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Kraken de Mabini

Retra xenon Strobe discontinued: Is there a smart Retra LED Strobe in our future?

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The strobe news is that after a short life span, Retra has discontinued its well loved underwater strobe. Let us have some fun and speculate for the reasons why and what the future may hold.


Retra may have discontinued its strobe for one of three (or more) reasons:

a) Retra ran out of money

b) problems with the distributor of a vital part

c) a spectacular new Retra design


My guess is c): Retra will abandon the xenon tube. Retra will give us a new and affordable strobe based on LED light.

I say this because already on the market are two commercial LED-based underwater photo strobes based on LED's: the Lume Cube 1500 (a toy really), and the Subtronic Sirius strobe (1,2).

The underlying reason is that underwater photo xenon-tube strobes have been failing prematurely as documented in these pages by members of Wetpixel, as the tubes fail or break (Sea&Sea), or they lose luminosity as in the case of Inon Z240 strobes.


Compared to the xenon tube, the LED is much tougher, less expensive, and has a longer life. Its practicality is proven by the two commercially available strobes mentioned above. The digital electronics required are inexpensive and well known, with a proven track record (3, 4).


Right now we can only wonder and speculate, but I do believe the hand writing is on the wall: in the near future underwater LED strobes will become the norm (4).



1. https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1192932-REG/lume_cube_lc_11b_1500_lumen_on_camera_bluetooth.html?ap=y&c3api=1876%2C92051678762%2C%2C&gclid=Cj0KCQjwibDXBRCyARIsAFHp4fonOSVTTkGt-3hNwxWXd9Oz-JzijKaTLgHp2aygQKKCerUbogM8OcAaAl5dEALw_wcB


2. http://subtronic.de/productView.php?product=Sirius


3. http://wetpixel.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=40398


4. http://wetpixel.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=60816





Edited by Kraken de Mabini

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Fortunately the reasons "a" and "b" are not our reality. You can check out the thread where I answered to speculations: http://wetpixel.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=61948


Regarding LED technology for flashgun (strobe) application I think Pavel answered why the technology is not there yet: http://wetpixel.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=62030

I will only add that high quality flashtubes are more expensive than what he indicated but still less than the best LED which are not nearly as powerful. High quality flashtubes are in fact reliable and thus widely spread in land and underwater photography for good reason.



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In his reply, Oskar from Retra tells us an LED strobe is not now in the offing. But let us hope that in a couple of years the cost of powerful LEDs drops, so we can then have a combined light and strobe in one reliable unit.

I also wonder if a Smart Strobe, one with a micro processor controlled circuit to give us real TTL, instead of the problem-ridden TTL inflicted on us by most strobe makers, is forthcoming?

Taking it further, that underwater strobes tend to fail is not surprising as the glass they are made of is subjected to the high temperatures and high voltages required for their flash. Given the shaky recent history of available strobes, with Inon, Sea&Sea and now Retra pulling their problem strobes from the market, maybe we should hope that the amazing progress in light sensitivity now achieved by the camera makers will give us strobe-free photography.

Imagine shooting with one of the mirrorless successors to the Nikon D500, D850 or Canon EOS 5D Mark IV cameras, shooting with a mirrorless camera with an ISO light sensitivity of 25,600 (enhanceable to ISO 102,400 - hard to visualize!), plus one or two photo lamps instead of strobes (1). The internet gossip is that at least one of these camera wonders will be released this year or next (2).

I say this as strobe-free photography is now possible with the new point-and-shoot cameras, such as the Olympus TG4 and TG5 and Sony A6300. With them I shoot close-ups and macro with one L&M Sola light, no strobe.

This leads to the hope that soon, for underwater photography with all the new cameras, we will only need the steady light of an LED lamp.


1. I agree that a strobe(s) will continue to be useful or even necessary in some cases, such as using a snoot, for special effects, etc.

2. https://www.thephoblographer.com/2018/05/04/new-nikon-mirrorless-camera-out-next-spring/ The guessed at date of release keeps on being pushed into the future, it was for this year, now it is for spring or for Photokina 2019. Maybe Nikon and Canon want to first sell their inventory of dSLR cameras,

Edited by Kraken de Mabini

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