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Sync Cables or Fiber Optic?


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#1 ChristineA

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Posted 27 October 2017 - 05:27 AM

Hey guys, 

 

I am currently looking into upgrading my current system… I am using an Ikelite DSLR housing with Ikelite strobes + sync cables.

 

I want to upgrade to a Nauticam housing with hopefully the new Retra strobes. But my on-going dilemma is this...

 

Sync Cables or Fiber Optic???

 

When I do my upgrade, I will have the option to have one or the other since Nauticam supports both. What are the pros and cons to using either of these setups? Is there a preference? Reliability? Recycle time? 

 

What do you guys think?

 

Thanks again for your wisdom!

 

 

-Christine Albanese



#2 guyharrisonphoto

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Posted 27 October 2017 - 08:02 AM

Here is what seems to be the general consensus:

 

Advantages of Sync Cables:

 

1.  They are not limited by the on-camera flash recycle time, and so are much better for rapid-fire situations (of course, you are still limited by the recycle time of the strobe itself)

2,  Some housings now support electronic TTL exposure circuitry for auto TTL exposure, but these tend to be clunky, expensive and are not widely available for different housings or different cameras.

3.  Work with any camera that has a hot shoe (ie, all of them).

 

Disadvantages of Sync Cables

 

1.  As a general rule, no TTL exposure is possible, manual only (if you only do manual, then this is not a factor, but I love TTL for macro work especially)

2.  Expensive

3.  Require additional seals, and can flood which can damage the cables and maybe the strobe.

4.  Limited to the type of flash connector on the strobe and housing, so must be careful with compatibility

 

Advantages of Optical Cables

 

1.  No housing or cable seals necessary, and no flood risk.

2.  Less expensive

3.  TTL exposure possible for virtually any camera that has a flash which can fit into a housing, assuming the external strobe has TTL compatibility.

4.  Universally compatible

 

Disadvantages of Optical Cables

 

1.  You are limited to the on-camera flash's recycle time.  Some people try to get around this by going to manual mode and setting the camera flash at the lowest power, but it is still a lot slower than electronic cables.  Some people try to use LED flash triggers which recycle instantly but you lose TTL and, again, these are  not widely available across many cameras and housings.  But, Nauticam does make these LED triggers for some housings and cameras, so check when you upgrade as you might be in luck.

 

 

 

I have an Olympus EM-5 (original) in a Nauticam housing.  I use  YS-D1 strobes with optical cables.  I use TTL exposure almost exclusively for macro shooting and even for a lot of wide angle.  I think the optical cables are great.   The only area where they do not keep up is rapid-fire things like shark feeds or bait ball action.  But this is a very tiny percentage of my shooting and I can adjust somewhat by going to manual exposure and setting the on camera flash to lowest power.  This is still not nearly as fast as my friends who use electronic sync can shoot.

 

I also have the retras on order. I plan to use them with the optical sync, but I ordered them with the Sea and Sea electronic connection as they said that is the one most widely available, so I have an option.  But, If I find I really need rapid-fire, I will probably try to find an LED trigger and avoid electronic sync cords and their potential for flooding,

 

Looking at your current system, you have the best of both worlds.  Ikelite has really perfected electronic sync TTL exposure with a lot of different cameras, so you have TTL and rapid fire at the same time, if you want it.    I would seriously consider staying with Ikelite for that reason.  I think retra offered their strobe with an Ike connection.alone.


Edited by guyharrisonphoto, 27 October 2017 - 08:06 AM.


#3 ChristineA

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Posted 27 October 2017 - 08:53 AM

Hi Guy,

 

Wow thank you so much for all this information, this has been incredibly helpful! 

 

Just to make sure I got the details right: from what you wrote and from what I read on Nauticam's website - because I plan on upgrading to a Canon 6D mkII, there is no pop-up flash. And since there is no pop-up flash, then I do not have to worry about the on-board camera flash's recycle time? Nauticam explain that they have two triggers for hotshoes, one without TTL and one with TTL abilities. The one without TTL (also cheaper) does not output any flash and just uses an LED to send light optically whereas the TTL trigger has a physical external flash which would then limit the recycle time. Nauticam claims that the LED trigger (no TTL) allows the strobes to use their own quick recycle time without being hindered.

 

I hope I got that right.. and if I did, it means that if I am willing to do away with TTL, then there should be nothing stopping me from switching over to fiber optic cables.

 

The reason I want to switch from Ikelite is that I am looking for a lighter and more ergonomic rig. My rig is incredibly heavy and bulky and as much as I love the quality of the DS160 strobes, they are just also too big and heavy. I am trying to downsize a little yet still stay in the DSLR range.

 

Let me know if I got all of the above correct… 

 

Thanks again for taking the time to answer my question, it has really provided me with much more information to make a decision :)



#4 sunnyboy010101

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Posted 27 October 2017 - 09:51 AM

I'm looking at similar things - moving from wired strobes (no TTL) to optical so I might get TTL. I have a Nauticam NA-7D housing (Canon 7D mark1). I do have to say there is no way the Nauticam rig is light. Even without the strobes and arms the camera and housing is quite heavy. The Ikelite housings for the same camera are polycarbonate and not as heavy.

 

What's really interested me right now, especially given the cost of decent optical strobes (in Canada) is the new Kraken 3000 ring flash. As I only take macro photos due to our vis, a ring light/flash would be perfect. The added benefit is that it's one unit mounted on the port front, with no arms and no other strobes. Much more compact and light compared to what I'm using now - even with the same Nauticam housing.

 

I just wish the various dealers and websites would put some effort into explaining what is with the plethora of different optical sync cable types. I really hate paying through the nose for anything labelled Nauticam.



#5 guyharrisonphoto

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Posted 27 October 2017 - 10:44 AM

Hi Christine

 

Like sunnyboy  says, overall your weight savings might not be much for the whole rig.  The Nauticam housings and ports are substantial and heavy.  Definitely heavier than Ikelite housings. You will save some weight on the strobes, but you need to add up everything to compare.

 

But, if you change, then it sounds like you are in luck that Nauti offers both a non-ttl and a ttl strobe trigger.  I would opt for the led trigger and fiber cables for simplicity and rapid recycle if you are not going to need TTL.  Sounds like you can add TTL through the fiber optic cables if you want, by buying the flash trigger, which would be a good thing for macro dives.

 

Very nice of nauticam to offer a choice  . . . 

 

Good luck with your system.  Like you, I am eagerly awaiting my Retra strobes!



#6 ChristineA

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Posted 27 October 2017 - 11:03 AM

Sunnyboy,

 

You are right about the weight of the housings in comparison. I looked it up and the Nauticam is in fact slightly heavier than the Ikelite - however I am still attracted to switching over to an aluminium housing that also has a leak detector and vacuum pump (I know  you can get these for Ikelite but it requires modifying the physical housing which I am not too keen on doing). I guess I am also just looking for something more ergonomic and less boxy/bulky… 

 

In any case, I agree that the information about sync cables/optical cables is rather mystifying and needs some clarity.

 

 

 

 

Thanks again for confirming the information Guy, again super helpful! You are right about the weight - I checked the specs on both housings and the nauticam is actually slightly heavier =/ ah well, I'm after an ergonomic system anyway and want to do away with the bulkiness of Ikelite. I haven't ordered my Retra strobes yet since I am moving to Fiji mid December and I am not sure if I will get them in time… I have sent them an email to see what they say before I place an order.


Edited by ChristineA, 27 October 2017 - 11:06 AM.


#7 sunnyboy010101

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Posted 27 October 2017 - 11:17 AM

ChristineA,

 

I will say this about housings. I love the Ikelite housing for smaller cameras - I've had two including my current "light" rig: one for a Canon A570IS and my current one for a Canon G16 (TTL housing). I love the lightness and ruggedness of their housings for the point and shoot cameras, and the cable-TTL with an Ikelite DS51 strobe is great.

 

That said, for my DLSR I really love the Nauticam housing. The big seller for me is the absolute positive lock for the port rings. Once the ring is locked in place, it would take a catastrophic impact to flood the housing. One of my dive buddies had an older Ikelite housing with a Canon D30 and he bumped it inside a wreck and the whole thing flooded in seconds - with him left holding the port in his hands. I have never personally liked the "four latch" housing on the Ikelite DLSR housings and avoided them for that reason alone. Especially as I could have true TTL sync with an Ikelite DLSR housing.

 

My current Nauticam is sporting two arms with Ikelite DS125's on them, so I know the issue of weight. Plus I have this monstrous Bigblue focus light (it's a small torpedo that takes 8 AA cells!!) and the whole rig is quite heavy on land. Underwater it's fine, but since I do 99% macro, the idea of replacing both strobes and arms with a compact ring flash/light is really too much to resist.

 

I see you are in Montreal. I dove there in 2001 while at a conference. I dove the quarry as well as the Richileu river (drift dive along a string of shallow wrecks). I helped recover a sunken car with the RCMP at the quarry one evening. Much fun!



#8 ChristineA

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Posted 27 October 2017 - 10:32 PM

Hey Sunnyboy!

 

Really cool that you dove around the Montreal area and really awesome about that recovery dive! I'm ashamed to say that I have not been diving there, however I did once take a camping+diving holiday to Tobermory/Lake Huron (a good 10hr drive to Ontario from Montreal) and dove there - the wrecks they have in that lake are incredible and the visibility was surprisingly amazing! I only did that once though because I've now been living abroad for 4 years (only been a diver for 6 years). I guess you do the bulk of your diving off Vancouver? I've heard great things about diving there :) 

 

I too am quite attracted to Nauticam's port locking system as well… I have been extremely lucky with my Ikelite system and never had a leak/flood in the 2 solid years I dived with it (nearly every day since it was my job) - but I know it's just a matter of time. Looking forward to the upgrade!



#9 sunnyboy010101

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Posted 28 October 2017 - 08:16 AM

You definitely should make the trip out to Vancouver Island sometime. It's some of the best ocean diving around. Great critter life, whether big or small. Seeing a wolf eel or a giant pacific octopus for the first time is quite the experience too. We also have some nice wrecks at depths varying from recreational to deep technical. I think you'd love it here.

 

I just bought the Kraken 3000 ring flash/light yesterday and a Kraken optical cable. I just couldn't bring myself to pay double for what amounts to a plastic connector for the Nauticam. I'll make one out of either some black rubber hose or else design and 3d print something for the Nauticam connection. Otherwise it's just Sea&Sea standard optical connectors.

 

I'm looking forward to using the Kraken ring light as I always loved ring flashes for macro work on land, plus my rig is now much less bulky and less heavy with the strobe arms and two DS125's removed. It should fit in the opening of octo dens much more easily! :-)



#10 guyharrisonphoto

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Posted 01 November 2017 - 05:08 AM

Hi sunnyboy

 

please post some feedback and photos with the Kraken ring flash.  I am considering one of those, as well.

 

And Christine, I would add that I am a big fan of my Nauticam housing and port system.  It is bulletproof and has served me faultlessly with no need for servicing after 4 years of saltwater diving, so long as you are diligent about giving it a quick rinse after your dives.  If you have decided to go ahead and change systems, you are not going to regret choosing Nauticam. 



#11 sunnyboy010101

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Posted 01 November 2017 - 08:35 AM

It's on order, but the dealer is waiting on the optical cable before shipping.

 

My goal at this point is to dive it on Nov 12. I'll definitely report after that. If all goes well, there are two big octos where we regularly dive, and one of the advantages of this new flash/light is the ability to get further into the crevasse where one of them hides. I've been taking a gopro on a stick as the Nauticam with two DS1255's simply would not fit.

 

I printed a connector cap for the Nauticam yesterday. No threads, but a decent "push fit" on the Nauticam end and a hole to plug in the cable. It should work fine.



#12 ChristineA

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Posted 01 November 2017 - 10:36 AM

Guy, it's good to know that you swear by Nauticam! I have heard nothing but good things about them - I know they have a hefty price tag, but the quality of their products is fabulous from what I've seen and I have also heard good things about their customer service. 
 

I will be diving this rig several times a week, so I need something solid. Thanks for your input on everything :) 



#13 bear35

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Posted 01 November 2017 - 11:36 PM

Personally speaking I would go with the fibre optic.

There is one less thing to worry about being flooded for a start. 

It depends what camera you intend on using but I have recently been to see a Nauticam dealer. He had the Retra strobes along with the d500 and was shooting at 10 frames per second, the strobes were fired by the fibre optic cables, fired by the led flash trigger. As far as I know the flash trigger can be upgraded to use ttl. 

I don't know why anyone would not use fibre optic cables...



#14 TimG

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Posted 02 November 2017 - 12:14 AM

I switched from sync cables to fibre optics about 3/4 years ago when I changed to using a Nikon D800 and the housing (Subal ) would allow the use of the pop-up flash which activates the strobes. 

 

I really liked the simpler set-up and not having to worry about bent sync pins, faulty connections or dodgy cables. 

 

One thing I had not thought about but came in really handy, was being able to remove the strobes quickly if, for example, I was doing more snorkel or surface-based photos, over/unders, dolphins, whale sharks - and not having to push strobes, which I would not be using, through the water. So easy to remove (and replace) the strobes and arms with fibre optic cables.

 

Although I did find that, on occasion, the pop-up flash would not recharge fast enough, this was only rarely a drawback - and can be overcome using a flash trigger fitted in the housing rather than the pop-up camera flash. 

 

Having made the change from sync cables to fibre optic,  I would most certainly not go back. Easy to install, cheap to buy/replace compared to sync cables, more reliable. They get my vote.


Tim
(PADI IDC Staff Instructor and former Dive Manager, KBR Lembeh Straits)
Nikon D800, Nikkors 105mm and 16-35mm, Sigma 15mmFE - Subal housing

http://www.timsimages.uk
Latest images: http://www.shutterst...lery_id=1940957


#15 ChrisRoss

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Posted 06 November 2017 - 04:49 AM

I would also do fibre optic, been great on my Z-240's.

 

There was some discussion above about fibre optic connectors on the housing end.  INON sell connectors for optical fibre and when you buy a cable you buy the connector separately and install yourself.  I picked up a cable/connector when I was in Japan for work.  price was surprisingly reasonable.  Here's a link about fibre optic cable maintenance from Inon:

 

http://www.inon.jp/technicalguide/cable-l.html and here's one with housing end bushes:

 

http://www.inon.jp/p...cal/capset.html

 

I googled and saw backscatter among others stock them an dthe price a "steep" $5.



#16 sunnyboy010101

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Posted 15 November 2017 - 02:58 PM

On the topic of optical sync, I have a question: how have you found them to function underwater? Do you have any tips or techniques to make them work better or more reliably?

 

Here's what happened to me. I'm new at optical, but had everything fully testing and working on land. Got underwater, and the strobe would NOT fire. I verified there was flash coming from the camera flash to the end of the cable that enters the strobe, but still it would not fire.

 

I've had a problem where it would not fire unless speed was 1/60, but once it goes you can sync up to 1/250 no problem thereafter. Underwater I was starting with 1/60, so that was not the issue.

 

Finally I tried bumping up the camera's popup flash mower (set on manual) from 1/128 to 1/32 and after that it seemed to work. Again, once it started firing it was fine the rest of the dive.

 

Our water was very, very turbid on the dive - maybe 5ft visibility and my camera was having a lot of problem grabbing focus due to massive particulate in the water. But the cable is plugged into a dedicated fitting (black) on the camera and another (clear) on the strobe, so there wasn't really any 'gunk' in the optical path.

 

Given it all worked on land, I don't see where the issue was in the water. Any thoughts or tips?



#17 ChrisRoss

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Posted 18 November 2017 - 01:59 AM

If increasing power of popup flash fixed the problem, sounds like the sensitivity of the optical trigger on your strobe could be the issue.  If this is the case you may need to play with the alignment of the optical fibre in your fitting to make sure the end of the fibre is lined up so it can see the flash.  I believe you said you had a DIY connection.  If this is not a tight fit, it may not hold the fibre optic cable in the right orientation to get maximum transmission.  The INON strobes are well known for having very sensitive trigger sensors, while S&S YS-D2 is not so sensitive.



#18 sunnyboy010101

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Posted 18 November 2017 - 09:29 AM

Thanks Chris. I think the home-printed fitting is a good fit - it certainly holds the cord end very well. The fitting isn't quite as good a fit on the camera as I don't know the threading on the Nauticam optic ports (it measures about 11mm) so can't thread the printed fitting. For now it's a tight friction fit.

 

The strobe is one of the new Kraken ring lights (3000), and it strobes well on land, and once working underwater also strobes well. It's just getting it started underwater that's the issue.

 

I'm diving again today so will report my results later in the day.