As our industry grows, and manufacturers design new products to address specific needs of divers, we often review those products.
Whether they are designed for general diving, or specifically to recreational, technical, freediving or for spearos, we want to ensure that our readers get the kind of high-quality information to make it easier when looking to purchase a new piece of diving kit.
On occasion, we find that the new product just isn’t that useful or functional. In most cases though, we are pleased with the product’s performance and pass that along as well.
Every now and again, a product is introduced that is a true diamond in the rough, and should become part of every diver’s equipment.
DeeperBlue.com’s news editor John Liang recently wrote about FX Divers’ two newest products, which the company introduced at the 2015 DEMA Show in Orlando. The Florida-based company “prides itself in the manufacturing of high quality underwater gear for divers, spearfishing, snorkelers and the growing group of freedivers.”
FX Divers’ new GoSea dive mask and the FX650 Compact LED 650 Lumen Dive Light were both recently put through their paces on a series of night and day dives.
In keeping with the format of past reviews, the products have been reviewed based on a standardized set of criteria: Price, Functionality, Usefulness and Durability.
The FX650 Compact LED 650 Lumen Dive Light is a small, sleek cylinder that fits neatly into the diver’s palm. Paul Shepherd of FX Divers, said the light was “designed to fill a gap” that wasn’t covered by the company’s larger FX2500, a 2,500 Lumen light. At 5 inches/12.5cm in length and less than 10 ounces/283 grams, the FX650 is truly compact, and with a MSRP of US$119.95, it is also affordable enough to be part of every diver’s gear. Paul Shepherd told DeeperBlue.com that “the light will be on sale for $99.00 through the holiday season“, and a quick visit to the FX Divers website showed this to be so.
In order to evaluate the light against a similar light in price-point and output, we chose the Underwater Kinetics UK SL3. The UK product weighed in at 13 ounces and just under 8 inches/20.3cm, and was much larger in diameter. At a rated light output of 425 Lumen, the UK light was also significantly less bright.
The first test was to drop it in the water.
With an advertised burn time of 3 hours at full output, there are three intensity levels that can be selected, we wanted to see if the light lived up to the literature. Out of the box, with no charging, the light burned 3.5 hours at a depth of 6 feet/2 meters. The beam was also much brighter than expected, with a narrow coverage area, suitable for a secondary dive-light. In terms of Functionality, the light performed as good as, or better than, advertised specs.
The next day found us doing a series of shore dives at Florida’s Blue Heron Bridge, both on SCUBA and while freediving. The provided lanyard easily attached to the integrated attachment point, and with the addition of a split ring and snaplink, the light hung unobtrusively from our BCD.
So, every other dive light we have tried has either a rocker-style lever or is turned on/off by twisting the housing. The FX650 uses a robust push button, which has the added benefit of being illuminated by a bright, green light (“Power Indicator Light”), easy to find in the dark.
The pilings and piers of the Bridge, on an overcast day, give a twilight appearance and a good light is absolutely critical to illuminate the numerous places marine life was hiding.
Turning on the light as we entered the water, we were immediately struck by just how much light it was putting out. Elusive fish and marine invertebrates were easily located in the deep crevasses of the bridge pilings. The FX650 also provided a nice “photo light” to help illuminate some of the awesome creatures that populate this popular dive site.
We found the FX650 to be bright, compact, and easy to turn on. We cycled through the three power settings and turned the light off by simply holding the button down for 4-5 seconds. One push, and it was back on. In terms of all-around Usefulness, the light was proving itself to be quite the little powerhouse.
The last area of evaluation was Durability, and that became self-evident when the current in the main channel picked up considerably on the falling tide, pushing the diver towards a barnacle-encrusted piling. Hovering nose to crab above the sand, we found ourselves instinctively jamming our left hand (since the camera was in the right) into the sand to pivot around the piling — momentarily forgetting we had the FX650 in that same hand.
The manufacturer doesn’t recommend treating their lights in this fashion, but in our defense, the light made a great pivot point and came away unscathed: The aircraft-grade aluminum housing’s anodized finish showed no signs that it had just been wrist deep in sand and gravel.
There are many reasons that every diver should carry a light on every dive. Changing light conditions, clouds moving in, a sudden rain squall — divers can find themselves needing the security that having a powerful, portable light source provides. Cave and Wreck divers, and anyone diving at night should always have a secondary light. The FX650 serves well as a backup to a diver’s primary.
The FX650 also served well as a spotlight for our GoPro, punching up the color and visibility of the many small creatures we could now see in the deep recesses of the bridge pilings and rock piles. Underwater hunters can strap this small powerhouse to their speargun with no loss in maneuverability or significant change in balance.
On subsequent dives, the FX650 also proved handy in illuminating the interiors of the small wrecks that are strewn around the park, illuminating the otherwise well-camouflaged Groupers and Spiny Lobsters.
As freedivers, we want all the benefits that a light like the FX650 provided us on SCUBA. We came to appreciate the small size and negligible weight. It was easy to tuck into the arm cuff of our suit. We also clipped it to our weight belt without feeling that the light interfered with our “streamlining” while freediving.
The FX650 comes standard with an 18650 Lithium-Ion Battery 3.7V 2200mAH, an AAA Battery Converter Module for using AAA batteries, lanyard, battery charging station and 2 replacement O-rings.
FX Divers also provided us with their GoSea GoPro Dive Mask (MSRP US$89.99), which has an integrated, action camera mount on the one-piece frame. Being familiar with original GoPro Hero and it’s less than useful wrist-strap, and every subsequent model since, we have seen and used every mount made. The one thing we had not done was use a mount-integrated mask, so we were looking forward to trying it out.
The GoSea GoPro Dive Mask we evaluated came with a bright, yellow skirt. Paul Shepherd advised that “we wanted the bright colors; the bright colors were something important for us, a lot of people complain about the lack of color sometimes.” The GoSea GoPro Dive Mask is available in seven skirt colors, including Black. The super-soft silicon skirt molded generously to our facial contours, and once the adjustable strap was correctly positioned, the mask sealed up and felt just like any other mask we have worn.
We easily mounted a GoPro Hero 3+ with the dive housing to the integrated camera mount on the center of the frame, using the provided screw and nut. On first glance, we thought was that this the camera sitting above the brow would feel “unbalanced” and heavy, but found that once we put the mask on, the camera was unnoticeable. We did note that the provided mask strap would benefit from being a bit wider, so we added a neoprene “slap-strap” to it, which immediately improved the fit and feel of the mask.
We had our dive buddy switch the GoPro on and we entered the waters armed with our FX650 and new mask. As we finned through the pilings and rocks, the current pushing us seaward, we reached up to push the on button on the GoPro to start filming video. and promptly knocked the mask off. There is a learning curve that needs to be mastered, or the diver has to be willing to turn the camera on topside and edit the footage later. After re-donning and clearing the medium-volume, dual lens mask, we were able to complete the dive.
In terms of Functionality, the GoSea GoPro Dive Mask works well at it’s intended purpose, providing a solid, comfortable mid-volume mask for diving and a robust mount for hands-free action photography. The mask is well-made, and the skirt silicon is top-notch. The weight of the camera is negligible, and once a diver becomes familiar with camera placement, there should be no issues with the “center of the forehead” location.
The mask seems as Durable as any of the hundred or so masks we’ve worn over the years. The material is cleanly molded and the dual, tempered-glass lenses provide a good field of vision. FX Divers is now offering a neoprene Velcro strap cover at no additional charge to give the diver that option. We found it to be very helpful, adding to the fit and comfort of the mask. The swiveling, adjustable buckles were easy to operate, even with thin gloves on, and are mounted directly to the frame.
The FX650 Compact LED 650 Lumen Dive Light is, hands-down, the best compact dive light we have ever used. It’s size, weight, power and price all combine to make this a “must-have” stocking stuffer. Every diver should carry one of these in their BCD pocket and freedivers and spearos will be better equipped with this portable powerhouse.
The GoSea GoPro Dive Mask is a simple to use, comfortable and well-made means to add a hands-free photographic experience to your dive. The mask works well, the silicon skirt is exceptionally comfortable, and the camera mount locks down solid, with no slippage. With a sale price of $69.99, any diver with a GoPro should give the GoSea a try.