Question Help Me Spend my Money on New Strobes

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AggressorBLUE

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OK, so. Another day, another “what should I buy” post!

I currently have two rigs:

-Olympus OM-1 with AOI UH-MO1 housing, used most often with the Olympus 8MM fish eye for shooting CFWA, with occasional use of the Olympus 60mm Macro.

-The standard issue Olympus TG-6 with a PT-059 Housing. The TG-6 is used mostly by my wife with the Backscatter AIR wet lens for general point/shoot work, some video, and Macro.

Been using an aging pair of Ikelite DS125s, but to get them both back in service I’d need to spend $150 on another fiberoptic adapter, and I don’t feel like throwing more money at 15+ year old strobes.

Being from the North East US, I’m a travel photographer; which means my strobes sadly don’t see a lot of milage (two trips a year at best) and as such I expect the ‘investment’ I make now to serve me well beyond a decade. It also means for the OM-1 I’m looking for ideally strobes that are lighter/smaller than the Ikes. The power level of the 125s seems ‘ok’, but I’ll take (and am willing to pay for) an upgrade if it can be done at at least the same, if not ideally smaller, size. Batteries are another reason I’m shelving the 125s; paying Ike $250 for Nickel batteries in the year 2024 leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

For the TG-6 I’m looking for something that has straight forward TTL support (doesn’t have to be RC mode) so things are as generally point-and-shoot friendly as possible for my wife.

So my head has been a few places:

A trio of Inon S220. Two for the OM-1, One for the TG-5
Pros: three of the same model make it easy to swap around rigs if needed, and only need to remember how to work one type of strobe, also very small and travel friendly. Uses Double AAs
Cons: Would loose some power to the 125s (too much lost power for CFWA with the 8MM?), and no built in guide light offsets their compact size by requiring packing separate dive lights.

A trio of D200s: Similar pros and cons as the S220, but they are a bit bigger, a bit less powerful, but do come with built in focus lights. Also slightly more expensive.

Sea and Sea: I’ve heard…mixed things about their reliability, and so I’m a bit hesitant to take the plunge there. Would likely go with a hybrid of two YS-D3 Lightenings for the OM-1 and one Inon S220 for the TG-6.

Otherwise the higher end strobes seem too big and past where I’m comfortable budget wise (trying to get the total price in under $3k).

Though there is now a dark horse: Back Scatters recently announced HF-1.

For the Backscatter approach, I’d go with two HF-1s for the OM-1, and a Micro Flash 2 for the OM1.
Pros: on paper, the HF-1 looks a bit smaller than the DS125s, but is far faster and more powerful. While I’m not big on video with the OM-1, the lights will be great for night diving and as focus lights (and snoot aiming). I like that it has Olympus RC mode compatibility and high speed shutter sync. The rapid fire shooting looks crazy, and there’s no doubt it will be more than enough power to support the 8mm. Also, while it doesn’t use Double As, I do appreciate that the propreitaryish batteries aren’t near as expensive as Ikes, and that the HF-1 and MF2 (and Macro wide) share the same batteries
Cons: Newly launched and not ‘battle tested’ in the wild yet (with production models at least?).

(I’m open to hearing about Marelux too, but to my knowledge their strobe products (which seem to have a lot in common with the HF-1 in terms of specs) haven’t hit the market yet? And they look bigger than the HF-1)

OK, so enough of my jabber; what does the ScubaBoard hive mind think I should do?
 
If I were in the market for new strobes right now, HF-1 would be my top choice. My one big question mark point about them is how well they're going to stand up to the massive amounts of heat they will put out, given the stated levels of power, but hopefully Backscatter has it covered. Given that you're in the US, Backscatter's customer service has a very good reputation. You also have a limited window into getting those strobes for a very good introductory price - I got my Retra Pros for ~700 euros apiece by preordering in late 2018, and if I wanted to do that now, I'd be paying $1600.
 
If I were in the market for new strobes right now, HF-1 would be my top choice. My one big question mark point about them is how well they're going to stand up to the massive amounts of heat they will put out, given the stated levels of power, but hopefully Backscatter has it covered. Given that you're in the US, Backscatter's customer service has a very good reputation. You also have a limited window into getting those strobes for a very good introductory price - I got my Retra Pros for ~700 euros apiece by preordering in late 2018, and if I wanted to do that now, I'd be paying $1600.
Good points. Re heat, they mention on the product page:

“At guide number 40 it generates a lot of light but also generates a significant amount of heat if shot in rapid succession at that power level. The Hybrid Flash manages this with an aluminum flash head, internal heat sink, and multiple temperature sensors. These protections allow the hybrid flash to keep shooting without interruption, so you'll never miss a shot.”

So it sounds like, at least in theory, they’ve accounted for the thermal footprint from a few directions.

And yeah, wouldn’t surprise me if post launch the cost kicks up to ~$1200.

I’m definitely leaning towards the HF-1.
 
In theory, yeah, but it's a LOT of power to stuff into a very small package. By the numbers, they're dumping something like 350 W⋅s into each max-power flash, which is way more than any underwater strobe that came before - Inon Z-330 is something like 107 W⋅s from what I know; Seacams, OneUWs, top-end Retras, SUPEs, Ikelite DS160s are all around 150-160 W⋅s, Ikelite DS230s are rated at 213 W⋅s, Sea & Sea YS-250s are 250 W⋅s and Isotta RED64 claims 270 W⋅s (and still not available) - most, if not all of those, are considerably bulkier than the HF-1. More powerful strobe exist on land, but they tend to be massive - for example, the 400 W⋅s Godox AD400Pro weighs over two kilograms, i.e. twice as much as the HF-1, and it doesn't need to resist a hundred meters' worth of water pressure.
 
I've been a Sea and Sea user for a long time (Ys-25's, Ys-110a's, and now D3's). I think the Sea and Sea hate is overblown based on the D2, when the D1 and previous, and D2j and later have been nominally reliable. I recently picked up a pair of YS-D3 mk2's for $599 each on divervision.


So far I've only had them in the pool, but will have them in the Philippines and Belize in May and June. Gobs of power, light in the water, and relatively compact.


That being said, had I not just upgraded, I would be looking hard at the HF-1. Looks like a lot of strobe and light capability in a great package, for a price that nobody else can touch it seems.
 
In theory, yeah, but it's a LOT of power to stuff into a very small package. By the numbers, they're dumping something like 350 W⋅s into each max-power flash, which is way more than any underwater strobe that came before - Inon Z-330 is something like 107 W⋅s from what I know; Seacams, OneUWs, top-end Retras, SUPEs, Ikelite DS160s are all around 150-160 W⋅s, Ikelite DS230s are rated at 213 W⋅s, Sea & Sea YS-250s are 250 W⋅s and Isotta RED64 claims 270 W⋅s (and still not available) - most, if not all of those, are considerably bulkier than the HF-1. More powerful strobe exist on land, but they tend to be massive - for example, the 400 W⋅s Godox AD400Pro weighs over two kilograms, i.e. twice as much as the HF-1, and it doesn't need to resist a hundred meters' worth of water pressure.

I am looking for stronger strobes since > 1 year and I am considering pre-ordering two: The HF-1 specs. look very good and the pre-review by Nicool sounds positive, I could not find a negative statement there. But maybe it just looks too good to be true...

On the other hand, the innovative MF-2 (it seems the MF-1 had problems in the beginning) is a story of success...

I fear we never will know whether the HF-1 is a sensational bargain or a flop, until some dozens of UW-photographers have some 100 dives each with these flashes (MAYBE I will be one of them, I am still considering :narcosis:)...


Wolfgang
 
I've been a Sea and Sea user for a long time (Ys-25's, Ys-110a's, and now D3's). I think the Sea and Sea hate is overblown based on the D2, when the D1 and previous, and D2j and later have been nominally reliable. I recently picked up a pair of YS-D3 mk2's for $599 each on divervision.


So far I've only had them in the pool, but will have them in the Philippines and Belize in May and June. Gobs of power, light in the water, and relatively compact.


That being said, had I not just upgraded, I would be looking hard at the HF-1. Looks like a lot of strobe and light capability in a great package, for a price that nobody else can touch it seems.

Of course the individual experience of a single UW-photographer is only anecdotal evidence and not necessarily representative, but I belong to the people with very bad individual experience with Sea&Sea:

Within few years I managed to consume 4(!) YS-D2 strobes by overheating of the flash tubes. I can imagine that the build quality of the later models, built in Japan, MAY be better than the older versions, but the overheating issue is certainly the same as this is a construction fault. Hopefully this issue has been solved with the YS-D3, but I personally will not buy any Sea&Sea strobe in the future. "Once bitten, twice shy"...:happywave:


Wolfgang
 
I mean, that's exactly what I am saying though. The D2 was the problem strobe. While D1 and earlier, and D2j and later have been reliable. Not sure how you can say it's a construction fault, when D2j's and later haven't had nearly the same level of reported problems.

But to each their own.
 
Plenty of people have reported issues with YS-D2J as well - they were better than the original YS-D2s, but not by much. That said, the problem was significantly exacerbated by Sea & Sea's approach to warranty support, something that Backscatter has a much better reputation in, at least for US-based customers.
 
Well, this has be mulling things a bit: I decided to 3D print myself some ‘silhouettes’ of the HF-1 and S220, using the stated dimensions of each strobe, so I could compare the relative size of of them to my DS125. The results were a tad sobering.

The HF-1 doesn’t really net me any savings in size or weight over the DS125:
1713917976792.jpeg

1713917489778.jpeg



And when compared to the S220 (I know, I should have swapped the colors, LOL), its pretty eye opening.
1713917657158.jpeg



Experience with the DS125 tells me I can indeed pack it all down, but it does have me mulling over the S220 a bit more; sure would be easier to travel with, thats for sure…hmm
 

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