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What's the general consensus on mixing strobe models and brands? It seems strobes are most commonly purchased in pairs, but I'm working my way up and currently have just one Inon Z-240 (thanks @Kraken de Mabini). When shooting wide it's clear I'll need a second strobe. Should I only consider another Inon Z-240, or would any strobe of equivalent or higher power be acceptable? What would be the downside(s) to mixing it with a Sea & Sea, Ikelite or a Z-330?

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Posted (edited)

From time to time I have 'mixed' my strobes, and used two strobes of separate makes or models, with no problem. I have also read recently, here in Wetpixel, that some uw photographers prefer to use one strong, and one less bright, strobe. 

To take it further, some top uw photographers, such as Peri Paleracio of Anilao, and Roger Steene of Cairns, favor using only one strobe, with outstanding results, for their macro work. A few years ago I saw how Peri would place the one strobe above the lens, aim it at the subject, then move it as needed. Bad luck prevented my diving with and observing Roger's technique, but his work speaks for itself.    

In brief, other than price or convenience, or safety if one strobe fails, I know of no imperative for one to use very similar or twin strobes for macro work. 

Now for wide angle, big subjects, one may want two (or more) strong strobes.  Let us hear from the reef, lovely siren, big fish and Retra mega-lumen, shooters. 

Edited by Kraken de Mabini

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Hi Epiplexis

I do advise you to use equal strobes for your wide angle. If not possible to be equal, at lest have them from the same brand.

Different strobes might have different color temperature, and if that happens, you will have problems to balance light on your pictures and to grant a pleaseant picture. Strobes from the same brand tend to have the same color temperature, but not always.

Thats why I advise you to have equal strobes. If not possible to be equal strobes, at least from the same brand.

I took the attached picture in a diving I was using 2 different strobes (one Ikelite 125 and one S&S Alfa 1) due to a problem I had on one of my strobes and a friend of mine borrowed me one of his strobes. The difference in color temperature between the left and the right of the photo is quite notorious.

IMG_5721.JPG

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Posted (edited)

According to Keri Wilk (http://www.divephotoguide.com/underwater-photography-special-features/article/pro-choice-keri-wilk-ikelite-ds160/) the Ikelite DS160 emits light of 4800K, while most other strobes emit at 5000K.  This difference, as pbalves notes above, is best avoided by not mixing Ikelites with other strobes, excellent point.  

If one already has two different strobes, before settling down to using them, one should first try them to see if the resulting photos are good, then base one's strobe choice on the results.

Edited by Kraken de Mabini

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It is far easier to use two identical strobes if you want balanced lighting on both sides of your images.  If you want to unbalance the light for some reason, it's easy to come back to balanced again.  Different manufacturers will have different powert from each strobe, possibly different colour balance and also different coverage patterns.  Unless you want to spring for two new strobes I'd look for a second hand Z-240.  Your other option might be a Z330 which should be fairly close but with more power and upgrade to a second Z330 when you can afford it.

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Thanks all, this is very helpful. I hadn't considered the difference in color temperature (though it seems there are color-temp-changing diffusers available for many strobes, Inon included). I think I'll look for a second used Z-240 or a used Z-330 depending on price and what's available.

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I would not consider the diffuser to try to match the color temperature  of 2 different strobes, specially when I had only one strobe.

My approach would be:

If I am happy with the strobe I already have (regarding strobe power, beam spread, power control, number of cycles with fully charged batteries, usability, reliability, etc), I would buy a second strobe equal to the the one I have.

And then, if I want to modify the color temperature of the strobe, I would use the same correction on both strobes.

If not happy with the strobe I have, I would buy a new strobe that could tick the issues I dislike on the one I have. And I would try to sell the initial one to be able to buy a second one like the "new" strobe.

On the picture I shown before it is quite visible the difference of the color cast brought to the picture between the two different strobes. 

I had opportunity to  use Inon and Sea&Sea toghether, they are less different than Ikelite vs S&S, but even so, the few pictures I took with that mixture did not felt right to me.

Ikelite DS125       4800 K
Inon z240             5500 k (5400k with supplied diffuser)
Sea&Sea YS-D2   5600 k
Inon z330             5500 k (5400k with supplied diffuser)
Retra "Original"    5400 k
Retra "new ones" 4900 k
 

Besides that, the way you control different strobes is different, which means you need to adapt your control for the right strobe differently than the way for the left strobe if you use different strobes (if they are same brand, less complicated for the control, but not necessarily the same)

My history with strobes started with an Ikelite DS125. I liked that strobe, I decided to buy another one equal to it. Great strobes. Powerfull, nice beam, warm light. Very happy till a moment I was in a dive trip at Manado and we went for a full day dive to Lembeh. That day we did 4 dives at Lembeh, and on the last dive, we went for the Mandarim fish, all my collegues with smaller strobes with AA batteries were firing away on the dive and I was "P***** OFF" because my strobes were dead. They had proprietary bateries with proprietary charger, and on a full day out I was not able to recharge them.

At that moment I decided that I was going to sell the Ikelite strobes and buy new ones with AA batteries to avoid to be out of power ever again (AA batteries are easier to charge, and even if not possible to charge, most probably much easier to buy new ones almost everywhere). Inon Z240 were the strobes "everybody" was using then, they were powered by AA batteries, smaller and lighter on land, so much easier to travel with, and I bought 2.

The light was a little harsh compared with the Ikelite, so I use a Lee gel filter inside the soft diffusers (on both strobes) to warm it up a bit.

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I have dived with a combination of Z240s, Z330s, and the new Retra Pro strobes... (and started years ago with Ike strobes). I've mixed and matched along the way (quite frequently) with few issues.

Mixing a Z240 and Z330 won't lead to many significant issues, other than a Z330 is somewhere between half a stop and full stop more powerful than a Z240 (depending on the power setting you are using). You will need to adjust for this...

The Retra strobes are almost another full stop more powerful (again depending on the power you are shooting on, and angle of your subject), but I've been able to adjust to that as well. 

Color can be an issue, but again - knowing what you are looking for and using a color correcting diffuser on one (or both) strobes helps significantly. 

Clearly shooting with two of the same (or at least similar) strobes would be ideal, however I've seen many serious photographers mix & match strobes effectively (esp. shooting wide angle). 
 

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Above, in this string, I had mentioned single strobe shooting by Peri Paleracio and Roger Steene.

Now Adam Hanlon gives us an elegant lecture on the use of a single strobe: 

 

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