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Saturday, January 02, 2010 

Light My Fire!

I often get asked "What strobe should I get for my camera and housing". Here's a rundown on all the current strobes that Optical Ocean Sales carrys right now.

The Fantasea NanoFlash is a small, light and easy-to-use strobe. It has a guide number (power) of 12, so ii is fairly low power. Many people like them for tropical diving and for close up shots. It is a strobe-in-a-box with 3 power settings and several diffusers of varying strength. It will work with all digital cameras. Uses 2 AAA batteries that last about 2 dives.

I used to sell the UltraMax Strobe as a good value for a beginning diver. Unfortunately, recently we experiencing quite a few failures and I've discontinued selling it.

Next up is the new Fantasea Remora strobe, actually has the same flash tube and power as the UltraMax, different electronics and design. Much better power control; 10 to 100% dial and a very good lens and diffuser that spreads the light better. Much faster recycle time than the UltraMax. Still a 60 degree beam angle and also narrow vertically. Has a mount for a small NanoFocus light for aiming. However it does not have a sealed battery compartment, although a good seal on the door. It is floaty in the water, but not as much as the UltraMax. It’s a good step up for newer photographers with point and shoot cameras. I’ve been test shooting it with a Fuji F200, photos are here.

Probably the best small strobe is the brand new Sea & Sea YS-01. Sea & Sea has done their homework and come out with a less expnsive, smaller version of the popular YS-110a. Like it's big brother the YS-01 has D-TTL, automatically adjusting the light duration, as well as 10 steps of manual power. It also has a target light which will shut off during exposure. It's beam angle is the same 110x110 degrees and it has a very fast recycle time of 1.5 secs with NiMh batteries. This unit gets my vote as one of the best uw photo products to come out this year.

Up from that is the Sea & Sea YS110a, guide number of 22, 13 steps of power control, bright target light, 105x105 degree beam angle, D-TTL auto control operation. Legendary Sea & Sea quality, with a sealed battery compartment and lighting fast 1-2 sec recycle time. It also has a hardwired sync port and can be used in conjunction with Sea & Sea's TLL converter. This is an excellent strobe with automatic operation and is a great companion for advanced point and shoots and DSLRs. I shoot tow of these with my Nauticam D-300s housing.

Sea & Sea also offers the awesome YS-250PRO which delivers a whalloping guide number 32 of power, and instant recyle with it's integrated battery pack. It has TTL with a light and audible signal and also has 12 steps of manual power.

Olympus offers two strobes; the UFL-1 and the UFL-2. The UFL-1 is older and basically a rebranded Sea & Sea YS-17. Although well- built with a sealed battery compartment, it is weaker than other competitively priced strobes (guide number of 14) and over-priced for it’s feature set. But it is popular with Olympus point and shoot owners.

The Olympus UFL-2 is designed to work well with their PT-E05 & PT-E06 DSLR housing systems. It has TTL automatic operation that can be controlled from the camera and a target light. It isn’t as powerful as the YS-110a, but is well integrated into the Olympus system with fairly rapid recycle time.

We also carry all the Ikelite strobes; The DS-51, DS-160, DS-161 and DS-200. These are powerful, generally well built with good recycle times. They have sealed battery compartments or battery packs, and some manual control. The DS-160, 161 and 200 have target lights. They are ideal companions for Ikelite housings that have built-in TTL including all their DSLR housings and many of their compact housings. Other housings with hard wired Nikonos ports work well with them, but there is no TTL.

The new DS-161 is the first strobe to include an integrated 15 watt video light as well as a target light.

For the Ikelite Ultra-compact housings we recommend one of the other strobes we carry like the Remora, or Sea & Sea YS-01 or 110a. We do not recommend the Ikelite AF-35 as it is weak and underpowered. Ikelite makes light controllers that work with point and shoot cameras to see their flash and sync with the Ikelite strobes. The controllers work fairly well, but are awkward and outdated, They are just another electrical connection to fail in our experience.

All strobes are available with whatever tray and arms package you like. All tripod screw mount point and shoot housings (most all have this mount) will fit all the trays we carry. Ikelite Compact and UltraCompact housings will only fit our flat tray. Olympus and Sea & Sea RDX housings will only fit our DSLR Tray. See Optical Ocean Sales Lighting Packages.

You can check out this earlier blog article on strobes and lighting.

Article updated April 2010

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About Jack

  • Adventurer, diver, sailor, photographer, writer and sometimes graphic designer. Proprietor of Optical Ocean Sales, LLC. Enjoy the blog, check back and please leave comments!
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