Submarine Illumination: Finding the Best Dive Lights in 2020

Scuba diving is an amazing hobby that allows us to experience the mysteries of the underwater world. As a diver, a quality dive light is an essential part of your dive kit—lights let us explore the nocturnal underwater world, restore color at depth, and give life to underwater photography. With all the different kinds of lights on the market today, I put my 15 years of dive experience to use to create a comprehensive guide of the best dive lights on the market that are suitable for every kind of diving.

9 Best Dive Lights - Comparisons

Best Dive Lights - Reviews

DRIS Dive Gear 1k Shorty Dive Light

One of the most important features of a dive light is that it should contain a bulb that won’t fail on you—we’ve all been there, the time when you are tracking an octopus across the seafloor, and suddenly your bulb dies and you lose the camouflaged sea beauty before you could grab your backup.

The 1k Shorty has a Cree XML U2 LED bulb with a 5000-hours lifespan to guarantee illumination for more dives than you can squeeze into your log book.

The 1K shorty runs on 3 AA batteries and will give you 1000 lumens of illumination. The batteries provide up to an hour of use with the light operating on the bright setting, and 4 hours at the lower brightness setting. To prevent damage to the LED bulb, the 1k Shorty has overload circuitry that automatically dims the light to prevent it from overheating.

What we liked

  • Lightweight and small
  • Three o-rings create a tight and reliable seal
  • Good coverage area
  • Solid construction

What we didn't like

  • Twist switch is hard to operate
  • Requires frequent battery changes
Underwater Kinetics SL4 eLED UV-395

Adding vibrant color to your dive is one of the reasons we carry lights with us underwater.

Natural white light that you find in most dive lights does a great job of bringing the red, oranges, and yellows that we lose at depth, however, the UK SL4 takes this game to a whole new level with the option of using an ultraviolet bulb. Many species of fish and corals have coloration that responds brilliantly to UV light, and the SL4 brings out amazing colors that you won’t see with any normal dive light.

4C alkaline batteries are required to power the SL4, but they can also last for ten hours on one charge, and the eLED bulb is rated for thousands of hours of use without needing replacement. At 400 lumens, this light is bright enough to illuminate objects up to 622 feet (189 m) away, and is rated to operate at depths down to 500 feet (152 m).

What we liked

  • Bright but not overpowering
  • Good battery life
  • Compact size makes it a good backup light
  • On/off switch is easy to operate even with gloves on

What we didn't like

  • No lock on power switch to prevent accidentally turning it on
Princeton Tec Shockwave II

The Princeton Tec Shockwave II is a powerhouse that will give you ultimate control of the light underwater with its molded finger grip handle. This light is in the class of primary lights, and is larger than some of the other lights on our list.

The larger light gives divers comfort, control, and a bright beam that spreads wide enough to capture an entire underwater landscape. Using a 205 lumen xenon light bulb to produce softer, more natural light at distances up to 485 feet, the Shockwave II lets you see the reef the way it is meant to be seen.

This light has two operating modes that give the perfect amount of light for different diving scenarios. The 7.5 watt low setting is great for cruising the seafloor at night, or adding color back on a day dive—this setting will give you an operating time of up to 10 hours. The 15 watt high setting may only have a burn time of 5 hours, but the amazing field of light illuminates the darkest caves and deepest wrecks so you’ll never have to guess what it is you’re looking at.

What we liked

  • Strong and wide light beam
  • Comfortable grip handle
  • Easy to switch between brightness settings

What we didn't like

  • Power switch is a little flimsy
Underwater Kinetics Mini Q40 eLED Plus

If you need a solid and reliable backup light, something you should always have on any night dive, take a serious look at the UK Mini Q40.

This compact light sets the standard for the performance we’re looking for in a backup light. The light fits comfortably in your hand, and easily straps to your BC to be out of the way while you use your primary light. You can also take this light with you on your daytime dives to illuminate cracks and hiding places of eels and lobster among the rocks and coral formations.

At 77 lumens, the Q40 isn’t the brightest light out there, which is the primary reason I recommend using it as a day light or backup light. However, the 77 lumens are more than bright enough to restore color to deeper depths, the eLED bulb has an operating lifetime of over 5,000 hours.

The Q40 runs on 4AA batteries—depending on the battery type, you can get up 5 hours using alkaline batteries, or 10 hours using lithium batteries. Using lithium batteries combined with an eLED bulb could make this little light your go-to for years.

What we liked

  • 500 foot (152 m) beam distance 
  • Durable poly carbonate body
  • Strong beam
  • Long bulb and battery life

What we didn't like

  • Doesn’t come with a wrist strap
  • Twist switch be hard to tighten properly which may result in flooding 
BlueFire CREE XM-L2 Professional Flashlight

The Cree XM-L2 offers 1100 lumens of LED power to illuminate the darkest caves and light up the reef at night. The Blue Fire dive light takes either a rechargeable battery or three AAA batteries to power the extra bright LED. The white LED light is great to restore color during both day and night, and will let you check out all the awe-inspiring colors the ocean has to offer.

You can carry the Blue Fire dive light in the traditional wrist lanyard setup, or you can use the wrist mount that allows you to still use the light while keeping your hands free to hold a camera or other dive tool. I’ve personally used this wrist strap to mount a Go Pro camera to the light. I recommend using the low setting when doing this, because the high light setting can wash out the image.

What we liked

  • Bright light is great for night and cave diving
  • Triple o-ring seal
  • Highly visible fluorescent yellow body
  • Aluminum head can be used as a signal device

What we didn't like

  • Limited to about two operation hours on high setting
  • Difficult to operate when wrist-mounted
Goldengulf Cree XM-L2 Led Scuba Flashlight

With over 100,000 hours of operational bulb life, the Golden gulf dive light’s Cree XML-L2 bulb will likely outlast your diving career. Seriously, how many of you have logged 100,000 dives, or even 100,000 hours underwater? Fortunately, this light is rough and sturdy enough to be used on all your adventures on land as well as underwater.

Using a rechargeable battery, the Golden gulf can emit light for up to 4 hours while outputting up to 1000 lumens. The charger is portable enough that you can get an overnight charge while out on a live aboard, and have it ready for each day of diving. The 320-foot (100 m) depth rating also ensures that you can take this light on any dive you want.

What we liked

  • Dual o-ring seal
  • 3 brightness settings, plus strobe
  • Powerful, bright beam
  • Great for day and night dives

What we didn't like

  • Switch is a little too easy to accidentally activate
  • Battery only lasts about 2 hours on high setting
TurnRaise Scuba Dive LED Flashlight

The military-grade Turn Raise dive light is one of the toughest lights on the market thanks to its anti-shock design and corrosion-resistant aircraft-grade aluminum body. These durability features are great for divers who spend a lot of time on live aboard that can be rough on your dive equipment. This strength, however, doesn’t make the light overly bulky—it’s still light enough so you can carry it comfortably in your hand. The small size and light weight also make this light a good option for travel.

Like other XM-L2 bulbs, the Turn Raise light can last up to 100,000 hours, and its brightness reaches 1200 lumens. Two brightness settings let you tone down the brightness to save battery during day diving or for photography. The rechargeable battery eliminates the need to carry packs of batteries with you in your save-a-dive kit.

What we liked

  • Durable
  • Easy-to-use button
  • 1200 lumen brightness
  • 320-foot (100 m) depth rating

What we didn't like

  • Battery needs to be purchased separately (check out this battery option)
  • Flimsy wrist strap
Underwater Kinetics Sunlight C8 eLED

The Sunlight C8 is another good option in the class of powerful, pistol-grip design primary lights. The C8 uses a unique twin high intensity LED bulbs that are united into a single extremely bright beam. The switch on the light allows you to choose between high and low settings. On the lower setting, the light can run for up to 20 hours.

You have two options for powering this light: standard alkaline batteries, or a rechargeable battery pack. The rechargeable battery pack gives the C8 enough power to put out up to 1200 lumens. This light is assembled with tough rubber and corrosion-resistant materials that are rated to last for 20 years when cared for properly.

What we liked

  • 20-hour battery life on low setting
  • 500-foot (152 m) depth rating
  • Comfortable pistol grip 
  • Optional rechargeable battery lasts up to 10 years with proper care

What we didn't like

  • Larger and heavier than other smaller backup lights
Orcatorch D520

The simple and sleek Orcatorch D520 is a great accessory light to add to your dive kit. It is waterproof down to 492 feet (150 m), and offers a bright output of 1000 lumens. The light is small enough to fit in a BC pocket for those extreme dives where you might end up in a rock crevice chasing a puffer fish. The beam isn’t quite wide enough to be a primary for night diving, but it is a commendable backup light.

Rechargeable batteries are the power source for the Orcatorch, and you get the option of either using two small batteries or one large battery. The entire system is sealed by a triple o-ring system to prevent water from reaching the internal electronics. The bulb is controlled by high-efficiency constant current circuit to ensure that you have consistent brightness while underwater.

What we liked

  • Solid build
  • 1000 lumen brightness
  • Simple use
  • Triple o-ring seal

What we didn't like

  • High water pressure may cause light to come on automatically at depth

A Couple of Tips for Choosing a Dive Light 

O-ring Sealed 

When you pick up a dive light, make sure that you get a light that is sealed using o-rings. Oftentimes the term “waterproof” is used rather loosely by manufacturers, and sometimes it doesn’t mean the light is actually waterproof. To ensure an actual waterproof seal, the light needs to be sealed with rubber o-rings.

Know Your Lights 

When night diving, especially, you should always have three lights: a locator light on your tank, a primary light, and a backup light. Primary lights offer a wider beam and are often larger than backup lights. The wider beam makes the light safer, as it greatly increases your area of visibility when you’re underwater. Backup lights are much smaller and can attach to a hose or fit in a BC pocket—these lights are plenty bright and are carried in case something happens to your primary, and they are also a great option to bring back natural color during day dives.

A Light for Every Occasion 

Don’t be left in the dark with a poorly functioning light. Thanks to LED technology and rechargeable batteries, you can easily find yourself a long-lasting and dependable light that may just become your new favorite dive buddy.

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David Valle

I started this blog to provide advanced material, guiding you towards a better and more comfortable fishing experience. I deliver more than fishing gear guides, and motivate people to hit the water!