Last year at the annual DEMA show, Light & Motion showcased their new Sola 8000 Video Pro underwater video light. It’s an impressive, versatile light that puts out a brilliant, smooth, broad 90 degree beam, and is equally impressive with its compact profile and ease of use.
Here’s what Light & Motion’s CEO Daniel Emerson shared with us at last year’s show:
Last month, I had the opportunity to try out two of the Sola 8000s lights during a trip to Kona, Hawaii. I carefully packed up two of the Sola 8000’s in my kit and headed for the airport, which brings the first thing I really like about them: their size.
Packing the 8000
The 8000s weigh in at 984 grams each (just over 2 pounds), and easily fit in my Pelican case, alongside my Ikelite housing and DS161 strobes. Like many divers who travel, space and weight are of prime consideration with gear, and even the highest quality equipment can be a negative if it doesn’t travel well. The Sola 8000’s fit comfortably fit in a camera case or carry-on camera bag and are equally efficient on the boat, where space is an equal consideration. Like their other Sola lights, the 8000s are factory sealed, so there is no secondary battery pack that you need to worry about. I’m often squeaking in just under the airline’s 50-pound limit (and frequently go over it with my carry-on bag), so I definitely appreciate their low profile and surprisingly low weight. The lights come with an accessory charger which is also light in weight. Underwater, the lights are very slightly negative in buoyancy, which can be balanced out with an additional arm float, if you prefer.
Before going underwater, it’s important to understand how to operate new equipment on land, of course. Being new to the Sola 8000s (and being moderately averse to reading manuals, as many of us are), I went straight to the light itself to give it a try. As a great product should, it took less than 30 seconds to understand how to operate the light and practice adjusting it. (Note that these lights rely on water to cool them, so prolonged use out of the water is not a good idea).
The Sola 8000 has two controls on it – an on/off rotating switch, and a vertical slide switch. Both are self-explanatory – a half-twist of the power switch unlocks the light from “airplane mode”, and the magnetic slider controls the on/off functions and power levels. While the functions could, I suppose, all be handled by the slider, I greatly appreciate having a dedicated power switch so I know the light is off when it’s in my bag. It’s also important to note that both switches are easy to use wearing gloves underwater.
Let there be light
Needless to say, 8000 lumens is an impressive amount of light. For comparison, consider that a single car or motorcycle low-beam headlight is about 700 lumens, and typical high-beam headlight is 1200 lumens – and nowhere near as easy on the eyes as the smooth, even beam of the Sola line of lights.
Once turned on, the slider adjusts the power in 7 variable settings – 1K, 1.5K, 2K, 3K, 4K, 6K, & 7K. As each output level is set, it is clearly illuminated on the back in a bright OLED display that not only shows the power level, but the remaining burn time available (in minutes) at that given level. This is, of course, a huge benefit, as it allows you to manage your time and charge throughout the course of the dive, so there are no surprises before the light goes dark. During the course of a dive, it’s rare that you would leave it at full power, and more likely toggle it up and down as the situation dictates. But if you need a long burn time, it’s there.
At full power the Sola 8000 will continuously burn for 50 minutes. It will last 100 minutes at half-power, and 800 minutes (more than 13 hours) on low. Fortunately, charging doesn’t take nearly as long. According to Light & Motion specs, the Li-ion battery charges completely in 1 hour, 45 minutes. With just a 10% charge left after a day of diving however, I was able to get it to 80% charge in the first 50 minutes with the supplied 24-volt charger. That’s a lot of light for a long time, and realistically you will be able to do 2-3 dives easily with a full charge. If needed, the charger can be easily plugged in on the boat to add some juice.
Underwater, the Sola 8000 is simply a brilliant light. The 90-degree beam spread is smooth and has very even coverage with no noticeable hotspots, and with their superior brightness, I was able to use them for still photography as well. Mostly out of convenience (and due to their long burn time), I opted not to turn them on an off regularly during my dives, but rather dialed them down to the lower power settings when not shooting with them. The magnetic slider and OLED readout made me perfectly comfortable with this, as I never worried about running out of power.
At depth, the Sola 8000s brought out so many lost colors – even more than I would have ever realized. When not shooting video or stills, I used the lights to illuminate the darker areas under ledges and to explore the critters hiding in more sheltered areas (with prior video lights, I would have turned them off after filming). Even in the mid-day tropical daylight, the Sola 8000s were essential to bringing out both colors and the amount of light needed to get great exposures during my dives. Their low profile created less drag on my kit than using traditional strobes, and not dealing with sync cables was an added bonus!
Buying an 8000
Light & Motion’s Sola 8000 is an extremely well-engineered light that will help underwater videographers, photographers, and explorers with a very versatile light that’s durable, easy to use, and built by a very reputable company here in California. The light initially retailed at $2,299, but is now available for $1800. The kit includes the light, fast 24-volt charger, neoprene storage sleeve, Sola 8k ball mount, and Allen key.