Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Kraken Solar Flare Max Video Light Review

My first impression when seeing the Kraken 10,000 lumen Solar Flare Max underwater video light was how nicely crafted they are. The light is incredibly durable with metal construction and a strong glass dome for the LED lights that spreads the light underwater. It also comes with a neoprene cover for the dome  and nice soft carrying case - similar to a camera bag. I was on a "roughing it" type live-aboard with no accommodations for camera gear. So having such large and heavy lights along was challenging. But the Solar Flare lights provided such beautiful illumination that it was worth the struggles.

The Kraken Solar Flare Max has a burn time of 55 minutes at 100%. To charge the light you need to open it up and insert the plug directly into the battery. I found this process very easy. The light just has one dial/button combo for power and settings. To turn the power on, just hold the button until you see the logo appear on the LCD. Press the button twice to turn light on (mode and light percentage will be at the last setting used).

The high-contrast display is very bright and easy to read. Light brightness settings are adjustable in 5% increments, adjusted by turning the knob/button on the back of the light. The brightness setting stays on the display while the light is on, telling you what percentage of the 10,000 lumens you are using. The display also tells you how much battery time remaining you have at that power. I love this feature! Push the power button to change the mode from wide beam to narrow beam - a picture of the mode shows up briefly - then disappears. When the battery is almost dead, the light will only allow 10% brightness for 10 min. The only thing I would change about the display is - I would like some sort of Mode indication to stay on the light display at all times. Since it only stays on for a second - mistakes can happen during quick action shots - if it accidentally gets in the wrong mode and you aren’t in a place where it would be immediately obvious - like out in the blue.

The 160° ultra wide and powerful beam has five COB LEDs in a wide array and the dome port compensates for refraction and spreads the light. Since the beam is so wide and my diving situation was less than ideal, I decided to only use one light for most of my dives. I usually prefer two lights for more even coverage. However this light is so smooth and wide, that I was able to get good coverage by using only one light positioned as shown to the right - to try to emulate natural sunlight.

I attempted different light positions with one light, but that did not work because the weight of the lights made my rig too lopsided and hard to hold. The couple of dives where I did use two lights were actually easier due to a more balanced rig - but it was very negatively buoyant and hard to handle on the surface.

I also had problems with the weight of the light putting so much tension on my housing handles of  that I had to tighten the screws on them a couple of times during the week.

The weight of the light is rated at 3.8 pounds above water and about 2 pounds underwater. But it seemed more negative in the water than that to me. I was using one float arm segment - with added additional floats and that didn’t seem to make any difference. Hopefully, Kraken can come up with a float collar, or another solution to allow the lights to be easier to handle underwater.

Despite all the problems with the weight of the lights, the actual quality of the light is far superior to any other light I have tried. It produces a beautiful wide, white natural beam. The fall-off is extremely gradual, further adding to the natural look.  I would really love to try these lights again, because the quality is undeniable.

Great for Still Photos Too

Being a Fine Artist that moved to video several years ago, one thing I really missed was having quality photos that I could print and show in galleries, along with my paintings. Since my diving, as well as my photography is a huge inspiration for my paintings, that element had gone missing, partly due to the limitations of cameras - but also due to the limitations of video lights. I really like that my GH4 offers both high quality still photos and video. As cameras have gotten better, video lights have also improved. The Kraken Solar Flare Max underwater light is powerful enough - with a wide enough beam, to capture beautiful photos in addition to video. Even a plain old reef scene comes alive with color when using the light.

Kraken Remote Control

First, be aware that the remote won’t power lights on, you need to start with the power on by pressing the power button on the back of the light.

Pressing power button on the remote can change modes the same as pressing the button on the light. Holding the power button turns the lights to 0% - or on. The up and down button changes the lights in 5% increments (holding the up or down buttons does not make the power change faster - you must push for each 5% change.)

I had problems with the remote, and ended up using the lights manually. Initially it worked well. But after I used the remote to turn the lights off (or to 0% - you cannot turn them on or off with the remote), the remote only worked for one light. Taking the battery out and letting the remote reset seemed to cure it temporarily, but the problem repeated itself. I'm sure Kraken will sort this issue out soon.
 — Margo Cavis