Big Blue AL-450NM
& AL-450WM Tail
Appeared in DIVER September 2019
One of the greatest revolutions in diving equipment has been in lighting. LED bulb technology has improved by leaps and bounds. Combined with better battery performance, we now have amazing performance from lights barely longer than a forefinger.
I was reminded of this as I took these two Big Blue lights into the corner of Camp Bay, Gibraltar, for a night-time test. Thirty years ago
I did a lot of night-diving there. Back then, my light was 30cm long, took three expensive and bulky U2 cells and the dim beam had a yellow tint. And that was just my back-up.
The Big Blue Tail lights share most of the same features, the main difference being beam-width. The AL-450WM has a 40° wide-angle or flood beam, while the AL-450NM is much narrower at 8°. Their LED bulbs put out a fixed 450 lumens, and colour temperature is a cool 6500K.
The body is a slimline aluminium case with stippled non-slip finish towards the rear and around the bezel, where your grip naturally falls.
A large steel push-button on/off switch with a satisfying click action, easily used with 5mm gloves, is mounted at the back, protected from accidental operation by the raised lanyard ears.
Up front, the lens is recessed to prevent damage. Inside is the battery cage for three AAA cells. The torches are nicely presented with a set of recyclable batteries, lanyard and a pair of spare O-rings (there is a main and a back-up O-ring, so these light are hard to flood).
The O-rings are black – I would have preferred a hi-vis colour to make it easier to see hairs or other detritus on the seal.
I entered the water with the 450WM, the wide-angle version, switched on. However, the water was cloudy, showing up the problem that flood beams sometimes cause. The extreme angle of the light hits particles and causes backscatter.
T his in turn creates haze, making it hard to see any distance.
I switched to the 450NM, and the narrow beam cut through the fog beautifully. I used it to make my way into deeper water and along an undercut to a wall where I wanted to photograph corals.
I was using this tiny light as a primary and I really wasn’t missing having a huge gloom-busting powerhouse lantern. It had lots of range and the beam, which is very even, was plenty wide enough for finding my way around.
I then switched back to the flood model. In the much clearer water on the wall, it really did light up a huge area and had good distance penetration. This 450WM would make a superb choice as a pocket light for night- and wreck-diving in the Red Sea, for example.
For photographers, it would also serve as an excellent modelling and focusing light, especially for working in the dark with wide-angle lenses. In lower vis or for looking into holes, the NM wins out.
Both lights impressed me, and I highly recommend them.
TESTER> Steve Warren
DIMENSIONS> 125 x 42mm
WEIGHT> 165g with batteries
OUTPUT> 450 lumens
BATTERIES> 3 AAA recyclable / rechargeable
BURN TIME> Up to 4 hours
DEPTH RATING> 1oom
DIVER GUIDE> 9/10