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newdiver

Strobes, trigger, Synchro and Fibre Optic

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Hi, I have got a Seafrogs housing for my Sony a7iii with 16-35mm F4 and the 6" dome port. I have ordered the Sony fe 90mm F2.8 as well. 

Now I need to get strobes, I was set on the Inon S2000 but they seem underpowered and I want to get it right from the beginning. 

I am thinking of getting two Inon Z330 because Retras are too expensive. 

If the recommendation will be the Inon, what should I do with the trigger? It seems the dual synchro cable is expensive vs fibre optic. However then the is turtle trigger option which is also expensive but somewhat a better solution. 

This lighting is confusing me and I am looking forward to your recommendation. 

 

Thanks

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Does the manual specifically mention fibre optic ports?  Looking at the housing on the website I can't see any fibre ports - in which case it is sync cord only.

If I am not mistaken you can only do manual flash via wired connection on an INON unless you buy a wired TTL converter.  Before leaping in to purchase a converter if that's what you want, you would need to check if there is enough room to mount one in the housing. 

How much is the dual sync cord, it's sold out on the seafrogs site, but a single is $95.  It's probably cheap compared to a TTL converter.  Again I suspect wired connections is your option, so any TTL trigger will need a wired option.  Or just learn to shoot manual flash and use the plain sync cord.

As to which strobe to buy the S-2000 is too small, you'll want plenty of power, you will probably want to shoot the 16-35 at f16 in that little 6" dome and even then the corners will probably be soft, so that'll need plenty of strobe power.

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The SeaFrogs housing does not have an optical bulkhead by default, but UWTechnics converter comes with a replacement optical bulkhead that threads in place of the SeaFrogs one and has a built-in LED - https://uwtechnics.com/index.php/online-store/ttl-converters/for-sony/16034-ttl-converter-for-sony-a7iii-a7ii-for-seafrogs-meikon-housings-detail

Inon S-2000 is far too weak to be useful with this camera; you want Z-330 at a minimum. Also, keep in mind that S-2000, besides being weak, only has optical triggering, so in order to use them, you need the $460 converter regardless. Retra Prime/Pro are also optical only, so to use them, you need either the UWTechnics converter, or Retra's own e-opto converter - the latter is less expensive, but manual only, whereas UWTechnics supports TTL and HSS.

Your best price/performance option is probably a pair of Z-330s or YS-D2Js and a dual electric sync cord. This will limit you to manual operation of the strobes, and you will have to take care of a number of extra o-rings, but it will give you good power at a reasonable cost. Next step up would be a pair of Retra Pros with a UW-Technics converter - this will give you more power, TTL and HSS capability, plus all the optional Retra accessories, but at a significant step up in cost.

Note that if you decide to get into snoot photography, strobes with an offset modeling light are notoriously difficult to use with a snoot, as the spot of light from the modeling light is not cast into the same spot where the actual strobe light will land, and the actual offset between the two varies with the distance between strobe and subject. Both Z-330 and YS-D2 have modeling lights that are offset to the side and top respectively, whereas the Retra flashes have it mounted centrally, inside the circular flash bulb, which makes aiming the snoot relatively trivial. Some snoots have targeting lasers, but I've seen posts from frustrated users claiming that these are not particularly useful. As far as Retra goes, I was able to produce usable images with Retra Pro + LSD on my second dive with one.

For what it's worth, I'm using an A6300 in a SeaFrogs housing with UWTechnics converter and a pair of Retra Pros.

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11 minutes ago, Barmaglot said:

Your best price/performance option is probably a pair of Z-330s or YS-D2Js and a dual electric sync cord. This will limit you to manual operation of the strobes, and you will have to take care of a number of extra o-rings, but it will give you good power at a reasonable cost. Next step up would be a pair of Retra Pros with a UW-Technics converter - this will give you more power, TTL and HSS capability, plus all the optional Retra accessories, but at a significant step up in cost.

 

I have to agree. I can't imagine a dual sync cord costing more than 50% of the price of a trigger and once you have the trigger you need cables as well.

 

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Yes, there are no fibre optic ports and it is synchro only. I mentioned fibre optic if I were to get the ttl converter.

The cost for the sync cord is around $200 AUD which is still less than the trigger but obviously trigger has the benefit of TTL and HSS, but the Inon flash don't support HSS so it is pointless. I will be fine with manual flash.

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1 hour ago, Barmaglot said:

Note that if you decide to get into snoot photography, strobes with an offset modeling light are notoriously difficult to use with a snoot, as the spot of light from the modeling light is not cast into the same spot where the actual strobe light will land, and the actual offset between the two varies with the distance between strobe and subject. Both Z-330 and YS-D2 have modeling lights that are offset to the side and top respectively, whereas the Retra flashes have it mounted centrally, inside the circular flash bulb, which makes aiming the snoot relatively trivial. Some snoots have targeting lasers, but I've seen posts from frustrated users claiming that these are not particularly useful. As far as Retra goes, I was able to produce usable images with Retra Pro + LSD on my second dive with one.

For what it's worth, I'm using an A6300 in a SeaFrogs housing with UWTechnics converter and a pair of Retra Pros.

Snoot is something I would like to try with macro, however it is not something that I am into right now. I am still building my setup and trying to figure things out. I guess with experience and trial one might be able to figure out and offset the modelling light?

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41 minutes ago, newdiver said:

Snoot is something I would like to try with macro, however it is not something that I am into right now. I am still building my setup and trying to figure things out. I guess with experience and trial one might be able to figure out and offset the modelling light?

I don't have any personal experience with any snoot setup besides the Retra Pro + Retra LSD that I have, but here you have @TimG sharing his impressions of diving with a Z-240 + homemade snoot, Z-240 + Retra LSD and Retra Prime + Retra LSD. Another piece of anecdotal evidence - just yesterday I was on a boat with a guy trying to get a homemade snoot to work with a YS-D1 and he's been having a lot of trouble getting that setup to actually produce pictures, even though he's a far more experienced diver and photographer than I am. Retra flash + LSD is easy mode, by comparison.

Maybe consider getting a UWT trigger + single Retra Prime or Pro, then add the second Retra as your budget allows.

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4 hours ago, newdiver said:

Snoot is something I would like to try with macro, however it is not something that I am into right now. I am still building my setup and trying to figure things out. I guess with experience and trial one might be able to figure out and offset the modelling light?

Yeah, maybe with experience and trial and error you can manage the offsetting. But don't underestimate the difficulty, how few pics you will get - and just how much time of a dive and good photo ops you will miss/waste.

I must have done a dozen dives on a perfect snooting reef in Bonaire a couple of years ago with the Inon and Retra LSD - probably over 12 hours underwater. I was frustrated beyond measure, ready to give up, maybe a dozen properly light images ..... and my partner almost leaving me..... Apart from that, fabulous  :crazy:

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1 hour ago, TimG said:

Yeah, maybe with experience and trial and error you can manage the offsetting. But don't underestimate the difficulty, how few pics you will get - and just how much time of a dive and good photo ops you will miss/waste.

I must have done a dozen dives on a perfect snooting reef in Bonaire a couple of years ago with the Inon and Retra LSD - probably over 12 hours underwater. I was frustrated beyond measure, ready to give up, maybe a dozen properly light images ..... and my partner almost leaving me..... Apart from that, fabulous  :crazy:

I picked up the Backscatter MiniStrobe/Snoot combo last year during the 1st Wave Covid fire sale for about $315 (it's $499 right now).  It is MUCH easier to use than any other snoot setup that I tried before.  It's precise and has zero offset from the aiming light. It's purpose designed for snooting and it far more precise and flexible than any other product I've seen from Retra, Inon, ReefNet, etc.  If you can borrow or buy one I highly recommend giving it a try.

I pretty much always use this when I set up for macro, paired with one of my Inon 330's.  I put a little bungie clip on the snoot part connected to the ball mount so I can add or remove the snoot at will.  It's easy enough to use that I can take snoot shots of even swimming fish pretty simply.

The Backscatter Ministrobe is also a very good choice for a beginner starting with Macro photography.  It's a great little strobe for only $399, or $499 with the snoot.

Backscatter Mini Flash 1 & Optical Snoot Combo Package

image.thumb.png.ea4073d11b411e0ff47b37e556be049a.png

Edited by davehicks
typo

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7 hours ago, davehicks said:

The Backscatter Ministrobe is also a very good choice for a beginner starting with Macro photography.  It's a great little strobe for only $399, or $499 with the snoot.

Note, however, that the OP is using the SeaFrogs housing for Sony A7III - this housing, as shipped by the manufacturer, has a single Nikonos-type electrical bulkhead, while the Backscatter mini-flash only uses optical triggering. Therefore, in order to utilize it, they will also need to purchase the UW-Technics trigger with replacement bulkhead, which costs $460 + shipping, so the total cost of a mini-flash snoot solution will be closer to $1000.

Shipping costs and taxes aside, a pair of Inon Z-330s plus a dual sync cord will cost about $1600 (2x$700 strobe + $200 sync cord) and will serve for wide-angle, macro, but not snooting. Replacing the dual sync cord with UWT trigger + two fiber optic cables will put the total cost around closer to $2000 (2x$700 strobe + $460 trigger + 2x$50 fiber optic cables), and a mini-flash with snoot is another $500 on top of that. A single Retra Pro with LSD, UWT trigger and a fiber optic cable will cost around $1950. It won't be as good for wide-angle as a pair of Z-330s, but it will be adequate, and it will work great for macro and especially snooting. It can also be extended later with a second Retra Pro, superchargers for fast recycling, reflectors, diffusers, etc.

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9 hours ago, Barmaglot said:

Note, however, that the OP is using the SeaFrogs housing for Sony A7III - this housing, as shipped by the manufacturer, has a single Nikonos-type electrical bulkhead, while the Backscatter mini-flash only uses optical triggering. Therefore, in order to utilize it, they will also need to purchase the UW-Technics trigger with replacement bulkhead, which costs $460 + shipping, so the total cost of a mini-flash snoot solution will be closer to $1000.

Shipping costs and taxes aside, a pair of Inon Z-330s plus a dual sync cord will cost about $1600 (2x$700 strobe + $200 sync cord) and will serve for wide-angle, macro, but not snooting. Replacing the dual sync cord with UWT trigger + two fiber optic cables will put the total cost around closer to $2000 (2x$700 strobe + $460 trigger + 2x$50 fiber optic cables), and a mini-flash with snoot is another $500 on top of that. A single Retra Pro with LSD, UWT trigger and a fiber optic cable will cost around $1950. It won't be as good for wide-angle as a pair of Z-330s, but it will be adequate, and it will work great for macro and especially snooting. It can also be extended later with a second Retra Pro, superchargers for fast recycling, reflectors, diffusers, etc.

wow, that is kind of what I was expecting and something that I need to look at more closely. One thing that I have learnt is that not getting it right from the start will cost more in the long run, even though the initial cost of the right gear might be more.

I am super curious about the Retra Pro with LSD now, and not sure if I need the UWT with my housing? It seems Retra sells the Retra E-Opto Sync Cord Converter. Or am I understanding this wrong?

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1 hour ago, newdiver said:

wow, that is kind of what I was expecting and something that I need to look at more closely. One thing that I have learnt is that not getting it right from the start will cost more in the long run, even though the initial cost of the right gear might be more.

You make a very good point. Frequently with u/w photography to buy cheap is to end up buying twice. It's much better to think carefully about what you really want to do and plan for the longer term.

There are a few bits of u'w photo gear which will migrate from system to system: arms and strobes mainly. It's well worth putting money into getting good ones. Housings and camera bodies are expensive and do not hold their value. Depending on whether you are someone who wants to have the latest gear (and lots of its do!), you keep them 2-3 years and then move to the next "investment". Reckon on losing about 60%-70% of the new value when you sell them on.

Retra does indeed sell a convertor to convert electric sync cord signals to optical. The Retra (Pro or Prime) is really brilliant with the LSD. I'm no engineer so never thought having a central pilot light would make so much difference. After all, aren't we just pushing light down a tube? But it does. Using a Retra with a LSD is WAY easier and more accurate than the Inon with its offset light.

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2 hours ago, newdiver said:

I am super curious about the Retra Pro with LSD now, and not sure if I need the UWT with my housing? It seems Retra sells the Retra E-Opto Sync Cord Converter. Or am I understanding this wrong?

I have no experience with Retra's e-opto converter, but keep in mind that in addition to the converter itself ($150) you will need an electrical cable to connect it to your housing ($100), so the difference between that and a UWT converter (which adds TTL capability, plus HSS if you use Retra strobes) ends up being around $200.

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Yes, I'm debating whether to get the trigger or not. Do you know if TTL will funding with the Retra converter? 

Also, how often do people use HSS underwater? Is this a common thing or just the occasional one of shot? 

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9 minutes ago, newdiver said:

Yes, I'm debating whether to get the trigger or not. Do you know if TTL will funding with the Retra converter? 

Also, how often do people use HSS underwater? Is this a common thing or just the occasional one of shot? 

I'm not sure I would say it's common. I'm using HSS with the Retra Prime and a Subal TTL board.

HSS is terrific for the types of wide-angle shots where you want to shoot into ambient light (say towards a sunburst) but want the strobe to highlight elements of the reef. So the strobes are being used as fill-in lights and the shutter speed needs to be higher than the usual sync speed - say above 1/250 to deal with the brightness of the sunburst.

So it's very much for creative type images.

As an example, the attached image was shot at 1/320 which on a Nikon D500 you could not do (with strobes) without HSS

I've not yet found a use for HSS with macro but then I usually use the Retra LSD snoot.

TG51061.jpg

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1 hour ago, newdiver said:

Yes, I'm debating whether to get the trigger or not. Do you know if TTL will funding with the Retra converter? 

Also, how often do people use HSS underwater? Is this a common thing or just the occasional one of shot? 

The retra optical converter is manual only they specifically say TTL is not available.

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8 hours ago, ChrisRoss said:

The retra optical converter is manual only they specifically say TTL is not available.

Ok, thanks. I'm debating whether or not to get the trigger. As it requires a slight modification to the housing. 

However it does provide TTL and HSS. 

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6 minutes ago, newdiver said:

Ok, thanks. I'm debating whether or not to get the trigger. As it requires a slight modification to the housing.  

However it does provide TTL and HSS.  

The Retra E-Opto Converter mounts outside the housing and does not require any modifications, but it does not provide TTL. I don't know whether or not it provides HSS, but I wouldn't bet on it

The UW-Technics TTL Converter replaces the leak detector board and the electrical bulkhead in the SeaFrogs housing. This is a very simple and reversible parts swap. It provides both TTL and HSS functions.

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2 hours ago, Barmaglot said:

The Retra E-Opto Converter mounts outside the housing and does not require any modifications, but it does not provide TTL. I don't know whether or not it provides HSS, but I wouldn't bet on it

The UW-Technics TTL Converter replaces the leak detector board and the electrical bulkhead in the SeaFrogs housing. This is a very simple and reversible parts swap. It provides both TTL and HSS functions.

Yes, I have been looking at the actual unit and it seems simple enough in the photo. It seems like a straight swap.

I am wondering what the real world power difference is between the Retra prime and Pro, I understand that the Pro provides 50% more power, however how much of a difference does it really make? I have been reading an article in the underwaterjournal that talks about the prime being sufficient for both wide and macro shooting.

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9 minutes ago, newdiver said:

I am wondering what the real world power difference is between the Retra prime and Pro, I understand that the Pro provides 50% more power, however how much of a difference does it really make?

I rarely run my Pros on full power except for snooting. With the LSD on, however, as good as its light transmission is in comparison with basic restricting snoots, full power is still the order of the day. However, my experience with them so far has been largely with macro - I've been living on Koh Tao, Thailand for the past two months, and the water here is silty (5-10m visibility) far more often that not, at least during this time of year, so I've been shooting macro on muck dives. What I have observed, however, is that outfitting them with reflectors (+1 stop according to Retra) has increased the beam intensity quite significantly - in clearer water, at higher power levels, I was able to shoot fish portraits with 90mm macro lens from a distance that surprised me. I would guess that the difference between reflector/no reflector is close to the difference between Retra Prime and Pro. In two weeks I'm going on a liveaboard in Andaman Sea - this will give me better opportunities to evaluate the Retra Pros in wide-angle scenarios.

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Interesting Barmaglot, thanks. A fair question from newdiver.

I've got the Primes and use the LSD a lot - almost all the time - for macro. Macro dives here tend to be in the 15'-18' range and natural light is pretty good.  

I tend to have my camera set at ISO 125, f22 (for macro on the Nikkor 105mm), Manual exposure setting. I change my shutter speed and Retra output depending on the exposure I want to create. I often found that I need to go to +3 on the strobe if I'm using one of the smaller slide holes - which is quite often.

I too have wondered whether a Pro would make a significant difference with an LSD. But, so far at least, I can't say that a lack of power has prevented me generally lighting the image as I'd want. It's usually a mix of surge, distance, operator-error, tiny depth of field, Act of God that has resulted in a duff image. It'd be nice though to try out a Pro and see if it delivers a real difference. But I still have room to play with in terms of increasing ISO and lowering shutter speed.

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7 hours ago, Barmaglot said:

 What I have observed, however, is that outfitting them with reflectors (+1 stop according to Retra) has increased the beam intensity quite significantly - in clearer water, at higher power levels, I was able to shoot fish portraits with 90mm macro lens from a distance that surprised me. I would guess that the difference between reflector/no reflector is close to the difference between Retra Prime and Pro. In two weeks I'm going on a liveaboard in Andaman Sea - this will give me better opportunities to evaluate the Retra Pros in wide-angle scenarios.

Interesting, is the impact purely flash range or is ability to keep the beam contained to avoid backscatter or both?

The issue with the light shaper on the Retras is that most of the wide beam does not fit down the aperture of the snoot.  It has a native 130°beam and the geometry is such that only a fraction of the beam goes through the aperture.  the fraction that goes through is set by the distance from the tube to the aperture and the size of the tube.

 

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3 hours ago, ChrisRoss said:

Interesting, is the impact purely flash range or is ability to keep the beam contained to avoid backscatter or both?

It's probably a combination of both. For example, I took this rabbitfish shot at something like 2.5-3 meters, with the strobes spread most of the way out (two 20cm arms on each side) and angled in towards the subject. You can see that the water is not particularly clear, yet there's good detail and color on the fish itself.

3 hours ago, ChrisRoss said:

The issue with the light shaper on the Retras is that most of the wide beam does not fit down the aperture of the snoot.  It has a native 130°beam and the geometry is such that only a fraction of the beam goes through the aperture.  the fraction that goes through is set by the distance from the tube to the aperture and the size of the tube.

I wonder what will happen if I coat the insides of the LSD mounting module with something reflective, like aluminium foil.

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2 hours ago, Barmaglot said:

It's probably a combination of both. For example, I took this rabbitfish shot at something like 2.5-3 meters, with the strobes spread most of the way out (two 20cm arms on each side) and angled in towards the subject. You can see that the water is not particularly clear, yet there's good detail and color on the fish itself.

I wonder what will happen if I coat the insides of the LSD mounting module with something reflective, like aluminium foil.

Quite reasonable result all things considered.

on the foil, it would need to reflect the light into the aperture, the interior itself is like a matte silver colour so is already a bit reflective and foil wouldn't change the amount reflected by a lot I don't think.  Something shaped like the reflector would be what you would want I think?

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