The Backscatter team has taken all of the best strobes for underwater photography and put them to the test to determine which strobe is our Top Pick for different applications and budgets. Whether seeking a strobe for wide angle, macro, cost efficiency, or a combo of all 3, the information in this guide will make it easy to find the strobe that is best suited for your underwater photography needs. BEST,UNDERWATER,STROBES,2019,2020,2021,flash,review,test,Best,Underwater,Strobe,Flash,of,2022,2023,2024

Best Underwater Strobes & Flashes of 2021

We have taken the best strobes for underwater photography and put them to the test to find the Top Picks for wide angle, macro, budget, and all-around performance. The info in this guide will make it easy to find the strobe that is best suited for your underwater photography needs. The strobes in this review have been evaluated based on what they are actually like to use and shoot underwater - not just the stated specs on the side of the box. Backscatter team members are always happy to jump in the water and put a few strobes to the test. Want to get right to the Top Pick or need a refresher on underwater strobe terminology? Jump to our Top Picks or Glossary here. JUMP TO OUR TOP PICKSJUMP TO OUR GLOSSARYBest Of Categories We broke all of the current strobes down to four categories: Budget Strobes, All-Around Strobes, Big Bang Strobes, and Macro Strobes with Snoots. Best Budget Strobe Budget strobes are inexpensive and easy to travel with because of their small size and are generally best suited for compact cameras. They will produce less overall power and will have a slower recycle time than larger strobes. Budget strobes typically have a narrower beam which is well suited for macro. They work best with compact cameras because compacts don’t require as much light output as an SLR or mirrorless camera does. Although these strobes work best with compact cameras, especially for macro, a compact camera shooter will still benefit from the wider beam patterns of an All-Around or Big Banger strobe when shooting wide angle. Best All-Around Strobe All-Around strobes are a compromise between the best of macro and the best of wide angle. Their smaller size sacrifices ultimate beam angle, brightness, and recycle times compared to Big Banger strobes for wide angle purposes, but they are still small enough to work into tight positions for macro. When you can only have one strobe to do it all, and All-Around strobe is the type to choose. All-Around strobes will perform equally well when paired with compact cameras, mirrorless, or SLRs. Best Big Bang Strobe If you want to light a big scene then you need a Big Bang. Big Bang strobes are the ultimate wide angle photography tool. They produce the widest, brightest, most even beams with the fastest recycle times. It takes a lot of energy to fire that bright, wide, and fast, so Big Bang strobes must be bigger in size to accommodate the bigger flash tubes, capacitors, and batteries - this is also what makes them the most expensive category of strobe. These strobes offer wide angle shooting without compromise, but the downside is that they are much harder to get into a tight spot for macro shots. Best Macro Strobe & Snoot Macro strobes are small, lightweight, and designed to get into tight spaces where macro critters live. Because they are only used for lighting at close distances and over a small area they do not need to be super bright, so they do not need large flash tubes or capacitors which helps keep their size down. Macro strobes need a snoot in order to reach their full potential. A snoot is an attachment that reduces the beam to a much smaller size - in some cases down to just a few millimeters in diameter. Snoots are the best type of lighting to use for macro photography because they can selectively light the subject and eliminate any distracting elements from the background or surrounding environment. There are several types of snoot: optical, non-optical, and fiber optic. Optical snoots are the best because they transmit the most amount of light in the most controlled way. Optical snoots produce a beam with a distinct shape that minimizes light spillover for more precise lighting of the subject. Non-optical snoots produce beams with much more noticeable light spillover. Fiber optic snoots provide the least amount of light transmission. Don’t miss the boat - Add a snoot to your strobe and start capturing better macro photos today. Learn more about using snoots with our What Is A Snoot & Why Do You Need One guide. Left: Shot without snoot – Right: Shot with snoot Snoots add a new look to boring old flatly-lit macro shots. In this example, the mimic octopus blends into its environment. When lit with a snoot, the environment is darkened, allowing the octopus to stand out in the frame. Questions? Just Give Us A Call Strobes can be a bit overwhelming when learning the need-to-know details. If you have questions at any point, please don’t hesitate to give our experts a call. Every member of our team has extensive experience with the strobes in this review. Click Here to find the best way to reach us. Top Picks - The Best Underwater Strobes Here is a quick look at the Top Picks and Alternate Choices in each category. Best Budget StrobeAOI Q1 $299.00JUMP TO AOI Q1Best Budget Strobe - Alternate ChoiceSea & Sea YS-01 Solis $449.95JUMP TO SEA & SEA YS-01Best All-Around StrobeSea & Sea YS-D3 II Lightning $849.95JUMP TO SEA & SEA YS-D3Best All-Around Strobe - Alternate ChoiceInon Z330 Type II $650.00JUMP TO INON Z330Best Big Bang StrobeSeacam Seaflash 160D $2,199.00JUMP TO SEACAM 160DBest Macro StrobeBackscatter Mini Flash with Optical Snoot $399.00 – Mini Flash Only $499.00 – Mini Flash with Optical SnootJUMP TO MINI FLASH MF-1Best Macro Strobe - Alternate ChoiceRetra Flash Prime X with Light Shaping Device $1,199.00 – Retra Flash Prime X $1,568.00 – Retra Flash Prime X with Light Shaping DeviceJUMP TO RETRA PRIME XAll Strobes Put Through Our Test Here is every strobe that we have tested in 2021. They are organized from least to most expensive with all notable pros, cons, specs, unique features, accolades, and our firsthand underwater findings listed. AOI Q1Price: $299.00Beam Quality: Low output, medium width, rectangular shapeBest Use: All-Around for Compact CamerasTravel Size: SmallBattery Type: 18650 (2)FULL DETAILSProsThe least expensive strobe in this reviewBright target light is able to replace a focus lightSimple & easy to operate controlsNon-optical snoot availableAutomatic pre-flash cancelation for easy compact camera flash sync18650 batteries provide up to 2,000 shots per charge with fast recycle timeConsNo TTL, manual power only18650 batteries are more expensive than AA The AOI Q1 provides a flash output that is similar to other Budget strobes but at the lowest price out of all strobes in this review, providing an excellent bang for the buck in one of the smallest overall sizes as well. The beam pattern produced by the Q1 is less wide than the beam produced by the YS-01 Solis, which will do a little bit better for wide angle shots. The twin target light is bright enough to replace the need for a separate focus light which helps keep compact rigs as streamlined as possible. The controls are very simply laid out and easy to operate with a large, single power dial on the back that is easy to operate in cold water with thick gloves. All the user has to do is dial in the power on the power dial and it’s good to go, with the only downside being a lack of any automatic TTL power - though this is also what keeps the cost down. BACK TO TOPSEA & SEA YS-03 SOLISPrice: $349.95Beam Coverage: Low output, medium width, fairly even beamBest Use: All-Around for Compact CamerasTravel Size: MediumBattery Type: AA (4)FULL DETAILS FOR THE YS-03 STROBEFULL DETAILS FOR THE YS-03 PACKAGEProsFully automatic; no controls other than On/OffEasiest strobe to shoot out of all that we testedConsNo target light (requires separate focus light)No manual power controlNo TTL compensation If the only thing that you want to do is turn the strobe on and point it at what you want to light then the YS-03 Solis is the strobe for you. The automatic-only TTL operation is the ultimate in ease of use. That being said, TTL is not a magic solution for all shots. As photographers gain more experience they may feel frustration at the lack of control over their flash output. While set-and-forget operation is undeniably convenient, most users will quickly outgrow this strobe. We recommend considering the YS-01 Solis as an alternative to get both manual and TTL modes. BACK TO TOPINON S2000Price: $365.00Beam Coverage: Low output, narrow width, rectangular shapeBest Use: Macro for All Cameras TypesTravel Size: SmallBattery Type: AA (4)FULL DETAILSProsThe smallest strobe in this reviewGood for macro & getting into tight placesTTL & manual powerConsNo target light (requires separate focus light)Control set is very small & hard to useNarrow beam pattern & low power output is not suited for general wide angle useManual & full power are split between the mode & power dials The Inon S-2000 is a favorite for macro because of its small size for working into tight spots. The flash beam is pretty narrow and not very bright so it’s better suited for macro than general wide angle. One aspect of the controls that is a bit odd is that the full power setting and other manual power settings are split between the 2 mode and power dials. This can be kind of weird to get used to, but once familiar with the operation it’s not any real drawback. The pre-flash cancelation switch uses a magnet that must be installed with a tool, and there is no practical way to change the setting underwater so make sure to have it set correctly before the dive (and don’t misplace it if removed). There are 3rd party non-optical snoots available, but the lack of a target light makes the Inon S-2000 hard to use for snooted macro shots. A compromise of the very small body size is that the controls are also very small and can be hard to see and use. BACK TO TOPBACKSCATTER MINI FLASH & OPTICAL SNOOTPrice: $399.00 - Mini Flash MF-1Price: $499.00 - Mini Flash MF-1 & OS-1 Optical SnootBeam Coverage of Mini Flash: Low output, narrow width, tight beam patternBeam Coverage of Optical Snoot: High output, 5 selectable sizes, well-defined circular or oval beamBest Use: Macro for All Cameras TypesTravel Size: SmallBattery Type: 18650 (1)FULL DETAILS FOR THE MINI FLASHFULL DETAILS FOR THE MINI FLASH & SNOOTProsBest strobe for macro, with or without a snootBrightest snoot beam of all strobes in this reviewBrightest target light of all strobesTarget light matches flash beam with snootSlim shape makes it easy to get into tight spotsUp to 1400 shots per chargeOptional Color Filter System for lots of creativityEasily change size & shape of snoot beam with Aperture CardsConsNo TTL, manual power onlyNot recommended for general wide angle use The beam produced by the Backscatter Mini Flash MF-1 with Optical Snoot OS-1 is the brightest of all snooted macro strobes that we tested. Even without the snoot, the Backscatter Mini Flash MF-1 is our go-to choice for macro because of the brightness, the concentration of the beam, and the slim shape that makes it easy to work into tight macro spots. There is an included diffuser that makes close focus wide angle photography possible, but this strobe should not be your first choice for wide angle lighting. The bright target light replaces the need for a separate focus light on your camera rig, and when used with the snoot, produces a target beam that matches what the flash beam will do for a real-time preview. This is the thing that makes them so easy to use - what your target light does is what your flash is going to do. The optional Color Filter System adds up to 12 different colors that can be used on either the Backscatter Mini Flash MF-1 or directly on the Optical Snoot OS-1 for some wildly creative results. BACK TO TOPSEA & SEA YS-01 SOLISPrice: $449.95Beam Coverage: Low output, medium width, fairly even beamBest Use: All-Around for Compact CamerasTravel Size: SmallBattery Type: AA (4)FULL DETAILSProsTarget lightManual ModeTTL ModeMedium width beam and small size make it a good All-Around strobe for compact camerasConsNo 3rd party dome diffuser Limited 3rd party snoot options, no OEM snoot The Sea & Sea YS-01 Solis is a YS-03 Solis with manual mode and a target light. It’s a great budget strobe for those who want something that they are not going to outgrow. It has all the same benefits of the YS-03 Solis when used in TTL mode - just turn it on and it’s good to go. The combination of manual mode, TTL, a target light and the ability to do both wide angle and macro well make this a great All-Around pick for compact camera users. The YS-01 Solis has one of the best feature sets available for under $500, but doesn’t offer much in the way of widely supported accessories to expand its capabilities. By comparison, the Inon D200 is only $50 more and has the ability to add many different types of snoots, diffusers, and other accessories. BACK TO TOPIKELITE DS51Price: $449.95Beam Coverage: Medium output, narrow width, rectangular with a bright centerBest Use: All-Around for Compact CamerasTravel Size: SmallBattery Type: AA (4)FULL DETAILSProsThe brightest strobe in this price rangeExcellent electronic TTL accuracy when used with an Ikelite TTL converterSmallest strobe with an electronic sync portOptional adapter supports Olympus RC ModeConsVery slow recycle timeAccessory required for optical connection, manual only, no optical TTL The Ikelite DS-51 is the brightest of the sub-$500 strobes, but the thing that keeps it from being as favorable as other strobes is the very slow recycle time when fired at full power. We clocked this strobe at over 10 seconds before recycling back to full power which is impractical for action sequences. By adding an Ikelite TTL converter users can take advantage of the electronic TTL sync for great automatic flash power accuracy. Hardwired electronic TTL is always better in terms of accuracy than optical slave TTL, so having that ability on a strobe this small is a unique advantage of the Ikelite DS-51 . The DS-51 does not include an optical connection, but there is a separate adapter than can be purchased to enable it. Optical connections are manual only, there is no TTL, however there is a separate adapter that can be added on to enable Olympus RC Mode for automatic flash power with Olympus and Panasonic cameras. BACK TO TOPOLYMPUS UFL-3Price: $499.99Beam Coverage: Low output, medium width, rectangular beamBest Use: All-Around for Olympus Compact CamerasTravel Size: SmallBattery Type: AA (4)FULL DETAILSProsOlympus RC (Remote Control) Mode for optical TTL with Olympus & Panasonic camerasThe most accurate TTL out of all strobes (when used in RC mode with supported cameras)ConsTTL does not work with any other camera brandsFlash sync speed is limited to 1/160 with mirrorless cameras in RC Mode The Olympus UFL-3 has a proprietary TTL mode called RC (Remote Control) Mode. This is the most accurate TTL out of any strobe in this review - which is pretty amazing - however it only works with Olympus and Panasonic cameras. This strobe works best when paired with an Olympus compact camera for all-around use. We cannot recommend this strobe for mirrorless shooters because the beam is not bright or wide enough for wide angle, and the TTL limits the flash sync speed to 1/160 on mirrorless cameras which is too slow for macro shots with black backgrounds. The Olympus UFL-3 can be used in manual mode with any system, but its price and the lack of universal TTL prevent it from being the most practical choice for anyone other than an Olympus compact camera user. BACK TO TOPINON D200 IIPrice: $500.00Beam Coverage: Low output, medium width, plus-shaped (+) beam patternBest Use: All-Around for All Cameras TypesTravel Size: MediumBattery Type: AA (4)FULL DETAILSProsNew Type II has wider beam over Type IRotating shade to help prevent backscatterLots of accessories to change color temperature, diffusion, & beam angleClear battery cap is easy to inspect for integrityTTL & manual modesConsManual & full power are split between the mode & power dialsMost expensive of the Budget strobes The distinct advantage of the Inon D200II is the amount of supported accessories that it offers. Between the rotating shade to reduce backscatter, many different types of diffusers, color temperature inserts, and snoot options, it is incredibly easy to change the effect that the strobe can have on a photo. All of these accessories are also compatible with the Inon Z330 as well. The controls are similar to the Inon S-2000 and Inon Z330 in that the full power setting is on a separate dial from the rest of the power settings, which we find to be confusing at first, but isn’t really a drawback once you’re used to it. BACK TO TOPKRAKEN KR-S02Price: $599.00Beam Coverage: Low output, wide width, dark donut-hole shape in centerBest Use: All-Around for Compact CamerasTravel Size: MediumBattery Type: Proprietary (1)FULL DETAILSProsOne of the longest lasting strobes at 900 flashes per chargeLCD display is easy to see in low light conditionsConsOne of the weakest strobes that we’ve ever testedCircular flash tube produces a “donut hole” shape flash beamDifference between power levels is not consistentManual only, no TTL The Kraken KR-S02 is the only strobe at this price point with a circular flash tube which traditionally provides a more evenly dispersed beam for wide angle. In the case of this strobe, it actually produces a beam which we nicknamed “the donut hole” because of the darker area that appears in the center of the beam. The beam is also much less bright than almost every other strobe. We are perplexed by the low output of the strobe despite it having one of the biggest battery packs of the strobes in this review. The specifications state that the controls provide 1 stop of adjustment per click on the power dial, but our testing found that there was not consistently a one stop difference between each setting. This made it challenging to dial in the right power since the level of adjustment could vary between 1 stop and only ⅓ stop adjustment. We welcome this strobe debut from Kraken, but we can’t wholeheartedly recommend this strobe for an underwater photographer at this time due to the drawbacks it currently has. BACK TO TOPINON Z-330 IIPrice: $650.00Beam Quality: High output, medium width, plus-shaped (+) beam patternBest Use: All-Around for All Cameras TypesTravel Size: MediumBattery Type: AA (4)FULL DETAILSProsNew Type II has wider beam over Type IRotating shade to help prevent backscatterLots of accessories to change color temperature, diffusion, & beam angleClear battery cap is easy to inspect for integrityTTL & manual modesOptical & electronic sync portsConsManual & full power are split between the mode & power dials The Inon Z330II is our Alternate Pick for the best All-Around strobe because it is a great compromise between size, power output, and recycle time. The Inon Z330 is $200 less than our Top Pick (the more evenly-diffused YS-D3) making it a more affordable wide angle alternative. Another difference between the Inon Z330 and the YS-D3 is that Inon Z330 supports more accessories, such as the rotating shade for reducing backscatter and diffusers that allow you to change the color temperature of the beam. All of the accessories are also compatible with the Inon D200. The controls are similar to the Inon S-2000 and Inon D200 in that the full power setting is on a separate dial from the rest of the power settings, which we find to be confusing at first, but isn’t really a drawback once you’re used to it.BACK TO TOPSEA & SEA YS-D3 II LIGHTNINGPrice: $849.95Beam Quality: High output, wide width, elliptical beam shapeBest Use: All-Around for All Cameras TypesTravel Size: MediumBattery Type: AA (4)FULL DETAILSProsBest choice for compromise between brightness, beam width, recycle time, and priceNew dual flash tube design provides improved wide angle coverageBacklit control panel is easy to see on night divesOptional snoot & dome diffuser for greater wide angle or macro abilityOptical & electronic sync portsTTL & manual modeConsSmall control dials are hard to use with glovesControl dial shape can obscure other choices making it hard to see other settings The Sea & SeaYS-D3Mark II Lightning is our Top Pick for the overall best balance between size, power output, ultimate beam quality, and recycle time. The beam is slightly wider than the Inon Z330, but the $200 increase in price over the Inon Z330 means that the choice comes down to savings vs ultimate wide angle beam quality. The YS-D3 features improved brightness and beam evenness thanks to a new dual flash tube - just one part of a significant design overhaul from the previous model. The backlit control panel makes it easy to see what mode you are in thanks to the helpful color-coding, and makes it easy to see the settings on night dives. The control dials are a bit small making them less ideal for operation in cold water with thick gloves. The design of the control dials tends to obscure the printed settings on the strobe itself making it tough to see other printed settings values on the strobe. There are dome diffuser and snoot options available, though a snoot is difficult to use because of the offset target light. Sea & Sea has announced a new Mark II version of this strobe. The new updates are minor and claim to enhance TTL shooting compatibility with third-party optical TTL converters and redesigned control knobs. BACK TO TOPIKELITE DS160Price: $799.00Beam Quality: Medium output, wide width, evenly diffused circular shapeBest Use: Wide Angle for All Cameras TypesTravel Size: LargeBattery Type: Proprietary (1)FULL DETAILSProsGreat beam quality for less than half the price of the Big Bang Top PickElectronic TTL accuracy with an Ikelite TTL converterLarge controls with solid clicks for easy operation with thick gloves$150 less than DS161, only difference is less bright target light Lots of flashes per battery chargeConsLower output than other Big Bang StrobesLong recycle time at full power, less noticeable at lower powerNo optical slave TTL, manual slave mode available with accessory adapterSlow flash tube at full power limits how fast the shutter speed can be The Ikelite DS-160 is less than half the price of our Big Bang Top Pick (the Seacam 160D). It has an extremely wide, even, smooth beam thanks to the circular flash tube. The overall brightness is a little underpowered compared to other Big Bang Strobes, but the price savings are undeniably appealing while still getting an overall great beam quality. The only difference between the 2 big Ikelite strobes (Ikelite DS-160 and Ikelite DS-161) is the brightness of the target light. We’d rather save $150 over the Ikelite DS-161 model and not have as bright of a target light that we wouldn’t use for wide angle anyway. Underwater photographers will feel the most benefit when this strobe is shot with an Ikelite TTL converter so that they may take advantage of the electronic TTL sync. The large knob controls provide an easy grip with firm clicks that are easy to operate when wearing thick gloves in cold water. One downside of this strobe for wide angle is the relatively slow burst from the flash tube. At shutter speeds over 1/125, the shutter is faster than the flash duration which results in “catching" the flash, diminishing the flash brightness in your image. When the power is turned down the flash duration becomes a non-issue. No other strobe in this review has this limitation. BACK TO TOPIKELITE DS161Price: $949.00Beam Quality: Medium output, wide width, evenly diffused circular shapeBest Use: Wide Angle for All Cameras TypesTravel Size: LargeBattery Type: Proprietary (1)FULL DETAILSProsGreat beam quality for half the price of the Big Bang Top PickElectronic TTL accuracy with an Ikelite TTL converterLarge controls with solid clicks for easy operation with thick glovesLots of flashes per battery chargeCons$150 more than DS160, only difference is brighter target light Lower output than other Big Bang StrobesLong recycle time at full power, less noticeable at lower powerNo optical slave TTL, manual slave mode available with accessory adapterSlow flash tube at full power limits how fast the shutter speed can be The only thing to point out here is that the Ikelite DS-161 has a built-in target light feature that - while bright - is not quite valuable enough to justify the additional $150 over the Ikelite DS-160. Every other aspect of these two strobes is identical. It has an extremely wide, even, smooth beam thanks to the circular flash tube. The overall brightness is a little underpowered compared to other Big Bang Strobes, but the price savings are undeniably appealing while still getting an overall great beam quality. Underwater photographers will feel the most benefit when this strobe is shot with an Ikelite TTL converter so that they may take advantage of the electronic TTL sync. The large knob controls provide an easy grip with firm clicks that are easy to operate when wearing thick gloves in cold water. One downside of this strobe for wide angle is the relatively slow burst from the flash tube. At shutter speeds over 1/125, the shutter is faster than the flash duration which results in “catching" the flash, diminishing the flash brightness in your image. When the power is turned down the flash duration becomes a non-issue. No other strobe in this review has this limitation. BACK TO TOPRETRA FLASH PRIME XPrice: $1,199.00Beam Quality: Medium output, wide beam, evenly diffused circular shapeBest Use: Wide Angle for All Cameras TypesTravel Size: MediumBattery Type: AA (4) - Optional (8)FULL DETAILSProsCircular flash tube provides great beam quality in a relatively medium-sized bodyBayonet-style mount with many compatible accessories, including an optical snootHigh-speed sync available with certain TTL convertersAbility to expand battery capacityBluetooth connectivity to smartphone app for firmware updates, stat tracking, and additional settingsConsNeeds Supercharger X accessory to improve recycle time and flashes per charge(8) AA batteries per strobe (when used with Supercharger X) is a lot to manageOptical only, converter is required for electronic sync The Retra Prime X produces one of the smoothest and most beautiful beams for wide angle photography from a strobe with this body size. The circular flash tube produces a beam that is extremely even with a very natural-looking falloff. The Retra Prime X is a lower output, lower cost, faster recycling version of the Retra Pro X. That being said, if spending this amount of money on a strobe, we recommend just going with the Retra Pro X to get the better performance. The ability to quickly transform from a wide angle strobe into a macro strobe with the Light Shaping Device optical snoot is one of the most versatile aspects of this strobe. BACK TO TOPRETRA FLASH PRIME X WITH LIGHT SHAPING DEVICEPrice: $1,199.00 - Retra Prime XPrice: $1,568.00 - Retra Prime X & LSD SnootBeam Quality: Medium-high output, multiple size and shape options, well-defined sharp edgeBest Use: Macro for All Cameras TypesTravel Size: LargeBattery Type: AA (4) - Optional (8)FULL DETAILS FOR THE PRIME XFULL DETAILS FOR THE LSD SNOOTProsTurns a wide angle strobe into a macro strobe with just one accessoryOptical snoot for bright light transmissionTarget light beam matches what the flash beam will doAbility to quickly adjust size of beam using mask setBayonet mount for quick On/OffLSD is compatible with 3rd party strobes but works best with Retra strobesConsLargest snoot in this review; hard to work into tight macro spotsMore expensive than other macro strobes and snoots By adding the Light Shaping Device (LSD) to a Retra Flash it instantly transforms from a wide angle strobe into a snooted macro strobe. The LSD focuses the flash beam optically for a superior brightness and sharpness of beam edge than other types of snoots. A mask insert allows the user to shape the light beam into a variety of sizes and patterns. The LSD can also be adapted for use with other third party strobes. The biggest differences between the LSD and a dedicated strobe for macro are the major differences in overall price, size, and weight. This is a more expensive, much larger, and much heavier setup to use for macro than our Top Pick. We listed the Retra Prime X in this example, but the Retra Pro X may also be used for a brighter flash and brighter target light. BACK TO TOPRETRA FLASH PRO XPrice: $1,329.00Beam Quality: High output, wide beam, evenly diffused circular shapeBest Use: Wide Angle for All Cameras TypesTravel Size: MediumBattery Type: AA (4) - Optional (8)FULL DETAILSProsBrighter flash and brighter target light than the Prime XCircular flash tube provides great beam quality in a relatively medium-sized bodyBayonet-style mount with many compatible accessories, including an optical snootHigh-speed sync available with certain TTL convertersAbility to expand battery capacityBluetooth connectivity to smartphone app for firmware updates, stat tracking, and additional settingsConsNeeds Supercharger X accessory to improve recycle time at full power and number of flashes per charge(8) AA batteries per strobe (when used with Supercharger X) is a lot to manageOptical only, converter is required for electronic sync The Retra Pro X is an upgraded version of the Retra Prime X featuring brighter flash output a brighter target light. Otherwise, it has basically all of the same qualities found in our review of the Retra Prime X above. It also works exactly like the Prime X in regards to the LSD snoot. When powered by only (4) AA batteries this strobe has a slow recycle time at full power and only about 175 flashes. With this low of a flash count per battery charge, we recommend changing batteries after every dive to avoid the risk of running out of power on the second dive. Extra accessories are required to take full advantage of this strobe; the Supercharger X ($309) is required for faster recycle times and more shots per charge, and the High Speed Sync feature is only available with certain TTL converters ($450 UW Technics). Adding these accessories takes this strobe to the top of the price range of available strobes, making it go from about $1,300 to over $2,100 in order to get in the performance range of other Big Bang Strobes. The reason this strobe falls short of the All-Around Top Pick spot is simply because of the higher price point compared to the alternatives. This is an excellent strobe for balancing serious wide angle performance and the ability to quickly adapt it for macro - hence why it is one of our Top Picks for Macro. BACK TO TOPONEUW ONE160XPrice: $1,799.00Beam Quality: High output, wide width, evenly diffused circular shapeBest Use: Wide Angle for All Cameras TypesTravel Size: LargeBattery Type: ProprietaryFULL DETAILS FOR THE NIKON VERSIONFULL DETAILS FOR THE CANON VERSIONProsVery bright, even beam for excellent wide angle lightingBuilt-in electronic TTL; does not an external converterLarge controls are easy to operate with glovesConsInfinite control dials with no hard stops at full or minimum powerPaddle controls can be confusing depending on strobe orientation2 separate models for either Canon or Nikon TTL The OneUW One 160X Nikon and One 160X Canon are the first strobes that we have seen from this company. It features built-in electronic TTL for the most accurate type of automatic exposure, though there are separate strobe models for Canon and Nikon TTL compatibility. The self-orienting LCD screen is easy to see at night or when the strobe is upside down. The tricky thing is that the paddle-style controls become a bit confusing when reversed (at least in our testing experience). The control dials also have an infinite spin; there are no hard stops at either end of the dial. We prefer dials with hard stops because they are easy to just set to full power and turn down as needed without having to look at the strobe during the heat of the moment. Dials with infinite spin are a compromise found on strobes with more advanced options and menu features which require the dials to act as the interface for menu navigation. The OneUw has a lot of promise, but it is the strobe that we’ve had the least amount of time with in water. Stay tuned as we gather more experience with this strobe. BACK TO TOPSEACAM SEAFLASH 160DPrice: $2,199.00Beam Quality: High output, widest width, best wide angle beam coverage out of all strobes in this reviewBest Use: Wide Angle for All Cameras TypesTravel Size: LargeBattery Type: ProprietaryFULL DETAILSProsUltimately the best wide angle beam quality of any strobe that we testedBuilt-in electronic TTL for excellent accuracySupports both Canon and Nikon electronic TTL in one modelHigh-speed sync for Canon and Nikon cameras via electronic connectionLCD screen is easy to see in any lightHighly customizable settingsBayonet-mount snoot availableConsMost expensive strobe in this review, but also has the most capabilityInfinite control dial with no hard stops at full or minimum power When the absolute best wide angle beam quality, electronic TTL, and most hardcore fast-shooting performance is required, the Seacam 160D is the strobe that you want. This is the brightest, widest, most even beam with the most natural edge falloff of any strobe that we tested. It is a dream come true for wide angle photography lighting. This amount of power and beam evenness does not come cheap, but this strobe also has other great features that make it worth it. This strobe is the only one to offer built-in electronic TTL support for both Canon and Nikon cameras in one strobe model, negating the need for an external converter or having to worry about incompatible strobes with possible future cameras. The accuracy of the electronic TTL worked really well in our testing. At full power, the strobe recycles in under 3 seconds which is very impressive considering how much power and beam spread this strobe has. There is a high-speed sync option for Canon and Nikon cameras that allows for shutter speeds up to 1/8000th. The controls on the back are easy to operate and well laid out, but our one nitpick detail is that the dial has an infinite spin with no hard stop at either full or minimum power. We prefer dials with hard stops because they are easy to just set to full power and turn down as needed without having to look at the strobe during the heat of the moment. Dials with infinite spin are a compromise found on strobes with more advanced options and menu features which require the dials to act as the interface for menu navigation. There is an integrated bayonet-style snoot mount for macro, though we probably wouldn’t choose this as our first macro choice simply because of its size and weight. BACK TO TOPConclusion We hope that this underwater strobe roundup review makes it easy to see what each of these strobes has to offer, what any potential drawbacks may be, and which one makes the most sense for your underwater photography requirements and budget. If you have any questions at all send us an email at info@backscatter.com, or give us a call and we’ll be happy to help you out. Once you have your strobes, learn exactly what to do with them underwater with our Zen of Strobe Placement article.ZEN OF STROBE PLACMENTStrobe Term Glossary We’ve compiled a simple glossary of strobe terms just in case you need a refresher on the most common strobe lingo and specific language. These are some of the most often used keywords when discussing strobes and their performance or abilities. Understanding these terms will go a long way when it comes to digesting a strobe review like this. Strobe: An underwater flash.Guide Number: The measurement of the brightness of a strobe.Stop: A stop is half the amount of brightness as the next full stop (brightness doubles as it increases and halves as it decreases).Recycle Time: How long the strobe needs to recharge in between exposures.Flash Sync Speed: The maximum shutter speed of the camera while still being able to synchronize with the flash/strobe. Typical limit is 1/250, but may be as low as 1/160 or as high as 1/400.Pre-Flash Cancelation: A setting to compensate for the pre-flash commonly found on automatic camera flash settings.LED Flash Trigger: A device used to trigger an underwater strobe by substituting an actual flash from the camera with bright LEDs.Manual: The strobe brightness is controlled by the user.Hardwired TTL: The strobe brightness is controlled automatically via electronic sync directly from the camera hotshoe.Slave TTL: The strobe brightness is controlled automatically via optical sync from the cameras flash or an LED flash trigger.TTL Compensation: A degree of control to tell the strobe whether to make the automatically determined flash power brighter or darker.Optical Sync: Camera and strobe connection via fiber optic cable and light transmissionElectronic Sync: Camera and strobe connection via electronic cable.Diffuser: Accessory that widens and softens the flash beam angle at the cost of reduced brightness.Snoot: An accessory that tapers the flash beam down a fine point for macro photography.Back to TopWhy buy direct from Backscatter?Free lifetime tech support with every purchase. 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