I think my addictive nature has found a new genre of dive-gear on which to fixate – dive-torches. The marketplace seems to be flooded with them, so much so that choosing the right model for your specific needs could be mindboggling.
There are Swiss Army-type torches with more functions than you can wag a stick at, or single-mode models designed simply to provide illumination. The XRE510 from Metalsub does the latter but with a few extras thrown in.
I’ve been taking one under water over the past few months to see if it cuts through the darkness.
The XRE510 is a small handheld torch with a robust marine-grade, Teflon-impregnated, anodised aluminium body. It is 108mm long with a 39mm-diameter double-O-ring-protected screw-in head housing a polished reflector behind a toughened glass lens.
The torch-head has an orange EDPM rubber band to add some shock resistance and help stop it rolling around on the boat deck. A single multi-function push-button switch at the base turns the light on or off, scrolls through the light levels and activates the flashing modes.
Illumination is provided by a single Cree LED delivering an output of 500 lumens in a tight 10° spot beam. Four AA alkaline or the equivalent in rechargeable batteries provide the power.
There are four light output levels, a flashing SOS mode and a one-second-interval strobe mode. An overpressure valve stop the torch exploding if there’s any gas leakage from the power-cells, and it comes with a wrist lanyard.
I’ll start by explaining the switching system. There’s only one button to deal with, and it operates with short, long or double pushes. The light is turned on with a single long press, short pushes scroll through the four light levels, and another long push switches the light off.
Two successive quick pushes while the torch is on activate the steady flashing mode, the next single press changes this to SOS, and another double tap changes it back to a solid beam. The process quickly became intuitive but, as with most dive-torches, it’s a two-handed operation.
Under water the centre of the beam cut through the dark like a hot knife through butter. The reflector concentrated the beam into a small hotspot surrounded by a softer pool of light.
The bright centre beam had the advantage of not illuminating peripheral particulates to give the feeling of driving in thick fog on main beam.
Burntimes varied with the type of battery I used. The best I achieved was just over two hours on 100% output using Duracell Ultra Power alkaline batteries, while the worst was 90 minutes using rechargeable ni-mhs.
On a couple of dusk dives in poor visibility I used the XRE510 as a locator beacon, looping the lanyard round the exit shotline and leaving it in situ with its steady strobe flashing so that we could always see our exit route. Thankfully I didn’t need to use the SOS mode during the tests, but knowing it’s there adds a bit of confidence.
The torch doesn’t have a travel lock, so to be on the safe side and comply with current aircraft baggage regulations the batteries need to be removed from the outer case. To do this you simply unscrew the head.
By today’s standards 500 lumens is a bit on the low side, but in fact it’s more than the average diver should ever need, especially when it’s delivered in a tight beam. The output proved ideal on night-dives and didn’t destroy my night vision or temporarily blind my buddies, yet it was plenty bright enough to use as a primary torch.
If you want to turn your dive-site into the equivalent of Wembley Stadium on match night this isn’t the torch for you, but if you want to see your way round a reef or wreck in poor visibility after the sun has set, it’s the tool for the job.
The additional modes make this a bit more than a simple handheld light, and the unit seems as tough as nails. In fact I’m sure you could hammer those nails into a boat-deck with it, it feels that robust.
OUTPUT: 500 lumens
SETTINGS: 100/50/25%. Fading light. Steady flash. SOS
POWER SOURCE: 4 x AA alkaline or rechargeable batteries
BURN TIME: More than 2 hours 100%, up to six hours with fading light
DIMENSIONS: 108 x 39mm diameter
WEIGHT: 342g with batteries
DEPTH RATING: 100m
DIVER GUIDE: 10/10
Appeared in DIVER November 2016