DPG is a comprehensive underwater photography website and community for underwater photographers. Learn underwater photography techniques for popular digital cameras and specialized professional underwater equipment (wide angle, macro, super macro, lighting and work flow). Read latest news, explore travel destinations for underwater photography. Galleries of professional and amateur underwater photography including wrecks, coral reefs, undersea creatures, fashion and surfing photography.
Dive Photo Guide

Lighting

LATEST EQUIPMENT

Keldan Video 8XR
Ikelite DS162
Sea & Sea YS-D3 Mark II Lightning
Backscatter Mini Flash MF-1
Ikelite DS230

There is no better way to increase the quality of your underwater imaging than by adding artificial light, which will help bring out the brilliant colors of the ocean in your images and video. Traditionally, the powerful pop of light from an underwater strobe has been necessary for still images, and for the majority of photographers, flash remains the best way to illuminate a subject or scene. But video lights, originally designed for underwater filmmakers, have become extremely powerful and more affordable, making it possible to use “always-on” continuous lights for photography as well as video. In general, however, if you’re serious about creating images and films, you’ll need both strobes and video lights to get the best possible results.
 

CONTENTS

  1. Strobes
  2. Video Lights
 

When purchasing underwater imaging equipment like the products mentioned in this guide, please support DPG by supporting our retail partner—Backscatter.

 

1. Strobes

Top ↑


Backscatter Mini Flash and Optical Snoot

If you’re a macro shooter, you don’t need a large, powerful strobe. What you want is a compact strobe specially designed for shooting macro: Enter the Backscatter Mini Flash (MF-1), which is about the same size as a chunky dive torch. And wouldn’t it be handy to have full control over the beam’s size and shape? Just attach Backscatter’s matching Optical Snoot (OS-1), place the modeling light just the way you want it, and fire away! Oh, and by the way, they can shoot the big stuff, too. $500 (MF-1 and OS-1 combo) www.backscatter.com | $400 (MF-1) www.backscatter.com | $150 (OS-1) www.backscatter.com


Ikelite DS51 II, DS160 II, DS162 and DS230

As the leading producer of electrically triggered strobes, Ikelite has been responsible for many of the industry’s most popular flashguns. The company has recently upgraded their entire line, from the 50Ws entry-level DS51 II through the midrange 160Ws DS160 II and DS162 to the high-end 213Ws DS230. All of them stick to the successful formula the company has followed for years—straight flash tube for the beginner strobe and circular xenon flash tubes for the more-powerful strobes—but the two top models (DS162, DS230) enter fresh territory for Ikelite: In the center of that circular tube is a COB LED light array that produces a 2,500-lumen wide beam powerful enough to be used as a video light. Ikelite also produces a version of the DS230 with their standard modeling light instead of a video light. $495 (DS51 II) www.ikelite.com | www.backscatter.com | $995 (DS160 II)www.ikelite.com | www.backscatter.com | $1,295 (DS162)www.ikelite.com | www.backscatter.com | $1,495 (DS230 w/ video light)www.ikelite.com | www.backscatter.com | $1,295 (DS230 w/ modeling light)www.ikelite.com | www.backscatter.com

DS51 II
 
DS160 II
 

DS162 DS230

 

Sea&Sea YS-D3 Mark II Lightning, YS-01 Solis and YS-03 Solis

The YS-D2 was one of the most popular underwater strobes around, so when Sea&Sea finally discontinued it and revealed the YS-D3 Lightning, and then the YS-D3 Mark II Lightning, there was plenty to live up to. The flagship strobe, which can be triggered optically or electrically, has a newly developed aspherical troidal lens (for even light dispersion without hotspots), a slightly increased guide number (up from 32 to 33), improved recycle times, and a new target light with a four-fold increase in brightness. The Mark II has better compatibility with old Sea&Sea and third-party TTL converters. Sea&Sea also produces two entry-level models that are fiber-optic only: the YS-03 Solis, which only offers TTL flash exposure, and the YS-01 Solis, which features Sea&Sea’s DS-TTL II system and also gives photographers manual control over the strobe’s output—in 10 increments. $900 (YS-D3 Mark II Lightning)www.seaandsea.jp | www.backscatter.com | $490 (YS-01 Solis)www.seaandsea.jp | www.backscatter.com | $380 (YS-03 Solis)www.seaandsea.jp | www.backscatter.com

YS-01 Solis
 
YS-03 Solis
 

YS-D3 Lightning

 

Inon Z-330 Type 2 and D-200 Type 2

Back in 2017, Inon finally retired their stalwart strobe much loved by underwater photographers, the Z-240, and replaced it with the Z-330, which upped the power output, improved the control knobs, increased the beam angle to 110° underwater, and souped-up the focus light. A year later, the D-2000 midrange strobe passed the torch to the D-200, which had a similar design to the Z-330 but offered a guide number of 20 (hence the name). Now Inon has introduced tweaked versions of each strobe featuring a new “fly-eye” inner surface on the dome lens that is designed to produce exceptionally even light distribution—without reducing power or beam angle. The Z-330 can be triggered both electrically (via Nikonos 5-pin connector) as well as optically via slave sensor, while the the D-200 is only equipped with the slave sensor for optical triggering. $650 (Z-330 Type 2) www.inon.jp | www.backscatter.com | $500 (D-200 Type 2) www.inon.jp | | www.backscatter.com

Z-330 Type 2 D-200 Type 2

 

Retra Flash Prime X and Flash PRO X

The latest versions of Retra’s stylish strobes, the Flash Prime X and Flash PRO X are instantly recognizable for their sleek aluminum enclosures and circular flash tubes. Differing principally in terms of power, the 100Ws Flash Prime X and the 150Ws Flash PRO X improve on their predecessors’ weight (the housing is now 8% lighter), robustness (mode and power dials have been reinforced), recycle time (up to 25% faster), and number of flashes per charge (up to 20% more). The coolest feature? The strobe connects via Bluetooth to your smartphone or tablet, so you check the unit’s status and set advanced features like high-speed sync (HSS). $1,200 (Prime X) www.retra-uwt.com | www.backscatter.com | $1,330 (PRO X) www.retra-uwt.com | www.backscatter.com


Seacam Seaflash 160Digital and 60Digital

For shooters with deep pockets, and a weakness for bulletproof silver metal construction, there’s Seacam’s Seaflash. The high-end 160Digital packs 160Ws and even coverage at a beam angle of 130° and a color temperature of 4500K. You have the option of both electrical or fiber-optic connection and the strobe works in TTL, manual and slave modes. It’s also one of the few strobes with high-speed synchronization capabilities—up to 1/8000s. And true to its “Digital” moniker, you can even program the strobe via a USB connection to your computer. If you want something a little more affordable, the Seaflash 60Digital gives you 60Ws of output, electrical and fiber-optic connections, and TTL or manual modes. There are both Canon e-TTL and Nikon i-TTL versions available. $2,300 (Seaflash 160Digital) www.seacam.com | www.backscatter.com | $1,550 (Seaflash 60Digital for Canon) | www.backscatter.com | $1,550 (Seaflash 60Digital for Nikon) | www.backscatter.com

Seaflash 160Digital Seaflash 60Digital

 

AOI Q1 Ultra Compact

AOI are mostly known for producing wet lenses, and the occasional housing, so it took everyone by surprise when they joined the select club of underwater strobe makers with their Q1 flash. The “Ultra Compact” strobe is a no-frills affair with just one knob and a couple of buttons, and offers manual control of flash power only (which is, of course, what many underwater shooters want) and a beam angle of 85°. The Q1 also boasts a built-in 700-lumen continuous light with three power settings—and a very modest price tag. $300 | www.aoi-uw.com | www.backscatter.com

 

Olympus UFL-3

Proving that they are serious about their commitment to underwater photographers, Olympus produces a rather capable little flash (with a respectable guide number of 22) that pairs very nicely with its underwater housings via fiber-optic connections. The strobe offers TTL, manual and slave modes; handily runs off four AA batteries; and ships with a dedicated diffuser. $500 | www.getolympus.com | www.backscatter.com


ONEUW ONE160x

Italian company ONEUW became a member of the strobe club with the release of the high-end ONE160x. Boasting a circular flash tube with a maximum output of 157Ws (hence the “160” in the name, with a little rounding up applied), the strobe can be triggered via an electrical connection or fiber-optic cable. Nikon or Canon versions are available for i-TTL or E-TTL, respectively. $1,800 | www.oneuw.com | (for Nikon cameras) | www.backscatter.com | (for Canon cameras) | www.backscatter.com

 

I-Divesite Symbiosis SS-2

I-Divesite’s Symbiosis light systems make perfect sense for the modern underwater photographer by providing both strobe light for stills and constant light for videography. The latest edition—the SS-2—comes with video light power up to 2,000 lumens as standard, but can be upgraded to 4,000 lumens. Our reviewer, Sascha Janson, dabbles in both stills and video, and appreciated the system’s versatility: “The Symbiosis really came into its own with the convenience of switching easily between shooting stills and capturing footage.” $800 | www.itorch.ca

 

2. Video Lights

Top ↑


Backscatter Macro Wide 4300

Backscatter shook up the strobe market when they introduced their Mini Flash and Optical Snoot, an ultra-compact strobe and snoot combo that allowed photographers to shoot the small stuff in creative new ways. The company aimed to perform a similar trick for filmmakers by creating a video light that is compatible with the same snoot. The Macro Wide 4300 packs a powerful 4,300-lumen 85° wide beam and a 1,400-lumen spot beam, allowing you to take on a wide range of subjects of (almost) any size. Want to get really creative? It’s also compatible with the company’s very cool Color Filter System. $500 (light only) | www.backscatter.com | $600 (light and Optical Snoot) | www.backscatter.com | $700 (light, Optical Snoot, and Color Filter System) | www.backscatter.com

 

SeaLife Sea Dragon 3000SF Pro Dual Beam, 3000F Auto, 2500F and 2000F

SeaLife’s easy-to-use Micro 3.0 and ReefMaster RM-4K are all about making underwater photo and video simple and fun, and that philosophy extends to their lighting solutions: Whether you’re capturing stills or footage, “always-on” LED lights mean you can see exactly what you’re going to get. Among the company’s extensive range of Sea Dragon continuous lights are four principal photo/video models: the top-tier 3,000-lumen 3000SF Pro Dual Beam (flood, spot and red beams) and the 3000F Auto (flood and red beams), the more basic 2500F and 2000F (flood beam only), offering 2,500 and 2,000 lumens, respectively. Each model comes bundled with SeaLife’s Flex-Connect tray and grip, but the light head can also be purchased alone. $550 (3000SF Pro Dual Beam) | $500 (3000F Auto) | $450 (2500F) | $300 (2000F) | www.sealife-cameras.com

Sea Dragon 3000SF Pro Dual Beam
 
Sea Dragon 3000F Auto

Sea Dragon 2500F Sea Dragon 2000F

 

Light & Motion Sola Pro Video 15000, Sola Video Pro 3800, Sola Video 2500 S/F and Sola Video 2000 S/F

Another major player in the LED light market, Light & Motion offers a wide range of video lights for underwater photography and video, mostly in the mid-level range. The exception is their most powerful light, the Sola Pro Video 15000, which boasts, as the name suggests, an impressive 15,000-lumen flood beam. Popular choices from their range include the Sola Video Pro 3800, which offers a 3,800-lumen 110° flood beam, and the Sola Video 2500 S/F and Sola Video 2000 S/F, which feature 2,500-lumen and 2,000-lumen 60° flood beams, respectively, in addition to a 12° spot beam mode. Light & Motion lights are much loved for their easy-to-use one-touch control. $1,500 (Sola Pro Video 15000) | www.lightandmotion.com | www.backscatter.com | $500 (Sola Video Pro 3800) | www.lightandmotion.com | www.backscatter.com | $450 (Sola Video 2500 S/F) | www.lightandmotion.com | www.backscatter.com | $380 (Sola Video 2000 S/F) | www.lightandmotion.com | www.backscatter.com

Sola Pro Video 15000
 
Sola Video Pro 3800

Sola Video 2500 S/F Sola Video 2000 S/F

 

Kraken Hydra 15000 WRGBU, Hydra 8000 WRGBU, Hydra 6000 WRGBU and Hydra 4000 WRGBU

The lights in Kraken’s Hydra series are among the most popular for underwater video due to their versatility. Available in four different powers—4,000, 6,000, 8,000 and 15,000 lumens—they all boast addition red, green, blue and ultraviolet LEDs (hence the name) for creative lighting effects, assisting focus with skittish critters, and fluoro diving. The Hydra 4000 and Hydra 6000 each have three buttons for controlling the light, while the Hydra 8000 and Hydra 15000 feature a rear button/dial for adjustments as well as an LCD screen displaying important information. You can even sync to your camera via fiber-optic cable to get a powerful burst of light—a handy strobe replacement when shooting macro. $1,150 (Hydra 15000 WRGBU) | www.krakensports.ca | www.backscatter.com | $850 (Hydra 8000 WRGBU) | www.krakensports.ca | www.backscatter.com | $750 (Hydra 6000 WRGBU) | www.krakensports.ca | www.backscatter.com | $500 (Hydra 4000 WRGBU) | www.krakensports.ca | www.backscatter.com

Hydra 15000 WRGBU
 
Hydra 8000 WRGBU

Hydra 6000 WRGBU Hydra 4000 WRGBU

 

Keldan Video 4X, Video 8XR, Video 18XR and Video 24XR

Keldan produces the world’s brightest, highest-quality and most expensive underwater video lights. At the “low” end is the Video 4X, which packs 10,000 lumens. But the Swiss company can surely now also claim to make the most sophisticated lights on the planet: Their latest models can be remotely controlled, a non-trivial feat that is achieved with the addition of Keldan’s RC1 remote control, which can control an unlimited number of lights simultaneously via two independent brightness channels. The current models with remote control are the 20,000-lumen Video 8XR, the 35,000-lumen Video 18XR, and the 45,000-lumen 24XR. They offer nine power settings, a soft 110° beam, and a runtime of 40 minutes at full power. For pros only. $1,490 (Video 4X) www.keldanlights.com | www.backscatter.com | $2,428 (Video 8XR) www.keldanlights.com | www.backscatter.com | $3,718 (Video 18XR) www.keldanlights.com | www.backscatter.com | $4,544 (Video 24XR) www.keldanlights.com | www.backscatter.com

Video 4X Video 8XR

Video 18XR Video 24XR

 

Top ↑

When purchasing underwater imaging equipment like the products mentioned in this guide, please support DPG by supporting our retail partner—Backscatter.com.
Support Our Sponsors
Newsletter
Travel with us

Featured Photographer



Follow Us

Sponsors