Where 5 years ago you could buy hyped ( and often bad) LED lamps from top brands, you can now see the top brands move away from the "cheap" market and moving more into their respective niche markets. Some of the well established brands have tried to compete with the flood of cheap lights, but I noticed most are leaving that market area for the Chinese now, unable to give them any competition.
Off course this is not only good or bad... at least it creates focus for the industry itself. It gives us, the consumer, a great alternative to be diving with decent lighting that does not straight away cut into your budget so bad that you cannot afford a decent stabjacket anymore.
The innovations in our divelight industry are currently mostly on LED color and composition, not focussing on ever-more Lumen into the same package. This is great as I often found out that when diving in murky water 600 Lumen is more than enough... and any more would only blind you because of all the backscatter you have.
The low-budget end of the market, however, still focusses on 1200, 1600, 2000, 2200, 3000 Lumen and with that has to cope with increasing raw material and productioncosts, more technical development costs and higher energy consumption / shorter lifespan.
Recently I have updated my Chinese light (MJ850) with 2 new Lithium-ion batteries. Battery indicator is not working, now... not recommended by the producer, but at least I can now use my light again for 5-8 dives before I need to recharge.
So would I still advise you to buy Chinese, now? -SURE-
Be aware that buying cheaper lights will cost you things like:
- build quality (although .. it seems to be very good these days)
- lesser quality components (LED type, Electronics and Battery)
but once you see the pricetags .. it becomes clear that money spent on a Chinese lamp might only cover 2-3 seasons... for starting divers and non-professionals it might be a good investment as the costs often are 1/3rd of comparable lights from the professional branded lights.
So what would you be able to buy on low budget, these days?
My old lamp, the 850 is still in production. 1200 Lumen for 90USD on small orders I would still recommend this one.
The successor for that lamp might be the AT-876, which also has the SST50 and 1200 Lumen but new batteries and electronics. Yours for 120USD.
For the person that wants to boil water and permanently blind anything or anyone, there is the 2200 lumen version based on a SST-90. You will, however, officially make an end to the term Night-dive, when using this light. (160USD)
With about a 10th of the light you would have a perfect backup lamp. The AT852 is what you would get. (40USD 200 lumen)
Then there is the good old AT-810; a 900 lumen light based on the P7 LED. Proven to be quite reliable and costs only 60USD.
If you are interested in any of these lights .. you would be able to find resellers anywhere on the web. Prices stated above are only indicative and might vary. If you found a good reseller, let me know. I'll buy one or two new lights as well. It saves me the hassle of importing them (mind the P&P and import tax issues) and doing price negotiations. I would off-course be more than happy to setup an order of 20 lights with my Chinese friends... just mail me.