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Z240 erratic behavior after 3 year - expectable?

inon z240 erratic flash capacitor

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#1 Nicool

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Posted 29 June 2014 - 12:00 AM

Hello all,

 

I am writing to report a problem i have encountered with my 2 Inon Z240 type IV strobes. I have done a search on this forum for similar issues, but what i found was different, people were having issues in Manual, not in TTL, and this was due to corroded ACC (auto-cancel circuitry) button.

 

First, let me state that these 2 strobes have been purchased in April 2011, always used together, first with a Nikon D7000 setup (housed in Hugyfot), and since May 2013, with an Olympus OM-D EM-5 camera (housed in Nauticam NA-EM5). Always connected to cameras with optical fibres, produced by Inon (those which screw nicely on the strobes). I use them mostly in TTL, though occasionally i have used them in manual with my Olympus camera (in which case, i set the camera to shoot manually, 1/64th of flash power, so I should not be impacted by ACC whatsoever).

 

I never had any trouble with these strobes, until recently:

-21nd June: did 2 dives, strobes worked perfectly. In the evening, i changed the eneloop batteries in preparation for the second day.

-22nd June: from the beginning of the dive, the left strobe didn't work well, either not firing, or firing very weak. I did multiple configuration changes, from TTL to manual and back, unplugged the optical fibers from the housing side and plugged back. At the end of the dive it seemed back to normal (screwed almost the full dive...), but honestly i don't remember exactly what i could have done which worked eventually (had other gear issues and tried many many things). Needless to say i checked the stobes for water leak in the evening, there wasn't any.

-27th June: we go diving! and i have the unpleasant surprise to see my strobes are going mad again: first i am shooting TTL and then manual, the left strobe doesn't fire at all, the right strobe fires a tiny bit, not enough to lit. Then i switch to manual and it doesn't help, i don't manage to lit the subject... Apparently (my wife was observing) the left strobe didn't shoot, and the right one did (but was mostly very weak). However i randomly had some shots well lit (a bit over-exposed actually), which i presume were lit by the right strobe - it's been about 1 shot every 5, and then i got some series of 5-6 shots with  right strobe firing... To conclude, the behavior of the right strobe was totally unpredictable, and the left strobe wouldn't shoot.

-28th June: i am back home and take the housing in the pool for some more relaxed testing (I hadn't opened anything). Same symptoms as before, so I try to switch the optical fibers (just the strobe ends), and miracle! my left strobe is now working, and the right one doesn't work. Of course i am guessing i've got 1 optical fibre problem, but just to see, I also switch the optical fibres on housing end and... both strobe work! both in TTL and manual..

Of course before each dive i would do a dry strobe test, which passed all times.

 

 

I would tend to conclude on fibre optics issues, but when I look at my fibre optics on strobe end i can clearly see the camera's flash light transmits well, on both.

I can't say I am relieved because i am still not clear on the root cause, so I don't know whether my strobes will spoil my next dive or not. It seems easy to blame the optical fibres, but why would the strobe manage to lit from time to time (27th June), whereas I haven't touched the optical fibres??

 

Does anyone see clearer in what happened to me? Could it be that my optical fibers got sort of ill-positioned (twice) and that would explain the whole problem?

 

 

Another thing that worries me is the call i gave to an Inon dealer on 27th June, to get his opinion on my problem. He's saying that it's not at all surprising that strobes stop working after 3 year of usage, because there are components which perish inside (e.g. capacitors, but also others). So he offered that i send the strobes to him for repair, and in the (likely) event that he wouldn't be able to fix them, he would ship them to Inon japan. He sais such a service has costed about 500 Euros (and one month waiting) to another customer for 2 Inon Z240s!!! I asked if there would be other strobe brand where you don't have to pay 250 EUR/strobe after 3 years, and he told me Inon were the most reliable ones in his view...

3 years of ownership for me should be about 150 dives, and i am sure there's plenty of much more active shooters around here. I am wondering if all have had failing Inon Z240s.

 

What is your reading of the above? Is it normal to go through costly repair of your Inon Z240 after 3 years of usage?

 

thank in advance for your help on this,

i am must stay i am quite puzzled/disappointed, but maybe I am just unaware that strobes are (expensive) perishable items.

 

cheers

Nicolas



#2 jander4454

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Posted 29 June 2014 - 02:00 AM

I would not expect an issue with Inon strobe circuitry after such a short time unless you have had water in. I've had 2 x D 2000 for 9 years, diving most weekends and on holidays probably twice a year so over 1200 dives without any problem - I know it's not the same strobe but it is the same manufacture.
The only issues I've had has been with the fibre optic cables. Very occasionally I have managed to damage the end, usually next to the camera - that has allowed me to trim off a short section to a point above the break and things were great again. Once I had a break/damaged light path somewhere else in the cable that meant the cable only functioned intermittently
I suggest you obtain, on loan if possible, a FO cable that is new or you can be confident doesn't have a minor break somewhere and test you strobes with that before venturing down the strobe repair route. I'd also check that there id no water ingress at the electrical connection plug.


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#3 Nicool

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Posted 29 June 2014 - 02:33 AM

I would not expect an issue with Inon strobe circuitry after such a short time unless you have had water in. I've had 2 x D 2000 for 9 years, diving most weekends and on holidays probably twice a year so over 1200 dives without any problem - I know it's not the same strobe but it is the same manufacture.
The only issues I've had has been with the fibre optic cables. Very occasionally I have managed to damage the end, usually next to the camera - that has allowed me to trim off a short section to a point above the break and things were great again. Once I had a break/damaged light path somewhere else in the cable that meant the cable only functioned intermittently
I suggest you obtain, on loan if possible, a FO cable that is new or you can be confident doesn't have a minor break somewhere and test you strobes with that before venturing down the strobe repair route. I'd also check that there id no water ingress at the electrical connection plug.


Thanks Jander! This is reassuring.
By electrical connection you mean i should check the pins used to plug an electrical sync cord? I've never used them but it cannot hurt to check.

#4 Nicool

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Posted 29 June 2014 - 02:53 AM

One more thought: if we say that my problem was caused by fiber optics (and that my Inon dealer is very pessimistic about the products he sells), then how can i ensure that I won't have issues while diving, in terms of transmission of information via FO?

 

My post-camera assembly check routine included testing that both strobes where firing in TTL mode, and exposing properly my garage's wall, and clearly this test doesn't suffice as this could erratically work. However, i cannot do a dozen of those tests to make sure my system is stable, because the Z240s would heat up.

What about disconnecting the FOs from the strobes, look at them, and make sure i can see light from the camera's internal flash, on a few shots?

Does any of you do that?

Basically i am wondering if a FO that conducts light in a given position (meaning the FO plugs of my housing are clean enough) will keep conducting light (unless i twist it badly), i.e. can the FO itself be erratic?



#5 jander4454

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Posted 29 June 2014 - 06:57 AM

My experience has been that the FO is only erratic when it is damaged. 


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#6 okuma

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Posted 29 June 2014 - 06:34 PM

Wife and I have had 5-Z 240's since Nikon D200.  Never a problem.  I do have problem with the Inon rep saying internals are 'worn out?"

 

I would concentrate on the F/O light path.  Start with the camera strobe firing correctly.  Then clean and check both ends/connectors of the F/O.

Lastly, tape a small light to one end of the F/O and observe the light from the other end while pulling and carefully bending the F/O.


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#7 JimSwims

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Posted 30 June 2014 - 03:18 AM

Hi Nicolas,

 

The ends of fibre optic cables can sometimes get a bit milky or slightly opaque. If that is the case you can carefully cut the tips off with a

very sharp, thin blade to freshen them up. I could also be that a cable was bent or pinched at some stage thus altering the light transfer.

 

Have you also checked another variable; the battery cells?

 

Cheers,

Jim.


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#8 bvanant

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Posted 30 June 2014 - 03:54 PM

I think that if the strobe is firing at all, then it is most likely not a FO problem; this can be easily checked on land and in our experience this is very seldom a problem unless you break the fiber (and that is hard to do). One thing to check is to look at the electrical sync connector. I have had two z240s where there was a small drop of water in the electrical sync socket and that corroded the connector enough to give very erratic signals.  Also you could buy some new fiber optic cable (with no connectors) very inexpensively and create some new cables to test.

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#9 howeikwok

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Posted 30 June 2014 - 08:53 PM

Why not just remove the caps covering the optic sensor of the strobe and use any camera flash to see if the strobe fires. can do this without using any fibre optic cable. you can immediately pinpoint if the cable is an issue that way.


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#10 E_viking

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Posted 30 June 2014 - 10:04 PM

Hi,

 

No way that the electronics are "worn out" after such a short time.

If you are nicely using Eneloops ( due to overheating) you should be just fine.

I use 2*INON Z240s, since 2006. They are still working nicely.

 

My bet would be on the Fiber Optics. They could be broken somewhere and are sometimes giving good light Transmission.

This would then lead to intermittent behaviour.

I always carry 1-2 spare cables. They weigh close to nothing and as and are cheap.

 

/Erik


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#11 errbrr

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Posted 01 July 2014 - 09:19 PM

Yes, mine have become extremely unreliable. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't with low power flashes or refusing to fire at all. Mine are all wired electrically. I bought 2 new in 2010, then 1 secondhand and 1 new in 2012. I had two overhauled by the dealer in late 2012, he replaced the guts of them. I also have one on loan, so when something is playing up I just switch strobes between dives.

 

None have ever flooded. One contributing factor has been overheating in warm water. I am using eneloops but even so repeated firing in the tropics has damaged the internals. The dealer reported slightly melted capacitors on the two repair jobs. I noticed at the time that the flash tubes were starting to brown so it may be worth inspecting yours for similar early warning signs.

 

I'm disappointed in the brand, but I don't see a better option as I'm not prepared to lump the ikelites around. Maybe the S&Ss instead once these are a little more roadtested. Switching is going to be a pain for me, so I will likely soldier on and hope the replacement I have just purchased lasts a little longer.



#12 E_viking

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Posted 01 July 2014 - 09:43 PM

Hi,

 

I am fascinated reading the Posts here and the different user experiences.

My feeling about my INONs are that they are as sturdy as they come.

I never had an issue with them.

 

/Erik

 

Ps! I will probably get issues with them now, after writing this comment.


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#13 Bob_W

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Posted 02 July 2014 - 03:38 AM

Nicool,

 

Since you are using a Nauticam housing, and the FO ends press in with rubber plugs, you might try using a Q-tip and making sure the FO ports on the housing are clean. You may have a bit of goop in there that is obstructing the light path when wet.

 

Bob W



#14 Nicool

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Posted 02 July 2014 - 05:07 AM

Hi guys!

 

Many thanks for all these valuable feedbacks!

Let me answer to some of the comments:

 

Strobe internal issues - source?

Apart from errbrr, it seems that all of experienced reliability with your Inon strobes themselves (not mentioning the FOs here).

@errbrr, do you use eneloop batteries are are you careful not to shoot too many times in a row (the Inon Z240 manual is very cautious about that)?

I have always been using eneloop, and being careful with the shooting rate, so my issues shouldn't be due to strobes abuse…

 

@bvanant/howeikwok,

I am bit reluctant to open the electrical connectors caps because I have never done so (never used them), so I assume they have always been water-tight. I will open them if I face issues again.

 

@Bob_W,

Indeed I have removed the rubber thing that holds FOs on housing side, and now it's definitely clean (maybe  it  used to be dirty and I removed the dirt last time I switched FOs in the pool (all subsequent shoots were fine).

 

@JimSwims,

Maybe it was just obstructing dirt on housing side afterwards, but if I experience some more issues I'll definitely cut the housing-sides of the FOs. Are you saying that a sharp knife would do the trick, or scissors? Is there any partiuclar way to shape the cut for light to travel better.

I am thinking this actually could be the cause, as among last weeks I have regularly removed/inserted my FOs from housing side (which I didn't do in the past), and have possibly damaged them.

Battery cells were fine I presume, as I charge them regularly, and the red ready light came on quite quickly.

 

@okuma,

So I've done this check to trigger the camera's internal flash, and made sure I saw some light in the FOs, on strobes side. This was after I removed and re-installed FOs on housing side, so again, I might have removed some dirt doing so.

 

Then if I still get issues in my next try-dive it means my FOs are erratically failing, which would really piss me off (I hate non-predictable equipment behavior, especially in diving!) @jander4454 what kind of 'erratic' did you experience with your FOs? Strobe fires fully vs. non firing at all? Or strobe fires fully vs. fires weakly? And did you manage to fix it just ripping-off the FOs end?

 

Thanks again for all the help!


Edited by Nicool, 02 July 2014 - 05:09 AM.


#15 jander4454

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Posted 02 July 2014 - 07:27 AM

The errors were the strobes not firing. Fixed by removing the end, mostly, although I have had a fault somewhere else in the line that took a while to track down.
I usually cut he end with a sharp knife straight across - once I bit the end off where it was broken (during my dive) to get a flash back into working condition so maybe the cut is not that important.


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#16 Alex_Tattersall

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Posted 02 July 2014 - 11:44 AM

Not sure if this is totally relevant as I didn’t have time to read the whole thread but I had one erratic Z240 and it turned out that the ACC magnet had corroded to almost nothing so was no longer working when pushed in. Replaced this and worked fine again. 


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#17 JimSwims

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Posted 02 July 2014 - 11:21 PM

Hi guys!

 

Many thanks for all these valuable feedbacks!

Let me answer to some of the comments:

 

Strobe internal issues - source?

Apart from errbrr, it seems that all of experienced reliability with your Inon strobes themselves (not mentioning the FOs here)...............


@JimSwims,

Maybe it was just obstructing dirt on housing side afterwards, but if I experience some more issues I'll definitely cut the housing-sides of the FOs. Are you saying that a sharp knife would do the trick, or scissors? Is there any partiuclar way to shape the cut for light to travel better.

I am thinking this actually could be the cause, as among last weeks I have regularly removed/inserted my FOs from housing side (which I didn't do in the past), and have possibly damaged them.

Battery cells were fine I presume, as I charge them regularly, and the red ready light came on quite quickly..............................................

 


Thanks again for all the help!

 

 

Hi Nicholas,

 

as Jim Anderson has said above I just cut the affected ends off with a sharp Craft Knife straight across the cables. I learnt early on to

put the FO cable ends in my mouth to wet with saliva before inserting. This helped to avoid the ends bending or flexing when inserting

into the cable ports on the housing. I felt that over time the repeated bending could turn the clear plastic milky.

 

All in all I have no complaints for my Inon strobes. They are compact, relatively light and do what I want when I want. Just wished that

manual was easier to read :mocking:  I have however used them 90% of the time for macro and only in temperate water, so haven't pushed

their tolerances.

 

Cheers,

Jim.


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#18 Nicool

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Posted 05 July 2014 - 11:09 PM

Thanks for the saliva advice Jim!

Any tips that can make this gear live longer is always welcome.

 

I just came back home and had a chance for some (dry) testing, and i am found it quite interesting:

1/ i cut the camera ends of the two FOs with a sharp knife, and right away did a simple test to point the strobe end of the FO at sunlight, and look through the camera end. With the high overall light it wasn't ideal, but i clearly saw a difference with my right FO showing me some light, and the left one nothing. I cut the left one again but same result. Huhu, could it be the problem source?

 

2/ i went to a darker place, stuck the 2 FOs in my housing, with the Olympus camera inside (no strobe attached for now). I shoot the internal fash (put 1/4th of it's power to ensure i can see), and looked at the strobe ends of the 2 FOs, side-by-side. 

Interestingly, my left (failing) FO was still transmitting some light, but much much less than the right (OK) FO.

So i detached the FO Inon strobe mount and did some cutting of the left FO on strobe end. But it didn't change anything, the left FO was still transmitting a weaker light.

Here my conclusion is that my left FO needs replacement as the weak point is probably somewhere in the mid-length, and i cannot spot it by inspecting the FO.

 

3/ then i thought i would still do some tests with the strobes attached now. After all, the Inon Z240s light sensors are reputed extremely sensitive, and if my eyes could see a tiny bit of light through left FO, my strobe would certainly catch it. 

The fact that it was weaker wouldn't concern me as strobe control is done based on how long the FO transmits light, not how intense the transmitted light is.

Well it turned out that whichever strobe received the left FO wouln't fire, at all!

 

My theory out of this:

I think that the light output transmitted in left FO got so weak that it reached the limits of the Inon Z240 sensitivity, and sometimes wasn't catcher at all. Remember that i had set my internal flash to fire at 1/4th of its power, so during a dive it would fire sometimes weaker (strobe wouldn't see), sometimes stronger (then it might see). 

I believe this could explain the "erratic" behavior i have observed, especially when shooting TTL (some of the pre-flashes not caught by one strobe).

 

Do you think it makes sense? Anyways i'll order a new FO and will find out.

 

It would be quite a relief as i thought "erratic strobe behavior" implies "costly internal electronics issue", but if i am right, it could be just one FO.

 

Also regarding the post-housing assembly checks, I'd have one recommendation for any user: when you shoot to test your strobes connectivity, make sure you position them in a way that you would notice if one strobe is off, or just weaker. What happened to me was that i was happy with my checks because i was doing test-shots against my garage's wall, with camera & strobes being quite close. Therefore, it was quite difficult to notice a faulty strobe, as just 1 strobe was sufficient to perfectly lit my wall.

 

I'll update you once i have tested with new FO.

 

thanks again for all the advice

cheers

Nicolas



#19 jander4454

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Posted 06 July 2014 - 11:29 AM

That is good to hear you have tracked down the problem to the FO - a replacement is not expensive and readily obtainable.
Cheers


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#20 Nicool

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Posted 07 July 2014 - 05:44 AM

Well after writing my previous posts I've been diving, and had the surprise to see both strobes were failing (either not shooting, or shooting too weak), whereas I would have expected the strobe connected with the right FO to behave well!

Then later in the dive all went back to normal, meaning both strobes worked perfectly, be it in TTL or manual, even the left one (the one which failed to trigger strobe on land).

Very strange! But anyways I've ordered two new FOs (35 EUR each), will shoot with them and see if I have any issues.

 

I'll report my findings here after a few shooting dives.

 

Thanks again for all the advice!







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