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2y3k » Best Underwater Strobes in 2023

Best Underwater Strobes in 2023

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Ikelite DS-161 Strobe

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The undersea world is a miraculous place with fascinating life forms not to be seen onshore. Creating a record of your time underwater to share with others makes for a satisfying hobby or even livelihood. To get the best photos when light is low as on deep dives, overcast days, or in a sheltered area like a cave or wreck, makes for some pretty colorless and inexpressive shots. Simply put, an effective underwater strobe or flash can bring back the lost colors to give you a chance for some attractive photos.

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In this post, I’ll try to make the process of selecting an underwater strobe a bit easier by first presenting information about important selection factors. Then 8 of the best strobes of various capabilities suiting different budgets are reviewed. Afterward is a comparison table and some guidelines for maintenance.

How to Choose the Best Underwater Strobes

Strobe Power

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The Guide Number expresses the strength of the light flashed from a strobe, the higher, the stronger. A concentrated beam will have a higher Guide Number than a diffused beam. For further explanation of Guide Numbers, please check here: Guide Number-Wiki

Recycle Rate

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This is the time it takes from the strobe firing until it regenerates and is ready to fire again. Obviously, this will impact how soon you can get the next shot. If the recycle rate is slow you will miss shots of moving targets. The power of the strobe affects the recycle rate. A more powerful strobe recovers more quickly than a less powerful one. Low-intensity flashes will allow quicker recovery and more shots. The range for most strobes is between 1 and 3 seconds.

Angle of Coverage

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This term expresses how wide the angle is for the coverage of light from the flash. For standard or macro shots, 90 degrees will be okay. For wider shots, an angle of coverage greater than 90 degrees will be needed. A diffuser on the strobe can increase the angle.

Size and Weight

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The camera and housing can be large and unwieldy enough, so an ergonomic, small, lightweight strobe is desirable. You don’t want to scrimp on the features you desire just to make it smaller, however.

Battery Power

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A powerful battery allows more options in using your strobe. Flashes per battery capacity are usually between 100-300 flashes. The more power you have the more lighted shots you can take. Make sure you use the batteries recommended for your strobe.

Underwater Strobe Review

Sea Life Sea Dragon

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The Sea Dragon 2500, an ultra-wide beam light, is designed to accompany cameras like the SeaLife Micro HD, 2.0, or GoPro series.

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It uses modern LED technology which closely simulates natural light and color.

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A flex-connect single tray, grip, and fitted case are included with the light.

  • Guide Number: 20
  • Recycle Rate: 5 seconds
  • Angle of Coverage: 120 x 120 degrees
  • 60 minute burn time at full power and constant brightness
  • Depth rated to 60 meters (200 feet)
  • Removable 25 W lithium-ion battery with charger and international plug adapters included

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For information on cameras which the Sea Life Sea Dragon supports, click here:

Sea & Sea YS-D2

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The YS-D2 is great for wide-angle and macro photography with DSLR, mirrorless, or compact cameras.

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It has an audible confirmation beep when the strobe is ready for another shot and has a dual-powered target light with a red filter.

  • Guide Number: 32
  • Recycle Rate: 5 seconds
  • Angle of Coverage: 80 x 80 degrees
  • Newly designed battery compartment
  • New ergonomically designed controls
  • Wing-nut style fixing bolt
  • Power Options: 4 Alkaline AA or 4 AA Ni-MH
  • Burn Time on Alkaline Batteries: 150 Flashes, on Ni-MH: Approx. 250
  • Depth rated to 100 meters (330 feet)

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Sea & Sea YS-03

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The YS-03 is more affordable than the YD-D2 with many of the same features that are great for wide-angle and macro photography for DSLR or compact users.

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The diffuser is standard and it comes with simple controls, fiber optic cable, flex arm, and an anodized aluminum tray.

  • Guide Number: 20
  • Recycle Rate: 3.1 seconds
  • Angle of Coverage: 100 x 100 degrees
  • Power Options: 4 Alkaline AA or 4 AA Ni-MH Batteries
  • Burn Time on Alkaline Batteries: 230 Flashes, on Ni-MH: 330 Flashes
  • Depth rated to 75 meters (250 feet)

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Sea & Sea YS-01

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The YS-01 is great for wide-angle and macro photography with DSLR, mirrorless, or compact cameras.

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There is a 10 level manual control function to fine-tune adjustment of light levels and built-in target light.

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This high-quality strobe comes with a one year Sea & Sea warranty

  • Guide Number: 20
  • Recycle Rate: 2.5 seconds
  • Angle of Coverage: 100 x 100 degrees
  • Power Options: 4 Alkaline AA or 4 AA Ni-MH Batteries
  • Burn Time on Alkaline Batteries: 230 Flashes, on Ni-MH: 330 Flashes
  • Depth rated to 75 meters (250 feet)
  • Comes with a fiber optic cable port

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Olympus UFL-3

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The UFL-3 is a lightweight compact strobe that is easy to set up and use and is most effective with Olympus cameras.

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It is very similar to the Sea & Sea YS-01, but a little more expensive.

  • Guide Number: 22
  • Recycle Rate: 2 seconds
  • Angle of Coverage: 78 degrees
  • Power Options: 4 Alkaline AA
  • Depth rated to 75 meters (250 feet)
  • Diffuser is included

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Inon D-200

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The D-200 replaces the D-2000 and is based on the Z-330 design with the same features at a lower price.

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It is a midrange strobe for compact shooters that comes with a removable rotating shade and built-in focus light.

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Larger controls make it easier to use and it is much lighter than the D-2000.

  • Guide Number: 20
  • Recycle Rate: 1.3 seconds
  • Angle of Coverage: 110 degrees
  • Power Options: 4 Alkaline AA
  • Depth rated to 100 meters (330 feet)
  • Includes YS mount, fiber optic cable, diffuser

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Ikelite DS-51

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The DS-51 is easy to maintain, very affordable, and designed for compact cameras.

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There are six manual power settings to adjust light levels to customize your shots.

  • Guide Number: 28
  • Recycle Rate: 3.5 seconds
  • Angle of Coverage: 70 x 70 degrees
  • Power Options: accepts 4 AA cell Alkaline, Li-ion, NiMH, or NiCad batteries (not included)
  • Up to 200 flashes
  • Depth rated to 90 meters (300 feet)
  • Comes with a 1-inch ball mount

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Ikelite DS-161

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The DS-161 is a high-end strobe designed for wide-angle photography and suitable also for close-up, macro, and portrait work.

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There are 10 adjustable brightness settings and a professional grade round xenon flash tube and powder coated reflector.

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The light turns off and back on automatically when taking a still photo to avoid over-exposure.

  • Guide Number: 24
  • Recycle Rate: 1.5 seconds
  • Angle of Coverage: 90 x 90 degrees
  • Power Options: rechargeable NiMH module
  • Depth rated to 100 meters (330 feet)
  • Diffuser included

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What do you need to do to maintain your underwater strobe?

  • Follow the instructions in the manual provided by the manufacturer.
  • After every dive rinse it thoroughly with fresh water like all your diving equipment. Saltwater is corrosive.
  • Check the battery contacts and use a pencil eraser to clean them, if necessary.
  • Familiarize yourself with rechargeable battery maintenance and follow prescribed procedures.
  • Thoroughly inspect 0-rings for any deformities and replace them if they show any weakness, nicks, or other imperfections.
  • Between dive trips store your strobe in a dry, cool place out of the sun and remove the batteries.