to be difficult because of its blue colour scheme without contrast.

Recording with manual white balance by artificial light

The picture shows the test chart with a few clams in typical distance of about 140 cm, illuminated with the Sunray 600 LED and manually performed white balance. Of course, aperture, shutter and ISO will be adjusted by the CX550 depending on light conditions, the motive is exposed automatically with good results. I illuminated the same motive with the MB Sub at 70% power by identical conditions, the result was absolutely identical as expected, so I don’t show this image.

Subjectively, I had the feeling that the white light of the Sunray is much brighter under water than the light of my old MB-Sub. This assumption is also confirmed by Internet searches, it’s  absolutely correct in the dark. The white LED light has a higher range by its wavelength than that of halogen lamp, the coloured light of Halogen is absorbed much more. During the day, it obviously seems different again. The yellowish light of the halogen is very different from natural light and seems even brighter and increases if you come closer to the surface. Since in increasing and supposed colourless depth the light conditions reduced more and more, the LED light of the Sunray is more advantageous because of it’s favourable colour temperature and higher range.

I think that the Sunray 600 LED will be sufficient to illuminate even large motives, it will definitely dwarf Halogen lamps with 35W. Since you cannot get enough light under water, I would have preferred the big brother Sunray 1200 LED, despite the good performance of the Sunray 600.  However, this was unfortunately not compatible with my budget.

Now we check the manual white balance by artificial light

Recording with auto white balance by artificial light

This image shows the same motif, also illuminated with the Sunray in automatic white balance mode. The blue predominates here again and distorts the colours of the test chart as well as the colours of the clams. I do not need to emphasize that the preceding picture is much better and needs no correction. In open water, the difference doesn’t seem so extreme, since the blue pool is a big challenge to the technology of the camera.

Fact is,  that the manual white balance, even with the use of video lights with optimal daylight colour temperature, is a very useful and simple method to get true colours without processing on computer. In a night dive, once saved, this value must be not changed during the dive.

Protection for the battery tanks when parking

The battery tanks have on their bottom light rubber strips to protect the paint. Since I am always concerned about the expensive equipment, I will equip each battery tank with a larger and softer rubber. In addition to the better protection for the paint, the great advantage is also, that the sometimes strong vibrations of the boats are slightly absorbed and the sensitive electronics will be protected.

Finally, something funny:

As the lighting system is also controlled by infrared signals, interferences by other infrared-controller can cause undesired functions. When I was in the living room and operated the TV, the Sunray switched on. Purely by chance, the pressed button on the remote had the same frequency, which is required to switch the lighting system. But since this is only possible in the standby state of the Sunray, there should be no problem.

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