As is the case with me, I’m always chasing down some new gadget and piece of gear in the never ending quest to find the best stuff to accompany me while diving. Now it’s no secret that I love photography and videography, and also all those little tight dark spaces inside wrecks and caves. Generally those two don’t mingle well without some external help in the form of lighting, especially since the GoPro has a tendency to get real grainy real quick when you take away some of the usual ambient lighting.
I have in the past built my own lights to remedy this issue, but I built something that was powerful rather than user friendly which I at first thought wouldn’t be a problem since I would be the only person using them, yet over time I have grown lazy and don’t feel like struggling with my silly bulky Version 1.0 design with every dive plus I don’t really need any excuse to get a new gadget. Actually, that’s probably my excuse to get it. Don’t judge. 😀
Enter the Knog Qudos! This handy 3-LED dedicated video light currently retails locally for around R1,200 which is way below some of the other video lights that are available, and it’s especially sexy due to it’s solid billet-cut aluminium design and small form factor. Boasting a mere 400 lumens at 100% it’s easily underestimated, but in real life, face to lens, it does exactly what it’s supposed to.
The Qudos employs 3x CREE XB-D single die LED’s in different optical grade fittings which enables it to deploy a variety of light types based on the user’s requirements; anything from a soft floodlight that can easily be used in studio situations to full blown spots for action sports under the cover of darkness. It important to remember that this was NOT designed solely as an underwater video light, much like the GoPro is not solely an underwater camera and with that comes some challenges. First and foremost, backscatter is something very real and it’s effects under water is multiplied exponentially with bad visibility and the presence of particles. The Qudos includes fittings to mount it nice and close to the GoPro keeping the overall size as small and portable as possible which is amazing for action sports where drag and weight need to be closely managed, but for underwater shooting this only makes the backscatter worse and unless you’re diving in perfectly clear tropical water, this could potentially become a real problem. Luckily it also comes with a tripod mount so the problem is easily averted by combining that with a underwater tray. Alternatively, If you like me have bought your fair share of GoPro mounts over the years, you might also be left with a bag filled with little extension arms usually used for the chest / headmount. These will mount perfectly to the stock mount of the Qudos and can be used to quickly and easily create some distance and angle between the camera and light, thus potentially solving the backscatter issue.
One of the potential points of failure that caught my eye was the latch that keeps the battery door closed. This is made of plastic, as well as the door that it holds on to and particularly a small clear plastic bar, no thicker than 2-3mm that determines the fate of this entire device. I would like to see this reinforced in future versions, perhaps avoiding the bar altogether and rather just opting for a notch in the battery door for the latch to grab onto, much like the camera for which this is intended. I would also not object to seeing the XB-D LED’s changed with some XM-L2 which, for a tiny increase in size, will make a huge difference in output. This can also be complimented by a not bigger, but better battery. It should not be difficult squeezing a much bigger mAh rating into the same form factor, considering that the most common 3.7V 18650 has at least 5x the relatively low 1000mAh capacity of the stock Qudos battery. For the LED’s currently used however, the stock battery is more than adequate to provide light as long as, if not longer than the average GoPro battery will last while recording at around 54min on 100% output.
Overall my first impressions are great. It’s obvious that a lot of planning has gone into the light and it’s mounts and despite one or two potential improvements I would have considered, I think that as far as action cam video lights go, this one is definitely leading the pack.
I just got my Qudos today and will be using it during the Aqua-Lung Funday in Gordon’s Bay tomorrow, and you can bet that there’ll be lots of quality feedback when I return from the big blue!
Have a great weekend!
Here’s the video I shot during the Aqua Lung Funday. This was a boat dive at Sttenbras Deep, Gordons Bay at 26m with rather bad viz (4-6m), and as you’ll see the backscatter is clearly an issue on the stock mount