Strobes / Flashguns

Choosing the right strobe is sometimes difficult.

One big thing to consider when choosing your strobes, is the batteries they use. I prefer having strobes which use AA batteries and here’s why:

  • You’ll get very good rechargeable AA batteries
  • They’re cheap, durable and fit in many other devices
  • In the event of a problem with your batteries or charger (due to power fluctuation or generator problems), you will always find a replacement – AA batteries are commonly used almost anywhere in the world!
  • You don’t have to worry about charging the batteries every 2 or 3 month when not diving, newer technology batteries have no memory effect and batteries like the Eneloop hold up to 70% of their charge after 5 years of non-use and have a very fast recycle rate when used in strobes.

Fiber-optic cable vs. sync cord

What are the pros and cons of fiber-optic cables and electrical cables (sync cords)?

PROS of a fiber-optic cable:

  • cheaper than sync cord
  • eliminating potential floods
  • work for TTL without TTL converter

PROS of a sync cord:

  • does not rely on the internal strobe, so you can actually make use of the fast recycle times of your strobe(s) – especially when not shooting at full power
  • less heat build-up in the housing
  • doesn’t drain the battery of the camera

If you’re only interested in shooting macro and close-focus wide-angle, smaller and cheaper strobes are sufficient.

One strobe option is the INON S-2000, very small and powerful enough for macro photography and suitable for Point&Shoot cameras. This strobe is connnected with fiber-optic cable and uses 4xAA batteries.

Another option is the Sea&Sea YS01 with a fast recycle time (1.9sec with NiMH) and enough power for macro photography and close-focus wide-angle photography (GN 20). The Sea&Sea YS01 is connected with fiber-optic cable and uses 4xAA batteries.

The Sea&Sea YS02 is also pretty fast in recycling (1.9sec with NiMH) and is also powerful enough for macro and close-focus wide-angle (GN 20).

If you want to shoot some wide-angle images as well, the INON Z-240 is also a good choice of strobe. They are very powerful (GN 24), have a very fast recycle time (1.5sec with NiMH) and are compact in size. I’m using them for a long time now, and so far, they never let me down. The INON Z240 can be connected with sync cord or fiber-optic cable and uses 4x AA batteries.

The Sea&Sea YS-1D is also a top choice for macro and wide-angle, it’s also very compact and very powerful (GN 32), uses 4x AA batteries and has pretty fast recycle times (1.8sec with NiMH). It can be connected with sync cord or fiber-optic cable.

Recycle time is the time needed after a strobe fired at full power to recharge and being ready to fire again.

GN or guide number for an electronic flash measures its ability to illuminate the subject to be photographed at a specific film or sensor sensitivity and angle of view. A higher guide number indicates a more powerful flash.

Guide numbers can be measured on land or in the water, the GN stated in this article are measured on land.

Lightroom Shortcuts

libraryLightroom

DevLightroom

If you use Lightroom on a PC, just use the CTRL button instead of CMD

If you don’t already use Adobe Lightroom, I strongly recommend using it. It will help you get organized with your images and makes displaying raw files easier. It is also a very powerful tool to enhance your images. Adobe Lightroom does exist for MAC and PC.

There’s also the option of getting Lightroom and Photoshop as a bundle with the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan (Photoshop CC + Lightroom) for $9.99/month, which I find is a pretty good deal, given that you will always have the newest version of Photoshop and Lightroom.

 

 

Always take a test shot before you go diving!

Empty or no batteries at all inside the strobe or camera, no memory card in camera, hot-shoe not connected, housing buttons not lined up, auto-focus not switched on, lens-cap still on camera, etc. – Every single one of these minor problems can quickly turn into a big frustration underwater, because you’re not able to fix it without opening the housing! Eliminate all that by simply taking a test shot after setting up your camera equipment and before going diving. Make it a habit to take a test shot of your lens-cap and you will instantly see if everything is working fine – if not, you’re still able to fix it before you go diving!

Don’t make your audience seasick!

tripod

I often get asked how I get such steady footage on my videos – Having good buoyancy skills helps, but the only recipe for steady macro video is using a tripod! I use this cheap and easy DIY setup (made out of Locline elements) but there are many different options for tripods out there to choose from.

 

 

 

Be prepared for problems – Carry an emergency toolkit!

If I go on a dive-trip I always carry an emergency kit with me.

It includes:

O-ring grease
Super glue
Duct tape
Cable ties
Needle nose pliers
Wire cutter
Screwdriver set
Adjustable wrench
Small steel brush
Air gun for connecting to the LP hose adapter
Battery tester
Knife (Swiss army knife or Leatherman tool)
cotton swabs
coin
That all fits in an empty mask box or other small plastic container. If you don’t have space for bringing all that, make sure you have grease, super glue, duct tape and cable ties. You can fix almost everything with that!

Review: i-Torch Video Pro7 Light

The new i-Torch Video Pro7 light packs serious functionality into a very compact double O-ring sealed aluminum body. At the time of writing, it is the smallest and lightest 5,000-lumen LED underwater light on the market. There are five power settings for white light (100%, 80%, 60%, 40%, and 20%) as well as two power settings for red light (100% and 50%)—ideal for shooting shy subjects. There’s also an SOS mode.

A single mode button caters to the light’s various functions. Holding the button down for one second powers the light on at the default 100% white light. By pressing the button again, you can cycle through the following modes: 80% white, 60% white, 40% white, 20% white, 100% red, 50% red, and back to 100% white. Pressing the button for two seconds turns the light off. Holding the button down for three seconds (when the light is turned off) activates the SOS mode. Press it again and you’re back to 100% white. At 5,000 lumens, the Video Pro7’s maximum output rating is impressive, and it boasts a very even 120-degree beam angle (with no hotspots at all), which is excellent for shooting video.

Power comes from a supplied 50Whr rechargeable lithium battery. To charge the Video Pro7, you simply open the unit and connect the charger. The green light on the charger switches to red, indicating that charging is in progress; the indicator light switches back to green once the battery is fully charged. A completely empty battery takes about two-and-a-half hours to charge. Obviously, it’s a good idea to buy a spare battery (MSRP $270), so that you’re able to switch batteries between dives.

You can get a good idea of the amount of juice left in your battery from the indicator light ring that surrounds the mode button. This indicator glows green when the battery level is between 70% and 100%, yellow from 40% to 70%, red between 15% and 40%, and flashing red when the level is 15% and below.
Specifications

  • LED: 8x XML2, 2x XPG red
  • Brightness: 5,000 lumens
  • Beam angle: 120 degrees
  • Modes: Eight (5 levels of white, 2 levels of red, SOS)
  • Switch: Push button with battery indicator
  • Construction: Aluminum body and head 
  • Burn time: 60 minutes at highest setting
  • Size: 60mm diameter x 127mm length 
  • Weight: 506g (including battery) 
  • What’s included: 50Whr battery, battery charger, YS mount
  • MSRP: $1050

Preparing the Video Pro7

Getting the Video Pro7 ready for action is very easy. Firstly, charge the battery before using it for the first time by unscrewing the back of the aluminum body and plugging in the charger cable. When it’s fully charged (charger light goes green), check the O-rings for dirt and hairs and screw the light back together. For my test dives, I used two lights, adding ball mounts to each of the YS mounts and attaching the lights to my camera.

The Video Pro7 in Use

Switching on for the first time underwater, I found that the Video Pro7 gave a very even light well-suited for shooting video as well as still images. The color of the light is a little cooler than that from a Sola, but it’s not too cold. The impressive output of the light was immediately noticeable. In fact, when shooting macro I sometimes found myself using a smaller aperture because it was brighter than I needed!

Great for shooting video, the light also proved to be very good for shooting still images. Below are a few of the stills I took while diving with the Video Pro7.

Flamboyant cuttlefish (Metasepia pfefferi) male (about 3cm). Canon 7D, Canon 60mm Macro USM, SubSee+10, 2x i-Torch Video Pro7. f/5.6, 1/640s, ISO160

Flamboyant cuttlefish just hatched (about 7mm). Canon 7D, Canon 60mm Macro USM, SubSee+10, 2x i-Torch Video Pro7. f/11, 1/160s, ISO160

Ornate ghost pipefish (Solenostomus paradoxus) (about 12cm). Canon 7D, Canon 60mm Macro USM, 2x i-Torch Video Pro7. f/5.6, 1/800s, ISO160

Phyllodesmium magnum (about 7cm). Canon 7D, Canon 60mm Macro USM, 2x i-Torch Video Pro7. f/5.6, 1/1000s, ISO160

Mimic octopus (Thaumoctopus mimicus) (mantle length about 10cm). Canon 7D, Canon 60mm Macro USM, 2x i-Torch Video Pro7. f/11, 1/125s, ISO160
As well as testing the Video Pro7’s prowess in capturing macro video, I also put the light through its paces with a fisheye lens and shooting wide-angle—and even here I was very pleased with the results.

The video below contains some sample footage shot with a Canon 7D with a Canon 60mm macro lens and 1x SubSee+10, and with a Tokina 10–17mm zoom fisheye and a 1.4x teleconverter, in a Subal housing and dual i-Torch Pro7.

https://player.vimeo.com/video/95641103

Final Thoughts

The Video Pro7 is an exceptionally small and powerful video light that performs very well for a light in this price range. If you’re in the market for a compact and affordable photo/video light equipped with a hefty output, I would highly recommend the i-Torch Video Pro7.

 

For more information about the i-Torch Video Pro7 and related products, visit www.i-divesite.com.

This review was originally posted on DivePhotoGuide