Announcing the winner of the premiere ScubaLab Innovation Award
THE BIG IDEA
The ScubaLab Innovation Award recognizes breakthroughs in products, practices and ideas that can change the world of diving equipment. Periodically, as our imagination is sparked by new concepts and design, we’ll share with you the innovations that enhance our experience in the water today, and might change the way you dive tomorrow.
Sometimes a clever idea seems so simple — after its inventor has dreamed it up and actually built the thing — that we’re surprised no one came up with it before.
So it is with the Tovatec Mera, a nifty combination dive light/action camera. The Mera is aimed at divers who don’t want the hassle or expense of a full camera rig but still want to capture decent footage when the dive turns epic.
About 7½ inches long and weighing just over a pound, made of machined aluminum and rated to 200 feet, the Mera looks like a conventional dive light with a triple-LED head. But one of the “lights” is actually the lens of a camera that takes HD, 1080p video and 4-megapixel stills. The lights are a 1,000-lumen dive beam with a 12-degree angle, and a 1,000-lumen video beam with a 120-degree angle.
The three-button operation is one-handed and intuitive. One button operates the light; a second turns on in standby mode and glows blue to signal it’s ready; and the third begins video recording, with a pulsing red light to indicate it’s running. When the camera is on standby, you can press the second button to take a still.
The dive-light beam is wellfocused and powerful enough that we’ve mostly used its low-power setting. The battery is a rechargeable Li-ion that burns on full power for 2½ hours, or low for six hours.
(We wish it had an SOS fl ash, which dramatically extends battery life in an emergency.)
Getting the camera to work properly with a powerful light source so near the lens required trial and error in development, as well as some software wizardry. Keeping the price low and size small meant doing without a viewfi nder, which required coming up with another way to frame the shot. The solution was to align the field of view of the camera with the beam cast by the wide-angle video light, so whatever is illuminated by the light is in the camera’s view.
As for the camera’s performance, this is a good place to note that the Mera costs under $300 including battery and charger. In other words, if your goal is to see your work on Blue Planet III, you’re not really the target audience. The Mera is about a convenient, inexpensive way to snag cool, shareable footage.
A clever, well-executed idea — and a new piece of gear that makes us want to dive. That’s the kind of innovation we like to see.