Kowalski LED torches

Latest underwater illumination of typically German quality

Author: Pat
31st May 2012

The Kowalski range of LED torches offer reassuringly solid illumination.

Back in the 1980s my parents bought me a bicycle, complete with Eveready lights for riding in the dark. These were cheap grey plastic boxes requiring expensive Ni-CD batteries, and seemingly ran flat in double quick time. From switch on, the light of the (replaceable) bulbs started at ‘feeble’ and steadily diminished from there.

a solid reputation as a torch maker

But today we live in a new age of illumination, and it’s the trusty LED we have to thank. Light Emitting Diodes are ubiquitous in everything from cars to washing machines. It’s said that in London, you’re never more than 6ft away from an LED.

To a torch manufacturer the LED is an affordable, reliable and maintenance-free component that offers as much – if not more – brightness than gas filled bulbs or filaments.

Germany’s Kowalski Unterwasserlampen (‘underwater lights’) has built up a solid reputation as a torch maker, particularly within the cave diving fraternity. As a discipline where reliable lighting is an issue of life and death, that’s quite a recommendation indeed.

British Diver took possession of three of the company’s new LED range, the Select 620, Focus and Mini-X.

With its grab handle and large cylindrical construction, the Select 620 bears a passing resemblance to Kowalski’s halogen forbears – with one key difference. The head of this torch is interchangeable, so in just a few turns can be switched between a 12-degree spot or 70-degree flood. (For the purist, there’s even the option to fit a halogen spot instead, if required.)

A red catch on the back of the torch locks the switch into position, and after release a rotating dial turns it operational. The dial also acts as a dimmer switch, from 100% brightness at ‘on’, decreasing as low as 20%. Luminosity varies between head designs, with 9,00 Lux for the flood and 18,000 for the spot quoted by Kowalski.

With a 200-metre-plus depth rating, the Select 620 feels solid enough to club a seal with… or if that’s inappropriate for a diving audience, at the very least fend off an attacking Barracuda. This is a primary and no mistake, but manages to limbo in weighing less than a kilo thanks to an aluminium casing.

Most surprisingly, the charging connections are on the outside, so you may want to check there are no loose bits of seaweed on the contacts before plugging in. Recharging takes just 2.5 hours incidentally, for a maximum burn time of two hours.

The Kowalski Focus is of a more conventional design. The gracefully ergonomic body is milled from anodized aluminium with 5mm thick glass up front, and has a stylish two-tone body. But that’s not the clever part: as the name suggests, you can focus the light beam from a 9-degree spot lamp to a wide 35-degree flood.

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DIR divers don’t do rechargable batteries, or so I gather. Luckily the Focus takes three conventional mini-C sized cells of the kind available everywhere. Under optimum conditions, expect over 16 hours of continuous use.

Twist the bottom end and the Focus emits a pure, white light that pierces through even the grimiest of sea conditions. In use down a shot at 30 metres in truly terrible vis, the biggest complaint was the dazzle is caused fellow divers!

Last but not least, the Mini-X is a smaller brother to the Focus, although it would be a misnomer to call this a pocket torch. Packing 4,300 Lux it could conceivably make a good primary for many a recreational diver. It’s constructed in the same way from anodized aluminium with a 12-degree spot of sparkling white light when viewed underwater. Drop either torch over the side of the boat by mistake and they should survive a trip as deep as 200 metres. Although you might want to get someone else to recover it for you…

After a weekend’s diving, members of my BSAC club gave Kowalski’s LED torches an enthusiastic ‘thumbs-up’. But to be honest, I expected such a reaction. With a mix of quality build, cool style and high performance, they’re ideal lights for UK diving.


The Divezone is sole dealer and service centre for Kowalski GmbH in the UK. See www.thedivezone.co.uk for more info.

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