Big Blue’s 15000P Pro Tri-Color Lights… The Best “Bang For Buck” U/W Video Lights On The Market Today?
Now, let’s look at a few of those specs in more detail, there are a few which immediately stood out to me upon first viewing. Firstly, the power, it’s quite a step up to go from 1200 lumens to 15000! I like to run my lights at full power where possible, even in broad daylight, this is primarily for focussing reasons. If I have plenty of light, I can stop down the camera to anywhere from f7.1 to f22 meaning getting critical focus on moving subjects becomes a more straightforward process, particularly on those small DSLR screens. Having plenty of light also means lower ISO, I don’t like to go above 640 if I can avoid it due to issues with digital noise. I have in the past had to blast the ISO up to 1600 which means a ton of work in post to clean up that footage and it never comes out as clean as you would like. In the Azores, using these lights I never went above 320 and even then, those “higher” ISO shots were at depths greater than 30 metres.
When running lights at full power that, of course, affects battery life. On my previous set up, at maximum power, I was getting about 35 minutes at full power before having to recharge which would take approximately 2-3 hours for a full charge. With the Big Blue 15000P’s I get 3 hours at full power which is phenomenal. I never once needed a recharge between dives and the lights never went below 50% charge and even when they went down to around half the battery life, quality and power of the light did not diminish. At the end of each day I would recharge from between 50-70% and it would take approximately 1-2 hours to charge. This is a big battery and a full charge will take around 4 hours which is still not bad at all. Simply charge overnight and you’ll be set for the day ahead.
The other spec which jumped out at me as a potential game changer for me is the width of the light beam. 160 degrees is pretty incredible, I’ve been used to 60 degrees which, with the lens at full width, would mean I could never light the whole frame and in low light and night dive scenarios, this is a real problem. Shooting at 10mm on a 1.6x crop sensor, I was able to light the whole frame, corner to corner with no vignette and the difference to the footage is quite remarkable. It also means that underexposing parts of your shot (meaning ugly, digital noise) is now less of a problem and all that means the one thing most important to a Cinematographer… Better footage!
Regarding the quality of light itself, it is beautiful. I was shooting on the cool white setting at 6500K, the beam is nicely diffused, brilliantly even in the spread and brings out natural colour and skin tones wonderfully. This was a real revelation for me, gone was the warm tint I have experienced from other lights, instead, I was able to light a shot to capture vivid natural colours. Watch the video and see the undersides of the Mobula Ray’s wings, they are not blue, they don’t have that red tint, they are white, exactly as they are meant to be and this makes grading underwater footage a much more pleasant experience. What was also noticeable was reds underwater were much softer, displaying none of the harsh, deep red, warmer lights can create which is a nightmare to grade out.