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DynamicDivers

DS161 vs Z-330 II - Thoughts?

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I currently own a DS161 (and two DS160) strobes, which are fantastic, but also large and heavy, and lacking a built-in optical slave trigger. I use them for UW Portraiture, but I'm considering grabbing an Inon Z-330 II for travel... 

On paper, the Z330 II looks significantly smaller, lighter, and brighter (guide 32), with a larger spread undiffused. However, on paper isn't always the same as in person. I'm curious if any of you who have experience with BOTH of these strobes could chime in, and let me know, will I love the Z-330 II, or regret buying it and go back to travelling with the DS161?  Is it not worth the extra expense? How is the refresh of the Inon vs Ike? Does the ring-shaped flash tube of the ike and warmer color make a difference to you?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

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There was a test on these a while back.  On the Retra website:  https://www.retra-uwt.com/blogs/news/comparing-light-ouput

They have photos showing beam spread of Z330 and DS-161 with and without diffusers along with numerical analysis.  The Z330 drops off more so than the DS-161.  Note though that the Zone 3 magenta reading represents a 126° beam spread from the strobe - the Z330  are specced at 110°  and at that angle it is 1 stop dimmer than the DS-161.  You can see the Z-330 drops more rapidly on the last point which co-insides with the 110° beam angle being reached.

You can see the Retra has less drop off than even the DS-161 by this test.  As I recall this test broadly agrees with the tests backscatter did a few years back.

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If I remember old posts correctly, Inon Z-240 was measured to dump 52 joules into a maximum power flash, and Z-330 was measured at 107 joules. Ikelite rates their strobes by joules capacity, so DS160/161 is 160 joules, but spreads the light a lot more evenly, hence the lower guide number but better actual performance. Retras are 100 and 150 for Prime and Pro models respectively. The rated guide numbers for Z-240 and Z-330 are achieved only in a very small spot in the middle of the frame, although I wonder - those older measurements were made with clear front glass, and Z-330 II has that built-in diffuser/reflector, so the cross-shaped light pattern shouldn't be as pronounced any more.

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3 minutes ago, Barmaglot said:

If I remember old posts correctly, Inon Z-240 was measured to dump 52 joules into a maximum power flash, and Z-330 was measured at 107 joules. Ikelite rates their strobes by joules capacity, so DS160/161 is 160 joules, but spreads the light a lot more evenly, hence the lower guide number but better actual performance. Retras are 100 and 150 for Prime and Pro models respectively. The rated guide numbers for Z-240 and Z-330 are achieved only in a very small spot in the middle of the frame, although I wonder - those older measurements were made with clear front glass, and Z-330 II has that built-in diffuser/reflector, so the cross-shaped light pattern shouldn't be as pronounced any more.

YOu can see the cross pattern of the Z330 without the diffuser, look at the Retra link I supplied.

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5 hours ago, ChrisRoss said:

YOu can see the cross pattern of the Z330 without the diffuser, look at the Retra link I supplied. 

Yes, I know, but look at the Z-330 Type 2 that is being sold now: http://www.inon.jp/products/strobe/z330/top.html

Instead of a clear dome, the front glass now features some kind of insect eye patterning.

image.thumb.png.f9402d777b45db0c1731c13cbabb9ff0.png

 

That's why I'm curious as to how effective is this new glass at smoothing out the cross created by the two lamps placed at 90 degrees to one another. I mean, the interest is totally academic, as I have zero intention of replacing my pair of Retra Pros anytime soon, but I'm still curious.

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13 minutes ago, Barmaglot said:

Yes, I know, but look at the Z-330 Type 2 that is being sold now: http://www.inon.jp/products/strobe/z330/top.html

Instead of a clear dome, the front glass now features some kind of insect eye patterning.

image.thumb.png.f9402d777b45db0c1731c13cbabb9ff0.png

 

That's why I'm curious as to how effective is this new glass at smoothing out the cross created by the two lamps placed at 90 degrees to one another. I mean, the interest is totally academic, as I have zero intention of replacing my pair of Retra Pros anytime soon, but I'm still curious.

yes that may well make a difference hard to tell without doing a test.  The INON are perfectly serviceable flashes and you without doubt many great shots been made with them, but the Retras certainly seem to be a step up in quality of light.

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In the side by side comparison I see a strobe labeled SC-150 which has a really nice profile, but a Google search reveals no such strobe... What is this mystery strobe?

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I suspect the SC-150 is one of the Seacam versions

Bill

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To answer the last question first the SC-150 would be the Seacam 150 which comes in two types I believe.

Regarding the Inon Z330 type II you can read my full review in the current issue of UWPMAG.com which is a free PDF download. I have also used the Ikelite strobes extensively and if you go to the back issues at the top of the home page and enter Phil Rudin into the search engine you will find my DS-161 review along with other Ikelite equipment I used with the strobes. 

I owned the first two Inon Z-220's imported into the US and have owned or tested about every Inon strobe since. Since I do a good bit of travel (before covid) I can attest to the fact that they are about as easy to travel with as just about any strobe on the market and take up about half the space of the DS-161's. I tend to use two strobes for both Wide and macro shooting and find the Inon's more than enough  coverage all the way out to 8mm circular fisheye and full frame fisheye. The down side to most strobes are hot spots that blowout light areas in the frame. This is noticeable when shooting things like the light face of the loggerhead turtle closeup. The new "fly-eye" coating on the dome of the Inon type II strobes helps greatly in this regard. I also own the inexpensive (around $11.00 US) dome filters that allow you to change the color temp of the light to 4600K and 4900K. 

I have not yet tested the Retra Pro-X strobes but I hear good things about quality of light and more. High quality light is a small addition if you are not using high quality lenses and ports.

Most photographers when they are shopping for strobes or other equipment usually have a price point in mind and many not consider comparing a $650.00 US Inon Z-330 type II to a strobe like the over $1300.00 US Retra or even the $950.00 US Ikelite DS-161.

Other considerations may include proprietary batteries that won't easily be found in many travel destinations. Ikelite has great TTL performance when used with wired cords and an Ikelite housing. They don't integrate as easily over to other housings if TTL is required. Converting Ikelite to fiber optic cords also adds cost to the strobes not found in the Inon, Retra and others. 

Images of the Z-330 and Z-330 type II attached along with the turtle taken with the type II. You can see that the Z-330 has the "fly-eye" but only on a small stand over the flash tube. 

 

untitled-02417.jpg

untitled-02419.jpg

untitled-01833-2.jpg

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Phil, thanks for the detailed post and article links. I'm downloading as I type this. How would you compare the 161 to the Z-330 II? I understand the size, but how does the light ouput, spread and refresh rate compare between these two?

Thanks again! Super helpful.

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Hi, Phil:  Thank you for your excellent review, most useful as I am looking to buy new strobes, and the Z330-2 is at the top of my list and within my budget. 

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7 hours ago, DynamicDivers said:

In the side by side comparison I see a strobe labeled SC-150 which has a really nice profile, but a Google search reveals no such strobe... What is this mystery strobe?

Yes it's the Seacam strobe, they have an unrivalled reputation, but take a seat and look up the price compared to the Retra strobes.

The thing to consider is you are using the edges of the beams to illuminate the centre of your photos the centre of the beam is right on the edge of the frame with a 14mm full frame equivalent lens assuming symmetrical placement and occupies the outer corners of the frame with a fisheye - just from pure geometry.  What this basically means is the centre brightness used to calculate the guide number is not a complete representation of the usefulness of a strobe.  Retra doesn't quote GN any longer for example.

Looking at Zone 2 which is what you point at much of your images the Retra/Seacam are 2 stops brighter than the INON/S&S strobes for any given centre brightness.  What this means is you can turn the strobes down compared to a strobe with less even coverage.  The INON needs to be 1 stop brighter then the ikelite and the Retra 1 stop dimmer in centre brightness.   Of course this may have changed with the Type 2 INON strobes. 

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I again have no doubt that the Retra strobes are excellent but all that counts is how well they work in the field and how durable they are and in this regard Inon has had a stellar reputation for decades. 

Taking photos of flat walls with an assortment of colored boxes is helpful to some I am sure but it would be way down on my list of concerns. For me I would point-out that the Retra strobe can do high speed sync with the proper flash trigger.  Back in the day all U/W strobes were rated in Ws rather than GN. Ikelite lists both for the DS-161 which is 160Ws and has a GN of 24 at ISO-100 at a meter. 

The latest YS d3 mkII strobe form Sea & Sea (I have not tested) shows a GN of 33 and a 110 beam angle with a defuser. If you read the fine print you will find that at a GN of 33 beam angle is around 70 degrees and that adding the defuser to get to 110 degrees reduces the output to around a GN around 24. Also often overlooked is that the included defusers with most strobes change the color temp. in the case of S&S YS D3 from 5800K to 5500K. 

The bottom line is that all manufactures bend the specs to make their products look good and this has not changed for decades. 

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So Phil, that means the Ikelite, by WS, actually outputs more light energy (160WS) than even the Retra and Seacam. I'd be curious to see more info on the Inon z-330 II, as it seems to be somewhat of a black box as  to the output/spread, as it's not made it's way into any online comparison that I can see (and Inon doesn't list WS ouput). I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that they didn't actually up the power of the strobe, they just changed the lens and kept the previous GN, which I'm guessing is fudged a bit as it should be lower when diffused.

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10 hours ago, DynamicDivers said:

So Phil, that means the Ikelite, by WS, actually outputs more light energy (160WS) than even the Retra and Seacam. I'd be curious to see more info on the Inon z-330 II, as it seems to be somewhat of a black box as  to the output/spread, as it's not made it's way into any online comparison that I can see (and Inon doesn't list WS ouput). I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that they didn't actually up the power of the strobe, they just changed the lens and kept the previous GN, which I'm guessing is fudged a bit as it should be lower when diffused.

I expect marketing wide publishing a lower GN would not cut it and the old model had flyeye material over the tubes already so in the centre where they measure GN maybe it didn't change much??  But it still doesn't change that there are no tests like the Retra one for the type II INON as yet. one may be produced later or may not?

So where does that leave the decision - The Retra will have Ikelite + quality light and very close to as much light if you get the higher output model.  The INON will be cheaper and the light output and quality may not be quite up to the ikelite, but many people take great shots with them. 

The Retra and (ikelte) edit: I mean to say INON strobes are effectively very similar in size and the retras weigh about 100 gr more but the Retra Pro is double the price of the INON.   My colleague TimG upgraded from Z240 to the prime model and as I recall his take has been he wasn't left feeling wanting for power, so you could save a few  $$ with the prime rather than the PRO model - depending on what sort of apertures/ISO you typically shoot at. 

Unfortunately I think the lighting quality is very subjective and depends on your standards; if you are lighting junkie and in the absence of controlled tests to prove the INON is up to it perhaps get the retras and buy once for sure?

Regarding colour temperature both Retra and INON have option for coloured diffusers to get the colour temperature down to ikelite level with minimal light loss compared to standard diffuser.  This is only important in so far as it's impact on BG water colour.  If you want to maintain the deep blues of tropical water the lower colour temperature strobes facilitate this and really not possible to achieve otherwise unless you got deeper into selective edits in photshop.

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28 minutes ago, ChrisRoss said:

The Retra and ikelte strobes are effectively very similar in size

Are they? I haven't had them side by side, but it seems to me that they have a similar diameter, with Ikelites being significantly longer when the battery is attached, unless you outfit the Retras with superchargers, which brings them to a similar length, if not overall bulk.

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4 hours ago, Barmaglot said:

Are they? I haven't had them side by side, but it seems to me that they have a similar diameter, with Ikelites being significantly longer when the battery is attached, unless you outfit the Retras with superchargers, which brings them to a similar length, if not overall bulk.

Ah I mean to say Retra and INON - I need to re-read these things before posting

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Why chase higher GN strobes when modern sensitive cameras already solve the same problem for free ?

Guide numbers were important to me when cameras were noisy above 100 ISO, but that hasn't been the case for years.

Rather than worrying about a more powerful strobe, I work with a slightly higher ISO. To me,  the only use for high GN at full power is to overcome natural light for wide angle in shallow water at mid-day - and I can work round that by using a higher shutter speed or shooting WA earlier/later in the day and shooting macro at mid-day. At any depth shallow enough for natural light to become a problem, the light is nicer when shooting earlier or later, especially the dappled surface an hour or so before sunset.

Reliability is more important than anything. Then compact/weight for travel. Then angle of coverage and GN gets balanced against further cost. The only thing a higher GN would bring is shooting even longer bursts at even lower fractional power.

 

 

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55 minutes ago, ChrisRoss said:

Ah I mean to say Retra and INON - I need to re-read these things before posting

The Retras are a  bit chunkier than the Inons - noticeable in their width - but not so much that it has a serious impact. Two Retras still fit in the space I had in my Pelican case for the two Inons - albeit a bit more snug. 

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You may want to read the Reefphoto.com strobe comparison which includes the new Inon Z330 type II and the new S&S YS-D3-2 as well as several other strobes. Reef sells all the strobes tested, but it does not appear that they have favored any strobes based on margins.

Also includes the Ikelite DS161 which Reef describes as dated after 14 years. 

Reefs findings includes a strobe coverage image comparisons. 

Interesting findings including coverage and guide numbers.

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Phil may be referring to this article by Reef Photo:

https://reefphoto.com/blogs/trending/how-good-are-the-current-strobes-for-light-intensity-and-coverage

and this one, a bit older but still worthwhile:

https://reefphoto.com/blogs/trending/why-it-might-be-time-to-upgrade-your-underwater-strobes

Time to get a sandwich and a cup of coffee, plus a pen and notebook to better read and appreciate these articles.
Thank you, Phil! And congratulations to Reef Photo for doing this useful and much appreciated hard work!

Edited by Kraken de Mabini

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