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Our Strobe Problem

Strobe Problem

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#41 Walt Stearns

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Posted 09 May 2019 - 06:55 AM

To further back up my earlier comment “these are dark days for us underwater photographers” is because I love all the moaning about how strobes are not as reliable as we think they should be. What is obvious, most, if not all don’t know or have memory of how it was back in the earlier film shooting days where your choices in underwater strobes came in the following flavors: 


1. If you wanted to shoot wide-angle, the dam things were often the size of a coffee pot - think back to the old Ikelite 225 to 300’s or better yet, the Subsea Mk 150. Smaller strobes were only good for macro.


2. Most came with only one to two power settings – full and maybe ½ power, with the slightly more exotic featuring ¼ as well.


3. Sync cords: Most were not user replaceable and were highly prone to internal breaks right outside the bulkhead on the strobe. A common solution to create a strain relief was to wrap it with a s#%t load of electrical tape. Then there was the housing interface comprised of either Nikonos II or III bulkheads, or the wet connects comprised of EO and Sea Loc. All of which were true PITA’s.


Are our current strobe choices perfect? Hell no! Anything with electronics that are going into a marine environment is going to fail at some time, given the fact that anything electrical is deathly allergic to saltwater. 


While I enjoy the fact that todays strobes are smaller and lighter and thus far more suitable for travel than those monsters of yesteryear, which some would rival the size of todays mirrorless housings, you should not place expectations that they will handle the work load of pro.  The flashtubes in these mighty-mights work pretty well, but they have their limitations, namely because they were designed and built (Sea & Sea’s D1 and D2 are the first to come to mind) for the hobbyist market. 


It is for the same reason professional fashion photographers use large monolights instead of on camera flashes that run on AA batteries.  


I look at this way. If you are a moderately serious shooter, you invest in two. More dedicated shooters certainly three. As for the Pro (and those who think themselves a pro) you travel with at least four our more - redundancy is the mother of backups. 


No one ever said underwater photography is an inexpensive pursuit, so be prepared to pay in order to play.

#42 TrisWood


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Posted 17 May 2019 - 09:45 AM

Hi..strobes have big capacitors in them that can hurt you if you don't know what you are doing.  Not as bad as some scientific gear based on capacitors (we had a nitrogen laser in our lab that had a label that said "touching the capacitors when charged will lead to death with a high degree of certainty) but still bad enough. I am pretty sure it would be tough to get insurance to cover that kind of risk.

#43 errbrr


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Posted 18 May 2019 - 05:53 PM

I'm in favour of right to repair, and I found inon's "we just replace the entire internals" approach frustrating and slow. But then I discovered a local electronics (non-strobe, non-underwater) place to replace tubes and life got much easier.


The best advance on reliability for all the smaller strobes would be an overheating cutoff switch. Burnouts shouldn't happen. Instructions to stop using the strobe for 10 minutes if you shoot a few times in a row at full power are ridiculous.


That said, I think strobes are the most reliable and certainly the longest lasting component of my entire rig. I started in underwater photography in 2009 using ikelite substrobes 150, 225 and 400. These were taken out of the garage, from my dad's stash of gear, originally purchased sometime in the late 80s or early 90s. They worked great for a couple of years until I eventually broke them and bought inons. It's just a shame that each strobe weighed almost as much as my DSLR aluminium housing...

#44 Kraken de Mabini

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Posted 25 May 2019 - 12:13 PM

I have updated the list of available underwater strobes on 24 May, 2019 and it is here:




It is in Google Sheets as a spreadsheet so that members can update or correct it.  It needs work, including added strobes, also columns of strobe attributes.  If you find errors or have additions or suggestions, please feel free to go ahead and please do your own editing.  

#45 Algwyn



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Posted 31 May 2019 - 07:22 AM

I've got several old Nikonos SB 105 strobes what work rather well and have never presented any issues. I exercise the capacitors regularly. The down side is that I can only use the SB 105s with my Nikonos cameras because no one makes a sync cord to permit use of the 105s with any other housings. While I do enjoy shooting film with vintage cameras every now and then, it would be nice to be able to use the strobes with my digital housing. Of course, it's not unreasonable for companies to stop making parts for vintage equipment; there's very little profit in it.




That's surprising, I thought the Nikonos strobes were using the Nikonos 5 pin sockets and cables, which were designed for these Nikonos strobes.

Most SLR housing manufacturers may install Nikonos 5 pin strobe sockets on the housing. That's part of their configuration options:

  • Aquatica (option for their D850 housing for example: #20084-NK Aquatica housing for Nikon D850 with Dual Nikonos connectors)
  • Hugyfot (standard strobe port option for Nikon housing is Nikonos)
  • Easydive
  • Subal (they even make housing for your Nikon flashguns ...)

#46 rwe


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Posted 01 June 2019 - 01:15 PM

HeinrichsWeikamp used to make TTL converters for many strobes but no longer do so.  These included a bulkhead for your specific housing and strobe.  I have one for my Nikonos 105, Olympus 8080, and Olympus housing but I no longer use that system.  The HeinrichsWeikamp chart of applicable strobes included the Nikonos 105 but noted that it was at the limit of what they could provide due to the flash duration of the 105.  It worked OK but I did get some over-exposures but this may have my lack of knowledge more than the converter.  Sorry to see them stop making them since they had excellent response/customer service and even updated my board for free at one point.

Sony NEX-5N,10Bar Housing, Olympus C-8080, PT-023 (broken port tabs, of course), single Inon Z-240, flickr site: https://www.flickr.c...9071@N08/albums