One truth in underwater photography is that it doesn’t matter what camera, lens, or housing you might have, it you don’t have light, you won’t capture your image. Ambient light is well and good if you shoot close to the surface or if the water clarity is sufficient to adequately penetrate the depths.
But artificial lights, namely underwater flash systems for still photography, still remains the name of the game.
Here is Part 1 to a roundup of some of the new kids on the block for 2020 that are well worth consideration.
New Strobes Part 1 – The Big Guns
Ikelite’s New DS Strobe
Those of us fortunate to have been at DEMA 2019 and stopped at the Ikelite booth got to see a few of the company’s new wears. One of which was the brand-new strobe slated to be the next flagship in their DS series.
The new strobe (the DS-162) perhaps still retains all the primary features of the DS-161, but with one big noticeable difference. In place of the trademark white reflector behind the flash tube used in the current DS-160 and 161 models, the new strobe features a polished chrome plated reflector. Closer inspection also reveals that the entire dome, reflector and flashtube assembly is no longer recessed. Instead, the protective front bezel has been shortened leaving the strobe’s front dome more exposed.
According to Ikelite, this redesign to the front along with the change in reflector not only enhances the strobe’s flash output by as much as 33%, the coverage is said to be even wider. Ikelite also promises the new DS model will still retain their signature smooth, warm 4800° K color temperature and lightning fast recycle time.
- Color temperature: 4800° K without diffuser
- Battery: Rechargeable 7.2V 3300mAh NiMH Battery Pack (same battery as DS-160/DS-161)
- 33% more energy saving
- Fast recycle time: (likely same as DS-161) 1.5 seconds at full power
- Flash Exposure Control: Manual and TTL
- Flash interface: Ikelite ICS 5-pin bulkhead – Compatible with TTL Converters
- Chrome plated reflector for improved output
- Improved design for more field of coverage and softer fall off
- Dimensions: 8 in × 6 in × 6 in
Once the new strobe becomes available it can be purchased as a complete strobe package with battery pack and charger. Furthermore, for current DS-160 and 161 owners, the new strobe will be compatible with existing battery packs, sync cords, and TTL converters. This means that current owners may likely have the option to upgrade their DS model strobes by purchasing the new DS strobe’s front end separately from their Ikelite dealer.
At present, availability and pricing for the new Ikelite DS strobe is still yet to be announced.
Isotta RED64 Strobe
Over 30 years after their first breakthrough flash, the Isomat 33, Isotta returned to their roots with a brand-new rendition called the RED64.
The “RED” part is easy to get as just about everything they have made out of aluminum is given their signature red anodized finish. The 64 numeration represents the strobes guide number (GN) at full power, a feature that is ideal for situations like shooting into the sunlight for greater fore and back lighting balance, to lighting large or distant subjects.
With a base MSRP of USD $1,790.00 it is perhaps the most expensive strobe in this line up. But, considering it’s also one of the most powerful rated strobes in the market does give it some justification for the price tag.
Out of the box, the beam angle without the aid of a diffuser is a full 130° degrees which is achieved by a parabolic aluminum dish behind a circular xenon toroidal flash tube. According to Isotta, this tube and reflector arrangement emits a wide and homogenous spread of light with no hot spots and warm color temperature in the 5300° K range, essential for capturing bright colors underwater.
The strobe is also fitted with a two-color target light (white and red) to better fit the photographer’s needs when a modeling light is desired.
To drive this high-power strobe, the RED64 relies on 8 Ni-MH-AA rechargeable batteries, which when freshly charged deliver a recycle time of 3 sec on full for as many as 350 flashes, or even quicker 1 sec response when dropped down to around half power.
Batteries are installed through the back of the strobe and sealed in place in the same fashion as one seals the lid on a jar with the exception that this lid features a double O-ring seal. In the event water should happen to enter the battery compartment, the compartment is sealed off from the rest of strobe’s electronics.
- Max Power / GN: 270Ws – GN22 in water / ISO 100
- Flash coverage: 130º without diffuser
- Charge Time: 3 sec 22 / 1 sec 11 / 0,1 sec 1
- Flashes x Charge: 350 flashes on full power
- Color Temperature: 5300° K
- Flash Exposure Control: Manual Power Adjustment Non i-TTL / 10 Steps
- Flash interface: Fiber optic port and S6 electronic flash socket
- Modeling Light: white and red
- Power source: 8 Rechargeable NiMH AA Batteries (Easy one hand housing open/close)
- Manufacturer Warranty: 2 years
- Depth Rating: 330ft / 100m
- Weight (batteries included): 1.250 grams, neutral in water
Even with this many batteries the strobe retains a neutrally buoyant profile in sea water. Internally, the Isotta RED64 features a shielded electronics purposely isolated from the control panel and a microprocessor with a software that can be upgraded to meet the performance characteristics that might be found in future model DSLR and high mirrorless cameras.
The RED64 Strobe is ergonomically designed with controls visible from every angle. A multi-color LED indicates activity and strobe readiness as well as battery status. The strobe can be controlled both automatically and manually; RED64 can be operated with an optical fiber cable working in TTL mode and as well in Manual. Alternatively, it can be used with sync cables through a S6 bulkhead or Nikonos V or even in slave mode to work without cables.
Base MSRP for the Isotta RED64 strobe alone is $1790 USD.
Where to buy
Due to the Covid-19 crisis forcing retailers in the US and Canada to close their business to walk in traffic, many such as Backscatter Underwater Video & Photo, Bluewater Photo, Mozaik UW Cameras, Optical Ocean Sales and REEF Photo & Video are offering a number of very enticing sales and discounts on new products they have in stock. Remember, this crisis will pass, and when it does, we will all be back in the water.