The controls are on top of the unit where they’re accessible to your thumb. Three buttons are arranged in a triangle, with the largest at the apex controlling the lights. A two-second press turns the video floodlight on at maximum power, a claimed 1000 lumens, then a short press cuts output to 500 lumens.
Another short press brings up the 1000 lumen 12° spotlight, and a final short press drops spot power to 500 lumens. Press again and the cycle starts again with the 1000-lumen wide.
At the front of the lamp-head you’ll see that there are actually two separate torches in each Mera, one for the wide beam, one for the spot.
Tovatec claims that the camera alone will run for 8 hours, camera and full-power lamps 1.5hr and lights at half-power 2.25hr.
My bucket test agreed with Tovatec, though 90 minutes of video of the inside of a bucket was not the most exciting movie I’ve watched.
Now you have the lights sorted, you press and hold the bottom-left button for two seconds to turn on the camera. A quick press of the same button takes a photo, or a press of the right-hand button starts the video. Another press stops it.
Battery, O-rings and back of lamp-head with slot for micro-SD card
Turn the camera off with a long press on the left-hand button. See what I mean by easy to operate?
The triangular panel behind the buttons lights up blue to show that the camera is turned on, flashing if no memory card is installed. That’s a good idea, far more useful than finding out only when you get home and try to download non-existent footage. Not that I’ve ever done that…
When the battery runs down the panel turns red, but Tovatec says you’ll still have enough battery to film for another 15 minutes using the lamp at full power, which is ample reserve.
By now you’ll have worked out that the wide beam is designed to light up the field of view of the action-camera, which Tovatec describes as a proprietary unit shooting 1920 x 1080 full HD footage at 60 frames per second.
In use, the broad-beam floodlight effectively functions as the viewfinder of the camera.
You’ll also notice that I haven’t mentioned any photographic controls to alter the camera output. That’s because there are none – the Mera is fully auto only, but that doesn’t have to matter too much if the auto function is well set up.
Tovatec Mera above water – nice sharpness, good exposure, wonky horizon.
So does it work? Above water the photo mode is reasonably good and the pictures are entirely acceptable for on-screen sharing. Exposure is well-judged and sharpness good, with just a trace of colour-fringing in areas of high contrast and some image softness in the corners, if you look for it.
The biggest issue I had above water was tilting horizons. I tried to hold the camera horizontal, of course, but never managed to get it exactly right.
But, and it’s a big but, none of this matters much under water, where the camera takes nice images in good light, with decent colour balance down to 4-5m, after which you need the light to restore some colour. The design means that filters will take some DIY effort before you can use them.
Turn on the light and you quickly realise that 1000 lumens sounds a lot, but not when compared to daylight, so in shallow water you need to get close for the floodlight to be useful.
At 4m with light off.
In deeper, darker water, the light provides far more potent illumination than you might expect, and will allow you to get well-exposed pictures and video footage very easily.
Switching to the spot-beam provides a water-penetrating bolt of light that’s as good as any other 1000-lumen spot diving lamp, and added to the appeal of the unit in certain situations.
The three control buttons were easily located by touch even through a 5mm Kevlar glove, and the size and shape of the unit overall made it easy to hold and point. If I bought one I’d use a short lanyard with a suicide clip and treat it like a torch, not a camera, clipping off when it wasn’t required.
Which brings me to the problem I hinted at earlier, and my only serious reservation about the Mera. When the light source is very close to the camera lens you see all the detritus in the water clearly lit up, like driving through snow with your headlights on full-beam.
That’s why photographers mount their lights on arms away from the camera, and there’s no hiding it, backscatter is an issue with the Mera.