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Dive Photo Guide



Backscatter Hybrid Flash HF-1
SeaLife Sea Dragon 3000F
Sea & Sea YS-D3 DUO
INON S-220
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.


  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

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Backscatter Mini Flash 2 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. Backscatter’s Mini Flash (MF-2) builds on the runaway popularity of the MF-1 with impressive new features: a modeling light with twice the power (1,000 lumens), automatic TTL exposure for Olympus cameras, high-speed sync (HSS) for even darker backgrounds, and the ability to use a second strobe to trigger the MF-2 remotely—and even adjust its power—for creative off-camera shots. In addition, the MF-2 uses a bigger battery that actually increases runtime and number of flashes. To top it all off, there’s no change in price! $500 (MF-2 and OS-1 combo) www.backscatter.com | $400 (MF-2) 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

DS160 II

DS162 DS230


Sea&Sea YS-D3 Mark II Lightning, YS-D3 DUO, 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. There is also the YS-D3 DUO, which has the additional ability to precisely control automatic flash exposure via the RC flash protocol of OM System and Olympus cameras. 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. $850 (YS-D3 DUO) www.seaandsea.jp www.backscatter.com | $800 (YS-D3 Mark II Lightning)www.seaandsea.jp | www.backscatter.com | $480 (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 YS-D3 DUO


Inon S-220 and D-200 Type 2

In recent years, Inon has retired various strobes much loved by underwater photographers, including the Z-240, the D-2000, and the S-2000. The D-2000 has been replaced by the D-200 Type 2, which has a guide number of 20 and a beam angle of 110° underwater, and features 13-step manual flash mode in addition to S-TTL auto mode. The strobe is also equipped with a 220-lumen focus light that automatically shuts off when the strobe is triggered and then turns on again. The S-2000 has been replaced by the S-220, which boasts a guide number (GN) of 22 and a beam angle underwater of 140° (H) × 100° (V), and offers S-TTL auto and 12-step manual flash modes. Both feature a “fly-eye” inner surface on the dome lens that is designed to produce exceptionally even light distribution—without reducing power or beam angle. $420 (S-220) www.inon.jp www.backscatter.com | $540 (D-200 Type 2) www.inon.jp | | www.backscatter.com

S-220 D-200 Type 2


Retra Flash (4th Generation)

The 4th-gen versions of Retra’s strobe come in three flavors: (i) the top-of-the-line Flash Pro Max, which has an output of 140 Watt-seconds (Ws), includes a leakage detection system, a back panel OLED display, and high-speed sync (HSS) functionality; (ii) the midrange Flash Prime+, which has an output of 90Ws and the same features as the Pro Max except for the back panel display; and (iii) the bare-bones Flash Pure, which has an output of 70Ws but features neither leakage detection, the back panel display, nor HSS. Importantly, the battery compartment has been redesigned: It accepts four AA batteries as standard, and an additional four when adding the Booster—which, unlike its predecessor, the Supercharger, doesn’t stick out like crazy. $1,575 (Flash Pro Max) www.retra-uwt.com www.backscatter.com | $1,250 (Flash Prime+) www.retra-uwt.com www.backscatter.com | $1,025 (Flash Pure) 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


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

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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 5000+, 3000SF Pro Dual Beam, 3000F Auto, and 2500F

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 5,000-lumen 5000+ (with Color Boost to add extra warmth), 3,000-lumen 3000SF Pro Dual Beam (flood, spot and red beams), 3,000-lumen 3000F Auto (flood and red beams), and the more basic 2500F (flood beam only), offering 2,500 lumens. Each model comes bundled with SeaLife’s Flex-Connect tray and grip, but the light head can also be purchased alone. $600 (5000+ with Color Boost) | $550 (3000SF Pro Dual Beam) | $500 (3000F Auto) | $450 (2500F) | www.sealife-cameras.com

Sea Dragon 5000+ with Color Boost
Sea Dragon 3000SF Pro Dual Beam

Sea Dragon 3000F Auto Sea Dragon 2500F


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


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