I have been diving with an old lead acid Halcyon 18W HID umbilical for around 18 months now. The light head itself is big with large relector and ballast taking up half my forearm and the battery cannister is massive (almost the size of a pony!). That said, the output from it is excellent, it has been really reliable for me and I have not yet been in the water with a brighter torch (most of my buddies use the Halcyon 10W version or latern torches with lower outputs).
I know that HID's are not known for taking too many knocks and I was also aware that they are expensive to replace, especially 18W and 21W models so I decided that I should sell on the HID and look to get an LED which are supposed to be bullet proof. I posted my intentions to sell the HID and buy an LED on a diving forum and was contacted by Rob Lumb of Lumb Brothers. They are the UK distributer for the Belgian made Greenforce torches and he suggested that I should be looking at his Monostar which should be equivalent output to my 18W.
After some good technical support and swift negotiations, the deal was done, my HID was off down south and my new Greeforce arrived. First impressions were excellent. The kit came in a nice rucksack with towel to dry it post dive, padded bag for the light head, net bags for the charger and umbilical, CD manual and other back up materials. I bought the F11 battery which is pretty small but will still power my LED for 3 1/2 hrs and be recharged in 4 hrs (HID was 2 hrs burn and 12 hrs recharge!). In fact, the F11 is probably smaller than my HID light head that I used to wear on my arm! The light head itself is still broad as it has a big reflector, but is only around the length of my hand. I also bought a webbing goodmans handle which is a soft and adjustable webbing strap that fits round your hand with the light head simply being zip tied onto it. I liked my old goodmans handle but they are big and a little clunckie so I thought that this would be a good alternative giving the best of both worlds.
The first test was done in my back garden at night where I found I could light up the fenceline a field and a half away which seems pretty good to me. A few days later I jumped into my local quarry which is renowned for being deep and dark with poor viz. Down deep where the viz was pretty clear the light was very impressive. A nice wide and almost parallel beam just like my Halcyon had. The main beam diverges around 5 degrees but there is also a secondary peripheral beam which diverges at around 40 degrees and this gives a nice peripheral vision. The light is maybe not quite so bright as the Halcyon but it is much warmer (yellower instead of white) and therefore does not wash out the subject as I have often seen with my old torch. When I did move into a area of poor viz the light seemed to suffer more from back scatter than I would have expected from my Halcyon but you would need to have them side by side to be sure. LED's are known for giving a nice light but not having the signalling or penetration power of HID's so I guess this is to be expected.
The next test will be on a deep dive alongside my buddies 10W HID which should be interesting (should of happened this weekend but we were called off by weather!).
The only downsides to date are that the battery pack does not come with a belt mount so I had to make my own with some webbing and 2 jubilee clips - not a big deal to make but seems to be obvious requirement that is not catered for (a battery bag can be provided to mount to your cylinder if required). I am also not a fan of the power switching method which is simply to unscrew either end of the umbilical to unset the contacts and therefore turn the torch off. The same method can be used to change power settings to 66% or 33% and you can also get strobe and SOS functions (all based on turning power off and on with certain delays between). This is all obviously very clever and I may well get used to it and come to love it, but at present it seems a little complicated and I don't like turning off a working torch at depth during a dive just in case it doesn't come back on!
So all in all, my new Greenforce seems to be an awful lot of torch for the money (around half the price of a new Halcyon!). It is extremely well built, comes as a nice package and seems to have excellent customer service support from Lumb Bros. If you are in the market for a new torch, I can whole heartedly recommend having a chat with Rob. He seems to be a really down to earth guy who is genuinly interested in understanding what you want so he can offer you what you need. Not your usual salesman out to sell you anything he can and better still, he is always up for a bit of negotiation on price to give you a good deal.